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Duty of the State.
seem that the very causes of the insufficiency themselves suggest the remedy. The want is, not that the voluntary societies should be superseded, but that they should be strengthened;—that obstructions should be removed from their path ;-that increased means should be afforded them, and care taken that these means shall be applied where most required; and that improvements of every kind shall be assisted and stimulated. What powers, save those of government, are equal to this task?
Even upon that unworthy and degrading theory of government which would make the chief rulers of a country little better than a sort of superior police, the wisdom and necessity of interposition in this matter might be abundantly proved. But I, for one, will never be content to rest the question upon any such basis. Men live in society, live under law, live with toil, and privations, and suffering, for a higher purpose than merely to eat and drink, and sleep in quiet. There is in every man a humanity to be called forth, and built up, for an eternity; and on this humanity the institutions under which he lives are working hourly for evil or for good. In a country wherein the cares of daily subsistence are so absorbing as they are in Britain, the ministers of religion may utter unceasingly their awful message, but unless the ground be prepared for them by a really national elementary education, it will be well nigh in vain. Truly the masses need “guidance," more than they need repression.
The imperative nature of this duty as devolving upon the government has (as I have observed already) been recognized by persons entertaining the most varied opinions with reference to the manner in which the duty should be discharged. “Whatever," said the Bishop of London in his place in Parliament, on a recent occasion, “Whatever of necessity affects the
moral condition, the usefulness, the well-being of the people at large, and, in its results, the very existence of social order, must fall within the State's directing and controlling power...... Education must needs be a State question.”*......
When the educational provisions of the Factories' Act, and of the new Poor Law are remembered, together with the fact that two of the great parties in this country, as represented by the National School Society, and the British and Foreign School Society, have for several years had constant recourse to State assistance for their respective schools, it might seem wholly superfluous to spend time upon these preliminary arguments. But a little further reflection will show that this is by no means the case. The interposition of government cannot, by possibility, rest where it is; it must either go farther, or must altogether cease. And the whole question is revived in its very elements, by pretensions which are in every way deserving the
most serious attention. Claims of That the clergy of the English church should be the the churcb.
recognized teachers of religion in all schools established by the State, or supported by rates under Act of Parliament-were schools to be so established or supported -is a claim with which the public mind has long been familiar. And when the question of a State provision for general education was first brought in a tangible shape before the legislature, by the foremost and ablest of its advocates, Lord Brougham,—now more than twenty years ago—this claim seemed to him to have so much weight that he deliberately embodied it in the bill which he laid before Parliament. But to this clause, which was strenuously and firmly resisted as an
* Speech in the House of Lords, July 5, 1839.
invasion of religious liberty by the great body of dissenters, the defeat of the bill is to be ascribed.
Latterly, however, the claims advanced on behalf of the church by advocates not less distinguished for their eminent talents than for their ardent zeal, have been of a nature very different from this. The government is now addressed in language such as follows:
“We ask you not to do anything; we only ask you to abstain from doing.” We do not say, “Give us predominance,” but “Leave us alone.” We do not say, « Give us a machinery to work,” for we have a much better one than you can provide; but, “Do not take away from us our machinery, do not distress and impede its operations.” We say there is a power in the midst of you which the continental nations have not, which the wisest of them would rejoice to have. .........We (the clergy] have a commission, and authority, and ability, to educate the whole mind of the country; a power of forming a nation, which those who would take upon themselves our duties do not and cannot possess.*
Again: “We have an education which assumes men to be members of one family—of one nation. If any persons like to be educated on that ground, we will educate them; if they do not like it, they must educate themselves upon what principle they may, for we know of no other, and will admit no other.”+
The statement thus put forth by a very able writer may fairly be taken to represent the opinions of a large body of the clergy, and of many influential laymen. And it must be admitted that the assertion of these lofty pretensions is accompanied with such frank acknowledgment of neglect of duty on the part of a large portion of the clergy in time past, and with such zealous efforts at improvement for the future, as cannot but excite sympathy in the heart, however they may fail to produce conviction in the understanding.
* Has the Church, or the State, the power to educate the Nation ? A course of lectures, by the Rev. F. D, Maurice, 12mo, Lond. 1839; pp. 129-30, + Ib. p. 172.
Objections I have no intention of travelling over the vast field to this the ory of ec- of argument which the statements I have quoted, more clesiastical or less directly, involve. I content myself with adeducation.
ducing two (out of many) objections, either of which, as it seems to me, is sufficient to show that we have not here any answer to the question: "What is the duty of the State in respect of popular education?” The first objection applies to the groundwork of the theory itself; the second to the practical conclusions which are deduced from it.
I observe, in the first place, that this theory rests throughout upon the assumption that there is a body of men clearly marked out as descending by episcopal ordination from the Apostles, and constituting, by such descent, a distinct and separated class, divinely commissioned to preach the gospel, and christianize the world.*
This is an assumption which, when put forth by the clergy of the Roman church, appears in a coherent and intelligible shape. For whether true or not, it is a claim which evidence other than, and beyond, that of Holy Scripture must be called in to establish.
Protestantism, if it mean anything, does undoubtedly mean the distinct assertion of the right of private judgment in all religious matters—be they what they may
* See Maurice, p. 140. This doctrine will be found fully and succinctly stated in the “ Tracts for the Times," vol. 1. Oxford, 1834. See especially Nos. 1, 4,7, 17, 24, &c.
—regarding which Scripture is either silent or inconclusive. And for this reason the doctrine we are regarding has been denounced by a considerable section of the established church in England as a leaven of Rome.
The English church, in its territorial establishment, and in everything which constitutes its framework and machinery, is the creature of the State. The State constructed this machinery, and may alter it or construct it anew: and this without any detriment to the spiritual character of the church itself.*
Control or superintendence on the part of the clergy over general education is undoubtedly a portion of the machinery by which the church might be enabled to discharge its spiritual functions. But of those functions it neither is, nor can be, any integral part. Waiving then, for a moment, all objection arising from the insecurity of the very foundation of this important claim, it is further to be observed, that the whole superstructure is untenable unless it can be shown that the business of general education is a spiritual function in the same sense as is the preaching of the gospel. Is this meant to be asserted ? Is there an apostolical succession of schoolmasters as well as of priests? Or does the divine commission of the priest include within it that of the schoolmaster?
• “If all the prelates of the church of England were expelled with ignominy from the House of Peers, its revenues of every description taken away and confiscated to the public treasury......as a church of Christ, a church in the sight of God, it would have lost nothing, if it adhered to scriptural doctrine and scriptural ministry...... Its legal establishment is a buman institution......and like all buman institutions it is at all times dependent for its stability on the continued approbation of buman judgments.” Letter on the permanent security of the Established Church, by Dr. Gisborne, prebendary of Durham.