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Akt. VII.—THE BIBLE AND THE SCHOOL:*

An Address of M. E. de Pressense before the Evangelical Alliance at Amsterdam, held in August, 1857.—Translated for the "New Englander" by Prof. J. P. Lacroix, of the Ohio Wesley an University, Delaware, Ohio.

All who have any correct appreciation of the age in which we live, and of the future which is preparing for us, admit without hesitation that the great question of the day is that of popular education. Democracy is everywhere gaining ground; it flows not only, as Royer-Collard said, with full banks, but it is breaking beyond its proper bounds. Political institutions have little to do with the matter. Where they yield to the popular pressure, there is less observable friction than in such countries as try to resist it. But all institutions that presume to offer it stubborn defiance are sure to be swept away in the end; for its floods are constantly mounting, with the regularity of natural law. This fact is not a mere political phenomenon, it is a social fact of momentous import. Everywhere the masses are becoming conscious of their might; they have found, in the principle of association, an irresistible lever; for they have numbers on their side, and where numbers are organized and of one mind, what can resist them? Whether this state of things be welcome to us, or not, does not affect the matter of fact. Gladstone has justly said that the nineteenth century is the century of the laborer, meaning, that in this age, for the first, in the history of the world, the laboring classes have attained to a real participation in political and social life. From of old the} have been kept in the back-ground, have been simply permitted to prepare the costumes for the great actors, or to handle the machinery which gave glory to the action. But in our day all this is changed. The people has become one of the principle actors, and that too not simply to take a sudden part in revolutionary crises, but to play a direct and constant role in shaping the face of the world.

* This Address of the distinguished French Protestant Pastor, M. E. de Presbense deserves just now more than ordinary atteniion in this country, as it brings to view the way in which the question of "the Bible and School" may be regarded by a Protestant minority in a Roman Catholic country.—Editort of the Nev> Englander.

Such is the situation—at least for those who have eyes to see it. I will say at once, that I think we should accept it resolutely and without regret. It has, it is true, its immense perils, but it has also its providential phase. I believe it is as God would have it be. That the classes of society should approach each other by the enjoyment of equal rights, by freedom of person and labor, by a common prosperity, is surely in harmony with that religion which knows neither bond nor free. Notice that I have no thought here of touching on political ground; I consider simply the social fact. From this point of view I hold, that Christianity has a moral tendency to sweep away all barriers to equal rights among the redeemed of the same Saviour. And I am convinced that nothing could be more unfortunate than to make religion seem distrustful and inimical in regard to the privileges of the masses; for, the weal of the future depends entirely on the influence Christianity shall exert upon them. Nor is this a mere matter of prudence, it is a question of truth and justice.

But in any view of the case the situation is grave and fraught with peril. What will be the nature of this immense weight which the masses are to throw into the social balance 'i Will it or not be a blind force, shaped by every wind that may blow, and destructive, like the tempests of nature i In other words, will it be an intelligent, or an unintelligent force? Let it not be forgotten that the spirit which tills out a political frame-work is infinitely more important than the frame-work itself. The French politicians of 1789 fabricated an admirable constitution; but they thought very little of those who would have to put it into practice. They constructed their theoretical system in the brilliant circles of Paris, but none of these reformatory philosophers thought of descending into the hovel and workshop to dissipate the ignorance of the masses. Hence their work was in vain. The blind rage of blindly-led masses swept away, in 1793, the brilliant constitution of the Mirabeaus and Lafayettes. Much, it is true, depends on political constitutions, but much more on those for whom they are made. Let us not place in the second rank that which is of first iiu portance—popular education.

The nations that were born of the Reformation have constantly aimed to instruct the masses; with them it was a necessity of self-preservation. In fact, the Reformation itself was based upon, a Book,— a book by whose divine authority it shielded and upheld liberty of thought, and withstood traditionary servitude. It whispered into the ears of the Middle Ages, those words which gave St. Augustine to the Church: Tolle et lege, take and read. We see, therefore, clearly enough, why the Reformation taught the masses to read—why the Church, which has for its motto, Lege, should be more zealous for popular education than the Church which esteems the utterances of the priest as higher than the sacred Word. There is, therefore, a religious cause for that great diffusion of elementary education which characterizes Protestant nations. Yes! It i& the Bible which has created the school, especially the Protestant school. Elsewhere it is not so. We may truthfully say that the natural tendency of modern Romanism is to increase and intensify popular ignorance. It is true, this Church has its teachers and schools; but it imparts knowledge only in very limited degrees. It instructs its masses only where its influence is contested by powerful rivals. Hen e we see, that where Popery has exclusive sway, the people are covered with thick darkness. It desires to retain within its own grasp the keys of knowledge, lest some other sentiments than its own should be taught. Under such circumstances it is, in fact, Bafer to teach nothing at all beyond the catechism; for the taste for knowledge, once indulged, is no longer easily controlled.

However, the condition of the world is now such as to render this system difficult of practice. In France, an impulse has been given to general education which cannot be checked. The government, the various Churches, and societies of every description, are taking part in it. Schools arc multiplied and encouraged—schools for the young and the adult, schools for each sex, schools for the learned callings. The cause of education may be said to be gained. And to the question which we have proposed, viz.: Will the masses, on arriving at political influence, be instructed, or ignorant? we may answer: They will be instructed. But this leads to a second question: In what will they be instructed? what will they have adopted? And this question is even more important than the first.

Instruction, education, per se will not suffice. It may produce as much evil as good. A gifted poet has warmly maintained this thesis: that education banishes moral evil as the sun banishes night. He would have been right provided evil had its seat only in the mind, and not in the heart. But it is fruitless to have knowledge while the will is enslaved to the passions; in such a condition a man is more guilty and dangerous than if he were utterly ignorant. No! it is not true that the spread of knowledge will do away with police and with prisons. "Education," said Benj. Constant, "is the most dangerous of powers when it is not in the service of conscience." Suppose that the youth are taught in school that there is no God above, no immutable law in the heart, and, above all, no sanction to .this law in a future life; suppose that they be taught that man is " but an animal which has occasional odd freaks," but which, like all other organized beings, is governed by instinct and irresistible natural law; suppose in a word that they are imbued with those sceptical notions that so largely pervade the literature and society of the day—and, then, say, what will be the fruit of such schools, what destiny will they prepare for the world? And above all what will be the individual moral fate of such unfortunate children? Let us not deceive ourselves. Education, isolated from moral training, is not a good. It is with the greatest danger that we separate that which should be united. The higher that general education is carried, the more imperative is it to train the heart and conscience—it is in fact the first of all duties. Now, for us Christians, this education of the conscience is not far to seek for: we know who is the sole Master who can give it effectually; this Master is the God of the Bible. And this brings us to the heart of our subject.

There is one point upon which all Evangelical Christians are

unanimous: it is, that the Bible should form the corner stone

of all education. We would all like to see it hold the place of

honor in every school. This wish interferes with no real right,

Vol. xxix. 33 provided it does not assume the form of a legal obligation. But this conviction, that the school cannot fulfill its mission without the Bible, meets with vigorous opposition from some quarters. It is asserted that the Bible is not a proper book for youth, for the reason that it spreads before their minds, recitals of crimes and immorality. But it is at the same time forgotten that these crimes are recited as crimes, that they are recorded only to be condemned, and that the uniform moral tendency is, to inculcate the purest morality. We are ready to concede that it is not prudent to read every part of the Bible indiscriminately to all ages and under all circumstances. The Bible is a history boldly sincere, depicting man as he is, without any lying flattery. Though its language is uniformly chaste, it nevertheless holds up a terrible picture of our shame and depravity. It does not clothe evil with the pernicious seductiveness of poetry, but it refuses to cast a veil over ite warning reality. Now, this picture cannot with safety be offered to childhood. We do not hesitate, therefore, to say that some parts of the Old Testament should, in some cases, be omitted by the discreet parent and teacher.

With these unessential concessions, we insist that the school cannot, by any means, dispense with this venerable book. For us it is the message of redemption and life. Hence, we would wish to see it in the hands of all, young and old; we consider it as a crime against God and man, to hinder in any way its general diffusion. To fetter the Bible, is, to hide the truth, to shut up the fountain that refreshes the weary pilgrim of the desert. For us who believe that humanity is fallen, there is no higher duty than to hold open the sacred pages so that they first shall strike the gaze of infancy, and, last, the weary look of old age.

But leaving these generalities, let us consider the Bible from an educational standpoint. And here we see its most admirable phase. How vast the scheme of education which it unfolds to the world—that of God as relating to his moral creatures! It takes man in his rude infancy, and raises him to the heights of spiritual religion. It is a luminous ladder whose first step is so near the earth that the child can easily reach it, and whose summit loses itself in the infinitude of the heavens.

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