people compactly settled, and homogeneous in their religion, as in Scotland, or formerly in some New England States, the case would be altered. But as the concrete case is, and whatever be the abstract merits of the question, our people, except the comparatively late importation of Romanists, are unalterably opposed to the abandonment of their common schools. Here and there some may set up their own church schools, and for the best of reasons. But they will not appropriate the public money to them, or often ask it, or for a moment abandon their common-school system.

Assuming, then, that common schools must and will be maintained, having the support of all classes of our population but Romanists, the only remaining question is, how far morals and religion shall be taught and have place in them? Particularly, shall the Bible, or any portion of it, in any version, be read there? May the Lord's Prayer, or any prayer, be publicly offered ? Shall those Christian truths that are accepted alike by Protestant and Romish churches as undisputed, be allowed to be taught? Or shall the word of God, and all religious exercises of every kind, be banished from these great training schools for our American youth? To this question, which is beginning to stir the American mind as nothing else has since the bombardment of Sumter, various answers are given. Infidels, sceptics, and indifferentists, for the most part, of course say, Out with every vestige of religion and Christianity. It infringes the rights of conscience. The state discriminates against certain views of religion, or patronizes some religious opinions at the expense of others. It is, in short, church and state, contrary to the fundamental principles of our republican institutions, which forbid all patronage of any religious opinions or dogmas by the state. The Romanists join hands with them here, because they maintain that every form of religious teaching not Romish, including the reading of their own version of the Scriptures without comment, is sectarian, heretical, and pernicious.

A considerable class of Protestants, including some ministers and laymen of eminence, favor or consent to the removal of the Bible, and all religious exercises and teaching, from the common schools on some or all of the following grounds :

First.—That the state has nothing to do with religious education; that its only and proper sphere is to give a secular education to qualify its citizens for the ordinary duties of life. If we let the state teach religion, we must take such as it sees fit to give us.

Secondly.—That the Bible, or at least the Protestant version of it, is a sectarian book, and that the reading of it in the public schools infringes upon the rights of the Roman Catholics who contribute, through the taxes they pay, to the support of these schools.

Thirdly.That our government is based upon the principle of universal freedom, and that by insisting upon having the Bible read in our schools we violate the consciences of the Roman Catholic population, who are, with all others, entitled to the benefits of this freedom.

Fourthly.-That the reading of the Bible, as now practised in the schools, is a mere perfunctory service, of too little effect and value to justify its maintenance in the face of the existing peril to the school system.

These are the great points in Judge Matthews' argument. Others still fear that unless the sceptical and irreligious part of community be conciliated, by withdrawing the Bible and all religion from common schools, they will conspire with the Romanists for their overthrow. Thus their very existence will be endangered. The Romanists will carry their point. We shall be thrown back upon merely denominational schools, weak and inadequate as they will be without aid from the public treasury. Vast masses of our children will be wholly uneducated and unfitted for their duties as citizens. Most of the residue will be poorly educated. They will grow up in isolation from each other, with blind and intense sectarian antipathies, such as would melt away if they were educated together in the public schools, where they would grow up with that sense of unity and brotherhood which would fit them for a common citizenship of our great republic. For these reasons, although they would deplore the withdrawal of the Bible and religion from common schools, they would think it a less evil than to lose them, or to drive the Roman Catholic or Jewish children from them. We confess that this reasoning is plausi

ble, and impressed us sufficiently to lead us to re-examine the whole subject. As the result of this investigation, we have been led ourselves, and we believe, that the Christian, or, at all events, the Protestant mind of the country, is working its way, with more or less clearness and decision, to the following positions:

1. That our government is bound to protect all in the free and full enjoyment of their religious principles, until this conflicts with the just and equal rights of others, or with the peace and order of society. But while it is, to this extent, equally bound to protect all sects and persuasions, it is no less bound not to espouse or support any of them' with positive pecuniary or other special privileges.

2. This principle, however, ought not to be carried so far that the state will ignore or disown the moral and religious nature of its subjects, or its supreme importance, or its own subjection to moral law, and its obligation to and dependence upon the Supreme Ruler and Sovereign Lord of all. This were to sink its subjects into mere animals, and itself into a mere unprincipled, immoral, atheistic, or materialistic organization. Nor can a government, the great majority of whose people are Christians, ignore their sacred convictions, or that the morality which governs them is a Christian morality. There are issues and occasions in states in which not to be moral is to be immoral; not to be religious is to be irreligious; not to be Christian is to be anti-Christian; not to be for Christ is to be against him. Not to be governed by the fundamental principles of Christian morality, or to honor the Sabbath because some have scruples to the contrary, is to violate the conscientious convictions of nineteen out of every twenty of the people in order to please the twentieth part of them.

3. The whole history of our nation, in all its governmental procedures, State and National, confirms this view. It is proved to be the true meaning of their fundamental constitutions, as understood by their framers, by the whole course of concurrent legislative and judicial action, and by all public practice under them from the first. We are quite in sympa. thy with our friends who desire, and have organized to promote, the express recognition in our national constitution, of

some belief in God and Christianity. But we do not admit for one moment that, because not expressly mentioned, it is not in effect and substance the supreme element of the national life, lying deeper than constitutions, and conditioning their practical interpretation and working, through Congress, legislatures, courts, and public institutions. All our governments, State and National, recognize the Christian's God in the oath, in stopping and ontlawing business on the Lord's day, opening their sessions with prayer, in their annual calls upon the people for thanksgiving, and their frequent proclamations inviting the people to public prayer and fasting. Not only so, but by furnishing chaplains for the army and navy, for military and naval schools, our government has shown its conviction that men cannot be fitly educated for high responsibilities and commands, without duly educating their moral and religious nature; also that it will not subject the Christian people of the land to the cruel necessity of shutting out their sons from these spheres of occupation and preferment. The same is true. of State governments. Almost without exception, they enact Sunday laws, require oaths, supply Christian chaplains to their prisons, their reform schools, and institutions for deaf, dumb, and blind. They dare not bring these children of their care down to the standards of atheism, or refuse to provide for the due training of their immortal nature. It is past all doubt, therefore, that the unsectarian character of our civil constitutions does not mean atheism or infidelity, or the disowning of our common Christianity.

4. The State provides common-school education for all her children whose parents will permit them to accept it, in order to make them good citizens. This end cannot be accomplished unless they become upright and virtuous. Such only can preserve a democratic government from corruption and ruin. But all sound morality must have its roots in religion, and the only religion which the mass of our American States know, or can know, is the religion of the Bible. The very object which the State aims at, therefore, in its common schools is defeated by the extrusion of religion and Christianity. Is it said that religion can be taught in the family, in the church, and the Sabbath-school? But how does this reach the case of

the vast number whose parents are indisposed or incompetent to give them moral and religious teaching, and who are not reached by other agencies ? And however well-taught at home, how is it to keep the tender and sensitive minds of children closed against all religious or moral ideas in their reading, their study of history and geography, without leaving them profoundly ignorant of what is most essential in these studies,what exhibits man in all that most exalts him above the brute, the phenomena of his moral and religious nature. Further still, the intellectual is so implicated with the emotive, the moral, and religious nature, that the development of the former is dependent on the latter; to starve the one is to dwarf the other. It is religious and moral truths, ideas of the infinite and perfect, God and eternity, that most quicken, expand, and sublime the human, and especially the youthful, intellect. Education, therefore, divorced from morality and religion, becomes shrunken, distorted, and monstrous.

5. Still, this teaching must be unsectarian. Is it not so, in every fair sense, if the Bible, or selections from the Bible, are read without note or comment, and in such translation thereof, as the parent may signify, that he prefers? May it not speak its own meaning and leave its own impression without injustice to the claims of any sect? This is precisely what is done in the schools of Cincinnati, the prohibition of which by the School Board of that city has been set aside by the courts, as contrary to public policy and the clause of the State constitution which, after forbidding religious tests, etc., declares, “ Religion, morality, and knowledge, however, being essential to good government, it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to pass suitable laws to protect every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship, and to encourage schools and the means of instruction.” Is not the pretence that the recognition and teaching of principles recognized by all bodies of Christians, and disputed by none, are sectarian, unreasonable and unworthy of regard? Do the Romanists who make it aim thereby to render our common schools acceptable and worthy of public favor, or do they not aim thereby to render them so utterly godless as to deprive them

« ElőzőTovább »