Q. Which is the eleventh commandment?
A. The eleventh commandment is, “Remember the first day of the week, and keep it hypocritically: the six following days may labor, laughter, lying, cheating, drinking, gaming, revelling and oppression, be done, by day or by night, according to the inclination of the individuals; but, on the first day of the week, shall no labor or recreation be done, save only that men may salt their cows in the morning, sleep in time of service, talk about politics, fashions and prices, at noontime; read newspapers after service, and pay their addresses at night. To redeem time, however, a traveller, on a journey, may continue his travel until Saturday midnight, and resume it on Sunday at the going down of the sun, losing but eighteen hours in a week; but recreation must cease on Saturday at sun down, and not commence again until Sunday midnight, losing thirty-six hours each week. The law, moreover, commands towns, precincts, and parishes to have teachers of morality, piety and religion, at least six months in a year, on the penalty of from thirty to one hundred dollars. It also enjoins it on the people to attend on the instruction of said teachers, if they conveniently and conscientiously can.”
This is the eleventh and great command ; on the observance of which hang all religion and good order.
Q. Is there any precedent in the New Testament for all this?
A. Christ’s kingdom was not of this world: he claimed no civil prerogative; consequently, he could not make any law of state, with pecuniary or corporeal penalties to sanction it; nor did he give any divine orders to the rulers of this world to make such laws. But Constantine loved the Christians, who supported his imperial dignity, so much, that he made a law to enforce the observance of the first day of the week, and pay the teachers of Christianity. And, as every generation grows wiser, by experience of former generations, when our virtuous ancestors fled from Europe, and came to America, Mr. Cotton, in Massachusetts, and Mr. Davenport, in New Haven, like Haggai and Zechariah, instructed the rulers how to proceed. Mr. Davenport, in particular, and his company, had high notions of a Christian commonwealth; that government should be administered in an ecclesiastico-political mode. When the assembly met at New Haven, they took up the subject; but, as the season was busy, they adjourned, with the resolution that they would take the laws of God for their rule until the winter session, when they should have leisure to amend them;â€”and, consequently, at their leisure session, they culled those parts of Moses’s law they chose to preserve, and Christianized them; and, by little and little, have made the law as perfect as the state of society will admit of. In Massachusetts, they progressed in the same manner; in Connecticut, they begin their holy-day at the sun’s setting, and end it at the same time; and, also, the Connecticut laws are blue, while some of Massachusetts’ were red.
Q. Does not the New Testament forbid Christians to judge, and set at nought, those who differ with them about the observance of days? If so, are not all penal laws, on that subject, cruel persecution?
A. Christians, as members of churches, are not to judge them that are without; nor judge, and set at nought, those who differ with themselves, respecting meats and days ; but every man is to be fully persuaded in his own mind. Every man must give an account of himself to his Maker, and, of course, ought to be free to act as conscience dictates. Nor should Christians, as citizens or magistrates, ever quit the weapon of fair reasoning, and assume legal force, to coerce and reform others from what they suppose to be religious errors. All laws, therefore, that describe the Godâ€”the dayâ€”or the mode of worship, are usurpative and oppressiveâ€”contrary to the genius of the gospel, the dictates of grace, and the kingdom of Christ; which laws have done incalculable evil among men. But times are altered so muchâ€”New Testament, meek and humble religion, grown so unpopularâ€”and men have become so much wiser, (especially in the New England states,) that laws to force people to keep the first day of the week holy, and oblige them to have teachers, and pay them, are absolutely necessary. Without such laws, Sabbaths would be neglected and forgotten, the sanctuary forsaken, the priesthood disgraced, and Christianity demolished. Leave religion as unguarded by law as the New Testament leaves it, and the New England states would soon fall into the same licentiousness of manners, and error in politics, that many of the states are now involved in.
Q. If such laws are necessary, what is the best mode to carry them into effect?
A. The path is plain, but requires a little disguise. Let a society be formed with all pharisaic pomp, for the ostensible purpose of promoting good morals; let this society have a president, vice-president, and executive officers; and let as many auxiliary societies be likewise self-created as is necessary with their presidents and company. By this method, there will be a number of presidents, who, otherwise, would live in obscurity. Let all these societies, by their executive committees, make a bold stand against vice; but let them be cautious not to criminate covetous and fraud among the aged, nor balls and revelling among the youth, for that would be unpopular; but let them bend their whole force to prevent travelling on the first day of the week. This will make people believe that the whole of good morals consists in keeping the day abstemiously. Let the executive committees call on justices, sheriffs and tything-men, to aid them in the laudable work. Let the justices fill their writs, and sheriffs pursue and arrest the traveller, and bring him to trial till he pays seven dollars, and then let him travel on. Half of the money will be for the prosecutors; and here the society will get money, as well as presidents. Indeed, this course of proceeding will give the society boldness in the faithâ€”many honorary officers, and a quantum of that which answers all things, and all gained by the pure motive of suppressing vice, and promoting good morals. And, by making the day more sacred, it will make a better market for the sons of these officers, if any of them choose to be teachers of piety, morality and religion. One thing must be carefully attended to, viz., in rare instances, the fines must be relinquished after they are awarded; and these acts of generosity must be published abroad, otherwise, the people will judge that the society acts for filthy lucre’s sake; whereas nothing is sought for but the good of the souls of the poor deluded travellers. Another advantage arises from this method of procedure; should arrests and law suits attend it, which is highly probable, it will be a harvest to the attorneys, who fatten on the glorious uncertainties of the law, and the distresses of their fellow creatures.
Q. Is the law, which sanctifies the first day of the week, made for all of the community, or for a part only? If binding on all, can it be executed in the mode just described, without defeating itself?
A. On a superficial glance, the answer is no. Lying in wait to detect othersâ€”watching houses, roads and fieldsâ€”gazing around in the meetinghouseâ€”filling writsâ€”pursuing travellers, and arresting themâ€”holding courts of trial, and awarding fines, are as radical infringements on holy time, as labor, travelling or recreation. But, when justices, sheriffs, and others, through great self-denial, undertake the holy and meritorious work of promoting good morals, by preventing disorder on the first day of the week, they receive another heart, like Saul; old things are done away, and all things are become new; so that, like a goose, they can have one eye to heaven, and the other to earth; they can keep their hearts with all diligence; pray, love and forgive; esteem others better than themselves, and follow every good work, while they are prosecuting profligate and abandoned men. If this is not altogether the case, yet the end is so laudable, that it would justify the worst means that could be used. And, further, if the very bulwark of religion would lead on to battle, on Lake Champlain, and at New Orleans, on Sunday, to overthrow Democracy, who can hesitate to attack Democrats for sabbath-breaking? Likewise, Procrustes made an iron bedstead to measure his subjects by: those who were too long he would lop off, and those who were too short he would stretch, so that all might be of a length; just so we must lop and stretch the opinions and consciences of others, for we know that we are right.
Q. With all submission, I will state a certain case, and ask a question upon it. Some years past, a certain Indian was arrested and carried before a justice for sabbath-breaking, as it was called, and was fined a quarter of a dollar for his crime. The Indian very peaceably paid the fine to his honor, and then requested a certificate. “Why would you have a certificate?” said his honor.” Because,” said the Indian, “bye and bye I die, and go before the Great Spirit for breaking the law, and, if I have no certificate to show that I mended the law, I shall have to go all the way down to hell for you, Mr. Justice, to come as a witness for me that I have mended the law.” From this stated case, I ask the question, What will be the future destiny of justices, sheriffs, tything-men and others, who take their own judgments (perhaps their interest) for a test of orthodoxy and good morals, and must stop, keep in custody, and fine others, as good men as themselves, because they do not believe what they cannot believe, and are too honest to be hypocritical?
A. The prospect is gloomy. When they are asked by him who judgeth righteously, “who hath required this at your hands?” their mouths will be shut. The hope and the prayer of the pious is, that they may repent of the evil of their way, and be saved.