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Meditation 1094
Faith or Fact

Sunday

by: Henry M. Taber

Comment by JT: I wouldn't swear that the pagan origins of Sunday as a Christian Sabbath are entirely as outlined here - particularly as both the Puritans and the Pope get blamed in separate sections. But pretty much the same arguments can be found advanced by those Christian denominations that continue to hold to the Jewish Sabbath day.

But why should we worry about which day most Christians celebrate a Sabbath? We shouldn't care — except that some Christians still want to impose that day on all of us. That brings us to the civil liberties aspect in the latter part of the chapter — the fight against the imposition of restrictive Sunday laws — some of which are still with us today.

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SUNDAY.

PROBABLY very few Christians are aware of the fact that what they call the “ Christian Sabbath ” is (like almost everything pertaining to Christianity) of Pagan origin.

The first observance of-Sunday that history records is in the fourth century, when Constantine issued an edict (not requiring its religious observance, but simply abstinence from work) reading, “Let all the judges and people of the town rest and all the various trades be suspended on the venerable day of the Sun.” At the time of the issue of this edict, Constantine was a Sun-worshipper; therefore it could have had no relation whatever to Christianity.

Dean Stanley says: “Our present legal institution of Sunday was appointed by Constantine’s authority, but not as a Christian Sabbath.”

Rev. A. H. Lewis, D. D., says: “Constantine was a well-known devotee of the Sun-God, as were his predecessors. His attitude towards Christianity was that of a shrewd politician. Towards his rivals that of an unscrupulous, bloody-handed monarch. He gained power by intrigue, deceit and murder. No accurate historian dares call him a Christian emperor. He refused to unite with the Church until on his death-bed,” (337).

Rev. Philip Schaff, D.D., says: “In the celebration of Sunday, as it was introduced by Constantine (and still continues on the whole continent of Europe), the cultus of the old Sun-God Apollo mingles with the remembrance of the resurrection of Christ.”

At the Church Council in 538 the religious observance of Sunday was recommended, but very little attention was paid to it.

In 780 Alcuin, an English prelate, became the spiritual adviser of Charlemagne, when, for the first time, it was formally declared that the fourth commandment covered the first day of the week ; but this declaration was observed by comparatively few ; and for eight centuries thereafter Sunday was observed far more as a day of sport and festivity than as a religious one. The English parliament sat on Sundays and English courts were held on that day, down to the reign of Elizabeth.

In 1595, Dr. Nicholas Bound, of Suffolk County, England, published a work called “The True Doctrine of the Sabbath,” in which he maintained, not that Sunday was divinely appointed as a Sabbath, but that the obligation to observe a Sabbath was divine. This idea seemed to take root and to grow rapidly, preparing the way for the rigid observance of Sunday as a Sabbath by the Puritans. To quote a Christian writer: “At the opening of the seventeenth century, the Puritans in England began the unscriptural and deceptive practice of calling Sunday the Sabbath.”

W. H. Burr says: “The Christian Sabbath was instituted, not in Judea, but in Great Britain; not in the first, but in the seventeenth century; not by Christ or his apostles, but by the Puritans.”

Another writer says: “The story of the establishment and reign of the Puritan Sabbath — whose decrepit form is still supported by State laws — constitutes one of the most disgraceful chapters in the history of ecclesiastical despotism.” Rev. M. J. Savage says: “The Puritan Sabbath was an outright creation of something which never existed in the world before.”

The gloom and absurdity of a Puritanical Sabbath is well illustrated by Macaulay: “The Puritans opposed bear-baiting on Sunday, not because it gave pain to the bears, but because it gave pleasure to the people.”

As showing that the inheritance of Puritanism, by its ignorance and bigotry, does violence to the kindly feelings of our nature, even to-day, we quote from a recent issue of the Toronto World: “You might as well commit murder, as violate the fourth command; of these two evils murder is the least.”

Why will not Christian people investigate and find out for themselves (which they easily can), that the keeping of Sunday as a “holy Sabbath day,” is wholly without warrant.

I challenge any priest or minister of the Christian religion, to show me the slightest authority for the religious observance of Sunday. And, if such cannot be shown by them, why is it that they are constantly preaching about Sunday as a holy day? Are they not open to the suspicion of imposing upon the confidence and credulity of their hearers? Surely they are deliberately and knowingly practicing deception upon those who look to them for candor and for truth, unless they can give satisfactory reasons for teaching that Sunday is a sacred day. There never was, and is not now, any such “satisfactory reasons.” No student of the Bible has ever brought to light a single verse, line or word, which can, by any possibility, be construed into a warrant for the religious observance of Sunday. Quotations from the writings of the “Church Fathers,” and others familiar with Church history, support this statement, and include the names of Tertulian, Eusebius, Ireneus, Victorinus, Theodoretus, Origen, Chrysostom, Jerome, Luther, Melancthon, Zwingle, Knox, Tyndale, Grotius, Neander, Mosheim, Heylyn, Frith, Milton, Priestley, Domville. John Calvin had so little respect for the day that he could be found playing bowls most any Sunday.

The claim that Sunday takes the place of Saturday, and that because the Jews were supposed to be commanded to keep the seventh day of the week holy, therefore that the first day of the week should be so kept by Christians, is so utterly absurd as to be hardly worth considering.

“The only authority for observing Sunday as a Sabbath, is the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church.” — (Brooklyn Examiner, R.C.)

“All the great exegetes deny that the fourth commandment covers the Lord’s Day.” — (Rev. E. H. Johnson.)

“The Sunday law has neither scriptural authority nor standing room in the law of God.” — (Rev. A. H. Lewis, D.D.)

“Sunday, as a holy day, was unknown to the early Christians.”  — (Judge Reed, Supreme Court, Pennsylvania.)

“To call any day of the week a Christian Sabbath is not Christian, but Jewish. Give us one scripture for it, and I will give you two against it.” — (William Penn.)

“The new doctrine (that the prescriptions of the fourth commandment have been transferred to the first day of the week) was for a long time strenuously opposed by the leading divines of the English Church, but warmly contended for by the Puritans.” — (Bannerman.)

In 1848 an anti-Sabbath convention was held in Boston to protest against the popular delusion of a Puritan Sabbath, and which convention was earnestly supported by William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Parker, Charles K. Whipple, Charles E. Pratt and William C. Gannett.

“The commandment distinctly specifies the seventh day of the week (Saturday), and not the first (Sunday), as the Sabbath; and it is wholly by tradition, by extra scriptural authority, that Sunday has been so designated instead of Saturday.” — (Catholic Review.)

“Sunday is no Christian institution.” — (B. F. Underwood.)

“Christians carried on their work on Sunday, the same as on any other day, down to the time of Constantine.” — (President Andrews, of Brown University.)

“In the first place, the fourth commandment refers to the seventh day; in the second place, it was never binding upon anybody but the Jews ; in the third place, the Decalogue was abolished by Christ.” — (Rev. B. B. Taylor.)

“The Sabbath of the commandment is the seventh day of the week, not the first.” — (Prof. Smith, of Andover.)

“Thousands of sincere Christians know that calling Sunday the ‘Holy Sabbath’ has no warrant whatever from Christ or his Apostles.” — (Christian Standard, of Cincinnati.)

“Their (the Puritans) warrant for what they did (with reference to the observance of Sunday as a Sabbath), whether we look for it in the pages of the New Testament, or in the traditions of Catholic Christendom, was neither substantial nor sufficient. . . . He has not suddenly become a Godless and profane person, because he differs from others about Sunday, or because he holds that there are inherited views as to the observance of that day, which cannot by any process of ingenuity be read into the pages of the New Testament, nor info any canon by which Christendom is bound.” (Bishop Potter.)

It has been claimed by some Christians that Sunday should be kept holy because Christ was said to have arisen on that day. This cannot be true, for if Christ died on Friday, and if he rose on Sunday, it was not in accordance with the usually accepted Christian belief that he “rose on the third day,” for there would be but two days from Friday to Sunday. Besides, if “the Gospel according to Matthew” is to be believed, he must have risen on (not later than) Saturday, for in Matthew xxviii. it distinctly states that it was “at the end of the Sabbath” (Saturday) that the sepulchre was found to be vacant.

It is also claimed that the Apostles met on Sundays for religious exercises. So they did on other days of the week. “Religious worship was more fully attended to on Wednesday and Friday than on Sunday,” — (Rev. Dr. Lewis.)

“Not long after Justin Martyr’s time, we are sure the Christians observed the custom of meeting solemnly for divine worship on Wednesday and Friday.” — (Joseph Bingham.)

Rev. E. Nesbitt, D. D., of Santa Barbara, says: “ In only one instance is an Apostle said to have met with any company of persons on the first day of the week, viz. : Acts xx: 7.” And in that it appears to give as a reason, that Paul was to depart on the next day. That Paul habitually observed and preached on the seventh day of the week, is shown in Acts xviii: 4, — “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath.” (Saturday).

It is certainly not from Paul that these Sabbatarians get their persistence and intolerance, for, in his Epistle to the Romans, xiv: 9, he says: “One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike ; let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”

Again, in Cor. ii : 16, “Let no man judge you… of the Sabbath day.”

It is claimed that the interests of order and morality are promoted by Sabbath laws : the very reverse is the case. All places where rational and innocent amusement can be had being closed, people are tempted to indulge in such entertainments as the saloon and kindred places afford.

The late Rev. Dr. Guthrie, of Edinburgh said : “We counted on one occasion, in Paris, thirty-three theatres and other places of amusement, open on Sunday ; but, in one hour, we saw in London and Edinburgh, with all their churches and schools and piety, more drunkenness than we saw in five long months in ‘guilty’ Paris.”

Rev. Norman McLeod (another Scotch clergyman) speaks of the strict enforcement of Sabbatarianism as the “multiplication of practical inconsistencies, dishonesties and Pharisaical sophistries.”

William C. Gannett says: “At the Scotch Synod in 1867, the Puritan Sabbath was openly proclaimed a failure; one speaker saying that Continental Sabbaths produced no parallel to the disgraceful behavior which marked the day in Scotland.”

The narrow-minded bigotry which would close our Art museums and seeks to close our World’s Fair on Sunday, because a comparatively few of our people have inherited the false idea that Sunday is a sacred day; thus denying to the large majority of our people what is far more sacred than any day, their rights as citizens, ought not to be longer tolerated.

The clergy are now expressing themselves boldly and frankly on this matter, and it is earnestly to be hoped that the day is near when the sacred right of doing that, on Sunday or any other day, which the individual conscience of each approves, will not be denied.
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Such conspicuous representatives of the, Christian Church as Bishops Potter, Tuttle and Simpson, Cardinal Gibbons and others, have taken steps in the right direction in this matter, and it is to be hoped that the tide of righteous indignation against those who would restrain us from such enjoyments as tend to elevate the race, will so rise as to overwhelm the present representatives of mediaeval times.

Bishop Potter says: “We shall get a good Sunday in America when men learn to recognize its meaning and its uses; not when we have closed all the doors which, if open, might help to teach the lesson of using the world as not abusing it. It would seem as if the door of a library were one of those doors, the door of a well-arranged and well-equipped museum another, the door of a really worthy picture-gallery another. If there be those who would seek the precincts of the exhibition at Chicago to look, it may be, more closely at the handiwork of man, to study the progress of the race in the story of its artistic and individual and mechanical achievement that certainly can be no unworthy use of some hours of our American rest day.”

Principal Cunningham, of Edinburgh, says: “It is a sin to keep the museums and art galleries closed on Sundays… Farmers are foolish not to take advantage of a fine day to take in their crops.”

Cardinal Gibbons says: “ I entirely agree with Dr. Weld, Pastor of the First Independent Christ Church, in deprecating the closing of our art galleries, libraries, etc., on Sunday.”

Archdeacon Blunt says: “The movement for Sunday observance ought to be opposed as unsound and unwise… I have no wish to go back to the old Puritan Sunday, with its gloomy austerity, its rigid formalism, its bigoted uncharitableness, its oppressive savor of Sabbatarianism.”

Some one has (truly) said: “To forbid work or play on Sunday is as much a tyranny as it would be to forbid worship.”

The “National Religious Liberty Association” have issued this ringing protest against the closing of the World’s Fair on Sunday: “Let us protest against these religio-political movements. Protest in the name of seventh-day observers, not because their faith be true or false, but because of their right to liberty, the heaven-born heritage of every man. Protest in the name of America and an hundred years of unparalleled
constitutional freedom. Protest in the name of every citizen of the United States, be he Infidel or Jew, Protestant or Catholic, whose right it is to worship or not to worship as he wills. Protest in the name of the down-trodden millions of Russia, who trust in the example of America to break their galling chains. Protest in the name of earth’s millions of every age, who have sacrificed their lives on the altar of conscience and free thought. And lastly protest in the name of Christianity, pure and unspotted, from a State’s pollution.”

The sentiment among those in control of the World’s Fair at Chicago, is very largely in favor of Sunday opening; and as indicating the wishes of the Board of Managers of the Chicago Fair for the State of New York, it may be mentioned that twelve out of the thirteen members of said Board have protested against the action of Congress in voting to shut the Fair on Sunday.

Ex-Congressman Butter-worth, of Ohio, estimates the proportion of those desiring to close the World’s Fair on Sunday at not over five per cent. of our population (which is undoubtedly a fair estimate), and yet these blatant, busy-body religionists, seem to so control the wealthy and influential classes as to override the true sentiment of the country. If these religious fanatics do not want to go to the Exposition on Sunday, let them stay away, and find entertainment in their churches and prayer-meetings, but why should it be in their power to prevent those who do want to go from going? What a gross injustice to the working people, who have but this one day on which to view the great exhibition, to have it closed against them.

There is an organization in this country which is a disgrace to the civilization and the intelligence of the age in which we live ; it is the most ignorant, meddlesome, inquisitorial, unjust, persecuting, arbitrary, heartless, pharisaical and unpatriotic association that exists to-day. It is called the “American Sabbath Union.” The spirit that it manifests is that of the most unreasoning intolerance; which imprisons for opinion’s sake, as it did in England in 1618, when Mrs. Trask languished for sixteen years in prison for having her own opinion on the subject of Sunday; and as it did recently in Tennessee, when three estimable (Christian) persons were incarcerated for weeks in jail, for the crime (!) of attending to their garden or farm duties on Sunday. It evinces precisely the same spirit that used the thumb-screw and the rack and the stake, to compel conformity to the dictates of fanaticism a few centuries ago.

The American Sabbath Union is un-American, in that it is utterly opposed to that great American principle which would entirely and forever separate the Church from the State.

Mr. B. 0. Flower, in the Arena for December, 1892, says: “This intolerant spirit has, in recent years, crystallized itself into an organization known as the ‘American Sabbath Union.’ … It seeks to establish, in this Republic, the odious laws of the sun-worshiping, Christian-Pagan Constantine, and to persecute, with the ferocity of a Nero, all who do not believe as these narrow-minded children of Paganism.”

We may well fear for the perpetuity of the freedom of which we have boasted, when such an association of bigots undertake to control legislation for the purpose of imposing their particular views upon the law of the country, in utter disregard of the rights of a great majority of our people.

Even those of the same religious persuasion, as are the members of the A. S. U. — and among them the clergy — have boldly protested against this usurpation of the rights of American citizens. The late Rev. Howard Crosby, D. D., has said: “The Christian Sabbath is a day observed by the individual according to his conscience, and with regard to which the law has nothing to do. We cannot urge the maintenance of the Christian Sabbath by law. This would be enforcing religion by law, and would be a dangerous infringement of our liberties.”

There can be no greater danger to the priceless heritage of liberty, to the grand American idea of freedom from all hierarchical control, be it Roman Catholic or Protestant, than the success of the objects of such an organization as this American Sabbath Union.

Let every one who loves his country; every one who believes liberty more precious than the unproved dogmas and absurd superstitions taught by irresponsible zealots; every one who loves justice and who hates tyranny; every one who believes in the “golden rule;” every one who is swayed by kindness rather than prejudice; every one who has read of the horrors which history records of the consequences of the Church fastening itself upon the State; do all that he can to oppose this greatest enemy to our progress as a nation, and to our liberties as a people — the American Sabbath Union.

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