A. D. (Amory Dwight) Mayo.

Religion in the common schools. Three lectures delivered in the city of Cincinnati, in October, 1869 online

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Online LibraryA. D. (Amory Dwight) MayoReligion in the common schools. Three lectures delivered in the city of Cincinnati, in October, 1869 → online text (page 5 of 6)
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men of modern times in declaring that the Holy Bible contains the
best religion and morality and the loftiest types of human character
accessible to mankind. The Bible is holy, not because of any of
our theories of inspiration, but because, as a fact confessed by all
competent witnesses, it contains the holiest rule and example tor
human life. Nobody pretends to deny this fact except an out-and-
out Atheist, or a man who repudiates religion and morality itself.

38 jReligion in the

The enemies of the Bible in the school will not be permitted to
burden the good book with the theories of any religious or irrelig-
ious sect about its inspiration. The American people don't adopt
things on the strength of theories ; they adopt everything on its
own actual merits. They believe in the Bible because it is the
best guide to morals and religion, as they support the common
school because it is the best way to educate the mass of American
youth. If the eminent gentlemen who discoursed against the Bible
in the school-room, at Pike's Hall last evening, will bring forth a
better book for the instruction of the youth of Cincinnati, in relig-
ion and morals, than the Bible, we will adopt it ; and we would
suggest that their eminent scholarship might better be employed
in producing that new Bible than in persuading the people to throw
aside the holiest book in all the world.

But the Bible contains a great deal that children can not under-
stand without explanation. It contains much that is improper for
little children to read, or even to know. Great scholars are divided
respecting the interpretation of much contained therein. There is
a good deal of mythical history, primeval science, not to say bar-
barous morality between those covers. So say the opponents of
the Bible in the public school. Well, what then ? The Bible,
then, is like everything else in this world. It has its weak places
and human limitations. You do not deny it contains the loftiest
religion and morality in the simplest form, best adapted to the in-
struction of the child ; but you say that it contains, along with this,
a great deal that is not the highest, and you object to placing it as
a whole before the children in the school. If you had anything
else in the common school that was unmixed good ; if there were
any thing in this city not mixed all through and through with
human imperfections ; if you, yourselves, were infallibly wise and
righteous, that might be a reason why we should expel the Bible
because it is not altogether suitable for little children to read. You
reject the Bible, which undeniably contains the highest and best
things in the world, and leave the children to other moral and
religious influences, of lower value, equally or more fatally mixed
with the leaven of impropriety. Any system of philosophy, any
theory of geology, history, language, you teach in school is involved
in as much error and uncertainty as hangs about any portion of the
Bible. You don't wait till all the vital questions connected with
science are settled, until you teach it. You say certain great facts
are established, are " positive truth," and you teach science for-the
sake of that established truth. You don't pretend that your
teachers are perfect men and women, either in their scholarship,
their manhood or womanhood. You select the best you can obtain

Common Schools. 39

and say your children must run the ordinary risks of Hfe. You
send your children to school, in many parts of our city, through-
streets where they see in a month more debauchery and diabolism
than are described by old Solomon. Your newspapers teem with
revelations as disgusting as those denounced by Paul in the cities of
the Roman empire. Even your churches are half human, as you
all have had occasion to confess. Why do you keep your children
in this city life at all, with all these elements of perversion around
them .? Because the city contains the best as well as the worst
things in human society. The good is stronger in the city than in
the country as well as the bad. You reason wisely that the true way
to teach wisdom and virtue to youth is to place them in contact
with the most inspiring and powerful influences for wisdom and
virtue and trust they will learn to reject what is foolish and bad. вАҐ
Now, why not act thus reasonably in this matter of the Bible in
the schools ? Place your children in contact with its unrivaled
precepts of virtue and wisdom and its inspiring ideals of character
and trust them to be instructed thereby. If a boy or girl fully
takes in the ten commandments and the beatitudes, is there any
great danger of falling into the vices of Absalom or becoming a
modern Jezebel 1 If your child learns to love its enemies and
pray the last prayer on the cross, can't you trust it to avoid the
weaknesses of the old Hebrew kings }. If he hears the Lord's
prayer always ringing through his soul and beholds the golden rule
of love shining like the sun along his path, will he be apt to lose
his way amid the logic of Paul, in the maze of the Jewish law, in
the mystic labyrinth of the prophecies, or the cloudy grandeurs of ,
the Apocalypse ? You must trust a little to human nature here as
everywhere in life.

The plain fact about this Bible reading, which is persistently kept
out of sight by its enemies, is this : The Bible reading in the Cincin-
nati common school consists of the reading of short selections for
a few minutes, by the teachers at the opening of school in the
morning J the repetition, in some schools, of the Lord's prayer, and
the quotation of a i^-w of its best known chapters in the school
reading books. The passages read or recited by the children are,
with hardly an exception, those which would be selected by the
most judicious committee which should attempt to make a Bible
manual for the use of scholars. The simplest passages of the Old
and New Testament ; those that are known and can be repeated by
almost every child in school; those that have passed into all modern
literature and become domesticated, even in the newspaper, are
those the children hear. No teacher would be sustained a moment
who should depart essentially from this method of reading the Bible
in the school. Our teachers are neither fools nor bigots ; they
understand better than any other class of people those portions of

^0 Religion in the

Scripture best adapted for the use of childhood ; and those they
read, I believe there is nothing in the Bible which, if properly
understood, is unprofitable for even childhood to know. But I,
with every friend of the Bible in the schools, understand that we
must deal with that book just as we deal with everything in life ;
take therefrom what is best adapted to childhood, without explana-
tion, and leave the rest to maturer years and other methods of in-
struction, I went, in Europe, to see Mont Blanc ; not because it
was in all respects more interesting than other mountains, but be-
cause I wished to see the physical summit of Europe, There was
a good deal in the Mont Blanc range that I should not have ridden
twelve hours astride a lazy mule to behold ; a great deal of ragged,
obscure, dangerous, repulsive scenery. There were fifty exquisite
mountain pinnacles bristling about the vale of Chamouni more
attractive at first glance, apparently higher than it. But up there,
thirty miles off, lay that modest dome of snow, first kindled by the
morning light, the last illumined by the glory of the dying day. It
was the top of Europe that I spent that toilsome week to see. I
stand by the Bible in the school because I want the children of
America to always have in sight the summit of the wisdom, the
morality, and the religion of mankind. I have no idea they will
understand it all ; many of them will hardly look that way. But
I would keep that summit exalted above all the generations of
childhood, believing that no little one is so utterly gone in heedless-
ness, or stupidity, or naughtiness, that some time in its school life it
will not look upward to that mountain summit of thought flaming
with a radiance from higher worlds ; that summit Vi'here man is
transfigured and becomes indeed divine.

Second. The American people have placed the Bible in the school-
room because that book has become the type of civil and religious
liberty in modern times. Its scholastic and literary opponents con-
stantly fall into the pedantry of discussing the question as a matter
of literary or educational criticism. But the religious people of
this republic regard it in quite another light. For the last three
hundred years the Bible has been to the cause of civil and religious
liberty in the modern world exactly what the stars and stripes have
always been to the American Union. It is still, by common con-
sent, the banner around which in every nation the masses rally to
resist the encroachments of imperial, aristocratic, or ecclesiastical
despotism. It remains to-day in America the symbol of all we
hold most dear.

One evening I found my little boy reading the Bible to the Cath-
olic servant girl in the kitchen. She insisted that he should read
the book of Revelations, and she sat listening with her whole soul
to the gorgeous rhetoric of that wondrous book. " Why don't you

Coimnon Schools. 4^

read something you can understand in the Bible ?" said I. " O,
this is what I want, this tells about God that sits on a great white
throne, up in the sky. and He is greater than all the priests, greater
than the archbishop, greater than the queen of England ; yes," said
she, starting up, "greater than the great Pope himself. Now I
know why the priests don't want us to read the Bible, but I'll read
it as long as I live." There was more philosophy in that poor
girl's enthusiasm, than in all the speeches of the learned men last
night at Pike's Hall. That poor ignorant Irish girl at one glance
saw into the heart of the matter. Put yourself back into the
European world of four hundred years ago. The people are locked
up in a prison-house, double bolted by the Church and the State.
The Church and the State are practically one, sometimes at odds
with each other, but always uniting against the people. There is a
dim notion abroad that there is a Holy Book which teaches that
man is the child of God; that all men are brethren; that the
greatest should be the servant of all ; that the Almighty Father
does justice among the nations, overturns kings, destroys priest-
hoods, sweeps wicked nations from the face of the earth ; that no
being on earth has the right to do as he will unless he does the will
of God ; that religion does not mean the pope and the cathedrals
and the awful ceremonies therein, but love to God and man ; that
Jesus came to break every yoke, and all who do justly, love mercy,
and walk humbly with God, like Him, are sons of the Father in
Heaven ; that He came to proclaim a glorious liberty throughout
the world, to declare peace on earth and good will to men. But
the great book that holds all these precious things, is shut up in a
dead language that the people can not read, kept by the priesthood
under lock and key, and only doled out as it may be perverted to
sustain their tyranny. For there was a time when it was not held
a " tyrannical" exercise of power to read the Bible to the people. The
tyrants have always been the men who would forbid the opening
the seals of that great book.

Who wonders that the people of Europe came to regard the Holy
Bible as the charter of all their rights, their standard in the great
war for freedom ? Who wonders that the translation of the Bible
by Martin Luther not only broke the chains of German despotism,
but created a new language for the people? The people of Hol-
land fought half a century, Germany fought a hundred years for
the privilege of reading the Bible. Old England waded through
seas of blood to place a Bible in the hands of every Englishman,
and the translation of the Bible we now read is not only the grand-
est monument of our language, but is the triumphal monument of
the liberty of the Anglo-Saxon race, inscribed with the names of
heroes and martyrs, hung with victors' wreaths, stained with the

Jf.^2 Religion in the

blood of the grandest people that ever lived. Think of Old Scotia
fighting tyrants out and fighting the Bible in through generations
of prayers, and bloody sweat and appalling toil. The men w^ho
fled across the ocean to found this new republic, brought the Bible
as the "man of their counsel." They read and pondered it till
they found death to all the people's foes therein. What wonder
that every great man of the Revolution held the Bible close to his
heart through all that gloomy strife. When Washington, the first
Father of his Country, was inaugurated first President of the United
States, he swore the great oath and kissed the Bible in the sight of
the reverent multitude. Two years ago, in Louisville, I called
upon one of the noblest old women in America, one of the last
relics of that grand old Virginia stock from which sprung the men
the country can never forget. She led me in silence to a beautiful
photograph of our martyr President, the second Father of his
Country. It had been sent to her when the proclamation of
emancipation was issued, and under it was written : " In grateful
memory of the gift of an Oxford Bible, in my youth, from your
pious hands. Abraham Lincoln." So it has been, so it is, so
will it be. You may pile up your mountain of new commentaries
on the old book till it reaches the skies. Learned pundits may
wander off into the shadow land of high German criticism until
the fog shuts out the earth and the heavens. Learned lawyers
may quibble to-day, as they quibbled three centuries ago, against
the legality of reading the book. Solemn priests may demand that
the Bible shall be locked up in the cathedral chancel in Cincinnati,
as in the days when men went to the stake to testify their love for
its words of truth. Atheism may rave against it in Ohio as when
in Paris it wrote over the gate of the cemetery: "Death is an
eternal sleep." But the American people, who know what this
republic means, have received that blood-stained banner, passed
onward to them down the generations, across the ocean ; have borne
it from Plymouth rock to the snows of Alaska, have fought a
thousand battles in its name, have broken the chains of a down-
trodden race, have proclaimed in every way that men can testify
that the Bible is the great charter of their liberties, by which they
will abide in the generations to come.

And now comes up a party and demands of the people of this
city that they shall pull down this old standard of freedom from the
common school, degrade it in the eyes of every child, and throw it
away as old rubbish in the garret of the past. Who vv'ants to pull
down this banner of civil and religious liberty? The Catholic
priesthood wants to pull it down. This subtle and consolidated
power in our midst is a unit on this. It is the silent power that
stands behind this noisy proclamation against the word of God.
Is any body surprised at this? Did the Catholic priesthood ever

Common Schools. Jf^

in this world raise the flag of civil and religious liberty? Is not
every government in Europe to-day holding that priesthood by the
throat, at arm's length, and does it not protest against every expan-
sion of the people's rights? Turn to the papal syllabus of 1864,
and read the words of the Pope in regard to civil and religious
liberty. Fie says it is an error "that the Church ought to be
separated from the State, and the State from the Church." He
says: "The Catholic religion shall be the only religion of the State
to the exclusion of all others" He says : " It is an error that the
Roman Pontiff can and ought to reconcile and harmonize him,self
with progress, with liberalism, and with modern civilization." Do
you wonder that the Catholic priesthood of Cincinnati and their
archbishop, who has gone to Rome to proclaim that Pope infallible,
want to tear down this old flag from the roof of the common
school? Of course that priesthood is conscientiously opposed to a
Bible which teaches the people that they are not the masters, but
the servants of mankind. Of course they have conscientious
objections to paying taxes to support civil and religious liberty.
Did the Catholic priesthood ever find its conscience on the side of
the people ? Ten years ago, the mass of the clergy and laity of
half the Union had a conscientious objection to the American flag.
Did we pull down the old stars and stripes to ease that conscience?
We lifted the great banner up and held it there, till it was seen by
all the people's enemies all over the world. Do we now propose
to pull down the old gospel banner to relieve the conscience of a
religious caste that has deluged Europe with blood, and burnt it
with fire, and fought liberty with all its might for a thousand years?
We intend to hold that banner up because the Catholic priesthood wants
to pull it down.

Of course, the Atheists demand that the Bible shall be put out
of the public schools. Every enemy of religion in Cincinnati says
"it is tyrannical" to read the Ten Commandment^ and the Golden
Rule in the common school. Every man who "don't care"
whether religion is up or down, provided he stands firmly on his
own feet, is willing the Bible shall be expelled from the repubhc
of the children. And it may be that a i^vj men hope to get into
office by trampling the Bible in the dust, and think it a fine thing
to ridicule its precepts and make fun of little children at their
prayers. I can understand why numbers of our adopted citizens
should be estranged, not only from the Bible, but from religion
itself. In the European house of bondage from which they fled,
they saw the king and the priest in tyrannous league against the
people, the school-master a government official, a state ecclesiasti-
cism forced upon the school ; the Bible, the church, religion, even
Almighty God, perverted to uphold the sinking cause of tyrants.
I do not wonder that even men of great gifts and wide culture.

Religion in the

especially if reared in the Catholic church of Europe, should revolt
altogether and teach that Atheism and Democracy are synonymous
words. I am not surprised that ignorant people are flung off into
a blasphemous hatred of religion by the reaction from a bondage
like this. We must bear as kindly and as patiently as we can this
temporary estrangement, especially of a part of our German adopted
population, from religion. Their children will see these things in
another way, and will understand that in America God does not
mean an earthly king, or Jesus Christ an earthly lord, or religion a
State church, or a minister an enemy of the people, or the Bible
in the school-room the invasion of any right. They will learn that
all these things with us mean the very thing they came here to find,
the largest liberty of man ; that the temple of American liberty
stands firmly buttressed by education, morality, and religion ; and
that we keep the Bible in the common school, not to play the
tyrant over any man, but to keep the children of the republic close
to the great standard of "education, morality, and religion" recog-
nized by modern times. We warn them that there is a clique of
atheistic demagogues in our western cities, whose principles are as
hostile to our American institutions as the theories of the men who
lately sought to take our nation's life. We tell them that those
men are not safe guides for them or their children ; not the men to
be put into places of honor and trust in the civil or the educational
life of the people. They will inevitably lead their deluded follow-
ers into a collision with American civilization that will plant new
seeds of bitterness and estrange those who should be one. For it
may as well be said now as later, that the people of this country,
who were born and educated in this republic, will not submit to
the banishment of religion from their civil life; will not expel the
Bible from their school and exalt Atheism, under any fine modern
name, to be the national school-master; will not see the national day
of worship mad^p a day of public disorder and deliberate insult of
the nation's faith ; will not submit to the atheistic programme of
operations in any region of our national life. And if these men
can not take warning, and will not understand the deliberate judg-
ment of the American people, they must go on and learn the lesson
in the way themselves may choose. They may put out the Bible
to-day from the schools of this or that community, but it will come
back with thirty millions of people as its body guard. They may
silence the children's hymn of praise to God to-day, but the hymn
will be taken up by the voice of "a multitude that no man can
number," and the people will sing Old Hundred over their political
graves. The American people know the Catholic priesthood, and
they know the priesthood of atheistic socialism, and they will have
neither one nor both of them to bear rule in the common school.

Coimnon Schools. 4^^

Last evening a meeting was held at Pike's Music Hall, to protest
against the reading of the Bible in the common schools of Cincin-
nati as '' illegal and tyrannical." As a demonstration of the people, it
was a more significant failure than the one already held at Green-
wood Hall. The assembly was not large, and was evidently com-
posed to such an extent of the friends of the book that, if we are
to judge by the printed reports, no resolutions were offered, and
no vote demanded. But the two most learned and eloquent sup-
porters of the resolutions now before the school board to expel
religion were there in full force. Nobody certainly knows the legal
strength of the cause better than the accomplished Judge Stallo,
and certainly no clerical assailant of the Bible can bring to the
work greater learning, or a more peculiar rhetoric, or a more exter-
minating logic, than the Rev. Mr. Vickers. Of course I can not
attempt to follow these gentlemen, step by step, but there are cer-
tain aspects of their defense which it may not be improper to

First. Both these gentlemen seem to have studiously evaded the
entire body of legal and historical argument put forth by the friends
of religion in the common school. It has been shown by us that
neither the United States nor any State of this Union ever intended
to establish a government, or an order of society, which should be
hostile, or even indifferent, to unsectarian religion ; that while
American institutions guard the people, in every way, from the
union of Church and State, and the imposition of sectarian religion
or ecclesiastical establishments upon them as citizens, they equally
provide against public Atheism, by asserting the great central obli-
gation of states and men to worship and obey God, and do good to
mankind. This has been shown by the words of the constitution,
by the laws and usages of the government, by judicial decisions,
and the clear opinions of every eminent statesman of the country,
from the creation of the republic to the present day. How is this
wall of evidence assailed in these elaborate speeches? It is simply
ignored. As far as those speeches were concerned, there might
have been no American republic, and no history of the American
people. A ^QW sneers and contemptuous flings at the authors of
this argument, a little pleasantry at their expense, and a flat assertion
that the constitution and government have nothing to do with
religion, is the extent of their demonstration in this direction.

In place of the government and order of society established by
the American people, these learned gentlemen propose a purely
scholastic theory of society, and claim such rights for the individual
citizen as would dissolve any government into a German mist. In
their ideal republic, the government would ignore religion alto-
gether, through the whole region of public life; indeed, they say gov-
ernment has never touched religion except to damage it. Now, I

^6 Religion in the

shall agree with them that the government does injure religion and
oppress the people, when it supports religious or atheistic sects, and
enforces sectarian theories upon the people. But it was to provide
against this very danger that the people of the United States have
established their government and order of society on religion itself,
as opposed to sectarianism, or atheism. The American people say,
" Religion and morality are essential to good government." If our

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Online LibraryA. D. (Amory Dwight) MayoReligion in the common schools. Three lectures delivered in the city of Cincinnati, in October, 1869 → online text (page 5 of 6)