Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Complimentary votes at General Meetings may be avoided.

proceedings of subordinate societies; and by "a word fitly spoken," he may contribute to the extension of the empire of charity and peace.

The improvement in the mode of conducting public meetings, is in no respect more manifest, than in the avoidance of that complimentary strain, which is peculiarly unsuitable on those occasions. "In every benevolent institution, the members are too ready to compliment one another for what they have done; forgetting, that what has been accomplished, may bear such a slender proportion to what might and ought to have been attempted, as rather to carry with it a portion of blame." And even in reference to those individuals whose patronage, or services, may have essentially contributed to the progress of the cause, the sentiment of gratitude should be expressed with caution, and under a constant fear of overstepping the line which separates respect and adulation. The most zealous and ardent friend of the Bible Society would be the first to shrink from that praise which he best deserved, and which subjected him to the risk of being classed among those, "who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from GOD only."

Conducted in this spirit of conciliation and Christian liberality; giving honour to whom honour is due, but avoiding the language of flattery; and keeping steadily in view the single and simple object they are designed to promote; the meetings of Bible Societies will continue to confirm and extend an interest in the cause. But whoever has attentively watched the progress of the institution, must have lamented, in too many instances, the speedy evaporation of that pure and generous feeling, which had been excited; and under the influence of which, a strong desire had been raised to co-operate in a work replete with blessings to the human race. An impulse, rather than a principle, has been communicated ;-when we have separated, "the world and the things of it" have gradually resumed their empire in our hearts; and we have continued to act as we did before, until another year has witnessed a similar scene of excitement, and been followed by a return of unproductive intention. "Work while it is called to-day: the night cometh, wherein no man can work."

Such are the means, by the application of which, under the Divine blessing, the British and Foreign Bible Society has

* Fifth Report of the Paisley, &c. Auxiliary Bible Society.

“We shall reap abundantly, if we faint not.”

been enabled to accomplish, thus far, its work of mercy. If there be errors in the agency employed, or in the system adopted, let them not impair the value of the object in our estimation, nor weaken our obligations as Christians and as men. "If, among the thousands to whom the Bible is given, only one weary pilgrim of this earth should be refreshed-one sufferer relieved-one weak believer strengthened-one thoughtless sinner roused-one wanderer led back to the right way-one who has fallen raised up-one soul saved.......who would not gladly co-operate in such a work, and cheerfully bestow his mite in its behalf?"*

In concluding this division of the work, the author recurs with pleasure to the just and animated language of his friend, the historian of the Society:

"Of this institution, founded on principles so simple and just; directed to ends of such transcendent excellence and utility; combining moreover in its favour so many and powerful interests in almost every part of the world; and-what is more than all-distinguished by such signal testimonies of the Divine approbation and blessing; our hopes may be permitted to keep pace with our wishes: and there is scarcely a measure of prosperity that we could reasonably desire for it, on which we may not venture with humble confidence to reckon. Past occurrences authorise the expectation of its perpetuity; and present appearances lend to that presumption every confirmation.

"In the confidence inspired by these considerations, the friends of the institution, both at home and abroad, may prosecute their labours with cheerfulness, and wait the issue of them with more than resignation. In disseminating the word which God has revealed, they are executing the plans of His wisdom, and fulfilling the purposes of His love. Every step they take in such a career, is so much done towards advancing the knowledge of His will and the kingdom of His Son. Through their instrumentality, and that of those who may succeed them, the work shall progressively go forward; till, all nations being brought to the light of Divine truth, and subdued to the obedience of faith, every knee shall bow to the sceptre of CHRIST, and every tongue shall confess that He is LORD, to the glory of GOD the FATHER."†

Speech of Lord Teignmouth, at the Sixteenth Anniversary. + Owen's History, Vol. III. p. 511 et seq.

[ocr errors]

CHAP. II.

AUXILIARY SOCIETIES.

NOW ARE THEY MANY MEMBERS, YET BUT ONE BODY."
1 COR. XII. 20.

[ocr errors]

PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS.

Ir is in the very nature of Christian benevolence to diffuse itself in direct proportion to the value of its object. Never did fire descend from heaven, without finding an altar prepared for the sacrifice, and materials to receive and to extend the sacred flame. We have seen, in the instance of Nuremberg, that scarcely had the flame been kindled in Britain, when the reflected light was caught by Germany, and hailed as the dawning of a brighter and a better day on that afflicted country. In our own highly-favoured land, it appears as though it was beheld, for a season, with mingled feelings :-if there were some, who thought it the flash of a meteor, and anticipated its speedy extinction; there were others, who believed it had already attained its meridian brightness, and was sufficient for the sphere it was destined to illuminate.

But if the British and Foreign Bible Society did not immediately receive that general support to which it is so eminently entitled by the importance of its object and the liberality of its constitution, it has attracted and secured the public approbation in a manner the best calculated to insure its permanence. The principle and the practice of the institution have been scrutinized, with a degree of acuteness and ingenuity seldom applied to investigations of this nature; and the result has not only manifested the correctness and integrity of both, but called forth the expression of the public sentiment to an extent unparalleled in the annals of practical benevolence. For more than five years, the society pursued its course in comparative silence and obscurity; gradually establishing its claims to the sympathy and confidence of the Christian world, but unsupported by that general demonstration of regard and attachment which was subsequently displayed. During those five years, ending 31st of March 1809, the total

See Chapter I. Section IX.

Necessity of Local Societies to supply the wants of the People.

amount of its receipts, exclusive of sales of Bibles and Testaments, was 33,256l. 17s. 5d. :—in the spring of 1809, the first Auxiliary Societies were formed; and the total amount derived from this source alone, in the five succeeding years, ending 31st of March 1814, was 145,3321. 5s. 9d. The generous flame soon pervaded every county of the kingdom; and the aggregate sum remitted by Auxiliary Societies during the eleven years, ending March 1820, exceeds four hundred and seventy-eight thousand pounds.

It

There is another test, by which the importance and the value of this part of the system should be estimated. is obvious, that a Committee of thirty-six Gentlemen, meeting in London, could not ascertain the wants of the whole population of Great Britain. That a deplorable deficiency of the holy scriptures existed in many parts of the country, they had ample reason to believe; and the result of some partial investigations had abundantly confirmed this conviction: but they were not prepared for the melancholy fact, which subsequent and more minute inquiry established, that, in a land on which the light of the Reformation had been shed for more than 250 years, nearly one half of the people were destitute of that sacred volume which reveals the foundation of their faith and the source of their dearest hopes. It will readily be admitted, that local committees furnished the only adequate means of ascertaining the real state of their districts, and of extending the requisite supply: and thus, by the establishment of Auxiliary Societies, the first step was taken towards the accomplishment of an object, more intimately connected with the peace, the happiness, and the best interests of our country, than any which the wisdom of our ancestors had ever devised. It is sufficient in this place to observe, that the efficacy of Auxiliary Societies, in reference to the circulation of the holy scriptures, is satisfactorily proved by the fact, that the total amount of sales of Bibles and Testaments, in the five years ending March 1809, was 9,764l. 7s. 2d.; and the number of copies distributed, 158,429:-but in the five years immediately succeeding, and ending March 1814, the amount of sales was 56,0561. Os. 7d.; and the number of copies distributed, 828,658. The rapid increase of sales during the seven years which have subsequently elapsed, must be attributed to the still further extension of the system, and will be considered in reference to Bible Associations.

Nor are these advantages, great as they confessedly are, the only benefits derived from the institution of Auxiliary Societies. "The importance of these establishments is not to

CHAP. II.

AUXILIARY SOCIETIES.

་ NOW ARE THEY MANY MEMBERS, YET BUT ONE BODY."

[ocr errors][merged small]

*

PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS.

It is in the very nature of Christian benevolence to diffuse itself in direct proportion to the value of its object. Never did fire descend from heaven, without finding an altar prepared for the sacrifice, and materials to receive and to extend the sacred flame. We have seen, in the instance of Nuremberg, that scarcely had the flame been kindled in Britain, when the reflected light was caught by Germany, and hailed as the dawning of a brighter and a better day on that afflicted country. In our own highly-favoured land, it appears as though it was beheld, for a season, with mingled feelings :—if there were some, who thought it the flash of a meteor, and anticipated its speedy extinction; there were others, who believed it had already attained its meridian brightness, and was sufficient for the sphere it was destined to illuminate.

But if the British and Foreign Bible Society did not immediately receive that general support to which it is so eminently entitled by the importance of its object and the liberality of its constitution, it has attracted and secured the public approbation in a manner the best calculated to insure its permanence. The principle and the practice of the institution have been scrutinized, with a degree of acuteness and ingenuity seldom applied to investigations of this nature; and the result has not only manifested the correctness and integrity of both, but called forth the expression of the public sentiment to an extent unparalleled in the annals of practical benevolence. For more than five years, the society pursued its course in comparative silence and obscurity; gradually establishing its claims to the sympathy and confidence of the Christian world, but unsupported by that general demonstration of regard and attachment which was subsequently displayed. During those five years, ending 31st of March 1809, the total

• See Chapter I. Section IX.

« AnteriorContinuar »