Project Canterbury






SUNDAY, JUNE 24, 1894







Bishop of Delaware






Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2011


Teach me good judgment and knowledge.—Psalm cxix, 66.

This age is very much given to discussing questions of education: more so, it would appear, than most previous ages. Almost every man has his educational "hobby." With one, it may be classical learning; with another, scientific learning; with a third, that only which includes the simplest and most practical studies of life: while someone else may wish to combine them all. The Psalmist had—to speak familiarly, but not, I hope, irreverently—his hobby, too. It was religious, godly learning; not as something antagonistic to, nor even separate from, other profitable learning: but as something more profitable and absolutely essential. I know that there are some who think Religion a matter so related to another world as not to become those who pride themselves on being manly and practical. But can there be anything so manly as that which has to do with the performance of duty, or so practical as that which most concerns our bodies and souls for both time and eternity?

These men would have our nursery rhymes mere ditties of secular thought; the primary schools confined to the rudimentary education of the mind; our colleges and universities furnished with a curriculum that would treat Christianity as simply one out of many systems of philosophy. Any attempt to give to common business or public life a religious and, above all, a Christian tone or bearing is looked upon by such men [3/4] as an intrusion, an offence even, that deserves to be resolutely resisted. Their only toleration of it is because of the liking for it which some of those they love have manifested. I submit that this is not acting fairly by a code of ethics and a method of instruction which have survived the corruptions and revolutions of nineteen centuries; which, despite bitter assaults and searching tests, have proved the rightfulness of their claims upon the acceptance and confidence of the world by a series of triumphs—spiritual, indeed, but, on this very account, the more real—such as no other system has ever achieved.

We not infrequently hear of culture as of something apart from Religion. But culture alone, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, cannot satisfy the longings of our higher intelligence and conscience, nor give to the world the blessings which it craves and must have. Even ancient Greece, with all its gratification and enlightenment of the intellect, did not reach man in the deepest seats of his being. He yet longed for something more vital, more penetrating.

Instruction and education are by no means the same thing. They are, indeed, essentially different things. The one may give our memory stores of learning. The other edifies— builds up the mind; making it the stronger, and, by God's grace, the better, as we go on from year to year.

I say advisedly, by God's grace. For verily the thorough, the real education of man is beyond man. It belongs to God Who made him, and Who alone can safely guide him. There is no limit to the credulity of the ordinary child. Therefore it ought to be trained by trustworthy guides.

Thus it is that education becomes an anxious and difficult task—all the more so because of the temptations [4/5] which always attack the work of God within the soul.

And yet we talk of education as an easy thing. We plan schools and form systems, and boast of our accomplishments, as though every day by its general results of evil did not show that our efforts are largely in vain. One encounters even among pronounced believers in God such marvelous ignorance of the very rudiments of Christianity as makes one wonder and lament over the practical divorce of God's revelation from the nurture of our children.

Even the validity of those appointments which seem to be derived from nature depends upon this very revelation. For example, without some such voice from Heaven as: "Honour thy father and thy mother," the mere fact that a child is born of parents would scarcely suffice to establish their claims to honour and obedience. Neither would the state, without the similar declaration from the same source, "Fear God, and honour the King," be able to secure such loyalty as is needed for the welfare and stability of human society. Any long persistence in acting without, or in contravention to, the Divine instructions must cause confusion and calamity. "For," as has been well said by another, [The Rev. William Sewall in his "Christian Morals," to which valuable work I gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness, for several points included within this discourse.] "Christian laws are not Lesbian leaden rules, bending to the will of each man who applies them; but they also are hard as adamant, full of resistance, describing differences, commanding exclusions, severing between the good and the bad, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit."

We must, therefore, be positive, and immutable, and thorough in our instructions, especially with our younger disciples, who are so dependent and docile. [5/6] Aye, we must be even dogmatic. I allow that as a rule dogma is not palatable food; and, perchance, this fact shows us all the more distinctly how greatly it is needed by our generation. If judiciously administered, it can be made more attractive than may be at first imagined. But in any case, it must be given faithfully. One so often meets with sad instances of unhappiness, nay, of total failures in life, resulting from the lack of definite religious teaching, that one cannot speak lightly on such a theme.

Only the other day, I had a conversation with a bright, thoughtful young woman, of mature years, thoroughly well-educated after the world's ideas of education, who yet confessed to me that she did not know what she believed. She could tell me quickly enough what she did not believe, but to find out actually what her creed was she said that she would have to go home, and ask somebody there—a journey of five hundred miles! Now, this is not only lamentable; it is disgraceful. If I had been her father, I should have been ashamed of myself. Thank God! we have still preserved to us in all its integrity that Catholic form of sound words in which from earliest infancy to hoariest age His children may confidently and gratefully say: "I believe." Such failures as I have instanced will, must go on so long as men will not recognize the fact that Education, and therefore Ethics, unconnected with Christianity, involves a fundamental fallacy—I may even say, an absurdity. Without this alliance—of course, where it may be had—truth can never be preserved. The Greek philosophers thought to perpetuate their doctrines. But since these same doctrines were originally worked out by human reason alone, and thus could fairly be altered by human reason again, they soon became perverted.

[7] Aristotle's system was practically lost almost immediately upon his death. Plato's soon degenerated into something quite different from that which he at first promulgated. The later Platonists endeavored to establish a golden chain of ordained teachers, "crusea seira," for the evident purpose of rivaling, if not dethroning, the Apostolical Succession of the Christian Church. But only one or two links were formed. And such must ever be the fate of any attempted presentation of Truth that does not confess the supremacy of His teaching who declares: "I am the Truth;" not "I represent, or show, or even guide into, the Truth;" but, "I myself am the Truth."

"Clear away this mist from my eyes," was the prayer of Ajax. "Give light, and in light destroy me." Eu de faei kai olesson. The words of St. Augustine still express the universal sentiment: "Cedamus igitur et consentiamus auctoritati sanctae scripturae, quae nescit falli, nec fallere."

Recently I read an article in an "East Indian Review," in which an eminent authority living in Calcutta declares that "Educated India is being demoralized." The causes to which he traces this degeneracy are: (1) neutrality—the moral life of the people being so greatly neglected; (2) immoral and infidel teachers who produce skepticism and consequent lawlessness; (3) the unhinging nature of the modern enlightenment and civilization.

He further argues that morality cannot stand alone. While allowing that it may be a difficult matter for the state to enforce any particular phase of Christianity, he yet insists that it has the right to maintain a Christian attitude in protecting and providing the moral life of its subjects. Even Mahommedans will not send their children to any school of general education [7/8] until they have spent some years in the study of their own faith.

An intelligent visitor to Germany lately gave it as his opinion that in that country there is an abundance of what is called Philosophy, but very little of Religion. He added that "the man who pretends to regard Christianity as anything more than a form of misbelief is regarded as a sinner 'against Culture.' " [* Baring-Gould in "Germany, Past and Present," page 179.] The great Emperor William I seemed to have a premonition of this sad state of affairs when, a few years ago, in answer to a deputation of the Brandenburg Synod, he used these memorable words: "What is to become of us if we have no faith in the Saviour, the Son of God? If He be not the Son of God, His commands as coming from a man only must be subject to criticism. What, I ask again, is to become of us in such a case?"

We all know the deplorable state of affairs spiritually, and, one may safely add, politically, in France, resulting from the inimical and defiant manner in which religious rites and doctrines have been set at naught, and almost—if not in some instances quite—proscribed.

Heretofore, we have been able to draw inspirations of confidence and hope as to Religious Education from our Motherland of England. But alas! there, too, we see it in these present days shorn not a little of its Ancient prestige, and its very continuance as a national characteristic seriously and violently imperiled. No one can have read the protracted debates in the School Board of London without being greatly concerned as to the future welfare of the multitude of children committed to its care. We have seen it possible for some who are responsible for their education to entertain such a low and egregiously erroneous view of Christianity as to include among its disciples those who deny [8/9] the very cardinal doctrines of the Catholic Faith. Again we have seen some of these same responsible citizens actually stigmatize such fundamental portions of the world's heritage as the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments as sectarian. They have styled those who would insist upon the doctrine of our Blessed Lord's Divinity being taught as an integral part of the Christian Religion, bigoted advocates of the Anglican Church, who, by this means, are chiefly striving to win for her new adherents. [* As encouraging tokens of the earnest and determined manner in which by some these assaults upon Religious, Christian Education are being met, it may be mentioned that very lately a daily newspaper in Northampton opened a subscription list for additional accommodations in the Church schools of that town. Before long, the generous sum of £5,000 was thus raised. And more lately, The Church Times opened a subscription list to defray the expenses of the election of proper candidates to the London School Board. In one week, nearly £1,200 were sent in for that purpose.] While such things are possible under the guise of Liberal Christianity, it is surely incumbent upon us to take heed to the signs of the times.

And more significant, perhaps,—more so because only of its wider area—is that sign which is afforded by the present attitude of the English government—I will not yet believe of the English people—towards the Church of England, [* Although the measure has formal reference only to the Welsh dioceses, yet as these are an integral part of the Province of Canterbury and cannot by any such legislation as is now proposed be separated from that Province, the assault is really made upon the Church of England.] in the misnamed measure, already introduced in Parliament, for her dis-establishment and dis-endowment. I call the measure misnamed as to both branches of its title. For the Church never was established by Law, and thus cannot by Law be dis-established. Certain inalienable rights of hers [9/10] have been thus recognized from time to time. But these are hers, whether recognized by Law or not. They cannot, therefore, be taken away from her by any process of Civil Law.

It is again an error to speak of dis-endowing her by such process, for any such scheme as would undertake to deprive her of her unquestioned pecuniary possessions, and pervert them to uses other than those to which she herself could or would devote them, having in her mind the wills of her members in intrusting them to her care—this would be but robbery, and robbery under the worst form in which it can possibly appear.

I allude to this monstrous measure only by way of illustrating the dangers that beset those who are endeavoring, by the maintenance of such connection as does exist between Church and State, to permeate the English nation with the principles of the Christian Religion. Their striving is not to make the Church political, but to make the State religious. Doubtless, in some respects the Church might gain, should the plans for her so-called dis-establishment become law. Yet more surely would the State do itself grievous harm. In support of this latter contention, one need only quote the well-known fact that the avowed enemies of all forms of Christianity uniformly range themselves on the side of this proposed legislation. Recognizing in the Church of England the foremost exponent and promoter of Christianity, they would seek, through injuring her, to wound all religion most seriously.

In no places would this injury be more visible and more permanent than in her almost innumerable seats of learning, both small and great—where, with the best of secular education, she is teaching to so large a [10/11] proportion of the whole kingdom the "good judgment and knowledge" desired by the Psalmist in my text.

When we come to look at our own country, is the prospect any more encouraging than that presented elsewhere? Alas! how few schools and colleges there are where any specific provision is made for systematic instruction in the truths of our most holy and vital faith. These may be taught elsewhere in some general way. But we need something more than this. Despite our unhappy divisions, there is enough of at least professed agreement among all who may fairly call themselves Christians to give more of regular, systematic instruction in the cardinal verities which are universally proclaimed. Doubtless, it would require greater care in the selection of our children's teachers and more of attention to their daily nurture. It would likewise impose upon us closer regard to our own opinions and habits. It would expose some of us who advocate the cause to the charge of being unfriendly to the public schools, to which, of course, the matter chiefly belongs—a charge which I, for one, most emphatically deny.

Only a few weeks ago, in answer to a circular issued by the London School Board defining more explicitly what was meant by the Christian Religion which was supposed to be taught by those employed by this Board, a master wrote:

"I beg to be released from explicitly teaching the separate existence of Three Persons in the Deity, or the (to me) seeming unjust doctrine of vicarious sacrifice. . . I have always held up the Nazarene Carpenter as our great Exemplar. But for me to teach the special Divinity of Him who is only to me an elder brother, and ranking with such others as Buddha and Socrates, would be distinctly unwise. So I respectfully beg to be released from such duty."

[12] This allusion and the other allusions already made to what is going on now in England are because that land has been rightly esteemed as a very bulwark of Christianity. If such reason for alarm exist there, ought we not to be more alarmed here? How do we know but that many of our own children may be under the pernicious influence of some such instructors as the one whose frank avowal of deadly heresy I have just quoted?

We have too long, as it seems to me, allowed this question to be neglected and misunderstood. In my own humble judgment, it is bound to force itself in the near future upon the notice of all truly patriotic people. It must be settled, and according to the way it is settled one of two results will follow. Either by a more due regard for and practical adoption of really Christian nurture, this nation will assume and retain her rightful position of leadership, so far at least as a large part of the world is concerned; or, by the disavowal and neglect of her obligatory relations to the Christian Religion, she will but follow in the wake, for example, of the Jewish nation, which, when it was perverted from its purpose of a Theocracy to a magnificent earthly Kingdom, was ignominiously and irretrievably dismembered.

No nation can survive the loss of its religion. American patriotism must not, therefore, count the cost when Christianity calls upon it to entrench and perpetuate the religion with which our national life really began. An eminent scientist and agnostic philosopher (Herbert Spencer) has spoken of the "universal delusion about education as a panacea for political evils," declaring at the same time that the fitting of men for free institutions "is essentially a question of character, and only in a secondary degree a question of knowledge." He added: "Not lack of information, [12/13] but lack of certain moral sentiments is the root of the evil. [* In his presidential address, delivered by the Bishop of Exeter at the recent English Church Congress, he said: "The Master's pastoral charge to St. Peter, 'Feed my lambs,' comes before 'Feed my sheep.' I was sitting, some fifty years ago, by my father's side at a great educational meeting, when an advocate for secular education harped on the words, 'Educate, educate, educate.' I well remember my father turning to me and saying: 'Let them educate the children ever so much without religion, they will never make them as clever as the devil.'"]

We hear much at times of political corruption and of commercial dishonesty, and under the influence of some startling revelations—like those which have been made lately in the metropolis—a temporary reformation may be brought about. But no permanent improvement can be effected until, as a matter of education from their very childhood, our citizens are made to realize the obligations to integrity and consistency as contained in and enforced by the religion of the Incarnate Son of God.

Why, indeed, should any one complain of subserviency in our education to God, His Word, His Church? All the acts of our minds must be more or less in accordance with some power from without. The German philosopher calls it "ego" and "non ego"; the French eclectic, "moi" and "non moi."

The main question is to which of these many powers shall we submit ourselves. Shall we suffer our education to be taken hold of by the merely human element, or by that which is Divine? Do we prefer to have our beliefs and courses of action governed by system and harmony, or will we blindly trust ourselves to the variable and discordant schemes of theory and conjecture which in the end must lead to confusion and loss? When we come to understand what theology really [13/14] means and includes, we shall be obliged to confess that it is vitally connected with every branch of human knowledge, and makes all our studies harmonious and profitable, just as in a swarm of bees each pursues its own task steadily and quietly so long as the queen is safe. Let her be lost, and all is restlessness and chaos until another is found.

The highest effort of irreligious or religionless education is to place the mind in the attitude of ardent desire for knowledge, which, doubtless, is good; but, doubtless too, it is a desire which by its own aid alone can never be really satisfied. Christianity, on the contrary, seems to throw it into an attitude of defending what it has already acquired, and of preparing it to receive still larger gifts. Indeed, without the gifts and laws of Christianity, there is that discontented, restless consciousness of a want which will magnify and distort the object placed before the mind, and not afford any real assistance in attaining it—fulfilling the sagacious words of England's greatest dramatist:—

"So study evermore is overshot,—
While it doth study to have what it would,
It doth forget to do the thing it should.
And when it hath the thing it hunteth most,
'Tis won, as towns with fire; so won, so lost."

I have spoken, my dear brethren, of Christianity as of something which enters conspicuously and essentially into the constitution of true scholarship and learning. Without it, indeed, we may carry away from our college-walls a certain amount of book-lore, but we shall be unable to apply what we have thus gained to the real necessities and responsibilities of life. It is, therefore, with all the greater gladness that I address myself to-night to those who have had the advantage of belonging to an institution where, as I believe, the [14/15] principles of Christian nurture are recognized and maintained. They are to be heartily congratulated upon being under such influence and instruction. And despite the indifference of many Churchmen from whom we have the right to expect better things, one can as heartily congratulate the college authorities upon the many evidences of God's blessing upon their earnest and unselfish labors.

To those who are about to leave its halls and to enter upon other relations in life, let me address this simple word: practice what you have learned. Exemplify in your daily conduct and conversation the lessons as to holy faith and holy life which you have been uniformly taught. For fidelity to duty, and patience in suffering, if need be, for the Truth's sake, take pattern by that manly and courageous forerunner of our Blessed Lord—St. John the Baptist—whom the Church has been especially commemorating to-day, and whose spirit is so much needed in this luxurious and pusillanimous age. Be at least in will martyrs to your religious principles, as against all the allurements of a vain and transitory world, and inspire others with like fortitude and self-forgetfulness.

For surely, we are debtors one to another. The community idea—notwithstanding its perversion by restless theorists—is that which should be inwrought in all our schemes and endeavors. We must not only be true ourselves, but make it easier for others to be true. Virtue, as well as vice, is contagious. In ministering to our neighbors, in recognizing the relation of the common gifts and acquirements to the common wants, we shall elevate our intellectual toil beyond all drudgery, and give to it a dignity and nobility which it must otherwise fail to achieve. It allies all our possessions to their Divine origin, and affords a clearer [15/16] vision of the real purposes for which we have our being and our endowments.

Thus, if we do not frustrate the grace of God, the soul will continue to advance, until with all its powers it is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. This will ever be the result of true knowledge. And this in the end will be the means by which He will reveal His secrets in the day when we shall know even as also we are known.

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