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    December 20, 1892

    “Sunday Closing for England” The Present Truth 8, 26.


    E. J. Waggoner

    We have received the December number of the Sunday Closing Reporter, together with a request that we insert as much as possible of a Memorial to Parliament, which it contains, and also some other matter on Sunday closing, which we gladly do. Following is a portion of the Memorial:-PTUK December 20, 1892, page 400.13

    “To the Rt. Hon. H. H. Asquith, M.P., Her Majesty’s Secretary of State, for the Home Department, the Memorial Committee of the Central Association for Stopping the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 400.14

    “Showeth.-That your memorialists, having good reason to hope for legislation by the present Parliament in favour of closing public-houses in England on Sundays, and having also reason to fear that such legislation is in danger of being unnecessarily delayed, by being treated as part of the wider and more controversial question of diminishing prevalent intemperance by means of some form of local option, venture, through you, to approach Her Majesty’s Government with an expression of their desire that Sunday Closing may be kept separate from all other licensing questions, and settled once for all by an Imperial enactment, as was the case in regard to Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 400.15

    “That any other mode of setting the question will be unsatisfactory in its operation, and will fail to meet the widely expressed desire of the people.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 400.16

    “That public-houses in England being already closed by Imperial enactment during a considerable portion of Sunday, a measure to close them altogether on that day would be simply an extension of the existing legislation, which is based upon the peculiar character and circumstances of the day.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 400.17

    “That many are agreed as to the necessity for Sunday Closing, who hold various opinions in regard to other legislative proposals for the suppression of intemperance, and that consequently many districts in which there is a great majority in favour of Sunday Closing would be deprived of this legislation if it is bound up with other methods of promoting temperance reform.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 400.18

    “That, in addition to being opposed to the wishes of the people, the Sunday sale of intoxicating liquors is wrong in principle, unfair to other trades, and injurious to the publicans and their servants, whose hours on other days of the week are grossly exccessive; and that the open public house on a day devoted to rest and worship is a special temptation to intemperance, and is therefore productive of a large proportion of the poverty, degradation, and crime from which the country suffers.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 400.19

    “That it is a matter of common knowledge that the opposition to Sunday Closing has been almost entirely confined to those who have a pecuniary interest of the liquor traffic.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 404.1

    “That, on these grounds, your memorialists respectfully and earnestly entreat Her Majesty’s Government to support, and, if necessary, to provide facilities for the passing during the ensuing session of a Bill prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sunday throughout the whole of England.”PTUK December 20, 1892, page 404.2

    This Memorial was signed at the headquarters of the Central Association for Stopping the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday, in Manchester, November 16, 1892. In response to it the following reply was received:-PTUK December 20, 1892, page 404.3

    “10, Downing Street, Whitehall, 29th November, 1892.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 404.4

    Sir: I am desired by Mr. Gladstone to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 26th instant, in reply to which I am to say that the subject to which it refers is now engaging the attention of Her Majesty’s Government.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.1

    “I am, Sir,PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.2

    “Your obedient servant,PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.3

    “H. SHAND.”PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.4

    We learn from the Reporter that the next annual meeting of the Association will be held in Exeter Hall, London, on Monday, February 13, and that the Lord Bishop of London will preside. This will be the first occasion on which the annual meeting has been held out of Manchester, and the reason for bringing it to London now is the hope that its influence will thus be brought more directly to bear upon Parliament, which will then be sitting. The prospects for the passage of such a Bill as the Memorial calls for are thought by its friends to be very favourable.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.5

    We are always glad to see any advancement in the cause of temperance. We do not regard temperance as an aid to or a handmaid of religion, but as being a necessary part of religion. Faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity, are the graces, the possession of which the apostle Peter declares will make one fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Temperance, therefore, is not a light matter. It embraces total abstinence from all intoxicating liquors, but that alone does not constitute the whole of temperance. While nominally a total abstainer from intoxicating liquor passes for a temperate man, and nothing less than that can have any claim to be called temperance, true temperance really implies the possession of all the Christian graces. In the Scriptures temperance is classed with righteousness. It is the outgrowth of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.6

    The first question to be settled, and indeed the only question, is whether or not the Sunday closing movement is in reality a temperance measure. It will readily be admitted that although a movement may profess to be for the promotion of temperance, yet the most ardent temperance man is bound to stand aloof from it if it is evident that it will not accomplish anything for temperance. Much more is this true, if on the other hand it appears that its supporters are wholly deceived in the matter, and that it really tends to the upbuilding and strengthening of the liquor traffic. Without in the least questioning the sincerity of those who are labouring so earnestly for the securing of Sunday closing of public-houses, we are bound to say that the movement is in the interest of intemperance rather than of temperance. A few points taken from the Memorial and from the Reporter will make this appear.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.7

    In the argument against Sunday closing by local option, we find the following reason:-PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.8

    “It will place Sunday closing at a disadvantage in relation to other questions. If the matter could be referred to the inhabitants direct for their decision there would be less objection to it, because there are few districts, probably none, where, if the people had the power, they would not close public-houses on Sundays. But the bodies to whom it is proposed to give the necessary powers will be elected on many issues, and there will be many personal and local considerations. Amongst them, in not a few districts, Sunday closing might be lost sight of and not obtained, though the people would have welcomed it. Even if the authority were elected solely to deal with the liquor traffic, it must be remembered that Sunday closing is quite distinct from prohibition. In such a case the election would turn on prohibition, and Sunday Closing might be lost to the district because its inhabitants were not prepared to vote for closing public-houses seven days in a week.”PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.9

    The italics in the above quotation are our own. It is clear enough that the stopping of the liquor traffic is not the object of the proposed legislation. Neither is the movement prompted by opposition to the liquor traffic in itself. The objection is solely to the time when it is carried on. It is a question of days, and not of the selling of liquor. This appears further from the statement that those who are in the liquor selling business and are opposed to the movement for Sunday Closing “are in a miserable minority,” and that “they are repudiated even by their own class.” Now anyone who takes time for even one moment’s serious thought well knows that no people will favour a movement that will curtail their own business. The drapers would not for a moment listen to any proposition looking toward the limiting of their sales of clothing, the shoemakers would never be found favouring an Act of Parliament which would diminish by one-seventh the sale of shoes, and least of all will the publicans ever be found assenting to a proposition to curtail the sale of liquor, by which they get their living. The statement that publicans are in favour of Sunday Closing is the strongest proof that Sunday Closing will not in the least diminish the amount of liquor consumed.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.10

    This will be still more apparent by another quotation from the Sunday Closing Reporter. It is said that at the last meeting of the West Derby Board of Guardians, “Mr. Beesley observed, as an old publican, that the best thing for the people would be the closing of the public-houses on Sunday. Working men who had only five or six shillings a week to spend with a publican, without distressing their families, had quite enough to do to make their money last them six days.” Exactly. The people can spend all their money at the public-houses in six days, and have hard work to make it last even that long, and therefore what is the use of keeping the houses open on Sunday? When the publicans can get all the money of their customers in six days, what is the use of their working seven days to get only the same amount? As the Reporter says, “This is candid testimony.” It is indeed; but it is fatal to the idea that the Sunday Closing Movement is to any degree whatever a temperance measure, or that it will in the least diminish the amount of liquor sold and consumed.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.11

    On the country, it is in reality a movement to clothe the liquor traffic with greater respectability. We do not mean that the Sunday Closing Association has any such object in view, but that will be the result. They are beyond all doubt sincere in their efforts, but the outcome, if they are successful, will be to intrench the liquor business more firmly than ever before. This is evident because the very nature of the movement recognizes the right of the traffic to exist, and puts it on a level with “other trades.” The attempt to stop the sale of liquor on Sunday is a tacit admission that it is all right to sell it on any other day of the week. It puts the liquor traffic on a level with any legitimate business.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.12

    A little illustration will make this more clear. Here are two ladies who are both very devoted observers of the Sunday. One of them sees her little boy out trundling his hoop on Sunday morning, and cries out, “Willie, you must not play with your hoop Sunday; it is wrong.” Would Willie get the idea that it is a sin to roll his hoop? Would he, if requested on Monday to take a run with a playmate, say, “My mother says that it is wicked to roll hoops”? Certainly not. The fact that his mother specified the day of the week, when she bade him not to roll his hoop, showed plainly that the thing itself was not wrong in her eyes, but that she was troubled only for the desecration of the day.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 29.13

    But the other lady sees her boy out in the garden beating a poor, harmless kitten. Will she call out to him, “Jack, don’t you know that is wrong to beat kittens on Sunday? Leave off at once.” Indeed she will not. She will peremptorily command that he stop beating the kitten, and call him to account for cruelty to animals. Not a word will be uttered in regard to the day. And Jack cannot get the idea that it is all right to beat kittens provided he does not do it on Sunday. Now why this difference in the way the two ladies reprove their sons? Simply this, that the first boy is doing a thing which is all right in itself, but which would be wrong if there were any sacredness to Sunday; while the second boy is doing a thing which is wrong in itself, no matter what the day, and no more wrong at one time than at another.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 405.1

    From this it will appear that the movement to stop the sale of liquor on Sunday is simply an effort to enforce the observance of Sunday. Indeed, the Memorial states that the measure “is based upon the peculiar character and circumstances of the day.” It is a movement wholly in the interest of religion, but not true religion, however, for true religion was never aided in any way by civil legislation. Religion is a matter between the individual and his God, with which Government has nothing to do. Since the foundation of the world, every attempt to uphold religion by civil law has been a victory for the devil. This seems like strong language, but a few words will show that it is warranted.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 405.2

    True religion is an affair of the heart and life, and not of form. “Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27, R.V. And “if any man thinketh himself to be religious, while he bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his heart, this man’s religion is vain.” Verse 26. Now it must be evident to everyone that Government cannot do anything that will in any way change a man’s heart. Civil legislation cannot in the least degree effect a man’s life and character. It can no more make a man religious than it can cure him of consumption. But the effect of all religious legislation is to cause men to think that religion is but an an outward form,-that he who complies with the civil law has discharged all the obligations of religion. This has invariably been the result. Therefore the inevitable outcome of all religious legislation is to lower the standard of religion among the people.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 405.3

    It is evident therefore, that the sincere, well-instructed Christian must be the one who is the most opposed to all religious legislation. As lovers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of His Gospel, we could not for a moment admit the right of any government on earth to meddle in any way with religious questions. And our opposition to such legislation would not in the least be diminished if the things sought to be enforced were right in itself. As a matter of fact, Sunday-observance has not the slightest warrant in the Scriptures, but if it had, the principle of the case would not be altered. It is a religious, and not a civil institution, and therefore with it the State has no business to deal.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 405.4

    The fact that men have long been accustomed to regard the day, and that the observance of it is almost universal, does not give the State in the right in the matter. Surely it will not be claimed that all the world combined are equal in importance to the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is a greater majority that all men all together. But He did not use force to bring people to His ways. Said He, “If any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” John 12:47. Nay, He prohibited His followers from using force in any way. When the multitude came with swords and staves to take Jesus, and Peter, having a sword, drew it and cut off the ear of one of the men, Jesus healed the wounded man, and said to Peter, “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” Matthew 26:52-54. Jesus could in an instant have put all those men to flight. He had power enough to compel all men to acknowledge His claims. But then the object for which He came to earth would not have been accomplished. He came to convert men by the power of His own life of love, and not to change their actions only, without their hearts being affected. And even so is the object of the Gospel frustrated whenever any of His professed followers think to advance it by the arm of civil law. This question has to do with the very heart of the Gospel, and therefore we shall have much to say about it in the future.PTUK December 20, 1892, page 405.5

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