Commentary on Arguments Against 1890 Breckenridge Sunday Law Bill

Arguments against the Breckenridge Sunday Bill 
(to see the original text without commentary, go to

The arguments made against this 1890 Washington D.C. Sunday Law Bill by J.O. Corliss and A.T. Jones contain some fascinating insights that we should reflect on. Many of us think that we understand what the Sundaw Laws were and the arguments we as Saturday Sabbath keepers use against them. But do we really know as well as we should? Are we really prepared for how ingenious these laws are written and the depth of the arguments made in their favor? I think not. There are many things we can learn from just the basics of this 1890 case argument. But nothing can quite prepare you for the tour de force of A.T. Jones’s argument, which comes after Corliss’s argument like a Tsunami wave expanding dramatically all the earlier arguments. How he is able to bring the big picture to the matter while touching on issues of life and death, good and evil, is a marvel to behold.

The following is the text of the law:


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That it shall be unlawful for any person or corporation, or employee of any person or corporation in the District of Columbia, to perform any secular labor or business, or to cause the same to be performed by any person in their employment on Sunday, except works of necessity or mercy; nor shall it be lawful for any person or corporation to receive pay for labor or services performed or rendered in violation of this act. ABSB 3.2

Any person or corporation, or employe of any person or corporation in the District of Columbia, who shall violate the provisions of this act, shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars for very such offense: Provided, however, That the provisions of this act shall not be construed to apply to any person or persons who conscientiously believe in and observe any other day of the week than Sunday as a day of rest.

First we see that on Sunday any “secular labor or business” is outlawed, except “works of necessity or mercy,” and no work is to be received. Having learned from previous failures to pass Sunday laws, they add the fascinating clause the end: that this law does not apply to people who “believe in and observe any other day of the week than Sunday as a day of rest.” This exception clause was written so that Jews, 7th Day Baptists, and 7th Day Adventists (the 3 main groups at that time who had a different day of rest) would not oppose this law. And this worked too! Basically Jews and 7th Day Baptists didn’t care to oppose as they got what they wanted, which was the ability to work on Sunday. It was only up to J.O. Corliss and A.T. Jones to argue that no, this issue is much bigger than just whether we are free to work or not.

Mr Corliss - I appear, not, as has been affirmed before you, to speak in behalf of a Saturday Sabbath. Far from it, gentlemen of the committee. If this bill, No. 3854, were to have incorporated in it, instead of “Sunday, or the first day of the week,” the words “Saturday, or the seventh day of the week,” there is no one who would oppose it stronger than I. And I would oppose it just as strongly as I do in its present form, for the reason that it is not sectarianism that calls us here to-day; but we see in this bill a principle of religious legislation that is dangerous, not to our liberties in particular, but to the liberties of the nation. For, as you perceive, this bill has an exemption clause providing that “this act shall not be construed to apply to any person or persons who conscientiously believe in, and observe, another day of the week than Sunday as a day of rest.” This fact gives us more courage to oppose the measure, because we know that all fair-minded people will be able to see that our opposition arises from a broader and higher motive than that of self-interest.

Right away we see Corliss make the point that he did not come to defend Saturday. He has not come to make a theological argument, but a constitutional argument. He says if the bill was to say that no man can work on Saturday, he would oppose it just as much. This is about the “liberties of the nation.”

Mr. Corliss - The title of it is, “A bill to prevent persons from being forced to labor on Sunday.” This title is an incongruous one, because the bill makes no provision whatever to prevent one person from forcing another to work on Sunday. Neither does it propose to punish for doing such a thing. It does, however, propose to punish by a fine anyone who works on that day, whether forced or not. There must be some reason for giving the bill so misleading a title, and that reason will, perhaps, be shown before we get through with this discussion. The fact is, no one in the District of Columbia, or in any other part of the United States, is being forced to labor on Sunday. If he were, he has redress already, without the enactment of this bill into law, and that by the Constitution of the United States. Article 13 of amendments to that instrument, declares that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” But it was claimed by Mr. Crafts that a man is compelled to labor on Sunday, when he is asked to do so, or give up his position, if he refuses. It is true that in such a case a man has to take his choice between two things offered him, but if he chooses to do that which he believes to be wrong, the act is entirely voluntary on his part. If any man has not the courage to do right under such temptation, his love of right and faith in Christianity are, to say the least, so very weak that such a law as this bill contemplates could not help him any. Gentlemen, you cannot make a man a Christian by law. 

Corliss points out the deviousness of the language of the law – that is to prevent people being FORCED to labor on Sunday, which of course everyone would agree with, because forcing someone to work against their will is slavery. Corliss points out that such forced labor is already banned by the 13th Amendment.

So where is the force here? Is it when someone must work on Sunday or they lose their job. Is that force? No, the employer has a right to set job requirements (as long as they are reasonable) that if an employee cannot do, then they are not right for the job. The employee is free to find a job elsewhere; he is not forced to work against his conscience. To need a law to defend your religion makes God very weak indeed, in that the almighty God cannot defend and take care of his own followers – he needs the law of the land to protect them and ensure they do right!

Corliss uses the pusher of the Sunday Bill’s own writings against him to show that he himself says that anybody who stands for Sunday is taken care of by God and has not come to financial ruin. So why the need for a law to defend him?

Mr. Corliss - But no case has been stated where a man ever lost a position by refusing to work on Sunday. On the contrary, Mr. Crafts himself says in this document [holding it up] just published, entitled “Addresses on the Civil Sabbath”:

“I have searched the world over in vain for an affirmative answer to the question, Did you ever know a man financially ruined by refusing to do Sunday work? I have found scores of instances where courageous conscientiousness in this matter led to promotion, none where it led to poverty.” 

Corliss then address what civil laws are acceptable by the government, for does not the government have laws for ensuring minimum wage, safety, no child labor, etc.? This distinction of what is civil and what is religious law is an important one.

“But,” it is asked, “has not Congress the same right to pass a law making six days a week’s work as it has to make eight hours a legal day’s work?” That may be done, but it would not be in the same line with the legislation this bill proposes. This bill enforces a penalty upon him who works on Sunday, but Congress does not say that the man who works more than eight hours a day shall pay a hundred dollars’ fine. If this bill were only to make six days constitute a week’s work, permitting anyone to, labor more if he choose, there would be a similarity; but, as the bill reads, you all recognize the difference between the two points. 

He says that this bill is different to other bills that superficially look similar, in that those protect workers but still give people the freedom to work if they want to. For example, the eight-hour work week was put in place because a work day could range from 10-16 hours, and this was brutal exploitation of employees, causing harm and death. But people could work overtime if they wanted to. But this law forbids people from work, which is a fundamental individual right – it harms no other man, the key principle of civil laws. Thus this law is not civil in nature, it is religious as he states here:

This bill, instead of having a civil character, is a purely religious document, as you will notice by an examination of it. A civil bill can make provision for only civil matters, but this one enjoins the observance of a day, the non-observance of which is no incivility to anyone. Sunday observance originated in religious worship, and has ever been regarded as a purely religious rite. Civil offenses are those which invade the rights of property or person, but if one labors on Sunday, he invades the rights of no human being. He robs no one of any property or of a single personal right. His neighbor may observe the day if he chooses, just the same as if the other man were doing so. It is not the day on which an act is performed which makes it civil or uncivil. It is just as wrong to strike a man on Monday as to do it on Sunday. It is just as wrong to drink whisky on Monday as to drink it on Sunday. If it were true that the day itself could constitute an act a civil offense, then it might be argued that labor on Sunday is a civil offense. But just as soon as the position is assumed that labor is a civil offense (no matter on what day it is performed) then labor is made a crime. Therefore, by the terms of this bill, honest labor becomes a crime, for it expressly forbids anyone to perform honest labor. It may be said that labor only becomes a crime by being performed on Sunday; but if labor is a crime when done on one day of the week, it is a crime on every day of the week, since it is not the day on which a deed is done that constitutes a crime, but the deed it-self must be the crime (if crime it is) on whatever day it is performed. So, then, if the courts of the country recognize the principle that labor done on one day of the week is a crime, when on all other days of the week the same labor would be lawful, then they really legalize crime on every day of the week except that one. This shows the falsity of the claim that this bill is a civil one. ABSB 9.2

But it may be said that it is the disturbance to others, by the performance of Sunday labor, that constitutes it a crime. But why should Sunday labor disturb another any more than that which is done on any other day of the week? Manifestly, only because it is thought to be religiously wrong. In other words, such disturbance can only be of a mental character. For instance, when I go out into my garden and quietly work, or even go out on the street and work on Sunday, I have taken nothing from any man. I do not deprive him of his right to keep the day. Then wherein is the disturbance?—Certainly not in the deprivation of rights. It must then only be in a mental disturbance. Upon this point allow me to cite the decision of Judge Walton, of Lewiston, Maine, in a case where a man was prosecuted for drawing cord-wood through the streets on Sunday. In his charge to the jury, the Judge said that his impression was that the complaint could not be maintained, for the defendant had quietly and in an unobtrusive manner hauled his wood, without coming into the immediate neighborhood of a meeting. The prosecuting attorney suggested that it might have been where people were returning home from church. But the Judge decided that that would be but a mental operation, a matter of the mind, of conscience, because they thought it wrong, that it did not look right. “For my part,” he says, “I do not see why anyone driving quietly along with his load on one day of the week should cause any more disturbance than on any other day of the week. It only disturbs people because they think it wrong.” And this is the basis of all Sunday legislation. People think Sunday work to be wrong, and are therefore disturbed because someone else does not believe just the same as they do in the matter. ABSB 10.1

But if mental disturbance constitutes a civil offense, then the preaching of opinions diverse from those of the majority of people is also a civil offense, and is indictable in the courts of the country, for, as you have seen to-day by the personalities indulged in, there are men who are more or less disturbed by such work. It is thus easy to see that such reasoning would quickly deprive the minority of all their religious rights. Let such a bill as this pass, and it would be but another step to make all mental disturbance on Sunday a crime. Then woe betide the man who dared publicly to proclaim any religious views on that day, not in harmony with his neighbor. There is danger in taking the first step in religious legislation. It is everyone’s privilege to keep the Sabbath—not as a civil duty but as a religious duty. That is, however, a matter belonging wholly to individuals, as a right of conscience, with which the courts have nothing to do except to protect each one from disturbance in his devotions. But this bill is not necessary for that purpose, for every State and Territory in this Union has already a law providing that religious meetings held on any day of the week shall be protected from disturbance. ABSB 11.1

Corliss continues to give evidence showing that this is actually a law of a religious nature, similar to laws that were made in the past:

Mr Corliss - This law of the District of Columbia was in force when this book was issued which I hold in my hand, which was April 1, 1868; and I am told that this law (which I will read) was re-enacted in 1874. I now quote from the law. Section 1 provides that— 

If any person shall deny the Trinity, he shall, for the first offense, be bored through the tongue, and fined twenty pounds; ...and for the second offense, the offender being thereof convict as aforesaid, shall be stigmatized by burning on the forehead with the letter B, and fined forty pounds; and for the third offense, the offender being thereof convict as aforesaid, shall suffer death, without the benefit of the clergy.” 

Section lo of the same law has this:— 

No person whatever shall do any bodily labor on the Lord’s day, commonly called Sunday, .. and that every person transgressing this act, and being thereof convict by the evidence of one sufficient witness, or confession of the party before a civil magistrate, shall forfeit two hundred pounds of tobacco.” ABSB 13.6

Now, gentlemen, that law has never been repealed— 

Mr. Grout—Don’t you think that law ought to be repealed? 

Mr. Corliss—I think all Sunday laws are unconstitutional, and should not exist. But I was about to say that this law does still exist, and, by reference to the statutes of the District of Columbia, it will be seen that the police of the city of Washington are obliged to enforce that law. I read:—

“It shall be the duty of the board of police, at all times of the day or night, within the boundary of said police district, to see that all laws relative to the observance of Sunday are promptly enforced.” 

Now why has not this law been enforced? Certainly not because there is no such law, but because it is a part of a statute savoring so strongly of the Dark Ages as to make everyone ashamed of it. But it is this kind of company in which Sunday laws were originally found, and that is where they belong, for they are but a relic of the old system of Church and State. Indeed this law now in force in the District is as near to representing a Church and State power as it could well be. 

These blunt religious laws of the past are overwhelmingly seen as backward and archaic, and that is why it is necessary to make these new laws seem like civil laws, so they are acceptable to the modern mind. But Corliss states that they are one and the same, and are of a nature as to lead to our losing the freedoms we have worked hard for. Also notice above that the Trinity is enforced along with Sunday.

Mr. Corliss - Again: If this bill contemplates only a civil law, what right has it to exempt from its penalty a person simply because he may hold a certain religious faith. According to the provisions of this bill, a man who has a certain religious faith may do what another man without such a religious faith cannot do? [Meaning someone holding a faith with a different day of rest may work on Sunday, while everyone else cannot] This shows that it is religious and not civil. It matters not what a man’s religious faith is, it cannot exempt him from the penalties provided by law against civil offenses, for the reason that man’s religious faith cannot determine his innocence in such a case. It is just as wrong for a professed Christian to be found fighting in the street as for an avowed infidel; and it is no greater offense for an infidel to be thus engaged than for a Christian. These things are recognized by the courts. Take for example the law against polygamy; it does not exempt a man who happens to have a peculiar religious faith in relation thereto. Not by any means. One who believes it is right, religiously, to violate that law, gets no mercy because of his religious belief. Why is this?—Simply because the law against polygamy is held to be purely a civil law. In fact, a civil law can do nothing else than to hold every offender guilty, whoever he may be, or whatever may be his religious faith. Any exemption in a law, in favor of a certain religious belief, immediately stamps that law as religious.

The issue of polygamy is a complex one and I think will be raised in the future. If the government decides that it is a civil right for a woman or man to have the right to just one spouse and not have to share with multiple spouses, then having a different faith doesn’t make that right. Polygamy must be legal for all or illegal for all, and so must Sunday work be – illegal for all or legal for all. For more  study of the polygamy issue, I suggest this sermon:

Corliss then proceeds to give many examples of how those who are giving speeches and arguing for the bill are doing it for religious reasons, not civil reasons. He conclude with this powerful paragraph showing that after this bill is passed, more will follow, for more laws will be needed to ensure that the Sabbath is kept the way they think it should be kept:

If it is a purely civil enactment that they want, why do they, in their harangues to the people, continually point to the Bible and to the command of God, and denominate the day, “The holy sabbath-day,” “the prophecy of eternity and of the judgment,” and the “emblem of eternal rest”? Do they not, by this, betray the design of their own hearts? It is useless, gentlemen, to deny that the promoters of this bill desire a religious observance of the Sunday. And, could they get such a law as this bill contemplates, they are ready to take the next step, and degrade everyone who will not yield to their ideas of how the sabbath should be observed. This is not a freak of fancy. I turn to this little book again, entitled “Addresses on the Civil Sabbath.” [Exhibiting book.] Do you see these words, in large black letters here, which say, “To be hung on the breast of every man”? Mark it, gentlemen, it does not say it ought to be hung there, but it is “to be hung on the breast of every man who buys anything on Sunday.” This proposes to hang upon the breast of every man who buys anything on Sunday, a placard with these words upon it, “I am blind, selfish, shiftless.” Is not that similar to the old law of Maryland, wherein it required the blasphemer to be branded with the letter “B” in the forehead? This is what they propose to do with the men who shall buy a postage-stamp on Sunday—or even medicine for his sick family—for this says, “To be the breast of every man who buys postage-stamps, provisions, cigars, clothing, or what not, on the sabbath.” “What not,” in that connection, means anything whatsoever, and that includes medicine in case of sickness. 

Corliss’s arguments seem to have covered the whole matter. What else is there for AT Jones to talk about? We shall see that Corliss doing the basic groundwork gives Jones the platform to bring the full weight of the glory of God to bear on the matter.

First Jones calls out whether the Sunday people truly have faith if they need the government to protect them from going broke, hungry, and destitute because they won’t work on Sunday. He expands on Corliss’s argument:

Mr. Jones—MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN OF THE COMMITTEE: I shall devote most of my remarks to the subject which was made so much of by the gentleman who spoke last on the other side (Mr. Crafts), namely, the Seventh-day Adventists, and their opposition to this legislation. But first I will notice the point made in regard to “men being forced to labor on Sunday.” ABSB 25.9

He [Mr Crafts] asked Mr. Corliss to read more, and as I have here a much larger book than that from which Mr. Corliss read, I can read more than he could have done, and I am happy to comply with the gentleman’s request for more of his own evidence on this point. 

The Chairman—What is the title of the book? 

Mr. Jones—The book is entitled, “The Sabbath for Man,” and is written by Rev. Wilbur F. Crafts. In the place where I now read, the author is giving proofs in illustration of the fact that no man ever loses anything by refusing to work on Sunday. Here Mr. Crafts says:—

“I will add another, as told by the Hon. Wm. E. Dodge in an address on the sabbath: I had, as a teacher in my Sunday-school, a man who for many years ran the morning express on the New York and New Haven road. One winter morning, as he came into Sunday-school, he said to me, “Mr. Dodge, I suppose I have lost my position on the road.” I said, “What has happened?” for I knew he was in all respects a first-class man, receiving the very highest wages, and had never met with any serious accident. Said he: “The superintendent sent for me early this morning to get out my engine to open the road, as there had fallen a deep snow during the night. I sent word that on any other day I was ready to do any extra work, but I could not come on the sabbath. Before I had finished my breakfast, peremptory orders came for me to come at once and get out my engine. I replied that I was going to my Sabbath-school, and could not come; and I presume I shall get my discharge to-morrow.” I said: “Go early in the morning to the superintendent, and say that although you are only engaged to run the express train, yet at any time, day or night, if anything special should happen, you would be ready to do what you could for the company, but cannot work on Sunday. And if you are dismissed, I will secure you a first-rate position on a road in which l am interested, that never runs on Sunday.” The next Sabbath he told me that he began to speak to the superintendent, but he stopped him, and said “I respect your position, and you shall never be called on for Sunday work again.” ” ’ 

Now what is necessary in cases of this kind? All that is requisite to their success is enough love for the right to lead them to refuse to do that which they believe to be wrong. Now there is enough virtue in Jesus Christ, and enough power in that virtue, to enable a man to do right in the face of all the opportunities and all the temptations to do wrong that there are in this world. That virtue and that power are freely given to every man who has faith in Him who brought it to the world. Why, then, do not these men, these professed ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,—why do they not endeavor to cultivate in men that faith in Christ which will empower them to do right from the love of it, instead of coming up here to this capitol, and asking you gentlemen of the National Legislature to help men to do what they think right by taking away the opportunity to do what they think to be wrong. Virtue can’t be legislated into men. 

First Jones quotes from the book written by the Sunday Law proponent of a miracle where standing up for Sunday doesn’t lose him his job, but is actually honored by his employer. It is the same type of story we see often of people standing up for Saturday. Jones then calls out the religious ministers of Sunday that if Jesus is able to do such for his faithful followers, then what people need is more faith, not the government coddling them. Where is the power of God in all this? Is that not "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof?" (2 Timothy 3:5)

But there is yet more of this. I read now from the same book, page 428— 

“Among other printed questions to which I have collected numerous answers, was this one: ‘Do you know of any instance where a Christian’s refusing to do Sunday work, or Sunday trading, has resulted in his financial ruin?’ Of the two hundred answers from persons representing all trades and professions, not one is affirmative.

Then what help do the people need? And especially what help do they need that Congress can afford? Wherein is anybody being “forced to labor on Sunday”? Where is there any danger of anybody’s being forced to labor on Sunday? Ah, gentlemen, this effort is not in behalf of the laboring men. They do not need it. By Mr. Crafts’ own published documents it is demonstrated that they do not need any such help as is proposed in this bill. That claim is only a pretense under which those who are working for the bill would hide their real purpose. And just here I would answer a question that has been asked, in which there is conveyed a charge that we have no sympathy with the workingmen. It has been asked, “Why is it that you—the American Sentinel—have no words to say in favor of the law to assure the workingman his Sunday rest, but instead oppose those who are in favor of it?” I answer, It is because we have more respect for the workingmen of this country than to think of them that they are so lacking in manliness, and have so little courage and ability to take care of themselves, that it is necessary for the government to take charge of them, and nurse and coddle them like a set of grown-up babies. And therefore it is in the interest of manliness and courageous self-dependence that we object to the church managers coming to the National Legislature to secure a law under such a plea as this, whose only effect would be to make grown-up babies of what should be manly men [he means particularly to be manly in matters of faith and practical godliness]. We have respect for the laboring men in this matter, and we want them all to have the respect of their employers. Therefore, we would ever encourage and help them to stand so courageously by their convictions of right and duty, as that to each one his employer may be led to say, as did this railroad superintendent to that engineer. “I respect your position, and you shall never be called on for Sunday work again.” 

But there is more of this wanted, and I read on from the same page:— 

“A Western editor thinks that a Christian whose refusal to do Sunday work had resulted in his financial ruin, would be as great a curiosity as ‘the missing link.’ There are instances in which men have lost places by refusing to do Sunday work, but they have usually found other places as good or better. With some there has been temporary self-sacrifice, but ultimate betterment. David said that he had never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. I have, but I never knew a casenor can I find one in any quarter of the globe, where even beggary, much less starvation, has resulted from courageous and conscientious fidelity to the Sabbath.” ABSB 29.2

Then why does he not go to cultivating that kind of courageous conscientiousness, instead of asking Congress to take away from men all opportunity to exercise either courage or conscience? But I read more:— 

“Even in India, where most of the business community is heathen, missionaries testify that loyalty to the sabbath in the end brings no worldly loss. On the other hand, incidents have come to me by the score of those who have gained, even in their worldly prosperity, by daring to do right in the matter of Sunday work.” 

[Turning to Mr. Crafts] Have I read enough? 

Gentlemen of the committee, if evidence can prove anything, then the evidence which I have here read not from an opponent, but from the chiefest factor in the movement in favor of this bill—proves to a demonstration that the object of this bill, as defined in the title, and as pleaded here to-day, is absolutely unnecessary and vain. This evidence proves to a demonstration that nobody in this District, nor in the United States, nor in the world around, is being forced to labor on Sunday. Not only this, but it demonstrates that there is not the slightest danger of anybody in this nation ever being forced to labor on Sunday; because actual “gain” and “worldly prosperity” lie in the refusal to work on Sunday, and it is certain that in this land everybody is free to refuse…

How similar the arguments for Sunday are to Saturday! How familiar our arguments for Saturday sound to them, and thus how tempting it is for us who want Saturday respect to be convinced of the same arguments as those who want Sunday!

Then Jones points out that the basis for Sunday laws comes from state constitutions, passing state laws, rather than on a national level. I think this is how it will happen again at the end of time.

But Mr. Elliot—Rev. J. H.—says Sunday laws have been sustained as constitutional by the Supreme Courts of the States. True enough. But what does that amount to in a question as to the laws of Congress? I would like by some means, if possible, to get into the minds of these men who are supporting Sunday laws, the fact that the decisions of the Supreme Courts of the States has no bearing upon a national question. Let them bring a decision of a national case. There is no such case, and no such decision, for the simple reason that no such statute has ever been enacted by Congress, because it is forbidden by the Constitution. Therefore such a question has never come within the province of the United States Supreme Court. And every one of the decisions of the States, in reference to this question, have been rendered upon the basis of religion. Mr. Elliott—Rev. George—cited here to-day the decisions of the Supreme Courts of New York and Pennsylvania. I am glad he did, because both these decisions sustain the constitutionality of the Sunday laws upon the basis of Christianity as the common law, which clearly shows that religion is the basis upon which rest Sunday laws and the decisions which sustain them. All the original thirteen States were formerly the thirteen Colonies, and every one of these Colonies had an established religion, and therefore Sunday laws, as is proved by the old Maryland statute of 1723, cited here to-day, which is now the Sunday law of the District of Columbia. Thus the original thirteen States had Sunday laws, and this is how they got them. The younger States have followed these in Sunday legislation; and as the Supreme Courts of the original thirteen States have held such laws to be constitutional, the Supreme Courts of the younger States, from these, have held so also. ABSB 31.1

What A.T. Jones pointed out as a justification for why virtually all of the states passed Sunday laws was for the reason of precedent and tradition rather than true principle of liberty for all men. The laws were adopted merely because a trend had been established; all the original thirteen colonies had religious laws and therfore the original states followed suite and because the original thirteen states had Sunday laws the rest of the states adopted them as well. Do you remember the expression from childhood that our parents used to try and convey a vital life lesson: "Just because  everyone else jumped off the bridge does that mean you should do it too?" 

But the United States Government has no religion and never had any. It is forbidden in the Constitution. Therefore I say, We should like, if it were possible to get these men to understand that though the Supreme Courts of the States have declared Sunday laws to be valid under the constitutions of those States, such decisions can have no bearing whatever upon Sunday laws under the Constitution of the United States. 

Mr. Grout—Will you quote that part of the Constitution to which you refer? 

So state constitutions allow for the establishment of a religion, but the national constitution doesn’t. But Jones is tested on this. Where in the national constitution does it say that the US can have no religion? And we should pause here. Do we know where it says that? I don’t know; I just assume it is there somewhere. So this is a clause we definitely should remember and study, the famous “Establishment Clause”:

Mr. Grout—Will you quote that part of the Constitution to which you refer? 

Mr. Jones—“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” ABSB 32.3

Congress can make no law upon the subject of religion without interfering with the free exercise thereof. Therefore the Seventh-day Adventists, while observing Saturday, would most strenuously oppose any legislation proposing to enforce the observance of that day. That would be an interference with the free exercise of our right to keep that day as the Sabbath. For we already have that right— 

The Chairman—Would this law take away your right to observe the Sabbath? 

Mr. Jones—Yes, sir. I was about to prove that it does interfere with the free exercise of our right to observe it; and having done that, I will prove that this bill does distinctly contemplate the taking away of the right to observe it. 

First, as to its interference with the free exercise of our right to observe the Sabbath. I take it that no one here will deny that now, at least, we, as citizens of the United States, have the constitutional right to observe Saturday as the Sabbath, or not to observe it, as we please. This right we already have as citizens of the United States. As we already have it by the Constitution, their proposal to give it to us is only a concealed attempt to deprive us of it altogether. For if we consent to their right of their power to grant it, the power to grant carries with it the power to withhold. In consenting to the one we consent to the other. And as the granting of it is, as I shall prove, for a purpose, and for a price, the withdrawing of it will surely follow just as soon as the purpose of it is accomplished, and especially if the price of it is not fully and promptly paid. ABSB 33.4

Now this bill positively requires that whosoever does not observe Sunday shall “conscientiously believe in and observe” another day of the week. We do not keep Sunday. The bill does, therefore, distinctly require that we shall conscientiously believe in and observe another day. We maintain that we have the constitutional right to rest on Saturday or any other day, whether we do it conscientiously or not, or whether we conscientiously believe in it or not. Haven’t we? Congress has no constitutional power or right to require anybody to “conscientiously believe in” anything, or to “conscientiously observe” anything. ABSB 34.1

But when it is required, as is proposed in this bill, who is to decide whether we conscientiously believe in it or not? Who is to decide whether the observance is conscientious or not? That has already been declared in those State Sunday laws and decisions which have been referred to here to-day as examples for you to follow. It is that the burden of proof rests upon him who makes the claim of conscience, and the proof must be such as will satisfy the court. Thus this bill does propose to subject to the control of courts and juries our conscientious convictions, our conscientious beliefs, and our conscientious observances. Under this law, therefore, we would no longer be free to keep the Sabbath according to the dictates of our own consciences, but could keep it only according to the dictates of the courts. Gentlemen, it is not enough to say that that would be an interference with the free exercise of our right to keep the Sabbath; it would be an absolute subversion of our right so to do. 

Here we see how Jones’ character of being very particular is extremely helpful as a lawyer. Pastor Adrian calls AT Jones a breadslicer, the way he slices and dices through the text, and we usually see that in use in his sermons where he really gets at the meaning of the Bible text, but here we see it being used to really get at the meaning of the law. What seemed good – the government ensuring freedom to Saturday Sabbath keepers to continue being able to work on Sunday – Jones shows to be actually a taking a way of our right by making it seem merely a privilege, a bone thrown to non-Sunday keepers that can easily be taken away at a later time.

Jones saw the hidden agenda and clearly articulated it. The decision as to which day to keep or not, whether to rest on the Seventh Day Sabbath or any other day, or not to rest was a God given inalienable right, and by passing a national Sunday law, that right would be stripped and become a privilege to be determined by men and the state of which they have no right to interpose. This is also what happened during the covid pandemic. Our rights were suspended and transformed into privledges for the sake of "the common good."

Jones continues:

Nor is it for ourselves only that we plead. We are not the only ones who will be affected by this law. It is not our rights of conscience only that will be subverted, but the rights of conscience of everybody—of those who keep Sunday as well as those who keep Saturday—of those who are in favor of the law as well as those of us who oppose the law. When the law requires that those who do not observe Sunday shall conscientiously believe in and observe another day, by that it is conclusively shown that it is the conscientious belief in, and observance of, Sunday itself that is required and enforced by this law. That is, the law requires that everybody shall conscientiously believe in and observe some day. But every man has the constitutional right to conscientiously believe in and observe a day or not as he pleases. He has just as much right not to do it as he has to do it. And the Legislature invades the freedom of religious worship when it assumes the power to compel a man conscientiously or religiously to do that which he has the right to omit if he pleases. The principle is the same whether the act compels us to do that which we wish to do, or whether it compels us to do that which we do not wish to do. The compulsory power does not exist in either case. In either case the State assumes control of the rights of conscience; and the freedom of every man to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience is gone, and thenceforth all are required to worship according to the dictates of the State

Therefore in opposing this bill, and all similar measures, we are advocating the rights of conscience of all the people. We are not only pleading for our own right to keep the Sabbath according to the dictates of our own consciences, but we are also pleading for their right to keep Sunday according to the dictates of their own consciences. We are not only pleading that we, but that they also, in conscientious beliefs and observances, may be free from the interference and dictation of the State. And in so pleading we are only asserting the doctrine of the National Constitution. In the history of the formation of the Constitution, Mr. Bancroft says that the American Constitution “withheld from the Federal government the power to invade the home of reason, the citadel of conscience, the sanctuary of the soul.” Let the American Constitution be respected

How stunned the audience there must have been to see how Jones, step by step with unerring logic, is able to show that this law takes away the rights of all men and is enforcing worship according to the dictates of the state. Jones had been portrayed by his opponents as being against law and order and the working man, but now he has flipped it on them that they are disrespecting the US Constitution!

In this next section Jones makes the important point of knowing the “intention” of the lawmakers in putting clauses in their law:

Now to the point that this bill, through its promoters, does distinctly contemplate the taking away of the right to observe the Sabbath. I read from the bill the exemption that is proposed:— 

“This act shall not be construed to apply to any person or persons who conscientiously believe in and observe any other day of the week than Sunday, as a day of rest.” 

Now why is that clause put in the bill? The intention of the law-maker is the law. If, therefore, we can find out why this was inserted, we can know what the object of it is. During the past year Mr. Crafts has advertised all over this country from Boston to San Francisco, and back again, and has repeated it to this committee this morning, that the Seventh-day Adventists and the Seventh-day Baptists are the strongest opponents of Sunday laws that there are in this country, and that they are doing more than all others combined to destroy respect for Sunday observance. All this, and yet these are the very persons whom he proposes to exempt from the provisions of the law, which is expressly to secure the observance of Sunday! ABSB 36.3

Why, then, does he propose to exempt these? Is it out of respect for them, or a desire to help them in their good work?—Not much. It is hoped by this to check their opposition until Congress is committed to the legislation

How do we know this?—We know it by their own words. The lady who spoke here this morning as the representative of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union—Mrs. Catlin—said in this city, “We have given them an exemption clause, and that, we think, will take the wind out of their sails.” Well, if our sails were dependent upon legislative enactments, and must needs be trimmed to political breezes, such a squall as this might take the wind out of them. But so long as they are dependent alone upon the power of God, wafted by the gentle influences of the grace of Jesus Christ, such squalls become only prospering gales to speed us on our way. 

By this, gentlemen, you see just what is the object of that proposed exemption—that it is only to check our opposition, until they secure the enactment of the law, and that they may do this the easier. Then when Congress shall have been committed to the legislation, it can repeal the exemption upon demand, and then the advocates of the Sunday law will have exactly what they want. I am not talking at random here. I have the proofs of what I am saying. They expect a return for this exemption. It is not extended as a guaranteed right, but as a favor that we can have if we will only pay them their own stated price for it. As a proof of this I read again from Mr. Crafts’ book, page 262:— 

“The tendency of legislatures and executive officers toward those who claim to keep a Saturday-Sabbath is to over-leniency rather than to over-strictness.”

And in the convention held in this city only about three weeks ago—January 30, 31—Mr. Crafts said that this exemption is “generous to a fault,” and that “if there is any fault in the bill it is its being too generous” to the Seventh-day Adventists and the Seventh-day Baptists. But I read on:— 

“For instance, the laws of Rhode Island allow the Seventh-day Baptists, by special exception, to carry on public industries on the first day of the week in Hopkinton and Westerly, in each of which places they form about one-fourth of the population. This local-option method of sabbath legislation after the fashion of Rhode Island or Louisiana, if generally adopted, would make not only each State, but the nation also, a town heap, some places having two half sabbaths, as at Westerly, some having no sabbath at all, as at New Orleans, to the great confusion and injury of interstate commerce and even of local industry. Infinitely less harm is done by the usual policy, the only constitutional or sensible one, to let the insignificantly small minority of less than one in a hundred, whose religious convictions require them to rest on Saturday (unless their work is of a private character such as the law allows them to do on Sunday), suffer the loss of one day’s wages rather than have the other ninety-nine suffer by the wrecking of their sabbath by the public business.” 

This argument from Mr. Crafts is of the same character as the argument used by the leader of the Sanhedrin to justify his hatred of Christ and desire to kill Him: 

47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” 49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” John 11:47-50

Why then do they offer this “special exception”? Why do they voluntarily do that which they themselves pronounce neither constitutional nor sensible?—It is for a purpose. ABSB 39.1

Again I read, and here is the point to which I wish especially to call the attention of the committee. It shows that they intend we shall pay for the exemption which they so over-generously offer. 

“Instead of reciprocating the generosity shown toward them by the makers of Sabbath laws, these seventh-day Christians expend a very large part of their energy in antagonizing such laws, seeking, by the free distribution of tracts and papers, to secure their repeal or neglect.” 

Exactly! That is the price which we are expected to pay for this generous exemption. We are to stop the distribution of tracts and papers which antagonize Sunday laws. We are to stop spending our energy in opposition to their efforts to promote Sunday observance. We are to stop telling the people that the Bible says “the seventh day is the Sabbath,” and that Sunday is not the Sabbath. 

The hidden motivations and schemes are brought to light, in a way that is totally relevant to the case. Saturday being preached and Sunday being put down is annoying and troublesome (like Elijah being called a troublemaker by Ahab), and this generous offer of an exception allowing them to work on Sunday  (which they don’t want to give actually) should shut up Saturday keepers, but still they don’t stop! And should Saturday keepers stop? Jones continues:

But have we not the right to teach the people that “the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord,” even as the Bible says, and that only the keeping of that day is the keeping of the Sabbath according to the commandment? Have we not the right to do this? Have we not the right to tell the people that there is no scriptural authority for keeping Sunday, the first day of the week? Why, some of these gentlemen themselves say that. Mr. Elliott here—Rev. George—confesses “the complete silence of the New Testament, so far as any explicit command for the Sabbath, or definite rules for its observance, are concerned.” Many others speak to the same effect. Have we not as much right to tell this to the people as they have? They do not agree among themselves upon the obligations of Sabbath-keeping, nor upon the basis of Sunday laws. In every one of their conventions one speaks one way and another in another and contradictory way. Have we not as much right to disagree with them as they have to disagree with one another? Why is it then that they want to stop our speaking these things, unless it is that we tell the truth? ABSB 39.5

More than this, have we not the constitutional right freely to speak all this, and also freely to distribute tracts and papers in opposition to Sunday laws and Sunday sacredness? Does not the Constitution declare that “the freedom of speech, or of the press,” shall not be abridged? Then when these men propose that we shall render such a return for that exemption, they do propose an invasion of the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of speech and of the press. Why, gentlemen, this question of Sunday laws is a good deal larger question than half the people ever dreamed of. 

We see that Jones has the God given talent of illustrating in speech the epic drama of a matter, and in this case his skill is put to good use – for God wants human minds shaken on this issue. This is a critical point as it shows the relationship between religious and civil liberties and between religious freedom and freedom of speech. If religious freedom is infringed then freedom of speech is violated as well. 

Now to show you that I am not drawing this point too fine, I wish to read another extract from a doctor of divinity in California. With reference to this specific question, he said:—

“Most of the States make provision for the exercise of the peculiar tenets of belief which are entertained by the Adventists. They can worship on Saturday and call it the Sabbath if they choose, but there let their privileges end.” 

They do, indeed, seem by this to be generous enough to allow those of us who are already keeping the Sabbath to continue to do so while we live, but there our privileges are to end. We are not to be allowed to speak or distribute papers or tracts to teach anybody else to keep it. Why, gentlemen of the committee, do you not see that they propose by this law to deprive us of all our rights both of conscience and of the Constitution? Therefore we come to you to plead for protection. We do not ask you to protect us by legislation. We do not ask you to legislate in favor of Saturday—not even to the extent of an exemption clause. We ask you to protect us by refusing to give to these men their coveted power to invade our rights. We appeal to you for protection in our constitutional rights as well as our rights of conscience. 

 I find this interesting. We see that even though Jones has been talking powerfully and claiming the Constitution backs him, he is not foolish enough to demand protection. Though he believes he has the right to freely share his faith and evangelize, that right is only as strong as those who rule believe in the principle of free speech – thus he appeals to them; he “pleads for protection.” It is like Moses coming to Pharaoh, pleading for the good of the country that the unique religious practices of the Israelites be respected. The headship of the court in civil matters is submitted to and respected, invoking the deep honor and duty of the government to take care of its civilians according to its fundamental principles that it believes is for the good of society.

And is the hard-fought for Constitution and its unique rights and responsibilities good for society? It is. It is the great bulwark against evil, the great hedge that holds our world together. That is why when its principles are forsaken at the end of time, national ruin will come upon America and then the world. "When our nation, in its legislative councils, shall enact laws to bind the consciences of men in regard to their religious privileges, enforcing Sunday observance, and bringing oppressive power to bear against those who keep the seventh-day Sabbath, the law of God will, to all intents and purposes, be made void in our land; and national apostasy will be followed by national ruin." (RH December 18, 1888, Art. A, par. 6)

Jones continues:

There is one more word on this point that I desire to read. It sums up the whole matter in such a way as to be a fitting climax to this division of my remarks. This is from Rev. M. A. Gault, a district secretary of the American Sabbath Union. Mr. Crafts, who is the American Sabbath Union, personally appointed him secretary of Omaha district. Mr. Gault wrote this to Elder J. S. Washburn, of Hawleyville, Iowa, and Mr. Washburn sent it to me. I read:— 

“I see most of your literature in my travels [that is, the literature that Mr. Crafts says we do not stop distributing, and which we are not going to stop distributing], and I am convinced that your folks will die hard. But we are helping Brother Crafts all the time to set stakes and get the ropes ready to scoop you all in. You will kick hard, of course, but we will make sure work.”

Yes, this bill is one of the “stakes,” and the exemption clause is one of the “ropes” by means of which they propose to rope us in. And Mr. Gault is one of the clerical gentlemen who demand that the government shall “set up the moral law and recognize God’s authority behind it, and then lay its hand on any religion that does not conform to it.” ABSB 42.5

“Stakes” and “ropes” are used to make a fence; stakes are hammered and then linked up by ropes – all this so there is no escape for Saturday-keepers as they will all be “scooped in”. Jones says the bill is a stake and the exemption clause is a rope. In their time the American Sabbath Union were clearly leading out in the Sunday work. Who is leading out in it today? What are their “stakes” and “ropes”?

Jones brings up one final consideration before his closing remarks:

There is another consideration in this which shows that the State will be compelled to take official and judicial cognizance of the conscientious beliefs and observances of the people. It is this: When a law is enacted compelling everybody to refrain from all labor or business on Sunday, excepting those who conscientiously believe in and observe another day, then there will be scores of men who know that in their business—saloons, for instance—they can make more money by keeping their places of business open on Sunday than on another day, because more men are idle that day. They will therefore profess to observe another day and run their business on Sunday. This is not simply a theory, it is a fact proved by actual examples. One of the very latest I will mention. I have here a clipping from the Southern Sentinel, of Dallas, Texas, February 4, 1890, which I read:— 

“Right here in Dallas we have an example of how the law can be evaded. Parties have leased the billiard hall of the new McLeod Hotel, and have stipulated in their lease that they are conscientious observers of the seventh day [though to the best of the common knowledge and belief they are not]; that, in consequence, their business house will be closed on Saturday, and will be open on Sunday.” 

Mr. Grout—If they are known not to be conscientious worshipers, and keepers of the seventh-day Sabbath, what defense would they have? 

Mr. Jones—The defense would still be a claim of “conscientious belief in, and observance of, another day.” The claim indeed might not be sincere. And if there were any question of it in the community, it would certainly be disputed, and the court would be called upon to decide. Thus you see that by this bill the United States courts will be driven to the contemplation of conscientious convictions and compelled to decide upon the sincerity of conscientious beliefs and observances. And thereby it is proved that the introduction and advocacy of this bill is an endeavor to commit Congress and the government of the United States to the supervision of the conscientious convictions of the people. 

When Adventists become the only ones who can open a business on Sunday, there will be many business owners who will become Adventists to make money on that day. And thus the accusation will come: people are only keeping Saturday because they are lazy and want special privileges – either they don’t want to work like everyone else does, or they want to make money on Sunday when everyone else can’t. Won’t the unfairness of it infuriate people? Yes it will.

Now, gentlemen, to prevent this [the US government deciding upon peoples convictions] was the very purpose of the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is well known, as I have stated, that the Colonies which formed the original thirteen States had each one an established religion. When it was proposed to organize a Federal government, the strongest influence that had to be met and overcome was jealousy of a national power—a fear that a national power would over-ride the powers and interfere with the domestic affairs of the States. It was this that caused the adoption of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Their affairs of religion and the exercise thereof being the dearest of all, are first assured protection. Fearing that the national government might enact laws which would restrict or prohibit the free exercise of the religion of any of the people of any of the States; or that it might adopt or indorse some one of the religious establishments of the States, and thus form an alliance which might annihilate both political and religious individuality; that the political individuality of the States and the religious individuality of the people might be free; for themselves and their posterity the people declared that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” ABSB 45.3

It is not to be inquired whether there was any danger of that which they feared, they feared it and that is enough. And because they feared it, because they were so jealous—rightly jealous too—of their religious rights and conscientious convictions, they guarded these, as they intended and supposed, forever, from any supervision or cognizance whatever on the part of the national government. And upon this I quote now more fully the words of Bancroft, to which I merely referred a little while ago:— 

“Vindicating the right of individuality even in religion, and in religion above all, the new nation dared to set the example of accepting in its relations to God the principle first divinely ordained in Judea. It left the management of temporal things to the temporal power; but the American Constitution, in harmony with the people of the several States, withheld from the Federal government the power to invade the home of reason, the citadel of conscience, the sanctuary of the soul; and, not from indifference, but that the infinite spirit of eternal truth might move in its freedom and purity and power.”—History of the Formation of the Constitution, Book V chapter I

Thus says the historian, there is by the Constitution “perfect individuality extended to conscience.” This individuality, these rights, are as dear to us and as sacred as they were to the fathers of our nation, yet no more so to us than to other people. Therefore, gentlemen of the committee and the representatives of the people, by your respect for the Constitution and your oath to support it, and in behalf of the sacred rights of all the people, we implore you to give no heed to any demand for legislation, which in any way, to the least degree, proposes to touch the conscientious beliefs or observances of a solitary individual in all the land; give no heed to this bill, which, in its very terms, proposes to commit Congress to the supervision of conscientious beliefs, and proposes to drive the national power into a field where the makers of the national power forbade it to go, and to compel it to assume jurisdiction of questions which they have forbidden it even to consider

Here we see Jones’s powerful use of history again in his argument. We too, if we want to be able to glorify God and defend freedom of conscience, need to know this history. Quoted again is the historian George Bancroft – who is he? Is his History of the Formation of the Constitution important? I think it is. So much of this is intimidating to us because we know so little of it and we know, deep down, that it shouldn’t be so – we should know much more than we do. “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16) We need to use the time we have now to learn these things that God clearly points out is necessary for us to know. Continuing:

Now, as to the petitions—their petitions I mean (our petition is all right, that needs no defense), the petition which the other side is circulating—that petition shows what this bill means. Both this bill and the Senate “which includes this,” were framed and introduced upon this petition. If we know what the petition asks for, we shall know also what the bills are intended to give. Here is the petition—I read the one for the national law, “which includes this.” ABSB 47.2

“To the House of Representatives of the United States— 

“The undersigned organizations and adult residents (21 years of age or more) of the United States hereby earnestly petition your honorable body to pass a bill forbidding in the United States mail and military service, and in interstate commerce, and in the District of Columbia and the Territories, all Sunday traffic and work, except works of religion.” 

Mr. Crafts—Read on. 

Mr. Jones—I read as much as I want to use just now. That is the petition which they are circulating. That is the petition which they present to you. That is the petition upon which these bills were framed. They ask you to stop everything on Sunday—“all Sunday traffic and work,” all “work, labor, or business,” “except works of religion.” And yet they have the face to plead before the public, and in the presence of this committee, that this question “has nothing to do with religion.” Nothing to do with religion when it prohibits everything “except works of religion”? If this is not a religious petition, why do they “except” only “works of religion”? But he asked me to read on:— 

“Except works of religion, and works of real necessity and mercy, and such private work by those who religiously and regularly observe another day of the week by abstaining from labor and business, as will neither interfere with the general rest nor with public worship.” 

Of traffic, work, labor, or business, the exception is works of religion; of the people, the exception is only of those who religiously and regularly observe another day. Those who are to observe the day named must be religious that day; those who do not observe the day named must be religious, and regularly so, some other day of the week. Now, gentlemen, these bills were framed upon this petition. The intention of the petition is the intention of the bills. Therefore it is as plain as the day, that the object of both this bill and the Senate bill is the enforced conscientious belief in, and religious observance of, a rest-day. 

The question then which would inevitably arise upon this is, What religion is it whose works of religion only shall be excepted? That question would have to be answered. It would have to be answered by the United States courts or by Congress. But whenever, or by whichever, it shall be answered, when it is answered, that moment you have an established religiona union of Church and State. You cannot go back if you take the first step. The last step is in the first one, and we beg of you, gentlemen of the committee, and of these men themselves, for their own sakes as well as ours, do not take the first step. ABSB 49.1

Regular work and labor is not allowed on Sunday, but “works of religion” are allowed. What are the works allowed, and of what religion, Jones pointedly asks. The government must decide that; they must establish a catholic-universal religion that is united with the State. But who will enforce the law? It must be people who believe in it, who are of that religion.

We all know that the most wickedly cruel and most mercilessly inconsiderate of all governments is that in which the ecclesiastics control the civil power. And how are you going to escape it under such laws as here proposed? Who is to enforce these Sunday laws? Who, indeed, but those who are working for them? Certainly those who are opposed to them; or indifferent about them, will not enforce them. Who then are they who are working for the enactment of these laws? Who organize the conventions and count out the opposite votes? Who appeared here before your committee to argue in favor of it? Who, indeed, but the church managers? for you saw how summarily the Knights of Labor part of the delegation was squelched. 

Well, then, if it is the church which secures the enactment of the law, it will be the church that will have to see to the enforcement of the law. In order to do this she will have to have police and courts which will do her bidding. This is her great difficulty now. There is now no lack of Sunday laws, either in the States or the Territories, but the laws are not enforced. In order to get executives and police and courts who will enforce the law to her satisfaction, the church will have to elect them. Then, as said Mr. Crafts in this city the other day, they will form “law and order leagues to enforce” the Sunday laws. Here then is the system: The church combines to get the law enacted; the church secures the election of officers who will do her bidding; the church forms “law and order leagues” to make sure that the officers do her bidding and enforce the law. Where, then, will the State appear, but in the subordinate position to formulate and execute the will of the church? Then you have the church above the State, the ecclesiastical superior to the civil power. This is just what is in this national Sunday-law movement; and this is what will certainly come out of it. It is inherent there. 

And thus the significance of this case shines as glorious light. Many government officials probably weren’t thinking that much about this case. But if they were sleeping, they now are wide awake. Their conscience is stirred; their responsibility made clear. What neutral government official could resist the convicting logic that what Jones was saying was true? The Spirit of God would have been working powerfully on their hearts at this point and it would have been remarkably difficult to vote to pass the bill.

Finally to close Jones says:

But when George III. undertook to make the military superior to the civil power, our liberty-loving fathers declared it tyranny and avowed such things should not be in this land. And now when a movement reaches the National Capitol which bears in itself an attempt to make the ecclesiastical superior to the civil power, it is time for the American people to declare that this is tyranny also, and resolve that no such thing shall be in this land. That attempt one hundred and fourteen years ago grew out of the “divine right of kings” to govern, and the doctrine that governments do not derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. This attempt now grows out of the divine right of the ecclesiastics to govern, and likewise that governments do not derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. The president of the American Sabbath Union, which is the originator of this national Sunday-law scheme, has definitely declared in so many words that “governments do not derive their just powers from the consent of the governed;” and one of the secretaries of an auxiliary union has as definitely stated that “this movement is an effort to change that feature of our fundamental law.” ABSB 50.2

Gentlemen, when such doctrines as these are openly avowed, and when such an attempt as this is made by those who avow them, to embody them in national law, it is time for all the people to declare, as the Seventh-day Adventists decidedly do, that this nation is, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT OF ALL ECCLESIASTICAL OR RELIGIOUS CONNECTION, INTERFERENCE, OR CONTROL. 

This closing argument is interesting and one that I had never considered before. I have often wondered about the justification of The United States to split from England. Here he says that it was because King George rejected the principle of having to govern justly “from the consent of the governed” , and instead based his rule on “the divine right of kings”, meaning that then he could govern without any respect for the rights of those he governed. This went against the Magna Carta, Parliamentarism, and English common law (I think), and thus it was not acceptable (though it should have been disagreed to non-violently, though that is another issue).

What is the consent that the governed must give? It is to give government the power to pursue law and order in the civil realm. There is a famous clip of an Indian man saying that the people are stupid, and thus this principle doesn’t work. This brings to mind Plato’s argument of the rule of the enlightened philosopher kings in his book The Republic, which is what the ecclesiastics who want to govern take their inspiration from. But the founding fathers rejected that form of rule, seeing its horrors of elitism overriding individual conscience throughout the vast spans of history. And having fought for a new form of government, will we so easily throw it away because we don’t even understand why we have it? God forbid. Let us study this history more intently and be counted wise, “understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17)