SOMETHING over two years ago the Presbyterian Synod of New York appointed a committee on Religion and Public Education to consider and report upon the following resolution:—
“RESOLVED, That the Presbyterian Synod of the State of New York, believing that the lessons of history and the traditions of American liberty forbid the union of Church and State, discriminates between sectarianism and religion, and affirms that so far as public education is concerned, and enduring morality must derive its sanctions, not from policy, nor from social customs, nor from public opinion, but from those fundamental religious truths which are common to all sects, and distinctive of none.
“It therefore urges upon its members the imperative necessity of opposing the attitude of indifference to religion, which appears both in public-school manuals, and in the educational systems of reformatories, and at the same time, of using every proper influence to secure the incorporation with the course of State and national instruction, of the following religious truths as a groundwork of national morality, viz.:—
“1. The existence of a personal God.
“2. The responsibility of every human being to God.
“3. The deathlessness of the human soul as made in the image of God, after the power of an endless life.
“4. The reality of a future spiritual state beyond the grave in which every soul shall give account of itself before God, and shall reap that which it has sown.”
That is a queer sort of a resolution on religion to be passed by a body of men who pretend to know anything about the religion of Christ. In the four “religious truths” which they set forth as “a groundwork of national morality,” they certainly have made a success of getting those “which are common to all sects and distinctive of none for there is not one point in the four that is not accepted by nine-tenths of the people on earth.
The Unitarian, the Trinitarian, the Jew, the Mohammedan, and the heathen can all accept every point named. As to “the existence of a personal God,” whether it be Buddha, or Joss, or Allah, or Jehovah, it is all right: all that is necessary is to assent to the existence of a personal God. And there is nobody that believes in any sort of a god at all who does not believe in man’s personal responsibility to him. “The deathlessness of the human soul” has been believed by the great majority of the race, almost ever since Satan told Eve that she should not die. And if a person believes that the soul is deathless, it is not likely to be very hard for him to believe that it is made after the power of an “endless life.” The fourth point is already contained in the second and third, and it is difficult to see what they want to grain by repeating it.
But the worst thing about it is that there is not in the whole statement a word or a hint about Christ, no more than if there were no such person in existence. And yet it is proposed by a body of professed Christians, as a statement of “religious truths.” More than this, they make the whole thing but a piece of infidelity by resolving that “an enduring morality must derive its sanctions …. from those fundamental religious truths which are common to all sects and distinctive of none.” The truth is, a person may believe all four of the points named and yet not have a particle of morality in him. All men have made themselves immoral by transgression of the moral law. And no man can attain to morality except by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “An enduring morality” can only be secured by an abiding faith in Jesus Christ. And when these men make “an enduring morality” to derive its sanctions from these fundamental religious truths “which are common to all sects, and distinctive of none,” they in that set Christ aside and present to men the hope of an enduring morality without him. But such a hope is a spider’s web instead of an anchor of the soul. God forbid that such morality shall ever become national.
As was to be expected, the report says:—
“The earliest efforts of your committee were directed towards ascertaining the attitude of the Roman Catholics. Archbishop Corrigan, of New York, and Vicar-Generals Quinn and Preston, besides many leading priests and writers of the Roman Catholic persuasion, were interviewed, with the most satisfactory results.”
Now just see what that committee counts as a “most satisfactory result.” A member of this committee wrote a letter to Archbishop Corrigan, “requesting for publication a distinct statement of the position which the Roman Catholics would be likely to assume.” Vicar-General Preston answered the letter as follows:—
“The Most Rev. Archbishop desires me in his name to say in response to your letter  that the Catholic Church has always insisted, and must always insist, upon the teaching of religion with education. For this reason we cannot patronize the public schools, and are forced to establish our own parochial schools. The question, where there are many different denominations, each with its own creed, is a difficult one to settle. We could be satisfied with nothing less than the teaching of our whole faith. Protestant denominations, if they value their own creeds, ought to feel as we do.
“Denominational schools are, to our mind, the only solution of the question. This plan should satisfy everyone, and would save the State a vast outlay of expense.
“The points you propose, while better than none, would never satisfy us, and we think they ought not to satisfy many of the Protestant churches; while the infidels, who are now very numerous, would certainly reject them.
“We believe that the country will yet see the ruinous effects of an education from which religion has been excluded. With sincere respects on the part of the Archbishop and myself. Yours very truly,
“T.S. PRESTON, V.G.
“REV. GEO. SHIPMAN PAYSON.”
Then says the committee:—
“The position of the Roman Catholics upon the question, therefore, is well defined.”
Indeed it is, a good deal better defined than is this Presbyterian spider’s web. That is not a position at all, it is only a floating scheme trying to catch whatever element it can. What an edifying spectacle it is indeed, to see a committee from the Presbyterian Synod of New York, soliciting the alliance of the Catholic Church, and that not only to meet with a rebuff, but to be snubbed with the reminder that Protestant denominations don’t value their own creeds, and that the “points” proposed “ought not to satisfy many of the Protestant churches!” And then, more than all, to find the committee reporting this as a “most satisfactory” result! Well, well, what will the committee do next? We have not the least doubt, however, that they will do as was suggested by the National Reformers seven years ago—they will “make repeated advances,” and allow themselves to be subjected to repeated “rebuffs,” to get Rome’s “co-operation in any form in which they may be willing to exhibit it.” Because, “It is one of the necessities of the situation.”
A. T. J.