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timent, which recommend the work to the heart more than all the
“ When o’er the harp of thought, the passing wind
A world of wonders in the poet's breast.” p. 113.
The present volume contains some occasional pieces, of various merit. “The Peak Mountains” and the “ Departed Days” deserve to be more particularly noticed than our limits will allow us to do. In the principal poem Mr. Montgomery has certainly surpassed all his former efforts. He has built himself a name in a production “so written, that after times will not willingly let it die;" and as a poet he has this over and above, of being a Christian *,” on which Milton rested his hope of benefiting his country, as well as adorning its language, and which will secure for the author of the World before the Flood the respect and gratitude of posterity.
Symmons's Life of Milton, p. 192.
Art. VI.-The Advantages of distributing the Holy Scriptures
among the lower Orders of Society, chiefly by their own Agency. London. 1812.
GREAT instruments or discoveries are seldom perfected at once. They do not start full formed and armed for future achievements from the head of the inventor; but, struggling on perhaps through a feeble and laborious infancy, attain by slow degrees to manhood and vigour. Thus all those rare machines by which our manufacturers are enabled to outstrip the world, though their first principle and elementary construction may have been the work of a day, have not reached their present excellence but by tardy steps. Thus also in the discoveries of science : how vast the interval between the mere skeleton of the Newtonian system in a page of Bacon, to its full and perfect developement in the volumes of Newton! How vast even the additions made by this great philosopher himself to his first conquests on the empyreal plains; from his first doubtful solution of a solitary problem to the latter sections of his Principia, where he takes his station as “ high priest of nature”-as the interpreter of its mysteries—and where by a sort of influence, like that force of gravity which he describes, he seems to command systems and control the great machine of the universe! Other similar instances might be named: but perhaps few are more striking than that which is supplied in the pamphlet before us. The“ British and Foreign Bible Society" may be considered as the discovery and application of an entirely new instrument in religion. It is not indeed the discovery of a new principle, but the novel application of an obvious principle to a religious object. It is the first example, upon a large scale at least, of the various sects of Christians merging their subordinate differences in order to co-operate for a great general end. In physics,-in the production of the solar ray, we had seen the most important results obtained by combination. In politics in the mutual surrender of personal claims in our own mixed constitution, we had seen the same principle as successfully applied. But, in religion, such was the interruption produced by passion and prejudice, that men could not be brought to act in the same direction and by contemporaneous impulses. At length however, in the operations of the Bible Society, a sphere of common action has been found; and, as might have been expected, the effects are proportionably large. In eight years, half a million copies of the word of God
have been distributed channels of communication have been opened in every part of the world—the Apocalyptic vision is, in a measure, realized, and the angel carries the “everlasting gospel to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” But what was affirmed of other instruments is true also of this—that it has not started into maturity at once. It was some time before the plan was conceived of strengthening the hands of the parent society, either by auxiliary societies in the different counties, or by branch societies in the various towns in those counties. And this eloquent little pamphlet developes another scheme, promising we think a far larger accession of strength to the original society than is supplied by any of its precursors. This scheme we shall let the author describe in his own words. “ To complete the system which has comm
omenced, and been con. ducted with such happy results, no measure seems to have occurred of such reasonable promise as Bible associations. The contributors to the institution in London, and to its auxiliaries and branches in different parts of the country, consist in general of that class of persons who are somewhat elevated in the scale of society. It is the object of Bible associations to bring into action also the inferior classes ; to collect subscriptions not merely from the opulent, but likewise from that large body of the people who are unable to give much, and are yet not unwilling to give a little. If the number of contributors be great, the accumulation even of small sums will not be contemptible; and it may be presumed, that most persons, who are not absolutely in the lowest walks of life, can afford a subscription of a penny a week.
“A series of resolutions, recommended for adoption by Bible associations, are subjoined to this address. In illustration of that paper, ground, but its pillars are seen from afar, and its turrets sparkle in the skies."
be proper to observe, that while the committees of such as sociations are formed from the contributors themselves, yet the stimulus must be afforded by others. On the formation of an auxiliary or branch society, the members of the committee (under the designation sub-committees) should select certain districts for their own more immediate exertions, and endeavour to awaken the attention of the inferior classes to the importance of rendering whatever aid they can afford. It would be expedient to appoint a numerous committee for each association, in order that a greater interest may be excited, and that the wants of the poor may
be more accurately known. Certain members of the auxiliary or branch committees should also be appointed frequently to sit with the committees of Bible associations. A proper direction will thus be given to their efforts; a similarity of system will be maintained; and the parent society, with all its auxiliaries and dependencies, will thus present a perfect whole, correspondent in plan and united in harmony: a noble fabric, in which all the parts are combined at once for beauty and for strength; whose foundations are laid deep in the
The project then is simply this—to make the poor, and the classes immediately above the poor, the instruments for supplying their own religious instruction—to distil by drops a sufficient mass to constitute a reservoir for the spiritual wants of the nation. Lest we should be thought to over estimate the efficacy and importance of this new adjunct to the Bible Society, we shall state some of the grounds on which we have formed this judgment.
In the first place, independently of the principle peculiar to these associations, which is that of employing poor subscribers, they add to the extensive circulation of the scriptures by augmenting the funds employed for that end. The systems of taxation or excise in our own country, are well calculated to give a conception of the congregating power of those schemes in finance, which rely rather upon the number of contributors than the amount of the sum individually contributed. But, indeed, the vast augmentation of the funds of the Bible Society sufficiently attests the powers of their new ally. In Southwark alone, the penny contributions are said to produce some thousands sterling annually. And we observe, that in one country parish, the servants alone contribute, by these means, an annual donation of fifty pounds. To such a fund it is difficult to assign any limits. The collection of the mere superfluities of the rich must soon find insuperable checks, either in the limited number of the contributions, or in the general habit of expence which converts superfluities into necessaries. But where nations concur to give—to give of their substance—to give to all who need —the fund is of course likely to be commensurate to the wants or resources of human nature. There is scarcely any thing which the collected strength or benevolence of a whole people cannot accomplish. Spain has taught us one part of this proposition: and there is more than one instance upon record of nations being saved by popular contributions; where even the collected ear-rings and jewels of the ladies have accomplished more than the energies and capacities of the national exchequer.
But, again, by virtue of their peculiar principle they conduce to the more extensive circulation of the Scriptures; for there may be those among the
who would take a Bible from a poor neighbour sooner than from the rich.
Independently, however, of this tendency to promote the more extensive circulation of the Scriptures, by virtue of the principle peculiar to them they tend to promote the following effects :
In the first place they “ bless him that gives.” The poor subscriber acquires himself a new interest in those scriptures which he distributes to others. Can he neglect to read that which he so earnestly presses upon them? Will not every penny he gives be a sort of monitor to him to study the book for which it is paid? Remedies, as for example, vaccination, are sometimes Iong known to individuals before they are generally applied. The goodness of Providence, either by some striking event, or by leading the attention of some distinguished individual to them, often suddenly communicates an interest in things we should otherwise have continued to neglect. Such we conceive to be, in some measure, our present circumstances with regard to the Bible. This grand remedy for the evils of suffering nature, though near at hand, and not unknown to some, has been long neglected. At once, the nation is called to a public recognition of its value: at once, from the throne to the cottage, the people are summoned to lend their signatures to its truth and immeasurable value. “God gives the word," and we are rejoiced to say “great is the company" of those who “rise up to call it blessed." Multitudes have put their hand to this great charter of the happiness and real liberty of man. Multitudes subscribe to the truth of its doctrines, the wisdom of its precepts, and the brightness of its promises. But can all this fail, under the divine blessing, to impress those who thus act with the infinite importance of the scriptures? Have they not now new motives for the study of the Bible? Does not the man who now neglects it see not merely the “hand-writing on the wall” against him, but his condemnation written by his own hand. We confess that we anticipate no small benefit from this single circumstance, especially as it applies to the poor. If they once begin to read it, there is strong reason to hope they will read it more. They will find it adapted, not only by its nature, but by its very frame and manner, to their own understanding and condition. It is a peculiarity not sufficiently noticed with regard even to that part of the Bible usually considered as most obscure--the Jewish Scriptures—that they have one feature which eminently calculates them for the study of the unlearned. The obscurity of many books of human production arises from the variety of their technical imagery. The man familiar with many arts, sciences, events, and countries, is apt to lay them all under contribution to adorn or illustrate bis subject. But these images to the ignorant man, are more obscure than the dryest reasoning. He cannot follow the attempt to explain one topic, of which he knows little, by a figure of which he knows less. Now the imagery of the Bible is remarkable for its simplicity: it is bor