Page images

Our Reformers therefore deemed it expedient, at the first Christian Office of which we partake, the Office of Baptism, to introduce an Exhortation to the Godfathers and Godmothers of the baptized infant, not only remind. ing them of the “ solemn vow, promise, and profession,” which they had made in his name, but requiring at their hands that the child be instructed in those things, “ so soon as he shall be able to learn” them. It is required at their hands that he learn, not only the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, but the CREED, " and all other things which a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul's health.” They are then admonished “ to take care that this child be brought to the Bishop, to be confirmed by him, so soon as he can say the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments in the vulgar tongue, and be further instructed in the CHURCH CATECHISM set forth for that purpose.Immediately after the Forms of Baptism, this Catechism is inserted as a part of the Liturgy; and is there termed, “ An instruction to be learnt of every person before he be brought to be confirmed by the Bishop.” In the rubrics annexed to it, the Curate of every parish is enjoined to instruct and examine openly in the Church, on Sundays and Holidays, “ so many children of his parish, sent unto him, as he shall think convenient, in some parts of this Catechism." Parents are enjoined to send their children, and masters even their servants and apprentices (if they have not learnt their Catechism) “ obediently to hear and be ordered by the Curate, until such time, as they have learnt all, that is here appointed for them to learn.”

From this short statement, it appears that our Reformers themselves laid at least the foundation for a system of Religious Education, to be conducted under the superintendence of the parochial clergy. And to afford


additional security, that this Religious Education be conducted according to the doctrines of the Church of Eng. land, it was enacted by the seventy-seventh Canon,' that every Schoolmaster should not only be licensed by the Bishop of the Diocese, but previously subscribe to the Liturgy and Articles. And this Canon was confirmed by the Act of Uniformity ;? which requires every School. master, both to obtain a License from the Bishop, and to declare that he will “ conform to the Liturgy of the Church of England, as now by law established.Lastly, by the seventy-ninth Canon, all Schoolmasters are enjoined, not only to use the Catechism, but to bring their scholars to their parish CHURCH.'

The plan therefore of conducting a Church-of-England education is very clearly prescribed, and prescribed also by authority. Now the Liturgy, the chief of this authority, is confirmed by the law of the land : it is the Repository of the Religion “ by law established : ” and the Religion by law established must always be regarded as the national Religion. But in every country the national Education must be conducted on the principles of the national Reli gion. For a violation of this rule would involve, not only an absurdity, but a principle of self-destruction: it would counteract by authority what it enjoins by authority. No

* Compare this Canon with the 36th, to which it refers. 2 Sect. 8--11.

3 Hence, in all countries, both ancient and modern, the Religion of the state has been the basis of Education for the citizens of that state. In other words, the National Religion has been made the foundation of National Education. Thus, in countries where the Church of Rome is established, the children are educated in the doctrines of that Church: where Lutheranism is established, they are educated as Lutherans: where Calvinism, as Calvinists. And this education is not left to the will of the teacher, but is prescribed by the

education therefore in this country can be entitled to the appellation of national, where the Liturgy is discarded, or where the children attend not the service of the Established Church. Indeed the parochial and charity schools, which were either founded or new modelled after the Reformation, were invariably conducted in such a manner, as to educate the children for the national religion. They were trained in habits of affection for the Church, of which they were members; they were taught to revere its rites and ordinances; and regular attendance at the parish Church on the Sabbath day was no less required, than attendance at the parish school on other days. Had this system of parochial education been carried to a greater extent, or had it been more generally retained, the defection from the established Church would never have been raised to its present height. The good effects of this system in Scotland, on the religion there established, is known to every man, who is acquainted with that part of our island. The same system prevails in the Protestant countries on the continent: but no where more completely than in Saxony, where the village schoolmaster has a regular endowment, where their appointment or confirmation depends on the Court of Con

laws of the respective countries, and is, therefore, national education. In the ancient governments of Greece and Rome, the same care was taken to educate the children for the religion of the state. Indeed, at Athens, though the seat of philosophy, the youth were not only taught to revere the religion of their country, but, before they were admitted to the privileges of a citizen, were required to take a solemn oath, that they would be faithful, as well to the sacred, as to the political and military institutions of their country. The form of this oath is preserved by Stobæus, (Serm. xli.) and may be seen in Potter's Antiquities, B. i. Ch. 26. or Warburton's Works, vol. iv. p. 231. A part of this oath was • IEPA TA NATPIA TIMHES. I will revere the national religion."


sistory, and where the parochial clergy superintend and direct them.

Before I proceed, it is necessary to observe, that the arguments in this Discourse are not designed as arguments for restraint on those, who dissent from the Established Church. Our Liturgy applies not to the members of other churches; our canons affect no other clergy, than the clergy of the establishment : and the Act of Uniformity was intended only as an act of security for the Church of England, not as an instrument of compulsion to become a member of it. The members therefore of other churches in this country, being bound by no such conventions, retain the natural right, not only of worshipping God, but of educating their children, in their own way. And this natural right is confirmed by the Act of Toleration united with other Acts in favor of religious liberty. Nor are the Clergy of the establishment at all desirous of abridging the freedom of religious opinion and worship, which is exercised by men of other persuasions. The Dissenters therefore have full liberty of applying their own principles to their own education. And indeed they act wisely in promoting that, which is best adapted to their own purpose.

But do the members of the Establishment show the same wisdom with the Dissenters, in promoting plans of education, where no provision is made for the national religion, where the Liturgy is disregarded, or where it is a matter of indifference, whether the children on a Sunday frequent the Conventicle or the Church? Is such conduct consistent with the “ solemn vow, promise and profession,” which we make at our Baptism, and renew at our Confirmation ? Do we act consistently, if, while we profess to “ believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith,” we encourage a system of education, from which those Articles of Faith are excluded? Can the Clergy especially, who not only sub

scribe to the Liturgy and Articles, but even hold their preferments by this very tenure, conscientiously support any other than a Church-of-England education? Can they do it without betraying the cause, which they are pledged to defend?' It may indeed be asked, whether every man, from the lowest to the highest, who holds an office of trust or power, whether religious or civil, which he could not have obtained but by professing himself a member of the National Church, is not bound by such profession, if not only openly to discountenance, at least not openly to promote, a system of education, from which the National Religion is discarded.

Liberality and philanthropy are terms indeed of seducing import; and no man, who possessed the faith of a Christian, or the morality of a Heathen, would recommend the reverse of either. But like other virtues they have their limits : and if those limits are passed, the good may be outweighed by the concomitant evil. What is more amiable, more endearing, than charity to the poor? What exercise can excite a nobler gratification, than to distribute what we can afford to the indigent and the afflicted ? But if we starve our own children, to feed the children of the stranger, our charity is converted into cruelty : we neglect a primary, to perform a secondary, duty.--Benevolence to all mankind, even love to our enemies, is a duty incumbent on every Christian: but we must not therefore promote the

" Though the Toleration Act, with an Act passed in the nineteenth year of his present Majesty, gives full liberty in this respect to Dissen. ters, and though dissenting schoolmasters, provided they qualify as such under the last-mentioned Act, are free to inculcate their own reli. gious opinions, yet no such Acts apply to the members of the estab. lishment. Indeed, it would be preposterous for those men to plead an Act of Toleration, who have solemnly bound themselves to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England.

« PreviousContinue »