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The Christian Sabbath as a Legal and Political Day of Rest.

Decision of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

(From the Public Ledger of July 8.)

(Concluded from issue #5.)

On concluding the reading of the above, Judge Coulter expressed his dissent from the argument, though not from the decision.

Judge Coulter’s Opinion.

I concur cordially in the judgment of the Court, that the act of Assembly of 1705, and the act of 22d April, 1794, (the first entitled “An Act to restrain people from labour on the first day of the week,”) are constitutional. The question has been so often decided by every Court in the Commonwealth, and so repeatedly by this Court, that I feel astonished at its being now entertained as a debatable or open question. I did not hear the opinion of Judge Bell with sufficient distinctness (being pronounced from the other end of the bench), to be quite certain; but it appeared to me to rest the strength of the argument on the mere usefulness of the day as a cessation from worldly labour. I wish it to be distinctly understood that I believe the laws constitutional, because they guard the Christian Sabbath from profanation, and, in the language of the act of 1794, prohibit work or worldly employment on the Lord’s Day.

We are a Christian people and state; we are part and parcel of a great Christian nation. All over the length and breadth of this great nation, the Christian Sabbath is recognised, and guarded by the law as a day of sacred rest. Our national Congress recognise it. All the state legislatures recognise it. Every convention of the people, for the establishment of state or United States constitutions recognised and regarded it as a day of sacred rest. All our courts, national or state, so regard it. William Penn, in the form of government and laws, which he brought over to regulate the people of the new colony, so regarded it, and enacted that as such it should be observed, as a day for worshipping the Almighty, in imitation of the primitive disciples.

The pilgrims in the Mayflower, after being long tempest-tost, when <<300>>they reached the shores of this continent, declined to land on the Sabbath day. It comes to us as a holy day from the very dawn of our existence as a people, and was so regarded by the people from whom we sprung since the days of King Athelstane. It was one of the primitive institutions of Christianity—one on the existence of which its continuance depends. General Christianity enters into the very frame of our social existence; it is a part of the common law of the state. Law and order springing from the same source, the bosom of the Almighty, lean upon it for support. Our memories of the past—our hopes of the future are dependent upon it. Why then should the Supreme Court not regard it, as our forefathers regarded it, and as the statute declares it to be—the Lord’s day?

In many other statutes it is so denominated, and in my humble judgment ought to be so regarded by this court, according to precedent, and for the establishment of conservative authority. I do not recognise the right of legislation to make a day of secular cessation from labour, independent of the Christian Sabbath. It never was attempted in any Christian country, except in France, when it formally abolished Christianity, and set up the Goddess of Reason, and established the tenth day as a day of rest. But the Goddess, the tenth day, and the government have perished, or, faded into the calmer lights of the mild philosophy of the Encyclopediasts. Like water that flows, and the air we breathe, the Sabbath of rest, when the bondman and the free, the master and the apprentice, and all men meet in equality at the Christian altar, comes to us secured by the very organization of society, and the formation of the social compact. And it is therefore protected and guarded by our laws.