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subject, and an urgent necessity for new efforts in relation to it? Still farther, if we admit the fact, without reservation, it will not at all affect the question of duty and propriety ; for if it be established as a plain obligation devolving on those to whose care our youth are committed, to provide for their familiar acquaintance with a book which contains the only pure instruction in moral and religious truth, the question which remains, is one merely of the time and manner in which, it should be done. That it must be gradually done, as the opinion of the community and the state of schools shall permit, your Committee believe no one will doubt ; and it is for this reason that they consider the necessity more urgent, of commencing immediately.
But let the general question be decided, that this is to be an essential part of every course of study, and those who are candidates for the office of teacher will gradually be induced to prepare themselves for this, as for any other branch of instruction. The example of our Sunday schools, where all are volunteers, shows how soon a corps of useful and comparatively enlightened teachers may be formed, although they fall far short of the proper standard ; for the very obvious reason that they themselves have no adequate and appropriate means of instruction within their reach. The same reply must be made to the objection, that there are no suitable books upon the literature of the Bible.' The demand, as in all other cases, will produce the supply. They are already rapidly increasing. The polluted mythology of Greece and Rome, has its appropriate works in our own language from the ablest pens, to illustrate the character and attributes of its host of deities.
• Gods, partial, changeful, passionate, unjust,
Our youth must pore over these, for years of close and enfeebling study. Our teachers must spend days and nights to prepare themselves for teaching them. The press is burdened with books of every form and size, to illustrate the Classics, and History, and Geography, and the science of numbers ; but how few are there designed to facilitate the study of the Bible! It is because they are not called for. The same spirit of enterprise which furnishes one class, will supply the other as soon as there is a demand.
The same objection has been made, and if it be valid, must necessarily be made, against the introduction of every new branch of instruction; and it would compel us to arrest the progress of improvement. How few years have elapsed since mental Arithmetic, and Geography were deemed unsuitable to a common school ; and Natural History would have been regarded as utterly inadmissible. It would have been triumphantly replied to their advocates ; however useful they may be, they cannot be taught; and that cannot be a duty which is impracticable. Yet the two first branches of instruction are now almost universal; and the last is by no means uncommon. We must not err by regarding teachers as incapable of improvement, and of self-improvement also.
But if after all, teachers be found so ignorant and so indifferent to the subject, that they cannot or will not qualify themselves for as
sisting their pupils to comprehend a book, which should be the guide and manual of every instructer, we ask, whether it will not be a happy effect of this plan, should it lead to the employment of others ? Should the adoption of such a course of study prove the means of elevating the standard of character among our common school instructers — should it lead those to read and study the Scriptures, who now neglect them — this alone would be a result of immense value. It would improve the character, elevate the views, and soften and refine the feeling of the teacher, and present an example worthy of imitation to the pupil and would thus do more to promote the good order of our schools, than any code of laws.
SUPPOSED DANGERS OF THE STUDY. But we are sometimes told that the Bible will fall into unhallowed hands. It will be desecrated by the inattention and irreverence of some; it will be perverted by the false opinions of others. If this be true, the result will be satisfactory to those who regard it as a false and unworthy system of superstition. This objection, like the preceding, can only be adduced by the friends of the Bible, and the answer must of course be founded on their own principles. The case fairly stated according to their principles, seems to be this : 'There is a book which is generally admitted to contain the purest code of morals, the most elevated system of religious truth, which has ever appeared, which is made an object of reverence by our governments, which is regarded by the mass of the community as the revelation which God has sent, to direct us in the path of duty and happiness. The question before us is; shall this be taught to our youth, as regularly and as faithfully as other subjects of study ?' The objection brought is, that our youth are often entrusted to the care of men who are so ignorant or so indifferent or so opposed to this only standard of truth, that it is not safe to put it into their hands! Might not the same objection have been urged against committing Bible instruction to the ministers of the Christian Church, when after a long night of ignorance, its darkness and desolation were discovered? Is not the reply here, as it was there ;
Require them to teach the Bible, and you will soon make them better men, or procure others in their place.'
The deeper the shade in which the ignorance and incompetency of our instructers to teach the records of Divine Wisdom aright is portrayed, the more urgent the necessity for introducing it among their pupils, to compensate in some measure for this deficiency; or by making this deficiency obvious to the community, to induce the teacher to resign his station, or his employers to seek some one to occupy his place. Your Committee beg leave to ask, in what other mode we can hope to effect either of these objects ? Shall we wait upon the banks of the stream, for its waters to flow by ? Or shall we adopt the practice of some ancient surgeons, and instead of probing the wound, carefully preserve the instrument with which it was inflicted ? But as friends of the Bible, your Committee are not prepared to allow that it is dependent on human countenance, or human contempt, for its authority and influence on the minds of those who read it; or that it is unsafe to send it into a school, lest it should become the object of ridicule ; or that it is necessary to reform men,
before placing it in their hands. So far from this, they believe it to be the most efficient messenger of good; the best antidote for moral poison. They trust that few, very few teachers will be found, who will tre at the Bible with contempt; but were they directed to devise soine means of supplying the defects, or counteracting the scoffs of such teachers as have been described, or of winning over a school or community where the Bible was disbelieved and despised, they believe that no means would be more likely to be effectual, as a first step, than to send the Bible as a silent monitor, and direct its daily perusal, by the teacher and his pupils.
A single proposition will bring this to the test. Could the friends of the Scriptures be now assured that the empire of Japan, in which Christianity is regarded with contempt and abhorrence, in which its ministers have been tortured, and its profession is made a capital crime, – that this empire of scoffers and haters of the Bible, was open to the reception of a translation of the Scriptures, even on condition that they should be read and commented upon by their own priests, would there be a moment's hesitation in grasping at the opportunity, and thanking God for the privilege of sending them ? Would the sincere friends of the Bible doubt, that good, nay, that incalculable good would ultimately result ? Would they not feel confident that the truth would ultimately achieve its triumphs in many a mind, and establish its empire over many a heart? If then there be, in any corner of our land, a district or a school, as hostile to the Bible and its ministers as Japan, who can propose a means more likely to be successful in changing their views, than to send this despised book, to bear witness for itself, to open the eyes of ignorance, and shut the mouth of opposition? Can we believe that the truth, which, in every land to which it has gained access, has rolled forward like a mighty stream, and extinguished the fires of superstition, and swept away the temples of idolatry, with all the fables of paganism, and the visions of false philosophy, will be arrested by the scoffs or opposition of a teacher or professor ? No: let us but open the channel, and it will still flow on. The opposers of the Bible will not wait for its introduction as a classic, to attack it with argument and ridicule. Let its friends provide the only effectual means of maintaining its influence, by sending the Bible itself, as an answer; and let it be sent most speedily to those places, where no influence is exerted in its favor, if it will only be received and read.
But we are told that this familiarity with the Holy Scriptures, will impair the reverence we should feel towards them — that to make them the companions of childhood and youth, will make them wearisome or disgusting in after life.
Your Committee are aware that this objection is often presented, and strongly felt, by those who are most deeply interested in the Scriptures, and most anxious to promote their influence. But they would respectfully ask, whether the Bible is in fact most revered, by those who are least familiar with it? Is it among those who have been brought up in ignorance of the sacred volume, or among those who have been trained in families, where it was daily read and regularly taught, that we find the greatest number of its friends and advocates ?
Is any apprehension entertained, that the classics will become less interesting by being more thoroughly studied, or does this result really take place? In this view, does not the objection before us almost involve a libel upon the Scriptures? Do we rely on the intrinsic merits and beauties of the classics, to secure this point, and shall we hesitate to place the same reliance upon the influence of the Scriptures ? Are they to be ranked among those productions, which, like the rough hewn statues, or the imperfect characters of men, require to be placed at a distance in order to conceal their defects ? Or must we treat them like the Egyptian relics of divine animals, and envelope thein in the wrappings of obscurity, or entomb them in the stately pyramids of theological learning, in order to screen them from the gaze of the vulgar, and secure to them the veneration which a close inspection would destroy ?
Your Committee cannot admit, for a moment, the force of an argument, which seems to them more appropriate to the disbelievers of the Bible, or to an assembly of that dark age, when ignorance was regarded as the mother of devotion, than to a Convention of the nineteenth century, whose public acts acknowledge this book as a revelation from God. In this, as in all other works of its great Author, every new observation will disclose new beauties, and the beauties which become most familiar, will afford the richest subjects for admiration and recollection.
SUPPORT OF SECTARIAN INFLUENCE, But the objection most strenuously urged against the study of the Bible is, that it would have a sectarian character and influence.
So far as our literary institutions are avowedly sectarian (and we have many of this kind,) this objection of course will not apply. Nor will it lie against the introduction of the study of the Bible, into any institution, where public worship is maintained ; for it is obvious, that there is far less room for sectarian influence in a lecture on the Bible, than in a prayer, or in a sermon. Provision may be made in such cases, as it is in regard to public worship, that any individual who desires it, may be excused at the request of his parents or guardians, from this study. Nay, if it be deemed necessary, it may be entirely voluntary. Your Committee believe that nothing but a suitable devotion to the subject is necessary, to make it the most interesting and attractive branch of study even in our colleges.
But they believe that it may be pursued without exciting any apprehension of sectarian influence. They believe that the study of Sacred Literature and Antiquities, may be as free from party influence, as that of Classic Literature ; and even that the student may be left, in this part of his course, as free to judge of Christianity as of Paganism, if this be desired. They find practical evidence of this. President Carnahan, of Princeton College, where this study has been pursued for eighteen years, observes; Of those who have entered this institution, we can say with confidence, that they have attended Bible recitations, as punctually, and have prepared the lesson as carefully, as any which were purely literary or scientific. We have heard no complaints from the youth, or their parents, that a sectarian influence was exercised by means of the Bible recitations. We have had, and still have, students of various sects, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, Dutch Reformed, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and even Roman Catholics; and in no case, have we heard of any conscientious scruples upon this subject.
Your Committee have known similar results in schools, where the Bible was taught to an equal variety of sects.
In regard to other institutions, your Committee believe that no measure will be more effectual in repressing the sectarian spirit, and cherishing kindness, and forbearance, and charity, among those who differ in sentimient on the important subject of religion.
They are persuaded that the general testimony of observing men, will establish the fact, that the most violent sectarians are those who are more conversant with human systems of theology, than with the Scriptures; and that its humble, constant readers are more deeply imbued with the expansive spirit of benevolence, than many who read more of other books. They believe with a recent writer on this point ; ' Reciprocal love and forbearance, liberal sentiments, and mutual respect and esteem would be interwoven with all the studies of youth, and they would learn insensibly, but indelibly, experiment. ally, though not theoretically, that Christianity is above all sects, and the Bible above all creeds and confessions; that religion is pure and elevated, simple, beautiful and affecting, and common to all.'
The differences of opinion among mankind, and above all, the asperity which they often produce, arise to a great extent from a want of familiarity with the subject in debate; and if increased knowledge does not produce increased harmony of sentiment, there is a never failing advance in the spirit of charity towards others, when a thorough study of the subject has disclosed to us the difficulties and perplexities which attend it.
That absolute unity of sentiment is to be anticipated from any course, your Committee do not imagine; but they believe that worse than division, an unkind disposition towards those who differ from us in opinion, would be materially diminished ; that even the believer and the disbeliever in the Scriptures would regard each other with more forbearance and respect; and that their controversies would be carried on, in a manner better calculated to promote the cause of truth, wherever it may be found.
As believers in the Scriptures, your Committee are persuaded, that most of that disbelief, which is founded on grounds purely rational and philosophical, would vanish before a thorough examination of them; and that even prejudice would be shaken, if not overthrown, in a great many instances, by that view of the purity, and excellence, and sublimity, and beauty of the Scriptures, which would be presented in a thorough examination of them, with all the light to be derived from ancient literature and manners.
The friends of the Scriptures do not fear the result of any examination, however profound; of any scrutiny, however severe. In adopting a candid and enlightened course of biblical study, can they not confidently appeal to every candid disbeliever, whether he also is not willing that every youth in our land should be enabled to examine them in this manner, by being thoroughly acquainted with their con