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Title: Observations on an Anonymous pamphlet - which has been distributed in Lowestoft, and its Neighbourhood
Author: Cunningham, Francis A. (Francis Aloysius)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Observations on an Anonymous pamphlet - which has been distributed in Lowestoft, and its Neighbourhood" ***

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PAMPHLET***


Transcribed from the [1817] J. Keymer edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org



                               OBSERVATIONS
                                  ON AN
                           ANONYMOUS PAMPHLET,


                                  WHICH
                          _HAS BEEN DISTRIBUTED_
                                    IN
                    Lowestoft, and its Neighbourhood,
                                 ENTITLED
                                 REASONS
                                   WHY
               A CHURCHMAN MAY WITH GREAT JUSTICE REFUSE TO
                   SUBSCRIBE TO THE BRITISH AND FOREIGN
                              BIBLE SOCIETY.

                                * * * * *

                                    BY
                         FRANCIS CUNNINGHAM, A.B
                           RECTOR OF PAKEFIELD;
          _And Secretary of the Lowestoft Branch Bible Society_.

                                * * * * *

                                YARMOUTH:
               Printed and Sold by J. Keymer, King-Street;

            SOLD ALSO BY GOWING, LOWESTOFT; PARSONS, NORWICH;
                      HATCHARD, AND SEELEY, LONDON.

                                * * * * *



_OBSERVATIONS_
ON AN
ANONYMOUS PAMPHLET.


THERE are many circumstances which might have induced a friend of the
Bible Society to refrain from noticing a work, under the circumstances of
the present pamphlet.  And, had it strictly adhered to its title, and
simply stated the reasons why a churchman might properly refuse to
subscribe to this institution, it would probably have remained unnoticed
by me.  It might, in that case, have been hoped, that statements which
are unacknowledged would not have been believed, and the reasonings of
the work might have been left, without much alarm, to do their worst.
But, as it has been observed to me, that the very circumstance of putting
even the most improbable statements in print, invests them with a species
of authority; and as there are many persons still unacquainted with the
nature and operations of the Bible Society, and who, therefore, may
mistake the boldness of assertion in this little work for the confidence
of truth, I have yielded to the advice of some of my friends, in
attempting to reply to it.  Before I proceed, however, to this reply, I
will beg leave to make a single observation on the _temper_ in which this
attempt will, I trust, be made.

The author of this pamphlet has, in the first page of his work,
reprobated the “arrogant and dogmatical style” of his opponents; and, in
the conclusion of it, he has called their measures “wicked, cruel, and
unchristian.”  It is my hope, that I shall not fall into the same error.
I desire “nothing to extenuate, nor set down aught in malice;” to state
facts, not from the mere authority of the parties concerned in this
controversy, but upon that of the most authentic documents; and, should I
fail to convince my readers, it is my confident intention not at once to
conclude their opinions “unchristian” and “cruel,” because they differ
from my own; hard words, I may venture to say, ought not to be the
weapons of our warfare, and I trust they never will be of mine.  I desire
to remember the declaration of our Lord, “they that take the sword, shall
perish by the sword.”

I may be permitted also to add, that in entering upon the consideration
of this question, I consider myself as approaching a subject of the
highest importance.  When I am canvassing the merits of an instrument for
circulating the Word of God over every part of the world, I tremble lest
the ark should suffer in my hands; and I desire to go out to the warfare,
not so much with a “sword and a shield” of human fabrication, as, “in the
name of the Lord,” for the circulation of whose Word I wish to contend.

This pamphlet is entitled “Reasons why a Churchman may with great justice
refuse to subscribe to the Bible Society;” and the reasons which are
assigned may be said to be of three kinds: First, _That a better
Society_, _of a like kind_, _exists in the church_; Secondly, _That the
Bible Society does not answer to the professions and praises of its
advocates_; Thirdly, _That it is injurious to the established church_.
Upon each of these points I shall now venture to make a few observations.

_First_, It is said, _That a better Society_, _of a like kind_, _exists
in the church_.  The Society to which the author alludes, is that
established more than 100 years since, which is called the Society for
Promoting Christian Knowledge.  Its object is threefold: To distribute
Bibles; also, Prayer Books and Tracts; and to send Missionaries.  Every
member of this Society is obliged to give good security that he is a
churchman, and there is no way in which, by its means, any other
denomination of christians can be benefited, but by the hands of
churchmen.

The advantages of this institution over the Bible Society which the
author endeavours to establish are four.  _First_, It is a _Society which
consists entirely of churchmen_; _Secondly_, Bibles can be procured in it
at a _cheaper rate_; _Thirdly_, The Bibles which it issues are more
_useful_; _Fourthly_, It furnishes _Prayer Books and Tracts_.

As the Society whose cause the author exclusively advocates, is a society
of churchmen, he maintains that, by its extension and prevalence, no
variety of interpretation in essential points would prevail, and
therefore no confusion be introduced amongst the unlearned.  All
churchmen would, he conceives, teach the same truths in the same manner.
But, is this accurate?  Is there such a perfect accordance of opinion
amongst churchmen?  If, for instance, Dr. Marat and Mr. Scott, each of
them churchmen, each of them members of the Old Society, and each of them
men of respectability, were to circulate Bibles, with their own
interpretations, would an exact conformity of opinion be produced?
Assuredly not.  What, then, is the conclusion from this?  That of
churchmen, it can only be said as of churchmen and dissenters, they agree
in the authority of the Bible; but there is no complete agreement as to
the interpretations of the Bible.  If churchmen, who are members of the
Old Society, widely disagree upon essential points in the interpretation
of the Bible, even the Old Society is no guarantee for unity.  A person,
to be quite right, on the principle of the author, should subscribe
exclusively to a Society, where each person would agree to promulgate
only the same interpretation of scripture; and where, it may be asked,
would such a Society be found?

But, secondly, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge is affirmed
to be best, because “_it procures Bibles at a __cheaper rate_.”  What is
meant by this assertion I cannot discover, unless the author designs to
say, that Bibles cost less to that Society in their original purchase.
This would be very inaccurate, as each are purchased at the same
markets—the markets to which the sale is confined by legislative
enactment.  But the author proceeds to a statement of _facts_ on this
subject, which it may be well to consider.  It is said, page 7, “A 12mo
Non-pareil Bible is allowed to the subscribers for Promoting Christian
Knowledge for 3_s._ 3_d._, but the British and Foreign Bible Society
expects from its subscribers 4_s._, 6_d._, for the same edition.”  As to
this statement, I would say, in the first place, that it is grossly
incorrect.  By every printed document of the Bible Society, this Bible,
which is stated to be charged to its subscribers at 4_s._ 6_d._, is
offered to them at 3_s._ 7_s._  But it may yet be said, The Bible from
the Old Society is then at all events cheaper than that of the New: Why
are not the prices of the New Society reduced?  I answer, that in all the
instances, the Bibles of the New Society are within a few pence as cheap
as in the Old.  But, if not, a most satisfactory reason may be given, in
the consideration of the object of the New Society, and of the means it
has adapted to pursue that object.  Its object is simply this, _to do the
greatest possible good_.  And, in order to accomplish this, it determines
to supply Bibles precisely at the rate which may suit the convenience of
individuals, without impairing the general means of the Society; to suit
the exigencies of the poor on the one hand, and, on the other, to obtain
a suitable return for their money.  An exactly parallel case presents
itself.  The Society for the relief of the Poor, in Spitalfields, are now
selling rice at three-pence per pound.  Why, it might be asked, is the
rice not sold cheaper than this?  It would be answered, because the
object is to do the greatest possible good.  Three-pence per pound is a
price which the poor can afford to pay, and, by receiving this instead of
a less price, the Society may perhaps be able to encounter the continued
pressure of the times.  Thus it is with Bibles.  The poor (as is evident
from their free purchase of them) can afford to pay what they now pay for
Bibles, and which is about one half of what they would pay in the shops;
whilst the Society is by this return enabled to supply Bibles
gratuitously to the destitute, and continue its operations through the
world.  Nor is this all: One reason why the Old Society originally made
its prices so low, was, that it did not allow its subscribers to _sell_
their Bibles, even at reduced prices, but constrained them to _give_ them
away.  The New Society first discovered the error of this proceeding, and
concluding that a poor man would be likely more to value the Bible which
was bought, than the Bible which was given, recommended its subscribers
as a general rule, rather to sell than to give.  Hence, amongst other
advantages, its subscribers might be justly called upon to pay to this
Society a higher price.  It may be observed, that the Old Society has now
extended this privilege to its subscribers, and, on this ground, it is
privileged to raise its prices.

But not only, is it said, are the Bibles _cheaper_, but they are
_better_: _better_, because, at the Old Society, may be had a _Bible with
a commentary_, the lowest price of which is fifty shillings.

Now it may be observed, that this argument does not very happily square
with the last.  First, says our author, the Bibles of the Old Society are
better, because they are cheaper; next, they are better, because they
have a commentary costing fifty shillings.  One of these two arguments
must be surrendered.  The Bibles cannot be at once cheaper, and cost a
price which excludes them from general circulation.  But, further, it may
be said, that every argument which assumes the importance of the
commentary to the Society, assumes the accuracy and value of the
commentary itself.—Are all commentaries then valuable?—Are there none
which might be very dear at fifty shillings?

But a fourth reason, it is said, for the superiority of the Society for
Promoting Christian Knowledge, is, that it provides Prayer Books and
Religious Tracts.  The friends of the Bible Society are charged with
saying, “that the Bible, and the Bible alone, is the religion of
Protestants;” and our author affirms, that, but for the exertions of Dr.
Marsh, the Prayer Book would not have been circulated.

As to the first of these charges, the Society pleads guilty.  They say,
what the immortal Chillingworth said before them, They maintain the
principle, for which their ancestors died triumphantly under the axe of a
Popish executioner.  As to the second, it appeared, upon a pretty rigid
scrutiny, that whereas many of the friends of the Bible Society had made
large demands upon the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge for
_Prayer Books_, Dr. Marsh had confined himself, in his own parish, to the
circulation of a little volume on the _Value of Tithes_.  But let us look
at the subject a little more generally.

Of Tracts it may be said as of a commentary that the connection of these
with any Society must exceedingly limit its extension, even amongst
churchmen.  Accordingly, these Tracts have been stated in print by
churchmen to be completely inconsistent with one another; some have been
called “heretical;” some have been charged with involving “the worst
errors of Popery.”  And, whatever may be the merit of these Tracts, to
call them, with our author, “sure and certain guides,” is to affirm of
them what can be affirmed only of the Revelation of God.  Indeed, if
there were no other objection to our author’s statement, there is this,
that these infallible guides are in the unfortunate habit of flatly
contradicting each other.  In this case, who is to arbitrate between
them?  I know not what arbitrator our author will propose.  I should say
the Bible? and I should go on to draw this inference—subscribe than to
the Bible Society—and transmit the doctrine of infallible “guides’” in
the first vessel from Lowestoft to Rome.

I am sorry that I should have felt any obligation to draw up what may
bear even the semblance of a charge against the Society, at Bartlett’s
Buildings, of which I am a member.  That Society has many merits, and in
its own sphere is capable of doing much good.  But, when an attempt is
made to canonize this Society; to apply it to objects which it can never
reach; and to erect it on the ruins of a Society of wider basis and far
more extensive capabilities, it is difficult to be entirely silent.  It
was heartily to be wished, that these two Societies should never have
been brought into invidious comparison, for, in a comparison, one of them
must fail; and, which ever suffers, Christianity suffers with it, because
the promotion of Christianity is the object of both.  As, however, these
two Societies have been brought into comparison, by the author of these
“Reasons,” it seems requisite now to show, that the New Society has
certain peculiar and exclusive advantages, which justify churchmen in
supporting it.

In the first place, then, _the constitution of the Old Society
disqualified it from the universal supply of the Word of God_.  It had
existed for near a century, and during that time, I venture confidently
to say, it had, even _at home_, done little of what was necessary for the
distribution of the Scriptures; and, _abroad_, scarcely any thing at all.

_At home_, when examinations were made as to the circulation of the
Scriptures in many parts of England, especially in Lincolnshire, there
were villages where the Bible was alone to be found in the church; within
about a mile of the depository of the Old Society, full one half of the
families were without a copy of the Scriptures; in this diocese alone, it
was calculated that ten thousand families were destitute of the Word of
God; in that of Durham, seven thousand five hundred; and, which is a
certain proof of this assertion, since that time, nearly one million five
hundred thousand copies have been distributed, principally in our own
country, without, at the same time, the demand for the Scriptures being
by any means supplied.

_Abroad_, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge has been able to
effect still less.  It had, indeed, only in one instance, attempted the
distribution of the Scriptures.  This was in the year 1720, when it
printed, but not altogether at its own charge, an edition of the Psalms
and the New Testament in the Arabic language.  And such was the want of
facilities for foreign operations, that, till lately, a part of that
edition was mouldering in the cellars of the institution.  Except this,
and the assistance it has given to the Danish mission in the East Indies,
it may be said to have done little or nothing for foreign countries.  Nor
let me be conceived to impute it as blame to this Society that it has
done no more in a sphere, from which, from its constitution, it was
excluded.

But what is the inference from this?  That when, from the introduction of
schools at home, an additional demand was created for the Scriptures, and
when abroad the multiplication of missionaries created a new demand for
the Bible, in all the languages of the earth, it was not sufficient that
a Society existed which had proved itself insufficient for the supply of
the Scriptures, even under less trying circumstances.  It was necessary
that something more should be attempted, and, accordingly, the New
Society was constructed—a Society, erected on the widest possible basis,
and comprehending all the means and energies of all the worshippers of
Christ.  The Old Society was left to pursue its domestic career; and the
New Society, beginning at home, extended itself over the whole world.
The one, as it has been said, is like the lamp at a particular sanctuary;
the other, “the pillar which preceded the march of the whole people of
God.”

Nor is this wider operation and extension of the New Society the fruit of
accident—_it is the result of its constitution_.  This constitution
acknowledges no sect or party amongst christians; it partakes of no
religious system; and therefore is equally applicable to all climates and
all governments.  Accordingly, in Russia, in England, and in America, in
countries divided by the widest intervals in their religious and
political administration, it is equally innoxious to the established
order of things; it arrests every man who bears the title of a christian;
seizes, as by a sort of natural affinity, upon that part of his creed
which he holds in common with the whole christian world, and throws it
down to form as it were a basis for this institution: he may have much
religion, or little; what he has is converted by this Society to the
glory of God, and the salvation of man.

Nor is the universality of that Society its only peculiar property—it is
peculiar to that institution _to be incorruptible_.  Its object is so
simple, that it needs no other safeguards than its own principles.  With
the Old Society that is not the case.  It is entrusted to human agents;
and how can a person who lives at too great distance to attend the
Committees of this Society, know what Tracts may be admitted, or what may
be suppressed; what security has he for the consistency of the
proceedings?  But the object and proceedings of the Bible Society are
always the same.  It is to distribute the authorised version of the
Bible, without note or comment; and whilst it adheres to this, whether
the members of a committee of this Society are well or ill affected to
church or state, nothing more than the distribution of the authorised
version of the Scriptures can be effected.  Their deadliest plot can
issue only in the circulation of that book, which is the best antidote to
their own wickedness.  In the universality of its application, therefore,
and the incorruptibility of its plan, the New differs from the Old
Society.

But let us now turn to the second objection of the author of this
pamphlet, _viz._, _That the Bible Society has been unduly commended by
its advocates_, page 4, “Neither,” says our author, “is the general
circulation of the Scriptures enacted by them, nor do their meetings
produce love and harmony amongst Christians of various denominations.”
The first of those propositions, that the Scriptures are not distributed
“_universally_” by the Bible Society is attempted to be proved by this
circumstance that they are not circulated “_exclusively_” by it.  In what
manner one of three facts establishes the other, I am at a loss so
discover.  I heartily wish that, in the like way of reasoning it could be
proved, that because the author is not the only person who has written
against the Bible Society, _therefore_ he had not written against it at
all.  But now look at the fact, as to the distribution of the Scriptures.
They are distributed to all classes, to heathens even, if they wish to
possess them; and they are distributed not merely in the languages of
this country, but in fifty-three languages or dialects, of almost every
kindred and people over the world.  Whatever comes short of a completely
general distribution of the Scriptures by the Bible Society, is
occasioned by the want of funds.

But the author is not satisfied with this gratuitous assertion.  He goes
on, in the same strain of independent and courageous affirmation, to
maintain, that a feeling of love and harmony is not produced by the
meeting of various denominations of christians in this Society; and, in
proof of this, he appeals to certain recent occurrences.  But what are
these recent occurrences he leaves us to divine.  If, indeed, he were to
refer to certain recent occurrences in another quarter, as evidences of
“bitter and unseemly contention,” {12a} and of the “degradation” of a
meeting assembled for grave deliberation into “a British Forum, or a Bear
Garden,” {12b} probably every churchman would understand the hint,
however obliquely conveyed.  But, as to the meeting of the Bible Society,
I have attended both those of the Parent Institution, and in various
parts of this and the neighbouring county, and I can truly say, that I
have never seen any feeling predominate, but that of christian love.  I
have never known any offensive peculiarity obtruded upon the assembly;
and although it might have been sometimes wished, that, in points of
taste and expression, some of the speeches had been amended, yet, in
point of temper and spirit, and sober adherence to the main objects of
the meeting, they have admitted of no improvement.

The author of these observations has, I should suspect, never attended at
a meeting of this Society, or he would not have hazarded so extraordinary
a charge.  Let him and his friends be persuaded to judge in future,
rather from their own experience, than from the representation of others.
Let them come to these meetings, and, as men of feeling and principle,
they would, I am persuaded, be amongst the first to build up an
institution, which they are now in such haste to destroy.  They would
find the principle of attraction in the Society to be as strong as its
advocates pretend; would find even themselves surprised into the vortex,
and constrained, by a holy violence, to love the very men whom now they
appear to distrust.

But I proceed to notice a third class of objections to this Society,
viz.: those which are aimed at it as opposed to the _Established Church_,
and to the _Society in Bartlett’s Buildings_.  How is this objection
verified?  The Society in Bartlett’s Buildings had proceeded for many
years with a tolerably even step, and during the four years preceding the
establishment of the Bible Society, the avenge of its subscriptions and
donations was about £2,234, whilst its whole income was £11,818.  If this
New Society had tended to its injury, the subscriptions and income would
of course have diminished.  But what is now the state of the case?  The
subscriptions to that Society during the last year amounted to £7,440,
and its income to £44,215.  And here let it be observed, that, not only
has the income of the Society increased, but that part of its income
which is applicable to the dispersion of Prayer Books and Tracts has much
more increased.  For the national supply of Bibles, which are in
proportion to their sizes, more costly to the Society than Prayer Books,
being at least divided by the Bible Society, a larger fund must remain
for the distribution of Commentaries and Tracts.

But we are taught, by the author, that the Society is injurious to the
Established Church itself.  That the Bible may be injurious to scepticism
or superstition is to be believed; but how it can be injurious to a
church, founded upon the Word of Truth, it is not easy to comprehend.
Will the Bible, like the heathen parent of ancient story, devour his own
offspring?  But it is said, that the baptist, or the socinian, will give
the Word of God the colour of their own creed.  This, however, the
churchman cannot help.  However the baptist, or socinian, may procure a
Bible, he will, of course, put his own interpretation to it.  But we
would ask, how are the baptist or the socinian ever to be converted to
what we term orthodoxy?  It must be by appealing to the Word of God.
They will not accept our interpretation of Scripture, any more than we
will theirs.  It is, then, only on the Word of God that we can meet for
discussion.  This is the only remedy which we can propose, in ordinary
circumstances, for any error, because it is the only one which the person
in error will allow to be applied.

Let me beg the author to remember the principle upon which our church is
founded.  It is an appeal to _the Scriptures_.  “We do not,” says Bishop
Jewell, _Apol. Ecc. Ang._, cap. 4, “betake ourselves to the fire and the
sword, but to the _Scriptures_; nor do we assault with force of arms, but
with the _Word of God_.”  “By the _Scriptures_,” as says Turtullian, “we
nourish our faith; by them we erect our hope; by them we establish our
confidence.”  And, speaking of the churches of England and of Rome, he
says, (cap, 5.) “not to mention all the differences, because they are
almost infinite; _we have turned the Holy Scriptures into all languages_,
and they will scarce allow them to be extant in any tongue; _we invite
the people to hear and read the Word of God_, they drive them away from
it; we desire the cause in controversy should be understood by all, but
they fly from judgment; we trust to knowledge, they to ignorance; we
bring truth to light, they to darkness; we venerate, as it is fit that we
should, the words of the apostles and prophets, they burn them.”  Thus we
see, that the Scriptures were made the ground of appeal by our ancestors,
when they separated from the Established Church, and formed our present
establishment.  Should we not, therefore, allow others to make the same
appeal; and should we not be content to rest our defence upon the same
ground?

But let us next, in considering the influence of the Society on the
Established Church, take into account certain facts, which force
themselves on the eye of the most cursory examiner.  It is obvious, that
the attendance at church in these times is considerably increased, and
certainly not the least increased where a Bible Society spirit most
abounds.  In many places, also, great efforts have been made to build new
churches, to accommodate an overgrown population; and, moreover, a most
extraordinary increase in the circulation of the Liturgy has taken place.
A new Society also has arisen, whose only object is to distribute the
Formularies of the Established Church.

But we are not yet at the end of the objections of this very industrious
opponent.  The meetings of the Bible Society, it is said, by breaking in
a degree the line of demarcation between churchmen and dissenters, tend
to injure the establishment; and that, although the dissenter may gain,
the churchman must lose by them.  But how can this be? can the union of
persons, where the peculiarities of each is kept out of view, have any
bearing upon those peculiarities?  Is it the fact, that churchmen have
been converted to dissenters by these meetings?  If there is a danger of
conversion taking place, is it not a bad compliment to the church to
suppose that she will be the loser?  In physics, when a larger body meets
a less, as in the case of the heavenly bodies, the smaller never fails to
follow the motion of the larger.  Why in the case of the church and
dissenters alone, is this law to be reversed?

Will the author allow me to add this observation, that if danger to the
establishment need not be apprehended from the distribution of the Bible,
it is very much to be feared from the conduct of those who oppose this
Society.  In the first place, there is something very awful and ominous,
in seeing those who are the appointed stewards of the Word of God, rising
up to oppose any means by which its circulation is promoted; magnifying
mole hills into mountains, if only they can throw them into the course of
this Society.  Opposition, such as this, is well calculated to shake
“opinion,” upon which every establishment must mainly, under the blessing
of God, depend.  May not the enemies of the church, at least plausibly
urge, that the church cannot be built upon the Scriptures, when so many
churchmen oppose their distribution without their own commentary?  And if
the persuasion were established among the poor, that our church is
erected on the foundation of commentaries and tracts, instead of that of
the “apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner
stone,” would not popular attachment quickly dissolve?

There are, however, still two points upon which I would wish to make a
few observations.  The first is, as to the statement of this writer,
“that the income of the Bible Society is larger than its expenditure;
that a large sum is invested by this Society in various funds, and,
therefore, that the sum which has been obtained by subscriptions from the
poor, is unjustly taken from them.”  Now, to this I answer, that a large
sum has indeed from time to time been invested by this Society.  But,
does the Bartlett’s Building’s Society, or any other body of men, in
their senses, neglect such a precaution?  By referring to the Report, we
shall see that only so much is reserved by the Society, from year to
year, as is necessary to meet the engagements under which it has laid
itself.  If the sum of stock, now stated by the auditors to be possessed
by the Bible Society, is estimated, it will be found hardly more than is
sufficient to pay the £36,000 for which the Society stands engaged.  Had
not such a reserve been made in the last year, from the temporary
diminution in the income of the Society, it could not have fulfilled its
engagements.

A second charge is brought against it, on the subject of _Bible
Associations_.  The principle of these Associations is this—The poor are
permitted to pay one penny, or more, per week, to supply themselves with
a Bible; and afterwards, if they are so disposed, towards the general
funds of the Society.  This is called, by the author of these Reasons, a
“vexatious impost,” and he adds, that it is “wicked, cruel, and
unchristian” to “deduct such a sum from a poor family,” to “tax the
paupers of the kingdom to supply foreign nations.”

I wish my readers and myself to forget the epithets which are here
bestowed upon some of the most respectable persons in this kingdom; upon
the Bishop of Durham, for instance, who is president of one of these
associations.  It will be sufficient for me to reply to the argument upon
which they are founded.

In the first place, it may be observed, that the payment of the sum of
one penny per week, is not at all of the nature of a “tax,” or “vexatious
impost,” it is strictly _voluntary_.  Nor is it “_vexatious_,” for the
disposition of man is not prone to inflict vexatious obligations upon
himself.  The days of the flagellants, if ever they existed, are over.
But this charge of the author seems to me to be founded upon a wrong
estimate of the character of the poor, as well as ignorance of the
practical effects of the associations.

It arises, in the first place, from _a wrong estimate of the character of
the poor_, and especially of the religious poor.  The sympathy which is
professed by the author of these Reasons, is for suffering which only
exists in his own conception.  Those who subscribe to Bible Associations
have no feeling of the cruelty which they are said to endure.  The best
delight which can animate a human breast, is afforded to them by the
means of the Bible Society, in the easiest manner, as well as in the
highest degree.

Persons in higher situations of life, are apt to look upon those beneath
them, as incapable of feeling those pleasures which they themselves
enjoy.  Thus the clean cottage, the small, but decorated garden of a poor
man, is passed by with indifference by the rich; yet the poor man has,
perhaps, more exquisite pleasure in his enjoyments, than another,
pampered with all the superfluities of life.  So may it be with these
small subscriptions to Bible Associations.  Although poor, a man is
equally a man; he has drank “milk sweet as charity from human breasts;”
and feeling, as acutely as any other, his own spiritual wants, he may
have as earnest desire for the relief of his fellow-creatures.  Such I am
persuaded is the state of many of the poor, and their language in giving
to these Associations is not the pang which _cruelty_ extorts, but of
this kind—“I am not rich myself, but I will give my money, because I know
that he who giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord; because the souls of
multitudes are perishing for lack of that knowledge, which I am able, in
a degree, to impart to them.”

But not only is this charge founded upon a wrong conception of the
character and habits of the poor, but upon a mistaken view of the real
political and moral influence of these Associations.

It is admitted on all hands, that the best remedy for national distress
would be to create in the poor a spirit of independence; to raise them
above a state, in which they would stoop to receive from the public, that
support which ought to be procured by their own industry and foresight.
On this ground, we establish clubs to provide against sickness; banks to
deposit savings; and there is reason to conclude, from the example of
Scotland, that if the principle of honest independence were duly
cultivated, and means supplied for its full operation, an almost total
subduction of our Poor Rate might take place.  Bible Associations have,
then, a direct tendency to teach and to set at work this very principle.
They teach the poor economy, a habit of foresight, the benefit of order
and christian co-operation.  They raise the poor from the rank of beggars
to that of benefactors; and, whilst in common with clubs, they cherish a
habit of prudence, they root out the habit of selfishness, which clubs
have, perhaps, a tendency to produce.

I may be permitted to say in conclusion, that although we may lament that
such controversies should arise, because, as the author of these Reasons
states, our divisions are by these means made greater, still it is our
comfort to know, that the effect of such controversies is to create
inquiry into the facts upon which they are founded.  And this inquiry,
all that love truth, must most earnestly desire.  The friends of the
Bible Society wish to lay open every fact, to offer every plan for
investigation, conscious of the simplicity and purity of their object and
conduct.

When the members of this Society, those of them, at least, who are not
under an error of judgment, are said in this pamphlet to “have the aim
and ambition to puritanize the whole community, and to raise the fabric
of enthusiasm upon the ruins of church and state,” I look to _fact_,
which our author will at least allow to be as good a weapon as
hypothesis, and having used in vain all my faculties to discover any
ground for the assertion, I venture to conclude, either that the author
has in his study dreamt of enemies whom he cannot have seen, or that he
has inserted this passage for the purpose of concluding his work with a
flourish, even at the expence of truth.

I recollect a fable, by which, some years since, this same false and
foolish charge was illustrated.  It said, that philosophers had fancied
they saw a monster in the sun, which, however, upon further examination,
proved to be a fly in their own glass.  And my firm conviction is, that
the supposed monsters in this Society will prove to be flies in the
glasses of our opponents.  From no single fact, at least, in the
constitution and general proceedings of the Bible Society, can these
persons shew, that the slightest ground for such portentous apprehensions
as are suggested, does exist, but in their own imagination.

The Bible Society has now existed long enough to prove how vain are
aspersions of this kind.  If such suppositions had been warranted,
fourteen years would have developed them; but they still remain utterly
unproved, and this Society is sufficiently known, and has been
sufficiently examined.  We have, indeed, sometimes seen its brilliancy
for a short time obscured by works like our author’s, where every thing
is charged and taken for granted, but these clouds have passed away, and
then we have, when they have passed, observed this institution in the
mean time risen to a higher meridian, beaming with more pure and
brilliant lustre, and imparting more extended and beneficent animation.

It is a happiness for the friends of the Bible Society to know, that
opposition like this, is not new against an institution of the most
acknowledged merits; and which has the testimony of the very writer of
these “Reasons.”  At an early period of the existence of the Society for
Promoting Christian Knowledge, the very same opposition was raised
against itself.  In the year 1718, that Society thought proper to answer
these allegations, and I will extract a passage from a preface which it
published to some missionary letters.

Extract from the Preface to a Collection of Letters from Foreign
Missionaries, part 3, published by the direction of the Society for
Promoting Christian Knowledge.  London, 1718, page vii.

“As things of this nature are generally subject to various opinions and
reflections, so hath in particular this undertaking met with the same
treatment since it came to be known in Europe.  It hath been highly
approved by some, and disliked by others.  Some, who do not suppose an
enterprize of this nature to be altogether impracticable, do, however,
think it now very improper, when every one _complains of hard tines_, and
is called upon by _other expences nearer at home_; and, for this reason,
they are fur putting it off to a more convenient season.  Others have
been startled _at the newness of the thing_ and are shy to venture into a
road so little beaten in this age, and so much exposed to danger and
difficulty.  Others have been bare spectators in this matter, unwilling
to judge of a work, which, like a tender blade, did but just appear above
ground, _not discovering as yet what its fruit might prove_.  Others
again, have taken a transient view of the scheme, but declared their
unwillingness to be farther concerned, till they should see some _eminent
men espouse it_, and by their example encourage others to engage in the
same.  Others are displeased with the heathen themselves, who, for the
sake of a little gain, will conform to the christian name, but, at the
approach of danger, quit it again, and relapse into their former ways.

“It is not the design of this preface to examine at large the various
opinions and judgments which hitherto have been passed on this affair,
much less to determine how far they might be well-grounded, or how far,
perhaps, they might be biassed by mistaken and prejudices.  However, thus
much may be said in answer to those, who, on the one hand, are so easily
terrified by the common calamities of the times, and, on the other, by
the expensiveness of the design, that they seem to be little acquainted
with the ways and dispensations of Providence.  For if we take a survey
of the most considerable transactions, both under the law and the gospel,
it will plainly appear, that, generally, the _best of works have been
carried on in the worst of times_, and that they have triumphed at last
(though after much toil and labour) over all the clamours and oppositions
that wicked men and devils could raise against them.

“The prophet assures us, that Jerusalem was rebuilt in strait and
troublous times.  And another of the inspired writers tells us, that they
were fain to work with one hand, and to hold their weapons in the other.
And yet did the work gain ground in the midst of all those adversities;
and the attempts made against it, were so far from disheartening the
builders, that they did but more encourage them to go on with their
labour, till they saw the design brought to a happy conclusion.  However,
it cannot be denied, that the opposition is then most destructive and
fatal, when it comes from those that are WITHIN THE PALE OF THE CHURCH,
AND WHO, UNDER AN EXTERNAL SHEW OF THE SAME CONFESSION, DESTROY THE
VITALS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH.

“How backward the Jews were in building the Lord’s temple, and under what
frivolous pretences they put off so unwelcome a work, doth plainly appear
from the reproof given them by the prophet.  The time is not come, the
time that the Lord’s house should be built, was the common plea for their
sloth and drowsiness; but then the effect was, that whilst governors,
priests, and people, were wholly bent on advancing their worldly
interest, and shamefully neglected the Lord’s house, their vines and
olives did not yield their increase, and the earth denied her fruits.
All which may possibly convince us, that even _outward prosperity doth in
a great measure depend upon the care employed in the worship of God_,
_and its enlargement among_ JEWS AND HEATHENS.

“Nor have those a sufficient plea for themselves, that undervalue a
design because it is new, and because it hath been little attempted by
protestants.  Truly, this should rather be an inducement (not to stifle
the work in its infancy, but) to inflame that little of the spirit of
power and love, which is left among us.  Should we be also willing to
die, because we see so many dead about us?  I mean, so many who are
supine and negligent in the greatest concerns of life and happiness.
Should we not rather strengthen the more the things which remain, but are
ready to die, except they be supported betimes?  Which consideration
should make us shake off that natural drowsiness, which confineth the
mind to narrow ends and purposes, and indisposeth it for any generous
enterprise.  Nothing is more common, even among those who call themselves
christians, than to frame new ways and new methods for increasing their
stock, and to improve every opportunity offered for that end.  Almost
every year produceth new schemes, and these new pursuits after the things
of this world.  Let a design be never so new and uncommon, it will soon
be embraced, if it be but profitable, and conducive to some temporal end
or other.  Why should a christian, then, be shy of a work because it is
new, when it may carry with it a never-fading reward?  Should not he be
as ready and watchful to lay up riches in heaven, as the profane
worldling is to improve his income on earth?”

Such was the opposition once shown to this venerable Society, and by
persons too within the pale of the church.  Who these persons were
signifies now as little to us, as the arguments which they advanced, and
which have so happily failed of success.  And such we hope will be the
fate of all objections to the Bible Society.

Could these opposers of the Old Society, now contemplate its progress,
how would they shrink within themselves, and condemn their own blindness
and bigotry.  Could they now see the fields trodden by Ziegenbalgh and
Swartz, once “a waste howling wilderness,” now “rejoicing and blossoming
as the rose,” with what anguish would they regard their own hostility,
and how would they bless the author of all good, for having wrenched the
weapons from their hands.  Now every thing is seen by them in its proper
colour and dimensions; now every object is merged in the one great object
of the prevalence of truth.  The triumphs of the gospel fills, if we may
so speak, their whole field of vision.  Let the opponents, then, of the
Bible Society, learn a lesson from this.  For with them, soon, all the
hopes and fears of this world will have passed away; they will see every
object in the light of the sanctuary, and measure every institution upon
its sacred scale: the world will be nothing, and Christ will be all in
all.

May these persons at that awful day be enabled to justify themselves
before that God, who would not that _any_ should perish, but that _all_
should come to the knowledge of the truth; before that Saviour who has
commanded us to preach his gospel to all nations, and who, in the glowing
language of his own book, has shadowed out this and similar institutions,
under the image of an angel carrying the everlasting gospel to every
nation, and language, and tongue, and people; before those souls, who are
now crying to us for help—for that help, which the British and Foreign
Bible Society is seeking to impart.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                                  FINIS.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                           BY THE SAME AUTHOR,
                       SERMON ON THE BIBLE SOCIETY,
                                 PREACHED
                              _AT BECCLES_,
                                  AND AT
                        ST. MARY’S CHURCH, BUNGAY.
                              _Price_ 6_d._

                                * * * * *

                                  ALSO,
                       _THE FISHERMAN’S DAUGHTER_:
                                    A
                        NARRATIVE FROM REAL LIFE.

                _Price_ 3_d._ or 2_s._ 6_d._ _per dozen_.

                                * * * * *

            _Printed by J. Keymer_, _King-Street_, _Yarmouth_.



FOOTNOTES.


{12a} Vide British Critic for May 1816, Arte 10.

{12b} Vide British Critic for May 1816, Arte 10.





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