Loading...
Larger font
Smaller font
Copy
Print
Contents

Civil Government and Religion

 - 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

    CONGRESSIONAL REPORT—TRANSPORTATION OF THE MAIL ON THE SABBATH

    As a fitting close to our discussion of this subject, we insert a portion of the report of a United States Senate committee on the same subject, sixty years ago—session of 1828-29. The arguments are unanswerable; and the principles stated are just now worthy of the most earnest consideration of every American citizen:—CGRAS 146.3

    “The Senate proceeded to the consideration of the following report and resolution, presented by Mr. Johnson, with which the Senate concurred:—CGRAS 146.4

    “‘The committee to whom were referred the several petitions on the subject of mails on the Sabbath, or first day of the week, report,—CGRAS 146.5

    “‘That some respite is required from the ordinary vocations of life, is an established principle, sanctioned by the usages of all nations, whether Christian or pagan. One day in seven has also been determined upon as the proportion of time; and in conformity with the wishes of a great majority of the citizens of this country, the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, has been set apart to that object. The principle has received the sanction of the national legislature, so far as to admit a suspension of all public business on that day, except in cases of absolute necessity, or of great public utility. This principle the committee would not wish to disturb. If kept within its legitimate sphere of action, no injury can result from its observance. It should, however, be kept in mind that the proper object of government is to protect all persons in the enjoyment of their religious as well as civil rights, and not to determine for any whether they shall esteem one day above another, or esteem all days alike holy.CGRAS 147.1

    “‘We are aware that a variety of sentiment exists among the good citizens of this nation, on the subject of the Sabbath day; and our Government is designed for the protection of one as much as another. The Jews, who in this country are as free as Christians, and entitled to the same protection from the laws, derive their obligation to keep the Sabbath day from the fourth commandment of their decalogue, and in conformity with that injunction, pay religious homage to the seventh day of the week, which we call Saturday. One denomination of Christians among us, justly celebrated for their piety, and certainly as good citizens as any other class, agree with the Jews in the moral obligation of the Sabbath, and observe the same day.... The Jewish Government was a theocracy, which enforced religious observances; and though the committee would hope that no portion of the citizens of our country would willingly introduce a system of religious coercion in our civil institutions, the example of other nations should admonish us to watch carefully against its earliest indication. With these different religious views, the committee are of opinion that Congress cannot interfere. It is not the legitimate province of the legislature to determine what religion is true, or what false.CGRAS 147.2

    “‘Our Government is a civil, and not a religious, institution. Our Constitution recognizes in every person the right to choose his own religion, and to enjoy it freely, without molestation. Whatever may be the religious sentiments of citizens, and however variant, they are alike entitled to protection from the Government, so long as they do not invade the rights of others. The transportation of the mail on the first day of the week, it is believed, does not interfere with the rights of conscience. The petitioners for its discontinuance appear to be actuated by a religious zeal which may be commendable if confined to its proper sphere; but they assume a position better suited to an ecclesiastical than to a civil institution. They appear in many instances to lay it down as an axiom, that the practice is a violation of the law of God. Should Congress in legislative capacity adopt the sentiment, it would establish the principle that the legislature is a proper tribunal to determine what are the laws of God. It would involve a legislative decision on a religious controversy, and on a point in which good citizens may honestly differ in opinion, without disturbing the peace of society or endangering its liberties. If this principle is once introduced, it will be impossible to define its bounds.CGRAS 148.1

    “‘Among all the religious persecutions with which almost every page of modern history is stained, no victim ever suffered but for the violation of what government denominated the law of God. To prevent a similar train of evils in this country, the Constitution has wisely withheld from our Government the power of defining the divine law. It is a right reserved to each citizen; and while he respects the rights of others, he cannot be held amenable to any human tribunal for his conclusions. Extensive religious combinations to effect a political object, are, in the opinion of the committee, always generous. This first effort of the kind calls for the establishment of a principle, which, in the opinion of the committee, would lay the foundation for dangerous innovations upon the spirit of the Constitution, and upon the religious rights of the citizens. If admitted, it may be justly apprehended that the future measures of the Government will be strongly marked, if not eventually controlled, by the same influence. All religious despotism commences by combination and influence, and when that influence begins to operate upon the political institutions of a country, the civil power soon bends under it; and the catastrophe of other nations furnishes an awful warning of the consequence.CGRAS 148.2

    “‘While the mail is transported on Saturday, the Jew and the Sabbatarian may abstain from any agency in carrying it, on conscientious scruples. While it is transported on the first day of the week, another class may abstain, from the same religious scruples. The obligation of Government is the same on both these classes; and the committee can discover no principle on which the claims of one should be more respected than those of the other, unless it be admitted that the consciences of the minority are less sacred than those of the majority.CGRAS 149.1

    “‘If the observance of a holy day becomes incorporated in our institutions, shall we not forbid the movement of an army, prohibit an assault in time of war, and lay an injunction upon our naval officers to lie in the wind while upon the ocean on that day? Consistency would seem to require it. Nor is it certain that we should stop here. If the principle is once established that religion, or religious observances, shall be interwoven with our legislative acts, we must pursue it to its ultimatum. We shall, if consistent, provide for the erection of edifices for worship of the Creator, and for the support of Christian ministers, if we believe such measures will promote the interests of Christianity. 3This is precisely what the National Reform Association proposes to do when religious legislation is once recognized. In the Christian Statesman of Feb. 21, 1884. Rev. J. M. Foster, a “district secretary” of the National Reform Association, declared that among the duties which the reigning Mediator requires of nations, is “an acknowledgment and performance of the nation’s duty to guard and protect the church by suppressing all public violation of the moral law, ...by exempting church property from taxation,” and “by providing her funds out of the public treasury, for carrying on her aggressive work at home and in the foreign field.” The Scripture says, “God hath ordained that they which preach the gospel shall live of the gospel;” but these men propose to ordain that they which preach the gospel shall live of the law, through the public treasury. It is the settled conviction of the committee, that the only method of avoiding these consequences, with their attendant train of evils, is to adhere strictly to the spirit of the Constitution, which regards the general Government in no other light than that of a civil institution, wholly destitute of religious authority. What other nations call religious toleration, we call religious rights. They are not exercised in virtue of governmental indulgence, but as rights, of which Government cannot deprive any portion of citizens, however small. Despotic power may invade those rights, but justice still confirms them.CGRAS 149.2

    “‘Let the national legislature once perform an act which involves the decision of a religious controversy, and it will have passed its legitimate bounds. The precedent will then be established, and the foundation laid, for that usurpation of the divine prerogative in this country which has been the desolating scourge to the fairest portion of the Old World.CGRAS 150.1

    “‘Our Constitution recognizes no other power than that of persuasion, for enforcing religious observances. Let the professors of Christianity recommend their religion by deeds of benevolence, by Christian meekness, by lives of temperance and holiness. Let them combine their efforts to instruct the ignorant, to relieve the widow and the orphan, to promulgate to the world the gospel of their Saviour, recommending its precepts by their habitual example; Government will find its legitimate object in protecting them. It cannot oppose them, and they will not need its aid. Their moral influence will then do infinitely more to advance the true interests of religion, than any measure which they may call on Congress to enact. The petitioners do not complain of any infringement upon their own rights. They enjoy all that Christians ought to ask at the hands of any Government—protection from all molestation in the exercise of their religious sentiments.’CGRAS 150.2

    Resolved, That the committee be discharged from any further consideration of the subject.”CGRAS 150.3

    Larger font
    Smaller font
    Copy
    Print
    Contents