Loading...
Larger font
Smaller font
Copy
Print
Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "undefined".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font
    Copy
    Print
    Contents

    June 19, 1889

    “Christopher Ephraim’s Tottering Morality” American Sentinel 4, 21.

    E. J. Waggoner

    Someone has favored us with a copy of the Home Record, a paper published at Leavenworth, Kansas, which contains an article that shows very clearly the spirit that actuates some of those who are zealous for a Sunday law. The article in question is by Mrs. H. F. Hartough. It purports to be the experience of an old lady with a young lady who was circulating the protest against religious legislation. After a little introductory gossip about her son, Christopher Ephraim, who was a little wild, the old lady describes the visit of the young lady and her introduction of her business, and finally asks what the petition is. The story then proceeds in the old lady’s language, as follows:—AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.1

    “‘It is against establishing a religion in this country,’ says she, ‘that will make a man keep a proscribed Sabbath-day, or believe in things he cannot believe in. It is against recognizing God in the Constitution.’AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.2

    “That Sabbath business made me think of Christopher E. How he went to base-ball games and races on Sundays in summer-time, and hunting in winter time, an’ it wasn’t doing him any good. So I says, says I, ‘I’m in favor of getting more of God an’ the Sabbath in our Constitution! It won’t hurt our systems one bit. Now, my Christopher Ephraim is lettin’ all the Sabbath get out of his constitution, an’ he’s failin’, morally. His foundation is totterin’, an’ he’ll fall, sure as fate, if there ain’t something done. I want a law passed,’ says I, ‘that’ll compel people to keep the Sabbath-day just as much as to keep ‘em from killin’ folks.’AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.3

    “‘Whether they believe in it or not, eh?’ says she, sneerin’.AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.4

    “‘Certainly,’ says I. ‘If a man believes in killin’ would you let him murder your family, ma’am?’AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.5

    “‘That’s quite a different matter,’ says she.AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.6

    “No, ‘tain’t,’ says I, getting warm. ‘One’s just as right as the Pother. It’s no more right for my son to go to base-ball games on Sundays, an’ horse-races, an’ all such, than it is for him to steal or kill. No, ma’am; I want a Sunday law an’ want it enforced, an’ if somebody or other don’t believe in keepin’ the law let ‘em go where there ain’t none. We don’t want ‘em here.’AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.7

    “She looked at me as if she felt sorry for me. She actually did. But I didn’t mind her looks. I was thinking about Christopher E., and how he was doomed to destruction if these things wa’nt put a stop to, an’ I just went on: ‘This land’s getting too free,’ says I, getting up and resumin’ my dustin’. ‘We’ve put the Bible out of the public school for fear of hurtin’ somebody’s feelings; we’ve let the base-balls run for fear the workingmen wouldn’t get exercise enough, an’ now them freedom-lovin’ folks want us to give up our Sunday. Pretty soon they’ll come sneaking ‘round an’ petition Congress to compel the preachers to hunt texts out of the daily papers or the magazines instead of the Bible, for fear o’ hurtin’ their feelings. They ain’t patriots, they’re heathen infidels, an’ the quicker we send ‘em out o’ this land the freer we’ll be.’”AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.8

    This little story was of course written with an object, and that object was to prejudice people against those who oppose Sunday legislation and Church and State union. We propose to give a brief review of the portion which we have just copied, with the object of showing the real purpose of these Sunday workers.AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.9

    The first point that we notice is the idea that religious legislation will make men good. The old lady gives as a reason why she is in favor of recognizing God in the Constitution, that her Christopher Ephraim is “lettin’ all the Sabbath out of his constitution, an’ he’s failin’, morally. His foundation is a totterin’, an’ he’ll fall, sure as fate, if there ain’t something done.” The idea seems to have obtained a firm foothold that men can be made moral by law; but there is not a law in the universe that can make man moral or religious. The moral law does not make man moral, and will not prop up a “tottering” morality. God’s own righteous law cannot make men righteous. The ten commandments only point out the unrighteousness of men, and drive them to Christ, whose righteousness may be imputed to them, and who, through their faith in him, will enable them to fulfill the righteousness of the law.AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.10

    When people talk about propping up tottering morality by civil enactments, they show their ignorance of what morality is. Does the writer of that story imagine that the enactment of the Sunday law, and the recognition of God in the Constitution, will keep man from falling?—It seems so, and that is a regular National Reform idea; for in the Christian Nation of December 5, 1888, the Rev. N. M. Johnston tells of the time when Christ’s “gospel will prevail, and wickedness be suppressed by law.” In a speech in Monmouth, Ill., September 29, 1884, reported in the Christian Statesman of November 6, of the same year, M. A. Gault said:—AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.11

    “This movement includes the triumph of every moral reform. Every true reform is simply an effort to get back to some one of the ten commandments. If that law was taken as a standard of religion, and if public sentiment were lifted up to that standard, it would do away with stealing, intemperance, profanity, Sabbath desecration, licentiousness, murder, and every evil that now vexes society. So we do not flatter ourselves when we say that the glorious millennial day will be ushered in by the triumph of this movement.”AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.12

    This shows just how much knowledge these National Reformers have of what sin is. They are going to suppress Sabbath-breaking, murder, licentiousness, etc., by law; but the truth is that very often the most vicious are those of whom the law cannot take any notice, because their viciousness is concealed in their own hearts. When a man commits a murder, the law can punish him, but it cannot prevent him from committing the murder. For instance, here is a man that has received some injury at the hands of another. He broods over the wrong, and cherishes anger and hatred until his revengeful feelings assume entire control of him, and he resolves to murder the object of his hatred. He fixes on the time when he will carry his murderous designs into effect, secretes himself at the place where he expects the man to pass, has his knife all in readiness to give the fatal blow, but his intended victim passes by another way where he cannot reach hire without exposing himself, and so his plan is frustrated. Is he any less a murderer than though he had carried his design into effect? If he should die that moment, would God hold him any less guiltless than though he had killed the man? No; for the Bible declares that whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer. Yet not another soul on earth has known of this man’s murderous intentions. Then how would it be possible to suppress murder by law?AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.13

    Take the case of Sabbath-breaking. It is not simply the abstaining from labor on that day that constitutes Sabbath-keeping. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord says that to honor him by keeping his Sabbath, men must not do their own ways nor find their own pleasure, nor speak their own words. Now the minions of the Inquisition cannot keep such persistent watch over men as to know every word they speak, and does anyone suppose that the thoughts can be prevented from running riot even in the house of worship?AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.14

    Take the matter of licentiousness. The law punishes the adulterer and the seducer, but it cannot prevent licentiousness. Here is a man whose very soul is rotten with iniquity. He cherishes lustful desires toward someone of the opposite sex, and his whole thought is how he can accomplish his design. He thinks of it by day, and dreams of it by night. He lives in an atmosphere of impurity, and is wholly corrupt. In imagination he again and again accomplishes his desires; but something happens to prevent the overt act, and nobody but himself knows his evil purpose. Yet, according to the Bible, he is as guilty as though the act had actually been committed. The Saviour said that he who looks upon a woman with lust, has already committed adultery. But law cannot prohibit lust. Even the agents of the Inquisition cannot fathom a man’s thoughts and read his corrupt desires.AMS June 19, 1889, page 163.15

    So it is utter folly to speak of suppressing immorality by law. It is not only folly but it is wicked, for it leads to an establishment of a false standard of morality. When men talk of putting down immorality by law, they thereby say that the outward observance of the law, which is all that can be secured, is all that constitutes morality. Therefore they deceive the man who is outwardly correct in deportment but abominably corrupt in heart, into the belief that he is an upright man.AMS June 19, 1889, page 164.1

    The writer of the article under consideration makes the old lady say: “I want a law passed that will compel people to keep the Sabbath-day just as much as to keep them from killing folks.” Now granting that it is just as wicked to break the Sabbath as it is to murder, it does not follow that there should be a civil law against Sabbath-breaking, just as to punish murder. The two things are entirely dissimilar. A man may break the Sabbath, and do no injury to any person besides himself. He does not interfere with the inalienable right of any individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as he does when he commits murder. He does not by his act compel anybody else to do wrong. His act begins and ends with himself; therefore the Government cannot rightfully take any notice of it.AMS June 19, 1889, page 164.2

    But says one, What about the hilarious, boisterous Sunday picnics, in which drunken hoodlums annoy people, disturb worship, and endanger or destroy property?—Why, deal with them just as you would on any other day of the week. The same law that arrests the drunken hoodlum for making a nuisance of himself on Monday will do it on Sunday. The old lady in the story said that her Christopher was doomed to destruction if Sunday labor and amusements were not stopped. This again shows the National Reform theory that the people of the country are to be saved by law. The State is to take the place of the church, and men are to be swept into the kingdom of Heaven by wholesale, whether they will or no. The gospel knows nothing of such methods of salvation.AMS June 19, 1889, page 164.3

    Only one point more need take our attention. That is the intolerance of religious legislation. Says the old lady: “I want a Sunday law and want it enforced, and if somebody or other don’t believe in keeping the law; let them go where there ain’t none. We do not want them here.” And again, “The quicker we send them out of this land, the freer we shall be.” These statements stamp this Sunday-law movement as being the very essence of National Reform, for the readers of the AMERICAN SENTINEL have often read the statement made by Mr. Graham, one of the vice-presidents of the National Reform Association, to the effect that if the enemies of their movement did not like it they could go to some barren land, and in the name of the devil and for the sake of the devil, stay there till they die. Now notice where this false zeal for religion will lead these people to. First, they must Christianize the country by law. Those who do not like the law and do not wish to be Christianized after their methods can leave the country. But some other country to which they might go will be fired with the same kind of zeal, and so will refuse to receive them. Thus we may imagine them wandering from country to country only to find that all are zealous for the same sort of millennium, and that the people are getting so good that they will not tolerate anyone who they think is bad, and that will be the one who does not think as they do. Then what?—Why, then the only thing to do with these persistent heretics, who refuse to be Christianized according to the National Reform idea, will be to put them to death. There will be no room for them on the earth. This was the conclusion that was reached in the days of the Papal supremacy. And if National Reform, which is the image of the Papacy, shall ever be carried to its finality, it will result again. The spirit of so-called National Reform from Sunday legislation to the end of the chapter is the spirit of intolerance and persecution.AMS June 19, 1889, page 164.4

    E. J. W.

    Larger font
    Smaller font
    Copy
    Print
    Contents