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of them all. This would appear to me the most effectual remedy for any supposed danger from the Dissenting influence in the Bible Society. To those who are intimately acquainted with the Society, this danger must indeed appear chimerical. So little does the spirit of mutual jealousy exist, that there has been no instance of a division taking place in a general meeting, and I scarcely recollect one even in the committee, in the course of a frequent attendance: but what may appear to you more extraordinary, I have not yet been able to discover which of the members of the committee are Churchmen, and which are Dissenters, except in the instances of those gentlemen with whom I happen to be personally acquainted, and a few members of
a the Society of Friends, who are of course distinguished by their dress.
But supposing, for the sake of argument, that there may be real danger from the preponderance of the Dissenting interest, what is the remedy you propose ? That all Churchmen should withdraw themselves from the Society, and leave it wholly in the hands of the DISSENTERS. If any thing can make the Society dangerous, this must do it; because there would then be no check to any sectarian spirit which might introduce itself, and which must be unavoidably irritated by so harsh, and, I think, so unjust, an indication of jealousy. But even if no sentiment of resentment should be excited, one of two consequences must inevitably follow: either the Society, being deprived of the hope of further support, and crippled by the loss of its pecuniary means, and of many of its most valuable members, would wholly expire, or sink into insignificance; or else the Dissenting interest, making up for these losses by more extensive sacrifices, and an increase of zeal and activity, and availing itself of the assistance of the foreign societies already formed, would carry on the institution in nearly the same manner as before.
In the first case, you would have crushed an establishment which has done more for the diffusion of CHRISTIANITY-than has been effected in the same space of time in any age since the APOSTOLIC; which has in SEVEN YEARS been the means of preaching the Gospel in Fifty. FOUR LANGUAGES. This would indeed be putting out one of the eyes of Britain.
The other alternative would be to transfer to the body of DISSENTERS all the honor and influence of whatever has been done, and whatever may be done, by an institution, of which the dawn has been so glorious, but which is visibly rising into brighter day. Shall it be said that the DissenTERS ALONE have carried the WORD OF GOD TO EVERY NATION UNDER HEAVEN! or shall the CHURCH of ENGLAND continue to claim the leading part in this important work ? And can the Church of England stand so secure upon a narrow and exclusive policy, as BY DESERVING THE BLESSINGS AND UNITING THE PRAYERS, OF ALL PEOPLE, NATIONS, AND LANGUAGES ?
The evils of either alternative seem to me equally fatal and inevitable. I am far from undervaluing the efforts of the SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE: I am an old member of that Society, and am heartily disposed to lend any assistance in my power to its useful plans. But how little either that, or any other society now existing, would be competent to supply the place of the Bible Society, the experience of above a century has shown. Even supposing (what I think impossible) that it might be made, in some considerable degree, to answer the same purposes, I see superior advantages in the present constitution of the BIBLE SOCIETY. The co-operation of CHURCHMEN and Dissenters in religious matters, so far as they can conscientiously co-operate, seems to me one of the most efficacious means of lessening both the political and religious evils of dissent. It dispels prejudices, pro
motes candor and good-will, and must prepare the mind for the reception of that truth, which every one perceives to be no less the object of those who differ from him than
From such a communication, the Church of England has nothing to fear, and every thing to hope ; as holding (in our judgments at least) that middle line of truth in which all opposite opinions have a natural tendency to coincide. And is that truth more likely to be acknowledged and embraced by minds embittered by mutual jealousy and aversion, or by such as have been previously softened by conciliation ?
The existence of dissent will perhaps be inseparable from religious freedom, so long as the mind of man is liable to error; but it is not unreasonable to hope that hostility may cease where perfect agrcement cannot be established. If we cannot RECONCILE ALL OPINIONS, let us endeavour to UNITE ALL HEARTS.
I ought, perhaps, to apologize for troubling you with arguments, which must probably have been already brought before you, as I know your opinions are not taken up hastily and lightly. But I have thought it necessary to state such as have chiefly induced me to consider my taking a part in the concerns of the Bible Society, not only as consistent with, but as a proof of the sincerity and warmth of my attachment to the Church of England; and which still, on reflection, seem to me to have so much weight, that, far from repenting of what I have done, I feel convinced I shall least of all repent of it, as I approach THAT STATE IN WHICH THE DISTINCTION OF CHURCHMAN AND Dis. SENTER SHALL BE NO MORE.
I am, &c.
(Signed) N. VANSITTART. Greut George Street, 4th Dec. 1811.