One of the most effective means I have found for presenting the subject "Who Changed the Sabbath?" is the jury trial method. I utilize a jury of twelve persons selected from the audience. The question, "Who Changed the Sabbath?" lends itself very nicely to this procedure. A decision against the defendant, by jury in a criminal case is most convincing to the public, because it is the law in the United States that a person charged with a crime is presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty.
Believing that others who may not have employed this plan might be interested in the procedure followed in such a presentation, I gladly pass it on.
The fact is generally recognized that a change in the Sabbath has been made. The question is, "Who made the change?" or, "Did the Papacy make the change?" The minister takes the place of the prosecuting attorney, and it is his duty to present sufficient evidence to the jury to prove the accused—generally termed the "defendant"—guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.
My latest experience in a jury trial of this kind was in connection with a recent tabernacle effort in the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, where I had been preaching on the Sabbath question during the week previous. Throughout this time the crowds had been very large—from 1,000 to 1,500 each night. The subject was advertised as—
"The Greatest Crime and the Greatest Criminal"
"The tabernacle will be considered a courtroom; a jury will be selected from the audience; a verdict rendered by the jury. The audience will also be asked to approve or disapprove the verdict, thus acting as a Court of Appeals."
There were no empty seats that night. Some word, however, had gotten around that it would be a hand-picked jury. So the first remark I made was about this rumor. I stated that I wanted twelve men to volunteer for this jury, men with whom I was unacquainted. Within five minutes twelve such men had come to the platform. One of my assistants took the names, addresses, and religious beliefs of the jury. It was found that we had two lawyers who were Methodists, and one other Methodist; two Baptists; two members of the Christian Church; one Congregationalist; one Seventh Day Baptist; and three belonging to no church. The audience ruled out the Seventh Day Baptist, and a nonchurchman took his place, after which the audience voted the jury to be satisfactory. These took their seats in the jury box and selected a foreman. I acted as prosecuting attorney.
Instead of making an oral statement to the jury as to what I purposed to prove by my evidence, I placed in the hands of each juror the following statement, which I likewise read aloud to the audience:
"We Shall Prove—
"First: That the prophet Daniel and the apostle Paul both prophesied of an attempt that would be made to change the law of God, and thus to set aside His authority.
"Second: That the Sabbath of the fourth commandment was changed this side of apostolic times, or after 100 A. D.
"Third: That as controversy raged in the second, third, and fourth centuries, the change was made gradually, so as to make the practice of the Christian church conform to the practices of pagan Rome.
"Fourth: That this apostasy in the church really developed into papal Rome, and she is therefore in fact the guilty criminal.
"Fifth: That this ecclesiastical power acknowledges the crime; her friends say she did it, and her enemies agree with them."
I was careful to secure from the public library as much of the historical evidence as possible; and many of the actual books I had with me. When making a point of history, I would turn to the jury and show them the book bearing on the point, giving page and line reference. It took about fifty minutes to present the case, after which I asked the jury to retire to' another room, and to bring back a verdict. The intense interest of the audience could almost be felt. The jury was out eight minutes, during which time we were making announcements and distributing copies of the texts and historical references used during the sermon. When the jury filed in, one of the lawyers, who was acting as foreman, arose amid a deathlike stillness in the great audience, and said to my associate, who was acting as the judge:
"Your Honor, we, the jury, have found that you have proved your case, and the defendant is guilty as charged beyond any reasonable doubt."
At this the audience could no longer restrain itself, and began to voice its approval. I then asked all who agreed with the verdict to stand, and nearly the entire audience arose. We then earnestly appealed to them to take a definite stand to keep God's Sabbath, and to sign covenant cards which were passed around. About seventy signed cards, including four of the jurors. Nearly all these have come fully into our message, and many others have joined since that meeting.
I am often asked what one would do if for any reason the jury should bring in a verdict of "Not guilty." In the first place there is little danger of such an experience if the subject is fully presented with Bible proof, and then backed with clear, pointed historical facts. If a very prejudiced jury should be selected and bring in a verdict of "Not guilty," I should then ask the audience to approve or disapprove their verdict. The facts are so clear on this question, however, that I doubt if any twelve men or women would vote any way but "Guilty."
It makes a profound impression on an audience to know that these jurors, who belong to their own churches,—and I read their names and church connections,—vote that the Papacy, not the apostolic church, changed the Sabbath.