THE FREE CHURCHES AND EDUCATION. ' [TO THR EDITOR Or TER
Sew riTos.-] Six,—Will you allow me, who am a thoroughgoing Pro- testant, to beg ministers and lay members of the Free Churches to consider how the influence of the whole Christian Church on the community is likely to be affected if they continue to show approval of the changes respecting Training Colleges and Hostels made by Mr. McKenna, and if they support those which he threatens to make in elementary schools ? It is an ominous fact, which has received far too little attention, that as the community gains more knowledge of the teaching of the Founder of Christianity, an ever- increasing number of its members withdraw from the Churches. Doubtless there are many reasons for the with- drawal; but one of the chief is certainly that, though all branches of the Church do some kinds of good' work, they all fail in their relations with each other to comply with the fundamental lesson of Christ, that we ought to do unto others as we would be done by, and the community sees with ever-increasing clearness that Churches which will not base all their teaching and action on that foundation cannot give us the help we need, and are not really Christian. All the branches of the Church have hitherto failed to obey the Golden Rule in relation to education. The Roman Catholic Church, where she has had freedom of action, has never allowed persons differing from her beliefs to give their children the kind of education preferred by them. The Church of England, in the years in which she had control of the great majority of country schools, never let the Noncon- formist parents who bad to use her schools have the kind of religious instruction which they pr.' eferred for their children, and never allowed Nonconformists to have teachers of their faith appointed to her schools in number proportionate to that of the Nonconformist children in the schools. A large part of the community, therefore, refuses to believe that those two Churches promote good citizenship and are fully Christian.
The time when the Pree • Churches will be judged has nOw
cpme. They know that Roman Catholics and anti-Pro- testant members of the Church of England believe that their children ought to have religious instruction, of a kind which we Protestants do not accept, intermixed with all the " secular " instruction which is given to them in schools, and they also know.that Roman Catholics and Anglicans, for the purpose of ensuring that their children shall receive the kind of religious instruction desired by the parents, have, with the full approval of the State, paid the whole or a large part of the cost of schools for their children and of Training Colleges for teachers for the schools, and a consider- able part of the cost of maintaining the schools and Training Colleges, and have at the same time contributed, on the same scale as Nonconformists and other Protestants, towards the cost of building and maintaining Training Colleges and schools of the kinds preferred by Protestants. It cannot be doubted that if we Protestants wish to do to these people as we would be done by, we shall use all our influence to induce the Government not only not to deprive Roman Catholics and anti- Protestant Anglicans of that which they believe to be necessary for their children, but also to cease to compel them to pay a price for the training of -their teachers and the religious instruction of their children which we Protestants do not have to pay for our teachers and our children. The Golden Rule does not make it our duty to allow children to have the kind of religious instruction desired for them by priests and clergy- men ; it is only the wishes of parents that it is our duty to comply with.
It is a critical time for the whole Church, but especially for the Free Churches. If they are as disobedient as the Roman Catholic and Anglican. Churches have been, they will be even more severely punished than those two Churches have been. For while Roman Catholics and many Anglicans believe that even if their Churches do not make them good citizens they give invaluable help by their Sacraments, Protestants know that if Churches do not make their members good citizens they are but cumberers of the ground, and the best Pro- testants will soon withdraw from them. I am convinced that a resolute attempt made by Protestants to ensure that, while all real Nonconformist wrongs shall be re- dressed, the convictions of Roman Catholic and Anglican parents respecting their children's education shall be as fully regarded in our school system as those of Protestant parents, would do far more to weaken sacer- dotalism by showing that Protestanism is real Christianity than could be done by successful efforts to close all denomi- national schools. On the other hand, I am convinced that the giving of support to Mr. McKenna's threats by Noncon- formists will weaken not only the Free Churches, but also the Church as a whole, by showing that there is not a single branch of it which is willing to do as it would be done by. It is a very remarkable fact that that which would be done in all countries, if the Golden Rule were obeyed, is not done in any country where the decision has rested with a Church, but only in Germany, where Kings, from motives of policy, estab- lished a system which is just to both Roman Catholic and Protestant parents. I must not ask for space in which to explain the German system, but I shall be glad to send pamphlets which describe it to any one who will send me an addressed halfpenny newspaper wrapper.—I am, Sir, &c., Swanscoe Park, near Macclesfield.
T. C. HORSPALL.
[We are certain that Mr. Horsfall is right in declaring that Nonconformists will never convert Roman Catholics and non- Protestant Anglicans to the true toleration except by setting them an example in such tolerance. To persecute because you have been persecuted is as bad in practical politics as in theology. Yet that, unhappily, seems to be the position which the extremists among the Nonconformists and their political supporters are determined to adopt.—ED. Spectator.]