September 18, 1890
UNDER the heading of, “A Crime against Liberalism,” some time ago, the Inter-Ocean criticised the decision of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, on the Bible in the public schools, which is as clear a case of begging the question as could be, and is as full of sophistry as an egg is full of meat. The third sentence in the article bewails the unfortunate condition of the children of Wisconsin, after this sort:—
That the school children of Wisconsin should be doomed, by a decree of the Supreme Court, to learn nothing of the most marvelous literature extant, seems incredible.
To be sure, what a dreadful doom it is indeed, that the Roman Catholic children, in the State of Wisconsin, shall not be compelled to listen to Protestant prayers, and to take part in Protestant forms of worship, and to listen to the reading of the Protestant Bible in Protestant ways! What a dreadful doom that the children of Jewish parents shall not be compelled to worship as God, one whom they believe to be not God at all! What a dreadful doom it is that the children of unbelievers in the State of Wisconsin shall not be compelled to receive the doctrine and submit to the forms of the Protestant denominations, who think that in themselves is absorbed all the merits and virtues of Christianity. And how dreadful, above all, is the doom of all the people of Wisconsin, that they shall not be compelled to pay money for the support of the religious views of a few self-righteous “Protestants.” We rather think that the people of Wisconsin will survive the terrors of this dreadful doom.
We agree with the Inter-Ocean that the Bible contains the most marvelous literature extant; but that a Supreme Court of any State should, according to the Constitution of that State, protect people from being compelled to listen to the reading of that literature is certainly the right thing to do; and that such a proceeding should seem incredible to the Inter-Ocean, does not speak very highly of the sense of justice, of right, and of American principles entertained by that paper. And that such a paper should soberly set forth any such idea as that this decision of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin should doom the school children of that State to learn nothing of the Bible, speaks a good deal less for the spirit of fairness and logical discernment that ought to characterize such a paper. The decision of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin no more dooms the children of that State to learn nothing of the Bible, than it dooms them to learn nothing of how to hoe corn. Every man, woman, and child, in the State of Wisconsin, is at perfect liberty to learn all that may be learned of this most marvelous literature extant, and the Inter-Ocean knows it.
Likewise, under this decision, no man nor woman nor child, in the State of Wisconsin, can be compelled to pay for the reading of that literature nor to listen to its being read; and why should the Inter-Ocean demand that it should be otherwise?
Again says the Inter-Ocean:—
It is as needful that he [the child] should know who Christ was and what he said, as it is that he should know who Columbus was and what he did.
Yes it is a good deal more needful. It is as much more needful as that Christ is more than Columbus was; and as what Christ said, is of much more weight and importance than what Columbus ever did. But it does not follow that because a thing is essential that therefore the State must teach it. The very fact that it is so much  more needful that the child should know who Christ was and what he said, that is the very reason why it is impossible for the State to teach these things. The State cannot do it. How can the State teach who Christ was? What facilities has the State for knowing who he was, that it shall decide this question and teach it with authority? That is a large question. It has been the question of the ages. It began when he was here. “Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?” But it is not enough that we know who men say that he is, or was; but the question is, Who is lie? Will the Inter-Ocean tell who Christ is? and will that paper go so far as to say that what it says Christ is shall be taught to everybody in the State of Illinois, or anywhere else at public expense or by State authority? But from the article in the Inter-Ocean it would seem that it proposes that who Christ is and what he said, shall be taught to the children in school, in the same manner as the question of who Columbus was and what he did. If that be the purpose of the Inter-Ocean, then no Christian could ever consent to any such teaching. To put Christ and what he said, in such a place and to teach it in such a way as that, is to deny who Christ really is, and to undo all the force of what he said.
Again we quote:—
Nor does the act of teaching the history of Christ necessitate the teaching of his divinity. We tell the scholar what the motives of Columbus were, we leave him to judge of the wisdom of the motive.
Well suppose the public school teacher undertakes to tell children in school what the motive of Christ was in coming to the world, and leaves the children to judge of that motive, as they would judge of the motives of Columbus, what is that but to teach them to sit in judgment upon the Lord? What is it in fact but the teaching of downright infidelity? When the motive of Christ is set before children or men, it is not his intention at all that they shall judge of that motive. It is that they shall believe it and make it a part of their lives, and that to neglect to do so is to imperil the eternal destiny of their souls. Any man can judge of the motives of Columbus with no danger whatever. A child may judge of the motives of Columbus as he pleases, and think of them as he chooses, and it cannot effect him in the least; but neither man nor child can do such a thing with the motives of Jesus Christ, without injury to himself both in this life and the life to come. And that the Inter-Ocean should set forth such a proposition leads us seriously to doubt whether it truly believes in the motive of Christ as it really is, or whether it judges his motive as it does those of Columbus or any other explorer.
We should like to see the Inter-Ocean attempt to carry out its own statement and give us an example of the act of teaching the history of Christ without teaching his divinity. The first question would be, who was he? The only answer is that he is “the Christ the Son of the living God.” But that declares his divinity. Again, when he was born what was he to be called? “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” And that also teaches his divinity. And again, “They shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” That is his name because that is what he is. And the history goes on following him round about Judea, as he went healing the sick, restoring the demoniac, making the lame to walk, and the blind to see, stilling the tempest, and raising the dead. And all these things teach his divinity. The history goes on to say that he was crucified, and that that even happened amid such surroundings that the centurion who commanded the soldiers declared, “Verily, this man was the Son of God.” And that teaches his divinity. The history goes on to say that he arose from the dead, and was seen of his disciples, and the people in crowds; that his disciples touched him, and ate with him, and associated with him for a period of forty days after they had seen him crucified, and dead upon the cross, and buried in the sepulchre. And then that he ascended up into heaven, and that there he sits at the right hand of the throne of God. And all that teaches his divinity.
In fact every particular and every item in the life of the Saviour from the manger in Bethlehem until his ascension, teaches nothing else than the divinity of Christ. The history cannot be mentioned without teaching that divinity, and any proposition to the contrary is in itself conclusive proof that the one making the statement does not believe in his divinity. And because this history is the history of his divinity, because the words of Christ are the words of “God with us,” this is the reason why the words are to be believed, and not judged when they are taught. It is not for man to judge God; it is not for the sinner to sit in judgment upon his Saviour. As this is to be believed, and as the understanding of it is wholly of faith, and as the record is witnessed to faith by the spirit of God,—for this reason it is impossible for any governmental power on earth to teach either the history or the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Christ himself committed that work to the Church, and any church that consents that the State may ever perform that work, allows that she herself has lost the power to do it. And any State that proposes to do such a thing, simply pro-poses to rob the Church of its prerogative and to usurp that which never can belong to the State, because Christ never committed it to the State.
If men would believe Christ more and judge him less, there would be far less demand that the State shall teach religion.
And if men would believe the Bible more, and judge it and interpret it less, there would be very little heard of any question of the Bible in the public schools. Then people would have enough confidence in the Bible, and in its divine author, to trust it to maintain its own cause, without demanding that it be bolstered up by such a pillar of sand as is the State in such a place.
A. T. J.