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The Thirteenth Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society,
1817. The progress of the Bible Society has so fully occupied the at. tention of the public, and its effects on the various classes of society have been so fully described, that for us to attempt adding any thing may appear quite superfluous. It is however impossible for any one interested in the welfare of mankind to pass by in silence the conduct of Divine Providence in originating and giring such amazing extension to a Society formed wholly for the sake of disseminating the Sacred Scriptures among mankind with as little mixture of any thing, human, as is consistent with their being translated into the languages of the various tribes of men for whom they were intended. That this Society too should be formed
T instantly upon the efforts made to discredit and bring into utter contempt the Word of God, by those who, in point of wit, taste, and general knowledge, claimed for themselves the highest rank in the republic of letters,--that the attempts of its enemies to trample it in the dust, should be succeeded by its being enthroned among the nations, its numbering the nobles and princes of the earth among its chief supporters, and its being declared by the general voice, the source of the choicest blessings to man, will stand among the displays of His power,“ who destroyeth the wisdom of the wise, and bringeth to nothing the understanding of the prudent."
While however the fitness of the Sacred Writings to become the grand means of enlightening and blessing mankind, is founded in their being the revelation of God's will to man; their making known the evil of sin—the awfal sanctions of eternal justice- and abore all the way of redemption through an atoning Saviour, it is by no means confined to this. On this ground alone, indeed, the scriptures would command the attention of mankind, if delivered wholly by one writer, and in language the farthest remote from that which attracts the mind. But while we acknowledge its superior
claims in their fullest extent; to overlook others which the Sacred Writings have on us, would not only be wrong, but highly injuripus to them.
Our regarding then as bearing the awful stamp of Divine Inspiration, lays the study of them on our consciences as an imperious duty; but our forming a just idea of their intrinsic excellencies, will allure our minds to the study by shewing that it combines duty with the most genuine and rational delight.
To our forming a just idea of the Sacred Writings, there are many obstacles. Even the very 'form in which they are generally presented to us, though highly convenient, operates greatly against our judgment. They are presented to us as one book, and it is not every person who in this one book, can identify a real library containing translations of above Fifty different works, written by at least Thirty-two authors, of whom twenty-four wrote in the Hebrew and Chaldee languages, and eight in the Greek. Authors too, who occupied no less a period than sixteen hundred years, (the distance of time between the birth of Moses and the death of John,) a period far exceeding in length the whole of that filled by those Greek and Latin authors esteemed classic, even if we include all who lived from Hesiod to Claudian.
And where can a greater variety be found in their natural disposition and the sphere of life in which authors have moved, than is exemplified in the authors of the Sacred Writings. What could be more widely different in life than the circumstances and situation of Moses, and of Mark ?-of Solomon, and of Amos ?-of Daniel and Luke ? --of Nehemiah and John ? And amidst what class of writers is there a greater variety perceptible relative to natural talent and disposition ? In Moses and Nehemiah we have the foun. der, and the restorer of a national polity.--In Samuel and Daniel those on whom devolved the weight of public affairs, on the latter indeed, for a period of almost sixty years, those of the most extensive empire then on earth. Joshua and David exhibited the milia
tary character in its full lustre, and required nothing to stamp them heroes of the first order, but to have lived in a circle where the God of victory was thrown into the shade, for the sake of glorifying the creature he had upheld and led on to success and renown. In So. lomon we have Asiatic royalty and magnificence combined with the most consummate wisdom ;-in Daniel, Ezra, and Paul the profoundest erudition ;-in David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and some of the minor prophets, poetic talent in almost every form; while in Amos and John nature appears in her most engaging simplicity. Is it any wonder then that the product of this variety of talent,—that writings which include every species of composition, historic, didactic, hortative, poetic, epistolary, should engage the mind of the unlearned while they take full possession of the heart;- or that the man of erudition, satiated even to disgust with the more voluminous, but not more diversified writings of Greece and Rome, should, with Selden and Locke, sit down with delight in old age to the almost exclusive study of the Sacred Writings, as the solace
and the source of his purest joys ?
of his cares,
Can it be supposed for a moment, that inspiration, while it secured from all error, destroyed every distinction of natural taste ? Had this indeed been the case, we should have had one mode of construction throughout the whole of the Sacred Scriptures, than which nothing can be farther from the real fact. And surely it can be no injury to narrative that it is secured from incorrectness ; to history, that it is freed from mistake in point of fact, and from conveying wrong ideas by way of inference; to poetry, that it is secured from turgidity, false metaphor, and injurious effect,that the didactic part is secured from unsound doctrine, the argumentative from false reasoning, the biogrophical from prejudice and adulation, the epistolary from art and flattery, and the whole from frivolity, through its being written under the influence of the spirit of wisdom and truth. It was therefore no more than a just tribute to its real merits which the man, termed by Johnson 6 the most enlightened of men,” paid it when he said,
“ Theological enquiries are no part of my present subject; but I 6 cannot refrain from adding, that the collection of tracts, which “ we call, from their excellence, ille Scriptures, contain, indepen“ dently of a divine origin, more true sublimity, more exquisite “ beauty, purer morality, more important history, and finer strains “both of poetry and eloquence, than could be collected, withia “the same compass, from all other books that were ever come “posed in any age, or in any idiom."*
That these Writings therefore, which if important fact, sound reasoning, vivid description, justness of coloring, and above all, the exemplification of every virtue and the just exposure of all sin, can affect and exalt the mind, must produce a greater effect than could be expected from a translation of every thing written by ancient and modern sages, whether Greek, Roman, Hindoo, or Chinese, should now have found a place in nearly every cottage in our native land, must fill every British mind with pleasure.
But our attention we confess has been directed in this instance, more to the Continent; not because we love these nations beyond our own, but because we above all wish the nations on the conti. nent to share with Britain the inestimable blessing. And we feel that we have been well rewarded for our labor, for we perceive that in Germany and the three northern kingdoms of Europe, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, nearly Two Hundred Societies and Associations are now in full operation, attempting to diffuse the Sacred Writings throughout these respective countries; and that in addition to the number of copies already printed and distributed, among which we rejoice to notice nearly Eighty Thousand distributed among those christians who are of the Roman Catholic persuasion, there are now no less than Sixteen Editions of the sacred writings in the press, beside those printing by the Canstien Institution, formerly deemed almost suficient of itself to supply the whole of Germany.
* See Sir Wm. Jones's Life.
Such then, in addition to the circulation of the sacred word in Britain, and we may add, in America, (in this good work the faithful imitator of the parent couttry,) is the state of things, relative to Germany and the North of Europe. And when to this we add what is now doing in Russia, where the desire to spread the sacred oracles is so much increased in the short space of four years, that a month's expenditure now of its Bible Societies, exceeds that of the whole of the first year; and where in Twenty-five languages, the friends of God and man contemplate this year the circulation of above a Hundred Thousand copies of the Sacred Writings, is it possible to forbear adoring the wonderful goodness of God in bringing about within a very few years so great a revolution in the minds of men relative to the Sacred Writings, the source of all the genuine blessedness ever yet tasted by the sons of men ?
The Nett Receipts of the British and Foreign Bible Society this year have been above Eighty-four Thousand Pounds, of which One-fourth has been received for Bibles and Testaments sold. The copies of the Old and the New Testament which they have circulated, are fast approaching to Two Millions; and the aggregate good produced by their exertions, on the minds of men in Britain ---in the rest of Europe-in America, and in India, exceeds any thing yet accomplished by any Society on earth. In the prayer that those who have been so honored of God as to be made the medium through which blessin's of such magnitude have been, or are likely to be, conferred on Britain, and on the whole earth, may go forward with renewed ardor, and that all who have joined them in the sacred work, may continue their exertions with unmixed and increasing zeal, we are certain we shall be joined by all who love God, and compassionate the miseries of men.