We have now laying on our table a tract from the American Tract Society, upon the subject of a legal Sabbath, or rather two legal Sabbaths; the one made legal by the law of God, and the other by the legislature of the state of New York! The following is an exact copy from the first page of tract No. 352, viz:
"There shall be no shooting, hunting, fishing, sporting, playing, horse-racing, gaming, frequenting of tippling houses, or any unlawful exercises or pastimes on the first day of the week, called Sunday; nor shall any person travel on that day unless in cases of charity or necessity, or in going to or returning from some church or place of worship;....nor shall there be any servile laboring or working on that day, excepting works of necessity and charity."
"Most, if not all the states of the Union have laws essentially agreeing to the above; and this protection of the Sabbath has obviously grown out of the conviction of all intelligent legislators, that a holy day of rest, and the public worship of God, are (as the statutes of Vermont well express,) in the highest degree promotive of the peace, happiness, and prosperity of a people."
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." Exodus 20:8-11
In the above, the law of the state of New York is stated first, and from the practice and theory of the Tract Society, is evidently regarded as of primary importance. Sunday, or the first day of the week, is set apart for religious service by the state, with penal enactments. Remember the first day of the week called Sunday, says the legislature of the Empire State to all who are bound to obey her laws. "Remember the Sabbath day," said God to the nation of Israel.
"There shall be no shooting, etc., nor any servile laboring on the first day of the week, called Sunday, excepting works of necessity and charity," is the language of New York. "But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work; thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter," etc., is the express language of the fourth commandment of the covenant which God made with the fathers, in the day he took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.
In the law of God given to Israel, there were no works of necessity and charity excepted. On no pretence did that law allow the children of Israel to labor, or go out of their habitation, kindle fires or gather sticks - but the legislature, while assuming the right to revise the law of God, would show themselves more lenient, and discriminate between shooting, hunting, etc., unless it be hunting for pious purposes. The law must not be so construed as to forbid a hireling parson's hunting a good market for his manuscript sermon, or an eligible place to collect funds for the support of their craft, etc. These are called "works of necessity and charity," and therefore, are suffered by the New York legislature. Let any candid person of common intelligence compare the extracts copied above by the American Tract Society, and he will be compelled to exclaim, in the language of the Messiah, "They make void the law of God by their own traditions, and they teach for doctrines the commandments of men."
If there be any higher authority for the precept quoted from the laws of New York, than that of men, let it be forthcoming. We distinctly challenge the New York legislature, the American Tract Society, or the world, to produce from the Bible one syllable to support such law; and further, we hesitate not to aver that it is in conflict with the command of God to Israel, and with the command of an inspired apostle to the Christian church, (see Col. 2:16) and equally antagonistical to the constitution of both the state and the nation.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
New Vernon, N.Y
April 1, 1845
Republished: The Remnant
Volume 4, No. 3 - May - June, 1990