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Art. I. A Letter to the Bishop of Gloucester on the Subject
of the British and Foreign Bible Society. By Thomas
Gisborne, A.M. Second Edition. Cadell and Davies. 1815. WE have ever been disposed to consider Mr. Gisborne as a worthy and a well meaning man, though certainly not as a theo. logian of the highest order. His sermons, with a very few exceptions, we have held to be both creditable and useful publications, and what they wanted in brilliancy of talent to be fully made up in goodness of intent. We have long known him to have been attached to the interests of a peculiar party, and zealously to have advocated the cause of the Bible Society, our respect however for his motives still continued undiminished; how far however his character, either as a Christian or a inan, can be raised in the estimation of ourselves or of the public by the sentiments and spirit of the pamphlet before us, we shall leave it for our readers to determine.
Mr. Gisborne has the means undonbtedly of enforcing attena tion in a certain circle, far beyond those which ordinary authors are allowed to possess ; but we very much doubt whether with all these powers at his command his present publication would fairly have gone through a single edition, had it not been addressed to a prelate, whose recent elevation has been the object of so much public discussion. With his name in the title page it emerges from the froth and foam of an auxiļiary anniversary, and acquires a sort of substance, which obtrudes itself upon our attention. We would not judge with harshness the offensive trash which too often issues from very worthy and respectable men at these Bible Associations, the vanity of selfapprobation, the intoxication of popular applause, the motley and discordant groupe from whom that applause is to be
extracted VOL. IV, NOV. 1815.
extracted, all conspire to throw their understandings off their guard, and at once to generate confusion of idea and abandonment of principle. Had this publication therefore assumed the form of a speech delivered at the county hall of Stafford, we should not have thought it worth our while to oppose the shortlived effusions of annual eloquence, but as it now appears, containing the cool, deliberate, and uncalled for opinions of a reverend divine, upon a subject of the highest importance, and stamped with the name of a newly created prelate as its passport to general circulation, it seems to challenge the most rigid and iinpartial examination. The letter begins with the following paragraph.
MY DEAR FRIEND, " One of your predecessors complained that a book, which he had written to establish the divine legation of Moses, had-excited outcries as vehement as might have resounded if it had averred the divine legation of Mahomet. There are persons who pursue the British and Foreign Bible Society with clamours as vehement as could be warrantable, were the object of the institution to circulate the Koran." P. 3.
How far the present Bishop will be obliged to Mr. Gisborire for reminding the world that Warburton, at whose mighty name even to this moment both the infidel and the fanatic
appear tremble, once sat in the throne which bis Lordship now occupies, it is not for us to determine. We cannot however sufficiently commend the prudence, with which such a name as that of Warburton, is dropped in the gentler upwvía of " one of your predecessors.
Whether the advocates or the adversaries of the British and Foreign Bible Society have most reason to complain of“ vehement clamours," is a question which may be easily answered by those who are in the habit of attending auxiliary meetings, or what is still clearer evidence, by those who may think it worth while to read the pamphlet before us. The introduction of the Koran in this sentence, is attended with various advantages to the cause of which Mr. G. is an advocate. In the first place, it gives the reader to understand that it is the circulation of the Bible, which excites the indignation of those, whom Mr. G. opposes; though Mr. G. knows as well as we do, that the persons whom he thus traduces, are indefatigable in the distribution of the Bible through the medium of another Society, which had been established an hundred years before the modern institution was thought of, Another advantage arising from introducing the Koran is, that the opposers of the Bible Society are thus represented as objecting to it, not because they prefer their own Society to that of Mr.
G.'s but because they care for the sacred volume as little as they do for the Koran. This is one specimen of the Christian spirit of Mr. Gisborne, toward the adversaries, not of himself, but of his favourite Society; but this is quite charitable in comparison with what we shall have occasion to notice.
Mr. G. expresses his surprise, that a Society which confines its distribution to the Bible, should have been suspected of
tending to check the circulation of the Prayer-book.' following," says Mr. G. at page 5, " is the language which we might have hoped to hear. The grace of God be with all who disperse the Bible. Disperse but the parent Bible in abundance, and its daughter the Prayer-book will follow of course.' We say likewise with Mr. G. “ the grace of God be with all who disperse the Bible;" but we cannot possibly add, “ its daughter the Prayer-book will follow of course,” when we perceive thaf the dissenters, who are all of them members of the institution for which Mr. Gisborne pleads, and most of them very zealous members, uniformly persevere, amid all their efforts for the distribution of the Bible, to reject froin their places of worship its daughter the Prayer-book. But says Mr. G. the fact cannot be denied, that since the institution of the British and Foreign Bible Society, the distribution of Prayer-books has increased. Undoubtedly the distribution of Prayer-books among the meinbers of the Establishment has greatly increased within these four years. But wbat is the cause of this increase ? No other than this, that the true friends of the Church took alarm at the language holden by the advocates of the Bible Society at the end of 1811, who from the indisputable truth that the Bible only is the religion of the Protestant, argued as if the Bible only should be distributed by the Protestant. The necessity therefore of an increased distribution of the Prayer-book, became so obvious to all who were desirous of supporting the present Church Estab. lishment, that every effort was made for that purpose, especially by the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge. Thus the natural tendency of the new institution was happily counteracted. Yet Mr. G. gives lis readers to understand, that this institution was the cause of that effect. He says, at page 6,
“ The truth of the position that the British and Foreign Bible Society has increased in an extraordinary degree the circulation of our Established Liturgy is incontestible."
He then triumphantly adds,
" Let it be treated as incontestable. If any man of strange perception deny or doubt it; let not the point be debated. Waste not time and argument in demonstrating demonstration. Let the answer be, the fact is ascertained, is settled, is recognized. The earth revolves round the sun."
G g 2
Such is Mr. Gis mode of reasoning from effect to cause, and such is the flippaucy of his language, which well accords with the reasoning itself. And this observation applies to almost every page of his pamphlet.
At page 7, Mr. G. adverts to the objection which was made to his Society so early as the year 1805, when it was just coming into notice; namely, that it is an association of Churchmen with dissenters. But Mr. G. has taken the usual precaution of stating it in such a manner, as to convey a meaning very different from that which it is known the objeciors intended. He says that his Society“ lias been accused of associating Churchinen and dissenters, in the distribution of the Word of God.” Any one unacquainted with the controversy might suppose from this sentence, either that “the distribution of the Word of God," formed the ground of the objection; or that an union of Churchmen and dissenters, is a thing to be deprecated in all possible cases. But how does the matter really stand? As far as we have been able to collect the sentiments of those who object to the new institution (for new it is in comparison with the Bible Society established at Bartlett's Buildings) they are to the following purport. “ Let us associate for the distribution of the Word of God; but then let us do it in a manner, that while we are promoting this laudable work, we do not at the same time neglect those other duties, which are incuinbent on us as Churchmen. either associate for that purpose with Churchmen only, as in the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, which distributes both Bibles and Prayer books; or we may associate both with Churchmen and will dissenters in the other Bible Society, which from the very circumstance that the dissenters beloug to it, must confine its distribution to the Bible. Since then we have the choice, let us prefer the former Society, which enables us to do our duty as Christians, and at the same tine enables us to do our duiy as Churchmen. This we conceive to be the meaning of those who vhject, not to the distribution of Bibles, either by Churchimen or by dissenters, but to an association, which, while it provides for the general duty of a Cbristian, is unable to provide for the particular duty of a Clurchmän. If indeed there were no other means of distributing the Bible, than through the medium of this new institution, the duty of distributiog the Prayerbook would properly yield to the paramount duty of distributing the Bible. But when they have the choice of a Society, in which both duties are fulfilled, it really does surprise us, that Churchmen do not give it their whole support, instead of associating with, and thus augmenting the importance of those, wliose views, from the very nature of thing, 'must be hostile to the Establishment.
At page 9, Mr. G. who is obliged to eke out even this short pamphlet by perpetual repetitions of the same thing, again asks, * Must not the distribution of the Bible tend to diminish dissenti" This question we may oppose by another. Has the increased distribution of the Bible by the means of the new Society, diminished the number even of the old dissenters'? And is it not notorious, that the methodists, who dissent at least from the discipline of the Church, and who make a common cause with the old dissenters, have received an alarıning increase within these ten years ? Even with respect to the distribution of the Bible, it is much to be apprehended, that the spirit of the Gospel has not been distributed equally with the letter of the Gospel.
At page 10, Mr. G. again asks, “Why may not Churchmen and dissenters be united in distributing the Bible? Is it because it is unfit, that they should be united in any good work. Or of this good work in particular."
These questions have been so repeatedly answered, that it is really disgusting to see then renewed, as if no answers had ever been given. That Churchmen and dissenters are unfit to be united in any good work, is a sentiment, which though frequently ascribed to the opponents of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Mr. Gisborne knows that they have never entertained. Indeed the absurdity of the charge confutes itself. But replies Mr. G. at page 13.
$ Since it is acknowledged that there are good works in which we may join with our brethren out of the pale of the Establishment, and that the circulation of the Scriptures is a good work; is among the best of works; why is it so stoutly required of us to prove, that we may co-operate with them in this work?”.
Here we will readily grant both the major and the minor of Mr. Go's proposition. We will readily grant that there are nany, very inany good works, in which Churchmen and dissenters may properly join; and we maintain, no less strenuously than Mr. G. that the distribution of the Bible is among the best of works. Yet notwithstanding the admission of these premises, we must confess, that we have hitherto seen no proof of the conclusion whichi Mr. G. deduces from them. However proper it
may be to join with dissenters on many occasions, it may be very improper to join with them on some occasions. And however desirable it may be to promote the circulation of the Bible, yet if the Church of England is more effectually served by a union of Churchmen with Churchmen for that purpose, than by an union of Churchmen with dissenters, we are at a loss to comprehend how a Churchunan can liesitate to prefer the former,