Page images

would so increase as to become commensurate with its merits and its wants. He considered that the grounds on which the Incorporated Society rested its claim to general support were the objects which it proposed to effect, the services which it had already rendered to the cause of Christianity, and the increased and continually increasing demands on its exertions. The objects of the Society, as stated in the charter of incorporation, were the maintenance of a learned and orthodox clergy, and the making of such other provision as might be necessary for the propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts. And here he

must be permitted to repeat an observation which he had made on a former occasion, that in order to do justice to the piety and zeal of the founders of the Society, we must recur to the situation of our country at the time of its formation. Our colonial possessions were then few-our naval and commercial power in its infancy: yet even then, as if anticipating the greatness it was subsequently to attain, these pious and benevolent men determined to put on record their recognition of a truth which ought to be impressed on the minds of the governors of every country, but especially of our own, that every extension of our territory brings with it a corresponding obligation to provide for the spiritual interests of our new subjects; so that over whatever regions our dominion is extended, there the glad tidings of pardon and of peace may also be proclaimed. But to return to the objects of the Society :-from the statement in the charter of incorporation, it appeared that the diffusion of the Gospel among the heathen had from the first engaged its attention, although an opinion had gone forth that its sole object was to furnish our colonial possessions with Ministers of the Established Church. This was one, and circumstances had rendered it the principal, object; and if it had been the only object, he must contend that it would have entitled the Society to the cordial co-operation of every sincere friend to the cause of religion. Although to invade the territory of the powers of darkness, and to arrest from their grasp a portion, and to add it to the kingdom of Christ, may be the most splendid and most glorious warfare in which the Christian soldier can engage; yet he performs no unimportant, no inglorious service, who defends the frontier, and preserves the integrity of the empire already acquired. Let us consider the dangers to which the settlers in our foreign possessions are unavoidably exposed-their liability to sink into utter forgetfulness of duties of which they are never reminded-to imitate immoral and

vicious practices, of which they live in the constant observation-to become insensible to the power of godliness, when the form is never presented to their view-to lose, in short, everything of Christianity but the name and then let us ask ourselves whether a Society, instituted for the sole purpose of averting this evil, of preventing the spiritual downfal of so many of our countrymen, can be said to be engaged in a low or unworthy pursuit. But it was further to be considered that in providing for the spiritual welfare of our countrymen settled in our colonies, we at the same time remove one of the most formidable obstacles to the propagation of the Gospel among the heathen. In the earlier communications received by the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge from the Danish Missionaries at Tranquebar, the writer states that the most formidable impediment to the propagation of the Gospel among the natives of Hindostan arose from the scandalous and corrupted lives of the Christians settled among them, which had so completely alienated their affections that they could not be brought even to listen to the appeals made to them in behalf of Christianity. Whatever, therefore, tends to ameliorate the practice of the European settlers, tends to remove the formidable impediment just described; and to remove an obstacle which clogs the movements of a machine, is surely to do as good service as to give it a positive impulse. That, the Right Rev. Prelate said, was not a fit occasion for discussing the question, in which a diversity of opinion must be expected always to exist, the question respecting the best mode of propagating the Gospel among the heathen; but were he asked what mode of proceeding he should himself deem most likely to effect the conversion of a heathen people, he should say, Plant in their vicinity a community of Christians-Christians not merely in name but in practice-who tread in the footsteps of their blessed Master, and exemplify all the precepts of the Gospel in their lives. For what, the Right Rev. Prelate asked, is the effect which I should anticipate from such a measure? Deep as is the original corruption of our nature, and fearfully as that corruption must be increased by the debasing influence of idolatry, still, even in the lowest of the heathen, the image of his Maker is not so utterly defaced, his moral sense is not so entirely destroyed, but that the perfect form of Christian virtue, exhibited by such a community, would arrest his attention; would command his admiration; would cause him to inquire into the nature of that religion which produced such blessed fruits;-and when you have

once induced the heathen to inquire, the work of his conversion is half accomplished. If, therefore, the sole object of the Society had been to furnish our colonial possessions with Ministers of the Established Church, it would still have contributed most powerfully, though indirectly, to the diffusion of the Gospel. He would not say that it had superseded, but it had certainly given force and efficacy to the labours of the missionary. But the fact was, that the views of the Society had never been so confined; direct efforts to convert the heathen had always formed a part of its labours. To effect that purpose, translations of the Scriptures had been made into the native dialects of North America, and as had been stated in the Report just read, the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge had, from a very early period, lent its support to the Danish Missions in the East Indies, which had been subsequently placed under its sole superintendence, and been recently transferred to the Society for propagating the Gospel. From the objects of the Society, the Right Rev. Prelate said that he would now turn to the services which it had rendered to the cause of the Gospel. During the early part of the last century its exertions were directed to the North American continent, and chiefly to the colonies which now constitute the United States. When, therefore, those colonies were separated from the mother country, the Society was at one blow deprived of the principal field of its labours-a circumstance which had not been sufficiently borne in mind by those who had sometimes accused the Society of inactivity and supineness. But though the Society had thus been cut off from the principal scene of its exertions, the fruit of those exertions still remained. That an Episcopal Church now subsisted in the United States was to be ascribed to its interposition; and it has been most truly remarked by the able Prelate who preached the anniversary sermon for the present year, that if religion exists in any degree of purity, either of doctrine or discipline, in our North American possessions, the praise belongs to this Society. The connexion of the Society with our Indian empire was of recent date: but though a different instrument had been employed, we must not, therefore, conclude that little had been done. As had been already observed, the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge from an early period had co-operated with the Danish missionaries in the East. And here, the Right Rev. Prelate said that he must remark, that in estimating the efforts of those who preceded us in the work of propagating the Gospel in Hindostan, we are too much in

the habit of speaking as if our eastern empire then possessed the same stability which it does at present. Whereas, if we looked to the history of India during the last century, we should find that it contained little else than a series of wars carried on by our colonists, sometimes against the native powers, sometimes against our European rivals, who wished to secure the monopoly of the commerce of the East to themselves. Amidst scenes like these, amidst the din of arms, the missionary had little chance of a hearing for the message of reconciliation and peace. Yet even then, amidst circumstances so unfavourable, under the auspices of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, the venerable Schwartz went forth to preach the Gospel to the natives of Hindostan in an apostolic spirit, with an apostolic zeal, and with a success, not perhaps exceeded by any missionary since the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit were withdrawn. Let us, therefore, do justice to the labours of those who have gone before us, and when we estimate what they have done, let us take into account the difficulties with which they had to contend. The Right Rev. Prelate said that he would now say a few words respecting the increased and increasing demands on the exertions of the Society. To turn first to the western hemisphere-in that quarter there was perhaps little room for missionary labours strictly so called. As civilization had advanced, the Indian tribes had continually receded, and the time was probably not far distant when they would either become extinct, or would acquire stationary habits, and thus lose their distinctive character, and be blended with the mass of European settlers. But though there was little room for the conversion of heathens to Christianity, much remained to be done for the confirmation of the faith of those who were already Christians. The statement of a single fact would be sufficient to shew the increased demand upon the exertions of the Society, in our North American colonies. In the report for the year 1823, the number of ministers of religion required is stated to be double of that required in 1816; and there is every reason to suppose that the number has since gone on increasing in at least as great a proportion. If we turn to our eastern empire, we there behold a spectacle calculated to fill the pious mind with awe, though not with despair,-the spectacle of millions of our fellow-creatures who are still strangers to the truths of the Gospel. Such is the field opened to the labours of the Christian missionary: but whence are the labourers to be supplied? From this Society, from the Church Mis

Providence of God, who makes the rise and fall of empires subservient to the accomplishment of his own designs; he who so believes, cannot but think that our country has been elevated to its present height of maritime power in order to fulfil the same end, which, at the time of the first promulgation of the Gospel, was fulfilled by the Roman empire-that of facilitating its communication to the remotest corners of the earth. Is there not something in the very thought that our country has been so selected, which ought to raise us above ourselves,-which ought to call forth all our dormant energies, and cause us to make ourselves the willing, and as far as lies in our power the certain, instruments of accomplishing the Almighty will, and of hastening on the kingdom of God and of his Christ.

sionary Society, from other societies instituted for the same purpose by our dissenting brethren. For to look for support to those to whom the government of our eastern empire is immediately entrusted is, I fear, hopeless; since, notwithstanding the earnest application of the Society, backed, as the Right Rev. Prelate believed, by the sanction of the Government of this country, they had sent out another prelate to encounter singly a burden, under the overwhelming pressure of which a Middleton and a Heber had sunk into an untimely grave. But this was a subject on which he would not trust himself to speak. He alluded to it, solely, as furnishing an additional reason for inviting the strenuous co-operation of the friends of the Gospel, since it proved that the work of christianizing India, if carried on at all, must, for the present, depend on the spontaneous contributions of individuals. From the demands on the Society's exertions, we are naturally led to the consideration of the means which it possesses to meet those demands. On referring to the general account of the Society for the year 1826, it will be found that, after deducting the parliamentary grant, and the dividends on the Society's stock (a fund which during the last few years has suffered a considerable diminution), the whole sum received from annual subscriptions, donations, collections, &c. scarcely exceeds 6,000l. And is this all, the Right Rev. Prelate asked, which the most opulent country on the face of the earth can contribute towards the cause of the Gospel? Is this the mode in which we, in the plenitude of our wealth and greatness, answer a call which nearly a century ago the founders of this Society deemed imperative on every Christian? If any scheme is proposed tending to promote the temporal convenience of mankind, any project for the advancement of science and literature, numbers at once come forward and offer their contributions. Is then the cause of Christianity the only cause which shall be suffered to languish through the want of funds for its support? It is not for us curiously to pry into the hidden counsels of the Almighty-it is not for us presumptuously to fix the commencement of that reign of universal peace, in the description of which the ancient Prophets delighted to employ all the force of inspiration-when the kingdom of Christ shall know no other bounds than those by which the habitable globe is circumscribed. But the Scriptures clearly point to a time when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea; and he who believes that the course of this world is ordered by the


The Rev. PROFESSOR SCHOLEFIELD observed, he had been struck in looking back on former periods of the world to observe how much of prayer, and how little, comparatively, of exertion there had been for the salvation of the heathen. far back as the days of David, King of Israel, the conversion of the world had always been an object near and dear to the hearts of God's people; but from that day to the present, always excepting the bright period of Apostolic missions, little had been done in furtherance of that object. Coming down to the period of our own Reformation, it might appear a matter of surprise that no effort was then made to extend the knowledge of the Gospel to the heathen; but then it should be remembered, that in that age all the energies of our Reformers were engaged, with the most intense and lively interest, in guarding their infant church against the domestic aggressions of Popery. But in the prayers which they have taught us to offer up for the heathen, they have left a pledge of what they would have done had they lived in days like ours. If we could go into the closets of a Cranmer, a Ridley, or a Hooper, we should learn what the Missionary zeal of our church should be. In former days our church had been standing, as it were, in a waiting posture, sword in hand, ready to go forth on hostile ground and plant the standard of the cross. If we neglect the opportunities now offered of forwarding the Gospel, we shall be without excuse, for there is a cry of "come over and help us." Should we, on any occasion, feel surprise at the apparent neglect of former times, let us take care that there may not be a painful contrast with our own days; and as former ages seem to have been times of prayer without exertion, let not ours be a period of exertion without prayer,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

always remembering the command of our Redeemer, "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest."

We are glad to report that the LICHFIELD Diocesan Committee, and the Societies for the Deaneries of ACKLEY and BLACKBURN, are labouring earnestly in the same cause; and we certainly will not omit to notice the public meeting lately held in the great room of the Guildhall, of the city of Bath. The friends of the cause in that city have always been distinguished for their zeal, and the crowded and respectable assembly at this meeting shews that their exertions do not flag.


6th February, 1828.-General Committee. New unions formed with Aysgarth, Yorkshire; Awre, Gloucestershire; Desborough, Northamptonshire; Horndean, Hampshire; Great Munden, Steeple, and Guilden Morden, Hertfordshire; Tamworth, Staffordshire; Wednesbury, Staffordshire;


THE IRISH BIBLE. We extract the following account of the origin, and of the different editions, of the Irish Bible from the Christian Examiner:

"In consequence of the great anxiety exhibited early after the Reformation, by the ministers of Queen Elizabeth, and by many pious persons, that the Bible should be translated into the native language of Ireland for the use of the people, that princess transmitted to this country a fount of Irish types, in hopes that God in mercy would raise up some to translate the New Testament into their mother tongue;' and that it was not long before that, animated by the facilities thus afforded, and urged by the lamentable experience of the want of such a work, William O'Donnel, or Daniel, Protestant Archbishop of Tuam, completed a version of the New Testament into Irish, which was said to have been commenced by Nehemiah Donnellan, his predecessor in that see. Of his competency for the task we have the testimony of Ware, who informs us, that he was indeed a man of distinguished learning;' and it was made from the original Greek, 'to which,' says the Archbishop in his dedication, 'I tied myself, as in duty bound.' The general fidelity and purity

The Lord Bishop of the diocese presided. His Lordship was supported by the Lord Bishop of Norwich, the Lord Bishop of Down and Connor, the Archdeacon of Bath, Sir Orford Gordon, Bart., Sir Abraham Elton, Bart., Hon. Captain Noel, R. N., Lieut.-Col. Daubeny, the Clergy of the district, and many excellent laymen; there was also a numerous assemblage of ladies. We regret we cannot report the many interesting speeches which were delivered on the occasion.

We are glad to observe that a district Committee of the Society has been established at Stow, in the diocese of Gloucester, under very favourable auspices.


Willand, Devonshire; Little Wiltenham, Berkshire; and Whichford, near Chipping Norton.

Grants.-Tamworth, 2001.; Everdon, Daventry, 20.; Horndean, 45l.; Awre, Gloucestershire, 150l.; and the grants formerly made to St. Martin's-in-the fields, augmented to 500%.


of this version have been acquiesced in for upwards of two centuries.

"The history of the translation of the Old Testament is as follows:- William Bedell, a man of peculiarly primitive piety and zeal, whose useful life has been deemed by the celebrated Bishop of Sarum, Dr. Burnet, to have been a subject worthy of his pen, was appointed by King James I. to the Provostship of Trinity College, Dublin, and subsequently to the then united bishopricks of Kilmore and Ardagh. Immediately upon his appointment, the Bishop endeavoured in every way to provide for the spiritual instruction of the poor people of his diocese, through the medium of the only language which they could well understand, or would willingly be instructed in; and, in order that he might be properly qualified to superintend a translation of the Old Testament into that tongue, he forthwith commenced its study in the 57th year of his age. He applied himself diligently to the task, and was soon enabled to officiate in it; to compose a complete grammar of it; and, finally, to superintend and revise the projected translation, which he committed to one King, who, as Burnet observes, 'was believed to be the elegantest writer

of the Irish tongue then alive, both for prose and poetry.' The same writer informs us, that the Bishop set himself so much to the revising of this work, that always after dinner or supper he read over a chapter; and, as he compared the translation with the English, so he compared the English with the Hebrew and Septuagint, or with Diodati's translation, which he valued highly; and he corrected the Irish where he found the English translators had failed.'

"Such is the history of this version, which has also for a long period of time been acquiesced in as sufficiently faithful and pure. It was scarcely to be expected, that persons more trustworthy and competent than Daniel or Bedell, should be raised up to accomplish these important works; I have already spoken of the competency of the former, and I shall add with respect to Bedell, that he was a pious and influential prelate, practically convinced of the importance of the task which he undertook; a laborious and enlightened scholar, especially suited to it by his thorough knowledge of languages, Hebrew in particular. But the great enemy of the word of God did not fail to attempt, in his usual form, to destroy this infant Hercules in his cradle, and by the very same arts with which he endeavours to check its efficacy now. 'It is scarcely to be imagined,' says Burnet,' what could have obstructed so great and so good a work; yet not only the priests of the Church of Rome, but reformed divines, were excited to a jealousy of this work, and to hard thoughts concerning it. This was done, but by a very well-disguised method; for it was said that the translator was a weak and contemptible man, and that it would expose such a work as this was to the scorn of the nation, when it was known who was the author of it: and this was infused both into the Earl of Strafford and into the Archbishop of Canterbury.' However, the falsehood of these accusations was amply proved at the time: Bedell completed the translation, and was proceeding to accomplish its publication, when the breaking out of the great rebellion of 1641, added to its other tremendous results the delaying for half a century the application of this sovereign balm to the festering wounds of this lacerated island.

"I shall now proceed with a succinct account of the several editions which have appeared of the Bible, thus rendered into Irish, and which were printed in the native character, to which I shall add some notice of those which are in preparation. There was an edition of the New Testament put forth, alınost immediately upon

its translation being finished; it was a small folio, scarcely above quarto size, and printed at the expense of Sir William Usher, and of the province of Connaught, A. D. 1602. The second edition of this portion of Scripture was published in 4to, in the year 1681, under the auspices of the celebrated Christian philosopher, Robert Boyle; and it was followed, in 1685, by the first edition of the Old Testament, printed also in 4to, through the instrumentality of the same illustrious individual.

"The MS. of Bedell's translation was preserved, as the ark of the Lord, in the spiritual inundation which deluged Ireland at his death. It came to the hands of Boyle, who may be termed the Bible Society of that age, and who exerted himself indefatigably and successfully towards its publication. He was encouraged and assisted in the work by many of the principal prelates of the day; he was aided also by the provost and vice-provost, and indeed by the entire body of the college, the head of which, at that time, was Dr. Narcissus Marsh, afterwards Primate of Ireland, an excellent Irish scholar, and author of a grainmar in that tongue. Boyle in his edition followed in the Old Testament the MS. of Bedell, with immaterial alterations; and in the New he copied the existing one of Daniel, with some slight deviations, of which I shall hereafter notice two that are important. It is to be observed of these ancient editions, that they were replete with typographical errors, a matter of no consequence now, as they are become mere bibliographical rarities."

"The first modern edition was the New Testament of the British and Foreign Bible Society, printed in 12mo, and stereotyped A. D. 1818. The editor was Mr. J. M'Quige. This edition follows the version of Boyle; and some errors which have been from time to time discovered have been corrected.

"Three new editions are now in the press. The first of these, an octavo, is printing for the British and Foreign Bible Society, by the King's printers in Dublin; the number of copies 5000. The last sheet is struck off, a table of errata is preparing, and it will probably be completed before this paper is read. The editor is Mr. M'Quige, under the superintendance of a committee of gentlemen, whose approbation is requisite before any verbal alteration can be introduced. version followed is that of Bedell, in the Old Testament, taken from Boyle's 4to; but admitting in the following cases the slight change of some words-first, where


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »