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them. But I value both the judgment of our University, and your private opinion, too highly, not to offer some further explanation.
The question between us is not, whether the Dissenters are, or are not, hostile to the Established Church, but whether they can acquire any power of injuring it from the operations of the Bible Society. What are those operations? Simply, the distribution of the authorised version of the Scriptures. How can such a distribution be injurious to the Church by which that version was made, and which professes to rest upon it as the sole foundation of its doctrines that version from which the Church has taken the language of her Liturgy, and which has been sanctioned from age to age by the authority of all our ecclesiastical rulers ? But if we pertinaciously reject the assistance of the Dissenters in circulating our Bible, what should hinder every sect from having not only a Bible Society, but a Bible of its own? The Unitarians have already their improved Version of the New Testament.-And who can estimate the extent of mischief, which might arise from such a collision of contending translations? To the unlearned, the version to which they are accustomed, stands in the place of an original ; and to injure their opinion of its authenticity, is to shake their confidence in the Word of God itself.
We are apt to consider the Dissenters as narrow-minded and unreasonable ; but while we condemn the prejudices of other men, let us be on our guard against our own. Let us for a moment suppose that the Bible Society, instead of being formed in London, had originated in the northern metropolis of our United Kingdom, under the patronage of the Church of Scotland, and that when their Episcopal brethren had petitioned to unite with them in the glorious work of diffusing the knowledge of their common Saviour, the Presbytery had replied by a haughty refusal—Keep
aloof! your piety, your learning, may be equal to ours; your
zeal may be exemplary, your morals irreproachable but you have no lay elders; you have bishops and deans: nay, more, you wear white surplices, and have organs in your churches : and we had rather the Scriptures should be for ever unknown, than disseminated by such polluted hands in conjunction with ours.-Such, my dear Sir, is the conduct which
would recommend to the Church of England. How far it would conduce to its honor, or its substantial interests, I leave to your cool reflection. My ardent wish, as I know it is yours, is, that the Church of England may
be the first of Christian churches, and our country the first of nations—not for the purposes of any worldly splendor (whatever ambition of that kind I may once have felt), but as an instrument in the hands of Divine Providence of extensive benefit to mankind : the first of churches, as the model of pure Faith and unfeigned Piety to all the kindreds of the world : the first of nations, as the guardian and champion of Justice, Liberty, and the true Rights of Man. These, however, are high considerations, and above the reach of human foresight. To us it belongs to use our reason in seeking the most beneficial ends by the wisest means, and to leave the event with humble confidence to Him who Rules Above.
With respect to the latter part of your letter, I shall only observe that you greatly mistake the views of the Bible Society, if you suppose they condemn the use of notes and commentaries for elucidating the Scriptures. On the contrary, one of our most active members is now publishing a learned and elaborate commentary upon them. And it is a remarkable fact, that since the institution of the Bible Society, the best critical editions of the Scriptures, and the best commentaries on them, have risen in value in this country much beyond their proportion to other books (except such as derive their chief value from their scarcity), and have - been more frequently reprinted than in the course of a
great number of years preceding. But the Society, as a body, takes no part in recommending the expositions of any man or any set of men.
Confident that the Bible alone is able to give wisdom to the simple, it leaves to the Church, to every sect, to every individual, the right of selecting and recommending such further helps as may be necessary for critical research. In so doing every man will consult his own judgment, and the authority to which he has been accustomed to defer.
I am far, as you well know, from undervaluing the advantages of learning; and I should think, that upon the ground of literary merit, the Bible Society might claim some countenance in a learned University. We justly prize the profound erudition and indefatigable diligence of the compilers of the Polyglot Bible : but what a Polyglot has the Bible Society produced! Can it lessen the merit of such exertions, that they have been applied to living languages, and to purposes of immediate and important service to mankind?
But literary merit is not (except in a very subordinate degree) the aim of the Society, nor the tribunal of learning that at which it is to be judged. Its objects are of a higher order, and far more important to mankind; and its appeal is to every Christian heart. If you can point out to me any means of promoting these great objects as powerfully, as rapidly, as extensively, without incurring the dangers you apprehend from the Bible Society, I shall readily concur with
you in adopting such means; but till you can do so, I think myself bound to persevere: nor do I believe they will ever be found except in some plan similar to ours. For it is not simply to the diffusion of the Bible, but to the co-operation of all Christians, to diffuse it, and to the effect
of such a co-operation on our own hearts, that I look, not only for the establishment of Christian Faith, but the extension of Christian Charity.
I am, &c.
Great George Street,
12th Feb. 1812.