Page:Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras.djvu/160

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145
1883.—Sir James Fergusson
condition of things is not only in itself a reason for just pride, but it augurs well for that system of local self-government which we are about to see among us so largely developed. There is one subject more upon which I would touch but lightly, but it is one, to my mind, so important that I cannot lose the opportunity I now possess of referring to it. Secular instruction. We have seen discussions, and I think we must many times have heard conversations, on the degree in which, not dogmatic professions, but the religious element, can be fairly introduced in the teaching of the University and Government schools. The absolute neutrality of the Government on such, subjects is too well established to be a matter of question, and I am not aware that any have demurred to that wholesome principle, or held that any demoralisation was likely to accrue from the secular character of the teaching. But the question has arisen whether the teaching may not only be secular but anti-religious; whether or not it be a breach of neutrality that instruction be given on lines which militate against all religion, disregarding all appeals to those higher principles having their origin in the supernatural and actuating all religious organizations. In Calcutta and here complaints of teaching said to be of that character have been made by the Natives of India. I cannot but refer to the public declaration made in a periodical, the recognized organ of an important section of the Native community in that direction. This is what I have to say upon the subject—that I hold it to be as great a breach of neutrality to teach in opposition to religion, as to import into professional teaching any dogmatic religious principle whatever. That I certainly think would be a matter in which Government would be bound to interfere; but it would be going as far wrong in the other direction were anti-religious teaching to be given, and I believe that nothing would be more distasteful to the Natives of the country. I have observed suggestions of the utmost liberality made by the heads of the Roman Catholic Church in regard to a possible common system of inculcating morality and virtue. That may not be found possible; but I hope that never, under the auspices of the British Government, will there be sanctioned or tolerated teaching which is opposed to those supernatural beliefs which actuate all religious organizations, and which give to morality the support of the reliance on a higher power, and the encouragement of immortal hopes. We have reason, gentlemen, to congratulate you, and the community which is proud of you, on the continued success of this great institution; and I earnestly hope that it will continue to call forth liberality on the part of the citizens, and train up thousands to be honoured subjects of the Queen and useful members of the community to which they belong.