4th edition



Chapter XX

In this chapter

479... The Rise of the papal See
480... The eldest Son of
482... Character of the Franks
483... Dr. Zahn on How Sunday Holiness Became Established
............. Among the half heathen tribes

484... Council of Orleans and Judaizing on Sunday
486... Stripes for Sunday Desecration
487... The implacable anger of the clergy for Sunday Work
489... The Statute of Childebert
490... The Miracles of Gregory of Tours
491... Divine Judgments upon Sunday Work Fabricated
491... First Appearance of scrolls from heaven In Favor of Sunday
493... Perpetual Slavery for continued Sunday Work
493... The First English Sunday Laws
494... Canons of English Councils
495... Marriage Forbidden, under Penance, on the Lord’s Day
495... Boniface’s Sunday Laws
496... Loss of Right Hand for Working on Sunday
497... A Sunday Scroll Condemned by the Pope
499... Charlemagne the Standard Bearer of St. Peter
499... Alcuin the First to Bring forth the transfer of the Sabbath to Sunday
500... Forced Conversions
501... Carolingian Capitularies Regarding Sunday
502... Council of Paris Implores the Imperial Arm to Punish Sunday Desecration
504... Leo the Philosopher’s Criticism on Constantine’s Sunday Law
505... Stealing on Sunday Worse then on Other Days
507... Sunday legislation in Hungary
507... Olaus, King of Norway
508... Souls Relieved in Purgatory on Sunday
509... “Truce of God” Encyclical
511... The Holy Sunday Commandment from Heaven
513... Chronologists Record its Approval
514... Innocent III
515... New Sunday Miracles
516... Letter from Heaven Still for Sale
517... Neglect of Church Attendance Fined
519... Gregory IX’s Decretals on feast-days
520... Indulgences for Sunday Work Granted
521... Inconsistencies of Sunday Legislation


By the end of the fifth century, Sunday stood firmly embodied as a weekly holiday, in the Theodosian code of the empire and in the canons of general councils and synods; but it was by no means thereby so indelibly engraved on the depraved hearts of the Romans. The imperial theocracy of the West met its just doom in A.D. 476, when it became an easy prey to the heretical barbarians. The time foreseen by the prophet Daniel had come, "when out of the chaos of the northern migrations and on the ruins of the Roman empire gradually a new order of states should arise, whose central point was the Papal See," the little horn from among the ten kings; or, as Stanley puts it:

When the barbarians broke upon Italy, the Pope thus became the representative of the ancient republic." 1 Already when the gates of imperial Rome were opened to the victorious Attila and Genseric, it was Leo, the Roman bishop, who averted the worst. He justly bears the name of “The Great,” if greatness depends upon the conception of the papal idea; for when this was once pronounced, it was only a matter of time until the imperial theocracy, which had hitherto summoned councils, presided over them and given their canons the force of universal law, should be replaced by the papal hierarchy, which would proudly dictate her laws to emperors and kings, and hold the whole world in fear by her anathemas.

But before the Papacy could assume such power there was first to be made room for it amon the kings. Arianism had not only played an important part at the Byzantine court, but the barbarians had become attached to it. The Goths, the Vandals, the Burgundians, the Suevi, etc., were all Arians. When the western empire fell, the bishop of Rome became the political subject of Arianian kings. Odoacer, [chieftain of the Germanic Heruli, who deposed the last Roman emperor, and became the first barbarian ruler over the western empire,] and Theodoric, [the Ostrogoth, who then conquered Odoacer, and took from him the empire,] though both these rulers were heretics in the eyes of the Catholics, yet they decided the heated contest between rivals for the papal chair .


“In the midst of the greatest distress the church was gladdened by the conversion of the Franks, whose king, Clovis, was baptized after the battle of Zuelpich,” These are the suggestive words of the Roman Catholic historian. 2 “The Salian Franks were the first among the Teutonic tribes which were converted to Catholic or orthodox Christianity. Hence the sovereign of France is styled by the popes, ‘the oldest son of the church,’ and Rheims, where Clovis was baptized, is the holy city where most of the French kings down to Charles (A.D.1824) were consecrated. The conversion of the Franks prepared the way for the downfall of the Arian heresy among the other Germanic nations, and for the triumph of the Papacy in the German empire under Charlemagne.” 3

As Clovis was going down into the water, the bishop exclaimed, “Behold the new Constantine!” Pope Anastasius, learning that Clovis, with three thousand of his men, had been baptized, sent a message: “The Chair of St. Peter rejoices that so many people flow unto him; may you be an iron pillar for his church in this present hour of her afflictions!

As he was the only Roman Catholic king in the world, Clovis was claimed at once as the patron and protector of the Papacy. He should be the “common sun to which all the nations would be attracted; the church would take the deepest interest in his success; if he should go to war, she is victorious.” Legends of miraculous help supplied all that was lacking; for Gregory of Tours reports, in his history of the Franks, that St. Martin sent a hind to show Clovis the passage through the Vienne, that St. Hilary went before him in a cloud of fire.

Ow the Pope could cry out in the words of Baronius: “When the Roman Church seemed about to perish, the kings, not of the East, but from the North, came to the cradle of christ, as in times of old,” And Pope Gregory II could write to the emperor of the East: “All they of the West have their eyes bent on our humility; they regard us as a god on earth.” 4

The following from Bonifacius shows what help the Franks were to the Catholic Church:--

“Without the patronage of the Frankish ruler, I can neither govern the people nor defend the presbyters, deacons, monks, or handmaidens of God; nor even could I forbid the pagan rites and sacrilegious idolatries in Germany without his mandate and the fear of his name.”5


But what “sad Christians” the Franks were, and how much the second Constantine was like the first, is thus stated by Montalembert:--

“Their incredible perversity was most apparent in the domestic tragedies, the fratricidal executions and assassinations, of which Clovis gave the first example, and which marked the history of the son and grandson with an ineffaceable stain. Polygamy and perjury mingled in their daily life with a semi-pagan superstition, and in reading these bloody biographies, scarcely lightened by some transient gleams of faith or humility, it is difficult to believe that, in embracing Christianity, they gave up a single pagan vice or adopted a single Christina virtue.” 6

It was among such “sad Christians” that Sunday become sanctified by “divine command” and “judgments”. And in what manner, Dr. Th. Zahn describes:


“It was reserved to the lawgivers of the German states to rigorously enforce upon the unmanageable, half-heathen tribes, the celebration of Sunday, the principal object of which was the cessation from labour. Whether the civil authorities offered to see to the enforcement of the laws, or whether it was entrusted to the bishops, if in one instance traveling by water and by land was allowed, while it was most strictly forbidden in another; whether there should be inflicted only a money or property penalty; or whether it might be increased to depriving the free-born of liberty, and to the amputation of the right hand of the slave, -- the spirit of these laws was ever the same, -- that of the Old Testament. This legislation is accompanied by a new theological doctrine of Sunday, or it is founded upon such from the beginning. That this Christian celebration of Sunday is identified with the Sabbath observance commanded of God through Moses, was an unheard-of doctrine in the ancient church.

“At first this doctrine seems to have raised its head but timidly; however, it must have been already active, when in A.D. 538, the council of Orleans opposed as a Jewish superstition the idea that it should be unlawful to ride and drive, to prepare food, to clean house, or to bathe on Sunday. At that time there were people in France who began to apply to Sunday the Mosaic ordinances concerning the observance of the Sabbath. Scarce half a century had passed before the synods accepted the very principle they had rejected at Orleans. Henceforth it became the rule to emphasize as the characteristic of Sunday observance the omission of ‘servile labour’ in all the decrees of the synods and in the civil laws, and to appeal to the Mosaic Sabbath law as a command still binding upon the Christian. It was declared that the ancient doctors of the church had transferred all the glory from the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday, and in this manner had made the somewhat moderated Sabbath law the basis for Christian Sunday observance.

Then, too, the people were told dreadful stories of divine judgment against Sunday work. The intention to have a most powerful effect upon the people and princes, had begotten this new Sunday doctrine. It made a much deeper impression upon them if they could be pointed to an express, divine command; and the church was glorified if credence was given to its assertion that it had supplanted the letter of the old law of God by a new and no less divine law, by virtue of its own full and perfect power, through which it also instituted other festivals of greater sanctity and made them binding on the conscience of Christendom,” 7

Canons of councils, statutes of the civil law, and statements from ecclesiastical writers fully bear out this testimony from Dr. Zahn, as we shall see; for beginning with the sixth century, they alter their tone (frequently contradicting one another), but are all the time bent on gradually identifying Sunday with the Sabbath.


We shall begin with the Western councils, where the sentiment of the Roman bishop is most plainly voiced. The first national council of Orleans (A.D. 511) decreed:--

“Canon 26. On Sundays lay members must attend the whole mass, and are not to leave ere the benediction. If any leaves, he shall be publicly censured by the bishops.”

“Canon 31. A bishop, unless he is ill, must not fail in attendance at divine service on Sunday in the church which lies nearest to him.” 8

Thus even bishops had to be urged to attend the Sunday services. That which at times occupied them is revealed to us by canon 41, of the council of Arragon

“No bishop or presbyter shall sit in judgment on Sunday. They may, however, settle quarrels on other days, with the exception of criminal cases.” 9

But the real status of Sunday observance at the beginning of the sixth century is set before us by the twenty-eighth canon of the third council of Orleans:

Canon 28. “Because people are persuaded that they ought not to travel on the Lord’s day with horses, oxen, and carriages, nor to prepare anything for food, nor to employ themselves in any way conducing to the cleanliness and adornment of their houses or persons (which is proved to belong rather to Jewish superstition than to Christian observance), we ordain that those things are lawful to be done, as they have heretofore been lawful. Moreover, we decide to abstain from rural work, plowing, pruning of vines, or vintage-- frequently at least-- that one may be more easily at leisure to attend church on account of the sermon. If any be found engaged in the above-named occupations, which are forbidden to them, they shall be brought to obedience in some way-- not through the severity of laymen, but by priestly reproof. 10

This canon positively declared that up to that time rural work had been allowed, and it did not even prohibit labour then because any divine law would be transgressed, but rather to facilitate church attendance in this way. Rural work was not absolutely forbidden, but it was “frequently at least;” and as yet fines were not imposed -- it was only reproof at the hands of the clergy. However, some were already identifying Sunday with the Sabbath, and urged a very strict observance of it; but this council condemns such as “Jewish superstition.”


And the civil law quickly followed in the footprints of the ecclesiastical. In A.D. 554 king Childebert issued a law against those who persisted in retaining heathen idols on their estates, and against Sunday desecration. That part of the law referring to the latter subject reads:--

“Complaint has reached us that many sacrileges happen among the people, by which God is grieved, and the people become a prey to death on account of their sins. The night vigils are spent in drunkenness, sport, and rioting; and the dancing girls roam about in the villages, even on holy days, like Easter, Christmas, and other festivals, or on the accompanying Lord’s day. All this, whereby God is manifestly offended, we shall henceforth by no means permit. If any one, after the admonition of the priest and of this our command, shall dare to perpetrate the same sacrilege, he shall receive a hundred stripes; if a slave; but if free-born, or perhaps a more honoured person, he shall be condemned to rigid imprisonment. Because such despise wholesome words intended to bring them back from the danger of death, and they should be placed under penance that it may strengthen them, crucified at least in the body, to restore health according to the desire of the spirit.” 11

The council of Auxerre (A.D. 578) decreed:

Canon 16. “It is not allowed to yoke up oxen on the Lord’s day, or to perform other work-- except for the reason stated.” 12


The second council of Macon (A.D. 585) went much further, and, as Bishop Grimelund fittingly remarks, “by its severe prohibition and hard punishment,” it “had already stamped the seal of the law upon Sunday, and that, too, by ecclesiastical authority.” To restore the neglected observance of the Lord’s day, the first canon enjoined:--

“Notice is taken that Christian people thoughtlessly abandon the Lord’s day to contempt, giving themselves to continuous work, as on other days. Therefore we decree by this our synodal epistle that every one of us admonish the people under his charge in the holy churches. Whoever heeds this admonition will reap the benefits; whoever does not makes himself liable to the penalties fixed upon by us under divine inspiration (divinitus)

therefore, all ye Christians who do not bear this name in vain, listen to our advice, knowing that we are concerned for your good, and have power to restrain you from evil-doing: Keep the Lord‘s day, the day of our new birth and deliverance from all sin. Upon it let no one be inflamed by lawsuits; let no one collect fines; let no one create such a necessity as would seem to force him to place the yoke upon the necks of his cattle. Let all be occupied, mind and body, in the hymns and praise of God. If there be a church near by, hasten to it, and there on the Lord‘s day place yourself in the proper frame of mind through prayers and tears. If your eyes and hands are extended to God during this whole day, then it is to you a perpetual day of rest; this, prefigured by the shadow of the seventh day, is recognized in the law and the prophets. It is therefore but just for us to unanimously celebrate this day, through which we are made what we were not; for formerly we were the servants of sin, but through it we are made servants of righteousness.

Let us offer a free service unto God, by whom we are renewed through piety and set free from the prison-house of error; not because our Lord desires us to celebrate the Lord‘s day by abstaining from bodily work; but he seeks obedience by which he mercifully lead us to heaven, after we have trampled earthly tendencies under foot.


The second council of Macon continues:

If with some of you this wholesome exhortation weights but little, or is treated contemptuously, be it know unto him that he will be chiefly punished of God according to his just deserts, besides having immediately drawn upon him the implacable anger of the clergy.. If he has a case in court he shall irreparably lose it; if he be a farmer or a slave, he shall be scourged with severer blows of the lash; if he be a clergyman or a monk, he shall be shut out from the society of his brethren for six months. For all this restores unto us the forgiving mind of God, as well as keeps the plagues of sickness and sterility far from us.” 13

These punishments were to be executed by the ecclesiastical authorities; to give the whole matter his royal sanction, King Guntram issued “a most glorious precept to the bishops and judges of his realm,” on Nov. 4, 585. In this lengthy decree, which covers several pages, he solemnly charges the ecclesiastical and civil authorities to enjoin upon the people this very canon of the council concerning Sunday observance; otherwise, they would make themselves guilty of the divine wrath, which would surely fall upon them, Then he continues:--

“On the strength of this decree and in the light of this general definition, be it therefore ordained that on all Lord’s days on which honor the mystery of the holy resurrection, or on any of the other festivals when, according to custom, the religious assembly of the whole people is studiously called together to revere the oracles of the temples, all corporeal work be suspended except that necessary in the preparation of food, and that in particular there be no court proceedings, from any cause whatsoever.” 14

Canon 4 of this same council of Macon “enjoins all believers, men and women, to bring an oblation of bread and wine every Sunday.” 15

Canon 4 of the council of Narbonne (A.D. 589) enjoins this abstinence from work upon everybody:--

“No man, free-born or slave, Goth, Roman, Syrian, Greek, or Jew, shall do any kind of work on the Lord’s day, nor shall they yoke up cattle excepting in case of necessity. But if any one should presume to do it, the free-born shall pay the magistrate six solidi (a solidus is about twelve shillings, or three dollars in 1910), and the slave shall receive one hundred stripes.” 16


A civil statute of King Childebert was issued in the same year, to this effect:--

“Likewise we ordain to regard the Lord’s day. If a freeman should presume to do any work save what pertains to cooking or to eating, he shall be fined fifteen solidi if he be a Salian, and seven and half if he be a Roman; but a slave should either give three solidi, or have it taken out of his hide.” 17

What a wonderful change was brought about by this sixth century! At its close, the most cruel ecclesiastical and civil laws enjoin that which was regarded as “Jewish superstition” at its beginning. What wrought such wonderful changes? Dr. Loening furnishes the key to this in his work on ecclesiastical law. At first neither the church in general nor the state dreamed of punishing work done on Sunday and on holidays, but “miraculous stories” were set afloat as an evidence of divine punishment.


Dr. Loening describes Gregory’s divine miracles of punishment which would follow immediately and relentlessly on the heels of all work done upon Sunday, even the most necessary, thus:.

“Gregory of Tours is especially productive of this kind of narrations. Hist. X,30: De Miraculis S. Juliani,’ c. 40; ‘De Miraculis S. Martini,’ 3,c.3,7,29,55 (4, c. 45; ‘Vit. Patrum,’ 7,c.5;15, c. 3). At one time it is a peasant who gathers in his hay on Sunday because of the threatening rain; another time it is a peasant on his way to church, who, seeing cattle in his field, hastily repairs the hedge, that his year’s work may not be in vain; then again, it is a girl combing her hair; all have to feel the wrath of the saints, and are punished with some physical ailment in return.” 18

An English preacher, Francis West, gravely adduces one of these miracles in support of Sunday sacredness:--

“Gregory of Tours reported that a husbandman, who upon the Lord’s day went to plow his field with an iron, the iron stuck so fast in his hand that for two years he could not be delivered from it, but carried it about continually, to his exceeding great pain and shame.” 19

Gregory of Tours again and again expresses his intense hatred against the Jews, forgetting the admonition of Paul in Rom.11:19,20, as well as the royal law of love toward all. In his history of the Franks, which abounds with all sorts of miracles, he relates the following:--

“Near the town of Lemovicinia there were several destroyed by the heavenly fire, because they had worked publicly on the Lord’s day, and thus desecrated it. For this day that first saw the newly created light in the beginning is holy, and it shines forth as a witness of the resurrection; therefore it must be kept by the Christians in all faithfulness, and no public work is to be performed on that day. Also many have been devoured of this fire in Touraine, but not upon a Sunday.” 20


The story tells its own tale at the end-- many others were struck by lightning who had not worked on Sudnay! Even at the present day, how many are the tracts written by religious societies, which, for want of better evidece, produce such tales in behalf of the sacredness of Sunday!


But about this time yet other means began to be employed by the monks and the clergy, to impress upon the superstitious nations only partly reclaimed from paganism the sanctity of Sunday, and to make them believe that the Decalogue now demanded the keeping of the first day of the week instead f the day which had been observed by the despised Jews. Scrolls said to have fallen from heaven, and attributed to Christ, were produced. And thus the lack of divine precept was to be supplied by human forgeries.

The first recorded instance of such a forgery dates from this very time, and the evidence is to be found in the correspondence between two Spanish bishops, mentioned by Fabricius in his Apocryphal Codex of the New Testament, under “Writings Attributed to Christ.” About A.D. 585, Bishop Vincent, of Yvica, sent to Bishop Lician, of Cartagena, such a scroll, the contents of which are quoted to some extent in the answer of Licinian. The latter answers:--

“”Your letter has much grieved us, because, according to your statement, you have accepted said epistle, and even proclaimed it from your pulpit to the people.” “I am astonished at your credulity, and hardly know how you, having the predictions of the prophets, the Gospels of Christ, and the epistles of the apostles, can believe the said epistle, fabricated under the name of Christ, although it lacks elegance of speech and sound doctrine. In the begin we read that the Lord’s day is to be kept. What Christian does not keep this day in greater honor, not because of its own merits, but because Christ rose from the dead on it? As far as I am able to discern, the new idea of this preacher is to compel us to Judaize for, according to him, one is not permitted to prepare the necessary food or to take a walk on this day. Your holiness can judge how bad this would be. We would that if the Christian people do not attend church on that day they might do something useful instead of dancing and distorting their well-formed, God given bodies, and singing lewd songs to encourage immorality. Be it far from your holiness to believe that now epistles are sent to us from Christ.” “Has perhaps the new name pleased you so much because, as the impostor claims, this epistle fell from heaven upon the altar of Christ in the church of St. etc.? Know that this is a deception of the devil, and that the divine Scripture, the epistle or epistles, are heavenly, and have not been sent to us from heaven.” 21

This furnishes positive evidence that by the end of the sixth century, such supposed heavenly scrolls began to be circulated, and that even then already some bishops went so far as to read them from their pulpits. But other bishops, true to the decision of the council of Orleans based on the church Fathers, condemned their tendency as “Judaizing.”


The eighteenth canon of the council at Chalons (A.D.644) reads:--

“It is generally admitted by all Catholics who fear God that it behoves them to observe the Lord’s day (which is the first day of the week), as has been decreed in all former canons: we institute nothing new, but renew the old-- that no one conceive of the idea of performing rural work on the Lord’s day, such as plowing, mowing, gathering in the harvest, breaking up new land, or doing anything else pertaining to rural labour. If anyone should be found doing this he shall be straightened out by severe disciple of all sorts.” 22

To this century belongs also the so-called Alemanian law, which has the following Sunday ordinance:

“Let no one perform servile work on Sunday, because this law prohibits it, and the Holy Scripture is altogether contrary to it. If any slave be found guilty, he is to be beaten with rods. The freeman may be arrested until the third offense; if he still continues, he shall lose the third part of his inheritance; if he yet persists, he should be brought and convicted before the diet, and after the duke has ordained it, he shall be made a slave: because he would not have leisure for god, he shall remain in perpetual slavery.” 23


The oldest Anglo-Saxon document mentioning Sunday is a Penitential written about A.D. 668 by Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury, the eleventh article of which reads:--

“If anyone works on the Lord’s day, the Greeks accuse him the first time, the second time they take something from him, the third time they take the third part of his goods, or scourge him, or make him fast seven days. But if any one fasts from negligence on the Lord’s day, he is to abstain from food the whole week; if again, twenty days; and if afterwards, forty days.” 24

The earliest mention of Sunday in an English law is the following:--

“I, Ine (A.D. 688-726), ing of the West Saxons, with the advice of Cenred, my father, and Hedde and Erkenwald, my bishops, with all my aldermen and most distinguished sages, and also with a large assembly of God’s servants, considering of the health of our souls and the stability of our realm,. . . Made several enactments, of which this is the third: If a bondman work on Sunday by his lord’s command, let him be free; and let the lord pay thirty shillings’ fine (wite); but if the bondman went ot work without his knowledge, let him suffer in his hide, or pay a ransom. But if a freeman work on that day without his lord’s command, let him forfeit his freedom, or sixty shillings; if he be a priest, double.” 25


King Withred, of Kent, and canons 10-12 of the council of Berk Hampstead (A.D. 697) enjoin”:--

“If a bondman do any servile work contrary to his lord” command, from sunset Saturday till sunset Sunday, let him pay a fine of eighty shillings to his lord. But if he does it at his own accord, let him pay six shillings or his hide. But if a freeman at the forbidden time do this, let him be liable in his ‘heals fang’ [a fixed amount of the value placed on a person]; and the man who detects him, let him half the fine and the work.” 26

The law enjoins the later penalty also on the people who still make offerings to devils. These strangely graduated penalties are likewise found in the Constitutions of Egbert, archbishop of York, 749; and the council of Clovishoff (A.D. 747) charges the abbots and presbyters “to remain on this most holy day in their monasteries and churches, read mass, avoid all secular business, and not to travel unless in special need.” 27


Pope and archbishop even forbade marrying on Sunday, as Dr. Binterim thus affirms:--

“Some may be perhaps surprised to learn that Gregory III (A.D. 731-741) and Egbert of York (A.D. 784) forbade marriage on Sunday, and imposed a penance. Gregory III says, in his Judiciis Poenitent.: ‘Whoever marries on the Lord’s day, shall ask God for mercy and do penance from one to three days.’ Harduin., tom. 3, p. 1877. And Egbert extends the penance to seven days. Id., p. 1970.” 28


Some of the collections of canons from synods held on the Continent belong also to this period. In canon 23, enacted under Boniface (A.D. 680-755), an Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk, who played a major part in the conversion of Germany to Catholism, and is known as “Apostle of Germany”, we read: “If a freeman yokes up his oxen on Sunday, he shall lose his right ox.” 29

On what basis Boniface enjoined Sunday already in his time, is seen from his fifteenth sermon on the renunciation of the devil in baptism, where he reminds the heathen converts of what they have renounced. After speaking of the commandments they should keep, he continues:--

Keep the Sabbath and go to church -- to pray, but not to prattle. Give alms according to your power, for alms extinguish sins as water does fire.” 30

Thus the heathen converts were taught that Sunday was the Sabbath required in the commandments, and its observance was enjoined by the most stringent laws.


The aforementioned canon appears in the so-called Bavarian law, which seems to belong to this period:--

“If a freeman has done servile work on the Lord’s day, that is, if he has yoked up oxen, and driven about with a cart, he shall lose the right oxen. But if he makes hedges, mows hay, or cuts or gathers grain, or performs any other servile work on the Lord’s day, he shall b arrested once, and twice. But if he does not reform, his back shall receive fifty stripes. If he persists, he shall lose his liberty, and be sold as a slave, because he would not be free on the Lord’s holy day.

“But the slave shall also be shipped for such a crime and if he persists, he shall lose his right hand. If any one travels by cart or by boat, which is forbidden, he shall rest until the second feria. And if he does not want to regard the precept of the Lord, that he should not perform any servile work on the holy day, neither his servant, etc., then he shall be fined twelve solidi. And if he frequently transgresses, he shall be subject to greater punishment.31


During this period we find a further trace of these so-called “heavenly letters,” which were so widely circulated in the Frankish empire that not only general synods, but even a council at Rome, had to take action condemning them as forgeries. As the letter we wish to consider is quite long, we shall content ourselves by simply quoting in part:--

“Here begins the epistle of our Lord Jesus Christ, which fell from heaven, Michael himself having carried it. It was found at the gate of Efre by a priest named Eros. He handed it to Leopas, who carried it to Cappadocia, and there its writing was made known unto the priests, and many people who were gathered together to seek God; as follows:

“On the Lord’s day there are to be no court sessions and no chase; the milk is not to be collected from the flocks, except as a gift to the poor; and the cattle are not to be yoked up. In case you do not observe the Lord’s day, the judgments of God will fall upon you. The only work allowed, is to go to church, to hear mass, and to attend to works of charity. Do penance in sackcloth and ashes as the Ninevites, better your lives, ere the wrath of God come upon all the inhabitants of the earth, because you transgress my commandments and dishonor the holy Lord’s day.

If you do not hearken, I will send upon you hot stones of great weight, causing fire and destruction. If you watch and pray, give alms, return not evil for evil, and keep the Lord’s day, then you shall rein with me in eternity. Such as still secretly sacrifice at fountains, tress, rocks, or sepulchres, as well as those who do not observe the Lord’s day, I anathematize. Remember the tables of Moses my servant, and preach the law that the people may fear it.

I admonish you by this epistle, that if any dare to chatter, to prattle, to sit about in church, or to leave the mass ere it is finished, he is anathematized. Wash not your clothes, cut not your hair or your beard upon this day, else I will send upon you locusts and ravenous wolves. If anyone, instead of attending church on the Lord’s day, rather trades, goes to the woods, rests, sits in the streets, or prattles, I will bring upon him the unbelieving heathen. In the beginning, after I had rested on and sanctified the Lord’s day, I gave it to you. If you do not observe it, I will bring fiery serpents among you, O ye women, which shall devour your breasts; yea, I will bring worms, fire flame, etc. and as I shall judge the world, it will be but a great ruin. This epistle is to be announced to all people.” 32

Can we hear in all this anything save what was then everywhere proclaimed from the pulpits? If “saints” pretended miracles to enjoin better Sunday observance, why shouldn’t some “sinner” think it a devout act to give such a document general circulation for the same purpose? A comparison of this text with that quoted in the acts of the council of Rome shows that different letters were in circulation. Adelbert and Clement, two British bishops, are condemned for its circulation, first by Boniface in the council at Liftinae (A.D. 745), and then at Rome under Pope Zacharias, in a council held there the same year. 33 Walch, however, in his “History of Heretics,” questions their guilt, because other epistles of like character are mentioned in the Capitularies of Charlemagne later on, and yet no reference whatever is made to these men.

In the council of Aken (A.D. 789),

CANON 77 False writings, such as the letter which is said to have fallen from heaven last year, shall not be read, but burned.” 34

Thus such letters kept falling from time to time; though their contents might differ in words, their aim was the same-- to misapply the fourth commandment in order to clothe Sunday with the lacking sanctity in the eyes of the half-converted heathen whom Boniface reproves for still keeping pagan festivals in honor of their Woden and Thor. 35


The great protector of Boniface was Pepin, who reigned A.D. 74-768, and it was his donation that laid the foundation for the “patrimony of St. Peter.” His policy was closely followed by Charlemagne (A.D. 768-814), whose chief ambition was to found a Christian theocracy, he to be the temporal, while the Pope should be the spiritual, head of Continental Christendom.

Dante has fitly characterized this in “Paradiso,” 6,94-97

“And when the tooth of the Lombards had bitten
The holy church, then underneath the wings
Did Charlemagne victorious succor her.”

In the Lateran there is a mosaic picture of the ninth century, which represents Peter in glory bestowing the priestly stole upon the Pope, and the standard of Rome upon Charlemagne, who kneels to the left. As founder of the holy Roman empire, Charlemagne, aided by his learned men, issued the first great law book of the French and Germans, which, from its division into chapters, was called the Capitularia.. Many of the laws are directly mentioned as precepts of the pontifex, while others are ascribed to his admonition. 36


Alcuin, Charlemangne’s prime minister and his great teacher, positively taught that “the observation of the former Sabbath had been transferred very fitly to the Lord’s day, by the custom and consent of Christian people.” 37
On the other hand, he gave this sound advice to the emperor: “A person may be compelled to submit to baptism, but this can be of no use in the work of Faith;” and also, that “after the profession of faith and baptism, respect must be had to the necessities of weak minds, in the exposition of the divine commandments.” 38


However, in spite of Alciun’s advice, the emperor Charlemagne drove the Saxons into the Elbe with the carnal sword, that they might be properly immersed, and the most severe ecclesiastical and civil laws were issued to force the half-converted pagans to keep Sunday.

How far this doctrine of the transference of Sabbath to Sunday influenced the wording of imperial Sunday laws, is best seen from the manner in which they are introduced. Not only do they directly mention the Sabbath commandment as applying to Sunday; but the detailed specification of works forbidden on Sunday suggests the forty, less one, Sabbath precepts of the Mishna, which the following demonstrates:

“We do ordain, as it is required in the law of God, that no servile works be performed on the Lord’s days,. . .that men abstain from works of husbandry, ie working in the vineyards, plowing in their fields, cutting grass or making, fencing or hedging, grubbing or felling trees, digging in the mines, constructing houses, working in the garden, going to law, or hunting. Only in three instances is carting allowed on the Lord’s day, ie in time of war, for provisions, and if it proves very necessary, to carry a corpse to the grave. Farther, women should not weave, dress cloth, do embroidery work, card wool, beat hemp, wash linen publicly, or shear sheep: in order that in all things the honor and the rest of the Lord’s day be served. But the people shall everywhere go to church, to attend the holy mass, and shall praise the Lord for all those good things which he has conferred upon us on this day. 39


To what extent the regulations concerning Sunday were an imitation of those concerning the Sabbath, is seen from the fact that the Capitularies demand that “the Lord’s day be kept from vesper unto vesper,” that is, from Saturday eve until Sunday eve.” 40 This also finds expression in canon 19, of the synod at Frankfort (A.D. 794). They also forbid the holding of markets and court sessions, which requirements we find embodied in the sixteenth canon of Arles (A.D. 813) and in the thirty-seventh canon of Mayence (A.D. 813).

Although Charlemagne seconded the efforts of the Roman Church by issuing minute Sunday laws, still their enforcement and the infliction of the penalties remained in the hands of the church. That the church tried to influence Charlemagne and his successors to step in with secular penalties, we shall definitely show.

In A.D. 826, the great council held at Rome under Eugene II, decreed in canons 30 and 31:--

“No work nor trading is allowed on the Lord’s days. Only the sale of provisions to travelers is permitted. Arrests are also allowed. “ 41

The thirty-fifth canon of the same council is significant, as to the conditions that then existed in Rome:--

“Certain persons, especially women, come to church on Sunday and holidays, not with the right intention, but in order to dance after the services, and to sing improper songs and chants, after the manner of the pagans. Such return home laden with greater sins than they brought to church with them. If they persist, they shall be excommunicated. The priests ought to admonish the people to come to church only for prayers.” 42


This was followed by the council at Paris, A.D. 829, where the desire for direct civil legislation in behalf of Sunday observance is most positively expressed.

“That the Christian religion does not with reverence and veneration care for the Lord’s day on which the Author of life arose from the dead, and accept it as a day handed down by the holy Fathers upon the authority of the church, by no means agrees with divine authority. For while it appears that its veneration is guarded by some lords, on the other hand it is found that it is very seldom kept with the honor due to it by the slaves oppressed by their servitude. It was also the custom of the pagans to observe days in memory and reverence of their gods, and farther, it is the custom of the carnal Jews to observe the Sabbath carnally. But the custom arising from Christian devotion (which is believed to have come down from the tradition of the apostles, but is rather by the authority of the church ) has become firmly established, to observe the Lord’s day as venerable and honourable, in memory of the Lord’s resurrection. For on this day God instituted the light of the world, Christ arose from the dead, and sent his Holy spirit, the comforter, to his apostles from heaven; and on this day, as is handed down by certain church Farther, manna fell from heaven: these and similar things clearly demonstrate that this day is more noted and more venerable than the others.

It is therefore evident that, although the Christian religion excels all others, yet, just as the people have been overcome by worldly love and pleasure, and by diversions peculiar to mankind, and by very depraved, yea, by very dangerous usages which are regarded even as law, and thus there has been a declension among them, so also has there been to a great extent a like declension in the veneration accorded so honourable a day by the usages of Christianity. For many of us have seen, and many others heard, that some, following their husbandry on this day, have been killed by lightening; others have been seized of convulsions in their joints; and others have had punishment visited upon them in the form of visible fire, which has devoured their body and bones, and reduced them into ashes. And many other terrible judgments shall fall, and do fall until this time, whereby God declared his displeasure at the desecration of this great day.

There fore it seems good to us all, that first the priests, then the kings and princes and all the faithful, should do their utmost that the observance due this great day (which is now mostly neglected) shall henceforth be exhibited by Christianity in a more marked and devoted manner. If the Jews, who carnally observe the yoke of the law on that day, although no earthly power demands it of them, abstain from rural work until now, how much more fitting is it that those who have been redeemed by the greater grace of Christ should abstain from the aforementioned things, and make reparation by being filled only with spiritual joys, and songs and hymns, and heavenly praises, the whole heart bent upon resting on that day on which the author of life arose and conceded unto them the hope of the resurrection?

Wherefore the imperial priests do specially and humbly urge the higher powers that they use the power ordained unto them of God to instil in all a fear with regard to the reverence and honor of these great day, that upon this holy and venerable day they may no longer presume to hold markets or courts, or to perform any rural work or any cartage, under any condition whatever. For those who do this offend Christina decorum; and while they profess to give a place to the name of Christ, yet they detract much more from it by their blasphemies. It is therefore becoming that the Christian should on this day take time for divine praises, but not for the performance of rural work. 43

This statement of a general council furnishes unquestionable authority to sustain all we have thus far sought to demonstrate. For centuries the Roman Church had tried, by preaching and teaching, by severe ecclesiastical canons, by recounting all sorts of miracles, to instil into the minds and hearts of its members the observance of a day resting on tradition, yea, on the authority of the church, -- but all in vain! Even the faithfulness of the despised Jew is held up as a reproach. But instead of turning to the divine Sabbath, they appealed to the civil arm, and the Pope and emperor tried their best to make the people believe that the Sabbath command has something to do with Sunday. But as Dr. Hinschius, an authority on ecclesiastical law, attest, Charlemagne and his successors were not willing to interfere by imposing also civil penalties.” 44


The exemption granted by Constantine to agricultural labours in the East, which had been embodied in the code of Justinian, was not repealed until A.D. 910, when Emperor Leo, the philosopher, reversed and censured it in the following manner:

“We ordain, according to the true meaning of the Holy Ghost and of the apostles thereby directed, that on the sacred day, wherein our own integrity was restored, all do rest and surcease labour; that neither husbandman, nor other on that day put their hands to forbidden works. For if the Jews did so much reverence their Sabbath, which was but a shadow of ours, are not we which inhabit the light and truth of grace, bound to honor that day which the Lord himself hath honoured, and hath therein delivered us both from dishonor and form death? Are we not bound to keep it singular and inviolable, well contenting ourselves with so liberal a grant of the rest, and not encroaching upon that one day which God has chosen to his own honor? Were it not wretchless neglect of religion to make that very day common and to think we may do with it as with the rest?” 45

In the West, council after council enjoins additional canons to stop pleadings and markets on Sunday, and every additional canon is simply increased evidence that the former canons were not carried out even by the judges themselves. Canon 18 of the council at Aken (A.D. 835) forbids pleadings, markets and marriages on Sunday. 46 The synod held at Soissons (A.D. 853) forbids “pleadings on the Lord’s days in holy places;” a council held in Rome under Leo IV affirms the former Sunday ordinances; and yet the council at Tribur (A.D. 895) enjoins in canon 35;--

“On the Lord’s days and the other festivals no duke of civil magistrate shall conduct pleadings or force the people to attend such; for God’s wrath would be kindled, because the people are asked to desist from their holy service and attend to strife ad contentions. No duke shall hereafter summon any penitent on that day, or be present himself.” 47


That stealing on Sunday or on a festival was considered a greater crime than on an ordinary day, is seen from the following law of Alfred the Great:--

“He that stealeth on Sunday night, or on Christmas, etc., our will is that he make satisfaction twofold.” 48

In a convention between Edward the Elder and Guthrun the Dane (A.D. 906) there appears the following addition to the law of Ina:--

“If any one presumes to trade on the Lord’s day, he forfeits the purchase, besides a fine of twelve oere if a Dane, and thirty solidi if an Englishman.” 49

King Athelstan issued a similar law in A.D. 929 forbidding markets and pleadings; while King Edgar the Peaceable decreed, in A.D. 958: “Keep holy day every Sunday from noontide of Saturday to Monday’s dawn.” 50
The Latin version renders it (Cancian. 4, 272), “the festival of the day of the sun be celebrated,” etc. The laws of the Northumberland presbyters enjoin:--

“We prohibit trading everywhere on the day of the sun, and every convention of people, and all wrok, and all travel, be it in carts, on horses, or with burdens.” 51

The seventeenth canon of King Etherlred’s synod, called at Enmha in 1009, reads:--

“The festival of the day of the sun is to be kept zealously as is becoming, and they should abstain diligently from trading and from conventions of the people and form hunting and secular works on the holy days.” 52

Canute the Great (A.D. 1017-1035) collected the former laws in chapters 14,15, and 42. The last adds, however: --

A criminal guilty of death can be apprehended, never kill him on the festival of the day of the sun, except he flees or resists; but apprehend him and keep him until the festival is past.” 53


After Hungary had embraced Christianity, King Stephen issued a Sunday law (A.D/ 1016), which was adopted with a few additions at the national council in Szaboles (A.D. 1092). We append its substance as given by Hefele:--

“Whoever neglects to attend his parish church on Sunday or high festivals, shall be scourged. If a lay member hunts on that day, he shall lose a horse, which he may redeem with an ox. If any one of the clergy goes hunting, he shall be deposed until he renders satisfaction. If he neglects to attend church or carries on a trade, he shall lose a horse. If he erects a stall in which to trade, he has either to tear it down or pay fifty-five pounds. If a Jew works on Sunday, he shall lose the tool wherewith he labours.” 54


Nor did the Sunday festival fail to gain a footing in Scandinavia. The following is related of Olaus, king of Norway, A.D. 1028

“Olaus, while seriously engaged in thoughts on the Lord’s day, whittled with his knife on a small walking stick, which he carried. Having been told by the way of jest, that he had thereby trespassed against the Sabbath, he carefully gathered the chips, put them upon his hand and set fire to the, so that he might revenge that on himself, what unawares he had committed against God’s commandment.” 55

As to Spain, a council held at Coy in 1059 enjoins, in canon 6: --

“All believers must go to church on Saturday eve, and on Sunday hear the minutiae the mass and the horaries. No servile work or travel, except in case of necessity, is to be performed on this day..” 56


The doctors of the church were not wanting in efforts to strengthen the sacredness of this venerable day in the minds of the people. Peter Damianus (A.D. 1007-1072), who systematized and popularized a method of meritorious self flagellation with the recital of psalms, each of which was accompanied by a hundred stokes of a leathern thong, for personal benefit or for the release of souls in purgatory, wrote:--

“That every Lord’s day the souls in purgatory were manumitted from their pains, and fluttered up and down the lake Avernus in the shape of birds.” 57

Morer, in his Dialogues, page 68, thus refers to this superstition:--

“Yet still the others went on their way; and to induce their proselytes to spend the day with greater exactness and care, they brought in the old argument of compassion and charity to the damned in hell, who during the day have some respite from their torments, and the ease and liberty they have is more or less according to the zeal and degrees of keeping it well.”


Characteristic indeed is the great effort of the eleventh century to stop the bloody feuds of those times from Wednesday evening until Monday morning, by the so-called Truce of God.” The terrible famine and the increased crime and untold misery of those days moved the French clergy not only to declare this “truce” in their own territory, but to write (A.D. 1041) an encyclical letter to the Italian clergy, in which these statements occur:

“We believe that this truce has been given to us by divine grace sent from heaven, because everything was in such a terrible condition. Not even Sunday was celebrated, but all kind of servile work was performed. We have now dedicated unto god four days, to observe peace, namely, on Thursday in honor of Christ’s ascension, on Friday on account of his crucifixion, Saturday in memory of his burial, and Sunday in memory of his resurrection, so that on these days no agricultural work is to be performed, and no foe needs to fear the other. All who love this truce of God we bless and absolve; but those who oppose it we anathematize.” 58

That the rolls form heaven again played a part, and that they were even produced by bishops, Schaff attests thus in note 2, on page 340, just referred to:

“Balderich, in his chronicle of the bishops of Cambray, reports that in one of the French synods a bishop showed a letter which fell from heaven and exhorted to peace.”

Another means to increase Sunday holiness in England, was the circulation of this report concerning an apparition which King Henry II (A>D> 1157-1189) is said to have had:--

“Of him it is reported that he had an apparition at Cardiff, which from St. Peter charged him that upon Sundays, throughout his dominions, there should be no buying or selling, and no servile work done.” 59

Besides this apparition in behalf of Sunday observance, miracles are brought forward in England, as had been done centuries before in France. Of their effect and the circumstances attending them, we find a very detailed account by the English historian Hoveden, and, as he lived a t the time, we have the words of an eye-witness. He informs us that in A.D. 1200 Eustace, the abbot of Flaye, in Normandy, came to England, and that his preaching was attended by many wonderful miracles. That Sunday observance was the great burden of his teaching, and that he met considerable opposition even from the clergy, is thus attested by Hoveden:--

“At London also, and many other places throughout England, he effected by his preaching, that from that time forward people did not dare to hold market of things exposed for sale on the Lord’s day,” “However, the said abbot, on being censured by the ministers of Satan, was unwilling any longer to molest the prelates of England by his preaching, but returned to Normandy” 60

Thus censured and opposed by the English clergy for preaching such a strict Sunday observance, Eustace returns to the Continent to supply the lacking proof for his heavenly commission. One year’s sojourn suffices, as the further account of Hoveden shows:--

“In the same year (A.D. 1201_ Eustace, abbot of Flaye, returned to England, and preaching there in the word of the Lord from city to city, and from place to place, forbade any person to hold a market of goods on sale upon the Lord’s day. For he said that the commandment under written, as to the observance of the Lord’s day had come down from heaven!


“which came from heaven to Jerusalem. . .The Lord sent down this epistle, which was found upon the altar of S. Simeon, and after looking upon which three days and three nights, some men fell upon the earth, imploring mercy of God. And after the third hour, the patriarch arose, and Acharias, the archbishop, and they opened the scroll, and received the holy epistle from God. And. . .they found this writing therein;

“’I am the Lord who commanded you to observe the holy day of the Lord, and ye have not kept it, and have not repented of your sins, as I have said in my gospel, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away,”. ..Once more, it is my will that no one, from the ninth hour on Saturday until sunrise on Monday, shall do any work except that which is good.

“And if any person shall do so, he shall with penance make amends for the same. And if you do not pay obedience to this command, verily I say unto you, and I swear unto you, by my seat, and by my throne, and by the cherubim who watch my holy seat, that I will give you my commands by no other epistle, but I will open the heavens, and for rain I will rain upon you stones, and wood, and hot water in the night, that no one may take precautions against the same, and that so I may destroy all wicked men,. . . I will send unto you beasts that have the heads of lions, the hair of women, the tails of camels, and they shall be so ravenous that they shall devour your flesh, and you shall long to flee away to the tombs of the dead, and to hide yourselves for fear of the beasts; and I will take away the light of the sun from before your eyes, and will send darkness upon you, that not seeing, you may slay one another, and that I may remove from you my face, and may not show mercy upon you. For I will burn the bodies and the hearts of you, and of all those who do not keep as holy the day of the Lord. . .

Depart from evil, and show repentance for your sins. For, if you do not do so, even as Sodom and Gomorrah shall you perish. Now, know ye, that you are saved by the prayers of my most holy mother, Mary, and o my most holy angels, who pray for you daily. . . .

“I gave unto you a law in Mount Sinai, which you have not kept. I gave you a law with mine own hands, which you have not observed. For you I was born into the world, and my festive day you knew not. Being wicked men, you have not kept the Lord’s day of my resurrection. By my right hand I swear unto you, that if you do not observe the Lord’s day, and the festivals of my saints, I will send unto you the pagan nations, that they may slay you. And still do you attend to the business of others, and take no consideration of this? For this will I send against you still worse beasts, who shall devour the breasts of your women. I will curs those who on the Lord’s day have wrought evil.”’ 61

The introduction of this roll, which was said to have fallen from heaven, is confirmed by accredited historians. 62 As a historical fact, there, its use cannot be questioned; and we have all the less ground to question it because we have already referred to copies of such rolls, and, beginning with the end of the sixth century, we have adduced the authentic records of synods and even of a council at Rome, mentioning and condemning them as forgeries. That these rolls were edited from century to century appears from the fact that they take into consideration the surrounding circumstances and issues at the time. The roll mentioned in the days of Boniface described the heathen practises as they then existed; in this roll, the Lord’s day is to be kept from “the ninth hour on Saturday until sunrise on Monday,” the very time enjoined in the law of Edgar and Canute.


However, there is one great difference, if the following account given by Matthew Paris, the most noted English chronologist of the Middle Ages, is to be relied upon. This time the Pope and bishops give their sanction to it. As Matthew Paris was monk and rector of the renowned convent of St. Albans from A.D. 1217 to 1259, he had every opportunity to know the facts, and being a Catholic himself, he had no reason to record a biased story. Quoting the text of this roll, he thus continues:--

“But when the patriarch and clergy of all the holy land had diligently examined the contents of this epistle, it was decreed in a general deliberation that the epistle should be sent to the judgment of the Roman pontiff, seeing that whatever he decreed to be done, would please all. And when at length the epistle had come to the knowledge of the lord Pope, immediately he ordained heralds, who, being sent through different parts of the world, preached everywhere the doctrine of this epistle, the Lord working with them and confirming their words by signs following. Among whom the abbot of Flaye, Eustachius by name, a devout and learned man, having entered the kingdom of England, did there shine with many miracles.” 63


Pope Innocent III (A.D. 1198-1216) filled the chair of St. Peter at that time, and the following extracts set forth his aims and success:--

“Innocent was perfectly well qualified to raise the papal power and authority to the highest pitch, and we shall see him improving, with great address, every opportunity that offered to compass that end.” 64
“The external circumstances of his time also furthered Innocent’s views, and enabled him to make his pontificate the most marked in the annuals of Rome; the culminating point of the temporal as well as the spiritual supremacy of the Roman See.”
“His pontificate may be fairly considered to have been the period of the highest power of the Roman See” 65

The darkness of the Middle Ages covered the earth, and the power of the Pope was then supreme. As Catholic chronologists record that even then Pope Innocent III favored the circulation of this roll, we have good reason to set this down as a further step of papal usurpation in the matter of Sunday observance.< P> What success Eustace this time had in his mission, and what further opposition he met as he forbade the further use of the churches for the sale of goods and for sessions of the courts, is recorded by Hoveden. Eustace came to York, in the north of England, and meeting an honourable reception,--

“preached the word of the Lord, and on the breaking of the Lord’s day and the other festivals, and imposed upon the people penance, and gave absolution upon condition that in future they would pay due reverence to the Lord’s day and the other festivals of the saints, doing therein no servile work.”
“Upon this, the people who were dutiful to God at his preaching, vowed before God that, for the future, on the Lord’s day they would neither buy nor sell anything, unless, perchance, victuals and drink to wayfarers,”
“Accordingly, through these and other warnings of this holy man, the enemy of mankind being rendered envious, he put it into the heart of the king and of the princes of darkness to command that all who should observe the before stated doctrines, and more especially all those who had discountenanced the markets on the Lord’s day, should be brought before the kings’ court of justice, to make satisfaction as to the observance of the Lord’s day,” 66


To confirm the authority which forbade work from the ninth hour on Saturday until sunrise of Monday, and to neutralize the opposition of the king, some very extraordinary prodigies were reported, the substance of which we give:--

“One Sunday a carpenter of Beverly, who after the ninth hour was making a wooden wedge, fell to the earth, struck with paralysis. A woman weaving after three o’clock Saturday afternoon was struck with the dead palsy. A man that baked loaf of bread at the same time, when he came to eat it on Lord’s day morning, blood flowed from it. Corn ground by a miller, also after the ninth hour, was turned into blood, and the mill-wheel stood immovable, against the force of the waters. A Lincolnshire woman put her paste into the heated oven at this time, and although she kept it there until Monday morning, yet she found it raw dough. But another woman, who in harmony with the advice of her husband, kept her paste wrapped up in a linen cloth till Monday morning, then found it already baked without any fire of the material of this world.” 67

The historian laments that the people feared the king more than God, and so they, “like a dog to his vomit, returned to the holding of markets on the Lord’s day.”


That this roll was again brought forward two years later in a council of Scotland, and with better effect, is affirmed by Morer:

“To that end it was again produced and read in a council of Scotland, held under (Pope) Innocent III. . . A.D. 1203, in the reign of King William, who. . .passed it into a law that Saturday from twelve at noon ought to be accounted holy, and that no man shall deal in such worldly business as on feast-days were forbidden. As also that at the tolling of a bell, the people were to be employed in holy actions, going to sermons and the like, and to continue thus until Monday morning, a penalty being laid on those who did the contrary. About the year 1214, which was eleven years after, it was again enacted, in a parliament at Scone, by Alexander III, king of the Scots, that none should fish in any waters from Saturday after evening prayer till sunrise on Monday, which was afterward confirmed by King James I.” 68

Starting with the miracles reported by Gregory of Tours as a judgment against Sunday labour, we have traced similar reports down to the thirteenth century; and we can but second the wish expressed by Johnson (Coll.2, 95), who ends his summary of the miracles mentioned by Eustace by concluding: --

“I wish no Protestant had vented the like tales” 69

We have traced the pretended heavenly rolls from the end of the sixth to the thirteenth century. That their circulation was still continued in favor of Sunday is seen from the use the Flagellants made of them in Germany and Switzerland during the fourteenth century. Yea, even in Protestant northern Germany such as epistle is in circulation which is said to have fallen from heaven near Magdeburg in 1783. This document threatens the most terrible punishments, such as “war, famine, and many plagues,” upon all those who work on Sunday. As a confirmation of what we have said, and as a proof that such letters are still even sold to pilgrims in Jerusalem at the present day, we quote from Hauck’s Realencyclopedia:--

“Like wise the wonderful apocryphal ‘letter of Christ from heaven,’ which, as it seems, first appeared in the Orient in the sixth century, then was circulated by Adalbert in western France (740), condemned as a forged document by a decree of the council at Rome (745), later came to honor again, through the Flagellants in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, yea, even to the present time is still offered for sale to the Catholic pilgrims at Jerusalem as an effective amulet.” 70

The writer himself purchased one of these, but as an “effective amulet” against the observance of a day which, by such means, was ingratiated into the favor of, and enjoined upon our forefathers during the Middle Ages. May all those who believe in the sacredness of the first day of the week because their forefathers believed init, carefully ponder these facts that demonstrate by what means Sunday sacredness was instilled into their minds.


While this Sunday reform movement was being carried forward by such questionable means in England and Scotland, the council at Paris (A.D. 1212) enjoined in canon 18:)

“We also prohibit the bishops from permitting the dancing of women in cemeteries or in holy places, even where it has been allowed hitherto; farther, they shall see that on the Lord’s days no servile work be performed by the mechanic, or in tilling the soil, or any other work of like character, which we also forbid them to do.” 71

The council at Toulouse (A.D. 1229) decreed:--

Canon 25--The parishioners, especially the man and wife of each household, must attend church on the Lord’s days and on holidays, and remain until the close of the services. If, for good reasons, the one cannot be present, the other must. But if one remains away without a good reason, he is to be fined twelve Turin denarii, half of which falls to the manor of the place, the other half to the priest of the church. Canons 26 and 27 enumerate some thirty holidays and enjoin that on these all servile work must likewise cease.” 72

Although such strict Sunday laws were everywhere enforced, yet the general council at Rome (A.D. 1215) clearly reveals the condition of the clergy. In canon 17 we read that the clergy and even the prelates spent half of their nights in feasting and chatting, some reading mass only four times a year, others not at all, and even those who did attend mass paid no regard to the service, but talked with the laymen, and it forbade such conduct thereafter, under pain of suspense from office. 73


What a multitude of canons and ordinances existed at the beginning of the thirteenth century with regard to the proper observance of Sunday! How vastly they differed from one another in defining even the time when Sunday should begin and end, or in specifying what work was to be allowed and what forbidden! To bring order into this chaos of ecclesiastical legislation, Pope Gregory IX (A.D. 1227-1241) created a standard law-book -- the Decretals By the papal bull Rex pacificus, he submitted them to the universities at Bologna and Paris; and as neither the universities nor any ruler questioned the authority of the laws decreed by the Pope himself (as he was infallible), they were final, as far as the Roman Church is concerned.

In book 2, tit. 9, c. 1-3, we find under De Feriis (Concerning Festivals) the sum total with reference to Sunday observance:--

“Chapter 1 -- We decree that all Lord’s days be observed from vesper to vesper with all due veneration, and that unlawful work be abstained from, so that on them trading and legal proceedings shall not be carried on, or anyone be condemned to death or punishment, or any oaths be administered, except for peace or other necessary reason.”

“Chapter 2 -- “whereas in part we wish to control your understanding by a definite decision, and whereas it is written ‘from evening to evening shall ye celebrate your Sabbaths,’ therefore, the beginning and end of feasts, besides their quality and besides the custom of various regions, are to be looked after, and therefore it seems good to us that as the magnitude of the days to be celebrated demands, so, according to just computation, they be commenced earlier and terminated later. And, farther,--
Section 1.-- That there be no bending of the knees whatsoever on the Lord’s day and on other principal feast-days (save between Ester and Pentecost) except some one wish to do it secretly, from devotion.”
Section 2 -- Also, in the consecration of the bishops and of the clergy, the consecrator and the consecrated shall bend their knees only to the extent demanded by the ritual of the consecration.”


“Chapter 3 -- While we admit that both the Old and New Testaments have especially set aside the seventh day for human rest, and though the church decreed that it, as well as the other days set aside to the highest majesty (but not the birthdays of the holy martyrs), shall be observed, yet we to whom is committed the government of the church by the provider of all, are bound also to properly provide for the faithful ones of Christ what necessity demands, therefore we will that, in case it should happen that such as are not intent on doing servile work (ie., on act of sin), but who are rather very intent upon seeking necessary food and raiment -- that such cases have accorded to them the usual mercy through the providence of the apostolic chair. Hence, if one be in a place such as is your region, not abounding in fruits, and the sea from which the people are accustomed to draw the greater part of their support has been more sterile than usual, from various causes, we, recognizing this by the authority of St., Peter and ours, grant indulgence, so that our parishioners may be permitted on the Lord’s days and on other festivals (excepting the high festivals of the year) , in case the herrings are nearing the shore, to be intent upon their capture from urgent necessity, but they shall do this under the condition that, having made the capture, they shall give the surrounding churches and the poor of Christ their due portion. This rule also holds for those who, living upon other days on bread and water because of a self-imposed penance, and not having the bread whereby they can nourish themselves, but having fishes and other food whereby they can be revived, make use of this food with moderate discretion, because it serves them not as a delicacy, but as necessary sustenance.” 74


Beginning with the law of Constantine and ending with the various statutes of the rulers of the East and West, we now have before us the Sunday legislation from the fourth to the thirteenth centuries. A review of the civil legislation reveals to us that, while Constantine allowed agricultural work and introduced markets on the venerable day of the sun, Emperor Leo the Philosopher charges his “saintly” predecessor with “ wretchless neglect of religion to make that very day common.” And we find the differences none the less if we consider the ecclesiastical legislation. That which the council of Laodicea condemns as Judaizing in connection with the Sabbath, and the council of Orleans calls Judaizing in regard to Sunday, is enforced by the councils of the Middle Ages under the most cruel penalties; and the implacable anger of the clergy demands even the loss of the right hand. Yea, miracles are manufactured, and divine judgments are threatened, to impress the sanctity of Sunday upon the ignorant people.

While the church fathers to a man make the Sabbath rest of the New Testament spiritual, the cessation from sin, yet the prelates and the clergy of the thirteenth century feast in sin, and enjoin abstinence from servile work by the most literal and petty canons. Although the Fathers never apply the fourth commandment to Sunday, yet Alcuin introduces this doctrine, and Bernard of Clairvaux bases the observance of the church festivals on this commandment, and the lacking divine evidence is furnished by pretending rolls from heaven. But the climax is reached when Gregory IX not only applies the Sabbath command of the Scriptures to Sunday, but even transfers to it the time of the beginning of God’s holy day, and then, giving the high festivals the preference, by virtue of the authority of St. Peter, he grants indulgences for any servile work performed on Sunday. Consistency, thou art a jewel! But in the crown of sanctity with which human efforts attempted to glorify their Sunday during the Middle ages, thou art sadly lacking.

1. Stanley “The Eastern Church,” lect. 6, p. 206 Return>

2. Dr. H. Brueck, Kirchengeschichte, sec. 78, p. 247 Return>

3. Schaff, fourth period, par. 22, I, 80 Return>

4. Gregory II to the emperor Leo the Isaurian: “History of the Popes” Leopold Ranke, London, 1843, p. 9 Return>

5. Epist. 12, ad Danielem episc. Return>

6. Montalembert, 2, 235, in Schaff, fourth period, I, 83 Return>

7. Zahn’s Geschichte des Sonntags, pp. 42-44 Return>

8. Hefele, Conciliengeschichted, 2, sec. 224 Return>

9. Id., sec. 229 Return>

10 for the Latin text, see Labbe, 9,19 Return>

11. For the text, see Dr. Trunscher’s collection of civil and ecclesiastical ordinances for Christian Sunday observance, Erlangen, 1839, pp. 8,9 Return>

12. Id., sec. 65 Return>

13. Id., sec. 66; Conc. Gall., coll. I, pp. 1295-1298; Mansi, 9, 949 Return>

14. Richer, sec. II; Bluz., I, 9-12 Return>

15. Conc. Lingesch., 3, sec. 286 Return>

16. Irmischer, sec. 67 Return>

17. Id., sec. 12 Return>

18. Geschichte des deutchen Kirchenrechts, 2, 455-458 Return>

19. “Historical and Practical Discourses on the Lord’s Day” p. 174, Chester 1805 Return>

20. “Historia Francorum,” 10,30 Return>

21. Codex apocryphus, Hamburg, 1702, pp. 308, 309; J.S. de Aguirre coll. Max. concilior. Hispaniae, 2. 428 Return>

22. Irmischer, sec. 68 Return>

23. Id. Sec. 13 Return>

24. Haddan and Stubbs, Councils, etc., Oxford, 1871, 3, pp. 173-213 Return>

25. Id., p. 214 Return>

26. Id., 235 Return>

27. Irmischer, sec. 70 Return>

28. Denkwurdigkeiten, 14, 142 Return>

29. Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, 3, sec. 376 Return>

30. Quoted in Schaff, fourth period. Vol. 1, 97, sec. 25 Return>

31. Irmischer, sec. 14 Return>

32. Fabricius’s Codex Apocrypus, pp. 310-314 Return>

33. Hefele, 3, pp. 529-543, secs. 366, 367 Return>

34. Id., 670, sec. 393 Return>

35. Id., 501-513, sec. 362 Return>

36. Schaff, fourth period, I, 391, note 4, sec. 90 Return>

37. Quoted in Hessey, Sunday, p. 89 Return>

38. Neander’s Church History, vol. 5, 98,99 third period, sec. I Return>

39. Irmisher, sec. 20 Return>

40. Hefele, 4, sec. 426 p. 50 Return>

41. Id., secs. 19, 23, 27, 31 Return>

42. Id.; see also Baron Annal. Eccl. Year 826. Num 6 Return>

43. Mansi, 14, pp. 568,569 Return>

44. Katholishes Kirchenrecht, 4, 291 Return>

45. Leo. Consitit., 54. Quoted in Cox, I, 422 Return>

46. Irnischer, sec. 84 Return>

47. Id., sec. 85 Return>

48. Johnson’s Coll., I. 321 Return>

49. Irmischer, sec. 50 Return>

50. Hessey, note 256, p. 319 Return>

51. Cancian. 4, 286 Return>

52. Id., 4, 297 Return>

53. Id., 4, 302, 307 Return>

54. Hefele, 5, 205, 206, sec. 599 Return>

55. A. Cranzius Metropol., 4, 8, in Volbeding Thesaurus, 1, 5. Return>

56. Hefele 4, 757, sec. 546 Return>

57. Epist. Ad Dominicum c. 5 Return>

58. Schaff, fourth period, 340, 341, sec. 78; Hefele, 4, 700, sec. 536. Return>

59. Morer, p. 288; Heylyn, part 2, chap. 7, sec. 6 Return>

60. Roger de Hoveden’s annals, Bohn’s edition. Vol. 2, p. 487 Return>

61. Hoveden, vol.2, pp. 526-528 Return>

62. See Matthew Paris’s Historia Major, pp. 200, 201, edition 1640; Binius’s Councils, ad ann. 1201, vol. 3, pp. 1448,1449; Wilkins Concilia Magnae Britaniae et Hibernae, vol, I pp. 510,511, London, 1737; Spelman, conc I, 128; Dalrymple’s Historical Memorials, pp. 7,8 edition 1769; heylyn’s History of the Sabbath, part 2, chpa. 7, sec. 5; Morer’s Lord’s Day, pp. 288-290; Hessey’s Sunday, pp. 90, 321; Gilfillan’s Sabbath, p. 399. Return>

63. Matthew Paris’s Historia Major, p. 201 Return>

64. Bower’s History of the Popes (three-volume edition) vol. 2, p. 535 Return>

65. M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia, vol 2, pp. 590, 592 Return>

66. Id., pp. 528,529 Return>

67. Hoveden, vol.2, pp. 529,530 Return>

68. Diologues, etc.. pp. 290, 291 Return>

69. Hessey, p. 321, note 261 Return>

70. Hauck-Herzog, 18, 523, article, :Sonntagsfeier.” Return>

71. Mansi, 22, 843 Return>

72. Id., 5, 886, 887, sec. 647 Return>

73. Hefele, 5, 983, sec. 655 Return>

74. Corpus Juris Canonici, Leipsig, 1881, part 2, pp. 270-272. This indulgence was first granted by Pope Alexaner III (A.D. 1159-1181) to the Catholics in northern Europe. Return>

History of the Sabbath, Table of Contents

centuries, y