I. Name and Change of Day. —Sunday is the name of the first day of the week, adopted by the first Christians from the Roman calendar (Lat. Dies Solis), Day of the Sun, so called because it was dedicated to the worship of the sun. The Christians reinterpreted the heathen name as implying the Sun of Righteousness with reference to his "arising" (Mal 4:2). It was also called Dies Panis (Day of Bread), because it was an early custom to break bread on that day. It is called, also, the Lord's day, its sacred observances being especially in his honor. 'The apostles themselves introduced the religious observance of Sunday, meeting for divine service (Ac 20:7; 1Co 16:2), and the opposition in the Christian Church to Judaism early led to the substitution of Sunday for the Sabbath; and in the epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians it is presupposed that even the Jews who had come over to Christianity adopted the same custom. SEE SYNAGOGU.
Sunday began, in 1064, at nones (8 P.M.) on Saturday and lasted until Monday. In 994 parishioners were required to attend even-song and nocturns on Saturday. In 696 the Lord's Day was reckoned from evening to evening, but in 958 from Saturday nones till light on Monday morning. 'Islip's- Constitutions and the Councils of Aix (789), Frejus (791), and Frankfort (794) assign as the cause that vespers are the first office of the morrow. The mediaeval tradition was that our Lord was born on Sunday, baptized on Tuesday, and began his fast on Wednesday.
II. Ecclesiastical Observance of the Day. — The consecration of Sunday in a special manner to religious employments and the abstaining from all worldly business was established by a synodal law (canon 29; Council of Laodicea) with this restriction, that all Christians should abstain from worldly business if they were able. In the religious services of Sunday we note the following all fasting was prohibited on that day, even in Lent; Tertullian (De Coron. Mil. c. 3) declaring that it was accounted a crime to fast on the Lord's day, and other authorities were equally severe in their denunciations. The reason for this observance was that the day was considered one — of joyfulness because of our Lord's resurrection. Yet this rule was not so strictly binding but that when a necessary occasion required, and there was no suspicion of heretical perverseness or, contempt, men might fast upon this day (Jerome, Ep. 28, ad Lucinium Boeticuni).
It may here be remarked that another custom was to pray standing on the Lord's day, in memory of our, Lord's resurrection. The great care and concern of the primitive Christians for the religious observance of Sunday is seen in their ready and constant attendance upon all the offices and- solemnities of public worship, and this, too, even in times of persecution; from their studious observance of the vigils, or nocturnal assemblies preceding the Lord's day; from their attendance, in many places, upon sermons twice a day, and at evening prayers; and from the censures inflicted upon those who violated the laws concerning the religious observance of the day. The celebration of the Eucharist was a standing part of divine service every Lord's day, and every communicant was expected to partake thereof See Bingham, Christ. Antiq. bk. 20 ch. 2, § 912; bk. 16 ch. 9:§ 2.
The mode in which the early Christians spent the Lord's day is thus described by Dr. Jamieson in his Manners and Trials of the Primitive Christians:
"Viewing the Lord's day as a spiritual festivity, a season in which their souls were specially to magnify the Lord and their spirits to rejoice in God their Savoir, they introduced the services of the day with psalmody, which was followed by select portions of the prophets, the gospels, and the epistles, the intervals between which were occupied by the faithful in private devotions. The plan of service, in short, resembled what was followed in that of the vigils, though there were some important differences, which we shall now describe. The men prayed with their heads bare, and the women were veiled, as became the modesty of their sex, both standing — a position deemed the most decent, and suited to their exalted notions of the weekly solemnity with their eyes lifted up, to heaven and their hands extended in the form of a cross, the better to keep them in remembrance of Him whose death had opened up the way of access to the divine presence. The reading of the sacred volume constituted an important and indispensable part of the observance; and, effectually to impress it of the memories of the audience, the lessons were always short and of frequent recurrence. Besides the Scriptures, they were accustomed to read aloud several other books for the edification and interest of the people such as treatises on the illustration of Christian: morals by some pastor of eminent reputation and piety, or letters from foreign churches containing an account of the state and progress of the Gospel. This part of the service most necessary and valuable at a time when a large proportion of every congregation were unacquainted with letters — was performed at first by the presiding minister, but was afterwards devolved on an officer appointed for that object, who, when proceeding to the discharge of his duty, if it related to any parts of the history of Jesus, exclaimed aloud to the people, I Stand up; the gospels are about to be read; and then always commenced with 'Thus saith the Lord.' They assumed this attitude, not only from a conviction that it was the most respectful posture in which to listen to the counsels of the King of kings, but with a view to keep alive the attention of the people — an object which, in some churches, was sought to be gained by the minister stopping in the middle of a Scriptural quotation and leaving the people to finish it aloud. The discourses, founded for the most part on the last portion of Scripture that was read, were short, plain, and extemporary exhortations, designed chiefly to stir up the minds of the brethren by way of remembrance, and always prefaced by the salutation, 'Peace be unto you.' As they were very short, sometimes not extending to more than eight or ten minutes duration, several of them were delivered at a diet, and the preacher was usually the pastor of the place, though he sometimes, at his discretion, invited a stranger, or one of his brethren known to possess the talent of public speaking, to address the assembly. The close of the sermon by himself, which was always the last of the series, was the signal for the public prayers to commence. Previous to this solemn part of the service, however, a crier commanded infidels of any description that might be present to withdraw, and, the doors being closed and guarded, the pastor proceeded to pronounce a prayer, the burden of which was made to bear a special reference to the circumstances of the various classes who, in the primitive Church, were not admitted to a full participation 2 the privileges of the faithful. First of all, he prayed, in the name of the whole company of believers, for the catechumens — young persons, or recent converts from heathenism who were passing through a preparatory course of instruction in the doctrines and duties of Christianity that their understandings might be enlightened, their hearts receive the truth in the love of it, and that they might be led to cultivate those holy habits of heart and life by which they might adorn the doctrine of God their Savior. Next, he prayed for the, penitents who were undergoing the discipline of the Church that they might receive deep and permanent impressions of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, that they might be filled with godly sorrow, and might; have grace, during the appointed term of their probation, to bring forth fruits meet for repentance. In like manner, he made appropriate supplications for other descriptions of persons, each of whom left the church when the class to which he belonged had been commended to the God of all grace and the brethren, reduced by the successive departures to an approved company of the faithful, proceeded to the holy service of communion." Those who neglected ordinances were severely censured. Absence from church for three consecutive Sundays was to be visited with excommunication. Irregularities during attendance, such as refusing to join in prayers or receive the communion or leaving church during sermon, were strongly condemned. In later times severe measures were employed to secure Sabbath observance, and which could only, in many cases, induce hypocrisy, or mere external attendance at church. The kirk-sessions in 1574 appointed "searchers," or captors, to make the round of the parish and take notice of such as were "raging abroad." The strange practice lasted for nigh a century and a half. Some of the records of the period are curious. See Walcott, Sacred Archaeol. s.v. SEE LORDS DAY.
III. Legal Observance of the Day. — As soon as the Christian religion came to be recognized by the State, laws were enacted for the observance of Sunday. The emperor Constantine made the first law (A.D. 321) to exempt the day from' being juridical, as were the others. By this law and others he suspended all actions and proceedings of the law on this day, whether arrests, pleadings, 'exactions, sentences of judges, executions, excepting only such as were of absolute necessity or of eminent charity, as the manumission of staves, the appointing of curators and guardians to ordain, and causes relating to matters of preservation and damage, legacies and trusts, exhibiting of wills, and all cases where great damage might be suffered either by delay or by death. Valentinian prohibited all arrests of men for debt, whether; public or private, on this day, and Valentinian junior, with Theodosius the Great, appointed all Sundays in the year to be days of vacation from all business of the law whatsoever. In like manner, all secular business or servile employments were forbidden, except only such as men were called to by necessity or some great charity, such as harvesting. By a law of Honorius the judges were enjoined to visit the prisons every Sunday to examine the prisoners and ascertain from them whether the keepers of the prison denied them any office of humanity, and also to give orders that the prisoners; under proper guard, should be allowed to leave the prisons to' bathe themselves. Later laws forbade all husbandry on the Lord's day, allowing only such work as was necessary to secure food absolutely required. The Christian laws took care to secure the honor and dignity of the Lord's day by forbidding public games, shows, or ludicrous recreations (Cod. Justii. lib. 3, tit. 12, De Feriis, leg. 11), and the Church was no less careful to guard the service of this day from' the encroachment of all vain pastimes and needless recreations. The Fourth Council of Carthage made a decree (can. 88) excommunicating any person who should forsake the services of the Church to attend a public show.
In England Sunday laws were of early date. The code of Ina, king of the: West Saxons (about 693), punished servile work by fine. Alfred the Great (876) forbade work, traffic, and legal proceedings; while the statute 27 Henry IV, c. 5, enacts that all fairs and markets on Sundays, except in harvest, shall cease on pain of forfeiture of goods. The statute 5 and 6 Edward VI, c. 3, makes Sundays, with Christmas and Easter, holydays, but permits work in harvest and in cases of necessity. The statute 1 Elizabeth, c. 2, punishes by fine persons absenting themselves from church without excuse. James I. in 1618, issued his Book of Sports (q.v.), in which he declared certain games, sports, etc., lawful on Sundays after divine service. This book was reissued by Charles I in 1638. The statute 29 Charles II, c. 7, enacted "that no tradesman, artificer, workman, laborer, or other person whatsoever shall do or exercise any worldly labor, business, or Fork of their ordinary callings upon the Lord's day, or any part thereof (works of necessity and charity only excepted);" and "that no person or persons whatsoever shall publicly cry, show forth, or expose to sale any wares, merchandise, fruit, herbs, goods, or chattels whatsoever upon the Lord's day or any part thereof." This, somewhat modified by subsequent laws, is the present Sunday law of England, aid is the foundation of the laws on the subject in the United States.
In America the Puritan colonists established, to the full extent of their power, the observance of Sunday as the Christian Sabbath. The early laws of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia compelled attendance at church, the Massachusetts law (1782) providing that such attendance was not obligatory where there was no place of worship Which the person could conscientiously attend. When the Federal government was formed and the separation of Church and State was fully recognized, the earlier Sunday laws were modified in conformity with this principle. The courts have been careful to distinguish between Sunday observance as a religious and as a civil institution, and to enforce only the latter. The following are the grounds upon which our Sunday laws rest:
The right of all classes, so far as practicable, to rest one day in seven; to worship undisturbed on the day set apart by the majority of the people; the decent respect which should be paid to the religious institutions, of the people; the value to the State of Sunday observance, as contributing to popular intelligence and morality. With the partial exception of Louisiana, Sunday laws exist in every state in the Union. These laws differ somewhat in detail and strictness, but the following general characteristics may be noted: Sunday is everywhere held as a dies non; public affairs are suspended; legislatures do not sit; courts are not held, except city police- courts for an hour or two; legal processes are not served. In most of the states common labor and traffic are forbidden; contracts made for service on Sunday are invalid; public amusements are prohibited or restricted. In some states exception is made in favor of those who observe the seventh day of the week. In Louisiana the only Sunday law is that which makes it (with Christmas, New-year's-day, etc.) a public rest-day, and provides that citations shall not issue, nor proceedings be had, nor suits instituted on that day, and that it shall not be reckoned in computing interest and in protests, etc. The Constitution of the United States provides that Sunday shall not be reckoned in the ten days within which the president may return any bill; the Federal courts and offices of the departments are closed; the post-office service is restricted; no session of Congress is held, or, if held on that day, it is considered as being part of the preceding Saturday; and provision is made by an act of Congress for the observance of Sunday by the army and navy. Federal legislation respecting Sunday proceeds, no further. The constitutionality of Sunday law has been decided frequently by the highest courts of the several states. Some of our statutes define the extent of the Lord's day. In Connecticut the courts have defined it as extending only from daybreak to the closing of daylight on Sunday. Generally, in New England, it is from sunset on Saturday to sunset on Sunday; but for many purposes, and probably in most of the states for all purposes, it begins only at midnight between Saturday and Sunday and ends with the next midnight.
In France, during the Revolution, when the Christian calendar was abolished and the decade substituted for the week, every tenth day was made a rest-day, and its observance was enforced by a law (17 Thermidor, an. 6) which required the public offices, schools, workshops, stores, etc., to be closed, and prohibited sales except of eatables and medicines, and public labor except in the country during seed-time and harvest. When the Gregorian calendar was restored, Sunday was recognized in the Code
Napoleon (art. 25, 260). The law of Nov. 18,1814, prohibiting ordinary labor, traffic, etc., and declared by the courts in 1838 and 1845 to be still in force, is, practically, a dead letter.
In Switzerland recent legislation has granted to railway employees and all government office-holders at least one Sunday in every three; and still further restriction of Sunday labor is being sought in some of the cantons. The question is agitated in Belgium and Germany of better protection by law of Sunday rest for operatives. See Cox, Literature of Sab. Question (Edinb. 1865); Amer. Law Rev. vol. 2; Prot. Episcopal Quar. Rev. vol. 7; Hopkins, Sabbath and Free Institutions, in doc. 29 of N.Y. Sabbath Committee; Judge W. Alien, opinion in Lindenmüller vs. The People, 33 Barbour, 548; Hessey, Bampton Lectures (1860); Schaff, Anglo-Amer. Sabbath (1863). SEE SABBATH.