More and more, even in places where least expected, signs are appearing with the announcement, “Open on Sundays.” To such an extent has the traditional Sabbath been exploited and commercialized that stores which still remain closed on Sundays are finding it necessary to display signs informing the public of this.

The secularization of the Sabbath day is cause for nation-wide alarm. The competitive operation of taverns, theaters, and commercialized amusements on the Lord’s Day has long been a problem to the spiritual forces of our country. And now we are witnessing a vast acceleration of this encroachment on the part of chain groceries and a variety of other stores, besides automobile agencies, real estate operation, and other enterprises, which previously have been at least neutral in the struggle to preserve the soul of our nation.

Sabbath observance is the center of gravity for the spiritual and moral life of a nation. A Sabbath-observing people, coming regularly under the illumination, stimulation, and discipline of the Word of God, give God a chance to do his best for them, in them, and through them. Such a people develop convictions and maintain standards of purity and godliness not otherwise to be attained. That which undermines Sabbath observance undermines the spiritual convictions and the moral behavior of a people.

It is in the Lord’s house, on the Lord’s day, with the Lord’s people, that a man is most likely to see himself as he is and to hear the call of God to higher ground. Thus bad men often become good, and good men become better. Unfortunately, the person who does not observe the Sabbath is generally leaving undone just about everything else that is expected of a Christian, such as praying, giving, witnessing, and living a consecrated life.

The family pew solves many problems before they arise, and is a major safeguard of the family hearth. Juvenile delinquency is reported to fall most heavily on Saturdays and Sundays. F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover has noted for years, along with judges all across the country, that Sabbath observance and juvenile delinquency do not go together. But broken Sabbaths, broken homes, and broken hearts fall into a pattern which has become all too familiar.

“Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” This fourth commandment, like the rest of the Decalogue, has in it the wisdom and benevolence of Almighty God. The benighted peoples of the earth have no Sabbath; with the establishment of the biblical Sabbath and its observance, their darkness would soon be dispelled. Enlightened peoples, when they neglect or abandon the Sabbath, are turning their backs to the light and heading toward the jungle.

Article continues below

Nations which have officially abolished the Sabbath have returned to the seven-day week in sheer self-defense, to safeguard their physical and material well-being. France, revolting against Christianity after the Revolution, established the ten-day week in 1793 but returned to the seven-day week in 1806. Russia likewise abolished the Sabbath after the Bolshevik Revolution and established a five-day week, then a six-day week, but she restored the seven-day week in 1940. The seven-day week makes a natural cycle, like the musical scale of seven notes, and seems to fit the rhythm of the universe.

Probably the breaking of no other commandment is so directly avenged in terms of mental and physical complications and breakdowns as the law of the Sabbath. Experimentation has demonstrated that even machinery functions more efficiently with suitable rest periods. The familiar comment of industrial giant Henry Ford deserves thoughtful consideration: “We would have had our Model A car in production six months earlier if I had forbidden my engineers to work on Sunday.”

“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Christ made allowance, within the spirit of the law, for works of mercy and of necessity, and for taking care of the occasional “ox in the ditch.” But the moral responsibility of unnecessary Sabbath violation is not to be lightly regarded. Immeasurably greater is the moral responsibility of coaxing others away from Sabbath observance to the marts of trade. Still more serious is the policy of denying to employees the possibility of observing the Sabbath and taking care of their spiritual needs and responsibilities. Inevitably, the Sunday opening of stores means the Sunday closing of churches, as far as the employee is concerned. And this the divine economy does not countenance. The ultimate in human wisdom is to note which way God is moving, and to fall in step.

With sickening monotony, the statistics on all forms of evil are rising from year to year. Human devices and legislative panaceas have failed to arrest this trend, which corresponds to the progressive undermining of the holy Sabbath. Too largely the Sabbath day has been reduced from a holy day of spiritual replenishment, instruction, and correction, to a mere holiday for pleasure seeking or to just another day of merchandising. The obvious need is not for some new solution but for a nationwide reemphasis upon true Sabbath observance. Only thus can we build up those spiritual resources which are the true strength of a nation. It is already late, but not too late. Sabbath observance must not be allowed to become obsolete!—Dr. CHARLES W. KOLLER, President Emeritus, Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Article continues below

NO, I HAVEN’T BEEN at church lately—but

—I’m tremendously interested really

—there’s such a draught in my pew

—I always listen to the hymns on the wireless

—of course I always keep in touch

—I’m frightened I’ll start coughing

—everyone says the sermons have been good

—I really must go one of these days

—you see, my family like a long lie in bed

—I once won a prize at Sunday school

—there’s hardly a soul I know at church

—I must go when the weather improves

—the man comes with the papers about eleven

—I do think it’s frightfully important

—since my aunt died, I can’t face it somehow

—I was just saying to my friend it is time I went

—won’t you wait and have tea? The kettle’s on.


in Life and Work (Church of Scotland magazine).

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.