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God, its claim to be profitable to us for doctrine, and for instruction in righteousness, stands upon an authority which they cannot question; and when they consider, that it claims also to be capable of making the man of God perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works, it seems difficult for them to deny, that we are right in relying upon it as the foundation of our faith, and rejecting whatever it does not enable us to prove.
Five and thirty years (1) have now elapsed since the commencement of the plan to supply the poor of Ireland with the Word of God, at such prices as it might be in their power to give. Rapidly, from that period, has the Association, in which the plan originated, increased in influence and in utility ; its effects are felt in every part of the kingdom, and have been powerfully aided by a Society, which about fourteen years afterwards was formed for the purpose of promoting the distribution of the Sacred Volume (2). The progress however made among the Roman Catholics was not rapid, I recolect, though after an interval of more than twenty years, that the surprise which I felt at being applied to for a New Testament by a Roman Catholic, when Rector of a parish in the North of Ireland, was not less than the gratification which I experienced in supplying him with it: and even within the last three years, we have it stated in the evidence of a Roman Catholic well acquainted with the province of which he spoke,(3) that in many places in the west of Ireland the peasantry did not know that such a book as the Bible existed. But a great and happy change has been effected within that period, and those who were most hostile to the circulation of the Bible among their laity, are now evidently unwilling to avow, that they wish to exercise any prohibitory power with respect to it (4). They affect to say, that their objection, so far as re. gards the reading of the Bible by persons of mature years, relates only to our translation, as being unfaithful; and they seem to confine their active hostility to the use of it in schools. As to the former, you should be prepared, my Reverend Brethren, to meet it upon every occasion, by making yourselves acquainted with their objections. These are very few in number, and such as no scholar can be at a loss to reply to. They have indeed a formidable appearance by being published in a quarto volume, but when that volume is looked into, we find that a great part of it relates to versions of the Scriptures by the early Puritans, with which we have no concern, as the book itself to which I allude, Ward's Er. rata of the Protestant Bible, will shew upon simple inspection (5).
It is only to be wished, that the spirit of inquiry which has gone abroad in this country, may lead the Roman Catholics to compare our version with that recommended to them by their Clergy, and the consequence will be, their giving to ours a decided preference.
To the reading of the Scriptures in schools an objection is made by the Roman Catholic Clergy, which were it founded in fact, would certainly have great weight. It is, that they are used as a horn book, out of which chil. dren are taught their earliest reading lessons. I trust that in the schools under your inspection, my Reverend Brethren, they are never so employed. I rely upon your vigilance in restraining any teachers who may so employ them, if indeed any such do really exist.
Another objection I must notice, it is, that children are given the most difficult parts of Scripture to read, instead of the Gospels and Acts. There are few among you, my Brethren, who have not heard me express in very strong terms my opinion upon this subject. I believe the objection now to be totally unfounded, and I believe also, that very few schools were ever liable to it. It seems to me evident, that the Histories of our Blessed Lord and of his Apostles, not only are the parts of Scripture most useful to children, but that no person whatever can read the subsequent parts of the New Testament with profit, till he has made himself intimately
acquainted with them, and imbibed deeply the pure and holy Spirit which they breathe.
The objection made by the Roman Catholic Clergy to the reading of the Scriptures in schools (6) has been the source of much mischief, great numbers of those who were benefiting. by the instruction which they liberally dispensed to the poor Roman Catholics, who could not afford the expense of paying a schoolmaster, have been withdrawn in consequence of it. But we are not justified in sacrificing the duty which calls upon us to disseminate the Gospel, by relaxing our rules with respect to its being universally read. We are not to do evil through the hope, that our wrong doing will be productive of good. We must not make ourselves accomplices with those, who wish to conceal from man the commandments, which God hath given to him for the direction of his conduct, and the Covenant which he hath established by the one great Mediator for the remission of his sins. We become criminal in the sight of the Almighty, when we assist in any way to prevent his revealed will from being known to his creatures in that form, and in those words, in which he chose to declare it.
The Word of God must be read in all our schools ; effectively read, by all who can read with fluency, not keeping the promise to the
ear only, while it is observed neither in spirit nor in truth; not selecting a few verses of little importance, and having them, and them only, read.
It is my express direction, that you should take effectual care, that the whole of the Gospels and the Acts are read in your schools, and I will add, in all the schools in your several parishes, which receive assistance from those Societies, which make the reading the Scriptures the condition, upon which that assistance is given. With respect to the remaining parts of the Holy Scriptures, a latitude of discretion must be left as to what shall be read, and what postponed, observing however, that the remark made by St. Augustine upon the Epistles of St. James, St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude, as having been written to correct the misinterpretation of St. Paul's doctrine as to justification by faith, (7) should give them a preference, and shews it to be expedient, that they should be read next after the Gospels and Acts. And to this it is the more important to attend, from the continued misrepresentations of our doctrine by the Roman Catholic Clergy, who teach their congregations to believe, that we de. spise the moral law, and rely for salvation upon faith, unconnected with good works; that faith which being alone, St. James rightly designates as dead ; and the possessor of which, if he be