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tents, with the geography and history of the country to which they relate, with the manners and customs of the people among whom they were written, and with the character of the authors ? At present, neither sufficient time nor adequate assistance is afforded to our youth for this purpose. While every facility is provided to make them familiar with the fables of Greece and Rome, and with the principles of every science, it is impossible for them to procure an adequate knowledge of the Bible and its literature, without resorting to a theological institution, at an expense of time and money, which make it impossible to most of those, who desire a liberal education.
In corroboration of their views, the Committee would quote the following extract from the communication of President Carnahan
We have long entertained the opinion, that ignorance of the contents of the Bible, is the foundation of a great part of the objections urged against it. Our experience, as far as it goes, confirms the opinion, that a knowledge of the Bible has a tendency to remove scepticism. We do not assert that no young man, during the eighteen years that the Sacred Scriptures have been studied in this institution, has finished his academical course, without being convinced of the divine origin of the Bible. But we can safely say, that less infidelity has existed than in any other period of equal duration, when the sacred Scriptures were not studied. We also know many young men who came here with strong prejudices against the Bible, that left us, to say the least, with a high veneration for this Holy Book.'
We would again appeal to the disbeliever, and ask — In what other way can posterity be enabled to decide the momentous question of the truth of the Bible ? If it is false, how tremendous is the influence of its system of errors! It makes no compromise with any other system of religion. In some respects, at least, its doctrines are so pecuhou. and its claims so exclusive, that if it be true, every other system of religion, considered as a complete system, is false.
With such an influence and with such pretensions, how important for the welfare of mankind, that the Bible, if false, should be universally known to be so. Let it then form a part of the course of instruction of the higher order of minds, and let it thus be brought, as soon as possible, to the severest and most thorough scrutiny. Let it thus pass the ordeal of an examination by those, who understand the whole subject, and if its claims are unfounded, such a course will the sooner rescue mankind from the thraldom of superstition, in which so many of them are now held. On the other hand, if a more familiar acquaintance with the Bible, than is generally possessed by literary and professional men, should have a tendency to remove prejudice, and create a conviction of its divine origin, no honest man ought to regret the consequence.'
EXCLUSION OF THE BIBLE, SECTARIAN. But your Committee maintain, that the course of exclusion which is now adopted, is in the highest degree sectarian. It is directly calculated to promote the views of disbelievers who deny entirely the truth of the Scriptures; and who form an increasing and active sect among us. There is no scruple in making the mythology of Greece and
Rome the subject of constant study for years in succession. The regulations of our public institutions, the rules of the learned professions, and in many instances the laws of the country, require a thorough familiarity with these fables, and with all their attendant history, while they demand no acquaintance with the records of Christianity. Is not this virtually to banish the Bible from our institutions, to declare it unnecessary as a qualification of the liberally educated man, of the guardians of our rights, and the instructers of our youth ; as a study important only to clergymen and appropriate only to the theological school ! Is it not to say that the classics and mathematics, that Xenophon, Homer, and Virgil, that Locke, and Paley, are more deserving of attention, more fitted to enlarge and elevate the mind, to cultivate the taste, and form the able and useful man, than Moses and David, than Isaiah, and Daniel, and Christ, and his Apostles — that the heathen mythology should be studied more carefully than Christianity? And when the period of education is so filled up, that no time is left for the deep and thorough study of the Bible, with the full energies of the mind, what is this, but to execute the sentence of banishment already pronounced ? The student is led to the streams of Helicon and Parnassus, and taught to drink deep at the Pierian spring : but those to whom he looks as the guides and guardians of his youth, as the chosen judges in science and literature, do little more than point out to him the road to the fountains of Divine Wisdom. At the same time, they require him to devote his best daily hours to other subjects, and they demand a degree of proficiency in these, which can be attained only by unremitted and undivided attention, as the standard of merit, as the condition of obtaining the honors of the institution, and as the only ground on which they can promise success in future life.
CONCLUSION, AND METHODS OF STUDY. As the result of all their inquiries, your Committee are fully satisfied that the Bible ought to be ranked among the classics of a Christian community. They believe that all our youth ought to be made familiar with its contents as a branch of common education; and that in addition to this, an acquaintance with its literature and antiquities should form a part of every course of liberal education; not to the exclusion of the Grecian and Roman classics, or modern history and science, but as a necessary branch of knowledge to every man who wishes to be familiar with the history of his race, and the civil and religious institutions of his country.
In regard to the method in which a course of biblical instruction should be conducted, your Committee would not exceed the limits assigned them, and weary the patience of the Convention, by entering into any details, even if they felt competent to the task. They believe, at the same time, that the method must often vary, with the local and pecuniary circumstances of an institution. They would however venture to express their conviction still farther, that the historical portions of the Bible should be made familiar to children in our schools, as early as their minds are capable of understanding its
simple narratives ; and that, whenever it is practicable, it should be read and recited in our common schools, either in portions assigned by the teacher, or in selections prepared for this purpose, by all the pupils who are able to read it with propriety. They are of opinion that its geography, manners, and customs, should be taught in connection with it, as soon as the mind is prepared for this study ; and that the students of our higher institutions, should at least be made familiar with all parts of the sacred volume, and with such portions of its literature, and the elementary principles of interpretation, as will enable them to read commentaries with satisfaction, and to appreciate the arguments which are so constantly drawn from it, in regard to the great questions of truth and duty.
To such a course, they see not how even the disbeliever in the inspiration of the Bible can object. For how can he be willing that his children should be ignorant of this object of universal reverence, this oracle of 200 millions of our race; or desire that they should reject it without examination. Should sectarian jealousy be found to interfere with this course, the same plan may be adopted as in the mixed schools and colleges of the continent of Europe. There, this branch of instruction is often assigned to several clergymen, or other individuals of the same sect with the pupils. Should this be regarded as an evil, the Committee would ask, whether it is not an evil far less than that neglect of this subject, which is now so general, or that forcible and unnatural separation of religious and ordinary knowledge, which characterizes our systems of education.
In those institutions which are designed to furnish a complete circle of science, your Committee believe that an important step remains to be taken. There is no hesitation concerning the necessity of founding and endowing professorships for the languages and literature of Greece and Rome, for Chemistry, and Philosophy, and Botany, and Mineralogy, for the Mathematics and Metaphysics, for the French and Spanish and German languages, and some are even provided with instructers in Gymnastics and Drawing. Yet in all our literary institutions, not an individual, they believe, is to be found, entirely employed in teaching Sacred Literature and the Sacred Classics. They cannot think, that if this subject is brought before the community, with the sanction and influence of this Convention, that public opinion will long permit this glaring inconsistency in our course of education; or that private liberality, which supplies so freely the means of instruction in heathen and foreign literature and abstruse science, will continue to neglect Christian learning, and suffer our youth to remain destitute of the best means for understanding and vindicating the religion of their country and their fathers.
Your Committee are enabled to present the following facts in regard to the methods of biblical instruction adopted in some of our Colleges.
In Princeton College, New Jersey, a recitation on a portion of the English translation previously appointed, occupies the place of a discourse in an afternoon service on Sunday. President Carnahan states, that 'four or five chapters alternately in the Old and New Testaments are assigned as the subject of examination, and all the students are required to be prepared to repeat the words of the sacred writer, or to give the import of the passage in their own language, at option; and to answer such questions as obviously arise from the portion under review, followed by remarks and explanations by the instructer.'
In Union College, we are informed by President Nott, that the Bible has been only partially introduced, by himself, as a book of ref-, erence during his lectures to the Senior Class, and by the Professors, as a text book, in the hands of voluntary Bible classes. It has been a study here, both in the original languages, and in the translation ; so far as this could be done without coercion; it being one of the voluntary studies.'
Your Committee also learn from President Caldwell of the University of North Carolina, that · The Bible has been habitually used as a text book in recitations on the Sabbath in that college. Other books on evidences have also been studied.'
By a communication from President Humphrey of Amherst College, your Committee find, that the Bible has been made for several years the subject of instruction in voluntary classes in that institution. It was introduced as a text book in 1828, and has constituted a part of the regular course of instruction ever since. One half day in each week is devoted to these exercises. The historical part of the course is assigned to the Freshman Year. It comprises an account of the Scriptures themselves, the manner of their preservation, the languages into which they are translated, the different translations in our own language, and other interesting details ; and a thorough study of the history they contain, beginning with the Old Testament. In passing from the Old Testament to the New, an account of the intervening period is given from secular history. The historical books of the New Testament being deemed even more important than that of the Old, occupy a larger portion of their time, and finish this part of the course.
To the Sophomore Year are assigned the Prophecies and the Poetry of the Old Testament, embracing an account of the Prophets, their periods of writing, their countries, their respective prophecies, &c; the characteristics of Hebrew Poetry, the books in which it is found, the occasions on which it was written, and its principal authors, followed by a comparison of the poetry of the Hebrews, with that of other nations.
Your Committee find, that this purely biblical course of instruction is given, in addition to a brief course of lectures on the evidences of Christianity, and a series of recitations on the great truths and precepts found in the Bible, which do not fall within the present question.
In addition to these plans, Professor Potter, of Union College, has suggested to the Committee, that without making the Bible a distinct and formal subject of instruction, its style, and imagery, and poetry, might be introduced in connection with a course of rhetoric; and its antiquities, in connection with those of Greece and Rome ; and that one of the periods assigned for public worship should be occupied with other biblical exercises.
In regard to the last suggestion, your Committee would remark, that if no other plan be practicable, in particular institutions, they see not what objection can exist to the devotion of the public services on
Sunday to biblical investigation and recitation, until an advance in public opinion and public interest on the subject, shall enable Colleges and Schools (as they believe it will) to assign a distinct place and an entire professor, to this important branch of knowledge.
It is proper to add that a course of biblical studies is to be pursued in the Colleges at Waterville, Maine, and Hudson, Ohio ; and that a course of expository lectures on the Bible ? s been coinmenced at Yale College, entirely voluntary, however, on the part of the Professor and the pupils.
STUDY OF THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES.
It is objected by some that the study of the translation can never give our youth an adequate knowledge of the Bible. If this be true, it presents a case still stronger than your Committee have offered. Let us suppose that the Constitution of the United States were written in a foreign tongue, and that this had been the language of Washington and Franklin, and the fathers of our country, and let it be declared by men competent to judge, that so imperfect was the view given of it in our translation that neither our constitution nor the opinions and laws of the founders of our institutions, could be fully understood, or accurately interpreted without a knowledge of the original. Sup. pose, to make the case parallel, that this constitution was unchangeable; that these laws and opinions were declared to be the highest authority on every question relating to our duty and our rights as citizens, what American, who claimed to be well educated, would consent to remain in ignorance of it? Who that designed to have a share in the blessings and privileges of our constitution, would not esteem this an acquisition far more valuable, than the history or the opinions of any individual, or any nation, of ancient or of modern times? Is not the argument equally strong in regard to the Bible ? Whether it be admitted or denied by individuals, it is believed by the majority of the nation to possess an authority which is binding and unchangeable; which is paramount to all human laws, to which (as they believe) all human governors are amenable, and by which they are bound to regulate their conduct towards all others.
Who then can safely be ignorant of a book which decides and portrays the character and views of the community on whom his liberty and property and life are dependent? Who would not encounter and surmount great difficulties, to obtain this knowledge, even if the Bible be considered as a mere work of man? And the lower its origin is supposed to be, — the greater we believe the probability of its containing gross or dangerous errors, — the more important that we should be enabled to understand and appreciate them, that we may be qualified to counteract their influence.
But your Committee cannot do justice to this part of the subject without referring to the claims of the Hebrew language to the attention of the literary man, and stating the opinions of those who are qualified to decide upon them.
A writer in the Christian Examiner, who opposes the introduction of the Bible as a classical study, for reasons, of which