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I may so say, a subordinate part under the Gospel dispensation:" and again, " In this mode of speaking of the Holy Spirit, we may possibly be thought to have made him .inferior to the Father and the Son. But the inferiority is not personal, but official; not as the Sacred Three subsist in themselves, but as they sustain and execute their respective offices in the economy of redemption. As bearing what may be called a subordinate part in the mysterious work of men's salvation, a disparity may be ascribed to him, and he may be called ' the Spirit of the Father,' and ' the Spirit of Christ;' but in himself, he is equal both with the Father and the Son, and is in every degree entitled to the same respect and love and confidence as they." Now, I confess it appears to me that we have no scriptural authority for making the distinction above alluded to, and for asserting that in his office the Holy Spirit is inferior both to the Father and the Son; and that, as bearing what may be called a subordinate part in the mysterious work of man's salvation, a disparity may be ascribed to him. It is true that we are taught to believe that it was a part of the great covenant of man's salvation that both the Father and Son should send the Holy Spirit;
and it is equally true, that with reference to the concerns of this life the sender is the superior, and the sent the inferior party; but what right have we to conclude from this, that in reference to the great mystery of the Godhead, the same rule will apply? Why should we apply the terms "official inferiority," " subordinate part," and " disparity," to a subject of which we know nothing but what is revealed, and where revelation is silent as to the use of any such ex-, pressions. In the Athanasian Creed; we profess to believe that Christ is inferior to the Father as touching his manhood only; and a cautious silence is maintained respecting any supposed inferiority, either of the Son or of the Holy Ghost, to the Father, in their official character, as sent by him. I am aware that the expressions alluded to are most cautiously guarded by the respected writer, in order that the essential Godhead of each of the Three Persons in the ever blessed Trinity, may be distinctly stated; nevertheless, for the reasons I have given, they still appear to me objectionable, and I therefore submit the matter to the judgment of those who are more competent to the discussion of so deep and mysterious a question.
THE BIBLE-SOCIETY QUESTION, IN ITS PRINCIPLE AND ITS DETAILS: IN A SERIES OF LETTERS, ADDRESSED, BY PERMISSION, TO THE RIGHT REV. THE LORD BISHOP OF SALISBURY.
(Continued from p. 190.)
In my former letters, my lord, I have advocated the principle of the Bible Society; 'and have endeavoured to shew that it is lawful and expedient, and that there is no reason to innovate upon it, as regards either of the two classes of persons (Socinians and Roman Catholics), respecting whom, more especially, a test is said by some persons to be necessary; though that necessity—if necessity it were—is only of precisely the same character as the necessity for ejecting many other classes of heretics and evil doers,—the same necessity which has caused the recently formed Society to add already two other classes of persons to their original list of proscription—and which must proceed without end, if the managers of a society expect to bring all persons in all things to their own way of thinking; or to govern all our large voluntary charitable institutions by arbitrary tests, and to give to the members, in place of a reason, only a " J. E. Gordon, V.P."
But, besides the objection that theBible Society's principle is itself evil, it is said that it has been the fruitful parent of evil; that the blessing of God has not rested on the Society's labours; and that every thing that is unscriptural, mendacious, hypocritical, and depraved, has characterized its proceedings. I might leave the answer to the notoriety of the facts, and the plain common sense and scriptural resolution of the question; but, as calumnious * assertions continue to be confidently made, and some weak minds are distressed, I will, by your lordship's permission, devote a few letters to the investigation: only premising, however, what common sense and common fairness require, that a principle is not to be condemned for every mistake in its working, even if such should be proved. There is no society in London that could escape so preposterous an ordeal. Try any of the Missionary, or Tract, or Education Societies by this rule; and which of them could stand? If a principle is good, we must try to correct any ill working in the machinery; but an irregularity in the latter is no proof that the former is wholly wrong, and ought to be exploded.
The specific objections, which appear to me to comprehend the chief points for consideration, have been already stated in my first letter; namely,—
The omission of oral prayer.
The circulation of the Apocrypha.
Patronizing exceptionable versions.
Admitting notes and comments, and those of a nefarious character. Employing improper persons as agents, both at home and abroad. To these several topics I purpose inviting your lordship's attention j
• I am unwilling to use so harsh a word as " calumnious j" and yet, after running over the whole stock of epithets which occur to me, I cannot find another that will fairly do its office. I am reluctant to quote passages in proof from the writers against the Bible Society; because, though they have most lamentably broken the Ninth Commandment, I have no wish to be their prosecutor. I however subjoin just one short specimen, from the pamphlets of the chief accuser of the society, Mr. Robert Haldane. It requires no preface, except just a statement that what he calls facts are either fictions or exaggerations; and, such as they are, I intend to cope with them, as promised, in my concluding letters. As to his charge about sccresy, every person knows that the Bible Society's elected committee consists of thirty-six persons, of a variety of sects, and stations, and sentiments ; and that the committee room is always open, both for discussion and voting, to all clergymen, dissenting ministers who are members, and to every subscriber of five pounds. This is a marvellous plan for secresy! How is it, with all this secresv, that Mr. Haldane, in Scotland, knows by the next post every thing that transpires in the house ; and gives copies of the minutes on the books, and the deepest arcana of the Society's correspondence ?—But I adduce the extract, not to shew its inaccuracy, but its spirit, I might fill fifty pages with matter equally acrimonious, and which no man in his sober senses can possibly credit.
"Such as has been described, is the manner in which the Directors of the British and Foreign Bible Society have conducted themselves, in the whole course of their proceedings. In exhibiting these melancholy details, I have appealed to facts, not one of which can be set aside. And I ask if it is possible, in the history of the whole world, to produce an example of charges so multiplied, and of such weight and magnitude, and criminality, being brought against the managers of any other society? Yet, after all, how little do we know of their practices—how short a way have we been able to trace them! But, from the little we have seen of the public transactions, and from the glimpse we have had of their secret operations, a scene has been disclosed, unparalleled and unprecedented. Religious principles have been outraged, religious duties have been violated, and religion itself has been trampled upon, and exposed to the scorn of men of the world, and to the derision of infidels."
but, having recapitulated them, allow me a truce to them in the present letter, and permit me to occupy this sheet with a few cursory remarks, which being cast off, my thoughts will be more at leisure for the litigated items.
In canvassing the objections to the Bible Society, it would often be an answer in full to them to mention the quarter in which they arise; but I am unwilling to pursue so invidious a topic. I cannot, however, avoid contrasting in my mind the names of those who founded the Institution with the names of those who would re-model it; the names of its conductors with the names of its opponents; and the juxta-potition is, to my mind, argument most powerful, even if no other were to be found. When I am told that the Society is calculated to countenance the Socinian or the Roman Catholic in his heresy, I cannot but look back at the long catalogue of those learned and holy men who in modern days have been most conspicuous in opposing both these delusions: and I find almost every member of the bright array a warm friend to Bible Societies; Bible Societies constructed on the precise principles which are now discovered to be a direct encouragement to the very heresies which these good men would have gone to the stake rather than have sanctioned. Whose name, my lord, do I find standing the very first on the circular for convening the meeting for forming the < Bible Society; and who presided at the first two meetings at which its Popish and Socinian constitution was settled? Your lordship's venerable friend Granville Sharp! Yes, my lord, actually Granville Sharp, Greek-article Sharp, cathedral-loving Sharp, anti-catholicemancipation Sharp, the founder of a society for the encouragement of Socinians and Papists! And when, my lord, I saw Mr. Perceval take the chair at the formation of the new society called " Trinitarian" (from his office in which he is now so unjustly expelled on account of an alleged taint of Irvingism, which as he has never, that I have heard, declared such opinion in any public manner, it is not a little inquisitorial to make an official charge against him), when I saw this gentleman take the chair on that melancholy occasion, and heard it buzzed from seat to seat that he was one of the modern-miracle sect, the founders of the new society not being able to procure any other person whom they thought suitable for their president, I reverted in imagination to another much loved and venerated individual who was among the firmest supporters of the Bible Society, and whose name was marked for attendance at the formation of the Northamptonshire Auxiliary, the day being specially fixed to suit his convenience, when, to use Mr. Owen's thrilling words, " the hand of an assassin had driven him to his grave amidst the lamentations and eulogies of men of every name in the church and party in the state." Little did that much-lamented man think that the institution, which he thus from his heart loved as a bulwark of the faith, would in a few years be pronouncedanti-Trinitarian, and anti-Protestant, and that the name of Perceval would be foremost in the bill of accusation. But my confidence in the Bible Society is not thereby shaken: for the sound judgment'of its departed friend still lives in memory; whereas the judgment of the president of the new institution is now decried—I must say not quite handsomely— by the very gentlemen who voted him into the chair, but have since expelled him from his office.
And shall I mention, my lord, other names which I see on the earliest list of the Society's friends? shall I transcribe the name of Porteus, whose almost dying words, lifting up his feeble and emaciated hands to heaven, were, " Yes, the .Bible Society and the translations in the. East, will bring about glorious days." Or shall I name your lordship's venerable and sainted friend, Bishop Barrington, who, as he had joined the society with Bishop Porteus, continued, like him, to his last hour its stedfast friend, and never, to the protracted period of his dissolution, saw any of those direful evils which have so agitated juvenile collectors, millenarian speculatists, and naval and military divines. But it were endless to embark on an argument like this; for if I were to cumulate twenty pages of names my catalogue would exhibit but a meagre abstract. I have only mentioned the above for the circumstances there specified, and not as a list of the Society's testimonials.
Turn then, my lord, from the Society's catalogue to its documents, and I ask any man to prove that the want of a test has been the means of infecting them with the slightest tinge of Socinianism, or any other heresy. Was, for example, the Eighteenth Report Socinianized when it copied the words and breathed the prayer of the Metropolitan of Moscow, "Oh thou hypostatical Word of the Father ! Thou thyself hast said that without Thee we can do nothing. Come therefore, Goodness, and dwell in us. Then shall the good seed of thy word sown in our hearts grow by thy power; and by thy grace bring forth fruit to the sanctification and salvation of our souls." But I need not enter upon this theme, shice one of the strongest arguments of the more candid opponents of the Bible Society is, that its Reports and other documents have breathed the spirit of true orthodoxy and piety; and that the whole fabric of its appeals proves it to be strictly a religious institution: which argument they expressly adduce to shew that there ought to be a test to exclude Socinians; whereas the more natural inference to my mind is, that no test is necessary,—for if we have such truly admirable and scriptural Reports and proceedings as these very objectors allege, then why alter the system? If we had one test, or two, or four, or a hundred, would they secure a better Report than that of which the Hon. and Rev. Gerard Noel says, "Never can I forget the glow of heart with which I listened to the pious conclusion of the Report of the Committee for 1830. It breathes the very spirituality of the Gospel—it addresses a prayer to God to consummate his own work— it refers to the death of man in trespasses and sins—it reveals to our attention his inability to awaken his own soul; but it reminds us that all things are possible with God. It directs us to rest the eye of gratitude upon the glimmerings of the morning star, the precursor of the sun about to rise upon the horizon of India—it labours to awaken in the beholder thanksgivings to Him who is given to be Head over all things to his church, and who, in the fulness of time, will rise in glorious splendour as the 'Sun of Righteousness with healing in his wings.'"
The Society's documents throughout are of this truly orthodox, spiritual, and devout character. And has any Socinian or Roman Catholic risen to oppose them? He could not; for though the sole business of the Society is the distribution of the Sacred Word, the language of Reports and other documents, in stating the proceedings and prospects of an institution, will naturally, and not unfairly, take its colour, without any controversial design, from the feelings and sentiments of the main body of those who are anxious for the object. This has not been, and ought not to be, objected to; and if there has ever chanced to be a Socinian present who could hot hold up his hand for every part of the Report (there might be parts which other persons also might disapprove), he has acted as common sense and the necessities of social life require, and either withdrawn from the Society or adopted the conclusion that the Report involved on his part no personal compromise that rendered such a step necessary.
The more, my lord, I see of the vanities and vexations of human life, the more I lament that spirit of agitationing which has found its way from the world into the church, from political confederacies into religious and charitable societies. A spirit has gone abroad which has destroyed the peace, and threatens the existence, of all that is good among us. Men who are headstrong and high-minded, and who approve of nothing but what they do themselves—nor of that either after they have left it and it is taken up by others—will, for the sake of the merest whimsy, disturb and destroy the fairest prospects of Christian benevolence. But oh, my lord, is this a time for Christians to quarrel? Our Protestant brethren on the continent of Europe, and in the states of America, stand aghast at these unseemly divisions. A mighty engine for the spiritual and eternal benefit of the whole world, built on solid and scriptural principles, is to stand still till every new objector is dispossessed of his crotchet. Believing as I in my conscience do in the words of Lord Teignmouth's letter, at the last anniversary of the Bible Society, that " the operations of the Society are of the Lord's doing," I feel deeply afflicted at beholding unnecessary and vexatious impediments thrown in its course. Not that I fear the result; its principle has eventually triumphed wherever it has been canvassed, and its character come out of the furnace with new lustre. But in the mean while, time is lost, the thoughts are distracted, irritation ensues, and Satan triumphs. Suppose, and I am far from denying it, that all is not perfect; that there is a knot in the bulrush; yet how, on the whole, can we plan things better, or expect them in a world like this to be conducted with less of mistake and infirmity? The heathen are perishing for lack of knowledge; the common salvation is at hand to supply their wants; and is a world to be left in spiritual ignorance and wretchedness, for the mighty reason that a few gentlemen, in pursuit of a new idea that has struck them, wish to re-model the Bible Society after their own fashion, or to raze its magnificent structure to the ground. I am sure that if we felt more anxious for the souls of men, or entered more intimately into the mysteries of the cross of Christ and the glories of eternity, there would be much less of criticising and carping at every flaw in works of great arduousness and vast utility; and that we should be much more willing to become all things to all men, that we might save some.
I have been comforted, my lord, amidst these distractions, by a scriptural illustration of a simple Swiss itinerant Alpine missionary; who remarked, in one of his sermons, that though at the raising of Solomon's temple there was neither sound of axe nor hammer, there was doubtless noise enough among the " stone-squarers " in the quarry. Christians, my lord, in this world of sin and strife, are endeavouring to assist in the erection of that spiritual and eternal temple, of which all the true servants of Christ are parts, and are looking ardently for the hour when the top-stone shall be raised withshouting, "Grace,grace, unto it:" and we wonder, my lord, that this temple does not rise, like that of Solomon, with harmony and quietude. But we mistake our locality; we are at present only among the "stone-squarers" in the quarry, or on the floats of Joppa, or on the mountains of Lebanon, or in the clay grounds of Succoth and Zarthan. That temple shall be consummated in peace: but this world is not its site; it is only a stage of preparation for its erection. A very rude work is going on here. The stone taken out of nature's quarry needs much rough hewing and