« EelmineJätka »
benighted tribes of the earth, not only consults the eternal interests of his fellow-creatures, which, indeed, ought to be the paramount object of his consideration, but he sows the seeds of civilization, learning, and liberty, which will certainly, though perhaps but slowly, spring up, and cover the face of the world with fruit.
There can, in reality, be no dispute about the excellence and propriety of this species of benevolence, of this labour of love, among those who believe the Scriptures to be the word of God, and to contain those doctrines, the knowledge and belief of which are necessary to the salvation of men. It is no unusual thing, indeed, to hear ignorant and conceited persons, who have never given themselves any trouble to read and understand the Bible, declaim against the spirit of evangelizing the nations, which has gone forth among all classes of Christians. The abuses made of the charitable donations of Bible Societies, the great difficulties in the way of removing the prejudices of stupid and bigoted pagans, are the usual topics on which these persons are accustomed to enlarge, forgetting that all great and permanent effects are slowly produced, and that the employment of the best means of attaining an object is often unavoidably accompanied with partial inconveniences. When the husbandman casts his seed into the ground at the proper season, trusting in the superintending power and providence of God, who rules the course of nature, and produces the return of spring, summer, and harvest, in their regular order, by an established law, he acts the part which sacred philosophy, as well as religion, enjoins. · He knows that it is probable the birds of the air may devour a part of the seed, that some part of it may
die away beneath the clod, or that the rapacious reptile may nip the opening blade ; but he sows his seed, notwithstanding, in the hope and the assurance of a certain increase. Whatever objections may be raised by those who are disaffected to the cause of truth and religion, all those who con sider it to be their duty to cherish and promote this laudable zeal for the propagation of true religion, are anxious to extend the sphere of its operations far and wide.
There is something apparently incongruous, and really painful, in stating any circumstances that iend to diminish the feeling of pleasure that naturally arises in the breast of a benevolent inan, on contemplating this general movement of the public mind in favour of imparting the Scriptures to the uninstructed nations of the world. It cannot however, have escaped the notice of the most superficial observer, that many persons show an active zeal in the support of Bible Societies, who yet do not appear to give any practical and substantial evidence that they are themselves lovers of the Sacred Book. That charity which thinketh no evil, would incline us to believe that every individual who contributes a part of his wealth, to convey the Bible to distant regions for the benefit of their poor and idolatrous inhabitants, should duly estimate the worth of that gift which he is desirous of communicating, as his most valuable donation, to others. The present which he thus makes may do much good; and it would be criminal in him to withhold it, when it is in his power to bestow such a blessing; but experience and observation tell us, that the donor is often ignorant of the value of the boon which he confers.
Is it to be supposed that we esteem this book highly, when we seldom or never look into its contents ? On the contrary, would we not rather, if our admiration of it were great, sedulously, patiently, and cheerfully, devote ourselves to the reading of it, that we might thoroughly understand what in formation it conveys, what sentiments it inculcates, and what spirit it breathes, that our whole souls might be filled, influenced, and spoulded into a proper state and temper, by the doctrines alpi principles which it contains ? Without knowledge the heart is not good, and the divine knowledge which the word of God communicates, must be sought for as for hid treasures. Those who are inspired with a love of secular learning, and have no other aim than the gratification of an awakened and ardent curiosity, or the obtaining a place in the records of fame, consider no sacrifice too great in order to accomplish these purposes.
The dedication of time, health, recreation, and sleep, are all too little, when put into competition with the attainments of those stores of knowledge which they are so earnestly desirous of acquiring. This devotedness of scholars and philosophers to the objects of their pursuits is so natural, that the world augurs unfavourably of any person who pretends to addict himself to the study of letters or science, and who does not exhibit in bis conduct more or less of this ardour and application. It seems, however, to be a pretty general opinion, that no
particular study is requisite in order to understand the Bible. Some persons,
it may be, having been accustomed to read it at school, in their early years, or under the immediate care of their parents, think that they knew all about its contents long ago, and, under the vain idea of the superior progress which they have made in wisdom and knowledge, leave the examination of it to more youthful, or less intelligent minds than their own. Others there may be, probably, who never once read the Scriptures throughout in any regular and careful
way, and so can never have any conception of the majesty, purity, power, and harmony of all, and the several parts of the sacred books. Some, it is likely there may be, who, from ignorance and prejudice, entertain doubts of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, or are enemies to their peculiar doctrines, and, of course, either carelessly read them or wholly neglect them; while, thinking it a good thing, upon the whole, for society to encourage the circulation of the Bible, they do yet concur with the truly benevolent in their endeavours to promote that object. The practice of such persons, and of all others who neglect the study of the Bible, from mere indolence and lukewarmness of feeling, is most unsuitable, and indefensible, and wholly at variance with the acknowledged and legitimate mode of proceeding in every other case that is of the smallest degree of importance. It is not that easy and trivial thing to attaintia competent acquaintance with the Scriptures, of which many ignorantly dream. While the great doctrines and daties which they contain are expessed in few, simple, and intelligible terms, so that persons of the meanest capacities may receive, believe, and obey the truth, the whole compass of revelation, in all its parts, relations, and connexions, forms a field of inquiry and sublime gratification to minds of the very highest and most cultivated order.
No man ever get acquired a sound and extensive acquaintance with the things of religion, without bestowing great, laborious, and long continued exertion, in the study of the Bible. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive the character of a real Christian, who does not make the book of God his daily companion, counsellor, and guide ; who does not love it more than all other books in the world put together, or, who does not derive his principal satisfaction from other writings and pursuits, only in so far as they tend to illustrate and esta
blish its genuine meaning and importance. How incongruous, how inconsistent is it, then, for professing Christians to feel languor and insupportable weariness of spirit, when custom, or a sense of propriety, induces them to open the sacred volume, while their hearts flutter with joy, and their eyes sparkle with vivacity, at the prospect of procuring the pleasure of a perusal of some new and fashionable novel or romance! This disposition of things indicates a diseased and dangerous state of religious and moral feeling, and is perhaps more frequently to be found than may at first view be imagined. Here, we may ask, can any individual, who is conscious of neglecting the study of the book of God, consistently advocate the cause, and promote the interests of those Societies, whose object it is to convey the Scriptures to every nation under heaven? 'Instances of this inconsistency are not very rare, and it is probable that the persons who stand chargeable with this offence, do really prove of little utility to the great cause in which they protess to embark. The man who seriously wishes to advanice the progress of true religion and knowledge in the world, must, in order to be successful in his endeavours, give unquestionable evidence that he is himself a lover and reader of the Bible, and a person who, in the whole tenor of his conduct, acts on the principles which it inculcates, and feels the sentiments which it inspires. One principal advantage likely to accrue from the general interest now taken in the proceedings of Bible Societies, is the reflection that naturally arises in the minds of the thoughtless and inconsiderate, on the importance attached to the knowledge of the Scriptures by so large and honourable a body of persons of all classes throughout Christendom, and which may produce an impression on their feelings that will ultimately lead them to a more accurate examination of the sacred book than they ever undertook before.
The Bible has much to recommend it in a general point of view, to persons of capacity, intelligence, and taste, independently of the consideration of its divine origin, and paramount importance to every reasonable and immortal being In the interesting study of the sacred volume, the admirer of the sublime and beautiful, in sentiment and expression, will find his taste fully gratified. The most splendid and fascinating fictions of ancient poetry, the most animated histories of important events in Pagan antiquity, and the most alluring
works of modern imagination and fancy, sink into insignificance and insipidity, when compared with the noble and naked simplicity of Scripture truths and descriptions. It argues an utter perversion of real taste, and gross ignorance of the subject, to conclude, as too many do, that the study of the Bible tends to subdue the intellectual faculties, and to introduce a low and vulgar commonness of spirit into well educated and genteel life. To convince every one that this is a mistaken notion, it is only necessary for him to make the experiment: and it might also be disproved, by a reference to the examples of some of the most powerful and cultivated intellects that ever illumined and adorned the world. Volumes might be written on this subject, and the materials yet remain unexhausted. The improvement of the understanding, the cultivation of the taste, and the gratification which the history, the poetry, and the beautiful and perfect system of morality contained in the Bible, are calculated to yield to the man of refined and elegant literature, cannot, however, be viewed as the most important object which ought to be pursued in the prosecution of the sacred study of the Scriptures.
Such remarks are made, only with a design, if possible, to remove the prejudice which is so strongly felt by men of taste and learning against the study of the Bible, though indeed the real cause of this dislike to the Holy Scriptures of truth, is much more deeply seated than either in the understanding, or the fancy.
YEARS AND TEN MONTHS, DAUGHTER OF A DISTINGUISHED CLER-
but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” John xii. 24. During the time that persecution raged against the Church of Christ, it was well observed, that “the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church :" but now that “ the Churches have rest, and are established,” it pleases God in his manifold wisdom still to try his people by various afflictions, and to make the heirs of salvation partakers of the sufferings of their crucified Redeemer. But these afflictions are for the most salutary purposes. Thus, while we see the bereaved parent, husband, friend, brethren, or sisters, weeping over the tomb of one dear to them as their own life, may we not behold from that tomb children raised unto Abraham? 'The present Memoir, being the substance of a letter written by the be