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thew's Gospel was expressly intended for the Jews. St. Mark's was composed at the instance of the Roman Christians. St. Luke's was composed primarily for the advantage of a private Christian, “ that he might know the certainty of the truths wherein HE HAD BEEN INSTRUCTED. St. John opens his Gospel with a confutation of the heresy of Cerinthus, which would have been wholly unintelligible where Christianity had never been heard of. The Acts of the Apostles were addressed to the same Christians to whom St. Luke's Gospel is dedicated; and the Epistles and the Apocalypse set forth expressly that they were intended for the use of Christians. The Bible, therefore, is its own witness, that it was not intended as the preliminary instrument in the conversion of the heathen. Not a syllable of it addresses heathens for the first time, unless the record of apostolic speeches and discourses may be so understood. The Bible, indeed, supplies much valuable information on the means of conversion ; but it never exhibits itself as the sole or initiatory instrument. Its truths were communicated by the apostles to the heathen, not all at once, but singly, and as they were able to bear.
There was strong meat for maturity, but there was milk for infancy. The purity and integrity of truth were no where compromised, yet prejudices were never revolted, often soothed, frequently compelled, like the sword of Midian, to turn their points against their own cause, before the lamp and trumpet of the gospel. The mere incident of the fatted calt, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, has been a formidable barrier to the conversion of India. The Bible is indeed the great river of life, from which all the nations are to be finally watered; but the garden may as well perish with drought as be overwhelmed with a torrent. There is a spiritual as well as a natural plethora, which is not less fatal in its tendency. Put Euclid and Newton, “ without note or comment,” into the hands of a peasant, and tell him to discover the system of the heavens, and you have some idea of the proficiency which a heathen will make in Christian knowledge with a Bible, similarly circumstanced. A Christian Church and a Christian ministry were the exclusive means appointed by the Apostles themselves for evangelizing the nations. The Scriptures were left as the guide of that ministry, both in doctrine and mode of proceeding; and to be a guide also to those, who having acquired "the principles of the doctrine of Christ,” were able to “go on unto perfection.”+ The idea, therefore, of converting the heathen by Bibles, without note or comment, is unwarranted both by experience and Scripture. When the Ethiopian replied to Philip's interrogatory, “How can I understand except some man should guide me ?” he spoke the voice of nature,
Luke i. 4.
* Heb. vi. 1.
which has echoed from many a pagan bosom, and which will be found abundantly repeated in the reports of Missionary Societies ; reports receiving the formal countenarice of those who are só frequently urging the importance of the Bible Society, as an instrument of converting the nations. We are not aware that the Bible Society has produced one instance of a convert who had NEVER heard of Christianity except through a Bible without note or comment of any description whatever.
Allowing, therefore, that the proceedings of the Bible Society are characterized by the most honourable, unequivocal, and scrupulous adherence to their rules, its claims on the patronage of churchmen are defective. As a domestic society, it is every way anticipated by the great Church Institution, which embraces also objects of Christian utility only limited, as Mr. Perceval justly observes, by its means.* As a foreign society, it is not restricted from doing in foreign countries what every Churchman would object to in his own, the promiscuous circulation of versions not sanctioned by ecclesiastical authority; and which, therefore, every Churchman, as a consistent Christian, is bound to discountenance elsewhere. We speak, of course, of vernacular versions.t And as a missionary society, in which light it endeavours to be regarded, no Churchman can consider it efficient ; and we wonder how any man of observation and reflection can entertain the supposition.
2. Let us, however, proceed to the inquiry how far the Bible Society is wise, consistent, or honourable in the prosecution of its ostensible designs.
The circulation of the Bible, without note or comment, is the avowed vital principle of the Society. Mr. Powys extraets the following from the Twenty-fifth Report :
It is the object of the Committee, in all their transactions, to adhere with the utmost strictness to the simple principles of the Institution—viz. the distribution of the Holy Scriptures, without note or comment; and while they feel the obligation of this duty increasing with the increasing magnitude of the establishment, they trust that a similar feeling will pervade the several Auxiliary Societies and Bible Associations throughout the United Kingdom, and that one correct line of operation may continue to characterize the whole body.-P. 16.
To which he appends the note subjoined :The author would just remind the reader how completely this document refutes every imputation, to which this Society has been frequently subject, of distributing other books and tracts as well as the Bible.
Mr. Powys may consider the simple negative of an accused party a complete refutation;" but we confess we should be better pleased
* Reasons, p. 7.
+ The evils which have actually arisen in consequence of this want of limitation are ably exposed by Mr. Norris.
with something more argumentative. The accusation to which Mr. Powys refers, was made on the authority of the Society's own reports. Archdeacon Twissleton scruples not to avow that the Columbo Auxiliary Bible Society has “ admitted the principle of printing useful TRACTS, and part of the members assigned a moiety of their subscriptions to that purpose." And he explains this circumstance by adding, that “the principle on which the mother society acted in prohibiting note and comment was an act of necessity, for the obtaining subscriptions from all denominations." So that, according to the archdeacon's own reasoning, the only “necessity” of the Bible Society was to procure subscriptions. Or (if more than one “ necessity” be admissible) that of adhering to the pledges solemnly given to subscribers must always be subservient to the other.
“O cives, cives! quærenda pecunia prima est !
Rem facias, REM; Si possis, rectè; si non, quocunque modo, REM.” Where then is the security which the extract furnishes ? After what has been above stated, we confess we regard the expression " throughout the United Kingdom," as both emphatic and ominous.
But the Bible Society has directly and distinctly violated the simple principle” to which the Committee declare their desire “ in ALL their transactions, to adhere with the UTMOST STRICTNESS.' It issues Bibles with marginal references or NOTES ! which are certainly the most effective of COMMENTS. It gives a running summary of each page along the top; a table of contents to each chapter ; and chronological and philological NOTES. When Mr. Milne was employed in the Chinese version of the Scriptures, he naturally felt the difficulty in which he was involved by the " simple principle” of the Bible Society; he accordingly requested some slight departure from that simplicity; when, in 1818, the Committee "resolved, that, it being the object of the British and Foreign Bible Society to restrict itself to the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, the terms in which the restriction is expressed, must be construed to exclude from the copies circulated by the Society every species of matter but what may be deemed necessary to render the version of the sacred original, intelligible, and perspicuous !” Here we see how the Bible Society“ construe their “simple principle." “ Without note or comment," means without such notes and comments as may be deemed necessary” by the Committee. This is evidence of their opinion ; for it is but justice to add, that this resolution, in consequence of the great offence which it gave, was rescinded a few months afterwards. But in further compliance with justice, we must not omit to notice, that Bibles, in the spirit of the rescinded resolution, are still circulated by the Society.
The language of the public speakers, and the conversation of the private agents, of this Society, are, to all intents, a virtual violation of the Society's simple principle: with the advantage, that those who have not the power or inclination to read, have either the desire or the necessity of hearing this effective ORAL COMMENTARY. The circulation of the Apocrypha, so long clandestinely carried on abroad, is another instance of departure from the simple principle. This has been corrected, because discovered. We know it may be said that the Apocrypha appears in our Bibles without any intimation of its character. This we do not defend; but the Church has commented elsewhere pretty intelligibly. It is the propagation of the Apocrypha without
any intimation that it is not the Word of God, that we censure as a most fearful deception.
The amalgamation of sects in the Bible Society is attacked by Mr. Perceval, and defended by Mr. Poynder, on the ground that the institution is not religious, but charitable. “The Bible Society," says the latter gentleman," is, in fact, no more a religious society, than an institution for education, an hospital for the sick, or a savings-bank for the poor.
We will not insult our readers by attempting a disproval of this statement. We put it on record, as a specimen of those extraordinary distinctions and confusions which occasionally emanate from the quarter which Mr. Poynder represents. Mr. Powys argues differently, and defends this principle of his institution on the very ground that it is a religious society.
Such a union is calculated to revive primitive Christianity, when “ the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul;” and also to raise a most effectual barrier against the inroads of infidelity. The divisions which prevail among Christians have ever been one of the strongholds of the unbelieving world. °Let us recollect the blessed consummation desired and anticipated in the prayer of our gracious Redeemer, (John xvii. 21), “ 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 believe that thou hast sent me.”—P.31.
We differ entirely from Mr. Powys in this view of the Society's results, and as cordially do we agree with Mr. Perceval in what follows:
To this unity it seems to me that the Bible Society is directly opposed. The effect of that Society, I do not say the intended, but the practical effect, has been to introduce disunion into the Church of England to a great and lamentable extent, while it has sought to produce an apparent, but most hollow and unreal, union between one party in the Church, and the various sects of Dissenters and Schismatics; to please whom, all Church of England views, as such, must necessarily be given up.-P. 8.
A merely friendly intercourse is surely somewhat less than what is intended by the solemn words of Scripture cited by Mr. Powys. Independently of the existence of the Bible Society, there is no reason why Churehmen and Dissenters should not treat each other with Christian kindness and courtesy. But as regards one heart and one soul,” what has the Society done? Has it converted One Dissenter to the Church ? If it has effected the converse, or if it has vitiated the just opinions of a Churchman, this, we suppose, will not be regarded by the Rector of Titchmarsh as an article of commendation ; and if it be positively neutral, the allegation is at once baseless and ridiculous. “ The blessed consummation,” which we as ardently desire as Mr. Powys, will never be attained so long as men will persist to malign a Church, without acquainting themselves with her discipline, her language, or her motives, with ecclesiastical history, and especially with those Scriptures, the knowledge of which we, no less than Mr. Powys, desire to see more abundantly enjoyed. While a surplice, a Prayerbook (not the contents, but the book), a gesture, and other points of equal validity, interpose barriers to communion among Christians, and are considered sufficient warrant for the very extreme step of appointing ministers otherwise than the Bible directs, it is not for the Bible Society, with all its pretensions, to be the honoured instrument of a work so truly divine.
* P. 19.
Mr. Poynder will not receive the thanks of his associates for bringing forward, in this division of the subject, the memorable speech of the late Earl of Liverpool, at the Isle of Thanet Bible Society ; the speech which called forth the powerful and demonstrative letter of Mr. Norris. A prime minister may have some excuse for a partial ignorance of the constitution of private societies; his duties may well preclude him from those minute investigations which every person of leisure would be bound to institute. But Mr. Poynder,-a member of the Christian Knowledge Society, a committee-man of the Bible Society,-how did it happen to be unknown to him that what he calls " the mature judgment of the late Earl of Liverpool,” was only an echo of instructions furnished to that lamented statesman, which proceeded upon ' A POSITIVE UNTRUTH? How came he to be ignorant that the implication in the following passage is wholly unfounded ?
The operation of the Christian Knowledge Society was limited. The Bible may
be circulated where the Prayer-book will not be received, but the Bible may be circulated among all sects and descriptions of persons in Great Britain ; and should we withhold the Scriptures from any part of our fellow-subjects because they are not at this time prepared to receive the, Prayer-book, which is founded upon them ?—P. 23.
Had Mr. Poynder glanced at the Reports of the Society which is here so grossly misrepresented, he would have known that it is as fully and as freely competent to circulate the Bible without note, comment, or liturgy, as that which he has undertaken to advoca:e: Ignorance on this subject could never have been excusable ; but more