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1831.]

The New Bible Society.

"Thus was established the reformation of Berne, under which the canton has flourished to this day. The event was celebrated with public rejoicings; the magistrates opening the prisons, restoring the exiles, changing the die of their money in honour of their revolution, and causing the date to be inscribed on a column in letters of gold. For such a celebration they assigned their reasons in the following terms: If a king or emperor in alliance with us should enter our city, we should remit the punishment of those who had offended against the laws, provided

only we had reason to hope that they would
not offend again. Now then, when the
King of kings, the Prince of our souls, the
Son of God, who is also our Brother, visits
us, and brings with him pardon to us who
have deserved eternal banishment from
his presence, shall we not honour the
event by pardoning those who have done
us wrong?' And the like sentiment of
Christian piety and charity, we are told,
was reiterated from friend to friend, in
their mutual salutations of one another."
p. 28.

(To be concluded in the Appendix).

RELIGIOUS INTELLIGENCE.

THE NEW BIBLE SOCIETY. A NEW Bible Society has been formed; and though we saw no necessity for its institution, and have expressed serious doubts respecting any alteration of the old constitution, and anxious fears lest the result should neither be for the glory of God, the peace of his church, nor the religious benefit of the world, there is no reason, now that it is formed, why we should not once more look at the whole matter with an unprejudiced eye, and endeavour in a calm and prayerful spirit to ascertain if any mistake has occurred in our former conclusions. We can say, as in the sight of God, that we have done so; and that if we could really believe that the new institution is likely to further the great objects we have specified, we would most cheerfully retract all that we have written, and even yet unite ourselves hand and heart in the measure.

There is a rule which we have always endeavoured to act upon in reference to religious institutions, new or old; that where the main object is right, and the agents are evidently desirous of proceeding conscientiously, the utmost forbearance, the most liberal construction, the most tender delicacy, should be observed in regard to those mistakes, frailties, and infirmities, which are inseparable from all human proceedings, not excluding works of piety and benevolence. It is not without extreme pain that we have witnessed of late years the rude spirit in which some of our religious and charitable societies, and more especially the Bible Society, have been assailed, as if it were doing service to se of God and the best interests of to mistate and exaggerate every real failure; and then, the work having once begun, to invent what is not real, and thus to hold up to the public as culprits and defaulters, men who are zealously and disinterestedly devoting their CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 360.

best energies, at a great sacrifice of time and exertion, to benefit their generation. We have thought, in some instances, that societies have been projected, which might have been well spared; but even in these cases, except there seemed special reason for interference, we have felt unwilling to expose failings where the intention was right; and in several instances, these institutions have silently died away, or been broken to pieces, and come to nought.

In regard to the work which the new Bible Society purposes to undertake, that of the circulation of the word of God, it is an object of such momentous importance, and so dear to every Christian mind, that we should be willing to overlook many things that might not quite comport with our own ideas in detail for the promotion of the general design. Abstractedly, an efficient Bible Society, constructed on almost any plan not sinful, would deserve the public gratitude; though we should wish to amend it where it was wrong, we should not scan too nicely every defect, or forget the main design in the faulty provisions.

and

But the Society recently formed proffers its claim to patronage, not on the ground of being a Bible Society, but of being an essential improvement on all the Bible Societies at present existing. It is (not to use the term offensively, but only for distinction,) an opposition Bible-Society; so that the question is not, whether we shall circulate the Bible, and whether if there were no other means of circulating it, we might not lawfully join the new institution; but whether this institution ought to supersede those which have gone before, and whether, now that both are Those before us for choice, the new one is founded on a preferable basis. who introduce this religious reform-bill must convince us that the old constitution was radically unsound; that a re5 F

volutionary measure, the formation of a new constitution, was necessary; and that the constitution they have devised, is preferable to that which they wish to subvert. We are not left to be neutral; we are desired by the seceders from the original principle to make a choice; to compare the two plans, and to come to a decision; a process, we must say, peculiarly distressing to our feelings, where matters of religion and charity are concerned but no alternative is left us, except we are willing to allow it to be inferred by our silence, that we admit the grievous charges alleged against the old institution, or at least see no great evils likely to arise from the new one; neither of which is the case.

The Sackville-street institution is entitled, "The Trinitarian Bible Society." We have called it as above, "The new Bible Society," because we did not wish to designate it by any title that might appear offensive, while we cannot in conscience concede to it the title given to it by its friends. Why do we not yield to Socinians the title of Unitarians? Because it is unjust and invidious, and implies that those who are orthodox believe not in one God, but in a plurality. Now, if it be unjust and invidious in the Unitarian to assume a title which implies that Trinitarians are polytheists, as little is it to be commended in the planners of the new Bible Society to choose a title which stigmatises all other Bible Societies as anti-Trinitarian or un-Trinitarian. Is not every Bible distributed by the British and Foreign Bible Society, a Trinitarian Bible? Are the great body of the faithful servants of Christ in all lands antiTrinitarian in their opinions or projects? Have the millions of copies of the Scriptures which have been circulated by means of this venerated institution been instruments for diffusing principles contrary to that fundamental doctrine which is the basis of our holy religion? Are the names of Burgess, and Barrington, and Sumner, and Ryder, or of Wardlaw, and Scott, and Milner, and Venn, and Hall, and Legh Richmond, and a thousand others, wont to be familiarly connected with measures tending to the furtherance of Socinianism? Is it modest, is it becoming Christian men, thus to select a title to which they have no exclusive right? no right beyond that of their neighbours, who disagree with them on the Bible-Society question; and the assumption of which casts an unmerited reproach upon the whole Christian world. Let our friends select their own path; but why cast stones at their brethren ?

The title is also unscriptural, as well as invidious; for does any Christian, when asked what religion he is of, say I am an Athanasian; or I am of the Trinitarian

[DEC.

religion? He is much more he is a Bible Christian. The scholastic term Trinitarianism was not invented to inmark out one essential fundamental docclude the whole of revealed truth; but to trine upon which it depends. The new society takes a part, instead of the whole; it throws away its Protestantism, which nothing but the Bible," for its oracle; receives" the Bible, the whole Bible, and and imitates the Church of Rome, which first makes itself the expositor of Scripplace of the inspired text, and then exture, then places the human comment in pects men to subscribe to the former instead of the latter. It thus becomes sectarian, not Christian; expository, not biblical it does not ask, Do you believe though, in the present instance, the interwhat God says? but what I interpret: and pretation is correct and essential, and the to the glory of God, and fatal to the souls contrary erroneous, heretical, derogatory is substituting the comment for the text; of men, yet the principle is the same; it however, or by whomsoever, distributed it is not trusting God with his own word, it is swerving from the character of a Bible Society to that of a Bible-exposition Society; hedging in the tree which was for the healing of the nations, so that no person shall take of its leaves to give the society's ordeal, instead of leaving his to his neighbour who has not first passed motives and principles to Him who sees and knows all things. Far more lamentable is such a limitation of the Bible and the Bible Society, than that lamented by a poet, of a great statesman, who,

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Though born for the universe, narrowed
And gave up to party what was meant
his mind,
for mankind."

their new title, besides being invidious
But have our friends considered that
and unscriptural, is also utterly vague?
It admits Ranters, Swedenborgians, and
a hundred heretical and disorderly sects;
to say nothing of worldly, ungodly, and
protect themselves under the banner of
vicious men of every kind, who happen to
an orthodox church; while it excludes
the Society of Friends, and all who will
sacred text, however correct and orthodox,
not submit to human comments on the
but give in their adherence to the inspired
clude themselves; that the society has
word only. It may be said, that these ex-
no wish to exclude them: but it excludes
them by making its rules so strait that
they cannot enter; besides which, it has,
by an express rule, excluded Roman Ca-
tholics also; and this from an institution
not designated as Protestant, but only as
"Trinitarian."

Catholics; that is another and a very
We say nothing at pre-
sent of the propriety of excluding Romani
them from a society, the title of which
serious consideration; but to exclude

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embraces all "Trinitarians," is a solecism which convinces us that the framers of the new institution, whatever zeal and piety they may have brought to their work, have not exercised that calm wisdom, those judicious views, and that enlarged range of thought which were requisite in so serious a matter as that of subverting the Bible Societies of all lands, and setting up their new model in their place. How easy is it to pull down any rash head and unsparing hand can do this, for what is there human that is faultless? but when we see what is substituted in its place, how often are we constrained to wish that innovators had let well alone, and not attempted to destroy what was solid, useful, and on the whole incomparable, in order to try new and visionary experiments. Having alluded to the exclusion of Roman Catholics, we will just state in passing for it is too large and serious a point to go into fully at present, in all its bearings-that besides all the general objections which apply to having any religious test whatever in a society which has no object but to forward under the Divine blessing the glory of God and the salvation of men, by the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, there is a peculiar impropriety and most fatal evil in excluding from this good work this largest of all portions of the professed Christian world. If there was any one part of the Bible Society's operations which we have always regarded with more interest than another, and from which we anticipated, by the blessing of Him whose word shall not return to him void, the largest and most ample benefit, it was its unparalleled success in disseminating the Word of God among Roman Catholics, and this,in numerous instances, by their own agency; especially by the hands of men like Martin Bos and others, who, though they quitted not their corrupt church in act, were widely removed from many of its corruptions in spirit; and who were not only Trinitarians, but we believe true servants of Christ. And more, the labours of the Bible Society have not only been the means, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, of enlightening the eyes of many members of that corrupt church, but of eventually bringing them out of it, and adding converts to the ranks of Protestantism as well as to the faith of Christ. In the next generation, the effect was likely to be increased manifold. The pope so well understood this, that he issued his bull to prohibit Roman Catholics being connected with Bible Societies; but he little thought that a society would arise in the heart of Pro-, testant England to do the work ready to his hands. This regulation is the more peculiarly to be regretted at the present moment, on account of the state of Ireland. See, for instance, under what em

barrassment it will place the very individual who proposed it to the meeting at the formation of the society-namely, Captain Gordon. This gentleman has for many years spoken and written very strongly, and not more strongly, we fear, than truly, respecting the conduct of the priests in Ireland, in opposing the circulation of the Bible and the promotion of scriptural education; and he is at this very moment contending, both in print and in parliament, with Mr. Stanley, the Secretary for Ireland, on the proposed government plan of popular education, to be conducted in common by Roman Catholics and Protestants, without the introduction of the Bible into the schools. The object of the Hibernian Society, the Kildare-place Society, and various other Protestant institutions, was to promote scriptural education; and their constant complaint was, that the priests in general opposed them; though there were individuals of a better mind, who acted otherwise. But how stands the matter at present? The priests will retort in Ireland, and Mr. Stanley in the House of Commons, that the whole of the bigotry is not now among the Papists, but the Protestants; that some of the former might, and did, promote the circulation of the Word of God, in union with Protestants, but that Captain Gordon and his friends, disapproving of the catholic spirit of the Bible Society, had formed a new one, forbidding such co-operation in future; so that while Protestants professed to make the Bible itself their only rule of faith, they began with imposing a test, demanding their own exposition of it as a preliminary even to circulating it, and had the bigotry and injustice to stigmatize Papists as not being Trinitarians; and, says Mr. Washington Phillips in his published speech at the meeting, as not included "in the pale of the visible church of Christ." This regulation, in every view which we can take of it, is so illiberal, so party-spirited, so little characterized by meekness or wisdom, and likely to be so suicidal to Protestantism, especially in Ireland, that we have not words to express our extreme regret at its adoption. At the same time, as we have repeatedly observed in former papers, we see not how the friends of the new society could have acted otherwise : for having begun with the imposition of a test, they were obliged to carry it further than they themselves at first proposed. The only question is, where it is to stop. Socinians are excluded, and so are Roman Catholics; but are there no other flagrant heresies? What is to be done when the first Swedenborgian presents himself? Is a new rule to be made? And when this is made, and another person of unsound doctrine comes forward, is another test to be devised; and so on till the

institution is Christianized to the particular views of its officers for the time being? And then this little select knot of persons in an air-tight chamber, selfexcluded from the great mass of the faithful in all lands, is to supply the religious necessities of the whole world! And what would the chairman of the meeting, Mr. Perceval, and some of its most active originators; as, for instance, Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Irving, and Mr. Drummond; and some of its chief speakers, as Mr. Thelwall, Mr. Platt, and Mr. Rhind, say, if Mr. Howells or Captain Gordon were to propose other tests quite as necessary, against certain new and strange opinions which are afloat? Why admit Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Irving, and exclude Pascal and Fenelon? Why not have a test on millennarianism as well as on transubstantiation? Why not on the immaculate nature of Christ, as well as on the invocation of saints? The whole error is in laying down a test where a test was neither wise nor necessary, nor in practice capable of application.

We are glad to see the conductors of the Record newspaper, which is the only part of the religious periodical press, except the Morning Watch, that has promoted the formation of the new Bible Society, earnestly endeavouring to detach it from certain alleged exceptionable connexions. "As it has been industriously circulated," says the Record, "that a leaven from Regent-square Church has pervaded the new society, we have the pleasure of stating, on the best authority, that the report is wholly unfounded." What the leaven of Regent-square may be is not easily said, since it applies to many particulars; among others, certain extraordinary notions respecting the sacraments, and still more extraordinary interpretations of prophecy; the doctrine of universal pardon; the heresy of Christ's assuming sinful flesh; assurance without evidence; modern millennarianism, and the personal reign of Christ before the final judgment; the non-cessation of miracles; the exhibition of them at the present moment; with various differences of opinion as to what are and what are not miracles; some asserting the cures but not the tongues, and sundry other points. Each one of these opinions is not held by every person who holds some of them; and we are far from wishing to impute “Regent square leaven," or any of its ingredients, to any individual who disavows them; but taking names and facts as they stand, we cannot wonder, to say the least, that it is discovered to be requisite to lay before the public a special disclaimer on the subject in reference to the new society. It is somewhat remarkable, however, that in their account of the formation of the society, the conductors of the Record have passed over the names of every one

of those speakers whose known opinions might have been likely to create some fear respecting this leaven. They state that the chair was taken by Mr. Spencer Perceval; and that "after prayer had been offered up for the Divine blessing," by whom is not stated, resolutions were moved and seconded by Mr. Gordon, Mr. Washington Phillips, Mr. Pringle, Mr. Sinclair, Mr. Melvill, Dr. Holloway, Mr. Thomson, Mr. Howells, and others. Who these "others" were is not mentioned; and then ensues the disclaimer about Regent-square leaven; but, on turning to the authentic report of the meeting in a future number of that very same paper, we find that the clergyman who prayed was Mr. Thelwall, and the speakers omitted were Mr. Rhind, Mr. Labouchere, Mr. Lockhart of Newcastle, Mr. T. P. Platt, and Mr. Haldane. Now several of these omitted gentlemen have published with their names various statements of doctrine which the Record certainly would not approve, and some at least of which are impregnated with a part of "the leaven of Regent-square.” Of the chairman, Mr. Perceval, we shall say nothing, as we are not aware that that gentleman has expressed his theological sentiments in print; but it might have been well, in order to avoid all possibility of "leaven," to have selected a chairman whose sentiments are well known to be far removed from any extraordinary notions about prophecy, the Millennium, miracles, and other pending discussions. But it is somewhat remarkable that,as one of the two great reasons for secession from the old society was the opening public meetings with prayer, the Record should omit to mention who was the chaplain specially selected, whether by the chairman or the committee, for this occasion, and that it was Mr. Thelwall who has so industriously and publicly exerted himself in defence of the doctrine of modern miracles? It was at least an unhappy coincidence that the society could not,amongst all the clergy and dissenting ministers in the kingdom, have selected an individual for the chaplain who was exempt from this portion of "Regentsquare leaven." Again, Mr. Platt's abilities, character, and his secession from the parent society, of which he has long been a most valuable and laborious friend and gratuitous officer, were reasons why his name should not have been omitted in the most brief and cursory report of the meeting. Above all, why pass over Lieut. Rhind, who has in print so fairly, honestly, and in that Christian spirit which is his characteristic, declared his views not merely on a few points which Mr. Platt has written on, but on the mass of " Regent-square leaven?" But what has Regent-square leaven, or any other leaven, even Socinian leaven itself, to do with a society for distributing Bibles without note or com

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1831.]

The New Bible Society.

ment? Do not our friends feel already
some of the evils which must arise from the
advocates of a Bible Society being forced
to begin with disclaiming this or that sen-
timent as prevailing among their associ-
ates? Yet this must go on, and to a most
painful and invidious length, if once tests
are introduced, at least any other test
than that of the willingness of the mem-
bers to unite together as professed Chris-
tians for an avowed and common object
of paramount interest and importance.
There is not any one of the gentlemen in
the new society with whom we would not
cheerfully associate for the great, the in-
finitely momentous design of circulating
the sacred word; an object which is above
all names of sect or party, or even Regent-
square leaven. Why then should they
stand aloof upon their own little islet,
where they know their fellow-Christians
will not, cannot, join them? We implore
them to reconsider the matter; and even
yet, though late, to put a stop to the work
of disruption; which, however conscien-
tious on their part, for we are not im-
peaching their motives, though we doubt
their judgment,-is, we are convinced, fur-
thering the machinations of him who is
the accuser of the brethren, the sower of
discord, and the enemy of all that is good.
We say this in no disrespect to our friends,
who, we doubt not, are sincere, though
mistaken in their intentions.

We

If we were struck with the circum-
stance of the above omissions in the ac-
count of the meeting, much more were
we struck with the absence of the vast
majority of those respected and revered
names which for so many years have been
conspicuous at the meetings of our reli-
gious and charitable institutions.
should not, however, have noticed this if it
had not been further remarked, in the ac-
count to which we have just referred, that
the resolutions were passed "almost by
acclamation," and with only "a single soli-
tary dissentient voice." Now any of the
friends of the new society will tell their
zealous advocate, that this is not a correct
The room was
statement of the matter.
specifically engaged for those who were
favourable to the formation of the society;
no person was admissible but by ticket;
the Sackville-street committee had secur-
ed, and we are not blaming them for it,
the largest possible attendance of their
friends; persons applying for tickets, who
were known to be friendly to the prin-
ciples of the British and Foreign Bible
Society, were expressly informed, that,
though they might attend, they could not
speak, for that no opposition or discussion
would be allowed; and the chairman, as
appears in the Society's own report in the
Record, twice read to the meeting a reso-
lution of the Committee to the same effect,
stating that persons who disapproved of
the intended object, were there "only by

sufferance," and would not be permitted to
take any part in the proceedings. Under
these circumstances, the great body of
those who usually attend Bible-Society
meetings absented themselves; and those
who for any reason did happen to be pre-
sent, had too much Christian spirit and
forbearance to wish to make such another
"bear-garden," as Mr. Rowland Hill said
had been made of the last anniversary of
the British and Foreign Bible Society.
But were they therefore, or their absent
fellow-Christians, consenting to the pro-
ceeding? Is it fair in the Record to say, that
there was but one dissentient voice, when
dissentients were warned to keep away, or
if present not to interfere, and with the
expectation that, if they had persisted in
The meet-
doing so, they would have been carried
out by the police as rioters.
ing, though held in a large room and in-
dustriously collected, was avowedly what
in politics is called a hole-and-corner
meeting; a meeting of friends to an object
in which even the putting the resolutions
is a mere form, as appears in this very
instance; for, on turning to the Society's
account of the proceedings in the Record,
we find the following dialogue, which we
suppose is what is referred to by "the
solitary dissenting voice."

"A person in the lower part of the Hall here addressed the Chairman, and was understood to express his regret at finding that from the mode in which the resolutions had been put from the chair, no fair opportunity of discussion was afforded. The Chairman said, If I rightly understand the gentleman who has just spoken, he complains that no opportunity is afforded of expressing dissent from our Resolutions.' He wished to know whether he had heard the gentleman correctly. The gentleman replied, that such was the opinion of the course of their proceedings. The Chairman said, he was anxious to remove all misunderstandings upon the subject; and with that view he would read to the meeting the Resolutions of the Provisional Committee, which had been already read by him at the commencement of the day's proceedings. He then read the resolutions."

We honour the peaceable spirit of the dissentients, and not least of this good man in the lower part of the hall, who forbore to follow the evil example of disturbing a public meeting assembled for a religious object; but to talk of unanimity under such circumstances, is not a little extraordinary. Let us have fair and impartial reports of what passes at public meetings; but we put it to any friend of the Society if the above is so, either by the omission of certain names which ought to have been inserted, or by the boast of acclamation and unanimity, without mentioning that the meeting, to use Captain Gordon's word on another occasion,

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