Images de page
PDF
ePub

inclinations, and endeavours of the long that they are calculated to promote life of which God in his great mercy our Ecclesiastical Establishment, or the hath favoured me, than to spread the quiet of it, both which we all profess word of God in every quarter, so that to maintain. all, from the least to the greatest, may " It is now needless to go into all the know God, and Jesus Christ whom he points which relate to the Bible Society, hath sent.' In a great measure, the as though it were a new subject, upon matter is ill understood by many. Ques- which any fresh information of consetions have been raised, as if the distri

quence could be given.

The subject bution of the Bible itself was reprobated. has been discussed in popular meetings I trust, my brethren, that the whole and various publications, throughout tenor of our lives, yours as well as the whole kingdom ; so that the Society, mine, has already proved that we have its great wealth, its plans, and modes never entertained one thought of the of operation, are completely before the kind. It is the mode of doing it, and public; and it must have its course ; the effects of it, which have been called and all ranks of people must satisfy in question. A thing may be right in themselves, with respect to all the the main view of its nature and purpose, observations which have been made but may become wrong and detrimental upon it. I cannot consider it as the from the injudicious use which may be special and exclusive duty of the clergy, made of it. Here it is that well-disposed under all these circumstances, (for they persons, not to mention others, often may be better employed in cautionary differ : so that it is difficult so to de- measures,) to labour to stop its progress : liver one's sentiments, as not to awaken indeed, they could not if they would ; for at least, if not to give, fresh point to the it is in a manner placed above our reach. difference of opinion, which may have " But although we cannot do all that been formed.

we could desire, and prevent the minds “ Still with this sense of difficulty be- of our people from being disturbed by fore me,

it would ill become me, holding the introduction of this method of disso high a situation in the church, to sup- persing the word of God, what forbids press my thoughts, or to hesitate one that we should cautiously watch what moment about giving you my opinions is going forward ; should observe the upon this interesting subject. This I fears of many well-disposed persons should have done at our last meeting, who have taken an alarm; and should most fully, had I been aware that such try to adopt such measures as we think a plan had been in agitation : but it was likely to quiet any apprehensions; or to kept concealed from me, and from all supply any thing which may be wanting ; those with whom I am accustomed to or to remedy any thing wrong which communicate upon the official business may have been introduced ? of the diocess, till just after our last “The first thing which seemed uninmeeting was closed. This, therefore, I telligible to the friends of the Establishwould wish now to do, without being ment was, how the lower orders of our thought to point at any one amongst us, people, by merely possessing a Bible, or to use one single word which might could gain any understanding of the reasonably give offence or provoca- true scriptural meaning of various parts tion. Indeed, I have already given of the holy Scriptures, without baving my opinion in all the conversations, at the same time, some guide or help and at all the private opportunities by which they might obtain that knowwhich have been offered me. With- ledge which they sought. It is not the out equivocation, therefore, or the mere possession of a treasure, which least disguise, I feel it iocumbent upon makes a man rich, but the knowledge me now publicly to declare, that I can- and spirit how to make use of it. It is not allow myself to join any of the Bible evident, that when Christ introduced Societies which have been planted so his Gospel, he thought it necessary to numerously in the various parts of our communicate to certain of his disciples, kingdom : and that, for these plain the true interpretation of the many abreasons, among others :--because I do

struse prophecies which relate to himnot think that they are calculated to self, of which till that moment they had introduce purer notions of religion, no conception at all. Thus, Lactantius than we have at present; or to increase speaks of this circumstance: Profectus the understanding of the Scriptures, be- ergò (Jesus) in Galilæam, discipulis yond what our present means will do ; iterum congregatis, Scripturæ Sanctæ and, certainly, because I do not think literas; id est, Prophetarum arcana patefecit, quæ antequam pateretur, per- It certainly is not correct to respici nullo modo poterant, quia ipsum present the conciliation of discorpassionemque ejus annuntiabant.' Lac

dant sects as the great object of tant. Instit. Lib. iv. cap. xx. And afterwards, in the Apostolical Age,

the Bible Society. The great object Philip is sent to the Ethiopian Eunuch, (strictly speaking, it may be called to show him the spirituality of the Pro- the only object) of the Society, was phecies of Isaiah, and the general doc- and is the dispersion of Bibles and trine of the faith of Christ.” pp. 8—12. Testaments without note or com

We here make our first pause ; ment. It is an object perfectly and request the reader's attention simple; and how far it bas “ failed to the following observations :- of its effect may be judged from

The members of the Bible So- this equally simple fact, that the ciety have been accustomed to re- number of Bibles and Testaments gard the actual success of their distributed by the Society, from undertaking as affording a strong the period of its institution up to presumption in its favour. Under September, 1816, anjounted to one every new attack, under every million, six hundred and eightyfresh prediction of evil, they have six thousand, five hundred and referred the objector to past ex- ninety-one. perience for a reply. Of this an- An effect, however, of the instichor the Bishop of Carlisle would tution, not perhaps definitely pronow deprive them; for such we posed at the outset, yet early and presume to be the purport of the warmly anticipated, was that, by first paragraph of the foregoing ex- uniting Christians of various pertract. It is a paragraph, indeed, suasions in a common pursuit of of which the general bearing is deep interest, it would soften down clearer than the exact construction. their mutual asperities of feeling, But the subject demands some and promote the reciprocation of notice, and may justify a moment's kindness and benevolence. A coldelay before we enter on the more lateral object of the Society this direct arguments of the right reve- may fairly be called: but, whatrend author. Wbat may be the ever it was, we are now given to precise force of the expressions understand that the design argued used in the paragraph referred to great ignorance of human nature, -what exactly is meant by the and that the event has not justified " object of an enterprise failing of the expectations so fondly enterits effect”—what that is, which has tained. The controversy respectso strangely divided the kingdom- ing the expediency of the instituwhether it be the idea of “combining tion has disturbed and divided the all mankind in love and good-will, kingdom : learned and unlearned or the question about « moulding have all taken their sides; and and turning human nature out of general union and universal harits course, as to the determined mony are quite out of the quesprosecution of its several aims and tion.” objects ;"—these, and such other The members of the Bible So. points, it is not necessary to agitate. ciety would probably have no All that seems important is, to state objection to allow that the oppowhat we consider as the general sition wbich the plan bas encounscope of the passage in question ;— tered was not foreseen at the comand we read it thus : The great mencement. Judging from ourobject proposed by the institution selves, we should certainly say that of the Bible Society was the pro- it was not; nor should we besitate motion of mutual good-will and to add, that the spectacle of such kindness among discordant sects an opposition to such a cause bas of Christians ;-and that object has operated on us as a painful disaputterly failed.

pointment, and that it has excited

[ocr errors]

".

US

feelings far different from the com- ciety-and we sorrowfully admit placency with which we should them to be real and considerable contemplate a scene of “general evils--have, however, been comunion and universal harmony." Yet pensated, and with an immense the use made of this circumstance over-balance, by the benefits wbich on the present occasion does strike that institution has produced even

as somewhat singular. The already.—But there is another subcase stands as follows:-The ex. ject on which we shall venture to pediency of the Bible Society was detain the reader a moment, before questioned nearly as soon as the we advance to the body of the Society began to exist; and the right reverend author's objections. opposition to it, for a time at least, It will bave been seen thai, in adcontinued in unabated strength. verting to the controversy in quesThe “ novel union and combina- tion, the Bishop uses the words, tion" of Churchmen and Dissent- “ the first point which seems ers, was peculiarly reprobated. strange to the friends of the EstaIt was treated as a principle inex- blishment”-thus directly appropressibly mischievous. It was de- priating this appellation to those nounced also as chimerical, and as members of the Church who have pregnant with the seeds of disunion.disapproved of the Bible Society. This fact the Bishop of Carlisle The expression, we are afraid, is justly states ; and he bas at the used under too strong a profession same time evidently and deliberate- of peculiar caution to be ascribed ly adopted the views of those by to inadvertence. Besides which, whom such a denunciation was made. (as we have already intiinated,) the Meanwhile, the Society developed Bishop treats the question, through its extraordinary growth in perfect a great part of the subsequent dispeace. Its influence expanded with quisition, as if it were entirely a the power and the silence of light. question between the Church of The novel union produced no trou. England, especially the clergy, on ble, nor issued in any explosion. the one hand, and the Bible SoAnd still the assailants spoke omi- ciety on the other. nous things ;-—and still they spoke, Would the Bishop of Carlisle, only to be falsified by the event. then, really exclude the members No mischief took place, except the of the Bible Society in a body from prediction of unischief; no discord- the pale of the friends of the Es-ant sound was heard, except the tablishment ? Would he really prophecy of discord. Then, pre maintain that, in the mouth of a cisely at this point, the adversaries subscriber to that Society, profesturn short on the Society, and quote sions of ecclesiastical allegiance this very controversy of their own must necessarily, or, at least, very raising, as a realization of the evils probably, be false ? Is this the which they had abortively foretold. judgment he would pass on those

They cite the baffled prophecy of lamented characters, Mr. Spencer contention as a triumphant proof Perceval, Bishop Porteus, and Dean that contention exists, and mistake Vincent ? The numerous and hotheir own violence for the quarrels nourable mitres which the Society which they foreboded !

reckons among its chief ornaments, This is really a new method would be consider these as stained of making prophecies fulfil them with treason? The distinguished selves.

members of the laity who have On this topic, it does not seem stood forward in defence of the necessary to add any thing more, Society ; as, for example, Lords except the statement of our firm Liverpool, Harrowby, Castlereagh, conviction that the evils attending Hardwicke; would he regard these the controversy on the Bible So

as secretly treacherous, or in

[ocr errors]

different to that Establishment of served, formed a familiar head of which they are professed disciples, objection with the assailants of the or constituted guardians? Insinua- Bible Society. Occasionally, intions of such a nature, against deed, the argument has been prosuch persons, are really somewhat posed in a shape so extravagant, confounding. An eminent states- as clearly to identify it with the man of antiquity, on being in- old papal topic of the nasus cereus, formed that one of the most illus- the theme of the strongest reprotrious of his countrymen had been bation of our reformers. With put to death on a charge of treason, what feelings would the Ridleys is reported to have exclaimed, “If and the Jewells have heard it mainParmenio was innocent, who then tained by a member of the English is safe? If Parmenio was guilty, Church, that the true and unadulwho then is to be trusted ?” So we terated word of God, if given may say; If the exalted person away by a Papist, will be producages alluded to, and many others tive of Popery; if by a Socinian, equally, or scarcely less, distin- of Socinianism; if by a Calvinist, guished, are innocent of the dis- of Calvinisın? Yet has this propoloyalty charged upon them, then sition been laid down in the broadwhere is the character, however 'est terms by a controvertist on the elevated, which may not be vili- present subject. The work before fied ? If, on the contrary, they de- us exbibits a greatly mitigated, serve the imputation, then what and far inore tolerable, forin of the possible assurance can we have of same argument. The Bishop of the loyalty of any body else, -of Carlisle is apprehensive that way. the Bishop of Carlisle, for example, ward minds may pervert the unexor the Bishop of Lincoln, or the plained Bible to hurtful purposes. new Bishop of Llandaff, or the He cannot conceive how the lower learned and (we affix the epithet classes should understand the holy most sincerely) venerable Society Scriptures, or at least various parts at Bartlett's Buildings?

of them, without assistance. But Let us now proceed to examine the argument does not appear to the substance of the right reverend be supported by any new proofs author's reasoning; which is, in or illustrations, excepting a passage fact, no other than the familiar ar- from Lactantius, and an incident gument of the inexpedience, and recorded in the Acts; both of danger of distributing Bibles with which, so far as they apply at all, out note or comment. The lower prove the contrary. orders of the community, it seems, The passage from Lactantius, cannot gain any understanding of whatever be its force or meaning, the true scriptural meaning of va- does not refer to the scriptural rious parts of the holy Scriptures, books in general, but to the wriunless they are provided with some tings of the prophets, or, at the guide or belp for the purpose.

So most, to the whole of the Old Tesfar from this, the distribution of the tament ;* which now constitutes unexplained Bible, the Bishop elsewhere tells us, will be too likely

* The technical term, The Prophets, to“ give encouragement to the

has a greater latitude in the writings of wayward mind to wrest it to wrong the fathers, than among

odern Cbrig ideas, perplexing doubts, and hurt- tians. Moses, David, and Solomon, are ful purposes."

included in it by Lactantius himself; The absolute necessity of Bibli- (Inst. lib. IV. cc. 5, 8. ;) and the word eal commentaries, and the dan- appears occasionally put for the Old Tes

tament in general. The termí was used gers to be apprebended from the

with a different sort of latitude by the circulation of the unexpounded later Jews. See Christ. Observ. Vol. text, have, as has just been ob- IV. pp. 765, et seq. This last method CHRIST. Obsery. No 181.

F

senses

but a part of the sacred canon. would not bave been understood, But what does the passage in fact had not our Saviour himself conmean? A very leading idea of the descended to expound them; disquisition* from which it is ex- that is, they would not have been tracted, is this ; That the ancient understood by the disciples :- but prophecies were a sealed book does this apply to us, whom these before the coming and passion of very disciples have furnished with Christ, but that, as they referred the true solution of the prophetic to these very events, therefore, mysteries, by largely relating the when the events actually took history of their Divine Master, and place, the predictions became lucid minutely illustrating it from the and intelligible.

In exact con- several predictions which it sucformity with this idea, the ex- cessively fulfilled ? Do we, who tract in question states, that our are thus surrounded by the daySaviour, after his resurrection, ex- light of the New Testament, stand plained the prophecies to his dis- in the same position with the disciples, which prophecies could not ciples under the circumstances be understood ("antequam patere supposed, rootedly prepossessed tur”) before he suffered. It is as they were with the notion of a true, the passage further implies temporal Messiah, stunned in all that, even then, those prophecies their hopes by the death of Christ,

and scarcely able to trust their of using it is supposed to have been

for the evidence of his sanctioned by our Divine Saviour him- resurrection ? self in the last chapter of St. Luke (cited We have thus joined issue very above.) See Poole's Synops. in loco.

It is necessary to bear in mind the contentedly with the right reveenlarged sense put on the term by the rend author, on the passage quoted fathers, in order to conceive the full from Lactantius; with what sucforce of that passage in the Te Deum; cess the reader must judge ;-but, " The glorious company of the Apostles having done so, let us be allowed -the goodly fellowship of the Prophets -~praise thee." Indeed, we conceive

to express our surprise, that, in the term Apostles also to be there used

citing an incident in the history with a similar extension, and this idea of our Saviour, and citing it as too seems justified by several passages the groundwork of an important in the fathers. The reader will then

argument, it should have been perceive with what beauty of gradation the chorus of praise is arranged in that

thought proper to state the fact unrivalled composition. The Hallelujah

ratber in the words of an uninis represented as beginning with the spired father of the church, and highest order of created beings, and as that too so late a father as Lacdescending, through various orders of tantius, than in the language of the the blessed, to earth ; while the angelic

sacred Evangelist who records it. host of cherubim and seraphim,--the beatified ministers of the complete dis

It is perfectly fair to give us the pensation of Christ,—the beatified minis

note and comment; but at least ters of the prophetic dispensation of let us have the text also. St. Moses,—the beatified martyrs of Christ, Luke, who relates the incident who had sealed a good confession with in his last chapter, not only says their blood,

and the holy church throughout all the world,-successively

much more fully what is said by bear a part in the harmony. The sim- Lactantius, (and, so far, the remarks ple description is perhaps more really we have already made on Lactansublime than the splendid angelic hie- tius will apply,) but he adds this rarchy of the schools, with all their f thrones dominations, princedoms, ed' he their understanding, that

capital circumstance.

openvirtues, powers," even when distributed and quaternioned by the admira- they might understand the Scripble genius of Milton.

tures." Here was more than ex* Vide Instit. lib. IV. cc. 15, 20. position; here was illumination

6. Then

« PrécédentContinuer »