May 22, 1890
THE Christian Union of April 24, set forth a short catechism on the subject of religion and the public schools, with the purpose of getting the reader committed to the sanction of religious instruction by the State. The catechism was somewhat involved however, and to make its point clearer, in the issue for May 1, it put the case in the following form:—
Ought the State to inculcate righteousness in its public schools? For ourselves, we have no hesitation in saying that it has no right to maintain any public schools which do not inculcate righteousness.
We suppose that the Christian Union means the right kind of righteousness. Let us see therefore what this is, and how it is obtained; then we will be better prepared to understand whether the State can make a success of inculcating righteousness. Jesus Christ directed all people to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” It is therefore, the righteousness of God, that men are to seek. This only is the right kind of righteousness. Any righteousness which comes short of that, is not genuine righteousness,—in short it is not righteousness at all. The State, therefore, in order to inculcate the right kind of righteousness, must inculcate the righteousness of God, and to do that there will have to be a State recognition of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, in other words, would be the State recognition, the State establishment, of Christianity. None but Christians could have any part in the Government; none but Christians could have any part as instructors in the public schools; Christians only would be qualified to have any part in the affairs of State, and such Christians only as possess the righteousness of God, in order that they might instruct the ungodly by every possible example, in the way of righteousness. That, it is seen at once, would be to turn the State into a Church; the Church and the State would be identical. But that did not work well when it was tried before, and it would work no better now. This single point shows plainly enough that it is impossible for the State to undertake the inculcation of righteousness. So much for the kind of righteousness which men must have.
Now a few words as to how only that righteousness can be obtained. How is it made known to men? We read “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed.” This righteousness therefore is revealed in the gospel of Christ, and in that only. For the State therefore, to undertake to make known righteousness to the children in school, or to anybody anywhere else, it would necessarily have to take charge of the gospel of Christ, and expound that as such to the people. This it is seen again would at once turn the State into a Church, and Church and State would be identical.
Having found what kind of righteousness it is that men must have, and how that righteousness is made known, next, how is it acquired by individuals when made known to them? How does it become their own? Again we read: “Now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe, for there is no difference.” And let us read Romans 1:16, 17, again: “I am not  ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed, from faith to faith: as it is written, the just [the righteous] shall live by faith.
Once more we read, “As by the disobedience of one many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:19. It is by the obedience of Christ that men are made righteous, and not by their own obedience; it is by his righteousness that men are made righteous; for he it is “whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past.” Romans 3:25. Therefore “To him that worketh not but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly his faith is counted for righteousness; even as David describeth the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” Romans 4:5, 6.
Thus it is manifest that it is only by faith in Christ that righteousness can be obtained. Therefore for the State to inculcate righteousness, it would necessarily have to inculcate faith in Jesus Christ. This again would be but to turn the State into a Church. But if the State is to do this, what shall the Church do? If the State becomes the Church, then where shall the Church itself appear?
More than this, when the gospel is preached to men and they receive it, there is another step to be taken. Christ said “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” And, again, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Thus, in order to be righteous, it is essential that a person shall have faith in Christ. In order to manifest acceptable faith in him, it is essential that that person should be baptized, and thus further it is seen that, in order to inculcate righteousness, the State must become the Church, but such a thing as that is impossible; the State cannot become the Church, and as certain as it is that the State cannot become the Church, so certain it is that the State can never inculcate righteousness.
The very few scriptures which we have here cited are sufficient to show the wild absurdity of the statement of the Christian Union. We might fill columns of this paper with scriptures to the same effect, but these are sufficient to show how utterly impossible it is for the State to inculcate righteousness, and it is most singular indeed how the Christian Union could ever seriously make such a suggestion. The State knows no such thing as righteousness; it never can know it; and never knowing it, it is certain that is never can teach it.
There is, indeed, another kind of righteousness that the Scriptures tell about, that is, self-righteousness, but it is hardly to be supposed that the Christian Union means that the State ought to inculcate self-righteousness upon the minds of the children. The only two kinds of righteousness that exist are God’s righteousness and self-righteousness. The State cannot inculcate God’s righteousness; it ought not to inculcate self-righteousness; therefore the State can never have any thing to do with the inculcation of righteousness.
A. T. J.