Updated: Feb 4, 2019
For many of the early settlers in New Haarlem (now Harlem, New York), God's law reigned supreme. Careful attention was given to the commandments with the knowledge that a nation keeping God's laws would be a blessed and prosperous nation.
Shown above is a summary of the Ten Commandments recorded in the book of Exodus, Chapter 20. These principles are the building blocks for a civilized society and were the foundation for the laws in many countries, including America. Worshiping any other god, having idols, taking the name of God in vain, not keeping the Sabbath, dishonoring one's parents, killing, cheating, stealing, lying, and covetousness were not tolerated and most were punishable by law.
Today, few of these offenses are illegal according to the law of the land and as we become increasingly more liberal, our once civilized nation is becoming increasingly uncivilized. Furthermore, year by year the calamities and natural disasters in our country increase, as our God who was once in the forefront of our society and nation is made out to be an irrelevant, fictitious character. Reading the Bible's prophecies about the great falling away makes it quite clear the divinely inspired Word is anything but fiction. The consequences foretold in the Scriptures, are unfolding before our eyes on the nightly news with an increasing number of record-breaking fires, floods, drought, famine, earthquakes, disease, mass fish-kills and animal-kills, volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, landslides, tornadoes and giant hail. The Bible even warned us that children would be disobedient and people would be easily offended and hate one another. These are the things our Christian forefathers hoped to avoid. Unfortunately, in a Democracy of mixed religions, God and his laws have been pushed aside.
The 4th Commandment, is the commandment about keeping the Sabbath. Following is the Scripture from Exodus, Chapter 20:
The Sabbath is set apart as a day in which no work is to be done by any person or animal. All of God's commandments are ultimately for the benefit of mankind, but to me, this commandment shows the love and mercy of our God, who clearly cared so deeply for his creation that he made this #4 of his 10 commandments, ensuring we would ALL have a chance to rest. It leads me to think of how greatly the servants and slaves who worked tirelessly every day must have been blessed by the Sabbath in old times. Surely, everyone could use a weekly day of rest, but over time, more and more people have started ignoring this commandment. Some have fallen away from the faith but even many Christians don't observe the Sabbath, claiming it is an archaic, defunct law we don't have to keep anymore. In my opinion, it is simply the love of two things - convenience and making money, that causes Christians to forget the command and break the Sabbath law. People who don't observe the Sabbath want businesses to operate seven days a week and many businesses don't want to miss out on a day of making money, so they pretend the Sabbath doesn't apply anymore.
Such was the case on Sunday, September 2, 1666. The villagers of New Harlem were at rest, honoring the Sabbath as commanded, when two men - Jan Teunissen and Philip Presto, came along (presumably on the Harlem river), rowing a canoe. They carried a load of hay they had plowed from Daniel Tourneau's meadow. Needless to say, fingers were pointed and accusations were made.
The next day, after Sabbath had passed, the two men, along with Daniel Tourneur, were arraigned by the town court for working on the Sabbath. The canoe and hay were confiscated. Teunissen admitted his guilt but blamed Tourneur, claiming he had ordered it to be done on Sunday. Tourneur denied Teunissen's claim and gave bail only for Presto. Later, the Mayor's Court at New York, upheld the decision to confiscate Tourneur's canoe and the hay. This was the only time Tourneau was ever charged with breaking the Sabbath. Apparently, he and his associates learned a valuable lesson that day.
This article is based on the true story, published in "New Harlem past and present; the story of an amazing civic wrong, now at last to be righted", by Carl H. Pierce, page 36. The illustration was found between pages 40-41.
Image of Harlem from Central Park, courtesy of Calendar of Emmet Collection. EM10944. New York Public Library's Digital Library under the digital ID 98efff70-c60c-012f-1e0e-58d385a7bc34: digitalgallery.nypl.org