July 10, 1889
IN his argument before the Senate Committee in favor of the Blair Amendment to the Constitution, putting the principles of the Christian religion in the public schools, T. P. Stevenson, of the National Reform Association, argued, of course, in favor of it. In his speech he referred to the demand of the Catholic Church that the public school fund shall be divided, and denied the justice of the claim by arguing that,—
“The Roman Catholic Church … teaches … that the Roman pontiff … and the church of which he is the head, are the only authoritative interpreters of the Scriptures; and that since Nations are moral persons, and the questions they deal with are largely moral questions, the authority of the Pope extends over all Nations and Governments.”
With the exception of teaching the authority of that particular pope, this is precisely the teaching of the National Reformers, and of Mr. T. P. Stevenson himself. The fundamental principle of the whole National Reform scheme is that Nations are moral persons, and that they deal with moral questions. Now it is a fact that the Scriptures are the standard of morality. Whatever person or power, therefore, that has to deal with moral questions, has necessarily to do with the interpretation of Scripture; and whatever person or power that undertakes authoritatively to deal with moral questions, necessarily has to be the authoritative interpreter of Scripture. The National Reform Association declares that the Nation is a moral person, and proposes by an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to declare the right of the Nation authoritatively to deal with moral questions. When the time comes, the Nation by some means will just as certainly have to be the authoritative interpreter of the Scripture. And whether that authority of interpretation be lodged in the Supreme Court, or in a board of ecclesiastics, or in one single ecclesiastic, it is all the same, that authoritative interpreter is, to all intents and purposes, a pope. And that that authority should be seated in the Capitol of the United States, at Washington City, instead of in the Vatican, at the city of Rome, does not relieve the teaching of its essential iniquity, and should not commend it any the more to the American people. A pope is the inevitable logic of the proposition, whether it be taught by the Catholic Church or by the National Reform Association; and it is no use for that Association, or for the Protestants of this country generally, to deny the claims of the Catholic Church so long as they assert the principles upon which alone those claims are based. The only difference between the teaching of the Catholic Church and the National Reform Association on these questions is that the Catholic Church openly asserts, not only the principles, but the logic of the principles; while the National Reform Association asserts the principles, and pretends to deny the logic of them. In other words, the Roman Catholic Church is consistent, while the National Reform Association is wholly inconsistent.
A. T. J.