Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 49

Liberal Christians and Secularists

Liberal Christians and Secularists.

The liberal Christian, led on by Henry Ward Beecher and a large body of clergymen of various Evangelical denominations, fancies that morals can be taught like good manners, on no higher ground or motive than the one of propriety or expediency. When interest, passion, the heart's cravings, outweigh propriety and expediency, morals thus taught go by the board.

The Free Religionist is at least consistent: consistency is more than the liberal Evangelical Christian can claim. The former rejects the idea of a God-Creator, revelation and all supernatural truths. He is justified in asking that his child shall not have its mind tinctured with such errors during school hours. He is resolute to drive out of the schools which he is taxed to support, and to which he sends his children, the sectarianism of Evangelicalism; and he is equally determined to plant in them his pet c'octrine, the sectarianism of Secularism. It is the usual reading of history that bodies of religionists never see themselves as others see them.

page 19

The religionist, Catholic and Christian, holding to divine and fixed truths, claims the right to impart a knowledge of these truths to his child in the school to which he sends it for education. The Free Religionist, having no such truths to communicate to his child, insists that his fellow-citizen shall not be allowed to use the schoolhouse for instruction in positive religion, because he sends his child to the same school. Thus, practically, he ostracizes the religion of the Christian, which is positive, and maintains his own, which is negative. All the gain is on the side of the Free Religionist, whose system of morals is so transcendental, and out of the reach of the masses, that it is valueless for practical good. Both call for the teaching of morals, and each in his own sense. The Evangelical bases his notions of morality on the natural and revealed law; the Free Religionist, or Secularist pure and simple, on the natural law, and as he conceives it. The latter would exclude the sacred Scriptures and all positive religious teaching from the schools. Evangelicals are divided into two classes. One class would retain the Bible as a text-book of instruction in morals, as a sign of the Christianity of the schools, and as a mode of religious worship. They argue with much truth that if, owing to the neglect of parents at home, the insufficiency of the Sunday-school and church to reach the children most in need of religious teaching, it be not imparted in the week-day school, it will never be imparted. Another class of Evangelicals remit the Bible and all teaching of morals on religious grounds to the family, the Sunday-school and the church, and join hands with the Free Religionists in prohibiting the name of God, of Christ, and of his teachings in the school. The least logical is this liberalized Christian Evangelical, who professes to teach morals without the authority in which he claims to believe. There is some justification for the page 20 stand taken by the former class of Evangelicals and by Free Religionists; there is none for the position assumed by Evangelicals who hold principles by which they care not to abide. The liberalized Christian and the Free Religionist assert that to be possible which, in the nature of things, is not possible. The teacher does not exist, who, in his schoolroom, can so divest himself of his own religious or irreligious ideas that no influence, direct or indirect, shall go out from him to his pupils. His very best efforts to escape the suspicion of sectarianism will only serve to tinge his teaching with in differentism toward all religion; thus unintentionally, perhaps, responding to the wishes of the Free Religionist. Scudding from Scylla, he is wrecked on Charybdis, or vice versa.

On what ground, we may now ask, does either protest against the peculiar religious teachings of the other in State Schools? Both are shocked that their taxes should be used to propagate religious creeds in which they do not believe. Neither has a word to say about the wrong perpetrated on the Catholic, whose taxes are used without stint to carry on a system of schools, from which he is kept out by their dominant Evangelicalism or indifferentism.