“What Is the Matter with the Church?” The American Sentinel 4, 43, pp. 338, 339.

November 20, 1889

IN answer to the fact that the teaching of religion belongs only to the church and the family, Joseph Cook, in his 204th Boston Monday lecture, says: “The church and the family are efficient but not sufficient to meet the moral wants of the educational system;” because “one-quarter or one-third of the children of the republic of school age never see the inside of a church, and must be taught a religiously grounded morality in the public schools or nowhere.”

Then he says: “How is the church to be expected to reach all the children of school age? Has it the financial strength to do so, even if it could be brought to take the time?”

These statements open up an interesting subject on several points. First: “Has the church the financial strength to reach all the children of school age?”—She has. It has been published quite broadly, and apparently upon good authority, that Dr. John Hall alone preaches to 200,000,000 dollars every Sunday.

This is doubtless the wealthiest congregation to which any man preaches in the United States, but it is an exception only in the amount. All the leading ministers of every city in the Unions preach every Sunday to men who own vast amounts of money. Take the churches of all denominations in this country, and it is safe to say that in them is comprised the greater part of “wealth of the country, and it is certain that church has the financial strength to reach a child of school age in the United States. The difficulty is not that the church has not financial strength in that direction. The difficulty with the church members that own the money is not that they have not the money, but instead of using it for that purpose they use it only to make more money. There is entirely too much truth in the statement, as published, that Dr. John Herrick preaches to 200,000,000 dollars.

The latter clause in Mr. Cook’s question of worthy of consideration. He inquires, Has the church the strength to do so, “even if she could be brought to take the time”? Well, is it so that the church has got into that place where she cannot be brought to engage in the work of teaching religion to the youth of the country? What is she doing? Why cannot she be brought to take the time to engage in the work for which she is set in the world, and to which she herself [339] proprofesses to be devoted? What excuse is there for the church’s being in such a condition that it is necessary that she should be brought to take the time? What is she in the world for, but voluntarily and spontaneously to seek for the …, and take the time, and fill the time, to the fullest extent. The church has nothing else to do in this world but to fill up all the time there is, in this very work. But instead of this, by this statement from one who is certainly a responsible authority on the question, we are compelled to contemplate the fact that the church is in such a condition that she cannot even be brought to take the time to do that work for which she is set in the world, and now she wishes to saddle off upon the State the work which is hers to do. But, as we have before inquired in these columns, when the church shall have put upon the State to do all the work which she alone is set to do, what then does she propose to do? When she has secured the power of the State to carry on and support the work which properly belongs to the church, then the next step will be to have the State support the church, and that in idleness.

This claim that the State shall instruct the children is based upon Mr. Cook saying that ones quarter or one-third of the children of the republic of school age never see the inside of a church; and, therefore, the State must turn its school-houses into churches and enter upon the inculcation of religious doctrines. Such a statement is a confession that although the church is the conservator of religion in the world, and is held by herself so to be, yet nobody can be benefited by that religion unless they go inside of the church. And by this there is a condition of affairs revealed, which is the direct reverse of that which Christ established, and which the true church will ever occupy; that is, instead of the church’s seeking those who are lost, the lost are compelled to seek the church. Instead of the saved seeking the lost, that they too may be saved, the lost are expected to seek the saved. Instead of the church going out into the highways and hedges, and into the streets and lanes of the city, and bidding all, with the earnest tones of the Saviour, to “come unto the marriage,” she sets up an establishment, and those that are in the highways and hedges and streets and lanes of the city are expected to come and, ask to be invited. No, no! Such is not the church of Jesus Christ. Such a system neither represents nor embodies the religion of Jesus Christ. And such a system of religion, even though it were taught in the public schools, would be ten thousand times worse for the schools than the system which now is, even though it were as had as these opponents pronounce it to be.

Another excuse he offers for the church’s failure to reach the entire population is, that she has “but the seventh part of time in which to do it.” Indeed! why, is it she has not only all the time there is, but all the days and nights of the week, and all the year, and all the time there is, or is to be. Is it true that the church works so hard on this one-seventh part of the time that she is obliged to rest all the balance of the time? Is it because she has grown so lazy that the exertion which she puts forth in this one-seventh of the time justifies her in loafing all the rest of the time? It is not difficult at all for the … rving person to decide which of these iniquitous touches the fact of the case. And, therefore, it is a proper inquiry, and we think a profitable one too, to the thinking person. Would it be best that such a religion as that should be taught in the public schools? We repeat, The teaching of such religion in the public school would make it worse than even now its opponents declare it to be. An industrious worldling is better than a lazy Christian. And public schools, therefore, would be vastly better off without the teaching of such religion than with it, because it would only be teaching the children to indulge idleness instead of practicing industry, and to add hypocrisy to irreligion. Such a system, however, is entirely consistent with the other branch of this religious legislation scheme; that is, the demand for a national Sunday law to compel everybody to be idle on Sunday. The two movements, this one to establish the inculcation of the practice of laziness on six days of the week, and the other to establish compulsory idleness on the remaining day of the week—these are entirely worthy of one another; but they are alike totally unworthy of American principles or of the American people, or of the religion of Jesus Christ.

Let the church members put their money and their energies into the work of teaching religion, after the pattern of the Saviour, and then whether the youth ever see the inside of a church or not, they can learn of the religion of Christ. Then, too, the church will be conscious of a power which now she has not, the lack of which civil power never can supply. The Saviour and his apostles found more than one-seventh of the time to devote to the work of religious instruction. We do not read of any time when any effort had to be put firth to induce them to take all the time there was, day and night, continuously. And those who have the religion that they had will never need to “be brought to take time.”

A. T. J.

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