God, Man, and the
Who made the
For in six days the
Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea,
and all that is in them, but he rested on the
seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed
the Sabbath day and made it holy.
To whom does the
But the seventh day
is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.
To whom, then,
should its observance be rendered?
Then Jesus said
unto them, Give to Caesar what is
Caesars and to God what
is Gods. Mark 12:17.
Note When men make
Sabbath laws, therefore, they require Sabbath
observance to be rendered to the government,
or, presumably, to God through the
government, which amounts to the same thing.
things, to whom alone are we accountable?
So then, each of us
will give an account of himself to God.
Note But when men
make compulsory Sabbath laws, they make men
accountable to the government for Sabbath
The Nature of
How does God show
the holiness of the Sabbath day?
Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exodus
20:8. The seventh day is a Sabbath of rest,
a day of sacred assembly. Leviticus
23:3. Since the Sabbath is holy it is to be
kept holy and is a day for holy assembly,
it must be religious.
What, then, must
be the nature of all Sabbath legislation?
It is religious
When the State
Enacts Religious Laws
generally been the result of religious
legislation, or union of church and state?
Religious intolerance and
What was the
first Sunday law?
law of March 7, 321 A.D.
Note On the
venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and
people residing in cities rest, and let all
workshops be closed. In the country, however,
persons engaged in agriculture may freely and
lawfully continue their pursuits; because it
often happens that another day is not suitable
for grain-sowing or for vine-planting; lest by
neglecting the proper moment for such operations
the bounty of heaven should be lost. (Given the 7th
day of March, Crispus and Constantine being
consuls each of them for the second time.)
- Codex Justinianus,
lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; translated by Philip Schaff, History
of the Christian Church, Vol. 3 (1902), p.
council required Sunday observance and forbade
The Council of Laodicea
decreed that Christians should keep the Sunday,
and that if they persisted in resting on the
Sabbath, they shall be shut out from
Christ. (See Hefelle, A History of the
Councils of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 316.)
Was there further
imperial Sunday legislation?
decrees marked the beginning of a long, though
intermittent series of imperial decrees in
support of Sunday rest. Ibid., p.
Note By a
law of the year 386 A.D. [In the reign of
Theodosius I], those older changers effected by
the emperor Constantine were more rigorously
enforced, and, in general, civil transactions of
every kind on Sunday were strictly forbidden
In the year 425
A.D. [In the reign of Theodosius the Younger],
the exhibition of spectacles on Sunday, and the
principle feast-days of the Christians, was
forbidden, in order that the devotion of the
faithful might be free of disturbance
In this way, the
church received help from the state for the
furtherance of her ends
But had it not
been for the confusion of spiritual and secular
interests, had it not been for the vast number of
more outward conversions thus brought
about, she would have needed no such help.
Neander, General History of the
Christian Religion and Church, Vol. 2 (1852
ed.), pp. 300, 301.
The decrees of later
emperors between 364 and 467 added other
prohibitions and exemptions from time to time.
Justinians code collected the laws of the
empire on the subject, and from time to time when
Charlemagne, king of the Franks, was crowned
emperor (800 A.D.), this code was in effect all
over what later became the Holy Roman
Empire. The medieval decrees and canons of
popes and councils concerning Sunday observance
were enforced by the civil power. (See The New
Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious
Knowledge, Vol. 11, p. 147.)
Later the church councils
had an influence to some extent throughout the
former Roman Empire, for church maintained a
large degree of unity. The council of Laodicea
(fourth century) ordered men to work on the
Sabbath and rest if possible on Sunday. The
council of Orleans (538), while protesting
against excessive Sabbatarianism, forbid all
field work under the pain of censure; and the
council of Macon (585) laid down that the Lords
day is the day for perpetual rest, which is
suggested to us by the type of the seventh day in
the law and the prophets, and ordered a
complete cessation of all kinds of business. How
far the movement had gone by the end of the 6th
century is shown by a letter of Gregory the Great
(pope 590-604) protesting against prohibition of
baths on Sunday. Hastings, Encyclopedia
of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 12, pp. 105,106,
art. Decrees of the Church Councils.
Law of Charlemagne, 789:
And, we decree according to what the Lord
commanded also in the law, that servile work
shall not be done on the Lords day, and
just as my father of blessed memory commanded in
his synodal edicts, that is, that men shall not
carry on rural work, neither in cultivating the
vine, nor in plowing in the fields [ect.]
Likewise the women shall not do any weaving
In order that in every way the
honor and rest of the Lords Day may be
But let them come
together from everywhere to the church to the
celebration of the mass, and praise God in all
the good things which He has done for us on that
day. Translated from Charlemagne, Admonitio
Generalis, in Monumenta Germaniae
Historica, Leges, sec. 2, tom. 1, p. 61, par.
In England, according to
Lord Mansfield (Swann vs. Browne, 3 Burrow,
1599), William the Conqueror and Henry II declared
the codes of Justinian on Sunday observance to be
the law of England. A succession of Parliamentary
acts regulated Sunday observance in England. (See
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of
Religious Knowledge, Vol. 11, pp. 147, 148.)
The first Sunday law promulgated in America,
Every man and
woman shall repair in the morning to the divine
service, and sermons preached upon the Sabbath
day, and in the afternoon to divine service, and
catechizing, upon pain for the first fault to
lose their provision and the allowance and also
be whipped, and for the third to suffer
death. For the Colony in the
Virginia Britannia, Lavves, Morall and
Martiall & c, in Peter Force, Tracts
Relating to the Colonies in North America
(Washington, 1844), Vol. 3, No. 2, p. 10.
Law of Charles II, 29th
year, 1676-77: Be it enacted
and every Person and Persons whatsoever, shall on
the Lords Day apply themselves thereon in
the Duties of Piety and true Religion, publicly
and privately; and that no
whatsoever, shall do or exercise any worldly
Labor, Business, or Work of their ordinary
Callings, upon the Lords Day, or any part
thereof (Works of Necessity and Charity only
and that no Person or Persons
whatsoever, shall publicly cry, show forth, or
expose to Sale, any Wares, Merchandizes.
British Statutes at Large, 29th
year of Charles II, chap. 7.
Modeled somewhat after
the Puritan laws of 1644 to 1658, but mush
shorter and milder, it further forbids travel,
but does not mention sports and pastimes, and
makes the same exception for food and milk. The
importance of this act is that it stood, with
modifications, as the basic Sunday law of England
for nearly two hundred years (see Encyclopedia
Britannia [1945 ed.], Vol. 21, p. 565), and
was followed as a model for many of the
subsequent Sunday laws in various American
colonies, and thus somewhat set the pattern for
our State laws.
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