« AnteriorContinuar »
Oh Thou, whose throne is lifted high,
it be to love Thee more
To the Editor of the Christian Herald. Sir, It occurred to me, on reading your account of the late anniversary of the
American Bible Society, that some more particular relation than I have yet seen of the mode of conducting the British societies, and celebrating British anniversaries, might be acceptable and useful to your readers. It is a subject which I love to review, and I shall feel myself amply rewarded for the pains I may take in presenting it to the readers of the Christian Herald, by the revival of pleasing and useful recollections.
When I arrived in England in the winter of, I felt a considerable prejudice against the mode of managing benevolent institutions which prevails there, and had imbibed the idea, that a desire of public notoriety and eclat, was in so great a degree the stimulus to the exertions of British benevolence, as to mar the beauty of its every aspect: and I was ready to say with special application, Oh that these zealous people would simply seek the
glory of God! It may have been the case, that my sentiment on this subject, was warped by the faultiness of my own character; and, as I could hardly see it possible, that with my own imperfect spirit, I could act so publicly, and yet with simple piety, I consequently entertained a prejudice altogether unjustifiable, against the motives and feelings which were actuating the public conduct of others. However this may have been, it was my happy lot to enjoy a familiar acquaintance with many active individuals, whose zeal was evidently of the best kind, and to be introduced to an actual view of committees and public meetings, where I had the opportunity of correcting my errors, by my own observation.
Within a very few days after my arrival, I was introduced by my friend, to the meeting of the committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and afterwards attended their meetings regularly for several months, and felt it more blessed than to have been in courts and mingled with the princes of the land.
After all that has been said of the public acts of the British and Foreign Bible Society, by which its name has become known to the remotest nations of the earth, I do not remember to have seen any attempt to describe the meetings of its committee; from which all that excites our admiration must of course proceed. It is in the committee that all its plans are devised, from which its agents are instructed, and in which the spirit seems to be infused which renders them so active and efficient. If the whole progress of that institution has been marked by a portion of divine favour, altogether unexampled; if it has triumphed over all opposition, and become by the wisdom, the activity, and the extent of its benevolence, the wonder of the age in which we live, it is because divine power has raised up, and divine wisdom has brought together in its committee, agents admirably suited by their excellent spirit, their various talents, and their combined wisdom, to the great work which divine providence has allotted them.
The committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society, display, in a wonderful degree, Christian energy and zeal; all is life and animation there; if the members had met for the first time, and were moved by some extraordinary stimulus, there could not be more life and animation than they exhibit as from month to month they pursue their hacknied occupation. The description given by Owen himself, in his history of the British and Foreign Bible Society, of the zeal and interest which were exhibited and felt at the meeting at the London Tavern, when the society was instituted, is in truth a description of the zeal and interest which appears to be felt in the ordinary meetings of the committee, Hughes still in a strain of good sense, temperate zeal, and perspicuous information," urges on the work as warmly and as ably as he urged its commencement. Steinkopff (just returned from a mest interesting tour on the continent) “with unaffected simpli
city,” describes the wants of Germany; and, “ with tender pathos,” (rendered still more interesting by a difficult enunciation of our language) appealing on its behalf to the compassion and munificence of British Christians, speaks forcibly to the mind and heart; and Owen, as he rose when his heart responded to the novel plan of a general Bible society, still surrounded by Christians of various denominations, and still retaining the impression which the lapse of years had not diminished, and length of time had not abated, pours forth the fullest information and the richest eloquence, recommending and explaining and urging its various plans, suggesting the necessary correction of its errors, admonishing to discretion, and urging to a humble, unostentatious piety. You might see these wonderful men, deservedly called the Indefatigable Secretaries, always in their place at Earl-street, Blackfriars, as alert, as vigilant, as active, as animated, as deeply inte. rested, as you might have seen them years ago, when stimulated by the novelty of their occupation and the opposition of their adversaries. Amid that interesting circle, the venerable president, the treasurer, and the members of the committee, attentive, alert, free to communicate their thoughts as if they were a band of brothers; each confident that every well intended suggestion would be well received; all ready to sympathize in the encouraging communi. cations which crowd upon them at every meeting, and to give their hearty sanction to every measure for the spread of the gospel, apparently with every thought and feeling engrossed in the grand design.
I ought not to intimate that the active part of the business is done by the excellent secretaries alone, though certainly they are the most prominent characters. They are ably supported by many others, who think no labour hard, who need no urging to do their part, and who bring their thoughts to bear on every subject; bring forward on every occasion their various information, laboriously collected; make necessary remarks on every proposal, and who evidently, in the general committee, in the subcommittees, and as individuals, use their utmost efforts to carry on the great work. This leads me to observe one particular, which materially promotes the interest of the meetings of the committee; it is the constant introduction by the members, at their option, of foreigners and other individuals who may be supposed able to afford useful information, or to render assistance in carrying on the plans of the society. By this means, at almost every meeting, some new encouragement is presented by the living voice, concerning different regions of the earth, or some new outlet is discovered by which the stream of life may be made to issue forth to water some dry and thirsty land. You could not, on these occasions, but be particularly struck with the activity of the members out of doors; for it generally appears, that they have been constantly watching, and exerting themselves to procure information, and to render themselves of
service to the society; and their activity is perceived to turn to the best account when you see agents returning from various quarters of the world, and others ready at the same time that they go on their own particular business, to do errands of mercy to the seats of commerce or of war. When new agents are presented; when a new opening is discovered for the distribution of the scriptures; you might see every countenance brighten, and hear a general murmur throughout the company, expressive of the reality and sympathy of their joy. I will mention one instance of this sort which was peculiarly interesting. A son of Africa (Prince Sanders) was introduced by one of the most able and zealous ministers of the established church, as the bearer of good news from a distant land. Encouraged by the devoted friend of his race Mr. Wilberforce, and Lord Teignmouth, he had been to the kingdom of Hayti, with Bibles and Testaments and Prayer Books ; where the benevolent king received him with every mark of favour, and his holy presents with the most evident tokens of gratitude. Then it was, when he told how the way was prepared by the favour of the prince to spread the Bible and promote knowledge among all classes of the people, that a general expression of congratulation ran through the assembly, and looks of hearty joy declared how every man desired the progress of this work; and especially to see the sons of Africa become the sons of God.
My recollection, though after a considerable lapse of time, would supply me with other instances to the same purport, but it is time I should pass on to notice that which afforded me still higher gratification, the wonderful exhibition of brotherly kindness which these happy meetings present. Here you might see as fully as can be seen on earth, how good and how pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. Not that the members never differ in opinion; if they did not, the exhibition of Christian love among them would be less sure and striking. You might often observe a difference of opinion, but you would never observe, as is too often the case, in the intercourse of even Christian men, unkindness of feeling; you would hear no aspersions, no satire, no sarcasms on the one hand, or tart and angry retorts on the other. It was a brother, in the kindest manner, without making any parade of kindness, stating his objections to the proposal of a bro. ther, who received them on his part with Christian good will, without an apparent desire to vindicate his own suggestion as his own; and either yielded the point without the shadow of reluctance, or saw his own judgment prevail without an appearance of exultation.
This exhibition of Christian love is the more interesting, as made in a promiscuous assembly of men, whose ancestry handed down to them bitter prejudices against each other, and whose own feelings, at an earlier date, would have revolted at that familiar and brotherly intercourse which they now hold together, VOL. VII.
as a stain upon the purity of their sectarian excellence. The Quaker, like any other Christian, except in his broad brimmed hat which not even his reverence for the Bible society removed, his antiquated dress and his peculiar mode of speech; the Independent and the Methodist, were seated in familiar intercourse, on the subject of religion, with the Churchman from whose corruptions their ancestry had withdrawn themselves; and the Churchman was communing with a free and open heart, with the subjects of the ancient Churchman's animosity. There was not the appearance of agreement to circulate the scriptures without note or comment, and a readiness to disagree on every other point; there evidently flowed through every heart the catholic spirit of Christianity. Each man felt that each man was his brother, and the warmth of paternal love gave interest and cheerfulness to all their meetings. There was no amalgamating of incongruous characters, until Christianity had lost its vital essence; but a constant reciprocation of sentiments and feelings, which, free from the peculiar phraseology of any sect, would cheer the heart of every pious man. For the meetings of the committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society, at which so much business has been transacted, are not occupied simply with the drudgery and detail of business; as their business is of the noblest kind, it excites the noblest feelings, and every man gives vent to the emotions of his own soul, in perfect confidence that they will meet with the sympathy of all around him.
These remarks have occupied a much larger space than I expected when I began, and I must defer some observations upon British anniversaries to some future number of your work.
Extracts from the Ninth Report of the Liverpool Auxiliary
Bible Society. The Ladies' Branch has made such advances towards placing the volume of life in the habitations of poverty, want, and pain ; so much real good has been effected, in a period of time almost incredibly short, and results of such unquestionable interest have been developed by the visiters in their walks of charity, as to entitle them to the praise of having well arranged the plan of their procedure, and diligently filled up the great outline of their duty. Perhaps there is no recorded instance, in which more effectual measures have been taken to relieve the spiritual wants of an extensive district, and to enable the ignorant who are perishing for lack of knowledge, to learn of Him who hath the words of eternal-life, than that given to the world in the last and present re