Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Rev. Leander Van Ess-his representations of the state of Germany. and the instruction of their Committees. Nor will he be less usefully engaged, in enforcing the necessity of a strict and inviolable adherence to the fundamental principle of the Society, and extending information relative to its practical results. Under the head of "Concluding Observations," at the end of this chapter, such further remarks will be introduced, as appear necessary with regard to this important subject.

8. It would indeed be unjust to close this section without a distinct reference to an individual, whose indefatigable zeal and invaluable services are beyond all praise.-Professor Van Ess is thus introduced by the historian of the Bible Society:

"About this period (towards the close of 1812) a new labourer presented himself to notice, and claimed, through the channel of its Foreign Secretary; the attention and assistance of the British and Foreign Bible Society, on behalf of the German Catholics. This labourer was the Rev. Leander Van Ess, who, together with his brother, had produced a Translation of the Testament from the Greek; which the first Protestant Clergymen at Dresden and Zurich concurred, with respectable authorities among the Roman-Catholic Literati, in recommending, as exhibiting a pure and correct version of the Sacred Original. This Catholic Professor of Divinity (for to that office he had been recently appointed in the University of Marburg) described the solicitude of the people to obtain the Scriptures as exceeding not only his means of supplying them, but almost any conception which the most sanguine mind could ever have entertained. 'It is true (he says) that the New Testament is pretty well distributed in our circle; but what are a few copies among so many? They are like the five loaves among those 4000 that lay at the feet of our Lord. May the great Head of the Church multiply this heavenly bread, as he once did the earthly, to the satisfying of all!.... The fields, (he continues) are more and more ripening for the harvest, by the increasing oppression of the times. All earthly comforts are vanishing from the children of men: ill-treated, plundered, and heavy-laden as they are, their eyes, full of tears, look for refreshment and comfort towards the realms above, where alone they are to be found. This is the time to work: the hearts of men, humbled and softened, are more accessible to divine light and truth; they are opening, like the dry ground that languishes for the fertilizing shower: their eyes desire to see the salvation offered to them in the Word of God.'"

he

And again, with a degree of importunity, truly affecting, his suit in the following terms:

urges

"For Christ's sake, I intreat you to let me have a number of our New Testaments for distribution! My sphere of usefulness is extending more and more: many worthy Clergymen of our Church join themselves to me, who, with the most lively zeal for the cause of God, assist me in my endea

The late Rev. Dr. Reinhard, first Chaplain to the Court of Saxony; and the present venerable Supcrior of the Zurich Clergy, Antistes Hess.

Results of the labours of Professor Van Ess.

vours to do good. My request is for the highest and best gift; even for the Scriptures of truth, which are able to make men wise unto salvation.' •"

In availing themselves of this enlightened Catholic, the Committee had another opportunity of manifesting their scrupulous and watchful adherence to their great and fundamental principle. It was made a primary condition of any grant, that the few notes accompanying his own impression should be struck out from that which was to be printed and circulated at the expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society. With this condition he cheerfully complied. His object was, the glory of God, and the temporal and eternal welfare of his fellow-creatures: this object he has pursued "with an intrepidity and perseverance increased, rather than diminished, by the difficulties and perils to which he saw himself exposed." In one of his letters to the Committee, he observes,―

"There is a great and irresistible desire in the people to have the Bible: the newly-issued mandates against reading the Scriptures have only tended to quicken attention, and to increase this desire. There is now a spirit evidently rising against the violated rights of conscience, which neither the sword nor any canonical proceedings can possibly stifle: and what right is more sacred than the undisturbed possession of that inestimable book, which is the property of all; which is given from Heaven, to inspire faith, hope, consolation, and peace, for time and eternity; and which is as much a man's property, as God himself is his portion ?”

Within little more than three years and a half, ending in February 1820, Professor Van Ess had distributed 339,488 copies of his Catholic New Testament, and 287 Catholic Bibles, besides 10,639 Lutheran Bibles and Testaments; making a total of 350,414 copies.

Of the visible effects of the circulation, he thus speaks:

In some villages, meetings are held on sabbaths and other festivals, during which the New Testament is read with much edification. Whereever it is introduced into schools, a cheering dawn of the approaching day in the kingdom of God may be perceived. "You," he observes, addressing the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society, “have brought thousands nearer their Saviour and their salvation; you have conducted them

See Owen's History, Vol. II. p. 229 et seq. for an animated account of this extraordinary man, who is thus described in the 3d Volume of the History :-"Leander Van Ess is now in the prime of life. He appears to be about forty years of age. His countenance is intelligent and manly; his conversation fluent and animated; and his whole manner partakes of that ardour and vivacious energy, which so remarkably characterize all his writings and operations. The dissemination of the Scriptures, and the blessed effects with which it is attended, are the theme on which he delights to discourse; they seem to occupy his whole soul, and to constitute, in a manner, the element in which he exists."

Gossner-Wittman.- Publications of the Parent Committee.

to the invisible Head of the Church; you have opened to them the pure inexhaustible fountain, from which they may draw light in darkness, rest when oppressed by a sense of sin, comfort under the weight of affliction, undaunted courage on the approach of death, peace and joy in this world, and perfect bliss in that which is to come

With the name of Leander Van Ess, those of M. Gossner of Munich (now of St. Petersburg), and Regens Wittman of Ratisbon, will be united in the grateful affection of mankind. The aggregate number of copies of the Holy Scriptures distributed by these three enlightened Catholics, chiefly through the aid furnished by the British and Foreign Bible Society, considerably exceeds HALF A MILLION.

The following extract of a letter from the pious and intrepid Gossner shall conclude this division of the chapter:

"In the midst of all contradictions, blasphemies, and persecutions, the peaceful kingdom of God makes rapid advances: many, both of the Clergy and Laity, are awakened and illumined by the Word of truth, and the Gospel of our salvation. God himself seems to have excited a hunger after this wholesome food; and there are many flocking to me,-soldiers and students, citizens and peasants, servant-men and servant-women, whose hearts I can gladden by nothing more than by the gift of a New Testament."

SECTION VIII.

PUBLICATIONS OF THE SOCIETY.

Nothing, humanly speaking, has more essentially contributed to the extension and success of the society, than the publicity of all its proceedings. From the earliest period of its establishment, the Committee were sensible, that, in order to obtain general support and co-operation, it was only requisite to explain its object and its principles, and circulate information relative to the necessity which existed for such an institution. If the importance of this measure was evident at the commencement of their labours, it became still more so at a subsequent period, when the purity of those principles, and the existence of that necessity, were called in question. Nor was it less desirable that the friends of the society, at home and abroad, should be put in possession of those interesting details relative to its progress and success, by which the hearts of the Committee were cheered, and their hands strengthened, in the discharge of their arduous duties.

To these combined causes may be attributed the numerous works, explanatory and illustrative, which have tended to

* Owen's History, Vol. III. p. 98.

Annual Report.-Summary.

satisfy the public mind on this important subject—to silence, if not to convince, those whose sentiments were adverse to the society-and to confirm the zeal and interest of its friends and advocates. They may be divided into two classes; the regular and periodical publications of the society, and those which may be denominated occasional.

2. Under the former class, may be included,

1. The Annual Report,

which, with its Appendix, contains a compendium of the proceedings, and a selection of the correspondence, during the preceding twelve months; an account of all contributions and legacies; an alphabetical list of Auxiliayr and Branch Societies; a catalogue of the various editions of the Holy Scriptures on sale at the Depository; a statement of all grants of Bibles and Testaments, and money made by the Committee; an abstract of the cash account, as signed by the Auditors; and a list of contributors,the latter being appended to a limited number of copies. Every member of the Parent Society may receive a copy of the Annual Report; and a similar privilege is extended to the Presidents, and such other officers of local societies as, from their services and exertions, possess a peculiar claim on the gratitude of the Committee. The proportion allotted to every institution at home, and to kindred societies throughout the world, is assigned under the direction of the Local SubCommittee, with a due regard to that economy which is so essentially requisite. Some further observations, in reference to this subject, will be found in the sequel.

II. The Summary.

It is much to be desired, that a new and revised edition of this admirable abridgment of the Annual Reports, designed for more general circulation, should be speedily published. The last was issued in 1816, and has long been out of print. While it is freely conceded, that a due regard to economy should pervade every department of the institution, the application of this principle cannot be admitted in reference to "the Summary;" as the expense attending its occasional (suppose triennial) publication may be beneficially counterbalanced by a judicious curtailment of the Annual Reports, and a reduction of the number usually printed. There are numerous individuals who cannot spare time to peruse, with attention, the voluminous records of the society, to whom an epitome of its most interesting transactions from the earliest period, arranged in lucid and systematic order, would

D

Brief View.-Compendium.-Monthly Extracts of Correspondence.

be truly valuable. Such a work, which might be comprised within the compass of fifty or sixty pages, is at present a desideratum.

III. The Brief View,

AND

IV. The Compendium.

The circulation of these papers has been productive of incalculable advantage; and they are strongly recommended to National Bible Societies, as models of a condensed exposition of the nature, design, and effects of their institution. As these two valuable papers will be included in the Appendix, it is unnecessary to describe them more particularly. They should be liberally distributed previous to the formation of an Auxiliary Society, and in all cases where it is desirable to correct misrepresentation, or to extend a knowledge of the society.

v. Monthly Extracts of Correspondence.

The introduction of this important part of the system, and the beneficial effects which have followed its adoption, justify a more particular consideration of its merits.

It had long been the practice of the Committee, to gratify the friends of the society with the occasional publication of interesting and important information, relative to the progress and results of the institution. The general satisfaction derived from these communications, and the example of cotemporary societies established for kindred purposes, induced a persuasion, that the more regular periodical issue of certain portions of intelligence, which the correspondence of the society abundantly supplied, would materially tend to the preservation and extension of an interest in the common efforts both abroad and at home. The result has afforded ample proof of the correctness of this anticipation. The first number of the "Monthly Extracts" was published in August 1817; and was so appropriately and impressively introduced, that no apology is necessary for inserting the following

66 ADDRESS TO AUXILIARY SOCIETIES, &c.

"It appears to the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society, to have become highly expedient that a plan should be adopted for transmitting to the various societies in connexion with the parent institution, more frequent communications than have heretofore been usual, of the interesting intelligence from time to time received, relative to the progress of the great work in which their efforts are united. The Committee regard it, indeed, little less than an act of duty, to impart to the friends of the cause, in every part of the empire, a portion of those moral treasures

« AnteriorContinuar »