Professor Huxley And The Bible
( Originally Published 1902 )
PROFESSOR HUXLEY, who invented the word " agnostic," and claimed to be an agnostic all his life, entertained views of the Bible in his last years which greatly surprised the world. Sir John Lubbock, in an address given before the Anthropological Institute in London, gave a quotation from an address of Professor Huxley before the London School Board, in which he maintains the importance of the Bible to the mental and moral training of the children. The following is what the professor said :
" I have been seriously perplexed to know by what practical measures the religious feeling, which is the essential basis of conduct, was to be kept up, in the present utterly chaotic state of opinion on these matters, without the use of the Bible. Take the Bible as a whole, make the severest deductions which fair criticism can dictate for shortcomings and positive errors, eliminate, as a sensible lay teacher would do if left to himself, all that it is not desirable for children to occupy themselves with, and there still remains in the old literature a vast residuum of moral beauty and grandeur. And then consider the great historical fact, that for three centuries this book has been woven into the life of all that is best and noblest in English history; that it has become the national epic of Britain, and is as familiar to noble and simple from John O'Groat's House to Land's End, as Dante and Tasso were once to Italians ; that it is written in the noblest and purest English, and abounds in exquisite beauties of mere literary form, and finally, it forbids the veriest hind who never left his village to be ignorant of the existence of other countries and other civilizations, and of a great past, stretching back to the furthest limits of the oldest nations in the world. By the study of what other book could children be so humanized, and made to feel that each figure in that vast historical procession fills, like them-selves, but a momentary space in the interval between two eternities, and earns the blessing or the curse of all time according to its effort to do good and hate evil, even as they also are earning their payment for their work."
The Bible, with the human element so beautifully emphasized by the professor and the divine authority which he denied, is at the basis of all best culture and learning, and is indispensable to the education and salvation of child-hood. It should be a matter of congratulation to the Christian Church, that in so many of the public schools of this country a chapter from the Bible is read at the beginning of the day's work, and that millions of children then say the prayer of our Lord.