Some Observations On The Scripture Lessons Of The Board Of Education

Editor's Note30


If we set his relationship for God apart (and if they on whom the education of the country is made to depend are to be trusted, we want no God, or at least can do better than He), I believe it is a just definition of man that he is a laughing animal; for there are some things, speaking as a man, essentially ridiculous; and this, sir, is one of them. Of course you know that I mean the so-called scripture lessons of the Board—the new authorised version of the lovers of education for the instruction of the poor Irish—a Board that honestly desires to provide the well-being of the conductors of schools. How kind and considerate!

But, sir, this is not all. Mr. Carlile, I suppose, knows Hebrew, and this is a translation. Nothing else would answer the purpose— “meet the exigency of the case”—cut the Gordian knot that tied the destinies of just education, but that some one should sit down and make a new translation of the Bible, or at least such parts of it as were fit to be translated; and here it is with notes, critical, explanatory, and practical. I trust, sir, you will give due publicity to this important fact, for the benefit of others as well as the poor Irish children, that the translator knows Hebrew. He does know what Eden means, and he does not exactly know what Shaphan means; but, for the purpose of making it more clearly intelligible to the rising generation, he proposed to call it Shaphan; neither Coney nor Ischin, nor Daman-Israel, which it is called when the unknown animal is known, answering the purpose at least for Irish children: so we have given the original Hebrew.

As for Eden, very intelligible it would be to say, The children of pleasure which were in Thelassar; or Hasan, or Camah, and pleasure, the merchants of Sheba, and, or planted a garden in pleasure. However, the translator says it may be rendered either as a proper name, or as an epithet. And the translator knows Hebrew—knows Hebrew! knows enough of that, and everything else too, to set at rest all the difficult questions which have hindered Irish education time out of mind, and give just the quantum of scripture which will satisfy Papists and Protestants, Presbyterians, Arians and Socinians, and above all himself (God, sir, we must remember, is put out of question), with just the right sense and nobody to dispute it.

0 happy ages, that we should have one such man! Nothing wanted and nothing too much1—a little bit of David’s piety, and that, of course, rightly applied and understood; and a little bit of his own, which others may apply and understand as they like—a little of St. Paul’s commentary with his to explain it; and a little bit of his own without anybody to explain it at all; and those who shall not worship the golden image, set up, as it is, by these monarchs of education, with the trumpet of their own unanimous recommendation! A golden head of wickedness they are. Happy age! that we should have one such man to be the common instrument of so noble an oligarchy in enlightening the happy children of this once unhappy land; that Sabellians, and Papists, and Socinians, and doctors, should find one to make a new translation of the scriptures of God, which should satisfy them all, and enlighten the Irish in Hebrew, and the world as to his attainments. How interesting to see the poor little Irish children considering what Zaphnath-paaneah meant in the Egyptian language upon the authority of St. Jerome, and comparing it with what others think, and the habits of the Chinese language; or studying the distinction between doctors and Heliopolis without knowing what others think at all! But then indeed the translator knows all this, though what all this is is hard to tell.

There is one thing indeed I had forgotten, that the Board honestly desires to provide the well-being of the conductors of schools. Why the translator must have been aiming at the literary education of the priests—cramming them, I suppose, to appear in the new schools; and this is an instance of “the Board’s” friendship and affection for them. Conceive, sir,

1 pray you, the thought that would sparkle in the mind of a poor little garcoon (after an account that lambs are supposed to signify some unknown coin, though the translator and the commissioners call them lambs) at these ominous letters, the LXX, and that coupled with such a rapid accumulation of uncouth names, Vulgate (pity we had not St. Jerome again and his prologus galeatus too about the Maccabees and some other books—I wonder will they appear in the new translation: why not? It is only a history framed without the slightest influence from any peculiar view of Christianity), and ancient versions. However, in the midst of these wonders, he has this comfort, that, though last not least, the new translation leads him to the conclusion, which, with his ability to estimate an unknown Hebrew word, will be particularly satisfactory—that lambs mean an unknown coin. O fortunati nimium sua si bona norint Agricolae! More might be added, sir, to illustrate the mass of learning which has been accumulated in the new translation, as that Syrian means Aramite, for the use of schools. But I have done with the translator now, sir. Of all the egregious instances of self-confident flippancy, this provision of Hebrew annotations for the benefit of the Irish children is the most ridiculous. We shall see just now its evil. But there is one serious comfort in it; the translator was even thought to be a Christian, and it gives one hope that this may yet be true, and that it is but a fall, a case when Christians may yet pray for him. It sets beyond all doubt what the writer has never doubted—that it was the snare laid for a man who felt dissatisfied with his situation as inadequate to what he supposed to be his powers, and was led to embrace one which seemed to give him the consequence to which he was entitled. We may trust he may feel the evil honour he has received, and that the praise of God is better than the feeling of self-consequence of ungodly men. I said, sir, I had done with the translator. With the Commissioners I must deal seriously; for the weakness of self-confidence is a different thing from iniquity of principle and the mischief flowing from it.31

We must bear in mind, for I, sir, at least shall never let it out of my mind, that the system has been introduced in lieu of one in which the scriptures were read, whether Douay or Protestant version—that this was the vital defect of the system, and that because it was opposed to the principles of the Roman Catholic religion. That is, sir:—God in His wisdom had been pleased (for the mere right of man is the feeblest side of the question) to write a book for the instruction of His creatures for men. Certain men have stepped in and said, Men shall not read it; virtually alleging either the incompetency of God to do it fitly, or His want of authority to do it at all; and rising up in effect to say, that what God had sent, the message of His love and wisdom and mercy, is unfit for man, or at any rate man shall not have it. This is the blasphemy of a system with which we, as Christians, have to contend—the blasphemy of prohibiting, not man, sir, to read, but God to send to His creatures the message of His own will in His own way.

The existing government, of which these commissioners are the instruments, have acquiesced in this. The principles of the Roman Catholic religion are in this to be acquiesced in. God is to be held not to be so entitled; and to hold that He is, renders any system, however otherwise innocent, vitally defective. To the maintenance of these principles the commissioners have set their hands, and that the devil may degrade, as far as possible, any who have any pretensions to Christianity, one becomes the instrument of producing a book which is to take the place—no, that it can never do, but be instead—of the scriptures: which alters them, because they will not do as they are. People may reason and tell falsehoods in prefaces. The scriptures are not used or allowed in the schools, and these lessons are; that is, they are instead of them. Men may talk, in miserable dishonesty, about introduction to the scriptures: are the scriptures allowed to be in the schools? Are they not excluded, and these brought in, because they are so excluded? I would rather far, sir, meet an honest opposer of God’s word, than a disingenuous excuse for an act, which is to support the worst and most comprehensive blasphemy against God’s authority which can be till Antichrist is revealed—the denial of God’s right to speak to every one His will as He has thought fit.

I do not altogether accuse the translator of this disingenuity. He has hired himself to a citizen of that country, and they have sent him into the fields to feed swine. But, sir, in attempting to colour the effect, we have the real character of the work admitted. Then, when they get to a certain point of the devil’s delusions, they are unconscious often that their excuses are their condemnation. “No passage has been either introduced or omitted under the influence of any peculiar view of Christianity, doctrinal or practical.” That is, the selections have been made without the slightest reference to the truths which they contain. What could the devil himself wish more than to divest the scriptures of those powers of truth which apply themselves to the heart of man, and so turn them into a history, or vague and powerless exhibition of facts, without any purpose, unless to tell us what Shaphans were!

God has always a purpose, and a well-ordered purpose, in all He writes: this doubtless man would avoid. He would cull and pick and choose, and think it wisdom, with professed indifference to the purpose of God. Has Christianity no view of its own? Has God no peculiar view of man, in respect of which He has selected those things from his history, in which the character of His dealings has been manifested, and recorded as such, for those on whom the ends of the world are come? Yes, sir, but these are offensive to man, and God’s selection will not do. A Mr. Carlile, or an enemy to God and man, one whom he believes to be the servant of Satan, must come and make selections, in which he must be either wiser than God in doing it, or else do it in order to divest it of all the power and point for the purpose of which God had so selected and arranged it. Away with the disgusting blasphemies! Such must be the result, sir. If I have the wisdom of God, I must have given it just as God gave it; if I have not, I must break in, in ignorance, upon the very purposes and the very connection which God has purposely, in His divine and active and considerate wisdom, therein established. But here, sir, it is made a boast that the influence of any peculiar view of Christianity has been excluded, that is, any view at all: for when there are many, which is in this sentence assumed, each must be peculiar. But they must have introduced the extracts with some view, or they could make no selection. They have a view, but a view which purposely excludes every object with which God caused it to be written.

But, sir, the point is, that God has a view, and has given scripture with this view. It is God’s select history of the world, and it is from this that the enemy of God recoils. If it be a matter of indifference which of two views of Christianity I adopt, it is perfectly clear that both are immaterial. And this is the form which infidelity is now assuming, and this is the form in which it is expressed in this selection. The next thing is, sir, that it is a comment; and a comment cannot be made without any peculiar view. If I apply one scripture to another, I affirm at once its sense. For example, I think many of the quotations from the new translation remarkably calculated to mislead, as affirming that to be their application to which they allude merely, having some other object in view, or which is merely the occasion of much further testimony. They have been taken out of the associations in which God has placed them, and set in those in which these infidels have placed them, without the opportunity of seeing or comparing them with those in which they really stand. And observe, sir, it is done with purpose. They are to learn the use of the sacred history from this. So that it is an authorised comment giving the sense and use of what they read; giving it as a poor wretched man has taken it from a few parts, perhaps misapplied, of God’s vast and all-comprehensive word. Wretched compiler! I pity the degradation to which he has been brought. So that while they have not been introduced or omitted under the influence of any pecuhar view of Christianity they do teach the use of the sacred history, which has therefore in fact no peculiar view at all, doctrinal or practical. This notion of peculiar view is very plausible with the infidelity of the present day, as it hates any peculiar view which will give that energy of truth which will rescue from the domination of Antichrist. Give all the scriptures, and we want none, for God will give His own. But a selection without a peculiar view is nonsense, save in the pointed deprival of scripture of all power of truth; and a selecting, for other reasons besides the truth which it contains, must turn the very word of God itself into a broken cistern which holds no water: the last form of infidelity, the essence of it in those days, short of open rebellion against the Lamb, and the preparation of men for it. In a word, it amounts to an assertion that we may learn the use of the sacred history, its piety, and its doctrines too, without receiving any truth by virtue of which blasphemies against that truth should not be indifferent to us.

The divinity of Christ is a peculiarity with a Socinian. The distinction of persons is a peculiarity with a Sabellian. The unity of Christ’s mediatorship and justification by faith, and the final sufficiency of Christ’s one sacrifice, are peculiarities with the abettors of Popery; and I must divest myself of the consciousness of the existence of these truths, before I can select from scripture for the instruction of the young. The moment you select, you become a teacher. This book proves it. You must select for some reason. Give all the scriptures, and let them teach, and God’s blessing will follow. But as a selector you are a teacher—a responsible teacher; and the point here selected to be taught is, that you may learn the use of the sacred history in total indifference to all the truths it contains; for a selection can be made from which its use can be learned where these truths have not been allowed to exercise the slightest influence on the introduction or omission of any one passage in it. In a word, not merely is the scripture thus excluded, but that is introduced from which children are to learn its use, independent of and to the exclusion of the truths which it contains. And the real way we are taught to read it profitably is to read it apart, and as man shall select it too, from the influence of those truths; in a word, to turn God out of His own word.

The peculiar truths of the Bible, sir, are the weapons of God’s power over the heart of man. Take these out of the scriptures, and the salt has lost its savour, and wherewith shall it be salted? What is the history of Abraham to me, but that he was the friend of God, that his very name reminds me that he is the father of all them that believe, that have the faith of that Abraham who believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness; and that it was written not for his sake only, but for us also to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him who raised up from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, who was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification. But the selection must be made without the influence of any of these things. The ties by which God has linked Himself with the wants, the necessities, and the sorrows of His creatures that He might deliver them out of them, developed in dispensations unfolding and unfolded by the glory of His Son Jesus, the Word made flesh, must be broken, defaced. Anything which under divine grace could raise the energies, the feelings, and the thoughts of man, by the sympathies of God, and a love which provided objects such as nought but grace could give to hope through a freely wrought redemption, ending in the glory of Him who established it—all must be concealed. It is a peculiar view of Christianity; and the selection must be compiled from a book which contains it all fresh from God’s own hand, and fraught with the tender character of God’s own wisdom; and the child must read (without permission to wander into fresher pastures of liberty under the security of the good Shepherd) with this only care, that their influence be utterly excluded. Such, sir, is the professed object and principle of this new translation. As far as anything of scripture goes, we are to be delivered up to “the blighting influences of a cold and heartless scepticism, which, whilst planting nothing in the mind, can produce nothing but the extinction of its best hopes and efforts.”

But, sir, there is a remedy proposed. I know not, sir, why it is, but I am not yet quite used to the iniquity of these days. I never doubted the infidelity on which the whole of the new system of education was based, but the unblushing effrontery with which it is carried on in this preface (while it cannot rouse my indignation—for these men are too bad for me to feel indignant about—while I doubt not they are wise in their generation in it), so far amazes me as exhibiting the extent to which Satan reckons on the very form of principle being gone. There is a remedy proposed for the professed emptiness of all scriptural truth and principle by which this new translation is characterised. “To the religious instructors of the children they cheerfully leave, in communicating that instruction, the use of the sacred volume itself as containing those doctrines and precepts, a knowledge of which must lie at the foundation of all true religion.”

The first thing which I may remark here, sir, is the -full confirmation of what I have previously said as to the exclusion of all scripture principles from that which has been substituted for the scriptures in the instruction of the children. For it is to another source here described they are left for the acquirement “of those doctrines and precepts, a knowledge of which must lie at the foundation of all true religion.” That then which is given in the school, as instead of the scriptures, is not merely free from peculiar views of Christianity, but does not contain those doctrines and precepts, a knowledge of which must lie at the foundation of all true religion. For these they are referred somewhere else. Does it contain what constitutes the superstructure first? I suppose not. What then? Nothing; and it is from that which thus confessedly contains nothing that the use of the sacred history is to be learned. And it is such a compilation which is an introduction to the sacred volume, and which is to lead to a more general and more profitable perusal of the word of God.

But we have here, sir, honestly afforded us what is really done, and the gross dishonour done to scripture, and the disgraceful character which is really meant to be by these lessons associated with it in the minds of the children, just dawning into thought. But it is ever meant that the poor children have the opportunity of receiving their impressions of scripture from scripture itself? Far from it, sir. These things, such as they are, are an introduction to scripture; but where is the scripture they are to be introduced to? Recognised in the schools? Oh no! Excluded from them, by way, I suppose, of introducing them to it, making them thirst after forbidden fruit, while the selection is left empty of the doctrines and precepts which lie at the foundation of all true religion, in order to teach them what they are to thirst after; but where are the scriptures they are to be introduced to? They cheerfully leave the use of the sacred volume—to whom? to “the religious instructors of the children!” No, sir, the children must never have them. The rich may, because they will; instructors may, of what sort God knows—the commissioners are upon friendly and affectionate terms with them; but the poor, sir, the poor children, are never to have them. It is not to their well-being the commissioners are looking. Well, indeed, they wrote their own judgment when they said, “They were honestly desirous to promote the well-being of the conductors”; for if ever there was anything which marked their heartless and base apathy, as to the poor children, it is this book; indeed as far as priests and infidels go, their honest desire, if honest it can be called, is to promote the well-being of the conductors.

And is it really so, sir? Does Dr. Whately—I cannot bring myself to call him Archbishop of Dublin—does Mr. Carlile—I sorrow when I think—does Dr. Sadleir, cheerfully leave the use of the sacred volume to priests to instruct children out of? Do they take away the scriptures out of their hands, and cheerfully leave them to the priests for their instruction? Am I right, sir, in reading that “the use of the sacred volume is left to the instructors”! That it does not enter into the contemplation of these persons, that the children should ever see the book, but that they cheerfully leave its use to others to instruct them as they see fit out of it? This is such a gratuitous profession of apostasy of principle, such a profession of heartless disregard for the interests, nay the rights, in the sight of God, of the poor children, that (save as an evidence, as I said before, Satan was exhibiting how far he reckoned upon the destruction of the form of principle) it would be utterly unintelligible. They might have left it in the dark; they might, however heartless and unchristian, have said, They can get Bibles for themselves if they like it; but to shew that they positively dissociated the children and any use of the scriptures, they leave it to the use of their instructors, and cheerfully too!

Oh! sir, if I were not used to these things, if I were not accustomed to evil, I could weep—I could weep for the church (oh! how fallen) whose leading characters are identified with such a system. But it is not to a haughty enemy I should tell my sorrows. The path of faith lies difficult but clear. But, sir, while they speak of a system to associate children without peculiarities, the whole system is in itself the infidel development of popery. The children were associated on the principle of reading the scriptures—a strong broad principle in which, God being sought, His views of Christianity, and His authority were recognised; for the subjection to His word was the recognition of His authority. Here the children are given such parts of scripture as man chooses to select, as the authority of man— that is a fact—thinks fitting, and in such connections as man thinks fitting; and the use of the sacred volume itself is left to the instructors.

Why talk of different denominations being brought together? This is precisely Popery. The system is Popery. I care not now as to the principle (however I might in effect) whether the instructors are ministers or priests: the children are not given the scriptures, but delivered up to men, to whom the use of those scriptures is left for their instruction in the doctrines, precepts, and glories of Christianity. There is no other principle recognised in this statement. If you wish to exist, if you wish the principles of God (the principles on which and with which God has blessed you) to exist, arouse yourselves, ministers, Christians, you that fear God. Talk not of parliaments and petitions, but arouse the minds of the people affected by these things. Testify about them to the people whose children would be sent to these schools of Satan, whose only dealing with scripture is to extract all the virtue from it, that the last instrument of God to rescue man may lose its reclaiming power. A mutilated scripture! (surely shall God’s judgments come upon them!) from which that which is peculiar in Christianity has been excluded, that the comments of men to explain the nothings that are left may be introduced to them, their wisdom, and beguile the simple.

All that is valuable in scripture is peculiar, for it is a revelation, a revelation of that which is the supreme actings of God’s love, whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, but as far above them as the heavens are higher than the earth. All that is the mere fruit of God’s will, all that is the object of faith, must by virtue of its existence be peculiar both from what it is, and from being the object of revelation. Poor ruined lost man wants what is peculiar, or he is lost for ever: everything that is not is but part of his ruin; all else is blessedly peculiar. By this as the subject of revelation man is subjected to God, for he receives it on the authority of God’s word. It is the obedience of faith. Hence the two great points, the presenting the contents of scripture (the great peculiar facts and truths as such in their reclaiming power), and the authority on which we receive them; so that on the one hand we might be certified that the love contained in them was God’s love indeed; and on the other, that we might be subjected to His authority; in a word, that our faith and hope might be in God.

In contending against scripture, Popery covertly, and infidelity openly, deprive us of both these. And so do these commissioners. The authority and instruction of man is substituted for God’s, and the lessons are framed upon the principle, that nothing should be introduced or admitted from any peculiar view of Christianity. But this is not all, sir. They positively teach none. Here is that which is given of scripture to the children in the school—that which it affords suitable to them. Here are the lessons which they can learn out of it. But they are taught by the arrangement of their schools that these cannot teach them the doctrines and precepts, the knowledge of which must lie at the foundation of all true religion. They must go to instructors—to men—for that. Such is the direct conclusion from the arrangement, that which is meant upon the face of it, and indeed so stated in this preface, the use of the Bible being left in it to the instructors. This is a positive profession of the worst form in which Popery arrays itself on this subject. If, sir, the publication of this preface shews how completely infidelity prevails, that the contrary feeling does not even arouse the professors of it to any guardedness in its expression, we may at least feel thankful that those whose eyes have not been closed by its delusions should receive a warning from its openness as to the position they are placed in. But I cannot help asking what will the clergy do as to the archbishop, who cheerfully leaves the use of the sacred volume to the popish instructors of the children? Is there any integrity left?

But I must turn briefly to a few details as to the volume itself. All that is objectionable it would be endless to notice. In the first place, What is the effect of the existence of such a book? Two translations were in existence. One which Christians in this country put forward as substantially containing the words of eternal life, and for which they appeared in verification of the things which they brought forward to those whom they believed to be in darkness as of the love and mercies of God Himself, concerning their everlasting peace. But there was also another in use among a large body of those amongst whom they laboured as witnesses for the word and love and truth of God, or at least recognised by them as more peculiarly their own Testament. But on comparison of these they were found to be so similar as to give credit to the version which they had been taught to consider as heretical, and very commonly the work of Satan himself; and to discredit those who had attempted to invalidate its authority as a bad book, and thereby keep them in darkness; whereas it was now found to be so much accordant with their own, and, what was more important, to substantiate all the truths by which those who laboured among them as Christians sought to deliver them from their darkness into the light of God’s own truth. And thus, under the circumstances of the case, that which was in itself an evil became in effect, in many instances, the instrument of God.

But what is the effect of this new translation but to declare that neither the one nor the other of them was a sufficiently correct representation of the scriptures to be used in the ordinary instruction of children in the schools? A portion is taken from one here, and from the other there, while both are frequently made to yield to the fancies of the new translator, who can validate the one here, and invalidate the other there, or often reject, and whose authority therefore is paramount to both. Nothing can exceed the malignancy of thus unsettling the authority of the only sources from which the peasantry of Ireland drew their knowledge of truth, and to which alone they could refer as corrective of errors, or by which they might know the certainty of those things which have been taught by the Lord and His apostles. It is precisely the point at which Popery had been aiming all through. Thus far, then, the direct object of this work is to deprive the peasant entirely of the authority of scripture in any reference he may make for truth, by virtue of that in which he is instructed from infancy, under the authority of those to whom that instruction is entrusted, in which Protestants themselves have acquiesced! And if he be indeed led to scripture, as the preface states, he is led to a discredited version, for which he has now no substitute; for the other is alike invalidated, and the unhappy man is left in all the uncertainty as to his best hopes, in which it is the delight of infidelity to plunge him. And can we be surprised, if we know anything of human nature, and especially of the habits of those to whom this work is addressed, if the authority here put forward shall effectually invalidate their confidence in scripture?

And thus for the sake of a paltry selection for the use of schools, from which the truths of scripture are excluded, and to minister to the vanity of one man, all the existing translations are declared worthless, all the corrective sources of truth are, as far as these Commissioners are able to do it, at one blow annihilated for the whole unlettered population of the country. Here is a work coming with the authority of Government. The Commissioners of Education; two archbishops, and they both of one place; a doctor of divinity, who is one of the educators of ministers themselves; and a dissenter who has a great deal of divinity without being a doctor at all (besides dukes, and remembrancers, and lawyers) agreeing not only to reject the scriptures, but in what they did admit of them, to reject both the existing translations; and this, not even preferring any other, but that in fact and representation of the mind of God it was so imperfect and so uncertain that the opinion of a single man was sufficient to subvert it. Nevertheless, the authority of these Commissioners is pledged to this: not only that this is truth, but “truth recorded under the influence, of inspiration.” Whatever previous translations may have been, this the child is given to know is a record “under the influence of inspiration.”

And thus again, further, we have practically the authority of man made available for what is truth, and what is recorded under the influence of inspiration. The scriptures they had certainly were not; for the translator is sufficient authority to alter them, but on the authority of Dr. Whately, Dr. Murray, etc., the children may receive this, and this much, as recorded under the influence of inspiration, and therefore trust in it; and therefore, observe, not trust in either of the existing translations, for if this be, they are not. But this is not all: much is added and mixed up with the extracts which is not scripture. I shall be told that usually this is printed in different type. Why usually? But in point of fact they very constantly are not so printed. And can we be surprised if, with the authority there is. for this work amongst the people, such a radiance of light and authority sanctioning its statements, a mere mask such as this be lost sight of by a child?

And not only are large portions given with only this discrimination, but even a note appended upon a point of translation, so that the distinction between what is scripture and what is not (some of the abstracts being printed in smaller type) is made as indeterminate and various as possible: but the whole, observe, given to be received as conveying the history upon the authority of man. It is quite manifest that, while what is scripture is made to rest on the authority of man, the whole would be received by the children at school as one book with equal authority, as coming from the men from whom the authentication of the scripture itself came: if there were any difference, the notes being looked upon, filled as they are with a smattering of learning, as the most important, and freshest from the authority itself, of the whole; for we must observe that this further principle of Popery has been secured in this selection, namely, that the scripture is not intelligible without notes. I am not conscious of a single principle between God and Popery (for that is the true light to see it in), which has not been carefully secured on the side of Popery, with the acquiescence of Protestants, by this little but most important tract.

Extracts under the influence of inspiration, as man will have it, abstracts, headings, and notes; they are all, moreover, presented to the child as scripture lessons; and this, sir, you must observe, is no augmentative effort, in the course of which its real character may be brought to light, but the habituation of the mind from childhood to these feelings and thoughts, by Protestants and Roman Catholics both, and the practical obliteration of every point which characterised Protestant truth and the authority and certainty of the word of God. Besides this, sir, care has been taken to separate one part of scripture from another; so that, such as it is, it should not be received in continuity and associations in which God has placed it, but in those into which man should draw it; and this, sir, instead of the healthful and refreshing streams of God’s word.

In a word (while the testimony of God has been impugned in its authority, deprived of its authenticity, but presented ordinarily to the poor, and all its truth abstracted as here given, so that irreparable mischief has been done to all) care is taken that the poor little Roman Catholic shall not see the light, the Protestant is ensnared by the wicked and lying presence of Scripture Lessons. I would call them Commissioners’ Lessons that people may know and note the real baseness of their origin, that they come from a body the majority of whom deny the faith of God, as all are unworthy of the confidence of men. Let scripture be given in the full current of its own blessed truth, and it will not only refresh those that indeed drink of its waters, and carry comfort and fertility all around to the dwellers on its banks where we perhaps can trace no immediate communication of its life-giving power, but, if the evil of man should be thrown upon it, carry it all down till it is lost in that ocean from which it took its source; and all shall still drink of its streams in abiding freshness and unchanged purity. But if we will be turning it into the reservoir which our pride has made for itself, the petty pools which may seem indeed great works for man, not only shall we lose the blessing, sir, but mound upon mound may be raised to stem the evil of its perverted power, and alas! in vain. It will surely break all through, and lay all below in one wide scene of stagnant desolation and corruption, which none shall inherit, and none shall stay; but the cormorant and bittern shall possess it, the wild beast of the desert, and the wild beast of the island. Evil shall reign there; and he who would then seek to remedy it shall but lose himself in the deadly evil and malignancy of the whole scene around, the seat and witness of the power of the enemy and of the wrath of God.

Such, sir, will be the sure result of an effort to make communion between that which God has utterly separated by the very existence of the stream of His living word. It shall prove the desolation of infidelity and wickedness over both. No person can estimate the mischief which the successful use of these falsely called Scripture Lessons would work. It is the most deliberate triumph of papal infidelity which has yet been achieved. This has been put out as a trial. The man, sir, who voluntarily gives up one sentence of scripture breaks his responsibility to God and gives up all. He gives up its authority, and then all is given up. He has given up the great point of allegiance to God. But in point of fact, I challenge Dr. Whately, Dr. Sadlier, and Mr. Carlile, to shew one single point on the scriptural question between Protestants and Roman Catholics, which has not been given up to the Roman Catholics by the publication we are considering. I challenge them to shew a single point yielded by the Roman Catholics, and a single one not yielded by themselves. And, Protestants, remember, this is a point of allegiance to God; and God will judge by the public acts of the body, and will take the acts of its leading individuals as the act for which all are responsible. For how came it to be done, if it was jonly the act of an individual? These things will be taken by God, and are, as representations of the state of the body. No church ever fell by evil from without; but if it give up its allegiance to God, why should God preserve it?

If Protestants looked upon Dr. Whately, Dr. Sadlier, and the like, as mere common blasphemers of God’s word, and with much more responsibility than the Roman Catholics, because they say “we see,” and therefore their sin remaineth, could these acts of their take any effect? Clearly not. If, on the other hand, I am told the nominal place of authority in which Dr. Whately is set makes it wrong so to deal with them— makes it necessary to own them, then, I say, the church of Ireland is gone, its judgment is pronounced, the sign of judgment is on it from God; for by virtue of its very structure, by the obligations it is under, it is obliged to allow of evil, of the denial by its authorities of the principles on which it was founded, as acknowledged by God. The Protestant church exists by virtue of the acknowledgment of the word of God. This word has been denied by its public authority, and the inhabitants of the country cheerfully left for the instruction of popish priests. The church of Ireland either can or cannot reject this apostasy, from the public sanction which it now receives within its bosom. If it can and does not, its guilt will be apparent. If it cannot, then, I say, God is exhibiting the circumstances which will justify His proximate judgment. It has ceased to be available for the purpose of His public testimony in the land, the very object for which it had its position. The hand of God is upon it. He may bless its ministers individually; but the authority of the system may be used for the purpose of denying the principles on which God founded it. It has been so used, and then comes judgment. If Dr. Whately must be recognised, after this book and its preface have gone forth, in the place of authority in what God heretofore set as the Protestant church, the judgment of God must be recognised also by the church to which he belongs, as impending on it. I repeat it, a shameful and vital dishonour has been done to God by the Protestant church, as to the very principle for the maintenance of which God instituted and owned it. If it cannot reject and repudiate it, then, I say, it stands with the public acknowledgment, that it is absolutely incompetent to maintain this position; nay, that it is competent for one holding its authority to be joined with Papists and Socinians in denying this principle: and for what is God to own it any longer? Is Protestantism to be sustained when it allows of the far worst part of Popery? and for what? Those concerned may slight the question, but this will only prove the truth of the result. We shall see how it will be in fact. Which is worst, the Roman Catholic who instructs, or the Protestant teacher or professed teacher who cheerfully leaves the instruction to them, and the children, of course, to their instruction, taking care only that they shall not have the scriptures? Judge ye. I know how God judges; and if the Protestant ministers do not exert themselves, they shall have a share of the judgments that must follow.

To secure the better acquiescence in the authority of this tract, the translator in the preface tells us that the extracts are a literal translation from the original; but, in the unhappy blindness which often accompanies the desertion of God’s word in seeking another object, he has contradicted himself in the same pages: “The translation has been made by a comparison of the Authorised and Douay versions with the original.” Now every one knows, sir, that the Douay is not, and does not profess to be made from the original at all, but from the Vulgate; and, truly, forming a text by the comparison of this and another translation with the original is not translating at all, certainly not literally from the original. And there are passages taken from the Douay, and important ones too, where is little or no authority for positive variations from the original save that of the Vulgate itself. It may be very well to set upon the front of the statement that it is a literal translation of the original. It was thus Mr. Belsham exerted himself. But it is too bad to find in the same page that it is a comparison of the translation of a translation with another translation which we have after all; and that, in fact, this authority is knuckled to in many instances. Will anybody believe that planting a garden from “the beginning” in Eden was introduced instead of eastward,32 because it was more literal? In “Eden” he was forced to retain the authorised translation for sense’s sake, though the Douay and Vulgate translate it otherwise; but then he was to give no advantage to either side: so Mikkedem must be translated “from the beginning,” though he confesses the Hebrew word has both senses, and the place is confessedly to the eastward. But he was not satisfied with putting “in Eden,” but he must assert the integrity of the Douay, “pleasure,” in a note, the assertion of which would make nonsense of this and other places if “translated literally,” and which is directly negatived by the point as far as they go. But this, sir, is comparatively an immaterial instance, save as to the wickedness of unsettling all the certainty of scripture in the minds of man.

We may pass to others. The Second Man from heaven, heavenly; here we have in a note, or the Lord from heaven. Now, sir, this is no question of translation at all. If the compiler translates “heavenly,” he does so by admitting a different reading, which, though probable, is not received in the original by any. But it is in the Douay: and here the Douay has not merely its own value as a witness, but its conventional value as one of the things to be compared with. Therefore, in spite of the original, we have the Douay version; and indeed I have not stated this fully, for although several manuscripts exclude the term “Lord,” the “heavenly” has scarce any support at all. This is pure concession to the Douay and Vulgate.

In the same lesson we have the note to the Douay version, of which so much has been heard; that the sense is the same, whether we read it according to “the original” “it,” that is, Jesus Christ, or “she,” the woman. What do people mean by the sense being the same, “for,” etc.? Do the Commissioners think the sense is the same? No, sir, the children must be troubled with the intricacies of philological speculation. Not that any honest man would have any difficulty here, but Popery must be yielded to in its worst form: this is a pure concession, and that of the word of God, to Popery.

The Commissioners, or some of them, it is manifest, did not think the sense the same, or the note would not be given as a “note to the Douay version.” But they would not exercise an independent opinion. It was not the truth of the thing, but concession to what they believed to be false. And this is the character of the whole work. “Divers of the fathers and the Latin.” What is all this? Is it right, or is it wrong? “Translated literally from the original.” Why so carefully preserved, if it be wrong? What is there of it in the original from which the translation has been made? It is written, sir, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” I do definitely charge here the whole of the Commissioners with introducing here what they know to be false, to yield to, or secure, according to the credit of their respective parties, the credit of papal falsehoods. But are the poor children to be subjected to this? They must, sir; they cannot help themselves. These are days of liberty, but not for them.

If ever there was thorough devilish wickedness, it is this Commission; and the worst people in it are the so-called Protestant ministers: we shall see their end.

I may note here a most important comment in the shape of a question: “Why has death passed upon all men?” —a question no way warranted by the structure of the sentence.

In the next lesson, sir, we have a gross dereliction of the original to let in the Douay, and that in a point directly involving the worst principles of Popery. “Whosoever is not just [or righteous] is not of God, nor he that loveth not his brother.” Now, sir, what “original” is this translated from? The Vulgate and some of the fathers: what miserable dishonesty is this! “He that doeth not righteousness” is the original and the English version. But the Douay must be conciliated. No other possible reason can be assigned for the deviation from the original.

I said, sir, that it was in connection with the worst principles of Popery by which a man is not just as before God by virtue of the work of Christ, but his own state. We have a very Jesuitical note on this subject which shews that it did not escape the Commissioners’ observation, and may account for the departure from the original here. “Righteousness, justice. The word rendered in the Authorised version, righteousness, and in the Douay, justice, sometimes signifies the virtue of justice or uprightness, and sometimes the condition of a man, who is just, or justified before God, through the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. To express the latter sense, Roman Catholic English translators are accustomed to use the word justice. Protestant translators more frequently use the word righteousness” (p. 39). The cold-hearted wickedness of these men! Well said the prophet, “The unjust knoweth no shame.” They use a different word, and to shew their unity the commissioners will use both; but as to sense Roman Catholics and Protestants are quite agreed as to righteousness or justification. “This latter sense,” common of course to both, is expressed by one, so, and by the other more frequently (not always, I suppose), so. Indeed! In fact, translators are the only people concerned.

It is a pity we had not Mr. Carlile before, and we should have been spared all the trouble about this way of righteousness. There is no question as to the truth of God. All the artillery of the Council of Trent might have been spared. “A man,” quoth the note, “just or justified before God through the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and this “latter sense,” etc. The Council of Trent says, “if any one says that men are justified either by the imputation of Christ’s justice (or righteousness, as Protestants) alone, or by the remission of sins alone, grace and charity being excluded, which is poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit and inheres in them; or also that the grace whereby we are justified is only the favour of God, let him be anathema.” Again, sir, “this disposition or preparation justification itself follows, which is not the remission of sins alone, but also sanctification and renovation of the inner man through the voluntary reception of grace and gifts; whence a man from unjust becomes just.” Again, the instrumental cause is baptism; and again, “with which endued” (that is, the justice of God) “we are renewed in the spirit of our mind; and are not only accounted but are truly called and are just, receiving justice in ourselves which the Holy Spirit distributed (or bestows) to each as He will, and according to the proper distribution and co-operation of each.”

Convenient it may be to Mr. Carlile, and it may be to others of his coadjutors to get this “latter sense “identified with the righteousness which is imputed to us if we believe on Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Convenient it may be to shew that Protestants, when they speak of righteousness before God, have the same sense (merely more frequently using a different word) as when a poor misguided Roman Catholic talks of justice, which, according to the well-defined opinions of the apostate Council of Trent, he is taught must be inherent; and that all simple confidence in the remission of sins by the offering of Jesus Christ once for all, by the which He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified, is but the vain confidence of the heretics.

But where is honesty and the truth of God? The direct force of this passage is to give the notion that justification before God, through the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, is held in the same sense by Protestants and Roman Catholics. Perhaps Mr. Carlile does, and very likely his so-called Protestant coadjutors may; but if it be so, where is truth, or what are we to expect as to the education of the poor, if the Protestant Commissioners forsooth think thus? Here is a positive announcement, under the notion of accounting for two words being used, that the sense in which Protestants and Roman Catholics consider this subject is the same; and yet, if I am not much misinformed, Mr. Carlile thinks he gains much from his Popish coadjutors in this matter. But I never knew a case in which the devil was not more cunning than any one that undertook to do his business in the hope of cheating him. And so it is here. I said the note was Jesuitical; Popish hands have been in it, I am sure; for, while it identifies the Protestant righteousness with Roman Catholic justice, it completely secures the Popish view of the subject itself. And in anxiety for this, the very sense of the passage is sacrificed; for the note, if scrutinised, is nonsense. It first states that justice, in the Douay, means either the virtue of uprightness, or the condition of a man, etc.; and then states that Roman Catholic translators use the word justice to express the latter. And now notice the result: justice, and therefore Protestant righteousness, signifies the virtue of uprightness or what? The fact of our acceptance with God? The forgiveness of our sins? Righteousness being accounted to us? Are these ideas admitted? Not at all, but the condition of a man who is justified before God, through, etc. Now this is exactly the distinction of Popery, the distinction of the Council of Trent.

This one note is the surrender of the vital question between Protestants and the deniers of the truth of the church of Rome; and for which the Lord gave Himself, just as the book itself gives up the authority of the scriptures. Say, that Protestants mean by righteousness, besides practical uprightness (as in the previous perverted text, “he that doeth not righteousness”), a man’s being accounted absolutely righteous before God, by virtue and on account of the death, and evinced by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; and that this consists in the absolute non-imputation of all or any sin: the Roman Catholic starts away. The truth has touched the vitality of his system. Tell him that justice means the condition of a man who is just or justified before God through the atonement, etc., and he agrees at once. Tell him, this is all a Protestant means by righteousness, and he says, You may fraternise with us: there is nothing to hinder you. And in truth there is not. And why put in the note at all? The text told the truth; therefore the note must be put in to say, that, by believing in God, Abraham was in the condition of a man who was justified before God through, etc., and that in fact this was all Protestants meant by the words.

What God means, sir, is not the question with the Commissioners. They must, somehow or other, make the scriptures suit both parties; but the way we see they do this is, where the scriptures speak plain Protestant sense, the passage is not to be left out (that might give a handle), but, what is worse, it being introduced, it is to be shewn in a note that Protestants understand it in no other sense than Roman Catholics themselves do. Either Mr. Carlile and the other so-called Protestant members introduce this note, or the Popish members. If the former, then we have an open wilful purpose upon their part to neutralise the truth of scripture; where left to itself, it speaks Protestantism. If the latter, where scripture passages speak Protestantism, the former are obliged to allow the latter to introduce their comments with their sanction, that Protestants themselves think no otherwise on these subjects than they do. But they do, sir; and though Archbishops may deny the faith and take part with Papists, and though Mr. Carlile should give up the authority and obliterate the truths of scripture which he once professed, I trust there are many, if need were, to lay down their lives for what they have been doing their utmost to suppress in this book and their whole work in this matter, and to deprive their poor countrymen of (though that they are not). They have taken away the key of knowledge; they would not enter in themselves, and those that would enter in they hinder. They have done worse j they are giving the sanction of the profession of the truth to those who are doing so of old. Of the two at this moment, far rather would I be the Roman Catholic Archbishop than Dr. Whately or Mr. Carlile; and I must ask, if Popery be recognised, what business has Dr. Whately to be Archbishop at all?

I have said sufficient to shew the character of this book to those who have ears to hear. Others I cannot expect to influence in these days of apostasy. Those who love money better than principle, and seek the cover of the name of Archbishops and Protestants for their own acquiescence in infidelity and Popery, may be expected to receive their bounty and rejoice in the wages of their iniquity; but the curse of deceived thousands will await them when all is unveiled.

I might mention other instances of the sublime morality which their suppression of parts of scripture has secured; as that concubines were an inferior sort of wives which men were permitted to have in ancient times—by God, I suppose, though it is not stated whether before the fall, or whether it was an allowance to their passions after it. But when principle is gone, such things can excite no surprise. They fancy it is virtue, and they must rescue scripture—virtuous men!—from the charges to which it might be liable, when they cannot help stating the facts as God stated them. Though why this should have been introduced at all, unless to state that “concubines were permitted,” it would be hard to tell. But these are trifles; the principle of the book is the thing. It is badly executed indeed besides; immaterial things introduced, no scriptural thread in the story, as alienated from the scriptural concatenation of the subjects as possible, a sort of epistle and gospel, collectanea to suit the tastes of the compiler, everything to efface the forms and associations of God’s scriptures, and to present merely an allowance framed by the wisdom of man out of scripture; and this itself not under the influence of any peculiar views of Christianity, doctrinal or practical; the open renunciation of Protestantism in form and substance; in form the scriptures, in substance as here stated. And so much so, that, where a passage might seem to favour Protestantism, it is expressly renounced in the note.

Now, sir, to preach Protestantism is one thing. That was not done in the old schools, unless the scriptures, even the Douay version, are Protestantism. But openly to renounce it and deny the scriptures is another; this was reserved for Dr. Whately, Mr. Carlile, and Dr. Sadlier, not for themselves, but under colour of their profession, for all the poor children in the country. A comfortable conscience they must have at the thought, if this system succeeds, that, as far as they can do, the children of 2,000,000 have been deprived of the scriptures, and of 5,000,000 completely, whom they cheerfully leave to the instruction of Popish priests. So at least, they say. I do not envy them their cheerfulness.

And here I close my painful task, in which we have seen the first fruits of a commission, founded on infidelity, in a work whose chief object is to desecrate the authority, and destroy the certainty, while it robs us of the truths, of scripture; and delighting in a scepticism, which, having no peculiar religious views at all, if the scripture should force any upon us, will take care to explain them away; and, having lost all regard of God in its desire to please men, will take care to do this toward those who are in authority, while the poor children, who are nominally committed to their care, they cheerfully leave to their instructors to teach whatever they please; only taking care of this, that, so long as they are under their control, the fresh breathings of God’s healthful and health-giving word and Spirit shall never reach their thirsty and gasping lips, while all they shall mix up for them, willing or unwilling, they must take. Well done, good and faithful servants!

Christian friends, the true light in which to look at it is this: there is no government in Western Europe now (that is, within the limits of the Roman Empire), which is not either infidel or papal. Almost the only public profession of the form of truth, which substantially remains within its existing limits or power, is the profession of a large body, however faithless, in Ireland. Against this the powers of Satan are directed, and in this effort the leading moral instrument is the new Board of Education. The document on which it was founded was a public manifesto of this. The conduct which it has pursued is here shewn to be suitable and accordant to it. The authority of the scriptures is surrendered and their truths covered.

Rouse yourselves, therefore, Christians. Trust not in man, nor in any child of man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put any confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put any confidence in princes. I expect them to have much success. It is a day in which wickedness is allowed to have much success, that it may meet its reward: but if we are faithful to God, they can have no success against us. Christians, therefore, exert yourselves; it is the wily effort of infidelity to poison and destroy your children, and the children of all around you. There is no help in your effort, I warn you so, but in God. Trust not in yourselves; lean upon God, and He will be with you. I have told you, nay they have told you themselves, that the governments of the earth with which we are concerned are infidel. Do you think they will care for the truth, or those who hold it? They do not pretend to it; but there is strength and favour in God. I say, trust in Him, act as Christians, and God will own you. I beseech you, by the mercies of God; that you bestir yourselves, that those who have ears to hear may escape this engulfing effort of infidelity. This is a question of Christianity: let every man do something to rescue the children from them. I do solemnly warn you all, Christian friends (and I think I have proved it, if proof is needed) that this is the effort of infidelity to destroy the public profession of the truth, and the souls of the children that are ensnared in it, and I warn those that are engaged in it, that they are involving themselves in the final judgments of God.

30 A letter intended to have been addressed to a periodical publication, by J. N. Darby. Dublin: R. M. Tims, Grafton Street, 1832.

31 It were easy to shew the baseness—infidelity is always base—of the cringing fawning language of this preface on the worst pride of evil; how while everything has been done to please Popery in the work (and they were right in giving up all thoughts of pleasing Protestants. They gave up that when they gave up the scriptures), the scriptures with them must be out Cæsar out nullus, for they fear God; yes, the opposition of the priests—always wise in their own generation—has been deprecated, even for this wretched production, with the most servile subserviency. But it was alike unprofitable and unnecessary to degrade the Board lower than it is in the eyes of every good and upright and God-fearing man. It was of more importance to shew the use which Satan proposed to make of this, in doing evil in the country, in the public renunciation by Protestants of the fear of God. For example, the cheerfully leaving to instructors the use of the sacred volume; the not imposing the lessons, but leaving them to the willing adoption of the conductors, whose well-being the Board honestly desires to promote; all this is an ill-concealed profession of leaving everything to the priests, who might themselves, as we know, kick, if anything were done which touched their absolute authority, in spite of the government, while it would blind the feelings of infidels. But, I say, it was of more importance to notice the effect of this, where this subservience was leading us, than merely take notice of the fact, for who could expect to bring a clean thing out of an unclean? The fear of God takes away the fear of man; but infidelity always makes a man a slave of the passions and baseness of others; “he that committeth sin is the servant of sin,” and of course must do the work of his master. But we may warn others from the effects.

32 I doubt myself that Mikkedem is ever used in the sense here given to it. It is used for “of old.”