May 1, 1890
WE have before stated that the New York Christian Advocate, the representative journal of all Methodism in the United States, disapproves of the Wisconsin decision. It gives considerable space to the discussion of it in its issue of April 3, under the heading, “The Bible Not Sectarian,” in the attempt to prove that the Bible is not sectarian. In proof it argues thus:—
The court contends that the Bible is a “sectarian” book. Sectarian means that which pertains to a sect. A sect is something cut off, a division. The Jews are not a sect; but there are sects among them The Mohammedans are not a sect; but there are sects among them. Christianity is simply a religion not a sect; but it embraces sects, plenty of them. The Roman Catholic Church is a sect, so is the Presbyterian, the Protestant Episcopal and other churches. All these Christian sects accept the Bible, not all the same version precisely, but substantially the same book.
It was not the Bible in any such sense as the Advocate uses, that the Wisconsin Court pronounced sectarian. No such question as that was involved in the case.
The question before the court was not the abstract question of what the Bible is, without any reference to version, or anything of that kind. The question before the court was, Whether the reading of King James’s version of the Bible in the public schools is sectarian instruction within the meaning of the Constitution? The court decided that it is. And this, even the Christian Advocate’s argument here given will justify. It says: “The Roman Catholic Church is a sect.” Then is not the Roman Catholic version of the Scriptures—that version which is accepted alone by Catholics, and which is rejected and denounced by Protestants—is not that version then a sectarian version? If the Roman Catholic Church is a sect, then assuredly that version of the Scripture is sectarian which is according to their views and is accepted only by them, and is renounced and denounced by all other sects. And, by parity of reasoning, Protestanism [sic.] is a sect, and that version which is accepted only by Protestants, which is called the Protestant version, and which is disagreed to and is denounced by Roman Catholics and others, is sectarian. And, in deciding the question which came before the court, as it arose, as it was tried, and as it was argued throughout, that court could not have come to any other just conclusion than that King James’s version of the Bible, the Protestant version, is sectarian.
But the Advocate’s argument upon what is a sect is a queer thing. Mark, it says: “A sect is something cut off, a division;” then it says, “The Jews are not a sect, and the Mohammedans are not a sect and that Christianity is not a sect.” It is proper before going further, to give the full definition of the word sect. It is this:—
SECT, from Latin secare, sedum to cut off, to separate. Hence, a body of persons who have separated from others in virtue of some special doctrine, or set of doctrines, which they hold in common; a school or denomination; especially, a religious denomination.
Now when Mohammedanism began, when Mohammed and Abubeker, with their few  followers, separated themselves from all their former associations and were hunted for their lives; when they fled to Medina, and raised a greater following that presently brought on war,—was not that a division? And was not Mohammed, with his followers there separated, cut off, from the great body of the nation because of their religious faith? There was certainly a division. Mohammed by his teachings and influence caused that division. That division was the origin of the Mohammedans and therefore the Mohammedans in their origin were a sect, and if the Mohammedans were then a sect, they are a sect still. The Mohammedans therefore certainly do form a sect. There may be indeed, as the Advocate says, sects among them, but the sects among them would ‘come in much the same way as the sect itself came in the beginning—by separating, dividing, on some points of doctrine.
It is the same way with the Jews. We presume that the Advocate uses the term “Jews” to define Israel as a people, and not simply the descendants of Judah. Take them in their origin, beginning with Abraham, did not Abraham separate himself from his own people in religious things, and did he not separate himself from his own people actually, because of his religious faith? Was there not a division, and was not Abraham’s descendants always separated from the peoples and the nations round? Did not the Lord make them separate? As surely as they were divided from their own kindred as well as from all the other people around about on account of their religious faith, so surely were they a sect, and so surely are they still a sect.
And Christians are a sect. At the origin of Christianity there was a separation, a marked division. The first Christians were Jews, separated, cut off, from the great body of the people with whom they belonged. They were separated from their own parents, their own brothers and sisters, in virtue of a special doctrine which they held. There was a marked division at the day of Pentecost, and forward. We might go farther back, but from that time the distinction was clear and the division absolute. Christians then certainly formed a sect; in the very nature of things it was so. Christianity therefore was at that time, and in the true sober sense of the word, sectarian. Christianity pertained to those who were Christians, and these formed a sect.
More than this, there is not a single definite form of religion in the world whose professors do not form a sect, and which is not, consequently, sectarian. The only thing in this respect that is not sectarian, is the religious faculty itself. Men are born with the religious faculty, and if this faculty always manifested itself in every individual on the earth in exactly the same way, and through the same forms of worship, there would be no such thing as a sect, and there would be no sectarianism therefore in the world. But this faculty is developed, and manifests itself, in many different ways. And in as many different ways as it does manifest itself, so many divisions there are, consequently so many sects.
The Mohammedans are therefore a sect; the Jews are a sect; the Brahmins are a sect; the Buddhists are a sect; Christians are a sect; and the religion, therefore, professed by each one of these is sectarian. Christianity is sectarian as certainly as Mohammedanism is. Christianity forms a division of earth’s people in religion as certainly as does Mohammedanism. Christianity is cut off, separated, from the great majority of the world’s people, and from all fellowship with their religious forms and faiths, as certainly as any profession could be. Then as the word sect means something cut off, to separate, a division, it is only a plain, fair use of the word to say that Christians form a sect. And it is no title of reproach at all therefore to accept the true, fair meaning of the word and say that Christianity is sectarian.
The trouble is that the bigotry of sects has attached to the word a meaning of reproach, and it is almost invariably used in that sense and to convey that idea. And from this all the different denominations, the different sects, that is, have become so afraid of the sentiment of reproach that has been instilled into the word, that they dare not preach that which has made them the distinct denominations, the sects, that they are; but must needs confine themselves to mere generalizations, and so have robbed themselves of the strength which attaches to definite truth firmly believed, definitely stated and insisted upon. If there was more love for truth, even the truth in regard to the word sect or sectarian, and less fear of reproach, it would be much better for all the sects. But so long as people fear the reproach, more than they love the truth, of what they profess to believe, so long will there be such a dread of anything sectarian as will rob them of all the virtue of the truths which they hold.
Undoubtedly Moses was held to be intensely sectarian when he chose the reproach of Christ more than the honors of Egypt. Paul we know, with all his fellow Christians, was held to be sectarian. They were distinctly called a sect, and rightly so, according to the definition of the word. The Saviour distinctly says that he came to send division. Paul definitely commands, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate.” That is sectarianism; it is the right kind of sectarianism too. If there were more of it in this land which boasts so much Christianity, those who profess the Christianity would not need to be calling upon the United States Government for help in causing Christianity to be received, and its institutions observed.
A. T. J.