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CHAP. I.

BRITISH AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY.

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IT WAS PLANTED IN A GOOD soil, BY GREAT WATERS, THAT IT MIGHT BRING FORTH BRANCHES, AND THAT IT MIGHT BEAR FRUIT, AND THAT IT MIGHT BE A GOODLY VINE."

EZEK. XVII. 8.

PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS. In contemplating the rise and progress of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the unparalleled success with which it has been attended, it is scarcely possible to avoid the conclusion, that it must have possessed some extraordinary facilities in its practical operations, and a more than common adaptation of the means to the end. Established and conducted by a few private individuals, and asserting no claim but that of the importance and the singleness of its object, it exhibits the most incontestable evidence, that, in this happy and highly-favoured country, it is only necessary to convince the public that a cause is good, in order to ensure general co-operation and support.

Seventeen years have scarcely elapsed since the formation of this Society, and already we find it surrounded by nearly Six Hundred and Fifty Auxiliary and Branch Societies, and considerably more than One I'housand Bible Associations, within the United Kingdom. On the continent of Europe, and in the other quarters of the globe, it has called into existence and activity more than Six Hundred kindred Institutions. In the pursuit of its great, yet simple design, it has expended Nine Hundred Thousand Pounds; and has promoted the translation, printing, or distribution of the Scriptures, or portions of them, in ONE HUNDRED and Thirty different languages and dialects, in more than EIGHTY of which no part of the Sacred Volume had been previously printed; and finally, it has already put into circulation, either directly or indirectly, more than FOUR MILLIONS of Bibles and Testaments.

When we consider these facts, and reflect, that the operations of the Society are continually and progressively

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Preliminary Observations. Constitution of the Society.

extending abroad, and consolidating at home ;—when we behold the peace and harmony that reign throughout the various parts of the system ;-—and when we mark that inviolable adherence to fixed principles, which has characterized the proceedings of the Institution, it is impossible to resist the conviction, that THE FINGER OF GOD IS HERE! Human wisdom, however profound,—and human agency, however diligent, -unaided by the Holy Spirit that indited these Sacred Oracles, could never have accomplished such wonders. Human agency has, indeed, been employed; but the results must be ascribed to him, that hath said, “I will work, and who shall let it?"

It is foreign to the nature of a work of this description to trace the origin and progress of the Bible Society. This duty has been performed by one who is fully competent to the task; and in a manner which excites an ardent hope, that he may be long preserved to record the triumphs of an Institution, to whose success, humanly speaking, he has so essentially contributed. That accurate historian has satisfactorily established two facts, which should never be forgotten by the friends and advocates of the cause ;—that such a Society was rendered necessary by the wants of our own population; and, that those to whom its executive details have from time to time been entrusted, have adhered, with scrupulous fidelity, to the fundamental principle of the establishment. Nor is it necessary to describe the progressive steps by which the constitution of the Society was trained, “from its elementary existence, in a crude suggestion and in unpromising obscurity, to the ripeness of its plan, in a well-digested system and an organized establishment.” The volumes to which reference is here made, sufficiently elucidate this part of the subject, and will amply repay the time occupied in their perusal.

SECTION I.

CONSTITUTION OF THE SOCIETY.

Laws and REGULATIONS of the BRITISH AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY,

established in London on the 7th of March, 1804. I. The designation of this Society shall be, “ The British and FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY;" of which the sole object shall be, to encourage a wider circulation of the Holy Scriptures, without note or comment. The only copies, in the languages of the United Kingdom to be circulated by the Society, shall be the authorised version.

Laws and Regulations.

II. This Society shall add its endeavours to those employed by other Societies, for circulating the Scriptures through the British Dominions ; and shall also, according to its ability, extend its influence to other Coun. tries, whether Christian, Mahometan, or Pagan.

III. Fach Subscriber of One Guinea annually, shall be a Member.

IV. Each Subscriber of Ten Guineas at one time, shall be a Member for life.

V. Each Subscriber of Five Guineas annually, shall be a Governor.

VI. Each Subscriber of Fifty Pounds at one time, or who shall, by one additional payment, increase his original Subscription to Fifty Pounds, shall be a Governor for life.

VII. Governors shall be entitled to attend and vote at all Meetings of the Committee.

VIII. An Executor paying a bequest of Fifty Pounds, shall be a Member for life; or of One Hundred Pounds, a Governor for life.

IX. A Committee shall be appointed to conduct the business of the Society, consisting of Thirty-six Laymen; Six of whom shall be Foreigners, resident in London or its vicinity: half the remainder shall be Members of the Church of England; and the other half, Members of other Denominations of Christians. Twenty-seven of the above number, who shall have most frequently attended, shall be eligible for re-election for the ensuing year. The Committee shall appoint all Officers, except the Treasurer; and call Special General Meetings; and shall be charged with procuring for the Society suitable patr. nage, both British and Foreign.

X. Each Member of the Society shall be entitled, under the direction of the Committee, to purchase Bibles and Testaments at the Society's prices, which shall be as low as possible.

XI. The Annual Meeting of the Society shall be held on the First Wed. nesday in May; when the Treasurer and Committee shall be chosen, the Accounts presented, and the proceedings of the foregoing year reported.

XII. The President, Vice-Presidents, and Treasurer, shall be considered, er officio, Members of the Committee.

XIII. Every Clergyman or Dissenting Minister, who is a Member of the Society, shall be entitled to attend and vote at all Meetings of the Committee.

XIV. The Secretaries, for the time being, shall be considered as Members of the Committee: but no person deriving any emolument from the Society shall have that privilege.

XV. At the General Meetings, and Meetings of the Committee, the President, or, in his absence, the Vice-President first upon the list then present; and in the absence of all the Vice-Presidents, the Treasurer ; and in his absence, such Member as shall be voted for that purpose, --shall preside at the Meeting.

XVI. The Committee shall meet on the First Monday in every month, or oftener if necessary.

XVII. The Committee shall have the power of nominating such persons as have rendered essential services to the Society, either MEMBERS FOR LIFE, or GOVERNORS FOR LIFE.

XVIII. The Committee shall also have the power of nominating HONORARY MEMBERS from among Foreigners who have promoted the object of the Society.

XIX. The whole of the minutes of every general meeting shall be signed by the Chairman.

Observations on the Rules and Regulations.

Observations. 1. A more close examination of these Rules, in reference to their practical tendency, will confirm the justice of an observation which has been frequently made,—that the plan is not more remarkable for its simplicity, than for its adaptation to the greatest possible extent of operation.

The British and Foreign Bible Society has been termed, with peculiar propriety," The Parent Institution :” and although the places wherein establishments precisely similar can be formed, are comparatively few, and the design of the present work is more especially connected with the AuxiliARY System, yet this examination may afford some useful suggestions to National Bible Societies, while it satisfies the friends of the cause at home, that the machinery is prepared and applied with the greatest possible attention to economy and efficiency, and that it “secures an adherence to the integrity of its principles, by regulations so precise and defined, as not to admit of dubious interpretation.'

2. The object proposed by the Society, as stated in the First Rule, is equally grand and simple: it is, to give to every man, throughout the world, “ the Oracles of God” in his native language, “ his own tongue wherein he was born.” It has been well observed, that the Institution is thus " founded on a principle so intelligible and so unexceptionable, that persons of any description, who profess to regard the Holy Scriptures as the proper standard of Faith, may cordially and conscientiously unite in it, and, in the spirit of true Christian charity, harmoniously blend their common endeavours to promote the glory of God."

If the circulation of any uninspired production, however excellent, were included in this object, a difference of opinion must necessarily exist, and doubts and difficulties impede the progress of the Society; but in restricting it to the dissemination of the Sacred Volume alone, and embracing the world as its sphere of action, it asserts no common claim on the support of all who believe the Bible to be a revelation from God. This remark is equally applicable to the last member of the Rule, which limits the circulation within the United Kingdom to the authorised version. — That the Society has preserved this principle inviolate, is a fact which the following instances, among many, sufficiently testify.

A Translation of the Gospel of St. John into the Mohawk Dialect having been approved by the Committee, an impression of 2000 copies was printed and furnished to different

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