"How much time may Christians profitably spend in reading Sunday newspapers?" To many of us who well remember the time when such things as Sunday publications were comparatively unknown in this country, such a question would seem hardly worthy of consideration; but the constant repetition of this and similar queries, which continually meet one actively engaged in Christian work, only shows how deeply rooted this institution has grown in our American life.
It would perhaps be less strange if only our younger people felt this temptation; but when the names of some of the most prominent church supporters are among the subscribers to Sunday daily papers, it is time to find out exactly how much help Christians may hope to gain from this source.
The press has been one of the most potent factors in our present civilization, and has certainly been most wonderfully used in spreading the influence of Christianity, and I would be the last to undervalue its legitimate work; personally, I have received the greatest courtesy from the press, and through its columns have preached to audiences that I should otherwise never have had the privilege of addressing. While I recognize all the great opportunities for doing good afforded through this channel, I am not blind to the serious evils with which its Sunday editions threaten our American Sabbath.
It must be admitted that many of the arguments brought forward for the defence of the Sunday paper are apparently very plausible, and its growth has been so slow that many have been unconsciously led to look upon it as a necessity. People tell us that, in order to keep abreast with the times, both in the mercantile and professional world, it is necessary to read the newspaper seven days in the week, and all the more so as every one else does.
This argument, or rather, I would say, this excuse, is too weak to need any answering; the very men who advance it will tell you that they have to go away on sea voyages or camping trips every year in order to find a complete rest, and their business does not seem to suffer in consequence.
In my opinion, a truly active and earnest Christian has no time, no inclination, and no right to read the Sunday papers.
Beginning during the Civil War, when it seemed necessary to publish a bulletin for the thousands of anxious homes waiting to receive some news of the war, it has now become the largest and most important issue of the week, not so much a newspaper as a reading paper.
That the Sunday paper has had a bad effect upon church attendance among our young men is a generally conceded fact, and I might also say that its effect upon those who still attend is not of a helpful nature. I do not understand where a Christian, who is active and useful in his church work and also a student of the Bible, can find time to devote to a newspaper on Sunday.
From what I have learned concerning the contents of the average Sunday edition, I would also say that it furnishes an exceedingly poor class of literature for Christian growth. Society news, scandal, gossip, and the general character of its contents cannot be satisfying to one who "hungers and thirsts after righteousness."
Arguments, however, are almost unlimited in the defence of this institution, and no sooner can one be answered than another is set forward. There is one guiding principle, however, that I would emphasize, which is founded upon the golden rule. If to you a quiet, restful Sabbath is a boon and blessing which you look upon as a gift from God; if you love its advantages and privileges, its freedom from labor and business; if, in fact, you love your Sunday's rest, then, as a Christian, you have no right to countenance, in any way whatever, any institution that hinders another fellow being, unnecessarily, from having this his lawful right.
You may say that men work of their own free will in this land, and that you may not be held responsible; but God looks upon you as one of the employers who pay to have hundreds of newsboys selling Sunday papers in our cities, thousands of railroad men running extra trains, and still other thousands indirectly working for an institution which is antagonistic to the best interests of the church of Christ.
The next time you purchase a Sunday paper, reader, or the next time you subscribe to a Sunday edition, think that you are aiding in preventing thousands of your fellows from enjoying the privileges of a Christian Sabbath, and that you are not "doing to others as you would that they should do to you."
From Golden Counsels by D. L. Moody. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, ©1899.
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