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Encouragement held out to Foreign Bible Societies.
“ It is with real satisfaction that I discover, from your letter of the 7th of February and the inclosed Address, the laudable endeavours of the Prussian Bible Society, for the gratuitous and cheap distribution of the Bible to the poor of my dominions; and while I render justice to your particular merit in promoting such an useful institution, I transmit to you, at the same time, 20 Frederick d'ors, as an addition to its funds.
“I am your gracious King, February 11, 1806.
“ FREDERICK WILLIAM." This institution may be considered as the germ of the Central Prussian Bible Society, established in the summer of 1814, on a more regular and systematic basis.
4. The first institution of a kindred nature on the Western Continent, was the PHILADELPHIA Bible Society, established in December 1808:
The intelligence was officially announced, in terms which ascribed the formation of the Philadelphia Bible Society to the example and influence of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and respectfully and affectionately deferred to it as to a patroness and a parent. In an admirable Address, the managers of this first American Society unfolded their views, with regard to the origin and design of their institution. Its origin (as has already been mentioned) they attribute to the example offered, and the efforts made, by the British and Foreign Bible Society.'— From the time (they say) that it was known in this city, it attracted the marked attention of several persons, accustomed to take an interest in whatever is calculated to extend the influence of revealed truth. It was immediately seen, that the necessity for such an institution was the same here as in Europe ; and that there was every reason to believe, that, if suitable exertions were made, it could not fail of encouragement. After assigning their reasons for choosing their limited designation, they express a hope, that the time is not distant, when they shall see institutions, similar to their own, in the town of Boston, and in the cities of New Haven, New York, Baltimore, Richmond, and Savannah, and in the town of Lexington and the state of Kentucky. And they assert, that they will at all times be ready cordially to greet, as a sister institution, every Bible Society, in whatever place or part of their country it shall appear.'”•
The hope thus expressed by the friends of the cause in Philadelphia was speedily realized, in the formation of numerous Bible Societies throughout the United States; but it was not until the spring of 1817 that the greater number of these insulated establishments were connected, “ with a harmony and unanimity almost unparalleled in so large a body," + as Auxiliaries to a national institution under the appropriate designation of the AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY.
5. It has been observed by the historian of the society, that “almost every thing that is wise and efficient in the practical departments of the institution, has arisen out of
• Owen's History, Vol. I. p. 399 et seq.
+ See Letter from the President, Thirteenth Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society“Appendix, No. xv.
Establishment of the Russian Bible Society.-Imperial Ukase.
accidental and extemporaneous discussion.” Of the truth of this observation, many striking evidences will be adduced in the following pages ; but in no instances is it more remarkable, than in the origin of foreign societies; their progressive approach towards national or central institutions; and the improvement of the system on which they were originally constituted.
Within six weeks after the formation of the British and Foreign Bible Society, the design was conceived of affording encouragement, by pecuniary grants, to the formation of Bible Societies on the continent, in preference to granting immediate relief by limited and merely temporary supplies of Bibles and Testaments. The results of this suggestion, as beheld in the success of more than 600 foreign societies, afford an incontestable proof of its wisdom; while the increase of that success has been in direct proportion to the degree in which the constitution of those societies has approached that of their common parent. In the instances already referred to, and in those of the STOCKHOLM, ABO, PETERSBURG, and many other societies subsequently established, the design of a general national institution does not appear to have entered into the contemplation of the original projectors, but to have been the result of casual observation or accidental circumstance.
The improvements which have, from time to time, taken place in their constitution and modes of proceeding, may be traced to similar causes; and although the object and principle of the parent society appear to be distinctly recognised by all, it may admit
of a doubt, whether the system of some be not susceptible of a yet greater degree of improvement.
In order to illustrate this part of the subject, the Constitutions of the Russian and American Societies are selected.
6. The St. Petersburg Society was established on the 23d-of January 1813; and celebrated its first anniversary on the 26th of September 1814, when its designation was changed to that of the Russian Bible Society. The plan of this remarkable institution cannot be more appropriately introduced, than by the Imperial Ukase, permitting the formation of the society, of which the following is a translation:MEMORIAL, most humbly submitted to his Imperial Majesty, by the Director-General of the Spiritual Concerns of the Foreign Churches.
Petersburg, Dec. 6, 1812. Old Style. The British and Foreign Bible Society, the design of which is to spread the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures in different languages and among various nations, being fully convinced that, in the Russian Empire, many The Emperor's approbation.-Rules of the Russian Bible Society.
philanthropic Christians will be found who are desirous to advance the temporal and eternal welfare of their fellow-creatures, has requested one of its members, the Rev. J. Paterson, to promote the establishment of a Bible Society in St. Petersburg, provided it should meet with the approbation of your Imperial Majesty.
The proposal of Mr. Paterson has induced many persons to express a wish that a Bible Society might actually be formed in this capital; being persuaded that such an institution would prove highly beneficial, and being desirous themselves to take an active part in the same. Influenced by sentiments like these, Mr. Paterson has presented to me a Plan for the formation of such a society, and requested me to lay it before your Imperial Majesty, and to intreat your most gracious sanction of the proposed measure,
While the printing of the Holy Scriptures in the Slavonic language, for the use of the Professors of the Russian Greek religion, is to remain under the sole and exclusive controul of the Holy Synod, I consider the abovementioned Plan truly useful for the dissemination of the Old and New Testament among the professors of foreign churches resident in Russia, by enabling the less wealthy to purchase copies at a cheap rate, and by supplying the poor gratuitously.
Encouraged by the sanction which your Imperial Majesty has been pleased to give to the Bible Society lately formed at Abo, I feel em. boldened to present this Plan to your Imperial Majesty for examination; and to submit it to your most gracious consideration, Whether your Imperial Majesty may not think proper to direct, that the Plan suggested by the British and Foreign Bible Society, for the formation of a similar institution in Petersburg, on the principles therein stated, should be carried into execution.
(Signed) PRINCE ALEXANDER GALITZIN. Approved by His Imperial Majesty, who subscribed with his own hand,
Be it so.
PLAN of the Pelersburg Bible Society, with its Rules & Regulations.
I. The sole object of this Society shall be, to promote the circulation of the Holy Scriptures without note or comment.
IÍ. The Society shall consist of all such persons (of whatever religious persuasion they may be) as, convinced of the usefulness of diffusing the Holy Scriptures among all ranks and classes of people, but more especially among the poor, are willing to join the same, and to co-operate in its exertions.
III. As in the extensive Russian Empire, besides the established Russian Greek Church, all other Christian denominations are tolerated, the professors of which, being of different nations, speak severally their own languages, the principal aim of the society shall be directed to the diffusion of the Holy Scriptures among the Christian inhabitants of these countries in their own yernacular tongues.
But should the society be furnished with sufficient means, it shall extend its benevolent views to supply the Asiatic tribes of Russia, who profess the Mahometan or Heathen religion, with the same, each people in its peculiar dialect.
IV. In order to procure for the society the needful means to enable it to print the Scriptures in various languages, and defray all current expenses, a
• Ninth Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society, App. No. XXXII.
Rules and Regulations of the Russian Bible Society.
subscription shall be made, which is open to every one, not only in St. Petersburg, but all over the empire. This subscription may be renewed every year, while donations will be received at all times. Every one who endeavours to promote the undertaking of the society, by subscriptions or donations, will be considered one of its members.
For the commencement and encouragement of such a society, the British and Foreign Bible Society has destined the sum of 500l., which will form part of its funds. The said society has also declared its readiness to contribute further assistance, if circumstances should appear to require it.
V. A Committee shall be chosen, consisting of a President, two or more Vice-Presidents, a Treasurer, two Secretaries, and six or more Directors, five of whom, with the President, or one of the Vice-Presidents, are competent to transact business.
VI. The President, Vice-Presidents, Treasurer, Secretaries, and Directors, shall be chosen from among the members of the Society.
VII. Half of the Directors shall go out annually. From the other half, such as have most frequently attended the meetings of the past year may be re-elected.
VIII. There shall be an Annual General Meeting of the Society in the month of March, in which a new Committee is to be chosen, the Accounts presented, and a report made of the transactions of the past year ; which Report, together with an authenticated statement of the income and expenditure of the society, and a list of subscribers and benefactors, is to be printed for the use of the members.
IX. The Committee is authorised, in case of any emergency, to call a Special General Meeting of the society. The Committee has it in charge to devise the best means of furthering its designs, to exert itself in procuring an increase of members, and to appoint, from its number, Sub-Committees in various parts of the empire, which are to be dependent on the General Committee, and actively engaged in the promotion of its views. The Committee has also to attend to the augmentation and security of the funds of the society, and to the most economical expenditure of the money, in the purchase of Bibles, or the printing of new editions of the Holy Scriptures in various languages.
X. The Committee is regularly to meet at the commencement of each month, or oftener, if it be necessary.
XI. At the General or Committee's Meeting, the President, or, in his absence, the first Vice-President on the list who attends, is to take the chair.
XII, The Treasurer shall receive all subscriptions and donations, for which his receipt is a sufficient acknowledgment. It is incumbent on him to keep regular accounts of all the society's income and expenditure, which must always be open for the inspection of the Committee. His accounts must be presented to the Committee on the close of the month of January in each year, to be examined by auditors appointed for that purpose.
All orders on the Treasurer for payment of money, in consequence of a resolution of the Committee, must be signed by the President or Vice-President who attends the meeting, and countersigned by the Secretary,
XIII. The Secretaries must keep regular minutes at all meetings of the society, which are to be signed by the President: they are also to conduct the correspondence.
XIV. All officers of the society must serve gratuitously. No one, who receives any salary from this society, can be a member of its Committee, or possess the privilege of voting at any of its meetings.
Emperor of Russia's liberality.--Improvement of the system.
While the Russian Bible Society is indebted for much of its extraordinary success to the ardent zeal and piety of its illustrious President, Prince Galitzin, Minister of Religion, it is to the decided attachment and paternal solicitude of the Emperor himself we must ascribe, humanly speaking, its astonishing progress towards the attainment of its object. Shortly after the establishment of the institution, he desired to be entered as one of its members, with a donation of 25,000 rubles, and an annual subscription of 10,000.*
“ Nor should it pass unobserved, that the Emperor postponed his departure for the army, in order to examine the plan submitted for his approbation ; and that at the time when he was affixing his signature to the instrument which was to authorise the establishment of a Bible Society for the benefit of his subjects, the last enemy was crossing the Vistula, and the deliverance of his empire was completed." +
It will be perceived, that the original plan of the Russian Bible Society did not provide for the establishment of Auxiliary Institutions, although the appointment of “SubCommittees in various parts of the empire” laid a suitable foundation for this essential improvement of the system. The first Auxiliary Society was established at Moscow, on the 16th of July 1813, under the designation of “The Moscow Committee of the Bible Society;" and the importance of this first advance towards a more perfect constitution will be appreciated, when it is stated, that, by their second statute, the Moscow Committee pledge themselves to “ assist the St. Petersburg Committee in every part of their plan, to further the distribution of the Bible without note or comment :"-to which it was added, “But this Committee shall in particular strive to disseminate our own Bibles among our fellow Russian subjects, as published by the Holy Synod, according to the manner already determined, and partly executed by the St. Petersburg Committee.” This last provision, as has been very properly observed by Mr. Owen, gave the last finish to the constitution of the St. Petersburg Bible Society :--by authorising the dissemination of the Slavonian Scriptures, a deficiency was supplied which would have greatly abridged its usefulness: the entire population of the empire, both native and foreign, was now brought within the scope of its benevolent design; and it became in effect, what it was afterwards in designation, “ The Russian Bible Society.”
• The value of a ruble is about one shilling English money.