Page images

to give a history of all that has been done for 2000 years to ameliorate the sufferings of humanity. It was the influence of the Bible that first established asylums for the poor, and hospitals for the diseased. It was this which released the prisoner of war from the chains of slavery. It was this, that enjoined upon the inhabitants of different countries the common law of mutual kindness; which abolished that tremendous statute, enacted by human passions · Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy'- and made the victor in modern warfare, the guardian and physician of the vanquished. It is the only basis on which our present state of society rests - the only authority which assigns to woman her proper station and influence, and elevates her from the rank of a slave to man, to be his companion, and to exert her softening and refining influence on the social relations. It is the only code which forbids revenge; which extends the law of kindness and forgiveness and beneficence to all individuals, and under all circumstances; and thus establishes the only sure foundation for the courtesies of life.

Wherever we have an opportunity of observing its legitimate effects, either on individuals or nations, we find it uniformly favorable to humanity and virtue. Among us, how often has the drunkard become temperate, and the fraudulent, honest, and the cruel, been subdued to kindness. Its influence is daily seen in our prisons, in softening and reforming even the hardened criminal

. But it has changed the character of nations. It abolished the bloody rites of Diana; and threw down the polluted temples of Venus; and terminated forever the barbarous spectacles of Rome; and destroyed the blood-stained altars of the Druids. Within the recollection of this generation, and under our own observation, it has abolished the sacrifice of parents and the murder of children, among savage tribes, in the wilds of Africa and in the islands of the Pacific. It has banished in more than one nation the horrid feast of human flesh; it has begun to rescue the Hindoo infant from the Ganges, and the Hindoo widow from the funeral pile ; and the temples of pollution and blood which still deform that fair portion of the world, are tottering to their fall before the influence of the Bible.

ADAPTATION OF THE BIBLE TO OUR CIRCUMSTANCES. VIII. But what is the importance and authority of the Bible in reference to our own peculiar circumstances ?

It is acknowledged by the nation as a book of the highest authority. It is appealed to in our courts of justice, and our oaths of office. The day which it consecrates is acknowledged by a cessation of all public and private business; and gross and open contempt of the truths and worship it inculcates, are punished, to a greater or less extent, by our laws. It is thus admitted by the majority of our nation, as the standard of truth and right, and the object of peculiar rever

How can we ascertain whether it merits this character and this reverence, without a thorough study of its contents; how can we otherwise act with intelligence as freemen, in deciding whether this preëminence shall be confirmed or abolished?


But in addition to all this, the Bible furnishes the only permanent basis for a just government, in asserting the Supreme Authority of a Perfect Ruler, whose laws are formed by Infinite Wisdom, and executed by Infinite Power. It is the only book of universal authority which contains the charter of the subject's rights, — which prescribes the limits of the ruler's power which dares to give law io the legislator, and denounces penalties against the sovereigns of the earth. It presents a King who is above all kings; and a law which is paramount to every other law. It appoints a tribunal of appeal to which the highest magistrate may be summoned ; where power cannot overawe right, nor fraud pervert justice; and where the unjust judgment of the oppressor, will be brought upon his own head. It declares that God “ hath made of one blood all the nations of the earth; and thus puts to silence the sophisms of philosophy, the false reasoning of national prejudice, and the proud demands of power, which would conquer and oppress men because they belong to another and a feebler nation; and which, like ancient Rome, classes under one common, reproachful epithet of barbarians, all who live upon a different spot of earth, or under another sky.

A glance at the history of nations will show us that this is not mere theory. The records of modern times do not present us with a single country blest with free institutions, on whose permanency and happy influence we can now rely, in which the influence of the Bible is not exerted. In proportion as that has been wanting, the spirit of despotism has maintained its sway, and ignorance, and apathy, and slavery, have been the portion of the people. A single glance at the present condition of the nations of Europe will verify this remark; and it is written in letters of light upon the countries of this continent. Nearly all have asserted and won their independence. Within our borders, the Bible has been the text book for moral and political philosophy, and all has been peace, and security, and prosperity. Beyond the Mexican boundary, the Bible is an unknown, or prohibited book. The struggle for freedom has frequently produced a hundred tyrants in place of one ; and property, liberty, and life, were for many years less secure than in most of the despotic governments of Europe. What but the knowledge and influence of the Bible has secured us from the same results ? What else can sustain posterity, in resisting the encroachments of future Cæsars, or the outrages of lawless mobs, which human ambition and human passion may yet aim against our rights and liberties, unless we shall prove a happy exception to all the calculations of the politician, and all the examples of history.


IX. If the claims of the Bible to be studied as a classic, be tested by its practical value in after life, the question will be at once decided.

Your Committee have no sympathy with that narrow system of education, which would estimate the value of a study, solely by its immediate effects, or by its direct application to the affairs of life, or above all, by the amount of coin it will enable us to produce. Nor do they believe, that studies which have no immediate bearing on practice, should be abandoned on this account. Many of those acqui


sitions of which we never think in after life, have left their influence behind them; and while they are no longer visible, they may be traced, like the food and exercise of our childhood, by the vigor they have produced, and the habits of activity they have formed. It is the object of education to sow the seeds; and results like these are its happiest fruits. But in considering the question whether the study of the Bible shall receive equal attention with others, your Committee do not feel justified in omitting this topic. They see, that while in all that relates to the improvement of the mind and the cultivation of the heart, it yields to no author to no branch of science or literature in its influence, it transcends them all, in value, in its application to the concerns of life.

How many of our classic authors are never opened, or rarely referred to, after the close of the collegiate course. How much of the scientific instruction we receive, can never be applied in the course of an ordinary life. Here and there, a beautiful or pertinent passage, or an important principle, occurs at a time and place where they are of great value; but with the mass of those who pursue a course of collegiate study, this is the amount of their value, in direct application to the affairs of life. On the other hand, the Bible, while it is equally useful for mental and moral discipline, furnishes the student with a store of truths, and principles of wisdom and morals, which are capable of application every day and hour, in the life of every individual. As a code of practical wisdom, to guide us amidst the perplexities and difficulties of life, and guard us against those temptations and trials which so often turn us from the path of safety, as a means of exciting and maintaining that habitual reliance on the Ruler of the universe which gives us a calm but humble independence of all that is human and earthly, even in the midst of danger and difficulty, the Bible surpasses all the lore of Greece and Rome, and stands alone and unrivalled, amidst all the claims of science and philosophy.


In view of these considerations, your Committee cannot escape from the conclusion, that the Bible has higher claims than any

other book to profound attention and regular study in our literary institutions, as one of the noblest classics which exists in any language, They cannot suppress the astonishment they feel, that Christian communities do not assign to it that rank among the standards of literature to which its intrinsic value would entitle it, aside from all question of its inspiration, that it is not placed among those authors which are most carefully and most thoroughly studied, that it is not deemed, at least, as essential to a liberal education, as Horace or Homer, as Cicero or Sallust. They are still more surprised, that this exclusion from its legitimate rank, should take place, to a great extent, under the direction of its friends, who maintain the superiority of this book, in the most essential points, to all the works which they make the companions of our youth — who admit that its antiquity is unrivalled, and that its authority is that of God; who believe that its truths are, like himself, sublime, and holy, and pure, and perfect, and adapted to all the moral exigences of mankind, that it is the only perfect standard of faith, and code of morals, the only permanent charter

of civil and religious liberty, the only light that shines upon the darkness of the tomb, and the only guide to that bourne from whence no traveller returns.'

They are happy to find, that in this opinion, gentlemen of various religious views unite. While an accomplished biblical scholar of our country, pronounces the neglect of the Bibl in our course of education an astonishing inconsistency, which admits of no justification, one of his distinguished opponents in theological views is equally explicit in declaring it disgraceful and pernicious, and asserts the obvious, but strangely forgotten truth, that 'the Bible ought to be understood by a Christian community, more thoroughly than any other book.'

They find that gentlemen, whose stations in public institutions where the Bible has been studied, has given them experience on this point, are equally explicit on this subject. President Carnahan of Princeton, in a letter to the Committee, observes; ' That such a course of study as shall make our youth acquainted with the contents of the Bible, ought to be pursued in our literary institutions, I have not the smallest doubt.'

President Caldwell of the University of N. C. remarks; ' I have ever viewed the study of the Bible as a proper and most important part of a collegiate course. I do not know how those who really believe it to be a revelation from God, can consistently think otherwise.'

President Humphrey closes his communication with saying;'I can only express my full conviction, that we have hitherto greatly erred, both in theory and practice, in this very important branch of education in a Christian land, and that the time is coming when the best of all books, will hold a prominent place in the most approved systems in our Universities and Colleges.'

President Nott of Union College, thus expresses his views on this subject. If my opinion will be of any use to you I give it most cheerfully, in favor of making the Bible a text book in the school, the academy, the college and the university. To say nothing of its literature, which in my judgment is unrivalled, it contains not only the purest system of morals, but the soundest maxims of political economy and the most exact and comprehensive delineations of human nature, to be found on earth. There is more in it to make a man great as well as good, than there is in any other volume. Man cannot be well educated without the Bible. It ought therefore to hold the chief place in every institution of learning throughout Christendom — and I do not know of a higher service that could be rendered to this republic, than the bringing about this desirable result.'


With regard to the period and the manner in which the Bible shall be studied, your Committee feel that there is more difficulty in deciding than in regard to the question of its expediency and importance. But they cannot admit that any difficulties which may attend the attainment of an object so essential to the intellectual cultivation and moral improvement of our youth, can render it less a duty to attempt it.

Some are disposed to leave the task exclusively to the parent.

Your Committee believe, that this will only be another mode of deciding that it shall not be performed. We are warned of the danger of excusing pareats from the duty of teaching and enforcing religious truth, by assigning the duty to others. But the same argument might be brought with equal force, against measures,

which those who make this objection consider essential, we mean against the institution of a Christian ministry, and especially against the pastoral office. Your Committee are persuaded, that to parents and the ministers of religion, especially, belongs the duty of impressing the principles of morality and religion on the mind. This however is a task entirely distinct from making them familiar with the contents of the Bible, as the question before us proposes, and cannot be well performed without this previous preparation.

But the truth cannot be overlooked or forgotten, that the mass of parents, either from choice or necessity, are too deeply and constantly engaged in their respective occupations, to give such an attention to the subject, as its importance demands; and they appeal to the experience of all around them, whether as parents or as children, for the truth of this remark. If for reasons of this kind, parents think it indispensable to employ another individual to instruct their children in a book so simple as a treatise on arithmetic, or a brief outline of geography, shall they deem it unnecessary for a volume containing forty distinct books, which are to be their standard of faith and code of morals ?'

We are again told, that enough is already done, and that Sunday Schools will accomplish the work. These institutions have indeed accomplished an incalculable amount of good ; and by far their most important effect is this ; they have shown us the influence which the study of the Scriptures exerts, in improving the character, and securing youth from vice, and the state from crime. Immense as the good is, however, we think their influence is far less than it would be, if our youth were trained to a familiarity with all that knowledge which will serve to illustrate the Bible. There is not yet a generation fully qualified to become teachers in these schools; and your Committee believe that there cannot be until we have a generation who have received instruction on this subject, proportioned to that which they enjoy on other subjects. We appeal to the teachers and visitors of Sunday schools, if there is not an obvious need of more light, such as we propose to have conveyed to the mind of every youth, by a course of biblical study, running parallel to that in which he acquires all other branches of knowledge. But we are met here with this fact as an objection ;

Competent instructers cannot be found.' If this be true, it is subversive of both the preceding objections, and neither parents nor Sunday school teachers can be considered capable of this task.

We are prepared to admit that the number of instructers in our common schools qualified to teach the Bible is small; and as we have just observed, how can it be otherwise, when even our higher institutions of learning neglect to give the necessary knowledge ? But if the very men that are employed 10 teach and train the youth of a Christian land, who are destined hereafter to be its rulers and guardians and religious guides — if these men are so ignorant of the Bible that they cannot safely be employed in teaching it or hearing it recited, does it not indicate a state of general darkness on this

« PreviousContinue »