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First, the number of Bibles wanted at home and abroad; and then,
To ascertain the number we have distributed.
On entering upon the first inquiry, our hearts sink within us at the recollection, that while the population of those countries in which the religion of Christ is professed, is no more than 213 millions, it is computed that there are in the world no less than 550 millions of souls, who have never heard of his name.
But while we lament the darkness of the heathen world, let us not think that the light of the Gospel is freely diffused in those lands on which the Sun of Righteousness has risen
; for, on examination, we shall find that thousands and millions are hid from the brightness of his beams.
The whole number of Bibles which, in 1807, had ever been printed for the immense empire of Russia, whose population exceeds 50 millions, was about six thousand ; and so late as 1811, there were in the provinces of Esthonia and Livonia, 400,000 families without a Bible.
In 1812, the number of persons speaking the Finnish language was not less than 1,300,000, and yet for 30 years ben fore, not a Bible had been printed for their use; and scarcely a single copy was to be purchased.
In 1811, there were upwards of 1,500,000 Protestants in Hungary, possessed of but few Bibles.
In 1813, it was computed that four out of five in Denmark were without Bibles.
In 1807, in Iceland, whose population is about 50,000, there were only 40 or 50 Bibles.
In 1810, there were of the Persian Christians (so called) 200,000 who had never seen a Bible in their own tongue;. and in Ceylon 350,000 professors of Christianity equally des
In 1805, it was computed that in the southern part of Ireland two thirds of the Protestant families were without Bibles, and
among the Catholics it was supposed that not more than one family in 500 had a copy of the Scriptures.
Let us now direct our view to Great Britain, where we are apt to suppose that "the darkness is past, and that the true light now shineth."
In Wales, there are 350,000 people speaking the Welsh language ; but for 30 years before 1793, not a Bible had been printed for their use.
In 1807, among 4000 persons in a certain parish in Scotland, there were found but 12 Bibles.
In England, so late as 1814, of 960 families in the town and neighbourhood of Southampton, 415 families, containing 1784 individuals, were found, on examination, to be without Bibles.
In 1810, it was computed that there were 10,000 families in the County of Norfolk without Bibles.
From an actual inquiry made by order of the Bishop of Durham, it was found that in that diocese there were 5800 families without a Bible ; estimating the rest of England and Wales in this proportion, they must contain 350,000 families destitute of the Scriptures.
If such be the famine of the word of God in Great-Britain, where Protestantism and religious zeal have so greatly tended to diffuse it, how grievous must be the scarcity in France, Spain, Italy, and other Catholic countries !
Let us. now look at home, and let us begin our inquiries with a State which has long been distinguished for the religious habits of its citizens. The Report of the Connecticut Bible Society for 1812, informs us, that there were more in that State without the Scriptures than the funds of the Society could supply; and let us remember, that this is one of the most able Societies in the United States, and the State probably better supplied with Bibles than any other district of the same population in the world. The Report of the Massachusetts Bible Society for 1813, asserts, that there are many settlements in the District of Maine, in which only one or two Bibles could be found. During the year preceding this Report, the Society had distributed within the Commonwealth no less than 2296 Bibles and 532 Testaments; and they declare that, “ however improbable it may seem, this number was needed."
In 1814, it was estimated that there were in Ohio 13,000 families destitute of the Scriptures ; 12,000 in the Territories of Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri ; 5000 in the Mississippi
Territory, 8000 in Louisiana ; 10,000 in Tennessee ; and 30,000 in Kentucky!
Such is the dearth of the Scriptures both at home and abroad. Surely
Surely“ darkness has covered the earth, and gross darkness the people.” But while we wonder at and lament this darkness, let us examine what we have done to dissipate it.
Owing to the want of a centre of religious intelligence in the United States, it is impossible to ascertain with exactness the number of Bibles which have been distributed by the American Societies : we may, however, arrive at some general conclusions.
The Report of the Connecticut Society for 1813, states the whole number of Bibles distributed by that Society since its establishment, at 7644; and adds, that this is a greater number than had been distributed by any other Society in the United States. There were in the United States, at the commencement of that year, 24 Bible Societies; of these, four were formed in the course of the preceding year, and cannot be supposed to have distributed many Bibles during the few first months after their organization. Let us admit that the remaining twenty had each distributed as many Bibles Connecticut Society, (although we are assured of the contrary,) and the whole number which would have been distributed at the commencement of 1813, would have been but 152,880. But when we recollect that the Connecticut Society, with one exception, is the oldest in our country; that two of the above Societies are Bible and Prayer-Book Societies, and it is believed distribute most copies of the latter book; and that another of the twenty is a Bible and Tract Society, and therefore devoting only a part of its funds to the distribution of the Bible, we shall perceive how very distant the admission we have made is from the truth. Since 1813, the number of Bible Societies has greatly increased; but the new Societies have been chiefly confined to towns and counties, and embracing but small districts of country, their funds have been proportionably limited; and many of them are likewise of very recent date. If, therefore, we state the whole number of Bibles which, at the beginning of 1816, had ever been distributed by the American Societies, at about 150,000, we shall probably overrate the actual amount. The whole amount of Bibles, then, which Christian America has distributed, is not more than sufficient to supply each individual in Kentucky who is now destitute.
But to love others besides ourselves, is the peculiar characteristic of Christianity. Let us therefore inquire to what extent we have diffused the light of Revelation beyond our own borders? In order to send the Bible to foreigners, we must publish it in other languages than our own. It is believed the American Societies have not distributed the Bible in more than four languages, viz. English, French, Dutch, and German. The exact number of Bibles which have been sent out of the country cannot be ascertained; but it is most probable that, with the exception of some sent to Canada, no considerable number, in any language, has been sent beyond our own territories ; and that the French, Dutch, and German
Bibles, which have been distributed, have been given to those of our own citizens who speak these languages.
Thus it appears that since 1808, when the first Bible Society was established, the Christians of the United States have. through the medium of their Societies, distributed about 150,000 copies of the Bible, in four languages, and chiefly among their own countrymen. Such is the offering which, as a nation, we have made at the shrine of Christian benevolence ;----such is the return we have made to Heaven, for the national and individual blessings we enjoy!
Having thus ascertained what we ourselves have done in the cause of the Bible, let us see what others have done in the
It appears from the last Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society, that the Christians of Great Britain have, during the last eleven years, through the medium of that Society, been instrumental in distributing 1,299,282 copies of the Scriptures, in 55 languages, and have aided in the establishment of Bible Societies in almost every part of the Protestant world. The income of this Society, for the last year, amounted to $443,000, a sum sufficient to purchase, in this country, 600,000 Bibles, like those distributed by the American Societies.
In one year, then, the British and Foreign Bible Society could distribute 600,000 Bibles; while the American Societies, since 1808 to the present time, have not probably distributed more than 150,000!
And does the zeal and ability of the British Christians exceed that of ours in this proportion? Heaven forbid. To what, then, is this amazing difference to be imputed? Solely to the difference of the instruments employed. Let us therefore examine these instruments, and compare them with each other.
To promote the general diffusion of the Bible, the Christians of America have established 108 independent local Bible Societies, which are scattered throughout the United States from Vermont to Louisiana*. Of these there are 10 which, from their name, profess to be Auxiliary Societies. The author has seen the constitutions of three of the ten, and they are, to all intents and purposes, independent Societies, not being bound to render the slightest pecuniary as, sistance to any other Society whatever. Of the remaining seven, two are female Societies. As it does not appear
* See the sixth Report of the New-York Bible Society.
from their names that they are auxiliary to any Society in particular, it is most probable that nothing more is meant by the term than an accordance with the objects and views of the Societies previously established. I am therefore justified in saying, that the means which the American Christians are employing to promote the general diffusion of the Bible, are 108 independent local Bible Societies. We have already seen the effects produced by these means, and have contrasted them with the astonishing and magnificent result of the la. bours of the British Christians.
(To be continued.)
Extracts from the Third Annual Report of the Female
Bible Society of Geneva. Read and approved at the Annual Meeting of the Society, January 1, 1816.
THIS Society was formed in March, 1813. At that time it was not expected that it would ever be extended much beyond the village of Geneva. The few who then subscribed the Constitution, had no higher views than to be instrumental in communicating the Word of Life to some of the destitute in their own neighbourhood. But they were soon encouraged to hope that their sphere of usefulness might be extended to the neighbouring towns and counties. This hope has been, in a great measure, already realized. Many members have been added to the Society from different towns in this county, and in the counties of Seneca, Cayuga, Genesee, and Steuben. Some of these reside at places more than fifty miles distant from Geneva. As it could not be expected that these distant members would attend the stated meetings of the Society in this village, it was agreed that any number of members residing near each other, and at such a distance from this place as to render it inconvenient to meet here, should, at their request, be considered as a Branch of the Society; and that it should be recommended to them, (if they should deem it expedient,) to meet together in their own neighbourhood, statedly, on the days pointed out in the Constitution for the quarterly meetings of the Society, and at such other times as they might think proper, to consult and pray together for the extension and usefulness of the Society in general, and of the particular Branch of it in their own town. It was also agreed, that such person or persons as these several Branches might nominate to the Trustees, should be appointed as Agents of the Society, whose duty it should be to superintend the distribution of Bibles in the respective neighbourhoods or towns where they might reside, and to correspand with the Trustees, communicating to them, from time to time, such information and advice as they might deem important.
Some Branches have alseady been instituted, and their Agents appointed. This has been done in full confidence that in all their transactions relative to the Institution, they will keep in view the great object of the Society, and will do nothing inconsistent with the spirit of its Constitution and Laws.
The towns in which Branches have been formed, are as follows:
Wolcott, Geneseo, Leicester, (in the county of Genesee,) Cayuga Villago, Romulus, (in the county of Seneca,) Gorham, West Bloomfield, Richmond, Avon, Lyons, Prattsburgh, (in the county of Steuben.)