“Where Does the Civil Sabbath Come In?” The American Sentinel 4, 30, pp. 233, 234.

August 21, 1889

IN the California Christian Advocate, July 31, 1889, is a long article by Rev. E. D. McCreary, Ph. D.—Doctor of Philosophy—on “Observance of the Sabbath.” It hasn’t anything in it particularly new, but now when there is such demand for the enforcement by law of a civil Sabbath, it is important to keep the run of the discussions upon the subject. The Doctor says:—

“The saloon is the worst enemy of the Sabbath, persistently in the face of all laws, human and divine, devoting the hours of that holy day to its nefarious work, it reaps larger returns from its Sunday traffic than any other day in the week.”

Is it because the saloon is more open on that holy day than any other day of the week, that it reaps larger returns? How is this? Why is it that the saloons reap larger returns from Sunday traffic than upon any other day of the week, when the saloon is open every other day of the week as well as on Sunday? There is one reason, and only one, that ever can be offered in explanation of this fact. That reason is, that more people are idle that day than any other day of the week. Other days of the week men are allowed to work, and while a man’s time is occupied by work, and his mind is upon that, it is easy enough to keep sober and to keep away from the saloon. Allow people to work on Sunday, as they have a right to do, and the returns from liquor traffic on Sunday will be no larger than on any other day. But instead of this, the preachers throughout the whole country demand laws both State and national, to compel men everywhere to be idle on Sunday, and then they make a national complaint that the saloons reap larger returns upon Sunday than any other day; when the reaping of these larger returns is because of the idleness into which the laws have forced the people, to satisfy the preachers.

Again the Doctor says:—

“It is estimated that not less than two millions of workingmen in this country are engaged in Sunday work, while millions more spend the day in frivolity and amusement, turning its holy hours into seasons of recreation and dissipation.”

Well, now, Doctor, are not those two millions who are engaged in their honest occupation on Sunday a good deal better off than those other millions who spend the day in frivolity and dissipation? And, indeed, are they not better off than the great mass of those who spend that day in amusements and recreation? Because, you know that much of the amusement, and of the recreation, too, indulged in on that day, is not by any means as innocent, nor as harmless, either morally nor physically, as is the work in which the two millions are engaged on that day.

Has it come to this that honest labor must be counted worse than frivolity or dissipation? worse than questionable recreation; and more than questionable amusement? Shall it be admitted that the man who follows his honest occupation on Sunday as on other days; is more wicked than those who spend the day in amusement and recreation? or that he is as bad as those who spend the day in frivolity and dissipation? If these Sunday-law ministers have such a tender regard for the laboring man, and such high respect for the dignity of labor, as they profess, they ought to have respect enough not to class honest occupations with frivolity and dissipation, nor to put the workingman on a level with the frivolous and dissipated. As for us, we never will admit that the man who follows his honest occupation on Sunday is as bad as those who spend that day in frivolity and dissipation. Nor will we ever admit that work is worse for men than are frivolity and dissipation.

Again, says the Doctor:—

“California, of all the States in this great commonwealth, enjoys the unenviable reputation of having swept from its statute books every legal safeguard of the Sabbath, both as a civil and religious institution.”

But nobody but the Sunday-law workers hale counted California’s reputation in this as unenviable. They are the only ones that are complaining of it. But, admitting that she has this “unenviable reputation,” it is only proper that she should enjoy it, because by the plain evidence of the field secretary of the American Sabbath Union, who is just now the chiefest Sunday-law worker of the Nation, it is shown that California has the enviable reputation of having “the best Sunday observance” and the “best attendance at church services” of any State in the Union. This being so, California has a right to enjoy this “unenviable” reputation, because by it she enjoys the entirely enviable reputation of having the best Sunday observance and best church attendance of any State in the Union. And if in sustaining this enviable reputation she is made subject to the unenviable reputation, it is proper that she should enjoy it, because it certainly is enjoyable.

The Doctor quotes Blackstone to the effect that “a corruption of morals usually follows the profanation of the Sabbath,” when the truth is that corruption of morals precedes the profanation of the Sabbath. Man’s morals has got to be corrupt before he will profane the Sabbath. This statement of Blackstone’s is of the same piece with all religious legislation and Church and State schemes. The whole thing is wrong end foremost, and it is only by that means their demand for legislation on the subject can ever be justified even in appearance. For instance, they start with Blackstone’s statement that corruption of morals usually follows the profanation of the Sabbath. Then the argue that that being so, if they can only get a law prohibiting under pains and penalties the profanation of the Sabbath, they can prevent corruption of morals and [234] save the Nation. But the thole thing is a fraud from beginning to end, just as is every other attempt to justify religious legislation. Corruption of morals precedes the profanation of the Sabbath just as it does the profanation of the name of God. Man’s morals has got to be corrupt before he will profane either the name or the day of God.

Therefore, the first thing to do is to purify the morals, and that in itself will prevent the profanation of the day. But this can be done only by the inculcation of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that can be done only by the power of the Spirit of God, and never by legislation. If the Lord could have stopped the corruption of morals in this world by law, he never would have needed to send the gospel.

Then, having started in the wrong, way, it is inevitable that the farther they go the farther they will be from the right. It is not at all surprising therefore to find him presently making this statement:—

“Bishop Vincent, during the Christian Workers’ council recently held in this city, expressed a great truth when he said, ‘Better have the old Puritan Sabbath with all its somberness and rigidity, than the present laxity of Sabbath observance with its corresponding laxity and lowness of morals.’”

Yes; no doubt the Sunday-law preachers would count that ever so much better than the present condition of things, because then the preachers ruled everything. Then the Sunday laws compelled everybody to go to church on Sunday, and if there was no church in the country of their own profession, they were compelled to go to the church of another profession and listen to the preaching there. Absence from the ministry of the word was punishable by a fine; and then, when people were thus compelled, under penalty, to go to church and listen to the preaching, it was such preaching as, said one of the victims, “was meat to be digested, but only by the heart or stomach of an ostrich.” Yes, we have no doubt that the Sunday-law preachers would be glad to see those good old times again. That is just what they are trying to bring about by their National Sunday law which is to make the State laws effective. And some of these State laws do actually at this hour of the nineteenth century command attendance at church on Sunday.

The reader will perhaps wonder where, in all the Doctor’s discussion, the civil Sabbath and its observance come in. In fact it doesn’t come in at all. He says “we are commanded to keep it holy, and its sacred hours are to be employed in religious meditation and worship, and in deeds of charity and mercy.” He speaks of “the silent, but insidious and steady, encroachment of traffic and trade upon the sacredness of our holy day.” He speaks of railroads being “flagrant violators of the sanctity of the Sabbath.” He says “the Christian Sabbath is in great peril.” He says that Mr. Crafts “should receive the hearty co-operation of all persons who desire the perpetuity of our Christian Sabbath and the cessation of its desecration.” He says “the Sabbath is one of the chief safeguards of morality,” and quotes Justice McLean as saying that where there is no Christian Sabbath there is no Christian morality. He says the Sabbath is “essential to morality” “and much more” to the “preservation of religion;” and that “Sabbath desecration of all kinds imperils the very existence of our holy Christianity.” He says they must “labor unitedly and earnestly to secure the enforcement of Sunday laws where such exist, and to secure the enactment of better laws for the protection of this holy day;” and that the Christian church is natural custodian of the Sabbath.

Now if anybody can find anywhere in that, any hint of the civil Sabbath we should like to have it pointed out. If it is the civil Sabbath, why didn’t he say we are commanded to keep it civilly? and that its civil hours are to be employed about civil things? Why didn’t he talk about the insidious and steady encroachment of traffic and trade upon the civility of our civil day? Why didn’t he arraign the railroads as being flagrant violators of the civility of the Sabbath? Why didn’t he say the civil Sabbath is in great peril? Why didn’t he say that the Sabbath is one of the chief safeguards of civility? Why didn’t he say that the Sabbath is essential to the preservation of civility? If it is the civil Sabbath they want, and which they want laws to preserve, why didn’t he say that the civil government rather than the Christian church is the natural custodian of it? The mere asking of these questions fully answers every one of them, and exposes the sophistry of all their plea for civil Sabbath. There is no such thing. There never was and there never can be any such thing as a civil Sabbath. A. T. J. [237]

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