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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 1

The Object of Bible Reading

The Object of Bible Reading

in Government schools is that the scholars may know the truths that form the basis of all religion. When they know these then they know the truths that give sanction and authority to the laws of the State. The State recognises the Bible in so far as it has to do with the temporal affairs and well-being of the people, and it might prescribe a certain amount of it to be read for this purpose,—but totally to prohibit it is to go beyond all bounds. Society as constituted in these colonies has a claim upon the State that these truths shall be known, in view of the importance of the elementary truths of religion to the mind of every child in the community.

Apart from the duties of any Church or of any sect, the State which declares Education to be compulsory has an imperative duty to communicate a certain amount of religious truth.

If the State has nothing to do with religion, how came the use of the Bible and prayer into our Houses of Legislature,—how come it into our Supreme and Magistrate's Courts,—and now come religious instruction to be given in our Government schools? It came in the ordinary way of legislation, and it was part of the Education Ordinance. The State has taken to do with religion, and it cannot do otherwise in accordance with the constitution and laws of the country. In this matter of education it is not competent for the State to prohibit the page 10 Bible unless it can be shown that the Christian religion does not pre vail, and that Secularism predominates among the people. And here it will be appropriate to consider how it was in this country previous to the alteration of the Education Act in 1877.

The Canterbury Report, published in 1863, says:—"It would seem that the Government, by which is meant the Representative acting power of the people,—being professedly Christian, is bound in all its legislation, and not least in the matter of Education, to recognise Christianity, not on points on which it is the subject of human imperfections and infirmities, nor in the divisions of the community into rival sects violating the laws of the creed they profess, but as a general ruling principle in the life of State." And then, a little further on,—'The Commission do not think it necessary to enter into a discussion of the opinion held by some, that all but purely secular knowledge should be banished from our schools. Such a course would not satisfy the wants of the people generally; and further, without entering into the religious question, it would be impossible, in any system of teaching, which professed to tit men for the social and civil duties of every day life to ignore the existence of Christianity as pervading the laws, literature, and institutions of the civilised world. In a Christian country no one could be called educated who was ignorant of the Christian Scriptures, to which our civil institutions are so largely indebted."

There are two points here worthy of special attention—the one is that it would be impossible for teachers who are doing their duty efficiently to ignore Christinity. The State, then in prohibiting the Bible has crippled teachers in fitting men for the social and civil duties in a country the laws and literature of which are so largely impregnated with Christianity. The other point is this: that no one could be called educated who was ignorant of the Christian Scriptures.