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Chapter 100

Sabbath Legislation

Who made the Sabbath and gave it to mankind?
"In six days the Lord made the 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 20:11.

To whom does the Sabbath belong?
"The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God." Verse 10.

To whom, then, should its observance be rendered?
"Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." 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 ot the same thing.

In religious matters, to whom alone are we accountable for our words and actions?
"So then everyone of us shall give account of himself to God." Rom. 14:12.
NOTE: But when men make compulsory Sabbath laws, they make men accountable to the government for Sabbath observance.

How does God show the holiness of the Sabbath day?
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Exodus 20:8. "The seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation." Leviticus 23:3.
Since the Sabbath is holy, is to be kept holy, and is a day for holy convocations, it must be religious.

So then, what is the true nature of all Sabbath legislation?
It is religious legislation.

Religious legislation unites church with state. What has generally been the result of enacting religious legislation?
Religious intolerance and persecution.

What was the first Sunday law in history?
Constantine's Sunday law of March 7, 321.
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 so 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. 380, note.

What church council required Sunday observance and forbade Sabbath observance?
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 Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 316.)

Was there any additional governmental Sunday legislation in later years?
"Constantine's decrees marked the beginning of along, though intermittent series of imperial decrees in support of Sunday rest." Ibid. p. 29.
NOTE: "By a law in the year 386 [in the reign of Theodosius 1], 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. . . .

"In the year 425 [in the reign of Theodosius the Younger], the exhibition of spectacles on Sunday, and on the principal feast-days of the Christians, was forbidden, in order that the devotion of the faithful might be free from all disturbance. . . .

"In this way, the church received help from the state for the furtherance of her ends. . . . But had it not been for that confusion of spiritual and secular interests, had it not been for the vast number of mere outward conversions thus brought about, she would have needed not such help." --Neander, General Hisotry 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. Justinian's code collected the laws of the empire on the subject, and from the time when Charlemagne, king of the Franks, was crowned emperor (800), 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 was 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 the 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, forbade all field work under pain of censure; and the Council of Macon (585) laid down that the Lord's Day 'is the day of 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, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 12, pp. 105-106, art. "Decrees of 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 Lord's days, and just as my father of blessed memory commanded in his synod edicts, that is, that men shall not carry on rural work, neither in cultivating the vine, nor in plowing the fields [etc.] . .Likewise the women shall not do weaving [etc.J . .in order that in every way the honor and rest of the Lord's day may be kept. But let them come together from everywhere to the church to the celebration of the mass, and praise God in all the good thingswhich 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. 82.

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 hew Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. 11, pp. 147-148.)

The first Sunday law promulgated in America, Virginia, 1610: "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 for the whole week following, for the second to lose the said allowance and also be whipped, and for the third to suffer death."For the Colony in Virginia Brittannia, Lavves Morall and Mart/all & 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. .that all and every Person and Persons whatsoever, shall on every Lord's Day apply themselves to the Observation of the same, by exercising themselves thereon in the Duties of Piety and true Religion, publickly and privately; and that no. Person whatsoever, shall do or exercise any worldly Labour, Business, or Work of their ordinary Callings, upon the Lord's Day, or any Part thereof (Works of Necessity and Charity only excepted;) . .and that no Person or Persons whatsoever, shall publickly cry, shew forth, or expose to Sale, any Wares, Merchandizes," etc. —British Statutes at Large, 29th year of Charles II, chap. 7.

Modeled somewhat after the Puritan laws of 1644 to 1658, but much 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 Encylopaedia Britannica [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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Created: 07/18/02 Updated: 02/14/05