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    May 1, 1889

    “Sunday Law and the Law of Nature” American Sentinel 4, 15.

    E. J. Waggoner

    A gentleman in Kansas, who has been receiving the AMERICAN SENTINEL for some months, by the courtesy of a friend, writes to us that he does not indorse its teachings, and particularizes after the following fashion:—AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.1

    “It would be unwise to enter into detail, but I am amazed that Americans calling themselves intelligent should oppose so-called civil Sunday legislation, and, at the same time, favor legislation touching other propositions contained in the decalogue. ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness,’ etc., might as well be kicked against on religious grounds as, ‘Remember the Sabbath-day,’ etc.AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.2

    “I have had personal occasion to know that a mule team can make a one-thousand-mile journey at the rate of six days per week, and come out at the end in less time and in better condition than when worked seven days per week.AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.3

    “I once asked a locomotive engineer which would be the best for the locomotive, all other things being equal, forty-two days’ work in six weeks, or forty-two days’ work in seven weeks? He replied, ‘The latter, by all means.’ Mules and locomotives cannot be accused of religious fanaticism.AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.4

    “My conclusion is that a rest-day of one in seven is inwrought into the nature of things. You and I cannot change it. We may buck, and kick, and wax profane, but the great law of a necessary rest-day will still exist, and the higher the enlightenment the more the law will be recognized.”AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.5

    We quote this much of the letter because it is a fair sample of the understanding, or rather the misunderstanding, which Sunday-law advocates seem to have of our opposition to their work. Our correspondent well says that we are opposed to “so-called civil Sunday legislation.” That is it, exactly. It is so-called civil Sunday legislation, but actually religious or ecclesiastical Sunday legislation. To show that this is so we make a few quotations.AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.6

    In an article in the California Prohibitionist, of December 6, 1888, the Rev. N. R. Johnston, a prominent National Reformer, said:—AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.7

    “We do ask a law that will be in accordance with the divine law of the fourth commandment.”AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.8

    And again:—AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.9

    “We recommend most strenuous and prayerful efforts in the States and Territories to secure legislation in harmony with the fourth commandment.”AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.10

    In Mr. Crafts’s speech before the general assembly of the Knights of Labor, at Indianapolis, November 16, 1888, he said:—AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.11

    “A weekly day of rest has never been permanently secured in any land except on the basis of religious obligation. Take the religion out and you take the rest out.”AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.12

    The Rev. James Brand, D.D., in an article in the Advance of March 21, 1889, said:—AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.13

    “If there is no good moral principle behind the Sunday law it cannot stand.”AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.14

    And Colonel Shepard, president of the American Sabbath Association, in his address upon his election, said: “Every man, woman, and child in our country is going to be judged by the fourth commandment,” indicating, as Mr. Johnston said, that Sunday laws are designed to enforce the religious observance of the day.AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.15

    Finally, as an admission of what we have always claimed, we quote from a sermon by Rev. Byron Sunderland, D. D., entitled, “The Right to Sunday Laws,” published in the New York Evangelist, March 28, 1889. Speaking of the declaration made by Mr. Wolfe of the secular league, before the Senate Committee, that “he did not object to the civil Sunday, and would help to enforce it,” Mr. Sunderland says:—AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.16

    “No man can make such an admission and not go to the end with those who secure and retain a Christianity which is the rational observance of our American Sabbath in every particular. It is simply impossible to have a civil Sunday, that is, a day of rest from ordinary, occupation, and not exclude from it a voluntary religious observance. The declaration forcibly reminds one of a certain lord bishop who said, ‘Oh, but you know, John, I do not swear as a bishop, only as a man.’ ‘That is true, your grace,’ replied the valet, but I was thinking when the devil comes for the man what will become of the bishop who said, ‘Oh but you know, John, I do not swear as a bishop, only as a man.’ ‘That is true, your grace,’ replied the valet, but I was thinking when the devil comes for the man what will become of the bishop?’”AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.17

    These statements, from among many that might be quoted, show not only that Sunday legislation is religious legislation, but that it cannot by any possibility be anything else.AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.18

    Concerning the sixth, eighth, and ninth commandments, which our correspondent quotes, we have this to say: First, that there is a universally recognized difference between the first four commandments and the last six. The first four relate only to man’s duty to God, but the last six present his duty to his fellow-men. With man’s duty to God no man has any right to interfere, but Governments exist for the sole purpose of preserving the proper relation of citizens to one another. Second, legislation concerning killing and stealing and bearing false witness is not legislation upon the sixth, eighth, and ninth commandments, and does not derive its authority from those commandments. The Government punishes the murderer, not because the commandment says it is wrong to kill, but because the murderer interferes with the right to life and liberty which the Government grants to all citizens. This is shown further by the fact that, when the Government punishes the murderer, it does not execute one particle of the penalty for breaking the sixth commandment. The punishment which civil government metes out to the murderer does not make his guilt any the less, or leave him any the less to answer for before the bar of God. It is simply a pledge on the part of the Government that the people shall be protected in future from his lawlessness.AMS May 1, 1889, page 113.19

    We might call attention, while passing, to the fact that Sunday legislation has nothing whatever to do with the fourth commandment, even though it were proper and possible for Government to legislate concerning the decalogue. A man will search in vain for any reference to Sunday in the fourth commandment. A law in accordance with the divine law of the fourth commandment, such as Mr. Johnston wants, would enforce the observance of the seventh day, or Saturday; but, although this day is enjoined by the commandment, civil government has no right to enforce its observance.AMS May 1, 1889, page 114.1

    Our correspondent says that “a mule team can make a thousand miles’ journey at the rate of six days per week, and come out at the end in less time and in better condition than when worked seven days per week.” We do not question that at all, but we claim that it affords no reason for Sunday legislation. Granting that man and beast could do more work if they rest one day in seven, what is there in that to indicate that that day should be Sunday? and what right has the Government to specify on which day they shall take their needed rest? We are not, as he imagines, “kicking against a rest-day.” We not only believe in the right of every man to rest one day in seven if he chooses to, but we also believe that it is the duty of every man to rest one day in seven, even on the day which the fourth commandment enjoins; but we do not recognize the right of Government to say that a man shall do his duty in regard to the fourth commandment, any more than it may compel him to obey the first, and worship God.AMS May 1, 1889, page 114.2

    Then again there is a difference of opinion among men as to what day is enjoined by the fourth commandment; and Government has no more right to decide the question between them than it has to interfere with men’s honest difference concerning the age of the earth or the mode of baptism. Every man has reason, and one man cannot think for another, neither can the Government take it upon itself to do the thinking for all its citizens.AMS May 1, 1889, page 114.3

    In line with the statement that “mules will do more work if allowed to rest one day in seven,” is the statement that “a rest-day of one in seven is inwrought in the nature of things;” but that does not prove that the Government should compel men to comply with that law, neither does it indicate upon what day that periodical rest should be taken. If we are to fall back upon the law of nature, then we must let nature execute her own laws, or else we must legislate upon everything which the laws of nature demand.AMS May 1, 1889, page 114.4

    We will take a parallel and see how it works. The necessity for bodily rest is inwrought in the very nature of man, and not only so, but nature has indicated when that rest should be taken, by making a regularly recurring period of darkness, in which sleep is natural, and work is most difficult. Now, if the State may legislate concerning a weekly rest, surely there is more reason why it should legislate concerning a daily rest, because the daily rest is more necessary to one’s physical well-being than is the weekly rest, and nature indicates when the daily rest should be taken, but indicates nothing concerning the time of the weekly rest. If the State may say that all men must rest upon Sunday because it is good to rest one day in seven, then it may likewise say that all men must take eight hours’ sleep every night. And just as the State makes no difference even though a man may have rested one day in the week and is not tired when Sunday comes, so it must make no difference even though a man is not tired when the regularly appointed hour for retiring comes. Sunday-law makers say that those who observe another day than Sunday are a very small minority, and that they must submit even though they are inconvenienced and obliged to lose more time than others. They say that the liberty of rest for one depends upon the law of rest for all. Now we will apply that argument in another case.AMS May 1, 1889, page 114.5

    The State, as we have seen, is under greater obligation to compel people to rest every day than to rest once a week, but when it comes to enforcing this law, it finds some men who are employed upon a morning newspaper, and who are obliged to work in the night and to take their needed rest in the day-time. These would naturally protest against a law compelling everybody to go to bed at nine o’clock and stay there till five in the morning; but the advocates of the law may claim that the liberty of rest for each depends upon the law of rest for all, and that no discrimination can be made. The number of those who work upon morning newspapers is only a small proportion of the number of inhabitants of the country, and the convenience of the majority must be considered. We think, that anyone can see the injustice of this, and we know that the only reason why they cannot see the gross injustice of the same argument concerning Sunday is because of prejudice and religious bigotry.AMS May 1, 1889, page 114.6

    Later on in his letter, our friend tells about people who have been “downed” in trying to reverse the nature of things; but, as we have shown, we are not trying to reverse the nature of things. We are not protesting against a weekly rest-day. All that we protest against is the assumption that, because some men want to take their rest on Sunday, everybody else must be compelled to do likewise. This is not in the nature of things only as it is man’s nature to be selfish; and against such unreasonable selfishness as that everybody ought to protest. It is neither civil nor religious.AMS May 1, 1889, page 114.7

    E. J. W.

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