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Evidences of moral reformation in Germany, Switzerland, America, &c.
upon requested of their ministers to discontinue the war-prayer; which soon afterwards was permitted to be done." *
8. Many instances of moral reformation will be introduced in the subsequent chapters, as the results of the distribution of Bibles and Testaments by Local Societies at home; but the following evidences of similar effects abroad, fall more appropriately within this division of the work.
That distinguished philanthropist, Professor Van Ess, " has had the happiness to witness the most pleasing fruits of his benevolent exertions, in the improved habits of those among whom the Scriptures have been distributed. Not only individuals, but whole families, have been reformed by the perusal of them. These and other good effects are so visible, that they have produced conviction in some Catholic clergymen who were formerly hostile to the circulation of the Scriptures, or who entertained doubts at least as to its practical utility." +
Of the Swiss Bible Societies, Dr. Steinkopff observes :“ All the Societies have received striking proofs that their extensive dissemination of the Scriptures has, in many instances, been attended with substantial good. The chains of sin are broken; drunkards become sober ; piety increases ; domestic order and happiness flourish.” I
From America, we have the following striking testimony :
“ The advantages resulting from Bible Societies are indisputably great. We say indisputably; because we can appeal to experience, to facts, in support of the assertion. Even in a moral point of view, the position is correct. It has been actually found, that, in proportion to the dissemination of the Scriptures, a vicious has given place to a virtuous practice ; idleness has been supplanted by industry, intemperance by sobriety, and general improvidence by prudent management. Thus, a powerful antidote is formed to pauperism, and all its direful train of miseries. The example of industry, sobriety, and prudent management, which is set by parents and masters, it may be reasonably supposed, will be copied, in some measure at least, by their children, and by their servants." S
Nor is the following evidence from the colony of Berbice less gratifying:
“ On an estate, where one of the principal people had learned to read, several of the slaves contributed their mite to purchase a Bible for the benefit of all upon the estate who would meet to hear it read. Several have since learned to read, and now possess Bibles. Their master, in the beginning, was against their learning ; but his sentiments were soon changed : he saw thieves becoming honest, rebellious persons obedient, and, instead of meetings for dancing and revelling, heard of meetings for prayer and praise.”}}
To find that British soldiers, on a foreign station, derive similar advantages from the same source, is peculiarly satisfac
• Owen's History, Vol. II. p. 322.
Ibid. Appendix, p. 145,
British Soldiers in Java.-Desire to learn to read.
tory. A grant of Bibles and Testaments having been made by the Committee to the soldiers of the 59th regiment, then at Java, they were received with strong expressions of gratitude; and in a subsequent communication from some of them, it is observed :
Many of our companions, who once took delight in drinking down iniquity as the ox drinketh in water, are, through the grace of God, by reading the holy Bible, happily reclaimed from the error of their ways, and are now taking delight in retiring alone for the purpose of reading and studying the blessed word of God.”
9. Of the collateral advantages which have been remarked in our own country, none are more prominent than the desire manifested by children and adults to learn to read. This subject will be further adverted to in the chapters which treat of Associations; and the following extracts will furnish a sufficient indication that similar effects are produced abroad.
A correspondent in Germany remarks :
Old men, who had never learned to read, are now desirous to learn, that they, in their advanced age, may find consolation from the holy scriptures." +
And the Committee of the Russian Bible Society, quoting the language of a correspondent in Liefland, observe :
“ One of the benefits flowing from our association, which was originally neither contemplated nor expected, is, that many hundreds of the neighbouring children have learned to read; and that the peasants in twentythree places in our parish have voluntarily adopted the plan of assembling, every other Sunday evening, such children as can read with propriety, and have a Testament, for the express purpose of reading a few chapters. I have likewise made a similar regulation in the school under my inspection, which I constantly visit, and in which, during the winter in particular, the children are made acquainted with the sacred volume : and it has afforded me the most sensible gratification to witness the unexpected progress which they have made in scriptural knowledge, as well as in singing, writing, and ciphering. A better spirit prevails amongst the Livonian youth of our parish since we began to distribute the word of God more plentifully ; even the fathers of families remain more at home, to hear their children read to them in the best of books while at their work.” I
10. That the Bible Society has operated as a barrier against the progress of infidelity in our own country, we shall have abundant evidence, in considering the tendency and effects of Bible Associations : that it has repelled the same poisonous current on the continent, will be manifest from the following testimonies.
Thirteenth Report: Appendix, p. 22.
+ Ibid. p. 33,
Circulation of the Holy Scriptures a barrier to the progress of infidelity.
From the Rev. Dr. Dæring, Chaplain to the Court of Saxony:
“ Blessed be God for having made the British and Foreign Bible Society a light shining into all lands! I am confident, that this growing insti. tution will prove a powerful barrier against the anti-christian spirit which had made such awful progress.” *
That the opinion of this enlightened clergyman was correct, the declaration of the Rev. Professor Staendlin, of Göttingen, affords a gratifying proof:
“ The word of God is obtaining its former authority and influence in Ger. many, triumphing over the systems of a spurious philosophy, and the efforts of a merely profane science, which, while it abounds in criticisms, and glories in philological learning, loses sight of the very essence of religion.”+
In the address to the public, the Directors of the Potsdam Bible Society observe:
“ Great Britain has, by steady perseverance, in a great degree promoted the civil deliverance of Germany : for her spiritual redemption from infidelity, she will be indebted to the same benefactress.”
Nor were these sentiments confined to ecclesiastics; nobles and statesmen, of exalted rank and extensive influence, have participated in them. His Excellency, Count Hohenthal, the Minister for Religion to the King of Saxony, thus addresses Lord Teignmouth, in his official capacity as President of the Saxon Bible Society :
“I feel constrained to adore God, that, in our age, in which infidelity has made such awful progress, the idea originated in Great Britain, to form Bible Societies, by which so powerful a barrier has been opposed to its destructive influence: and I cannot but thank God that I also am privi. leged to be his humble instrument, in propagating the Bible among the poorer classes of the people in Saxony." I
Similar in effect was the language of his Excellency Baron Rosenblad, a nobleman of the highest rank in Sweden, and Minister for the Home Department; from whose admirable speech, on accepting the office of President of the Stock holm Society, the following passage is extracted:
* We have outlived the awful period, when the doctrine of the atona. ment of CHRIST was shrouded in darkness. Mournful was the lot of those who confessed his name. For almost an entire century, did infidelity, with unblushing front, deride the revealed will of God, and either openly or secretly undermine the sacred foundations of the gospel doctrine. The deleterious poison, having worked its way among what are called the most
• Eleventh Report : Appendix, p. 103.
Owen's History, Vol. III. p. 31.
+ Sixteenth Report, p. 38,
The abolition and mitigation of slavery promoted by circulating the Bible.
enlightened nations of Europe, and established its influence in their higher circles, soon spread abroad among the mass of the people, and rolled on in fearful torrents of iniquity, carrying with it a sweeping destruction whereever it went. Gospel light is dawning again on those nations where the shadow of death sat almost enthroned, and barriers are raising against the abomination of desolation."
11. From two opposite quarters of the globe, we have received concurrent and simultaneous evidence, that, to the list of indirect benefits, we may add the partial abolition of slavery in one portion of the eastern hemisphere, and the mitigation of its evils in the west. The Honorable Sir Alexander Johnston, Chief Justice of Ceylon, thus expresses himself, in reference to the former effect:
“ The assistance which the Bible Society in England has given the friends of Christianity in this island, has enabled the latter, as I have frequently written to you, to circulate the Scriptures among the people of the country in a manner which was never done before; and I attribute the unanimity with which all classes have resolved to put an end to domestic slavery, to the effect which has been produced upon their minds, and upon their feelings, by those doctrines which are contained in the Scriptures, and which, from their simplicity, are intelligible to every description of the human race, whether European or Asiatic.”+
And an intelligent correspondent of the society, in Berbice, observes :
“ What a blessed book is the Bible! It taught the Commissioners of the Crown properly how to manage negroes in their work, without whips and chains, while under the British government; of which I have been a witness : but some of their new masters, who despise the Bible, and have taken it away from their unfortunate slaves, have completely restored whips and chains."
12. It has been already observed, that the Bible Society has created an increased desire to possess the holy scriptures : but it should not be forgotten, that this desire is not confined to those who are the immediate objects of its benevolence: a general disposition to “search the Scriptures” has been excited, and is progressively extending, of which the augmented demand for copies, both abroad and at home, is a satisfactory evidence. The Committee of more than one Bible Society in the United States of America pointedly observe," that since their existence in that country, the sale of Bibles by the trade has considerably increased."
* See the whole of this speech in Owen's History, Vol. II. p. 370 et seq. where it is justly characterized as “ not more remarkable for ardent piety, than for just conceptions of religious truth and enlightened views of Christian policy."
+ Fourteenth Report: Appendix, No. CXVII. I Thirteenth Report : Appendix, No. CVIII. $ Eighth Report, p. xvii.
The demand for the Scriptures increasing both at home and abroad.
From the Netherlands, it is stated, that, si
so eager a disposition has been manifested by many members of the Catholic communion, who use the Dutch language, to obtain a Bible in their vernacular tongue, that two booksellers have severally undertaken, on their own accounts, to publish, the one a Dutch translation of the whole Bible from the Vulgate, and the other a similar translation of Van Ess's New Testament."
One of the most remarkable facts, in confirmation of these sentiments, relates to the celebrated Canstein Institution, founded at Halle in the year 1710; and is thus reported by the Committee of the Parent Society :
“ In consequence of a representation made by Dr. Niemeyer, Chancellor of the University of Halle, a descendant of the celebrated Dr. Frank, founder of the Orphan-house at that place, that the Canstein Bible Institution, of which Dr. Niemeyer is a director, had exhausted its funds by the large sale of Bibles and Testaments at reduced prices ; and that neither its resources, nor its machinery, were sufficient to enable it to keep pace with the demands which had accumulated upon it: your Committee, having seriously considered all the circumstances of the case, presented this institution, to which Germany and Christendom owe so many obligations, with a set of stereotype plates for a beautiful octavo Bible ; and added to this grant two Stanhope presses, that no delay may occur in satisfying the numerous and importunate applications by which that ancient and most useful establishment for printing the Scriptures is so greatly embarrassed.”+
The preceding observations will be strengthened by the further extraordinary fact, that, “ within the last two years, a single printer at Leipzig has stereotyped the Scriptures in three sizes, and has actually disposed of seven sets of plates for two of those editions, to different societies and printers in Germany."
That a similar result has been witnessed in our own country, is a fact which may be established by official and unquestionable documents, to which reference will now be made.
Until September 1805, no Bibles and Testaments were issued by the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Universities not having completed their stereotype editions. If, therefore, we compare the aggregate number of copies printed at Oxford and Cambridge during the last fifteen years, with the total number which issued from their presses within a similar period preceding the establishment of the society, we shall be enabled to ascertain the extent of the increased demand now under consideration.
Sixteenth Report, p. xxviii.
+ Ibid. p. I.
1 Ibid. p. xlv. et seq.