The Two Arms of “Sabbath” Reform

IN a treatise on the “civil Sabbath,” the author, Rev. W. F. Crafts, sets up the claim that two different Sabbaths are essential in the work of Sabbath reform. He says:—

“The right arm, the most important part, of the Sabbath reform, is the promotion of the religious Sabbath; its left arm, the preservation of the civil Sabbath. These two things—the Christian Sabbath on the one hand, and the American Sabbath on the other—are as distinct as my two arms, that resemble and co-operate, and yet are by no means the same.”

This illustration does not fit the case. The religious Sabbath and the “civil” Sabbath, as Mr. Crafts views them, both fall on Sunday. Sunday is his religious Sabbath, and the same day is also the “civil” Sabbath. There are not two Sabbaths here, any more than there can be two arms consisting of the same piece.

“This distinction,” Mr. Crafts says, “is itself an answer to most of the objections to Sabbath laws, which rest chiefly upon the false assumption that they are enforcements of a duty to God, punishments of a sin against God.” The truth is that this “distinction” was discovered under the necessity of finding some answer to the objections to Sabbath laws, which would disguise the fact that such laws enforce a religious observance. The “distinction” has no existence in fact, and therefore no force against the objections at which it is aimed.

Sunday-law advocates say that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath. Sunday is therefore, in their view, a religious day. If Sunday is a religious day, it cannot be a secular day, for “religious” and “secular” are opposite terms. If the character of Sunday has been fixed by the Lord, then no act or law of man can change its character. If on the other hand Sunday is not a religious Sabbath, then it is not the true Sabbath, and Christians of all people should be the last to desire its establishment in the place of the rightful day.

“It is admitted,” says Mr. Crafts, “that it is the province of civil law to enforce man’s duties to man, and especially to punish crimes against man. It is exactly on this ground that Sabbath laws forbid Sunday work and Sunday dissipation, namely, as crimes against man.” Assumption has usually to be supported by assumption, and this is an example,—the assumption of a “civil” Sabbath supported by the assumption that working on Sunday is a crime against humanity. If it were true that the rights of people were invaded by Sunday labor, it would of course be proper to forbid such labor by law, and there would be some ground for a “civil” Sabbath. But it is not true that Sunday labor interferes with any person’s rights. It is not true that such labor constitutes a “crime against man.” No labor that is not compulsory can invade personal rights.

The Constitution of the United States forbids involuntary servitude, save as a punishment for crime; and any person other than a criminal held in involuntary servitude in this country can appeal to the Constitution for relief. Involuntary servitude is recognized as an invasion of personal rights; but the person who works voluntarily cannot claim that his rights are infringed. He has the right to work, and the right to stop work, and that is as much as any man can have or desire in this respect.

As therefore Sunday labor in the United States is not involuntary, but is performed only by those having the full privilege of stopping work whenever they may choose, no rights are invaded by it; and no rights being invaded, no action is called for from the civil power which is established to preserve rights. Hence there is no ground for a civil decree commanding Sunday rest, and therefore no ground for the establishment of a “civil Sabbath.”

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