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    June 8, 1888

    “The Plea for National Sunday Legislation” The Signs of the Times 14, 22, pp. 343, 344.

    APRIL 8, the United States Senate Committee on Education and Labor, Senator Blair chairman, gave a hearing to arguments in support of the petitions of the W.C.T.U., for National Sunday Legislation. Rev. Wilbur F. Crafts, D.D., delivered what seems to have been the principal production on the question. He has since presented the same argument in the Philadelphia National Reform Convention. The paper is entitled, “National Sabbath Reform.” We propose to reproduce here some of his arguments, not only that we may examine them for their own sake, but also that they may be examined by our readers in the light of the principles stated in the report of the United States Senate, given on another page.SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.1

    The petitions in support of which the argument was made, ask Congress to prohibit Sunday railroad trains, Sunday mails, and Sunday parades in the army and navy. The Doctor instances the railroad strikes, riots, and wrecks, as proof that the Sunday train is a national evil, and says:—SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.2

    “There is abundance of evidence in the testimony of railroad men themselves of the fact that their Sabbath-breaking is closely related to their train-wrecking. They feel that, having broken one commandment of God, they might as well go through the whole list.... It is a perilous thing to allow men to be started in law-breaking.”SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.3

    So, then, Dr. Crafts and his fellow-petitioners want Congress to set itself up as the guardian of the law of God, to define what is the law of God and what is its transgression—to define and to punish sin—for Mr. Crafts said also in this very connection that “most of the railroad work” “is a sin against God’s law.”SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.4

    He demands that railroad trains shall be compelled to stop over Sunday wherever they may be when Sunday overtakes them, and then inquires:—SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.5

    “Why may not a few railway passengers be detained for one day, even at some slight inconvenience or loss, on the same ground that steamboat passengers are detained in quarantine for a fortnight, namely, to protect the public health?”!!SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.6

    Does the Rev. Wilbur F. Crafts, D. D., mean seriously to assert that all steamboat passengers are detained in quarantine for a fortnight? He knows better. He knows that it is only the passengers of steamboats infected with cholera, or yellow fever, or small-pox, or some such deadly disease, that are detained in quarantine at all. Well, then, does he mean seriously to assert that a railroad train running on Sunday is as dangerous to the public health as is a cholera-infected steamboat? and that the train must therefore be quarantined on Sunday “to protect the public health”? If he does not mean this, then his argument is an utter non sequiter. And if he does mean this, then to what absurd lengths will men not run in their wild endeavors to find a basis for Sunday legislation? The lightning express on Sunday is as a streak of cholera, says the Rev. Wilbur F. Crafts, D.D.; so it must be quarantined.SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.7

    His next proposition is of the same piece. Here it is:—SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.8

    “An inter-State commerce bill to protect the health of cattle is now before the Senate. Why not add another to protect the health of railroad men?”SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.9

    Well, dear Doctor, there are several reasons for this. As you seem not to have discovered any, let us endeavor to enlighten you. There are several points of distinction between railroad men and cattle. You seem not to have discovered this. Allow us to point then out.SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.10

    First, there has always been recognized, by everybody, unless, perhaps, certain Doctors of Divinity, a distinction between railroad men and cattle in this, that railroad men have more sense than cattle have; that they are capable of taking care of their own health, and that they have all the facilities for it.SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.11

    Secondly, a distinction between railroad men and cattle appears in this, that railroad men are not bought and sold, nor are they crowded into cars and shipped, as cattle are.SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.12

    Thirdly, an important distinction between railroad men and cattle appears in this, Doctor, that railroad men are not killed and eaten as cattle are. You see, Doctor, cattle are eaten by the public. Therefore you will see, perhaps, that if the cattle be diseased, the public will be eating disease, and the public health will be endangered. Therefore an inter-State commerce bill to protect the health of cattle is a necessity to protect the public health. Now, Doctor, if the American public was killing and eating railroad men as it is cattle, then it would be the most proper thing to “add another” inter-State commerce bill to protect the health of railroad men. But, Doctor, we are happy to inform you that the American public does not do that thing yet. Therefore there is no necessity whatever for any inter-State commerce bill to protect the health of railroad men—by declaring a quarantine on all Sunday trains.SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.13

    Next the Doctor discusses Sunday mails, and it is in this that there appears the “true inwardness” of his whole Sunday-law argument, and, in fact, of the whole Sunday-law movement. He says:—SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.14

    “The law allows the local postmaster, if he chooses (and some of them do choose), to open the mails at the very hour of church and to make the post-office the competitor of the churches.”SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.15

    There is the secret of the whole Sunday-law agitation. The churches cannot bear competition. They must have a monopoly. The Sunday trains must be stopped, because they are competitors of the churches. The Eligin Sunday-law Convention, which Dr. Crafts indorses, said so. The Sunday papers must be abolished, because they are competitors of the churches. The Eligin Sunday-law Convention said so. The post-offices must be closed on Sunday, because they are competitors of the churches. Dr. Crafts says so. Now by the side of these statements read this:—SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.16

    “The Sunday train, the Sunday newspaper, and the Sunday mail are a combine against public health.”SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.17

    That is to say, the Sunday train is a competitor of the churches; therefore it must be quarantined—“to protect the public health.” The Sunday newspaper is a competitor of the churches; therefore it must be abolished—“to protect the public health.” The post-office open on Sunday is a competitor of the churches; therefore it must be shut—“to protect the public health.” The nation must secure to the churches a complete monopoly of Sunday, and all “to protect the public health.” How very considerate of the public health these dear Doctors of Divinity are, to be sure! No, they are not. The public health is not in all their thoughts. They don’t care a continental for the public health more than does anybody else. It is national power to enforce religious observances that they want. That is what they are determined to have. They know that if they should work in the name of that which they really want, they could get no hearing at all before any legislative body in this nation. Therefore they trump up the hypocritical plea of “protection of the public health,” or “protection of the workingman from the oppression of monopolies,” or anything else under which they can hide their real intentions.SITI June 8, 1888, page 343.18

    This is further shown by the fact that although Dr. Crafts repeatedly stated that this Sunday legislation is to protect the public health, he declared that:—SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.1

    “A National Sabbath Committee, representing the religious organizations of the nation, will be necessary to secure clear convictions on the subject among Christians, and also the enactment and enforcement of wholesome Sunday laws.... This National Sabbath Committee should be appointed by the churches.”SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.2

    Now if this legislation is in the interest of the public health, why is it that the National Committee must be appointed by the churches instead of by the public? And why should this National Committee represent the religious organizations instead of the public? If all this legislation is in the interests of the public health, then why must the National Committee be chosen by the churches from the religious organizations, instead of by the public, from the Boards of Public Health of the different States? Ah! the truth is that the interests of the public health do not enter into the question at all. The whole thing is in the interest of the churches, and in behalf of the religious organizations; and the public health is nothing but a hypocritical plea swung in to hide the real motive. But they can’t hide it all.SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.3

    Next Mr. Crafts tells what they want. In regard to closing the post-offices on Sunday during church hours, to stop this competition with the churches, he says:—SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.4

    “A law forbidding the opening between ten and twelve would accomplish this and would be better than nothing; but we want more.”SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.5

    Again:—SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.6

    “Now forbidding any handling of Sunday mail at such hours as would interfere with church attendance on the part of employes would be better than nothing; but we want more than this.”SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.7

    Again:—SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.8

    “Local option in deciding whether a local post-office shall be open at all on Sunday, we should welcome as better than nothing,—a wholesome incentive to local agitation; but we desire more than this.”SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.9

    And again:—SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.10

    “A law forbidding all carrier delivery of mail on Sunday would be better than nothing; but we want more than this.”SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.11

    Well, then, what do they want?SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.12

    “What we ask is a law instructing the postmaster-general to make no further contracts which shall include the carriage of mails on the Sabbath, and to provide that hereafter no mail matter shall be collected or distributed on that day.”SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.13

    And THEY WANT MORE THAN THIS. This is sufficient for them to here. Just as soon as these men get what they here ask, and find by that that the religious power can influence the civil in its own behalf, then they will push that power to the utmost extent that their influence can carry it. If they get what the here ask, in the very words of Dr. Crafts, there will be no stopping-place short of the fullest claims of the Papacy. If they get what they here ask, the first thing to be done will be for the national power, by some tribunal, either the legislative or judicial, to declare what day is the Sabbath. To do this will demand the interpretation of Scripture, and the decision of a religious question. Therefore, by this one act, by this single step, the nation will be plunged at once into a whirl of religious controversy, of judicial interpretations of Scripture and judicial decisions of religious questions; and where shall the thing stop? This is precisely what the National Reformers are trying to do—and Dr. Crafts is one of them. They intend, by their own words, that “the whole frame-work of Bible legislation” shall be “thoroughly canvassed by Congress and State Legislatures, by the Supreme Courts of the United States and of the several States, and by lawyers and citizens;” and then, again in their own words, “the churches and the pulpits [will] have much to do with shaping and forming opinions on all moral questions, and with interpretations of Scripture on moral and civil, as well as on theological and ecclesiastical, points;” “and the final decisions will be developed there.” And that will be the times of the Papacy over again. And the one single step that will plunge the nation into this maelstrom is this Sunday-law action which Congress is now petitioned to take, and in behalf of which the Union Signal has promised that Senator Blair is to frame and present a bill.SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.14

    When this question came before the United States Senate before, the Senate replied: “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 potions of the Old World.” We are anxiously waiting to see what reply the United States Senate now will make upon the same question. We are anxious to see whether Senator Blair will indeed frame and present a bill, and thus show himself ready to carry the National Legislature beyond its legitimate bounds. And if he does that thing, then we are anxious to see whether the National Legislature will allow itself to be carried beyond its legitimate bounds. We are anxious to see whether the National Legislature will establish the precedent, and lay the foundation, for the usurpation of the divine prerogative in this country. We are intensely anxious to know whether the National Legislature is ready to inflict this desolating scourge upon this fair land.SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.15

    Besides all this, we are really anxious to know whether or not the Senate Committee on Education and Labor, Senator Blair chairman, is so blind as not to be able to see the fallacy, the sophistry, and the hypocrisy of the address of the Rev. Wilbur F. Crafts, D.D. If it is so, then we must confess that our estimate of the degree of intelligence that ought to be found in a United States Senator is greatly lowered.SITI June 8, 1888, page 344.16

    J.

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