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should be sorry to administer fuel to national vanity, we cannot conceal the satisfaction it gives us to reflect, that, while the fairest portion of the globe has fallen a prey to that guilty and restless ambition, which, by the inscrutable wisdom of Providence, is permitted, for a time, to take peace from the earth, this favoured country is employed in spreading the triumphs of truth, multiplying the means of instruction, and opening sources of consolation to an afflicted world. In these eventful times, so pregnant with difficulty and danger, we consider this as affording a most favourable omen of the ultimate intentions of Providence respecting this nation.
Having briefly explained our object and motives, we beg leave to recommend the Leicester Auxiliary Bible Society to the patronage of an enlightened public, not doubting they will feel the propriety of lending their support to an institution, which, besides the circulation of the Scriptures abroad, promises to provide for our domestic wants, by enabling the poorest person to possess himself of that invaluable treasure.
THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY MEETING OF THE
PERMIT me to say that I heartily concur in the sentiments so forcibly expressed by the respectable speakers who have preceded me. The more I reflect upon the constitution, operation, and genius, of the Bible Society, the more is my conviction confirmed of its excellence and utility. It is matter of surprise to me, that an institution so admirable, and so beneficial, should meet with the least opposition from the professors of our common christianity, when the propriety of making the Scriptures as extensively known as possible might be supposed to pass among protestants for an incontrovertible maxim. To imagine such a measure can be carried into effect without being productive of much good, and still more to augur mischievous consequences as the probable result, approaches so near to an impeachment of the perfection and sufficiency of the divine oracles, that, to my poor judgement, it appears difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish them. For my part, I am at an utter loss to conceive of a revelation from heaven that must not be
trusted alone; of a rule of life and manners which, in the same breath, is declared to be perfect, and yet so obscure and incompetent that its tendency to mislead shall be greater than its tendency to conduct in the right path; of a fountain of truth (and the only original fountain, as our opponents themselves allow) more calculated, when left to its silent operation, to send forth bitter waters than sweet. If these must appear to a candid and impartial mind untenable and contradictory propositions, then must the chief objections of our opponents fall to the ground, and their prognostics of danger, from the operations of the Bible Society, be pronounced chimerical and unfounded. Whoever weighs the arguments of our opponents must be convinced that they all turn upon the following supposition-that the Scriptures are so ambiguous and obscure that, when left to themselves, they are more likely to generate error than truth, to foment division than to produce unanimity and agreement. If this implies no reflection on the excellence of the Bible, and the wisdom of its Divine Author, what, I will ask, can imply such a reflection? And, if this be not admitted, how is it possible, for a moment, to entertain a scruple respecting the propriety of giving them the most extensive circulation?
To dread the indiscriminate perusal of the Scriptures, and, under pretence of tender consideration for the weakness of the common people, prohibit their circulation, has always been regarded as one of the most detestable features of popery. From
the very dawn of the Reformation it has been stigmatized by protestants, of every description, as constituting a principal branch of the mystery of iniquity. But wherein does the maxim of our opponents differ from that of the papists on this subject? If any difference can be perceived, it is certainly not in the nature but in the extension of the principle. The papists contend that the com† mon people are not to be intrusted with the Bible at all; while our opponents assert that they are not to be trusted with it alone. The former instruct their votaries to shut their ears against the voice of God altogether; the latter insist that it is dangerous to hear it, except in immediate conjunction with their own interpretation. Surely this must be considered as strange language in a protestant country, and most offensive to protestant ears.
What is the reason that the Scriptures may not be trusted alone? Why,' say our opponents, they are liable to be misinterpreted, and wrested to countenance the respective opinions and practices of different sects and parties. Be it so we admit this to be possible; but what remedy can be devised to obviate this evil? Is their use to be entirely proscribed? No,' say our opponents, but they must be invariably accompanied by another book, which may be considered in the light of an authorized commentary.' But we would ask, again, are we to judge of this commentary; or are we to receive it simply on the ground of authority, and upon the principle of implicit faith; or is any exercise of
private judgement permitted to us? If it be replied that it is not, this is neither more nor less than open and barefaced popery. If the judgement is to be exerted at all, and every thing is not to be taken upon trust, their commentary must be judged of by some criterion, and what can that be but the Scriptures? The Scriptures must then, after all, be appealed to, before it is possible to determine on the correctness of the commentary; and thus we are led back to the precise point from which we set out, that is, the examination of the Scriptures. According to the views of our opponents, we are either to admit the principle of implicit faith to its utmost extent, which is open and avowed popery; or we are first to interpret the Scriptures by the commentary, and then judge of the commentary by the Scriptures. This is the circle, out of which it is impossible for our opponents to escape, and they may be lashed round it to all eternity! Let it once be admitted that the sacred volume is the only standard of truth, and the only infallible directory in practice, and it will necessarily follow that all other modes of instruction must be tried by it; and consequently that every idea of giving it a corrective, or a companion, call it which you please, must be futile and absurd. I am persuaded I am speaking the sentiments, on this occasion, of every individual who composes this meeting, and not abetting the views of any particular party. I trust none in the present assembly will do me the injustice of supposing that any reflection is intended upon the