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CHAP. II.

AUXILIARY SOCIETIES.

NOW ARE THEY MANY MEMBERS, YET BUT ONE BODY."

I COR. XII. 20.

PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS.

It is in the very nature of Christian benevolence to diffuse itself in direct proportion to the value of its object. Never did fire descend from heaven, without finding an altar prepared for the sacrifice, and materials to receive and to extend the sacred flame. We have seen, in the instance of Nuremberg, * that scarcely had the flame been kindled in Britain, when the reflected light was caught by Germany, and hailed as the dawning of a brighter and a better day on that afflicted country. In our own highly-favoured land, it appears as though it was beheld, for a season, with mingled feelings :-if there were some, who thought it the flash of a meteor, and anticipated its speedy extinction; there were others, who believed it had already attained its meridian brightness, and was sufficient for the sphere it was destined to illuminate.

But if the British and Foreign Bible Society did not immediately receive that general support to which it is so eminently entitled by the importance of its object and the liberality of its constitution, it has attracted and secured the public approbation in a manner the best calculated to insure its permanence. The principle and the practice of the institution have been scrutinized, with a degree of acuteness and ingenuity seldom applied to investigations of this nature; and the result has not only manifested the correctness and integrity of both, but called forth the expression of the public sentiment to an extent unparalleled in the annals of practical benevolence. For more than five years, the society pursued its course in comparative silence and obscurity; gradually establishing its claims to the sympathy and confidence of the Christian world, but unsupported by that general demonstration of regard and attachment which was subsequently displayed. During those five years, ending 31st of March 1809, the total

• See Chapter I. Section IX.

Necessity of Local Societies to supply the wants of the People.

amount of its receipts, exclusive of sales of Bibles and Testaments, was 33,256l. 17s. 5d. :-in the spring of 1809, the first Auxiliary Societies were formed; and the total amount derived from this source alone, in the five succeeding years, ending 31st of March 1814, was 145,3321. 5s. 9d. The generous flame soon pervaded every county of the kingdom; and the aggregate sum remitted by Auxiliary Societies

during the eleven years, ending March 1820, exceeds four hundred and seventy-eight thousand pounds.

There is another test, by which the importance and the value of this part of the system should be estimated. It is obvious, that a Committee of thirty-six Gentlemen, meeting in London, could not ascertain the wants of the whole population of Great Britain. That a deplorable deficiency of the holy scriptures existed in many parts of the country, they had ample reason to believe; and the result of some partial investigations had abundantly confirmed this conviction : but they were not prepared for the melancholy fact, which subsequent and more minute inquiry established, that, in a land on which the light of the Reformation had been shed for more than 250 years, nearly one half of the people were destitute of that sacred volume which reveals the foundation of their faith and the source of their dearest hopes. It will readily be admitted, that local committees furnished the only adequate means of ascertaining the real state of their districts, and of extending the requisite supply: and thus, by the establishment of Auxiliary Societies, the first step was taken towards the accomplishment of an object, more intimately connected with the peace, the happiness, and the best interests of our country, than any which the wisdom of our ancestors had ever devised. It is sufficient in this place to observe, that the efficacy of Auxiliary Societies, in reference to the circulation of the holy scriptures, is satisfactorily proved by the fact, that the total amount of sales of Bibles and Testaments, in the five years ending March 1809, was 9,7641. 7s. 2d.; and the number of copies distributed, 158,429 :—but in the five years immediately succeeding, and ending March 1814, the amount of sales was 56,0561. Os. 70.; and the number of copies distributed, 828,658. The rapid increase of sales during the seven years which have subsequently elapsed, must be attributed to the still further extension of the system, and will be considered in reference to Bible Associations.

Nor are these advantages, great as they confessedly are, the only benefits derived from the institution of Auxiliary Societies. “The importance of these establishments is not to

On the Origin of Auxiliary Societies.

be estimated merely by the acquisition of splendor, and the accession of means and influence, which the Parent Institution derives from them, however indispensable to the success of its proceedings; nor from the consideration, that, through their instrumentality, the wants of the people, respecting the holy scriptures, are ascertained and supplied. By their intervention and inquiries, the benefits of the institution are extended, in a degree which could not be effected by any other means; the perusal of the holy scriptures is not only assisted, but recommended; and the public attention is thus attracted to that book, on the observance of whose precepts, both the happiness of individuals and the peace of society alike depend, and from which only the knowledge of eternal life is to be derived."* And it has been well observed, that such an union of rank, of talents, and piety, in a cause so pure, “ could not fail to strike foreign nations as the collected homage of Britain to her Saviour and her God."

SECTION I.

ORIGIN OF AUXILIARY SOCIETIES.

1. When a desire is once excited to co-operate in a design which the judgment sanctions, and the best feelings of the heart approve, the mode of gratifying that desire will speedily be discovered. It may, indeed, at first be crude and undigested; but it will gradually acquire order and consistency, and adapt itself equally to local circumstances and the nature of the object it is intended to promote. The justice of this observation will be acknowledged by all who have followed the progress of the British and Foreign Bible Society. The first demonstration in its favour, upon a principle of combined and aggregate exertion, was made in the form of congregational collections : nor should it be forgotten, that this example was set by Scot, land, a country which Divine Providence has made, above every other on the face of the earth, the land of Bibles.Neither will this source of supply be treated with indifference, when it is stated, that the amount contributed by it to the funds of the Parent Society exceeds twenty-five thousand pounds; and that in many places it still constitutes the only means by which a desire to assist in this great work can be prudently manifested.

Ninth Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society, p. xxxvii.

The “ French Bible Society,” 1792.—Essay by the Rev. J. Hughes.

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2. In tracing the origin of Auxiliary Societies, it is impossible to avoid a reference to another institution, short-lived indeed, in consequence of the melancholy events which almost immediately succeeded its establishment in London in the year 1792; but evincing, as has been remarked, in the recorded exposition of its design,“ much of the liberal spirit and practical views which have characterized the British and Foreign Bible Society."* The institution alluded to, was designated “The French Bible Society ;” and was " formed for the purpose of disseminating pure Christian knowledge in France, by obtaining a general distribution of the holy scriptures, printed in the French tongue, throughout that nation.' In the prospectus issued by the society, they “recommend the formation of societies in different parts of the country, to assist them in the attainment of their object:" and they further express a confident expectation, that' smaller societies will be formed in the provincial towns of France, to assist the general plan. Had the existence of this institution been generally known, we might here find the germ of that plant, which has struck its roots into the soil of our country; and, like the sacred tree of India, bent its branches to the earth, whence they have again sprang forth and extended the refreshing shade throughout the land. But it appears that this institution

was allogether unknown" to him in whose enlightened and capacious mind the idea of the British and Foreign Bible Society originated; and the lapse of nearly twenty years precludes our tracing to this suggestion the origin of the Auxiliary System

3. In the summer of 1803, the Rev. Joseph Hughes produced that admirable essay, entitled, “ The excellence of the Holy Scriptures an argument for their more general dispersion;" which, it is observed by his colleague, “may be regarded as containing the rudiments of the future society." In the ardour of his benevolence, the author pursues the prospect which Infinite Mercy had opened to his view; and, beholding with the eagle-eye of faith those remote scenes, which were hereafter to expand in all their beauty beneath the beams of the Sun of Righteousness, he exclaims“ Let us then cast a friendly eye over distant countries, and be the parents of the first institution that ever emanated from one of the nations of Europe, for the express purpose of doing good to all the

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See Owen's History, Vol. I. p. 24 et seq. for an interesting account of this remarkable society, and its early dissolution.

London Association, 1805.-Rules of that Society.

rest.”—“Many arrangements,” he continues, “must be left to the determination of experience.“ Light will break in, as the friends of the institution advance: they will act as occasion dictates; always having that to do, which will either connect with remoter branches of their design, or stand well insulated and alone.Whether the first conception of the Auxiliary System can be discovered in this language, the reader will decide; but there is a peculiar satisfaction in tracing to the founder of the institution, the origin of those means by which the attainment of its object has been so essentially promoted.

4. The first establishment in aid of the British and Foreign Bible Society was formed in London, in July 1805; and as it furnishes the primary instance of an approach towards the system now under consideration, the following statement of its plan and constitution cannot with propriety be omitted. Extract from the ADDRESS of the LONDON ASSOCIATION for contributing to

the Fund of the BRITISH and FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY. “ It having been considered that there are many persons, who, on account of their subscriptions to other societies, or on account of the narrowness of their incomes, would not be justified in becoming direct members of the British and Foreign Bible Society, who would yet be desirous of contri. buting somewhat proportioned to their ability ; it is, therefore, the object of this Association to embrace such persons, according to the subsequent plan.”

LAWS and REGULATIONS of the ASSOCIATION. I. Each member to commence with a donation of not less than 2s. and not to exceed 78. To continue a member at a monthly subscription of not less than 6d. and not more than 1s. Members' subscriptions to be due on the first day of each month.

II. Each member to be a collector in his turn, to collect from eight members, including himself; to be changed annually, proceeding alphabetically: those who were collectors during the past year to be Representatives of the Association to the British and Foreign Bible Society during the ensuing year.

III. The collectors shall deliver the subscriptions received to the secretary, in sufficient time for him to pay it to the treasurer at the Quarterly Meeting

IV. The secretary (who shall be considered a member of the Committee) shall issue the notices, receive the collectors' accounts, &c. gratuitously.

V. A Committee shall be appointed to conduct the business of the Association, consisting of thirteen members : nine of the above number, who shall have most frequently attended, to be eligible for re-election for the ensuing year.

VI. The Associations hall meet quarterly; viz. on the first Wednesday after the 15th of November, February, May, and August, in each year.

VII. The money to be paid by the treasurer, immediately after the Quar. terly Meeting in February, in each year, to the Collector of the British and Foreign Bible Society,

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