Page images
PDF
EPUB

minal than real; and that even in those favoured countries on which the Sun of Righteousness appears to have arisen, darkness still covers the earth, and gross darkness the people. Corruption in doctrine and practice, superstition, and idolatry, still debase and bind down the souls of men, and render them, though Christians in profession, little better than heathens in their character and hopes. And where shall we look for a cure of these extensive and malignant evils, except in that reformation of religion which can be effectually produced only by a more intimate acquaintance with the word of God? The same divine truth, which alone can dissipate heathen ignorance, alone can purify Anti-Christian corruption.” (P. 187-189.)

Mr. Cooper, in very decided language, attributes it to an indifference towards these considerations that "the Church of England, as a body, cannot be considered as having displayed a friendly disposition to the Bible Society. A large proportion of ker ecclesiastical members, her prelates and dignitaries, and parochial ministers, have taken no share in the proceedings of this institution; have neither attended its meetings, nor contributed to its funds. Nay, whatever opposition and hostility have been manifested against its constitution and operations, have proceeded almost exclusively from this quarter." (P. 205.)

Our sentiments on the Bible Society are before the world. Our sense of the real interests and honour of the Establishment in no respect differs from Mr. Cooper's; for we are decided in our belief, that nothing could more effectually establish the honour of our Church abroad, or so securely strengthen its interests at home; that nothing could afford it so sure a hope, we had almost said so just a title, to that Almighty support by which it stands, as an unanimous co-operation with the Bible Society. Still in justice we must hesitate before we subscribe to the full extent of our author's serious charge. Charity requires us to hope, and candour to admit, that the coldness of some members of the Church, and the hostility of others, may be accounted for on other grounds than those of indifference towards the diffusion of the Bible.

Mr. Cooper thinks his point made out by the circumstance, that "in all the arguments which have been publicly advanced against this institution, and which have been adopted as their general ground of justification by its opposers, its domestic operations, which are rather an incidental part of its plan than its primary object, have been brought almost exclusively into view." But, in fact, much of the opposition has been owing to this very thing, that the supporters of the Society have brought its domestic operations almost exclusively forward. The professed object with the auxiliary societies in the provincial towns has been the domestic supply, and with great reason, since, of all

H

charity, religious charity should begin with our own household. In these institutions the foreign operations are only incidentally mentioned; and one of the first rules for their formation is, that "the committee shall make it their business to inquire what families or individuals, residing within the several districts, are in want of Bibles or Testaments, and unable to procure them." This view of the subject has dictated, we do not say warranted, the reply of which our author complains, on the part of many members of the Established Church: "We belong to a different society; a society which is competent to supply our wants, and to answer our purposes. One society is sufficient for us; and we see no occasion for another." As far as respects the local wants, which are the wants professedly brought into notice, this answer is not without foundation: and is further thought to justify a surmise, that the chief supporters of the Bible Association are unwilling to receive obligations from the society of church

men.

Placed in this situation, the conduct of the parochial clergy has been guided by their own views of the question. Some have stood aside, and said, it is so evident that this institution is set up in opposition to the party to which I professionally belong, and is promoted by the persons to whom I am professionally opposed, that I cannot consistently join it: at the same time that its object is such as to ensure my neutrality. A few, of warmer temper and less discretion, have most unfortunately engaged in open hostility. A third class have honourably declared, in such a cause and with such an object, we cannot hesitate to use our influence in its favour: in whomsoever the measure may have originated, and by whomsoever it is promoted, we must cast in our lot amongst them. These last have proved the true friends of the Church; but for them the mighty engine must have been wielded by other hands: all the power, all the influence, all the public favour, and all the Divine blessing, attending such an institution, must have belonged exclusively to the dissenters from the Establishment. But with this inflexible opinion of our own, we must allow more than Mr. Cooper is willing to allow for those causes which have operated to create prejudice on the other side: to be ignorant of them, would show a great inattention to the present state of the country; to overlook them would betray an

*See "Rules recommended for Auxiliary and other Societies." Among these, in all nineteen, the only mention of the foreign operation is in the first proposal, that "a Society be formed for the purpose of co-operating with the British and Foreign Bible Society, in promoting the distribution of the Holy Scriptures, both at home and abroad." Rule 2. Society's Report, p. 320. Perhaps this circumstance may be worthy the consideration of the London Committee. A different mode of statement would certainly anticipate objection, and might in some cases disarm hostility.

unwillingness to view a subject through any medium except our own; and to make no allowance for them, would be unjustifiably severe in an arbitrator, though it might be professionally excusable in an advocate.

[ocr errors]

Mr. Cooper proposes a test by which the real feelings of those Churchmen who do not support the Bible Society may be tried: "There is in existence," he says, an institution which is composed only of members of the Church of England, and which takes no part in any domestic concerns whatever;-I mean the Church Missionary Society. In assisting the efforts of this institution, to promote Christianity in Africa and in the East, the members of the Established Church might manifest their zeal without any apprehensions for the safety of the Establishment, and might securely gratify their desire of enlarging the kingdom of their Redeemer. When, therefore, I see that the same large proportion of those who are unfriendly to the Bible Institution, are in general no better disposed towards the Church Missionary Society; or that, on the supposition of their disapproving any thing in the constitution or the proceedings of this society, they do not come forward and establish one on their own plan, for the promotion of the same glorious cause, what is the conclusion which forces itself on my mind, but that an indifference to the great objects of these institutions at present too plainly characterises many members of the Established Church, and accounts for that indisposition to the Bible Society which I am deploring?" (P. 224.)

We sincerely wish that this appeal may be heard, and that the Missionary Society may meet with such general support as to be enabled to prepare the way for the operations of the Bible Society, and render them more effectually beneficial. Neither do we despair of this success, if its enemies continue to take such indirect measures in its favour as those which have lately astonished the considerate part of the community. But we must not allow our own feelings to disturb the impartiality of the character we here assume, as umpires; or to stifle the reply which might obviously be made on the part of the defendants. It has been urged against the warm partisans of the Bible Society, and when we allude to this charge it will not be supposed that we join in making it, that they are lukewarm towards the Establishment: that possessed of a strong sense of the importance of the interior, beyond what they themselves term the outworks, but which others think the bulwarks of religion, they consider sincere and earnest piety a sufficient security against all danger. There is in existence an institution, the funds of which are extremely inadequate to its object or its merits; we mean, the National Society for educating Children in the Principles of the Established Church. In assisting the efforts of this institution to stem the rapid progress of dissent, the members of the Bible Society might manifest their zeal for the safety of the Establishment, and gratify their desire of contributing towards its security. When, therefore, we see a large

proportion of those who are active in supporting the Bible Institution, indifferent towards the objects of the National Society, 'what is the conclusion which forces itself on our minds, but that an indifference towards the interests of the Established Church characterises too many of its members, and accounts for that indisposition to the National Society which we are deploring?'.

Such recriminations, however, even if there were better ground for them, answer no useful purpose; and we only point out the fallibility of Mr. Cooper's test, because he seems to us in these concluding Letters, to have been more strongly impressed with his own view of the subject than is consistent with an impartial judgment; and to have uttered some severer sentiments than are likely to promote the one great object, pacification. Would that it might be allowed us to hope that the various efforts lately made in different quarters for this important purpose might produce their much-desired effect! that the worst scandal of the visible Church, party spirit, might yield before the mighty objects of conciliation! Sometimes, after reading a volume like Mr. Cooper's, we indulge the flattering hope that a progress has been made, and a point gained against the common enemy, till our reveries are broken, and our calm again disturbed by some relentless and impracticable Cato, who rushes into the Senate with his "delenda est Carthago," and renews our fears of interminable war: a war too, with whom? not against our rivals, but amongst ourselves: a war with those who, perhaps, if their sentiments could be accurately gauged, do not differ from us at all; or if they differ, differ on those abstruse points which have divided mankind whenever they have thought, and which we firmly believe will still continue to divide them as long as they continue to inquire, and begin their inquiries with tempers as opposite as those of Luther and Erasmus, Melancthon and Calvin. To expect unity of opinion on such points would be to expect what the Church has not required, nor the Scripture provided for. But we may expect what both the Church and Scripture demand, moderation: the Church demands it, having set the example both in her articles and formularies; and Scripture demands it, having both enjoined and exemplified it. Above all we may expect what the Christian profession requires, charity; which is not only the very bond of peace and of all virtues, but the healing balm which the Establishment at this moment especially needs. We have zeal enough, were it rightly directed; we have learning enough, were it usefully employed; but the one thing we lack is charity. Our activity is rather that of hostile powers, each endeavouring to counteract what the other has effected, than that of co-operating labourers in a common cause of supreme importance, mutually rejoicing in one another's success, as long as the dominion of Christ is extended by the victory. Let the

Calvinists remember that those who do not teach their congregations as revealed in Scripture what it sincerely appears to them is not revealed there, are not to be reproached as wavering or lukewarm, or pusillanimous, when it is very possible they may be conscientiously scrupulous of adding aught to the doctrines they are commissioned to promulgate. Let it be remembered on the other side, that what Hooker said of the Romish Church, is without question true of the Calvinists; "they hold the foundation of faith; they build themselves upon the Rock, which is the foundation of the Church;" and that with respect to points of practice, there has always existed difference of opinion as to the lawfulness of certain amusements, as to the degree of strictness required of the clerical profession, as to the line of separation between the visible and invisible Church. Since perfection is no attribute of mortality, and therefore not conferred by the rite of ordination, who can say that these differences, even in their extremes, may not be necessary as a wall on the right hand and on the left, in order to keep the main body of the "Church militant” in the true and direct path between?

Should any one be disposed to say, that, in these observations, we have rather disagreed with both parties than sided with either, we will remind the objector of the remark of an author, who well understood human nature; and who assures us that whenever the passions are excited, or temper ruffled, a stranger is a more useful companion than a friend. Those who almost exclusively confine their intercourse to persons whose sentiments are decidedly formed, and so formed as to agree with their own, are often really unaware of the arguments which may satisfy, or the motives which may influence, the supporters of opposite opinions. It is well if they do not absolutely exclude all means of information, by closing their ears against any discourse, and their eyes against any writers who disagree with them. Such persons are excellently qualified to plead as advocates, but very ill able to give sentence as judges.

We are afraid, however, to pursue these remarks, lest we should appear to allude to Mr. Cooper: a supposition which would do equal injustice to him and to ourselves. This interesting little volume is eminently calculated to answer its professed design. It may teach those who agree with him to be moderate, and those who differ from him to inquire: we wish it might produce that effect on the adversaries of the Bible Society, when they see the injurious suspicions to which their hostility exposes them:-above all, the just views of Divine truth with which it abounds, may profitably correct the aberrations of those who rather consult their party than their Bible.

« PreviousContinue »