The American Sabbath One Century Ago

Echoing a line from William Cowper ("When nations are to perish in their sins, / 'tis in the Church the leprosy begins), the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States once affirmed: "Let us beware brethren: as goes the Sabbath, so goes the church, as goes the church, so goes the nation" (1948). The same ecclesiastical body stated in 1933: "This nation cannot survive unless the Christian Sabbath is observed." 

With that principle in mind, in 1905, a fascinating volume was published by the National Reform Association, which was authored by Richard Cameron Wylie (1846-1928), a Reformed Presbyterian minister and long-term lecturer on behalf of the NRA, with an introduction by NRA President Sylvester Fithian Scovel (1835-1910), a Presbyterian minister and also President of Wooster University, regarding the state of the Christian Sabbath in America, along with the Biblical rationale for its public and civil establishment therein: Sabbath Laws in the United States

Beginning with a look at the colonial history of Sabbath laws in America, Wylie goes on to analyze the status of each states (there were 45 in 1905) and territory within the jurisdiction of the United States. This detailed study is followed by the Biblical grounds for the need to uphold the Fourth Commandment in modern American civil legislation. 

A documented study of this sort, authored by those who themselves advocated public and civil Sabbath-keeping, is rare to find. This particular volume, which precedes the efforts of the National Football League to largely dismantle US Sabbath laws beginning as early as the 1920's, provides a snapshot of the spiritual state of the country in 1905, just over one century ago. It is a window into the soul of America's past, and worth prayerfully comparing with America's present.