THE BIBLE IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

"The last Signs of the Times, in speaking of the recent troubles in Philadelphia with the Catholics, takes sides with them. Is it not astonishing to see persons calling themselves Baptists, advocating the claims of the man of sin and warring against freedom? Strange things are continually occurring. The Old School Baptists, seeing the influence which Bible instruction exerts upon the minds of the rising generation, and fearing total extinction should the human mind continue to expand with Bible culture, may well seek the aid of popery to exclude the heavenly Volume from schools, thereby forcing a necessity for explanation of the Scriptures from the acknowledged ignorance with which the Old School pulpit is filled." - Banner and Pioneer.

There is little of candor and truth to be looked for from such papers as the Banner and Pioneer, nor do we consider their falsehood and slander against us of sufficient importance to merit a serious reply. But as the Old School Baptists in general are attacked, and the attack made upon the responsibility, not of the Banner only, but in behalf of the combined powers of the American Protestant and the Native American organizations, we are called on to examine the several charges made and implied. They are as follows, viz.:

1.  Of speaking of the recent troubles in Philadelphia.
2.  Taking sides with Catholics.
3.  Calling ourselves Baptists.
4.  Advocating the claims of the man
5.  Warring against freedom.
6.  Producing the occurrence of strange things.
7.  Of fearing extinction from the expansion of the human mind through Bible culture.
8.  Of seeking the aid of popery to exclude the heavenly volume from schools.
9.  Of forcing a necessity of explanation of the Scriptures from acknowledged ignorance.
10.  Of acknowledging that Old School pulpits are filled with ignorance.

These are grave charges, and they shall have a fair and candid examination in the order in which they are stated.

First. Of speaking of recent troubles in Philadelphia. It is true we have spoken of the incendiary movements of (Arminian and evangelican new schoolers) the popular clergy, in concert with the Native American party in Philadelphia, as "striking at the root of civil and religious liberty, and threatening our nation with all the horrors of speedy persecution, misery, and blood." That our apprehensions were well founded, subsequent events in Philadelphia have given fearful demonstration. The article in which we spoke of the troubles in Philadelphia, will be found in the 8th number of this volume, page 63, dated April 15, about four weeks before the occurrance of the riots, in which the pions clerical wire-pullers enjoyed a feast of blood and desolation, for the procuring of which they had taken the most unwearied pains. To determine understandingly of the amount of our offence in speaking of the inevitable consequences involved in the proceedings of the clergy and their companions, a few preliminary facts should be stated. It may not be generally known that a society has been organized in Philadelphia for some time, professing to be a Protestant association, composed of leading clergymen and laity of several popular workmongrel sects in that city. The professed object of this organization is, the suppression of Roman Catholicism. At the time this organization came into existence, the Catholics were peaceably enjoying the rights which the Constitutions of our states, severally and jointly, have solemnly guaranteed them and all other sects. The very organization of such an association under such circumstances, at such a time, and for such avowed purposes, shows the origin of that sectarian intolerance which occasioned the troubles of which we spoke, wrote, and published, for which we are now accused, and the counterpart of which presents a burning city and streets flowing with human gore.

That the Protestant party were aggressors in the disgraceful scenes, is very apparent from the fact that we warned them solemnly of the consequences of their proceedings from four to eight weeks before the volcano broke forth with such fearful violence in the city of brotherly love. And that the rebuke contained in the above article was hurled at us, for attempting to warn our readers of the subterraneous fires which were ready to develop such frightful consequences. But scarcely had we incurred the resentment of that party and drawn forth their bitter invectives, when our prediction was realized; Philadelphia was in flames, and the blood of her slaughtered citizens was streaming down her streets!

For some eight or ten weeks before the riots, attempts were made to force upon the public schools of Philadelphia, by coercive measures, the reading of the Bible, and other religious services, for the evident purpose of provoking a war with the Catholics, or expelling their children from those public schools, for the support of which Catholics as well as others were taxed. To carry out their designs, and court the scene of blood which followed, the clergy of the city commenced the manufacturing of public opinion, by collecting large masses of uninformed people into public squares, and delivering incendiary speeches against the "infidelity" of such as were opposed to their proscriptive views, and at which the clergy led on the mob by intemporate, inflamatory declamation, representing to them that the pope of Rome had sent a bulletin to this country forbidding our children the use of the Scriptures, than which a more bare­faced misrepresentation could not be uttered. While the New School clergy, and New School Baptists among the rest were thus piously laboring to oppress the Papists, and to overturn the liberal institutions of our country, the mercenary press of the city, including the political as well as the religious, were teeming with the most bitter invectives against the Catholics, and the most enthusiastic applause manifested by the fanatics. Little, however, could be done, even in this way, to provoke the resentment of the Catholic party, until many meetings were held, many inflamatory speeches were delivered, many false­hoods fabricated and uttered, and many excited young men and boys wrought to such ungoverned phrensy as to qualify them for whatever their pious leaders might direct. Thus stood the case, when having failed to provoke the Catholics to acts of serious violence, they adjourned their meeting to a neighborhood occupied almost entirely of Catholics, and marched down upon them with banners streaming with such pious and benevolent inscriptions as: "Down with the Catholics;" "Down with the Irish Papists," &c. This last manoeuvre produced the desired effect. With this explanation, we submit the first charge for the decision of our readers whether we were justifiable in speaking of the troubles of Philadelphia?

Second. Taking sides with the Catholics. The position occupied by us in all that we have said or done has been uniformily to insist upon "equal and exact justice to all men without distinction of politics or religion;" a faithful adherence to the principles of the Constitution, and a sacred regard for the rights of all men, and a total and perpetual severance of church and state. Occupying this ground we have spoken out upon the subject involved, and we have said, and now repeat, that the Protestants have no right, either civil or divine, to oppress the Catholics; that they are no more justifiable in persecuting the Catholics than the latter would be in persecuting them. The same spirit which the Catholics have in past ages evinced in persecuting and putting to death such as they adjudged heretics, and which modern Protestants profess to repudiate, is the very same spirit which, in turn, now rankles in the veins of those who push on the war against Catholics. What the Papists have been in other times, or what they now are in other nations, is not the subject or present discussion; we have simply to do with them in the position they have occupied in the late scenes at Philadelphia. In regard to the faith, order, practice, &c., of the Roman Catholics, we do not know of a single point in which we can possibly agree with them; but, as citizens of America, contending for equal rights, and especially for the right to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience, without proscription or coercive restraint, we occupy common ground with them, and with the oppressed and proscribed of every religious distinction. For the establishment of the side which we occupy, the patriots of the American Revolution faced the thundering cannon; to secure for us this boon, they poured out their blood like water; to transmit this invaluable inheritance to posterity, they pledged their lives, their property, and their sacred honor; and as evidence of their sincerity, their bones are scattered upon the broad surface of our land, and now lay bleaching before our eyes upon ten thousand fields.

As citizens, the Old School Baptists are on the side of the Constitution of our government, and fearless advocates of equal rights. As christians, we disclaim all connection with that kind of religion which depends on Legislative enactments, human power, the public purse, lawless mobs, or hireling priests, for its propagation or support. We profess, as Old School Baptists, allegience to that King whose kingdom is not of this world, whose word is our law in all religious matters, and whose name is our defence.

Third. We are called Baptists. A name which was once better understood than at present, once applied exclusively to the followers of the Lamb of God, but now prostituted in many instances, as a cognomen to conceal the murderous spirit of those who "have gone in the way of Cain, ran greedily after the error of Balaam, and perished in the gainsaying of Core." (Jude 11) The first man that ever bore the Baptist name was beheaded by the decree of Herod, and from the day he suffered, to the present, the history of the people to whom that name legitimately belongs, may be traced in characters of blood. The very doctrine for which we are now stigmatized by the New School, is identically the same that was held by John, by all the primitive church, and by a regular succession of Baptists from the days of John to the present. For the defence of Baptist doctrine John was beheaded, [he condemned Herod for taking his brother's wife and marrying her - a thing condemned by all true Baptists in all ages. - Ed.] Christ was crucified, and the apostles suffered martyrdom; for this doctrine Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts, and found an asylum (haven) among the savage tribes of Rhode Island, and there planted the first standard of real independence that ever waved over the American soil. Like John the Baptist, and like all other real Baptists, we both labor and suffer reproach because we trust in the living God. We hold the same doctrine and yet maintain the same order, practice the same ordinance, and suffer the same reproach, and, if the conductor of the Banner and Pioneer can show any just cause why we should not be designated by the same name, we will cheerfully relinquish it.

Fourth. Advocating the claims of the man of sin. This charge we hesitate not to pronounce utterly false; for, we as a people, and ourself as editor and pub­lisher of this paper, have uniformly, uncompromisingly, and emphatically, disallowed all the claims of the man of sin. When the man of sin first presented his arrogant claims upon us, to fall in love with the new order of things, we resolutely withstood him to his face. When he attempted to palm upon us the gospel of Andrew Fuller, we contested every inch of ground with him and drove him from the field. When he claimed the right to qualify pious young men to minister to us, and our money to support their colleges for that purpose, we disputed the claim. And when they called on us to aid in forming and supporting missionary establishments, tract societies, Bible societies, Sunday Schools, and many other things of the kind, we refused to allow any such claims, until he should present us with an order from our blessed Sovereign. And even now that the man of sin claims our cooperation in the work of breaking down the republican institutions of our country, in making church property of our public schools, proscribing and persecuting that portion of our fellow-citizens who differ with us in religious matters, we still di­avow his right, and still we hold "one Lord, one Faith, and one Baptism." Even the claim of the man of sin, that we should be silent, and cease to expose his heads and horns, the mark in the hand and mark in the forehead, the deception of his signs and lying wonders, his image and the number of his name, we treat him as we have always been wont to do, with the same decided coolness and determined opposition. If, by the man of sin, the writer in the Banner intends to identify the Catholics exclusively, (although we cannot see any ground upon which it can more appropriately be applied to them than to some others,) we demand, what are their claims? Have we, has the Signs of the Times advocated the supremacy of the pope? No! Have we embraced any one sentiment of doctrine or practice peculiar to that denomination? Certainly we have not. Upon what, then, does the Banner predicate this charge against us? Let him explain. We have contended, and we still do contend, that the Catholics as citizens of the United States, have rights, civil and religious, in common with Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Mormons, Unitarians, Universalists, and all other men; that no one order of religionists has a right to oppress, persecute, proscribe, or, in any way, infringe upon the rights of others. If this be advocating the claims of the man of sin, none but tories are exempt from the imputation.

Fifth. Warring against freedom! Dear reader, don't laugh. The subject is a grave one. The term freedom, in this case, is not, probably, to be understood according to the common acceptation of the word; by it, the accuser evidently means freedom to persecute and proscribe, and freedom for the one or more class or classes of religionists to mono­polize all our public schools, for the propagation of THEIR sectarian doctrines. With that description of freedom, (a base perversion of the word,) we are uncompromisingly at war! The kind of freedom contended for by our opponents, as illustrated in the Philadelphia troubles, is simply this: All the inhabitants of that city are taxed, according to their property, to support common schools for the education of the common people. Catholics, Protestants, and non-professors of religion, are interested alike in these schools. Now the freedom demand by the proscriptive party, is that they may introduce sectarian religious instruction into these common schools, and that those who dissent from such sectarian views, shall be compelled to stifle their conscientious scruples, and passively submit to have their children taught a system of religion in which they have no faith, and which is repugnant to their views, or sacrifice their rights in the schools, and suffer their money to go to support a kind of religion in which they have no more faith than they have in pagan mythology. This is the freedom which was sought by the clergy of Philadelphia, and when the board of directors of one district in that city refused to palm this abuse upon the schools under their charge, the hue and cry was raised by the enraged clergy, and the mob was called out, the people inflamed, and, finally the city set on fire, and many citizens murdered for daring to dissent from this description of freedom. Freedom to enforce religious creeds at the point of the bayonet, to enforce their religion by such powerful arguments as were used during the memorable three days riot, in which two Catholic chapels and one Catholic seminary, with one or two hundred Catholic dwelling houses, stores, &c, were laid in ashes, and many human sacrifices were offered to the idol of sectarian bigotry and religious intolerance.

If to enter our protest then against the dishonesty and wickedness of robbing Catholics of their money by taxation, to support Protestant sectarian schools, and compelling them to submit to the injustice by force of arms, be at war against freedom; if to contend for equal and exact justice to all men without distinction of politics or religion; if to raise our voice and ply our pen in defence of the Constitution of our common country, and the constitutional rights, both civil and religious, of all classes of our citizens, whether born upon our shores or adopted constitutionally as citizens, be at war against freedom, then there may be some justice in the charge; but if, according to the common acceptation of terms, the writer would charge us of wishing to curtail or infringe the constitutional rights of any man, or set of men in the United States, then the charge is a base falsehood.

    Sixth. "Strange things are continually occurring. It is rather strange that the children of anti-christ, the Arminian daughters of the old mother of harlots, should engender such violent feelings of hostility against their mother, when there is not a thing which they charge her with, but what they are themselves also guilty of.

Seventh. Fearing extinction through the expansion of the human mind through Bible culture. The editor of the Banner betrays a stupid ignorance of the Old School Baptists, or unblushing effrontery in asserting that they fear utter extinction from any cause, much less from the effect which Bible culture is likely to have in the expanding of the human mind! From no cause do the Old School Baptists fear extinction; the thing they know is utterly impossible. If all the wrath and lightning of wicked men and devils could annihilate them, they would have been extinct long ago! The God of Jeshurun is the Rock of their defence. He rideth upon the heavens in their help and in His excellency on the sky. The eternal God is their refuge, and underneath them are His everlasting arms. Of them it is written, "Happy art thou, O Israel, who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency, and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, and thou shalt tread upon their high places." Had this New School editor said that himself and brethren had hoped through their wicked perversion of the use of the Bible, to procure the utter extinction of the Old School Baptists, he would have spoken truly, for they have given the most abundant demonstration of that fact; but their hopes shall perish, for the mouth of the Lord has so pronounced upon them. But while we have nothing to fear in regard to extinction, we have just cause to look for oppression, persecution, and violence from the entire anti-christian interests under the whole heaven. "For, therefore, we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God." Yet are we "In nothing terrified by our adversaries; which to them is an evident token of perdition, but, to us, of salvation, and that of God. For unto us it is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake."

Before we pass this item of New School railery, let us examine the composition of this terrible image, which the Banner man thinks has frightened the Old School Baptists so excessively, to wit: The expansion of the human mind through Bible culture.

By Bible culture we presume the writer would have us understand that kind of religious drilling of the carnal mind of man, instead of humbling the soul before God, as the work of the Holy Spirit invariably does, where souls are taught of God; will inflate with pride, arrogance, self-conceit, and vain boasting, in which religion is regarded as a mere science, which may be taught in our common schools, as easily as the rules of arithmetic or of the English grammar. This is what they call Bible culture, because they make use of the Bible as a mere text book, and put such carnal construction upon the Scriptures as contradict all that they declare. A Bible culture, in their use of words, consist in training up the children of our land, by means of Sunday and other sectarian schools, to receive their peculiar views of doctrine. The hypocrisy of their theory will appear, when we compare it with what the Bible plainly declares: "The words which I speak," says Jesus, "are spirit and life;" and His inspired apostle has informed us that the "natural mind receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." God has hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes; "for it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" "Eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so, the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God?" Now, if it be admitted, 1st, that the Bible contains the words which God has spoken; 2d, that His words are spirit and life; 3d, that the natural man or human mind cannot receive the things of the Spirit; 4th, that they can only be known by special revelation of the Spirit to regenerated or spiritual people; how is it possible that flesh and blood can communicate spiritual instruction to the human or natural mind? It is preposterous, wicked, and blasphemous to utter such abominable things.

If it were possible to instruct the natural mind of man in the things of the kingdom of God, and by a course of scholastic drilling to make them understand the things of which the Scriptures testify, these Arminian pedagogues would be very far from wishing to force the Bible into schools, lest the fallacy of their own creeds should be exposed; but knowing as they do that a mere theory of scholastic divinity, or as they call it, of "Bible culture," will make as many Catholics as Protestants, as many believers in deism, unitarianism, universalism, and many other isms, as it will of what they deem "orthodox" disciples, they are willing to use the Bible, as their father the devil has often done, to give currency to their abominable speculations. To prove beyond successful contradiction that there is no sincerity in their pretended veneration of the Bible, we challenge the whole brood of them to point out one single sentiment contained in the Bible which they do not deny; or one religious sentiment which they hold that is authorized by the word of God. A frightful example of this kind of "Bible culture" was witnessed in the expanding inflations of the human mind, in the late riots in Philadelphia, when the Protestant actors appeared in the streets with weapons of death in their hands, and loud professions of sacred regard for the Bible in their mouths, dashing furiously through the streets, and spreading carnage, distress and conflagration through the city; driving defenceless mothers and helpless children from their quiet homes, to wander off in the neighboring woods to evade the cruel vengence of these pro­fessedly "Bible cultured" ruffins. Yes, without regard to sex, age or condition, the hoary-headed with the sleeping infant, were driven from their homes, and their houses burned, and in some instances husbands and fathers butchered in the presence of their weeping and agonizing wives and wretched children.

While we disavow all fear of extinction, or that one of Zion's cords will ever be broken, or that one of her stakes will ever be removed, we confess that we have just grounds to fear that the cherished institutions of civil and religious liberty are soon to be destroyed; that scenes of bloodshed, unparalled in the history of mankind [civil war], may justly be looked for. This kind of "Bible culture," this stealing of the livery of heaven to serve the devil in, threatens a more terrible calamity than what has thus far been witnessed. The burning embers of that latent fire which has been kindled by professed veneration for the Bible, and abhorence of the intolerant violence of Catholicism, is constantly being fanned by just such religious newspapers as, for more than eight weeks prior to the riot, labored incessantly to bring it on; and even now, while the voice of the blood of their butchered victims is crying to heaven for vengeance, plots and schemes are being agitated by the same combined interests to consummate their work of cruelty and death.

Eighth. Seeking the aid of popery to exclude the heavenly volume from schools. When, where and how have we sought the aid of popery for that or for any other purpose? The charge is as false as the source from which it emanates is base and degraded. The Catholics occupy the same ground in regard to making a mere school book of the Bible as the Protestant daughters, only the Catholics at this time in America manifest a far more tolerant and republican spirit. They contend for their rights to use their own Bible in their own schools, and are willing their Protestant offspring shall have the same privilege; but they object, and justly too, to being taxed to pay for teaching a Protestant version of the Bible in any school. They do not ask that Protestants or others should be taxed to support Catholic schools, or that Catholic Bibles should be forced upon the common schools; but they are unwilling that the Protestants should take such liberties with the common schools, as they are unwilling in return to allow them. The Protestants would think it very hard if the Catholic Bible should be adopted as a text-book in the common schools, and they would immediately withdraw their children, if they could not support theirs for such schools; nor could they be censured for doing so. Why then are they so unwilling to do unto others as they would that others should do to them? But they tell us the Catholics have always been a persecuting, oppressive and cruel people whenever they have gained the ascendency. This we admit: and so have the Protestants, invariably, wherever they have had the opportunity; and we could just as safely trust the one as the other with power to persecute. The very worst features of Catholicism that could be culled from the whole history of that people, would suffer very little by fair comparison with the late scenes at Philadelphia.

Ninth. Forcing a necessity for explanation of the Scriptures from acknowledged ignorance. The thought never entered our mind, that the teaching of what the Arminians call religion, or Bible culture, in the schools would or could supercede the necessity of preaching the Gospel by those whom God Himself has called to the work of the ministry; but it really appears, from the remark in the Banner, that this is one important object with them, to incorporate religion with the classics, and then forbid all but classical scholars preaching. Thus the proscription of the ministers of the Gospel whom God has called to the work, and who are generally found among the unlearned. But the poor scribber is much mistaken if he supposes that we require to force a necessity for explaining the Scriptures; a necessity is laid upon all such as God has sent, and woe to them if they preach not the Gospel; and the more they see of the machinations of men upon the subject the more do they feel constrained to "cry aloud and spare not." But who has acknowledged that those whom God has raised up to preach His Gospel, because not versed in the classics, are ignorant? Truly they may be ignorant of many of the sciences - as also are these so-called preachers - they may be but poor scholars in the rudition of the world, but this they are not called to teach; their calling is of God, and they are required to speak as the Spirit shall give them utterance, not in the excellency of speech which man's wisdom teaches, but with the ability that God giveth. The New School, Arminian, and work-mongrel preachers require the wisdom of this world that they may know how to use guile, and to handle the word of God deceitfully, to beguile unstable souls, and by feigned words and fair speech to allure, through much wantonness of the flesh, and make merchandise of their hearers. But the Old School Baptists, who have laid aside all guile and renounced the hidden things of dishonesty and desire not to walk in craftiness, have no occasion to learn the tricks of scholastic divinity, and they can well afford to be ignorant of that sort of science in which the New School make their boast.

But if our accuser means to insinuate that the preachers among the Old School are ignorant of the Gospel, of the work of the Spirit, he understands not what he says, nor whereof he affirms. If the men of the Banner and Pioneer would cast aspersions upon the ministers of the Old School, let them know that we do not have to manufacture our ministers, we receive none among us except such as we believe the King of Zion has raised up, called, qualified, and sent among us, and if they do not suit the New School, they are completely adapted to the sphere in which God has called them to move, and all the calumny and abuse heaped on them is only carrying on the war between the accusers and the God of Zion.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
June 15, 1844