Page images

duly reflected upon the eminent the Gospel as a just obstacle to his wisdom displayed in the divinely appointed connexion between Christian faith, Christian knowledge, and Christian obedience; or who may have thought the arguments for the Gospel weakened rather than strengthened by this union of appeal to the heart and the understanding. It may be consoling also to the diffident Christian who perhaps finds his faith sometimes endangered, when he hears of persons of alleged powerful minds and great attainments rejecting the Gospel, or any of its essential peculiarities, to reflect that they could never have examined into its claims and character aright; for that, even if they applied their intellect to the investigation, they were deficient in those teachable dispositions, those conscientious efforts to obey the known will of God, and those earnest aspirations for the instructions of his Holy Spirit, which the all-wise Founder of Christianity has rendered absolutely necessary for appreciating its merits; a circumstance quite consistent with our views of the character of God, and in full accordance with the fact of mankind being in a state of spiritual discipline and probation.

Where is there to be found a deliberate infidel, or a confirmed advocate for any grossly heterodox doctrine, who, by the union of a spirit of prayer and devotion, of reverential fear of God, a conscientious dread of misinterpreting any alleged statement of his will, a humble distrust of his own judgment, and a determination not to be swayed by his passions or preconceived opinions, is really qualified to decide upon the doctrines of holy writ? But how stands the case with such an inquirer as has been before described? Does he hear of mysteries in religion? He knows that the world is full of mysteries; and he is too well assured of the unsearchableness of God, and the narrow limits of his own understanding, to view the mysteries of

belief: indeed, he would rather be inclined to distrust a professedly Divine Revelation which should contain nothing beyond what was fathomable by the feeble powers of a short-lived and imperfect being like himself. It does not therefore shock his mind to believe, that though there is but "one living and true God," yet that "in the unity of this Godhead there be three persons of one substance, power, and eternity,-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Convinced again by daily experience of the powerful tendency of his own heart to gravitate to the world and its vanities; of the manifold temptations to sin which beset him, and of the feebleness of his best unassisted endeavours to resist them; he is prepared to understand and to admit, that "man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil;" that "this infection of nature doth remain yea in them that are regenerated;" that we are at our best estate "miserable sinners;" that "there is no health in us" that "we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves," and that we cannot "turn and prepare ourselves by our own natural strength and good works to faith and calling upon God." Thus penitently convinced of his real condition by nature, and disposed to receive the testimony of God as it unfolds itself to his understanding and conscience, such an inquirer will gratefully perceive the close adaptation of Christianity to the necessities of those for whose benefit it is revealed; and will find a powerful incidental argument for its truth and Divine origin, in that consolatory doctrine, that "the Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man's nature;" and in this nature "truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice not only for original

guilt, but also for the actual sins of men;" and, further, that "we are accounted righteous before God only for the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works and deservings." (2d Art.) At the same time, anxious to obey the will of God, and prepared, by holy dispositions of heart and moral habits of life, to make a disinterested judgment in those matters of faith which relate to our submission to the Divine commands, he perceives nothing to lead him to suppose that this fundamental tenet of Scripture, this foundation-stone of our own church, has any licentious tendency; or that it is otherwise than " a most wholesome doctrine,"

as well as "very full of comfort." Far from feeling inclined to take advantage of it with a view to sin in order that grace may abound, he is conscious from his daily experience of its sanctifying tendency; his faith, in proportion as it is "true and lively," he finds to be "necessarily productive of good works;" so that he perceives the wisdom of the Divine arrangement in securing the interests of morality by means of that very dispensation which reveals free and unmerited pardon, justification, and salvation to every true believer, in virtue of the obedience unto death of his all-sufficient Surety.



SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE. IN presenting the Report of its proceedings during the last year, the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge begins with returning thanks to the Giver of all good for continued support, and an increasing -sphere of usefulness.

The number of books and tracts delivered from the Society's stores for the year amounted to 1,474,067; being an excess of 5,712 Bibles, 8,377 Testaments and Psalters, 7,028 Common Prayer Books, 15,705 bound books, and 119,570 half bound (a total of 156,292) above the preceding year. The receipts for the year have been 62,3871. from ordinary sources, unassisted by large donations or legacies; the expenditure also consists of payments in immediate prosecution of the Society's designs; which circumstances prove that the increasing exertions of the Society produce increased demands upon its funds, and that even its present large income is not more than sufficient to meet its unavoidable expenses.

The removal of the office from Bartlett's Buildings to Lincoln'sInn Fields, has been attended with many advantages; and among others an increased attendance of members at the monthly general meetings.

During the year, much attention has been devoted to the revision of the Society's books and tracts. On this subject, the Report states, that the length of time which has elapsed since many of these works were adopted, and the changes which have subsequently taken place among all ranks of society, have shewn both the necessity of some alteration, and the extent to which such alteration should be carried. Those works which, after mature examition, are considered unsuited to the present wants of the people will be suffered to remain out of print ; while others which are partly of a similar description, will be offered in an abridged form for the especial use of the Society. Thus it is hoped, without any sudden or violent

change, the Society will be gradually disencumbered of works which have served to swell its catalogue to an inconvenient bulk, without producing a corresponding advantage to the public. It is calculated that a fourth part of the books and tracts have been submitted to this revision, and that the task will be completed in the course of two or three years. In the mean time, the Society will gladly avail itself of the best new tracts which may be submitted to its choice, especially of short and plain expositions of Christian doctrine and duty.

We think it of great importance to call the attention of those of our readers who are members of the Society to the foregoing statement. There can be no doubt that a general revision of the Society's tracts has long been needed: some may be well spared, others require alteration or abridgment, and new ones may also be desirable; but, judging both on sound principle and by past experience, it is not without apprehension that we contemplate a measure of the kind now in progress, at least till we are assured. that the individuals selected for the important office of revision are so chosen as fairly to represent the general voice of the friends of the Society, and that the most scrupu lous care will be taken to admit no change in a spirit of party, or with reference to those differences of opinion which are known to exist among the members of the institution and of our common church. We should especially object to un acknowledged changes of a doctrinal kind in some of the older tracts, es pecially where the name and authority of the writer are a guarantee for the sentiments contained in his works; a licence most justly com plained of in the Society's Family Bible. We are also alarmed at the idea of superseding any of the Society's standard publications by such modern specimens of divinity as in some instances have unhappily found their way upon its list. We, CHRIST. OBSERV. APP.

however, speak only hypothetically; for a revision well and impartially executed would be a benefit; but we trust that the members will demand, or rather that the committee of revision will spontaneously present, a full and specific report of the exact nature and amount of the changes which they propose for the Society's adoption. The painful discussions, a few years since, respecting baptism and regeneration, shew the necessity of a full explanation on the subject, to prevent a division of opinion which might be fatal to the best interests of the institution.

Additions have also been made to the books of amusement and instruction, upon the supplemental catalogue. The great demand for scientific and mechanical information has induced the Society to adopt two well-known works upon these subjects; Conversations on Chemistry, and Conversations on Natural Philosophy. It is intended to follow up this step by the circulation of other books of a similar description. We are not convinced of the expediency of a very extended enlargement of this part of the Society's plans, as the funds of the institution are specifically subscribed for promoting-not scientific, but Christian knowledge; and the former may be equally well or better obtained through other channels.

Two editions of the New Testament in Welsh have been adopted, and a third is in preparation with the Welsh and English in parallel columns. An edition of the first five homilies in Welsh has also been procured. Welsh translations have also been published of various other tracts.

Gratuitous grants of books to the amount of 690l. have been sent to New South Wales, the Cape of Good Hope, to Demerara, and other foreign stations.

[ocr errors]

The Society has great pleasure in noticing the important and liberal measures which have been taken for supplying the religious wants of

5 L

the army. His Majesty's Government, as our readers are aware, have resolved to furnish every soldier who can read with a Bible and Book of Common Prayer; and at the request of the Chaplain-general the Society most readily consented to co-operate in this good work. Very large supplies of Bibles and Books of Common Prayer suited for the use of soldiers are now in a course of delivery.

The proceedings of the Society in London have been zealously seconded by the Diocesan and District Committees; and, with their assistance, a very considerable progress has been made in many branches of the Society's undertakings. The sale of books and tracts to the public has been adopted in many parts of the kingdom with great success. In every diocese in the kingdom, the circulation of the Society's books has increased. No branch of the Society's proceedings partakes more largely of the general prosperity than the Parochial Lending Libraries. It is supposed that about 800 of them are now regularly established, of which more than a third have been instituted since the last Report. Every week brings intelligence of additions to the number.

New committees have been form ed during the last year, at Uxbridge, Mortlake, Wandsworth, Harrow, Lyme Regis, Warrington, Ross, Sawley, Antigua, Grenada, and St. Kitt's.

After this sketch of its domestic proceedings, the Society next advert to the foreign occurrences of the year; the most important of which relate to the East-India Mission. The Board having taken into consideration the present state of this mission, and being desirous of adopting measures for providing more effectually than could be done by this Society for the extension of missionary objects in British India, have resolved that the management and superintendence of the Society's mission in Southern India be transferred to the Society for the Propa

gation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. It appears from the earliest proceedings of the Society, that its constitution was not considered fit for the establishment of extensive missions; to meet which difficulty its principal members obtained a charter of incorporation for the institution just mentioned. Subsequently the Danish Mission College at Copenhagen established a mission, for which this Society received and transmitted benefactions. The mission gradually extended to Vepery, Tanjore, Trichinopoly Tinnavelly, Cuddalore, Madura, and Ramnad. And this Society's connexion with it became more and more intimate, until eventually several of the missionaries were adopted as missionaries of the Society; and the mission stations at Vepery, Tanjore, Trichinopoly, and Tinnavelly, were made over to it by the Danish College. Such was the origin of the Society's India Mission. The undertaking has been blessed with no ordinary measure of success. Several of the missionaries who have been employed are famous throughout the Christian world. The congregations of native Christians in the neighbourhood of Madras, estimated upon good authority at 20,000 souls, owe their existence in a great measure to the Society; and the appearance of their villages, when contrasted with that of the pagan towns by which they are surrounded, is described by an eye-witness as a most affecting proof of the good that has been actually accomplished, and as an encouragement to persevere in missionary labours. But still the establishment of this mission was an experiment upon a comparatively small scale; and the Society did not feel itself enabled even by success, to extend its care to the whole of Hindostan, although it resolved not to relinquish the work in which it had been engaged. The Society considered that they could not do more, while no public countenance was given to Christianity, and even the European inhabitants of Asia were most inadequately provided


Society for promoting Christian Knowledge.

with religious instruction. But by the erection of the See of Calcutta, a vast field was opened to the missionary labours of the Church of England. Soon after the arrival of Bishop Middleton in the East, the establishment of committees, under his lordship's sanction, placed the Society in direct communication with every part of India; the So ciety's mission in Southern India was enlarged; and, subsequently, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel founded, and endowed, on the bishop's suggestion, a mission college at Calcutta, towards the erection of which this Society contributed the sum of 5,000l. together with a grant of 6,000l. for the endowment of scholarships, on the plan of the late Bishop Middleton. The consequences have been highly satisfactory. Bishop's College has been completed, and is now in action under the patronage A of the bishop of the diocese. principal and two professors have been appointed: the former is already employed in the assiduous discharge of his duties, and the latter have departed for their destination. Missionary stations are selected. European missionaries and native catechists and teachers are engaged; others are under education in the College; translations of Scripture, and various works in the Oriental languages have been begun; and the institution, even in this early stage, may be considered the greatest Protestant establishment that has been formed for the conversion of the East. The Diocesan and District Committees of this Society have also been very successful. They have distributed the Scriptures and the Liturgy in large numbers. They have estaan extensive blished schools on plan; and they are regularly employed in translating tracts into the Eastern languages, and printing them for the use of the native scholars.

The union now adopted will concentrate the missionary efforts of


the two societies, and ensure to
the mission in the South of India a
regular supply of missionaries, cate-
chists, and schoolmasters educated
at Bishop's College.

So convinced is the Society of
the importance of native schools.
in India, that it has determined to
establish a separate fund for their
support, and has appropriated the
sum of 5,000l. to that purpose. An
anonymous benefaction of 1,000/.
has been added to this fund, and
several other handsome contributions
have been subsequently received.


The Calcutta Committee have
continued to supply all the European
stations in the East, their churches,
schools, hospitals, and prisons, with
Bibles, Prayer-books, and religious
tracts. Captains of ships, and other
marine officers, are also frequently
supplied with the word of God and
other books from its depository, at
the reduced prices, or gratuitously,
for the use of their crews.
Committee, it is added, "are not
without instances of good derived
by various persons, in a spiritual
point of view, from its public ser-
vices." With regard to its second
object, the education of the heathen,
the Calcutta Committee have pur-
sued the plan of Bishop Middleton,
who maintained that the inculcation
of Christian principles on the na-
tives would be the only safe and
of securing to
certain measure
Britons their Oriental possessions.
In this department of its labours
the Committee experience an in-
creasing satisfaction; and, in refer-
ence to it, they remark, that much
good has already been accom-
plished to an amount exceeding
their most sanguine expectations.
Parents are every where percep-
tibly laying aside their preju-
dices, and growing more and more
anxious to have their children edu-
cated. The morality of the Gospel
is now at length regularly incul-
cated in the minds of the scholars,
who read, with the permission and
concurrence of their parents and
religious guides, as their daily task,

5L 2

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »