Sunday Law 1888 - Arguments presented by AT Jones

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Religious Liberty 



    The  National  Sunday  Law

Arguments of Alonzo T. Jones before the U.S. Senate Committee on Dec. 13, 1888


Dear Friends:

   Do you know how close the United States congress came to enacting a national Sunday Law. You will find this very interesting.

In the Senate of the United States, May 21, 1888, Senator H. W. Blair (New Hampshire) introduced the following Bill to the 50th congress, S. 2983  was referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Labor.  The bill read:

"A bill to secure to the people the enjoyment of the first day of the week, commonly known as the Lord's Day, as a day of rest, and to promote its observance as a day of religious worship.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That no person, or corporation, or the agent, servant, or employee of any person or corporation, shall perform or authorize to be performed any secular work, labor, or business to the disturbance of others, works of necessity, mercy and humanity excepted; nor shall any person engage in any play, game or amusement, or recreation, to the disturbance of others, on the first day of the week, commonly known as the Lord's Day, or during any part thereof, in any territory, district, vessel, or place subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States; nor shall it be lawful for any person or corporation to receive pay for labor or service performed or rendered in violation of this section.

Section 2:   That no mails or mail matter shall hereafter be transported in time of peace over any land postal route, nor shall any mail matter be collected,, assorted, handled, or delivered during any part of the first day of the week: Provided that whenever any letter shall relate to a work of necessity or mercy, or shall concern the health, life, or decease of any person, and the fact shall be plainly stated upon the face of the envelope containing the same, the postmaster general shall provide for the transportation of such letter.

Section 3:  The the prosecution of commerce between the States and with the Indian tribes, the same not being work of necessity, mercy, or humanity, by the transportation of persons or property by land or water in such way as to interfere with or disturb the people in the enjoyment of the first day of the week, or any portion thereof, as a day of rest from labor, the same not being labor of necessity, mercy, or humanity, or its observance as a day of religious worship, is hereby prohibited; and any person or corporation, or the agent or employee of any person or corporation, who shall willfully violate this section, shall be punished by a fine or not less than ten nor more than one thousand dollars, and no service performed in the prosecution of such prohibited commerce shall be lawful, nor shall any compensation be recoverable or be paid for the same.

Section 4:   That all military and naval drills, musters, and parades, not in time of active service or immediate preparation therefore, of soldiers, sailors, marines, or cadets of the United States, on the first day of the week, except assemblies for the due and orderly observance of religious worship, are hereby prohibited, nor shall any unnecessary labor be performed of permitted in the military service of the United States on the Lord's day.

Section 5:   That it shall be unlawful to pay or to receive payment or wages in any manner for service rendered, or for labor performed, or for the transportation of persons or of property in violation of the provisions of this act, nor shall any action lie for the recovery thereof, and when so paid, whether in advance or otherwise, the same may be recovered back by whoever shall first sue for the same.

Section 6:   That labor or service performed and rendered on the first day of the week in consequence of accident, disaster, or unavoidable delays in making the regular connections upon postal route and routes of travel and transportation, the preservation of perishable and exposed property, and the regular and necessary transportation and delivery of articles of food in condition for healthy use, and such transportation for short distances from one State, district, or territory, into another State, district, or territory as by local laws shall be declared to be necessary for the public good, shall not be deemed violations of this act, but the same shall be construed, so far as possible, to secure to the whole people rest from toil during the first day of the week, their mental and moral culture, and the religious observance of the Sabbath day."

The following is an approximate transcript of arguments presented to the Senate Committee on December 13, 1888

Senator Blair: - You have a full hour, Professor Jones. It is now half past one.

AT Jones:  -  There are three particular lines in which I wish to conduct the argument; First, the principles upon which we stand; second the historical view; and third, the practical aspect of the question.

The principle upon which we stand is that civil government is civil, and has nothing to do in the matter of legislation, with religious observances in any way. The basis of this is found in the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 22: 21.  When the Pharisees asked whether it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not, Jesus replied: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's."

In this the Saviour certainly separated that which pertains to Caesar from that which pertains to God. We are not to render to Caesar that which pertains to God; we are not to render to God by Caesar that which is God's.

Senator Blair:  -  May not the thing due to Caesar be due to God also?

AT Jones:  -  No, sir. If that be so, then the Saviour did entangle himself in his talk, the very thing which they wanted him to do. The record shows that they sought, "how they might entangle him in his talk."  Having drawn the distinction which he has, between that which belongs to God, if it be true that the same things belong to both, then he did entangle himself in his talk; and where is the force of his words which command us to render to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to God the things that are God's?

Senator Blair:  -  Is it not a requirement of God's that we render to Caesar that which is due to Caesar?

AT Jones:  -   Yes.

Senator Blair:  -  If Caesar is society, and the Sabbath is required for the good of society, does not God require us to establish the Sabbath for the good of society? and if society makes a law accordingly, is it not binding?

AT Jones:  -  It is for the good of society that men shall be Christians; but it is not in the province of the State to make Christians. For the state to undertake to do so would not be for the benefit of society; it never has been, and it never can be.

Senator Blair:  -  Do you not confuse this matter?  A thing may be required for the good of society, and for that very reason be in accordance with the will and command of God. God issues his commands for the good of society, does He not? God does not give us commands that have no relation to the good of society.

AT Jones:  -  God's commands are for the good of man.

Senator Blair:  -  Man is society. It is made up of individual men.

AT Jones:  -  But in that which God issued to man for the good of men he has given those things which pertain solely to man's relationship to his fellow-man. With those things in which our duty pertains to our fellow-men, civil government can have something to do.

Senator Blair:  -  Man would obey God in obeying civil society.

AT Jones:  -  I will come to that point. In the things which pertain to our duty to God, with the individual's right of serving God as one's conscience dictates, society has nothing to do; but in the formation of civil society, there are certain rights surrendered to the society by the individual, without which society could not be organized.

Senator Blair:  -  That is not conceded. When was this doctrine of a compact in society made? It is the philosophy of an infidel.

AT Jones: -  It is made wherever you find men together.

Senator Blair:  -  Did you and I ever agree to it?  Did it bind us before we were in compos mentis?

AT Jones:  -  Certainly. Civil government is an ordinance of God.

Senator Blair:  -  Then it is not necessarily an agreement of man?

AT Jones:  -  Yes, sir, it springs from the people.

Senator Blair:  -  As to the compact in society that is talked about, it is not conceded that it is a matter of personal and individual agreement. Society exists altogether independent of the volition of those who enter into it. However, I shall not interrupt you further. I only did this because of our private conversation, in which I thought you labored under a fallacy in your fundamental proposition, that would lead all the way through your argument. I suggested that ground, and that is all.

AT Jones:  -  I think the statement of the Declaration of Independence is true, that "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."  Of all the men in the world, Americans ought to be the last to deny the social compact theory of civil government. On board the "Mayflower," before the Pilgrim Fathers ever set foot on these shores, the following was written: -

"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, etc, having undertaken for the glory of God, and the advancement of the Christian faith, and the honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick, for the better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid: and by virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed are names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November, in the year 1620 Anno Domini."

The next American record is that of the fundamental orders of Connecticut, 1638-39, and reads as follows: -

"Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we, the inhabitants and residents of Windsor, and Hartford, and Wethersfield, are now cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the river of Connecticut and the lands thereunto adjoining: and well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons, as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as on public State or commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall adjoin to us at any time hereafter, enter into combination and confederation together. . ."

And, sir, the first Constitution of your own State - 1784 - in its bill of rights, declares: -

I.  All men are born equally free and independent; therefore, all government or right originates from the people, is founded in consent, and instituted for the general good.

III.  When men enter into a state of society, they surrender some of their natural rights to that society, in order to insure the protection of others; and without such an equivalent, the surrender is void.

IV.  Among the natural rights, some are in their very nature unalienable, because no equivalent can be received for them. Of this kind are the rights of conscience.

And in Part 2, of that same Constitution, under the division of the "form of government," are these words: --

"The people inhabiting the territory formerly called the province of New Hampshire, do hereby solemnly and mutually agree with each other to form themselves into a free, sovereign, and independent body politic, or state, by the name of the State of New Hampshire."

In the Constitution of New Hampshire of 1792, these articles are repeated word for word. They remain there without alteration in a single letter under the ratification of 1852, and also under the ratification of 1877.

Consequently, sir, the very state which sends you to this capitol is founded upon the very theory which you here deny. This is the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence; it is the doctrine of the Scripture; and therefore we hold it to be eternally true.

These sound and genuine American principles - civil governments deriving their powers from the consent of the governed, and the inalienability of the rights of conscience, - these are the principles asserted and maintained by Seventh-day Adventists.

Senator Blair:  But society is behind the government which society creates.

A.T. Jones:  Certainly. All civil government springs from the people, I care not in what form it is.

Senator Blair:  That is all agreed to.

A.T. Jones:  But the people, I care not how many they are, have no right to invade your relationship with God, nor mine. That rests between the individual and God, through faith in Jesus Christ; and as the Saviour has made this distinction between that which pertains to Caesar and that which is God's. When Caesar exacts of men that which pertains to God, then Caesar is out of his place, and in so far as Caesar is obeyed there, God is denied. When Caesar - civil government - exacts of men that which is God's, he demands what does not belong to him; in so doing Caesar usurps the place and the prerogative of God, and every man who regards God or his own rights before God, will disregard all such interference on the part of Caesar.

This argument is confirmed by the apostle's commentary upon Christ's words found in Romans 13: 1 - 9.  It is written: -

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall received themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.  Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good.  But if  thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.  Wherefore ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt no kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

It is easy to see that this Scripture is but an exposition of Christ's words, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's. . ." In the Saviour's command to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, there is plainly a recognition of the rightfulness of civil government, and that civil government has claims upon us which we are duty bound to recognize, and that there are things which duty requires us to render to the civil government.  This scripture in Romans 13 simply states the same thing in other words: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but to God: the power are be are ordained of God."

Again: the Saviour's words were in answer to a question concerning tribute. They said to him, "It is lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?"  Romans 13: 6 refers to the same thing, saying "For, for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing."  In answer to the question of the Pharisees about the tribute, Christ said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's"  Romans 13: 7, taking up the same thought, says "Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due: custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."  These references make positive that which we have stated, - that this portion of Scripture (Romans 13: 1-9) is a divine commentary upon the words of Christ in Matthew 22: 17-21.

The passage refers first to civil government, the higher powers, - the power that be. Next it speaks of rulers, as bearing the sword and attending upon matters of tribute. Then it commands to render tribute to whom tribute is due, and says, "Owe no man anything; but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."  Then he refers to the sixth, seventh, ninth and tenth commandments, and says, "It there by any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

There are other commandments of this same law to which Paul refers. There are the four commandments of the first table of the law, - the commandments which say, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me;" "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of any thing;"  "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain;"  "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy."  Then there is the other commandment in which are briefly comprehended all these, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might, and with all thy strength."

Paul knew full well these commandments. Why, then, did he say, "If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself?"  -- Because he was writing concerning the principles set forth by the Saviour, which related to our duties to civil government.

Our duties under civil government pertain solely to the government and to our fellow-men, because the powers of civil government pertain solely to men in their relations to one another, and to the government. But the Saviour's words in the same connection entirely separated that which pertains to God from that which pertains to civil government.  The things which pertain to God are not to be rendered to civil government - to the powers that be; therefore Paul, although knowing full well that there were other commandments, said, "If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;" that is, if there be any other commandment which comes into the relation between man and civil government, it is comprehended in this saying, that he shall love his neighbor as himself; thus showing conclusively that the power that be, though ordained by God, are so ordained simply in things pertaining to the relation of man with his fellow men, and in those things alone.

Further, as in this divine record of the duties that men owe to the powers that be , there is no reference whatever to the first table of the law, it therefore follows that the powers that be, although ordained of God, have nothing whatever to do with the relations which men bear toward God.

As the ten commandments contain the whole duty of man, and as in the enumeration here given of the duties that men owe to the powers that be, there is no mention of any of the things contained in the first table of the law, it follows that none of the duties enjoined in the first table of the law of God, do men owe tot eh powers that be; that is to say, again, that the powers that be, although ordained of God, are not ordained of God in anything pertaining to a single duty enjoined in any one of the first four of the ten commandments. These are duties that men owe to God, and with those the power that be can of right have nothing to do, because Christ has commended to render unto God - not to Caesar, nor by Caesar - that which is God's. Therefore, as in his comment upon the principle which Christ established, Paul has left out of the account the first four commandments, so we deny, forever, the right of any civil government to legislate in anything that pertains to men's duty to God under the first four commandments.  This Sunday bill does propose to legislate in regard to the Lord's day. If it is the Lord's day, we are to render it to the Lord, not to Caesar. When Caesar exacts it of us, he is exacting that which does not belong to him, and is demanding of us that which he should have nothing to do with

Senator Blair: - Would it answer your objection in that regard, if, instead of saying "the Lord's day", we should say, "Sunday"?

A.T. Jones: -  No, sir, because the underlying principle, the sole basis, of. Sunday, is ecclesiastical, and legislation is regard to it is ecclesiastical legislation. I shall come more fully to the question you ask presently.

Now do not misunderstand us on this point. We are Seventh-day Adventists; but if this bill were in favor of enforcing the observance of the seventh day as the Lord's day, we would oppose it just as much as we oppose it as it is now, for the reason that civil government has nothing to do with what we owe to God, or whether we owe anything or not, or whether we pay it on not.

Allow me again to refer to the words of Christ to emphasize this point. At that time the question was upon the subject of tribute, whether it was lawful  to give tribute to Caesar or not. In answering the question, Christ established this principle: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's"  That tribute money was Caesar's;  it bore his image and superscription; it was to be rendered to him.  Now, it is a question of rendering Sabbath observance, and it is a perfectly legitimate and indeed necessary question to ask right here: Is it lawful to render Lord's day observance to Caesar?  The reply may be in His own words: Show me the Lord's day; whose image and superscription does it bear? - The Lord's to be sure. This very bill which is under discussion here today declares it to be the Lord's day. Then the words of Christ apply to this. Bearing the image and superscription of the Lord, Render therefore to the Lord the things that are the Lord's, and to Caesar the things are are Caesar's. It does not bear the image and superscription of Caesar; it does not belong to him; it is not to be rendered to him.

Again: take the institution under the word Sabbath:  Is it lawful to render Sabbath observance to Caesar or not?  Show us the Sabbath; whose image and superscription does it bear?  The commandment of God says, it "is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God."  It bears his image and superscription, and his only; it belongs wholly to him; Caesar can have nothing to do with it. It does not belong to Caesar; its observance cannot be rendered to Caesar, but only to God; for the commandment is, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."  If it is not kept holy, it is not kept at all. Therefore, belonging to God, bearing His superscription, and not that of Caesar, according to Christ's commandment, it is to be rendered only to God; because we are to render to God that which is God's, and the Sabbath is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.  Sabbath observance, therefore, or Lord's day observance, which ever you may choose to call it, never can be rendered to Caesar. And Caesar never can demand it without demanding that which belongs to God, or without putting himself in the place of God, and usurping the prerogative of God.

   Therefore, we say that if this bill were framed in behalf of the real Sabbath of the Lord, the seventh day, the day which we observe; if this bill proposed to promote its observance, or to compel men to do no work upon that day we would oppose it just as strongly as we oppose it now, and I would stand here at this table and argue precisely as I am arguing against this, and upon the same principle, - the principle established by Jesus Christ, - that which is God's the civil government never can of right have anything to do. That duty rest solely between man and God; and it any man does not render it to God, he is responsible only to God, and not to any man, nor to any assembly or organization or men, for his failure or refusal to render it to God; and any power that undertakes to punish that man for his failure or refusal to render to God what is God's, puts itself in the place of God. Any government which attempts it, sets itself against the word of Christ, and is therefore antichristian.  This Sunday bill proposes to have this Government do just that thing, and therefore I say, without any reflection upon the author of the bill, this national Sunday bill which is under discussion here today is antichristian.  But in saying this I am not singling out this contemplated law as worse that all other Sunday laws in the world. There never was a Sunday law that was not antichristian, and there never can be one that will not be antichristian.

Senator Blair - You oppose all the Sunday laws of the country, then?

A.T. Jones  -  Yes, sir.

Senator Blair  -  You are against all Sunday laws?

A.T. Jones  -  Yes, sir, we are against every Sunday law that was ever made in this world, from the first enacted by Constantine to this one now proposed; and we would be equally against a Sabbath law if it were proposed, for that would be antichristian, too.

Senator Blair:   State and national, alike?

A.T. Jones  -  State and national, sir. I shall give you historical reasons presently, and the facts upon which these things stand, and I hope they will receive consideration.

George Washington, said, "Every man who conducts himself as a good citizen is accountable alone to God for his religious faith, and is to be protected in worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience."  And so should we be protected, so long as we are law-abiding citizens. There are no saloon keepers among us. We are as a body for prohibition; and as for the principles of Christian temperance, we conscientiously practice them. In short, you will find no people in this country, more peaceable and law-abiding than we endeavor to be. We teach the people according to the Scripture, to be subject to the powers that be; we teach them that the highest duty of the Christian citizen is strictly to obey the law, - to obey it not from fear of punishment, but out of respect for governmental authority, and out of respect for God, and conscience towards him.

Senator Blair  -  That is the common Mormon argument. The Mormons say their institution is a matter of religious belief. Everyone concedes their right to believe in Mormonism, but when they come to the point of practicing it, will it not be to the disturbance of others?

A.T. Jones  -  I should have come to that, even though you had not asked the question. But as you have introduced it, I will notice it now. My argument throughout is that the civil government can never have anything to do with men's duties under the first four of the ten commandments; and this is the argument embodied in Washington's words. These duties pertain solely to God. Now polygamy is adultery. But adultery is not a duty that men owe to God, in any way, much less does it come under any of the first four commandments. This comes within the inhibitions of the second table of the law of God - the commandments embracing duty to our neighbor. How men should conduct themselves toward their fellow-men, civil government must decide; that is the very purpose of its existence. Consequently, the practice of polygamy lying wholly within this realm, is properly subject to the jurisdiction of civil government. My argument does not in the least degree countenance the principles of Mormonism, nor can it fairly be made to do so. I know that is is offered a s very ready objection; but those who offer it as an objection and as an argument against the principles upon which we stand, thereby make adultery a religious practice. But against all such objection and argument, I maintain that adultery is not in any sense a religious practice. It is not only highly irreligious, but it is essentially uncivil; and because it is uncivil, the civil power has as much right to blot it out as it has to punish murder, or thieving, or perjury, or any other uncivil thing. Moreover, we deny that honest occupations on any day of the week, or at any time whatever, can ever properly be classed with adultery.

There are also people who believe in community of property in this world . Suppose they base their principles of having all things in common upon the apostolic example. Very good. They have the right to do that. Every one who sells his property and puts it into a common fund, has a right to do that if he chooses; but support these men in carrying out that principle, and in claiming that it is a religious ordinance, were to take without consent your property or mine into their community. Then what? - The State forbids it. It does not forbid the exercise of their religion; but it protects your property and mine, and in exercising its prerogative of protection, it forbids theft. And in forbidding theft, the State never asks any questions as to whether thieving is a religious practice. So also as to polygamy, which is practiced among the Mormons. But let us consider this in another view.

It is every man's right in this country, or anywhere else, to worship an idol if he chooses. That idol embodies his conviction of what God is. He can worship only according to his convictions. It matters not what form his idol may have, he has the right to worship it anywhere in the world, therefore in the United States.  But suppose that in the worship of that god he attempts to take the life of one of his fellow-men, and offer it as a human sacrifice. The civil government exists for the protection of life. liberty, property, etc., and it must punish that man for his attempt upon the life of his fellow-man. The civil law protects man's life from such exercise of any one's religion, but in punishing the offender, the State does not consider the question of his religion at all. It would punish him just the same if he made no pretensions to worship or to religion. It punishes him for his incivility, for his attempt at murder, not for his irreligion. I repeat, the question is not considered by the State; the sole question is, Did he threaten the life of his fellow-man?  Civil government must protect its citizens. This is strictly within Caesar's jurisdiction; it comes within the line of duties which the Scripture show to pertain to our neighbor, and with it Caesar has to do.

Therefore it is true that the State can never of right legislate in regard to any man's religious faith, or in relation to anything in the first four commandments. But if in the exercise of his religious convictions under the first four commandments, a man invades the rights of his neighbor, as to life, family, property, or character, then the civil government says that it is unlawful. Why?  Because it is irreligious or immoral? - Not at all; but because it is uncivil, and for that reason only. It never can be proper for the State to ask any question as to whether any man is religious or not, or whether his actions are religious or not.  The sole question must ever be, Is the action civil or uncivil

Senator Blair  -  Now apply that right to this case - to the institution of the Sabbath among men for the good of men.

A.T. Jones  -  Very good, we will consider that. Here are persons who are keeping Sunday. It is their right to work on any other day of the week. It is their right to work on that day, if they desire; but they are keeping that day, recognizing it as the Sabbath.



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