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The Sunday Question

By J.J. Haley


      We agree with the Sunday Observance League in its opposition to the opening of the National Art Gallery and Public Library on the Lord's Day; but we do not base our opposition upon what are usually known as strictly Sabbatarian grounds. We emphatically reject the Presbyterian and Methodistic doctrine that the fourth commandment of the Decalogue is still binding on the Christian world. The old Puritanic notion that the law of the Jewish Sabbath is obligatory upon Christians, and is our authority for the sanctification of the first day of the week is as irrational and unscriptural as the doctrine of baptism in the place of circumcision, or the Lord's Supper as a substitute for the Jewish Passover. All three of these ideas, in fact, are founded in the exigencies of Paedo-baptist theology, which, unable to justify itself from reason and the New Testament Scriptures, falls back on abrogated Judaism for a reason of the hope that is within it. The observance of the seventh day of the week, on the authority of the fourth commandment, like all the ceremonial and positive institutions of Judaism, was nailed to the cross when Christ died, and is not of binding obligation upon Christians unless specifically re-enacted in the constitution of the New Covenant.

      We believe from the above reasons that the Jewish Sabbath has been abolished, and is hence not binding on Christians; but we believe from still higher considerations in the observance and sanctification of the first day of the week in memory of the resurrection of Christ, from the example of the early church under the direction and approval of the Apostles. This with the Christian is sufficient authority for the consecration of the day to religious culture, devout meditation, and the worship of God. It may be laid down as a first thought that Christians can have nothing to do with any movement that has a tendency to lower the tone of the sacredness of the Lord's day. He does not take this position because he attaches any superstitious sanctity or fictitious importance to the day, but because he is moved by the strongest reasons that can influence human hearts to desire to preserve the day in its original integrity as a "day for rest and serious joy designed." Public Libraries and Art Galleries are under the control of the irreligious State, desires to throw open its institutions for public inspection on Sunday it will do so. In fact the world has always desecrated, profaned, and disregarded the Lord's Day, and it always will as long as it remains the world; and so far as we are concerned, we think about the least objectionable mode of desecration is spending an hour or two in a Public Library or Picture Gallery. Christians need not effect surprise that the world will do these things, nor have we a right to object with special decisiveness unless the proposed movement is detrimental to the morals of society, or unless it threatens to imperil, the existence of the day as a day of rest. We believe that the present agitation has an indirect tendency to do this. Although apparently a very small matter in itself, it is in our opinion the entering wedge of the secularizing spirit of modern indifference and unbelief. It is the first step towards the complete secularization of the day, and hence towards its entire destruction as a religious institution. He who thinks that the spirit of innovation, when it once commences, will stop with these small beginnings has read history and studied human nature to no purpose. Secularists and worldlings, who are the chief instruments in agitating the present movement, will not be satisfied with so small an advance as opening the Public Library and Art Gallery.

      "The Sunday Question." No Other Foundation: A Documentary History of Churches of Christ in Australia: 1846-1990, ed. Graeme Chapman. [Mulgrave, Victoria: Privately published, 1993]. Pp. 444-445. Reprinted from Australian Christian Witness, 1883, pp. 168-170.

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