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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 1


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When this subject came before the Upper House some time ago an article appeared in your columns which was unfavorable to the adoption of the measure. No more has been heard of the matter and yet we know a large proportion of the parents are favorable to Bible reading in schools. That the matter should yet be let alone is not surprising. It is not pleasant amid the bustle of life to agitate a question on which friends disagree. Others are disposed to let matters alone for the sake of peace. Moreover, it is a large question, with complications and difficulties, and it is not easy to treat of it in brief space with due regard to the grave interests involved. Nevertheless, it is a question which, as a matter of fact, is not being let sleep in those British communities where no satisfactory arrangement has been come to; it will not be let sleep in New Zealand, its importance demands consideration, and the difficulties ought to be faced. A great deal of misunderstanding and variance has arisen, which may be removed by a clear statement and candid consideration of the matters involved. For example, I have heard it said, and I have seen it in newspaper articles, that ministers, Sabbath school teachers and parents should do their duty and the difficulty would be removed. Again, I have seen this put forward: that the State has nothing to do with religion. Now these are mere assertions, emanating in most cases, I presume, from these who have never had any practical acquaintance with the subject. They seem to take for granted that what is aimed at is the conversion or spiritual well-being of the children only, which we grant are to be sought for by ministers or parents; whereas it can be shown that education has a moral side, and, the State, having taken it in hand, has to do with religion in that aspect, for the well-being of the State itself.

This is so well understood in a Christian country that the question may well be asked, how came it about that the reading of the Bible was ever excluded from the day schools. Was it the wish of the people? No, it arose from the exigencies of party strife in 1877. The result has not been satisfactoy. Coming, as most of us do, from lands where the Supreme Being is recognised, where the Bible is honored, it is not to be expected, in the laud of our adoption, where the Bible had a place in page 6 the State schools from their very establishment, that its total exclusion could be accepted as a solution of the difficulty. Under what pretext then has this been brought about in a Christian Country?