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Religious Events of the Future —
The "way" of Sunday laws
The Coming Conflict
"It is time for You, LORD, to work:
for they have made void Your law."
On this webpage some of the long paragraphs have been broken up for emphasis and easier reading. Colour is also used for emphasis.
The "way" of Sunday laws
The thing that has been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, "See, this is new?" It has been already of old time, which was before us.
As it was, so shall it be.
Civil Government and Religion,
Christianity and the American Constitution
A T Jones
Some long paragraphs have been shortened
THE SUNDAY-LAW MOVEMENT IN THE FOURTH CENTURY
page 84 paragraph 1
Third, God is the moral governor. His government is a moral one, whose code is the moral law. His government and his law have to do with the thoughts, the intents, and the secrets of men's hearts. This must be ever the government of God, and nothing short of it can be the government of God.
The pope then being the head of what pretends to be a government of God, and ruling there in the place of God, his government must rule in the realm of morals, and must take cognizance of the counsels of the heart.
But being a man, how could he discover what were the thoughts of men's hearts, whether they were good or evil, that he might pronounce judgment upon them? -- By long and careful experiment, and by intense ingenuity, means were discovered by which the most secret thoughts of men's hearts might be wrung from them, and that was by the Inquisition.
page 84 paragraph 2
But the Inquisition was only the inevitable logic of the theocratical theory upon which the papacy was founded.
The history of the papacy is only the logic of the theocratical theory upon which the papacy was founded:
First, a pope;
then the infallibility of that pope;
then the Inquisition, to make his infallible authority effective.
And that is the logic of any theocratical theory of earthly government since Jesus Christ died.
page 84 paragraph 3
This being their theory, and their determination being "to make use of the power of the State for the furtherance of their aims," the question arises, What means did they employ to secure control of this power?
Answer. -- The means of Sunday laws. They secured from Constantine the following Sunday law: --
"THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE TO HELPIDIUS.
page 85 paragraph 1
"On the venerable day of the sun, let the magistrates and people living in towns, rest, and let all work-shops be closed. Nevertheless, in the country, those engaged in the cultivation of land may freely and lawfully work, because it often happens that another day is not so well fitted for sowing grain and planting vines; lest by neglect of the best time, the bounty provided by Heaven should be lost.
Given the seventh day of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls, both for the second time." [A. D. 321.]
page 85 paragraph 2
This was not the very first Sunday law that they secured; the first one has not survived. But although the first one has not survived, the reason for it has. Sozomen says that it was "that the day might be devoted with less interruption to the purposes of devotion." And this statement of Sozomen's is indorsed by Neander ("Church History," vol. 2, p. 298).
This reason given by Sozomen reveals the secret of the legislation; it shows that it was in behalf of the church, and to please the church.
page 85 paragraph 3
By reading the above edict, it is seen that they started out quite moderately. They did not stop all work; only judges, towns-people, and mechanics were required to rest, while people in the country might freely and lawfully work. The emperor paraded his soldiers on Sunday, and required them to repeat in concert the following prayer: --
page 85 paragraph 4
"Thee alone we acknowledge as the true God; thee we acknowledge as Ruler; thee we invoke for help; from thee have we received the victory; through thee have we conquered our enemies; to thee are we indebted for our present blessings; from thee also we hope for future favors; to thee we will direct our prayer. We beseech thee, that thou wouldst preserve our Emperor Constantine and his pious sons in health and prosperity through the longest life."
page 86 paragraph 1
This Sunday law of A. D. 321 continued until 386, when --
page 86 paragraph 2
"Those older changes effected by the Emperor Constantine were more rigorously enforced, and, in general, civil transactions of every kind on Sunday were strictly forbidden. Whoever transgressed was to be considered, in fact, as guilty of sacrilege [to the Roman state]." -- Neander, Id., p. 300.
page 86 paragraph 3
Then as the people were not allowed to do any manner of work, they would play, and as the natural consequence, the circuses and the theaters throughout the empire were crowded every Sunday. But the object of the law, from the first one that was issued, was that the day might be used for the purposes of devotion, and the people might go to church. Consequently, that this object might be met, there was another step to take, and it was taken. At a church convention held at Carthage in 401, the bishops passed a resolution to send up a petition to the emperor, praying --
page 86 paragraph 4
"That the public shows might be transferred from the Christian Sunday, and from feast days, to some other days of the week." -- Id.
page 86 paragraph 5
And the reason given in support of the petition was : --
page 86 paragraph 6
"The people congregate more to the circus than to the church. -- Id., note 5.
page 86 paragraph 7
In the circuses and the theaters large numbers of men were employed, among whom many were church-members. But, rather than to give up their jobs, they would work on Sunday.
The bishops complained that these were compelled to work: they pronounced it persecution, and asked for a law to protect those persons from such "persecution." The church had become filled with a mass of people, unconverted, who cared vastly more for worldly interests and pleasures than they did for religion. And as the government was now a government of God, it was considered proper that the civil power should be used to cause all to show respect for God, whether or not they had any respect for him.
But as long as they could make something by working on Sunday, they would work rather than go to church.
A law was secured forbidding all manner of Sunday work. Then they would crowd the circuses and the theaters, instead of going to church. But this was not what the bishops wanted; this was not that for which all work had been forbidden. All work was forbidden in order that the people might go to church; but instead of that, they crowded to the circus and the theater, and the audiences of the bishops were rather slim.
This was not at all satisfying to their pride; therefore the next step, and a logical one, too, was, as the petition prayed, to have the exhibitions of the circuses and the theaters transferred to some other days of the week, so that the churches and the theaters should not be open at the same time. For if both were open, the Christians (?), as well as others, not being able to go to both places at once, would go to the circus or the theater instead of to the church. Neander says: --
page 87 paragraph 1
"Owing to the prevailing passion at that time, especially in the large cities, to run after the various public shows, it so happened that when these spectacles fell on the same days which had been consecrated by the church to some religious festival, they proved a great hindrance to the devotion of Christians, though chiefly, it must be allowed, to those whose Christianity was the least an affair of the life and of the heart." -- Id.
page 87 paragraph 2
Assuredly! An open circus or theater will always prove a great hindrance to the devotion of those Christians whose Christianity is the least an affair of the life and of the heart. In other words, an open circus or theater will always be a great hindrance to the devotion of those who have not religion enough to keep them from going to it, but who only want to use the profession of religion to maintain their popularity, and to promote their selfish interests.
On the other hand, to the devotion of those whose Christianity is really an affair of the life and of the heart, an open circus or theater will never be a particle of hindrance, whether open at church time or all the time.
But those people had not enough religion or love of right, to do what they thought to be right; therefore they wanted the State to take away from them all opportunity to do wrong, so that they could all be Christians. Satan himself could be made that kind of Christian in that way: but he would be Satan still.
page 88 paragraph 1
Says Neander again: --
page 88 paragraph 2
"Church teachers . . . were in truth often forced to complain that in such competitions the theater was vastly more frequented than the church." -- Id.
page 88 paragraph 3
And the church could not then stand competition; she wanted a monopoly. And she got it.
page 88 paragraph 4
This petition of the Carthage Convention could not be granted at once, but in 425 the desired law was secured; and to this also there was attached the reason that was given for the first Sunday law that ever was made; namely, --
page 88 paragraph 5
"In order that the devotion of the faithful might be free from all disturbance." -- Id., p. 301.
page 88 paragraph 6
It must constantly be borne in mind, however, that the only way in which "the devotion of the faithful" was "disturbed" by these things, was that when the circus or the theater was open at the same time that the church was open, the "faithful" would go to the circus or the theater instead of to church, and therefore their "devotion" was "disturbed." And of course the only way in which the "devotion" of such "faithful" ones could be freed from all disturbance, was to close the circuses and the theaters at church time.
page 89 paragraph 1
In the logic of this theocratical scheme, there was one more step to be taken. It came about in this way:
First the church had all work on Sunday forbidden, in order that the people might attend to things divine. But the people went to the circus and the theater instead of to church.
Then the church had laws enacted closing the circuses and the theaters, in order that the people might attend to things divine. But even then the people would not be devoted, nor attend to things divine; for they had no real religion.
The next step to be taken, therefore, in the logic of the situation, was to compel them to be devoted -- to compel them to attend to things divine. This was the next step logically to be taken, and it was taken. The theocratical bishops were equal to the occasion. They were ready with a theory that exactly met the demands of the case; and the great Catholic Church Father and Catholic saint, Augustine, was the father of this Catholic saintly theory.
He wrote: --
page 89 paragraph 2
"It is indeed better that men should be brought to serve God by instruction than by fear of punishment, or by pain. But because the former means are better, the latter must not therefore be neglected. . . . Many must often be brought back to their Lord, like wicked servants, by the rod of temporal suffering, before they attain to the highest grade of religious development." -- Schaff's Church History, vol. 2, sec. 27.
page 89 paragraph 3
Of this theory Neander remarks: --
page 89 paragraph 4
"It was by Augustine, then, that a theory was proposed and founded, which . . . contained the germ of that whole system of spiritual despotism of intolerance and persecution, which ended in the tribunals of the Inquisition." -- Church History, p. 217.
page 89 paragraph 5
The history of the Inquisition is only the history of the carrying out of this infamous theory of Augustine's. But this theory is only the logical sequence of the theory upon which the whole series of Sunday laws was founded.
page 90 paragraph 1
Then says Neander: --
page 90 paragraph 2
"In this way the church received help from the State for the furtherance of her ends."
page 90 paragraph 3
This statement is correct. Constantine did many things to favor the bishops. He gave them money and political preference. He made their decisions in disputed cases final, as the decision of Jesus Christ. But in nothing that he did for them did he give them power over those who did not belong to the church, to compel them to act as though they did, except in that one thing of the Sunday law.
Their decisions, which he decreed to be final, were binding only on those who voluntarily chose that tribunal, and affected none others. Before this time, if any who had repaired to the tribunal of the bishops were dissatisfied with the decision, they could appeal to the civil magistrate. This edict cut off that source of appeal, yet affected none but those who voluntarily chose the arbitration of the bishops.
But in the Sunday law, power was given to the church to compel those who did not belong to the church, and who were not subject to the jurisdiction of the church, to obey the commands of the church.
In the Sunday law there was given to the church control of the civil power, that by it she could compel those who did not belong to the church to act as if they did.
The history of Constantine's time may be searched through and through, and it will be found that in nothing did he give to the church any such power, except in this one thing -- the Sunday law. Neander's statement is literally correct, that it was "in this way the church received help from the State for the furtherance of her ends."
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