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Results of the system of the British and Foreign Bible Society.
their children are taught in the schools to read that language, but merely to enable them to join in the prayers and psalms that are used in the synagogues. Most of them read Hebrew, but they do not understand it.
“ The Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society have there. fore rendered an essential service to the Jewish people in this place, by sending so large a number of Dutch Bibles ; for, by this means, the young people, among the Jews, may become acquainted with the true history of their ancestors, and read the Commandments of God in a language that is intelligible to them. Most of the Bibles which I have sold have been purchased by Jews.”-Eleventh Report : Appendir, No. LXXIV.
“ The Committee established at Surinam have directed their exertions especially towards the Jewish population, with so much success, that many among them evince a true desire to read the word of God. A considerable number of Hebrew Bibles, and not a few Hebrew New Testaments, have been eagerly received, and a zeal and desire are discovered among the descendants of Abraham in that colony, scarcely to be met with in Europe."
Sixteenth Report : Appendix, p. 77.
“ Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness ? For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead ?-Romans, xi. 12—15.
Without attempting to define, with accuracy, that line which separates the direct benefits of the Bible Society, from those which may be termed collateral, it will be sufficient to consider both, in that order wherein they appear to have followed the progress of the Institution.
First supply of Bibles in Wales.--Increased regard for the Scriptures.
2. An increased regard and reverence for the holy scriptures, and a desire for their possession, appear to have been among the first effects produced both in our own country and in foreign nations.
“ The partial distribution of English Bibles and Testaments had already (1810) produced a very discernible effect : it had awakened an attention to the subject, which appeared to be increasing ; and many were now seen to manifest a desire for a Bible, who had hitherto been insensible of its value, or even ignorant of its contents." *
The following account of the manner in which the first supply of Testaments was received in Wales—a country which may be termed the birth-place of the Society—is given on the authority of “an eye-witness :"
“ When the arrival of the cart was announced, which carried the first sacred load, the Welsh peasants went out in crowds to meet it; welcomed it as the Israelites did the ark of old ; drew it into the town; and eagerly bore off every copy, as rapidly as they could be dispersed. The young people were to be seen consuming the whole night in reading it. Labourers carried it with them to the field, that they might enjoy it during the intervals of their labour, and lose no opportunity of becoming acquainted with its sacred truths."-Christian Observer for July, 1810.
In America, a similar disposition was manifested, as appears by the following declaration of the Committees of the Connecticut and New-York Bible Societies :
“ Never was the entrance of the kingdom of heaven so widely opened to mankind as it now is. Never were the importance and the encouragement of opening it still wider, more manifest. The disposition of men to receive the word of God is, in many places, scarcely less indicative of a divine hand, than the corresponding disposition to communicate it. Both together intimate the near approach of the happy period when the knowledge of the LORD shall fill the earth.”+
“ A taste for reading the Scriptures is rapidly extending ; and we trust and believe, that pure religion is now taking hold of the hearts of the people in this country, in a manner before unheard of; and our Christian brethren of your country may rest assured, that our hearts are with them in all their efforts to diffuse throughout the world the light of the Gospel. It is a pleasing reflection, that 600 miles in the interior of our country, where fifteen years ago the foot of civilized man had never trod, you now find villages, churches, Bible Societies, and what is still more cheering, real piety." I
3. That the extension of the REDEEMER's kingdom, as manifested in the progress of “righteousness and true holiness," has borne some proportion to the increased circulation of the holy scriptures, the Christian will readily believe; while he
Owen's History Vol. II. p. 172. + Twelfth Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society; Appendix, p. 44.
Ibid. p. 51.
Moral effects produced.-Beneficial effects in the Forest of Dean ; rejoices in every renewed confirmation of his faith in the promises of God. The following instances, selected from a multitude of similar testimonies, will gratify the reader :
“ Three hundred and fifty Bibles have been placed in the workhouse ; and it is most pleasing to listen to the religious strains which now resound through the vast wards of this institution, and to hear those, who formerly were a disgraceful rabble, proclaiming the praise of the ALMIGHTY. What may not the Bible effect, when accompanied with power from on high !"*
“ All good men will certainly rejoice, wherever and by whomsoever good is done; particularly if the effect be to glorify the word and the name of CHRIST: and this is surely the case now, when such earnest zeal is displayed to make known his great salvation, and proclaim his infinite merits. This grateful joy will be much heightened, by the pleasing intelligence which I have to communicate ; and which is the result, not only of my own observations, but also of an extensive correspondence ;—that the dissemination of the holy scriptures is attended with a signal blessing, both among our Catholic and our Protestant brethren, whose hearts have been drawn to the God of the Bible by the perusal of his holy word.” +
4. A greater regard for the sabbath, and more general and regular attendance on divine worship, was another and an early result of the society's labours, and an evidence that they were not in vain. From among numerous testimonies to this effect, the following is selected, as coming from a clergyman resident on a spot long proverbial for the profligacy and irreligion of its inhabitants, among whom his ministerial duties have been discharged with exemplary diligence and success :
“ On the arrival of your valuable present of Bibles and Testaments, I was surrounded by so many earnest applicants, that in six days all the Bibles were disposed of. The price put upon them appeared to enhance their value ; and so anxious were the poor to have them, that many borrowed the money through fear of losing the opportunity.—' Thank God! I have at last got a Bible,' was their heartfelt exclamation. They considered it a blessing and a treasure. The effects already excited by the circulation of the Scriptures among us, have been very conspicuous. I have unexpectedly found several individuals with their Bibles before them. A comparatively very full attendance at public worship appears to have been already produced by the powerful word of God; and an accession of eighteen communicants, shews an interest and emulation to partake of that happiness which a conformity with the precepts of Christ alone can inspire and secure.”
That similar effects have been produced, in places still more unfavourable to the reception of divine truth, the following is a striking evidence:
Report of the Hoorn Auxiliary Bible Society, in connexion with the Netherlands Bible Society. + Letter from the Rev. Leander Van Ess, quoted by Owen, Vol. III. p. 455.
Letter from the Rev. P. M. Proctor, Newland, Forest of Dean.- Second Report of Bristol Auxiliary Bible Society.
and in Ceylon. ---Conversions to Christianity in India.
The introduction of the Scriptures among the prisoners in the jails (of Ceylon), through the instrumentality of the Wesleyan Missionaries, has been attended with the happiest success. When Mr. Lynch first visited the jail of Jaffna, he found only two of the prisoners who could read; and he gave to each a Testament, which they promised to read to their fellowprisoners. In the course of a short time, one of them had read the whole to several who were anxious to hear it. The jailor reported, that since this humane attention had been shewn to the prisoners, the prison was no longer disturbed with the same drunken noise, and gambling, which before too frequently prevailed. A similar reform is stated to have followed the employment of the same means among the prisoners in the jail at Point de Galle. This reform was characterized, among other things, by a particular. respect for the sabbath. “They were formerly,' observes the relater, ‘in the habit of cleansing out the jail on Sunday morning ; but now they work after their usual hour on Saturday evening, to avoid breaking the fourth commandment. Such results, while they evince the power of the divine word, and that under very unfavourable circumstances, demonstrate, at the same time, the seasonableness and utility of those exertions, by which its dissemination is promoted.”—Fourteenth Report, p. 68.
5. Nor were these happy effects confined to the Christian world:
“Evidences appeared of numerous conversions having taken place, without the intervention of any other means than the uncommented and unexpounded text of the holy scriptures. These gratifying instances encouraged the British and Foreign Bible Society to proceed in its career, by justifying the belief upon which it has uniformly acted, that, the word of God 'would prove to be quick and powerful,' and the instrument of turning many from darkness lo light, and from the power of Satan unto God.'”
From among numerous instances which establish the truth of this sentiment, the following is selected, in addition to those already introduced in the preceding Sections :
“ Dr. Carey speaks of the Missionaries at Serampore being indebted for two of their most active and useful native preachers,' as well as several other brethren, 'to a New Testament left at a shop ;' and for two other members of their body, to the impression made by reading an English Testament. But a still more extraordinary fact was, that, early in 1813, several Brahmins and persons of high caste, not many miles from Serampore, obtained the knowledge of the truth, and met for Christian worship on the Lord's day, before they had any intercourse with the Missionaries, simply by reading the Scriptures. These,' adds Dr. Carey, 'were soon afterwards baptized ; and reported, that, by the same means, as many as a hundred of their neighbours were convinced of the truth of the Christian religion, and were kept back from professing it, only by the fear of losing caste, and its consequences.'
6. So numerous and important have been the advantages derived from the establishment of the British and Foreign Bible
Owen's History: Vol. II. p. 454 et seq. In the “ Episcopal Testimonies, Appendix, No. III. the reader will find this sentiment, in favour of the sufficiency of the holy scriptures, confirmed and enforced by the late able and learned Bishop Horsley.
Christian union and charity promoted.
Society, that it has become the subject of common inquiry, why a design so simple in its nature, so practicable in its details, and so beneficial in its effects, was not sooner devised and executed. Without entering, at present, into this question, it may be sufficient to observe, that the period at which the society was instituted appears to have been peculiarly auspicious, and of his appointment " who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” The minds of men were prepared in a remarkable manner for this event; and the Bible Society soon became a "central point of union for individuals, and societies animated with the same spirit, however variously circumstanced or widely dispersed. Like a city set on a hill, it speedily became conspicuous; and the rays of light which have flowed from it, have been reflected with undiminished lustre.” Adverting to this happy result of their association, the Committee, in their Ninth Report, thus express their feelings :
“ Amidst the various pleasing aspects under which the British and Foreign Bible Society may be viewed, there is none more gratifying to the feelings than the contemplation of it as a point of union among Christians in all parts of the world; a union of spirit and co-operation for promoting the glory of God and the dearest interests of his creatures; a union of feelings and affections inspired and fostered by the holy book which it circulates; a union which national hostility has not been permitted to extinguish, and which cannot be better described, than in the emphatical words of the venerable Bishop of Zealand,— A fraternal union, founded on the bond of our holy religion.'”
Never did the author witness a finer illustration of this principle of mutual charity and peace, than on the 17th of December 1812, on an occasion which is thus commemorated by his valued friend, from whose volumes he has already so liberally borrowed :
“ The union of men in the support and recommendation of the British and Foreign Bible Society, whose political sentiments were diametrically opposed to each other, had, by the frequency of its occurrence, become, in a manner, familiar to the friends of the institution. But every former triumph of this description was lost in the splendour of that which was exhibited at the Westminster Meeting, when Lord Castlereagh and the late Samuel Whitbread, Esq. were seen personally united in recommending the formation of the Westminster Auxiliary Bible Society, and respectively moving and seconding the resolutions by which it was to be established.” •
“On this incident,” he adds, “ so honorable to the living fame of one of these characters, and the respected memory of the other, the pen of a celebrated female writer has furnished us with a very appropriate reflection :
“ ' It is indeed a spectacle, to warm the coldest, and to soften the hardest heart, to behold men of the first rank and talents ; statesmen, who have never met but to oppose each other; orators, who have never spoken but to
* Owen's History, Vol. II. p. 333 et seq.