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THE BIBLE SOCIETY-AND THE CHEAP SCRIPTURES.
anything should be so cheap that the poorest of mankind might easily possess it, it is the Scriptures. Believing that man is an immortal and accountable being—that the Bible is divinely inspired—and that it contains the knowledge of the only way of salvation for our fallen race, we must advocate its universal circulation, and British Christians ought not to feel satisfied with their past efforts in the Bible cause, until every family in Great Britain and Ireland, possess, at least a copy of the New Testament.
The British and Foreign Bible Society is, we believe, most desirous to convey the sacred gift to every family. It has recently made two important experiments with the view of effecting it; the one on a limited scale, which has succeeded, the other on a larger scale, which for the present has failed. The first of these was the loan of a copy of the New Testament and Psalter to every family in London found destitute of the Scriptures, which was accomplished, and thus by this noble Institution were the necessities supplied (as to the possession of the Word of God) of oneeighth of the whole population of England at a cost of above 3,0001. The following notice from the last - Monthly Extracts" published by the Bible Society, will explain the nature of the second experiment, and the ground of its failure :
“ IMPORTANT NOTICE. “ The Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society“while they greatly rejoice at the extended circulation of the "Scriptures, through the sale of the Nonpareil Bibles at 1s. 6d. « and the Brevier Testaments at 6d.-have found that sale so
greatly to exceed the calculations they were able to make at the “time (the consequent loss in six months having been not less " than 12,4941. 105. 2d.), that they have deemed it necessary to "suspend, for the present, the operation of the measure of Feb. 1, "1840; not feeling themselves justified in making a further
appropriation of the funds of the Society to this particular object.
“ Orders received for the above Bibles and Testaments up to “ the 10th of August will be executed, but none after that date.
(By order of the Committee,)
Secretaries." We deeply regret this announcement, although we fully expected it by the expiration of the year. The Society, though better supported now than at any former period, was not in a condition to expose itself to an indefinite demand for Bibles and Testaments, on which such a heavy loss must necessarily be sustained. It is not to the credit of British Christians that an Institution to which all our Foreign and Home Missionary Societies and our Sunday-schools make application for supplies of the Sacred Volume, should last year have received in annual subscriptions only 1,9141. 198. 2d., and in free contributions from auxiliaries only 33,2201. 8s. 8d. The donations and other sources of revenue, except legacies and the interest of money in the funds, amounted to 2,9961. 14s. 2d., and the whole year's income was therefore only 38,1321. 2s.;* an income more than doubled by each of the great Missionary Societies--the London, the Church, and the Wesleyan.
The present times especially require that the Word of God, “ without note or comment,” should be freely distributed through
out the land. Last year the Socialists put into circulation about X 2,000,000 copies of their publications: and one weekly newspaper,
the advocate of everything that is corrupt, irreligious, and Infidel, has an average weekly circulation of 65,385 copies. Should Christians slumber, while the enemies of God and of man are thus actively distributing their moral poison, to enervate and destroy our population ? But beside the very extensive circulation of Infidel, obscene, and immoral publications (a circulation much larger than the generality of Christians have any idea of), there is a great necessity for increased efforts by Christians, and it will be still greater, originating in the progress of education. Our prospects are brightening in respect to the great blessing of universal education, and if anything can cloud them, it would be that the poorest child when able to read, should find the New Testament beyond his reach.
There are three things which, from their great importance, we should like to see effected as speedily as possible. The first is, the income of the Bible Society doubled or trebled. The second, every family in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland, not
* The legacies amounted to 15,7361. 19s. 5d., and the dividends on stock, &c., 2,1741. 3s. 5d., making a total applicable to the general purposes of the Society of 56,043.. 4s. 10d. ; while the GRANTS amounted to 52, 1301. 6s. 9d. The money received on account of the sale of Bibles forms no part of its INCOME.
possessing the Scriptures, put in possession of the New Testament, upon the plan adopted for London, and by the liberality of the Christians of Bristol, applied also to that city; and the third, that the cost price of all editions of the Bible and Testament adapted for general circulation should be reduced to the lowest possible charge.
The first of these would enable the Bible Society to effect the two latter; and it is not too much to expect that there are 200,000 or 300,000 Christians at home and abroad, favourable to the catholic principle of the Bible Society, who could each give or collect the small sum of ten shillings annually, in aid of its funds ; by which means the wants of home would be well supplied, and an important fund available for the Continent and for Heathen lands.
The following fact is startling, but its accuracy can be proved by the reader in two minutes. The Infidel paper to which we have alluded has, on the average, a weekly circulation of 65,385 copies, at sixpence per copy.
The produce of one week's sale is therefore 1,634l. 12s. 6d., which sum multiplied by fifty-two (the number of weeks in the year), gives a total of 85,000l. 10s. ! ! paid by the PUBLIC for the perusal of one of the most objectionable papers issuing from the press.
What must be the state of the public mind ? and what are the contributions of Christians to our Bible and Home Missionary Societies to correct this debased state of public feeling ? ON
ALLUDED TO, WOULD EMPLOY 300 MISSIONARIES FOR LONDON! AND ANOTHER FOURTH PART OF IT WOULD SUPPLY EVERY FAMILY IN ENGLAND FOUND WITHOUT THE SCRIPTURES WITH A COPY OF THE New Testament! Are CHRISTIANS acting AS IF THEY BELIEVED CHRISTIANITY TO BE TRUE?
Whether or not, the plan adopted by the Bible Society were the best, with its very limited resources, is a question of some importance. It was evidently considered to be preferable to any other. It has, however, always appeared to us to be the most expensive, and the least satisfactory method of supplying the destitute with the sacred volume. By the loan system the books are rendered unsaleable by stamping the title and last pages—the poorest and most destitute are supplied -persons who oppose the Scriptures, and who would not give sixpence for a Testament, receive them (and many such have been greatly blessed by the recent distribution in London)--and correct statistical information as to the wants and supply of every locality is furnished to the Parent Society. The work is done systematically; and the documents showing the manner in which it has been executed, are always available for a future examination of the places that have been supplied. None of these advantages are connected with the plan of merely reducing the cost price. The books may be sold again, and they are already at a premium: some of
FOURTH PART OF THE SUM PAID AN
the most needy cannot afford to pay even the sixpence.* Neither the Infidel nor the Catholic will purchase them, and nothing approaching to a systematic supply can be depended on.
The first object of the Bible Society, especially with its very limited income, should be to supply the most destitute ; and then, if it has it in its power, to supply the different members of a family, and the children of all our schools, at the lowest possible price. The population of London, in round numbers, is 2,000,000 of persons, or 400,000 families, as nearly as can be calculated. Oneeighth, or about 50,000 families were found to be destitute of a page of Scripture by the recent investigation of the Metropolis. Nearly 40,000 copies of this destitution were generously supplied by the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the remainder by other institutions. It is well known that, until lately, the country was better supplied with the Scriptures than London. The population of England is, in round numbers, about 16,000,000, or about 3,200,000 families. Supposing the destitution of the country to be equally large with that of London, 400,000 families would each have to be supplied with a copy of the New Testament; which, if it cost the Society one shilling per copy, would amount only to 20,0001. From this sum, however, we have to deduct about 3,0001., the amount already expended in the supply of London; but that our estimate may be extreme, we say 20,0001. would supply every destitute family in England with a copy of the Word of God. Already the loss sustained by the Parent Society is 12,494l. 10s. 2d. Such a sum may appear to militate against the accuracy of our calculations, but the following cases will explain it:-In the one case, if a family of six or eight members were destitute, one copy would be given by the Bible Society, and the expense would be one shilling it but every member of the family in the other case might purchase a copy; and supposing they were six in number, the books would have cost the Society 6s. 6d., and the loss upon them would be 3s. 6d.
If the funds had been adequate to sustain the plan of reducing the cost price, there would still have existed some disadvantages. We rejoice, however, that such a large circulation of the Scriptures has been the result, and that a kindred Society of greater wealth has followed, and even exceeded the example of the British and Foreign Bible Society, by reducing the price of the Testaments to 5d., and of the Bible to ls. 4d. We trust that the Committee of the Bible Society will be encouraged and sustained by the liberal contributions of the friends of the Bible throughout the kingdom. A revision of their plan may possibly take place. A special appeal should be made to supply the present deficiency, and to complete the supply of the destitute of all England with the New Testament. Christians of all denominations would be interested in the supply of their several localities. The noble conduct of a few excellent men at Bristol * would be imitated in many other places, and not a few would be glad of the opportunity of paying for the supply of their destitute neighbours. The present agency of the Bible Society could easily direct the necessary arrangements, and by May, 1842, the Committee might have to report that not only all England, but Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, universally possessed the Scriptures.
* There is a remarkable case in illustration of this, recorded in page 156 of this number of the Magazine. The value in which the Scriptures were held is attested by the fact, that everything had been parted with except the loan Testament. Very many instances have occurred in which persons were too poor to have paid even sixpence for them.
+ Perhaps the cost-price, in strong cloth, would be less, as the bound copies cost only ).s. Id.
Could we help in any way the funds or the agency of the Bible Society, we should be most happy to do it. The movements of the London City Mission have, to a great extent, originated these movements in the Bible cause, and our great anxiety is that they should be perfected in the most systematic, economical, and efficient manner. There is a most unfounded notion prevailing, that the Bible Society is rich, and does not want money. It is the reverse of the truth. What can an average of 40,0001. or 50,0001. annually (including legacies) do for the continual supply of home and of the world ? The claims of the Bible must arouse us all to the solemn duty of circulating it to the utmost. We cordially agree with the following remarks by an esteemed clergyman, when writing to us on this subject :-“I am decidedly of opinion that the Bible Society, being a neutral one, and formed upon a basis on which every Christian may stand without any compromise of principle, and benefiting alike all denominations, is most miserably, most niggardly, supported by the Christian public. I think it is a sad reflection upon the professedly religious portion of the Church of Christ in this country, that laying aside minor considerations, they do not heartily cooperate for the universal distribution of the Scriptures. The Bible Society, be it remembered, is the parent of all other societies, for it takes care of them, and provides them in their necessities with the bread of life and the water of life. Its income ought to equal the united incomes of the different Missionary Societies; and it would, if the supporters of Missionary Societies considered well their duty, and how they are by their own proceedings creating a demand for the Scriptures in all their Missionary stations. Oh! I wish I had in this respect the hearts of all professing Christians under
my command, and I would enlist every man, of every denomination, in behalf of its magnanimous object. I do wish the good of all parties would come out decidedly and generously to its help; if they do
* In August last every visitable house in Bristol to which admittance could be obtained, amounting to 9,899, was visited, and only 1,747 families were found without the Scriptures. This destitution was immediately supplied by a few liberal men ordering a sufficient number of copies of the Bible Society to supply the defi. ciency, without any loss, we believe, to the Parent Society.