THE “Lord of the Sabbath” declared that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” This statement embodies two ideas that lie at the foundation of the legislation that has been enacted for Sabbath observance.
On of these ideas is that the Sabbath was made for man. This is God’s idea, and the foundation of his legislation for Sabbath-keeping.
The other idea (held by the Pharisees) is that man was made for the Sabbath; and this is the foundation of all human legislation to preserve the day. This of course is disclaimed by the authors of state Sabbath laws; but it is that to which reason and experience testify as being the truth.
God made the Sabbath to be wholly a blessing to mankind, and to put upon him no hardship. It was perfectly adapted for man’s spiritual, mental and physical welfare; and, as God has made it, it is the same to-day. If people do not observe it, they lose the good of it, but they get no hurt from it. If they are against it, it is still not against them. It is for them, whether they observe it or not.
But men have made Sabbath laws from which vastly different results have come. They have used the force of the civil power to fit men to the Sabbath; not the true Sabbath, either, but their human idea of the Sabbath. If men did not want to conform to it, they were forced to do so. Where the human being did not fit to the institution set up by the religious majority, the state applied pressure to the human being until the fit was declared satisfactory.
If men do not observe God’s Sabbath as his law directs, that law does not interfere with them. They lose the great good they would have gained from keeping it, but their liberty is not restricted and no penalties are put upon them. They are not coerced into anything. But if they fail to observe man’s Sabbath as man’s law directs, they are arrested, imprisoned, fined, put in chain gangs, and in other ways punished until they conform themselves to the Sabbath conception which the majority have set up.
God’s Sabbath is like a mantle of glory and beauty given to man, which he may put on if he will; but the Sabbaths of the state laws are like a mold into which men must put themselves or be put; and if they do not fit the mold, they are hammered by the law until they are forced into it, at whatever sacrifice or injury to themselves.
All this is wholly contrary to God and to the purpose of the Sabbath. All such laws ought to be abolished. If men will not make the Sabbath a blessing to themselves, let it not be made a curse to them by the mistaken zeal of those who would make their refusal a crime to be punished with the pains and penalties of the criminal code.