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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 so 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. 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 extracts 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 Twisşleton 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, reciè; 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.
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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 Churchmen 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 advocate: Ignorance on this subject could never have been excusable ; but more VOL. XII. NO. VIII.
than ignorance we would not attribute to Mr. Poynder. In fact, it is impossible that any friend of the Bible Society, tolerably well acquainted with facts, would have ventured an allusion to the transaction.
Mr. Perceval objects to the thirteenth law of the Society, by which every Clergyman or Dissenting minister is entitled to attend and vote at all meetings of the committee.
When our people read that at the meetings of this Society, in the presence sometimes of Prelates of our Church, the Rev. Mr. A. of the Church of England, is seconded by the Rev. Mr. B. of the Baptist or Brownist persuasion, what must be their natural and unavoidable conclusion ? Will it not be, that their ministers are as much real ministers as ours? or rather, that ours are no better than theirs ? For which pernicious error they will fairly think they have the authority of the Bishops who preside at such a meeting. Thus will a fatal delusion be set forth and spread among the people, under the apparent sanction of those to whose care the maintenance of the rights and authority of an apostolical ministry have been specially committed!—Pp. 12, 13.
To this Mr. Poynder offers nothing but a disquisition on the validity of ordination, of little weight, we should imagine, with members of the Church of England, seasoned with an anecdote, which we respectfully recommend to future editors of Joe Miller, though we will not be answerable for the affirmation that it is not already embodied in the treasures of that immortal work. We are then instructed at great length from Shakspeare and Milton, apud Johnson, that the word “ Reverend" does not mean a Clergyman. Most assuredly. Nor does the word “ Honourable” mean a nobleman's son. But " consuetudo omnium domina rerum, tum maximè verborum est.”* Custom has made these applications; and as the assumption of the latter term would be distinctly a claim of noble descent, so there can be no doubt that the former, assumed by dissenting ministers, is intended as a pretension to orders. At all events, the popular interpretation, which is what Mr. Perceval insists on, is that which he infers. The Bible Society has decidedly pronounced an equality between the Clergy and the dissenting ministers. There could have been no necessity, no expediency, for a rule which confounds those distinctions, which, as the Society well knows, are recognised in all the authoritative documents of the Church of England, and allowed by all her consistent members.
Mr. Perceval objects pointedly to the admission of Socinians into a Christian society. Mr. Poynder is all astonishment that they should join it, considering that its direct tendency is the overthrow of the Socinian heresy. We grant that the Socinians, in spiritual matters, are inconsistent enough ; but their inconsistency is there accountable. In other matters, they act like other men; nay, “ the children of this world are, in their generation, wiser than the children of light.”
* ANI. Gell. xii. 13.