Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/25

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13
ORIGIN AND RESULTS OF SUNDAY LEGISLATION.

anything appear in the accompanying evidence, showing that Christians desired the law, or were in any way interested therein. It applied to all the subjects of the empire alike. The day is not mentioned, except by its heathen title. There is nothing in the restrictions placed upon it unlike the restrictions which already existed concerning many other pagan days. The following extract, from the work of an English barrister, is pertinent at this point:

"That the division of days into juridici et ferati, judicial and non-judicial, did not arise out of the modes of thought peculiar to the Christian world, must be known to every classical scholar. Before the age of Augustus the number of days upon which, out of reverence to the gods to whom they were consecrated, no trials could take place at Rome, had become a resource upon which a wealthy criminal could speculate as a means of evading justice; and Suetonius enumerates, among the praiseworthy acts of that emperor, the cutting off from the number thirty days, in order that crime might not go unpunished nor business be impeded."—("Feasts and Fasts," p. 6, by Edward V. Neale.)

After enumerating certain kinds of business which were allowed under these general laws, Mr. Neale adds, "Such was the state of the laws with respect to judicial proceedings while the empire was still heathen." Concerning the suspension of labor, we learn, from the same author, that—

"The practice of abstaining from various sorts of labor upon days consecrated by religious observance, like that of suspending at such seasons judicial proceedings, was familiar to the Roman world before the introduction of Christian ideas. Virgil enumerates the rural labors which might on festal days be carried on without intrenching upon the prohibitions of religion and right; and the enumeration shows that many works were considered as forbidden. Thus it appears that it was permitted to clean out the channels of an old watercourse, but not to make a new one; to wash the herd or flock, if such washing was needful for their health, but not otherwise; to guard the crop from injury by setting snares for birds, or fencing in the grain; and to burn unproductive thorns."—(Ibid., p. 86.)

Sir Henry Spellman, speaking of the origin of English "court terms," says:

"I will, therefore, seek the original of our terms only from the Romans, as all other nations that have been subject to their civil and ecclesiastical monarch do and must.

"The ancient Romans, while they were yet heathens, did not, as we at this day, use certain continual portions of the year for a legal decision of controversies, but, out of superstitious conceit that some days were ominous and more unlucky than others (according to that of the Egyptians), they made one day to be fastus or ferii day, and another (as an Egyptian day) to be vacation or nefastus; seldom two