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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

[Appendix II.] — Tract 14. — The Secular Education League

[Appendix II.]

Tract 14.

The Secular Education League.

Among the many forcible arguments which have been adduced in favour of the "secular Solution" there would seem to be comparatively few which deal with the subject on distinctly Church lines. The object, therefore, of this appeal is to offer Churchmen a few reasons why they, before all others, should support the cause of the Secular Education League. And be it noted that the phrase "Secular Education" by no means implies hostility or in-difference to religion, but simply restriction, on principle, to secular subjects in the education which is provided in schools supported by the State.

"If there is one thing which differentiates a Churchman, it is surely the second of the three baptismal vows by which he is under obligation to "believe all the Article of the Christian Faith," These, according to his Catechism, are summed up in the twelve clauses of the Apostles' Creed. He cannot, therefore, be satisfied with any religious instruction other than that which is based on these formula, una which obviously cannot be given in schools which are as much the property of those who do not believe them as of those who do. "Simple Bible Teaching,"' as it is called, does not provide him with his religious knowledge, which is not derived primarily from the Bible, but from the teaching of the Church whose doctrine is anterior to the Books of the New Testament, and was at first transmitted by "oral tradition." Cardinal Newman, in "The Arians of the Fourth Century" (written fourteen years before he left the English Church), says;—"Surely the Sacred Volume was not intended, and is not adapted, to teach us our Creed, however certain it it that we can prove our Creed from it when it has once been taught us, and in spite of individual producible exceptions to the general rule. From the very first that rule has been, as a matter of fact, that the Church should teach the truth, and then should appeal to Scripure in vindication of its own teaching."

page 22

The converse of this is likewise a necessary axiom; for, just as the [unclear: BitiJ] vindicates the teaching of the Church, so also the teaching of the Chad interprets the Bible, which otherwise might be misunderstood, for "![unclear: il] prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation" (2 Pet, i. 20), Hence tor the Churchman, religious instruction is based upon the teaching of the Church plus the Bible—the two cannot be separated—for, according to the Articles, while (Art. Vlll.) "The Church hath authority in controversies of Faith," yet (Art. XX,) "Whatsoever is not read—in Holy Scripture-[unclear: nor] may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an Article of Faith."

This being the case, it stands to reason that in education provided by a State which is bound to respect the convictions of those who adhere to all sorts of beliefs, and of those who adhere to none, a Churchman cannot recognise a pro rata system of religious instruction.

And further, supposing that some contrivance could be discovered where by the State might authorise the teaching of Church doctrine in all its fulness he could not conscientiously be a party to it; for, according to his theory, there is only one body divinely commissioned to decide what is to be taught and that body is not the State, but the Church: and there is only one [unclear: til] of persons qualified to teach it—viz., those who are duty authorised by the Church and are fully persuaded as to the truth of what they teach.

Ever since the divine command to "Go and teach all nations" there has been laid upon the Church the obligation of providing for the religious instruction of the people. It is an obligation which cannot be transferred to an external body like the State, which, although it may be composed of those who profess Christianity, yet may include those who do not, and which does not in any way assume itself to be ecclesiastical. To hand over the right of imparting religious instruction to such an institution is to surrender one of the most sacred trusts committed to its charge, and [unclear: ant] which from the first age of its existence, has ever been most jealously guarded. For the history of the methods employed by the leaders of the early Christian Church is an evidence of the extreme caution with which they proceeded in the matter of religious education,

It is sometimes asked how the Church is to fulfil its obligation without being subsidised in some way by the State. The principal requisite is greater faith in its divine mission. If the bishops and clergy had a stronger [unclear: coo] viction that what they are divinely commissioned to undertake they will be divinely assisted to fulfil, this question need not be suggested, The first teachers of the Christian religion performed their task without either rate-[unclear: sid] or State-aid, and the result of their labour is still to be seen. Whereas now the object of leaders of religion seems to be to get done for them what they ought to do for themselves. Apropos of this it may be well to quote an utterance of the Bishop of Birmingham (Dr. Gore). Speaking to the Society of the Catechism in the Church House, he said: "We are now, more or less, in the middle of a crisis. We are always in the middle of a crises This crisis is about the religious question in our day schools. 1 would ask you, then, to get at the root of our difficulty. What Is it? The heart of our difficulty is partly that we have shifted on to the wrong shoulders the central function of teaching children; secondly, that we have so lost the Idea of what the teaching of the Church Is and the meaning of religious education that we are considered by the public to be unreasonable and uncompromising people if we are not disposed to admit that the County Councils can settle the standard of sufficient religious knowledge for everybody."

The difficulty as to means might be overcome to a considerable exteat if the Church would mind its own business, and leave to the State what the latter can do so much more effectively—and there is historical precedent for this—pace those who assert that education of all kinds can only be given in "a Catholic atmosphere." "During the first three centuries the Christian parent justified himself in sending his sons to pagan schools on the ground of simple necessity: and while Christian doctrine was taught by Christians secular knowledge was sought in the ordinary channels . . . and even page 23 the recognition of Christianity by the State does not appear to have pro-duced any sudden change in these conditions, The "Schools of the Empire,' as they were termed, not only continued to exist, but maintained their traditions of education unmodified" ("Dictionary of Christian Antiquities," Smith and Cheetham; Article "Schools," vol, ii., p. 1847).

It is not to be assumed that either Cardinal Newman or Bishop Gore would avowedly uphold the Secular Solution; but, both being men of integrity and sound common sense, they have made admissions which tell strongly in its favour.

Most assuredly, then, is it to the highest interest of Churchmen that they should unite with men of goodwill, who, although differing in their views of religion, are at one in their desire to promote peace and justice in the upbringing of the future generation.


W. Busby, M.A., Rector St. John's, Maddermarket, Norwich.

G. K. Chesterton.

C. Hallett, M.A., Vicar St. Barnabas, Oxford.

Stewart D. Headlam, B.A., L.C.C.

George R. Hogg, M.A., St, Albans, Holborn.

Donald Hole, A.K.C.

Selwyn Image, M.A.

D. C, Lathbury, M.A.

J. Mitchinson, D.C.L., Bishop, Master of Pembroke College, Oxford.

W. E. Moll, M.A., Vicar St. Philip's, Newcastle-on-Tyne.

Conrad Noel.

George W. E. Russell, M.A.

W. A. Spence, M.A., Vicar St. Frideroide, Oxford.