Speech Delivered At A Meeting

Held For The Purpose Of Promoting Scriptural Education33


My only title to the attention of the meeting, especially at this very advanced stage of our proceedings, is the deep interest which I take in the question before us. I shall not, however, long occupy your time. It was spoken of, as supposed, that the existence of the new system of National Education arose out of the inefficiency of Educational Institutions. But this is an error—for such a supposition there is no ground whatsoever. The real cause was, as expressed and avowed in a letter upon which the new system is based, that making the use of scriptures in schools a sine qua non was a “vital defect”; because doing so was inconsistent with the principles of the Roman Catholic church. These are the words of Mr. Stanley to the Duke of Leinster. This was the principle upon which the new system is based, because the scriptures were opposed to the principles of Roman Catholics, and because Scripture Educational Societies would not mortify this principle; that is, because they would not remedy this “vital defect,” by giving up, either wholly, or partially, the Book of God! because they would not relinquish a duty which they owed to God, and to their fellow-creatures, by giving up all that is valuable in time and in eternity. The scriptures are valuable, because they came from God. Give them up and what have we that we can sanction, as having proceeded from Jehovah? Nothing in the world. This is the foundation of the Board—that in the use of the scriptures by other Institutions there was a “vital defect.”

This consideration should prevent all adhesion, or countenance, to the Board of Education. It is an infidel expression to affirm that instruction in the Bible is a “vital defect”; but it has been acted on, and what is the consequence? That there is not one single principle of truth concerning the gospel, which rests on revelation, that is not given up by the new system. I say, every one of them is given up. The principle of justification, the authority of the word of God, and all that useful and absolutely necessary knowledge which revelation imparts—all are discarded from the Book of Extracts.

I quite agree in the observations advanced by Mr. Bagot, on the part of all who value, and who can appreciate revelation. There should be no compromise. By the Board these extracts are allowed—religious teachers are allowed—Protestant and Roman Catholic teachers are allowed; but there is one thing unallowable—the scriptures. These are to be removed from the schools.

Observe, it is also stated in Mr. Stanley’s letter that, though there was no attempt made to proselytise by Educational Societies, yet there was in them a “vital defect”; because they required the Bible to be used in their schools. It was then not any unavowed use of the opportunities which these schools afforded which formed the ground of objection to them—any attempt to proselytise. This is professedly disclaimed by Mr. Stanley’s letter. He declares there was no such attempt made. It was solely, singly, and simply the use of the scriptures. This was the “vital defect.” This statement of Mr. Stanley’s puts in the strongest light the discharging the schools from all other offence than the real point that they had— the scriptures. This, and this alone, was the thing which made the other schools necessary; in order to the exclusion of these they are professedly set up.

There is another point in Mr. Stanley’s letter: he states that the strenuous exertions of the priests were directed against these scripture schools. Now, this shews distinctly that the objection to the attendance of children at schools, where the Bible was taught, was not on the part of their parents, but on the part of priests. From whence arose the necessity of these strenuous exertions on the part of the priests, but because, that without them the children would have been sent, and that it required them all to keep the parents from so sending their children? And it is further evident, because in spite of the priests, large numbers of Roman Catholics attended scripture schools. I think there were not less than 133,000 children attending the one class of schools in which the scriptures were read, and from which the government grant was taken away, at the time the Education Commission inquiry was appointed. At that time the priests were exceedingly active to diminish the numbers; but, notwithstanding all their exertions, there remained about 100,000 children in those schools. It need hardly be said that the thirty-odd thousand which were removed were Roman Catholics. But it appeared from the report of the Commissioners, founded on the returns of both persuasions, that the majority of these 100,000 which remained were Roman Catholics, shewing the very great predominance of Roman Catholic children attending the scriptural schools, in spite of the exertions of the priests, which Mr. Stanley affirmed to be so unceasingly used. And thus we find, that the scriptures were not objected to by Roman Catholics, but that they were unpalatable to the priests.

I believe the principle upon which this Board is founded is infidelity. I believe it to be the grand expression and instrument, in this country, of that infidelity which is making such rapid strides. This Board professes to give a translation from the original. But what has it done? It has completely removed from the mind any resting-place at all. It gives us a few extracts as a substitute for the entire word of God, and which we are to believe will answer every purpose. By giving us a new translation, it discredits those which exist as unworthy of all credit—that it would be improper to put them into the hands of children; and it dissociates the minds of children from their phraseology, so as just to make them used to neither of them as the accredited testimony of God. It depreciates not only the authorised version, but also, with all its faults, the Douay version. But let the Roman Catholic read the Douay version. With all its defects, he will learn there all the fundamental truths of Christianity; and what is more, if he take the trouble to compare it with the authorised version, he will discover a real similarity—he will discover that the one is so like the other, as to be convinced that the authorised version is the word of God. But those extracts are not like either—and yet, the scriptures are taken away—the ordinary translations discredited—and none whatever given in their room, but a set of extracts afforded, which equally reflect on the authorised and the Douay: so that when the child, in after days, should turn to them, he will find, what from his early days he has learned is no authentic testimony to the truth. This is the great effort of infidelity, to sweep away from man the only warrant he has for faith and practice—the word of the living God—to give up the profitable study of which we are to be supplied with extracts which give no instruction on subjects doctrinal or practical; and yet we are informed in the preface, “that these extracts have been compiled in the hope of their leading to a more general and more profitable perusal of the word of God.”

I beg your attention to this further point: we have seen it stated that these extracts have been compiled in the hope of their leading to a more general and more profitable perusal of the word of God; and yet, a little lower down, we read, “that no passage has either been introduced or omitted under the influence of any peculiar view of Christianity, doctrinal or practical.” The only authority for doctrine or practice is God’s word; but in extracts information on neither is to be had. There we can ascertain no views of Christianity. And yet they were “compiled to lead us to the more profitable perusal of God’s word.” That is, while the word of God is taken away from the children in its own simplicity and fulness, with the aid of extracts (which cast contempt on our translation, and the Douay) we learn that we profitably peruse the word of God, when we deduce no views from it either doctrinal or practical!

Thus, in these extracts I find not only the foundation of its authority, but the superstructure of the value of all Christian truth completely swept away. I am now reasoning on the shewing of the abettors of the Board of Education. But is not every view of Christianity peculiar? The natural mind wants no Christianity, because it loves sin; it hates religion. Take away then from the Bible all the peculiar views of Christianity, and you take away all religion. Every view is peculiar to sinful man; and those peculiar views are alone contained in that revelation, which Jehovah has communicated to the world. They are peculiar, or it would not be a revelation. Take away what is peculiar, and you take away all that is revealed—all that is valuable to a sinner—and leave him to the natural and prejudiced darkness and infidelity of his own mind.

Again, the Commissioners say that they offer these extracts from scripture to the careful attention of teachers and children, not only as truth, but as truth recorded under the influence of inspiration, etc. This thing is so far from correct that in these extracts we discover the most wicked garbling of truth; and in connection with this monstrous production, one circumstance I must allude to is the change discoverable in the type. In one place it is large, in another small; as if the passage printed in one description of type imported that they were scripture, and those printed in another description of type were not scripture. This is not the fact. Following extracts, or parts of this pretended new translation, are passages in precisely the same type which are not extracts of any sort, but abstracts in man’s language; and, of course, according to man’s judgment. How then is the child to ascertain what is scripture, and what is not? Besides, except the difficulty of reading where the type is different, as it sometimes is, will a child make such nice distinctions in a book presented to it, as truth recorded under the influence of inspiration? Moreover, the introduction of small type gives, if it does anything, authority to the large as the word of God; and thus, what is partly extracts from God’s word, and partly man’s statements is given on the authority of men, of the Board, as truth recorded under the influence of inspiration. Could anything be more remarkable than to exclude the word of God, and to substitute these extracts with such a character? The poor child is given the book of extracts, abstracts, and notes, not only as “truth, but as truth recorded under the influence of inspiration”; that is, it is truth “recorded under the influence of inspiration,” whether we believe that the woman, or our Lord Jesus Christ, is our Saviour.

Now, I ask, where will the child learn the difference whether the large print—the small print—or the note respecting the Virgin Mary, is or is not scripture? And are not all these peculiar views alone contained in that revelation which Jehovah has communicated? They are peculiar, or would not be to the world a revelation. Take away what is peculiar, and you take away all that is revealed—all that is valuable as mercy to a sinner; and leave him to the natural total darkness or infidelity of his own mind.

Again, the Commissioners say, that “they offer these extracts from scripture, to the careful attention of teachers and children, not only as truth, but as truth recorded under the influence of inspiration,” etc. And why have they taken the scriptures away? They cheerfully leave them to those they think wrong; they care for nothing more. They who call themselves Christians and Protestants would leave the rising generation to the religious instruction of the Romish priesthood! I could not cheerfully leave them to such “religious instructors”; nor will you, I trust, sanction such a system. But such is the professed plan of the Board.

But we find men who would divest the word of God of all authority—who would take out of it everything which regards doctrine or practice—who would deprive children of that word, which is able to make them wise unto salvation, “through faith, which is in Christ Jesus.” They would first do all this, and then transfer them for instruction to a priesthood who are opposed to the use of the scriptures in any form. But why leave religious instruction in the word of God to the priests? The Board has no influence over the priests to command them to communicate religious information, even if they were qualified. It is said, the Lord dements those He would destroy. In these lessons, which we are told are drawn from the sacred volume, we discover every principle of infidelity and enmity arrayed against the children who are under such instruction; and yet these things are called “Scripture Lessons”; but they are “Lessons” which have garbled scripture—which deprive the children, by such a miserable substitute, of the use of scripture.

But who are those men who have thus attempted to mistranslate and garble God’s holy word? It is time that Christian principle should avow itself, and that Christians should abide by the word of God, in spite of infidelity. Shall we, as Christians, acquiesce in such a deliberate exclusion of the word of God from the education designed for the instruction of the children? The scriptures are for the use of all. It is the privilege of all to read them. But this is not the ground the question stands really on. The Board hinders, and joins even in hindering the reading of any but such part as in its wisdom it thinks fit to give; but it does a great deal more: in asserting the communication of the scriptures, it is not merely the hearers’ or readers’ right that is impugned, but God’s who gave and sends them. If I were to send a letter to my servant, and you should intercept it, you not only wrong my servant and hinder him, but you interfere with me. You prevent my message from reaching him—you are interposing between my authority and my servant—you are destroying my right to direct, as well as, and much rather than his. The Board has entered into direct conflict with God. Its conduct admits of no palliation; nor does it admit of the question of arrangement—for all who join such a system are also at direct issue with God.

The question is, Shall I adopt these extracts for the word of God? shall I attend to the directions of the Board of Education, and violate the command of God? The Board says, “we cheerfully leave the children to their religious instructors” —that is, they leave the great mass of the children to no instruction at all. Just think of those who profess to believe in the doctrine of justification by faith, cheerfully leaving children to the religious instruction of individuals, who deny what they hold to be a fundamental truth—to those who deny the divinity of Jesus—or who reject that salvation which He accomplished when He offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin. Remember the principle on which this Board was established. Was it that Scriptural Societies making the Bible a sine qua non was a vital defect in their systems, because such a rule was contrary to the principles of the Roman Catholic church? But was this principle contrary to God’s command, contrary to His rule? No! Are we then to go at the bidding of man, contrary to God’s command? I hope not.

The character of infidelity in these days is not the avowed rejection of the truth. It is latitudinarianism in spirit and the conduct of the Board is the very representation and type of this. Instead of uniting men by bringing them to principle, it leads them to give up all principle, and acts upon their giving up all. Here we have a Protestant and a Roman Catholic Archbishop and others, giving up some one principle or another peculiar to themselves, that they might be qualified to combine to give up God’s principle—that all the country might be educated “without any peculiar view of Christianity, doctrinal or practical.” This is an insult to God. Why has God caused the Bible to be written? But here are men, who by their conduct say they are wiser than God, by giving us their book in place of His. We are also told that these are but extracts from the Bible, and don’t all of you use extracts? They are not merely extracts, but they are given as a succedaneum for the Bible. Suppose you purchased a loaf for your family, you take off for your use a slice, that is, an extract of the loaf; but you have always free access to the loaf when necessary— you would never imagine that, when you took an extract from your loaf, the loaf itself was taken away. That is quite another thing; yea, that you were given nothing but soiled and musty crusts, by one who kept the loaf to himself.

Extracts are exceedingly useful—I make use of extracts every day, when I read a chapter or more in the Bible; but if I read an extract from my Bible now, I have it to go to again, when I require it. I have my loaf always to go to; but the advocates against this “vital defect” of having the scriptures have no loaf. As regards them there is an end to the whole affair. The children of God owe to Him an undivided allegiance; they are bound, therefore, to abide by the word, which is able to make wise unto salvation—which makes the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. I trust, therefore, that those who have the means will support an institution whose great object is to communicate that instruction which is based on the unmutilated word of God. This is the day of decision.

The question now is—will the children of God be faithful or not? Will they secure to themselves the whole of God’s word; or will they, for the sake of a temporary advantage and at the command of man, give it up? I hope not. I believe this Board to be simply the work and instrument of Satan, though God shall overrule it to His own purpose. For to Him all power belongs; and though Satan may be permitted for wise ends to manifest himself for a time, yet the Lion of the tribe of Judah will ultimately overcome him, for He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

33 Banbridge, 1834.