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to demonstrate the genuineness of the foundations of our faith ; that the men to whose authority the most learned persons, both before and since the Reformation, have been accustomed to appeal ;-it seems, I say, extravagant to hazard, concerning these, an unqualified assertion,—that they were “ strangely deficient in scriptural knowledge."-But our argument neither requires that their credit should be sustained, nor that the acquisitions of the age we live in should be depreciated. The advocates of the Bible Society rejoice in the increase of light of every kind. They know the real value of comments ; but they regard the circulation of the sacred Volume itself as of paramount importance; and, they believe that it never van be universal, if they wait for a sufficient number to agree in the selection of notes.
The arguments of the last seven sections, I think, may be comprized, without inquiry, under the following heads: . -The Constitution of the Bible Society—The danger of the Established Church-Foreign operations-Alienation of the fund appropriated to the relief of the indigent.
Upon the impolicy of attempting to disturb the Constitution of the Bible Society, by inducing the church members to withdraw from it,- much might be said ; and much has been forcibly argued already *. But I shall wave the ground of prudence, though of high importance, and
Logo ih ponion of dit: avow the persuasion of my mind, that the union of different denominations, in the British and Foreign Bible Society, is a prime excellence in its constitution, and affords abundant cause of gratitude to God for the harmonizing power of Christianity. How delightful is it, after so many ages of discord, under the influence of human blindness and passions, to behold, at length, the taunts of infidels practically repelled, by the triumphs of peace and love! With the most sincere preference for that Establishment of which I am a member, I do not expect that even all good men should so perfectly approve of it, as to . admit of an universal conscientious conformity. I am fully impressed with the conviction, which the Emperor Charles the Fifth is said to have arrived at in his retire
* See Dealtry's Review, Introduction p. xxv. Christian Observer, &c.
ment, that it would be as vain to hope to bring all men to think alike, as all clocks to go regularly together. What then is to be done ? Are not Christians to unite in any thing, however great and good, because they find it impossible to unite in all things ? Are men, who hope to. meet in heaven, to continue estranged from each other upon earth ? No doubt divisions, in every shape, are to be deprecated; but the worst of all schisms is a schism of hearts. While as yet, therefore, an identity of form and external profession seems nattainabļe ; let us cultivate those means which are most fruitful in charity, 6 endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. iv. 3.) If it be possible to produce perfect agreement, no cause is so likely to effect it as mutual forbearance. Intolerance and bigotry inflame the ardor of opposition ; but the system which works by love will be regarded with candour, and must conciliate esteem. I rejoice that I can express these sentiments, not only as a, Christian, but a Churchman; for it is the solemn vow of every Clergyman of the Establishment * to endeavour “ to promote unity, peace and love," not only among the members of our own communion, but “ among all Christian people." It is a matter of praise to divine wisdom, that I even discords have been over-ruled for good. They have been made subservient to the preservation of the text of the Holy Scriptures and the proof of its integrity. How much more then should we hope for good to arise from diyersities without discords? Yet I would not be understood to palliate the evils which attend them, even under the most favourable circumstances. My only object is to recommend the Christian plan of overcoming evil with good. The measures of bigotry have been sufficiently tried. It is the duty of all believers to look for the accomplishment of that sublime prayer of our Lord before his Passion, $ That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may be believe that thou hast sent me.” (Johņ xyii. 21.) No instrument has ever arisen, which seems so well adapted to realize this happy consummation, as the British and Foreign Bible Society. I therefore consider tặe simplicity of its Constitution, on which its harmonizing power depends, as an object of the highest admiration,
• See Ordination Service.
quote to verificehat they tions as to manto compaiment fiscale
But Mr. O'C's mind is prevented from discerning its beauty, or looking with complacency on its strength, by his apprehensions of the danger of the Established Church. Yet he tells us in the beginning of his last section, that of the cry of the Church is in danger!” has been but 6 feebly raised in England. Now England is the very place, where we should expect it to be loudly and generally raised, if a real ground for it existed. There the númerous friends of the Establishment, and among them men in high official situations, ecclesiastical and civil, have the effects of Bible Societies, on the most extensive scale, before their eyes—the result of actual experiment for several years. Yet it seems that, with comparatively few exceptions, they are silent as to danger, or loud in the praise of these Institutions. Does not this afford a fair presumption, that they behold the representations of their Reports verified ? One of these representations I shall quote from an Extract of the Southwark Report for 1815'; which the reader may find in the Appendix to Dealtry's Review of Norris. .
66 It has been more than insinuated that there is a concealed design in the members of the Bible Society to subyert the established religion of the land: now, without entering the lişts of disputation to prove the absurdity of this groundless supposition, it may be fairly assumed that were it possible for such an intention to exist, some indication of its existence would be apparent in Southwark, and that the ramifications of this dangerous conspiracy would be traced through the open and unguarded barriers of your Bible Associations. Now what is the fact? Let the clergy of your district be asked the question, they will tell you that their churches have been better filled, and more regularly attended since your establishment; that their congregations not only progressively increase but improve in habits of decorum and propriety of conduct, and that amongst them there are many individuals who have been awakened to a sense of their religious duties through their connection with your Bible Associations."
Can any thing be more forcible,' or bear a clearer impress of truth and reality, than this appeal to the Clergy of a district so extensive and populous ?-a district comprizing twelve Bible Associations, and a body of more than Twenty-one Thousand Subscribers! What has Mr, O’C. to oppose to such a testimony as this ? An alledged " general persuasion among the lower and middle classes of Protestants, that the opinions of the Methodists are not so objectionable as had been hitherto supposed” (p. 47.) His own assertion that “ the current of public opinion has already set in against the Established Church," (p. 49.) with the acknowledged fact that " a great part of the Protestant population is already lost to the church,"
and the doubtful addition that « a great part is neutra, lized, or meditating a defection.” (p. 58.) But even he does not venture to attribute these effects exclusively to the agency of the Bible Society. He has enumerated (p. 58, 59.) a variety of causes, which go a great length in ac. counting for the threatened danger; and though he does not make himself entirely responsible for the catalogue of evils, he questions only the degree assigned.” I have little to object to all this, but his crowning the catalogue with THE AGENCY OF THE BIBLE SOCIETY. It is upon this point we are at issue. I contend that the Bible So, ciety is one of the strongest bulwarks, one of the surest pledges, of the security of the Established Church. Its greatest enemies could not pronounce against it a more severe calumny than the contrary position. Has any proof been advanced of this position ? Not one. Existing circumstances have been stated ;-a combination of causes, which can scarcely be considered of themselves inadequate, has been assigned :-and, it is asserted, that “ there is, however, another and a powerful cause of danger, not only to the Established Church, but to Christianity itself, as a reasonable service." Is it to be inferred from the increase of the congregations of churches, as in the district of the Southwark Auxiliary?—from the erection of new churches in extra-parochial tracts, as that consecrated in July last in the forest of Dean * ? or from the formation of an ecclesiastical establishment in India,-so powerfully urged by the late Doctor Claudius Buchanan ?-I do not say that these are the immediate works of the Bible So-. ciety :--but they are a specimen of contemporaneous facts and probable fruits, which have an infinitely fairer claim to assuage our fears, than any thing possesses to excite them, which Mr. O'C. has advanced. He talks of sects
-but when did they originate ? Was it since the formation of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804 ?
* See the Christịan Observer for August 1816
It is a topic that has been hackneyed by the various adversaries of light. It has been employed by the Deist against Christianity-by the Romanist against the Reformationby our author against the Bible Society. They have been all equally mistaken ; and, I trust, will prove equally unsuccessful As to the “ general persuasion,” &c. which is alleged to be " the natural consequence of this indiscreet and inauspicious union”-supposing it to exist, it is no proof of an increased propensity to dissent. A man may think more candidly of others than he has hitherto done, and yet be more remote than before from joining their ranks. With the increase of candour there may be an increase of judgment; and while some parts of a system are regarded more favourably, the objections to others may be built upon a more solid foundation. But whatever may be the extent or the tendency of the alledged persuasion, nothing can be more preposterous than the causes to which it is traced by our author. Instead of giving countenance to " enthusiasm and dissent,” by the patronage and support of Bible Societies, it is impossible for the dignataries of the Church to adopt a more effectual method of resistance. If they make it manifest, that they hold the circulation of the Scriptures to be a paramount duty, their admonitions against enthusiasm and dissent will be favourably attended to, as being faithfully derived from the fountains of truth. But, if they decline co.operation in this great work, their wisest lessons will be presumed to be unscriptural, and to flow from some selfish principle. Again; it is impossible for the clerical members of the Bible Society to sanction, by their authority, an opinion 6 that the Bible is intelligible, without any human aid, to every blockhead however illiterate ;" because no such opinion is entertained by the Bible Society, It is hoped, that the sophistry of this imputation has been sufficiently exposed ; and that it is also superfluous again to distinguish the omission of notes and comments from withholding * the means of understanding the Scriptures. If there be any sect so enthusiastic as to withhold these means, or to deny that the Bible has any difficulties, I trust the Clergy cannot be persuaded that they are yielding “ deference" to such“ notions.”
* See “ Thoughts” &c. p. 46.