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country at least, by the Church of which they are themselves members.
My Lord, in pleading for the grand principles embodied in this important Resolution, I desire most sincerely, and I say it without the slightest affectation of candour, to preserve an attitude of defence, rather than to assume a posture of hostility. But, my Lord, we live in times when it is scarcely possible to assert the truth, unless, at the same time, we combat error; when it is impossible to rear the fabric which we are desirous of rearing, as the safeguard of the religious principles, and, I may say, of the political institutions of the country, without at the same time lending a hand to overthrow and to demolish those fabrics, which the mistaken zeal (for I will put it upon that ground) of others is assiduously attempting to erect. I should be most deeply grieved, if in the course of the observations which I shall have the honour to submit to this Meeting, I should utter a single expression, which might tend to excite a feeling of dissatisfaction in the minds of any of those who now hear me, or of those who do not hear me, who are sincere and devoted Christians, and yet who conscientiously dissent from our EstablISHED CHURCH. Nevertheless I must speak the truth! I do not stand here to compromise its sacred and inviolable interests, connected as I believe those interests to be, intimately and inseparably, with the safety and well-being of the EstaBLISHED CHURCH to which I belong.
In proposing to your acceptance this Resolution, I feel some little embarrassment, but it is an embarrassment of this kind : The first proposition embodied in this Resolution is of a nature (as it appears to me) so nearly self-evident, that I find it exceedingly difficult to set about proving it by any thing like a regular demonstration. In truth, the very enunciation of the proposition involves its own proof; for unless you narrow the meaning of the term “ EDUCATION” within limits which would deprive it of its most important functions, what does it mean but this The entire training of a moral and accountable agent for a fitness to accomplish the great ends of his existence? And if Religion, only, discloses these ends to man, and the method of their accomplishment, and if CHRISTIANITY be the only religion which is true, it necessarily follows that an EDUCATION which shall not comprise, within its cycle of instruction, instruction in the truths and precepts of CHRISTIANITY, is, properly, logically, philosophically speaking, no EDUCATION at all; but rather a partial, limited, imperfect and insufficient species of training, not fitted to accomplish the most important objects of EDUCATION, and leaving undone far more than it attempts to do.
But I need not, I am persuaded, employ many arguments in confutation of those (if such there be) who hold that Religion is not an important part of EDUCATION. There are few who are found to avow this principle in terms. We have to deal with opponents of a different stamp. The persons with whom we, at this time of day, have chiefly to contend, are those who, whilst they admit in words that RELIGION is an important and advantageous element of education for the people, yet do not speak of it as if it were essential,--as if it were “ the one thing needful.” I allude to persons who have been exceedingly active during the last three or four years in disseminating their doctrines throughout the country. I speak of persons who, when they would construct a system of popular EDUCATION, divide it into two different and distinct branches, the one secular, the other religious; making the one the substance of EDUCATION, and the other its accident. I speak of persons, who would provide one uniform system of secular instruction for the people, leaving the people to superadd (if they desire it) the religious part; or they themselves will provide a system of religious teaching, in some cases uniform, even as the barren surface of the desert is uniform ; in other cases taught with such vagueness and generality, as to deprive it of those specific qualities, which make it an instrument of sanctification and of truth ; or still further, leaving it to the casual and the desultory inculcation of teachers, who are to bear no part in the main process of EDUCATION. · Against all projects of this kind we strenuously contend, and
we hold that Education for the people of a Christian country should be an Education uniform and undivided; that is to say, uniform as to its distinguishing principles, and its great leading features, though not as to all its minute details; an Education, of which instruction in all those branches of knowledge, which fit man for the duties and occupations of active life, should form an important part, but which should make “ the one thing needful” to be instruction in the will of God, and in the means of its performance; the training of an accountable being, destined for immortality, by ways and methods of God's own appointment, for the enjoyment of his glorious inheritance. Entirely to separate religious instruction from all other kinds of instruction,to make the latter the substance and the basis of EDUCATION, the one subject of common consent, the one object of common interest,—and to thrust the former (RELIGION) into bye-places and corners, leaving it to be (as I before said) inculcated by the desultory efforts of separate teachers, not bearing a part in the main process of EDUCATION; what is this, I would ask, but to deprive Religion of her due honours, to degrade her from her just supremacy? what is it but to depreciate the worth and to disparage the excellence of the pearl of great price," and to teach those, who are the objects of instruction, to regard the best, the most valuable instruction of all, with indifference, if not with contempt ? No, my Lord ! we hold that Religion, the Religion of Christ Jesus, is to be intimately interwoven with the whole tissue of EDUCATION; that it is to be the one guiding, regulating, sanctifying principle; that around which the whole system turns, moving in beautiful uniformity and order, each luminary of knowledge and of truth revolving in its own proper orbit, RELIGION being the centre, from which a genial and holy light may be diffused throughout every part. We protest then against the doctrines, and we are bound to resist the efforts of those associated friends of Education, to whom I have before made allusion, who argue for the entire exclusion of Religion from the regular cycle of intellectual instruction. We protest against the objects of all those who assert, (for it has been asserted in express terms) that the exclusion of the BIBLE from what they term the Secular School, is a sine quâ non to the establishment of any general system of National Education. I entirely agree in the truth of an assertion made by a very able advocate of Education, an opponent of the system to which I have alluded, and yet no friend to the system proposed by the NATIONAL SOCIETY, when he says, that this is a scheme which 39-40ths of the religious portion of the community will strongly deprecate and resist. And if he speaks of the truly religious part of the population, I confess I cannot see why he should not have added the remaining fortieth. I say, I entirely agree with that individual in the truth of this assertion. But here my agreement with him ends, and here ends the agreement of the NATIONAL SOCIETY with the persons whom he represents ; because they hold that it is enough, in order to ensure a sufficient Education for the people, as a religious people, if they merely introduce the BIBLE into their Schools as a Class-Book, at the same time prohibiting every thing which might be construed into an interpretation of its doctrines. We, on the contrary, hold it not to be sufficient merely to retain the BIBLE, the material BIBLE, as a Class-book in our schools, if the Bible is to form the subject of instruction in its letter and its form only, and not in its doctrines and in its spirit. We all know what various, and, too often, what conflicting and opposite views of Scripture truth are taken by different persons, all of whom acknowledge the paramount authority of the Bible : but there must be one system of doctrine which is the true system; or one, at least, which approximates nearer to the truth than any other; and which it is therefore most important that all should know. They talk, indeed, of neutrality in Religion !-Neutrality in Religion! To be neutral in religion (on the part of a religious teacher) is treason against the truth. I repeat it,—it is treason against the truth; it is a dishonest betrayal of the sacred trust committed to his hands; because experience proves, if reason did not suggest the conclusion, that those who are brought up, as children, without a decided attachment to some particular
form of religion, will grow up without attachment to any religion at all. I say also, that a Religion without a creed, without some recognised and particular creed, is not the Religion of common sense; it is not a practical religion ; it is not the religion of the Church Catholic, nor of any branch of that CHURCH. It was not the religion of the holy Apostles themselves ; for they strictly enjoined their converts to “ hold fast the form of sound words.” But if no interpretation whatever is to be put upon the words of the BIBLE read in a School-and yet I might easily prove (were it worth while to occupy your time with the proof) that is an impossible case (in the full sense of the term); for no teacher can read the BIBLE, or any particular version, without being, to a certain extent, an interpreter of the Bible—but if such a case were possible, what would be the result? The poor child, the half-educated child, would be left to frame, for himself, each his own creed; and the result would be, that they would take different and conflicting views of saving truth, or, to speak more properly, no views at all—no distinct, no rational views; and they would go forth to encounter the temptations of the world, the arts of evil and designing men, and the sophistry of unbelievers, with crude, indistinct, imperfect, inoperative views of religious truth, and of the real grounds of moral obligation. When, therefore, we contend, in the words of the Resolution, “ That instruction in the truths and precepts of Christianity ought to be an essential part of every EDUCATION intended for the people at large,” we mean instruction in the peculiar truths and in the characteristic precepts of Christianity. I say, peculiar and characteristic: Christianity itself is an eminently peculiar religion-peculiar in its revelations, its precepts, its motives, its promises, and its hopes ! Deprive Christianity of what is essentially peculiar to itself,—take away the doctrines of man's sinfulness and corruption, the necessity of an Atonement to be made by a Divine Saviour, Justification through faith in that Saviour, Sanctification by the Spirit unto obedience,-take away these doctrines, and the doctrines of the Sacrament of Grace, and what remains ? Not