Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

because the labours of this institution have been from the first so eminently blessed of God, that the great enemy of souls has caused so many impediments to be thrown in their way; sometimes by avowed enemies, but often, and especially of late, by scrupulous brethren. The extent of controversy respecting this society is beyond all precedent of any religious or charitableinstitution: I have atthis momentonmyshelves, partly my own, but chiefly loans from friends, not so few I believe as a hundred and fifty distinct publications, great numbers of them thick pamphlets, and several of them considerable volumes, ranging in a series of controversies from the early formation of the society to the present moment; and this without including Reports, accounts of public meetings, or casual papers in magazines and newspapers. And all this about so simple an object as distributing the word of God, without note or comment, by the united agency of all classes of Christians! Surely if, in regard to so simple an object, there is found so much variety of opinion, it is not to be wondered at that the systematic introduction of oral prayer is attended with yet greater difficulties ; so that the most spiritually-minded person, in the exercise of Christian discretion and liberty, and as in the sight of Him who searcheth the heart, may conscientiously doubt whether it would be for the glory of God or the welfare of the church to innovate upon the present system. Indeed, we cannot do so without altogether breaking up the society; an alternative not to be thought of without the deepest distress and apprehension.

LETTER IX. I COME now, my lord, to the question of the Apocrypha. I might, perhaps, have spared myself this part of my task, so far as concerns those on either side who are intimately acquainted with the movements of the Society; for the circulation of the Apocrypha having been for several years expressly forbidden by the laws of the institution, and these laws having, from the moment of their enactment, been conscientiously acted upon, there would seem to be no necessity for reviving a by-gone controversy. Such, I am sure, is the feeling of all candid and impartial persons; and indeed, so long ago as 1826, it was remarked with much fairness by Mr. Gorham, one of the most zealous opponents of the Apocrypha, that“ the Apocryphal controversy is practically terminated.” “It has been settled that the funds of the institution shall be exclusively employed for the unmixed word of God.” Let us hope that all discordant sounds will die away, and that the late jealousy existing among its members will be soon succeeded by the most cordial and affectionate re-union. It will be a lamentable crisis indeed, should any zealous but mistaken individual press on this debate to a positive rupture, after every thing has been gained which can be equitably or charitably contested.” Such was Mr. Gorham's declaration in 1826; and we find Mr. Irving also, in 1827, writing in a kindred strain; “I make no doubt the committee will continue faithful to the spirit of the three resolutions, and will never seek to subvert them.” I could quote whole pages of a similar character from many of those who took the most zealous part against the circulation of the Apocrypha.

Under these circumstances, I might have felt myself spared alluding to this antiquated source of litigation, which had issued, by the concurrence of all parties, in an amicable arrangement, which there is not the slightest reason to suspect any member of the committee of attempting Christ. Observ. No. 364.

2 G

or wishing to violate. Yet I grieve to say, that, in a spirit very remote from that of peace or equity, this topic is still brought forward in speeches and controversial libels, and with that worst of all artificesinsinuating what is meant to leave a strong impression, and what in it. self may possibly be verbally true, but which conveys to the mind of the hearer or reader a direct falsehood. I find, for example, in a recent pamphlet, widely circulated by the friends and founders of the so-called Trinitarian Society, and with the significant notice, “to be had at 32, Sackville-street, price 3d., or 188. per hundred,” the following statement: . Notwithstanding the parent committee pledged themselves in the face of the whole world, three or four years ago, to give up directly or indirectly circulating the Apocrypha, in the very last Annual Report for 1830, it is admitted by them, that this Socinian agent of theirs in Paris, Mr. Kieffer, had continued the practice up to that time. The only colour they put upon this gross breach of every principle of honour, good faith, and truth, is the assertion, that Professor Kieffer did it unintentionally. What circulate Bibles unintentionally!!! This is the most extraordinary uninten. tional act that was, perhaps, ever performed.”

The particular fact here alluded to, I will notice in a future page ; but, putting for the present all the garnishing out of the question, such as the “ Socinian agent,” so called, but unproved; and the three notes of admiration, &c., which are only so much pungent condiment, the real impression intended to be conveyed, but which the anonymous Sackville-street writer dared not aver, (for he knew that it is not true, and that it has not even a “colour ” of truth ;) the impression, I say, intended to be conveyed, and which has been conveyed to hundreds of well-meaning deluded persons, and has called down many a denunci. ation upon the Bible Society, and many a burst of “Shame, shame" at Trinitarian meetings, is, that the committee of the Bible Society, notwithstanding they had solemnly pledged themselves in the face of the whole world, neither directly nor indirectly to circulate the Apocrypha, still continue to do so, or to sanction others in doing it; and this in a manner the most sly, hypocritical, base, and cowardly that can be imagined. If an anonymous writer who could insinuate, for even he dares not assert so preposterous a slander, had thought that his paper would fall into the hands of those who ask for proof, or can collate facts, or are not out-and-out partizans who covet not truth but scandal, he had not ventured to pen the above paragraph. No man in his senses can or will believe that the noblemen, prelates, clergymen, and much respected laymen of all classes, who are connected with the Bible Society, are really carrying on this dastardly and mendacious proceeding in violation of their most solemn pledges; or that such atrocities are deliberately perpetrated in a committee of thirty-six gentlemen, of various habits, sects, and persuasions, gratuitously serving an institution for the circulation of the Bible, and not a few of whom are well known to the world as men of piety and the highest integrity; and moreover, with the votes and committee-room open at all times to every subscribing clergyman and dissenting minister, and to every considerable subscriber and donor; that is, to some five hundred persons. That such men, under such circumstances, or under any circumstances, should be carrying on such a course of deliberate fraud and falsehood, is so utterly incredible that no man dares assert it; but what is not asserted is in. sinuated, and reported, and carried from mouth to mouth, and pen to pen, with a reckless spirit of party that is most mournful to behold by any person of common honour or honesty. I am glad that the above statement, though with the abused “Trinitarian ” guarantee of 32 Sackville-street upon it, is anonymous; for it would distress me to know the name of any man who had either the cowardice or the male. volence, in a pretended holy cause, to insinuate a charge which he knows to be utterly false, or whose own heart so shews him the wick. edness of the wicked and the baseness of the base, as to allow him to believe that such men as compose the Bible Society have had the meanness or the falsehood fraudulently to put a “colour"upon such “ a breach of honour, good faith, and truth.” The writer well knew otherwise ; he knew that the conduct of the committee, in relation to the prohibition of the circulation of the Apocrypha, has been most conspi. cuously marked by integrity, and that the insinuation of their having broken their faith was groundless and slanderous. And yet he so artfully constructs his sentence, that nine readers out of ten would think that the Society had been thus guilty. Oh for a little truth and honesty, even in theological warfare !

But leaving for the present this particular point, I return, my lord, to the general question ; in doing which, I ought to premise that I am in one respect an unfair examinant, since my own often expressed opinions respecting the Apocrypha, in conversation, by letter, and in print, and this long before the late controversy, might naturally bias me against the former proceedings of the Society. It has ever been to me a source of extreme grief, that these human writings, pretending to inspiration, should be still used in the service of the Church of England. and be clung to by the Protestant churches on the continent; and though, as in canonical obedience bound, I have ever read them where they occur in the lessons, and feel that I can do so, though not without pain, yet without guilt, under the limitation specified in the Sixth Article ; yet I heartily wish we were well rid of them, and I account it one of the earliest duties of the church, in its struggles for reformation, to exclude them from her offices. Being uninspired, the claim which some of them urge to inspiration, appears to me blasphemous ; and though many parts of them are both moral in their tendency and doctrinally correct, and some of transcendent beauty and excellency, yet others are most gross and heterodox; and I honestly confess, that in reading such a declaration as that “alms maketh an atonement for sin," instead of giving to the passage the falling inflection which betokens assertion, I have been wont to attach to it the rising inflection, which expresses disbelief and contradiction. I write not thus, my lord, to vindicate my proceedings; but only to shew that I am not likely to be over-ready to take part with these uncanonical writings against pure biblical Scripture.

And in truth, my lord, what member of the Bible Society committee ever did take part with them? What individual of that honoured board ever advocated the circulation of the Apocrypha for its own sake? The facts of the case were briefly as follows:-The Bible Society found, that in the Church of England, and in the Protestant churches upon the continent, the Apocrypha was recognized as a collection of ancient writings of considerable value, though not divinely inspired; and was very generally, and in foreign Protestant churches almost universally, bound up with the sacred volume, as to this hour is the case in every Bible used for ecclesiastical purposes in our own country: though, for convenience, or economy, or to satisfy those who demand pure Bibles, the universities and king's printer had been accustomed to send out many of the smaller copies without it; though it has been even doubted whether they had a strict legal warrant to do so. At the time of the Reformation, under Edward the Sixth, no distinction was made between the Apocrypha and the inspired books; the Apocrypha was also re

ferred to with honour in our Homilies, our Prayer-book, and the marginal references in our vernacular Bible ; and King James's translators gave as much time and pains to the version of these writings as to that of the sacred Scriptures. I lament that the minds of Anglican Protestants should not have been early decided as to the duty of passing by all but the canonical text of Scripture, and particularly not to have allowed the Apocrypha to be used in our churches, or bound up with our Bibles; but the above is the plain fact, and I am compelled in honesty to state it.

If then the Church of England still retained the Apocrypha, though not“ to establish any doctrine,” yet“ for example of life and instruction of manners,” so that, ecclesiastically speaking, every copy of the Bible was expected to have this appendage, in order that the people might turn to the church lessons selected from its pages; and if even the most solemn portion of our public devotions, the holy communion, is interspersed with quotations from it; we cannot wonder that other Protestant churches on the continent of Europe, among whom, as with us, the Apocrypha had been appended to their Bibles from the period of the Reformation, were unprepared at once to relinquish it,-or that they received our solicitations to that effect in much the same manner as the ecclesiastical rulers of the Church of England would have received an offer from a foreign nation to supply all our churches with non-apocryphal copies of the Bible, upon condition that the universities and king's printer should cease to publish any copies of this pseudorevelation, or the clergy to read the lessons selected from it. I say not this as justifying the feeling, either in the ecclesiastics of England or the continent, but only as explaining it. In Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, France, and elsewhere, the Apocrypha was and is held in great veneration. The Augsburgh Confession pronounced it “useful to be read ;” and Luther, like our own translators, included it in his celebrated version, accompanied by much such an announcement as that in our Sixth Article, but which caveat is not to be found in our English copies ; so that our own population are far more likely to be misled as to its destitution of claim to Divine inspiration than our continental neighbours, who with every copy have the cautionary scholium. The Society for the promotion of Christian Knowledge circulates Bibles with the Apocrypha ; even its Family Bible is thus furnished; and the same may be said of the Bibles in every warehouse in Paternoster Row, and at every bookseller's south of the Tweed. The Bible Society resisted this practice as respected our English Bibles; so that a church reading-desk Bible could not be procured from its depository; but its conductors felt some hesitation as respected copies for the use of Roman Catholics and foreign Protestants.

The Society had scarcely turned its attention to the continent of Europe, before the state of some of the vernacular Protestant translations, and the annexation of the Apocrypha to them, began to cause considerable difficulties. The ecclesiastical authorities of foreign sister-communions were extremely jealous of what they considered the tampering of England with their copies : they were content, they said, with the volume with the inspired text and the apocryphal books bound together, as they had received them from Luther and the other bright ornaments of the Reformation : their people, they said, did not consider the Apocrypha as divinely inspired; but they valued it in the same subordinate aspect as did the reformers of the Church of England, and they would not consent to receivc, nor would their pastors venture to

force upon them, copies otherwise than with the customary annexation. If the Bible Society would let them have the volume as the people were used to it, and the Reformers had left it, and as it is found in every parish church and chapel in England, they would be thankful for the boon; but they could not, and would not, allow of so material an innovation as the extrusion of the Apocryphal books.

What it behoved the committee of the Bible Society to do, under these circumstances, is not to the purpose of my present argument: what they did was to yield what appeared to them a case of necessity; not, however, as they thought, involving any thing unscriptural or wrong. It was a question, they considered, between communicating Bibles in the manner in which they had been issued from the time of the Reformation, or not communicating them at all. As to any notion of being able to circulate any considerable number of copies without this appendage, the jealousy of the

foreign churches, countenanced by the example of the Church of England, .“ the glory of the Reformation,” they considered rendered it impossible.

Whether this was a sufficient reason for yielding the point has been a subject of much controversy, and the general feeling of the members of the Society, when the matter came to be discussed, proved strongly adverse to the plan; but that the apprehension was in a great measure well founded, has been proved by the strong remonstrances of the continental Protestant societies, and the partial or total disruption of their union with the Bible Society in this country, since the passing of the resolutions of 1826 and 1827, by which the British and Foreign Bible Society bound itself in the strongest manner wholly to abstain, directly or indirectly, from apocryphal circulation. It would seem scarcely necessary to transcribe these resolutions, which may be found in every Report ; but as hundreds of well meaning persons are deceived by such insinuations as that of the anonymous Sackville-street writer above quoted, and as Mr. Robert Haldane himself actually avers, in a pamphlet published only last year, that “the apocryphal question is not settled, only that which was formerly done directly is now carried on in an indirect manner," it may be desirable to quote them. Mark, my lord, the stringent minuteness of legislation, the almost superfuity of caution, in these regulations, and judge what ground there is for Mr. Haldane's charge. If that gentleman means to insinuate, with the anonymous Sackville-street writer, that the friends and conductors of the Bible Society are deliberately violating their solemn pledge, and uniting in their conduct all that is mean and dastardly with all that is wicked, every man in his senses will know how to estimate such a calumny; or if he means that the rules leave a convenient loop-hole for the issue of Apocryphas, either directly or indirectly, truly his powers of construction are magnificent. For here they are :-

“ Regulations adopted at the Annual General Meetings of the Society in 1826 and 1827.-. . “ I. That the fundamental law of the Society, which limits its operations to the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, be fully and distinctly recognised as excluding the circulation of the Apocrypha.

II. That, in conformity to the preceding resolution, no pecuniary aid can be granted to any Society circulating the Apocrypha ; nor, except for the purpose of being applied in conformity to the said resolution, to any individual whatever.“

“ III. That, in all cases in which grants, whether gratuitous or otherwise, of the Holy Scriptures, either in whole or in part; shall be made to any Society, the books be issued bound, and on the express condition, that they shall be distributed without alteration or addition.

“ IV. That all grants of the Scriptures to societies which circulate the Apocrypha, be made under the express condition that they be sold or distributed without alteration or addition; and that the proceeds of the sales of any such copies of the Scriptures be held at the disposal of the British and Foreign Bible Society." : To imagine that the much respected and honoured conductors of the

« AnteriorContinuar »