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terrors of the stake, the rack, the inquisition, were all employed to extinguish the light of revelation. And, had it been possible for the gates of hell to prevail against the truth-the truth had long since been obliterated from the face of the earth. It was not possible. All this antichristian influence, degeneracy, and abomination had been foretold. Its occurrence, therefore, added another series to the manifold existing evidences of the divine original of our holy religion. The word of Jehovah had been pledged that the gospel of his Son should prevail-and finally triumph over all opposition.
The dawn of this distant day of victory and triumph at length appeared, when the glorious work of the Reformation was achieved: und many fondly imagined that the universal reign of the Prince of peace was about to be established on the ruins of the Papal hierarchy. But Protestant Christendom soon exhibited symptoms, not to be mistaken, that the ancient leaven of uncharitableness, malice, pride and ambition was still fermenting within her bosom, and producing the same bitter fruits. Numerous opposing and rival sects speedily arose—and the world has been deluged with volumes of subtle speculations and rancorous controversy. Only the dawn of the bright day of Messiah's triumph, therefore, has as yet become visible. The gospel has ever since, indeed, been gaining ground-though with various fortune, at different periods. The clergy continued to preach, and to perform their arduous functions agreeably to the tenets and rules of their respective churches. But there existed no system of harmonious co-operation—no
bond of union-no mutual understanding-no kindly feeling among the brethren of different names. One was of Paul-another of Apollos-a third of Cephas-(1 Cor. i. 12.) They forgot that they were all of Christ. They would have no fellowship with each other. They were like a house divided against itself; and hence were feeble and powerless against the common enemy. They consumed their time and spent their strength in domestic broils and contests-instead of generously marshalling their forces under the one great captain, and courageously taking the field, determined, in the name of Jehovah, to conquer, or to die at their post.
It might have been expected that Protestants, who professed the greatest reverence for the Bible, would have spared no means or pains to extend the knowledge and the blessings of it among the people. Especially, after the invention of the arts of printing and of manufacturing paper had rendered the work as easy as it was simple and obvious.
Eighteen centuries however had rolled away since "peace on earth and good will toward men" (Luke, ii. 14) had been proclaimed by the angelic hosts who celebrated Messiah's advent, before it ever occurred to Christian men, as reasonable and feasible, to distribute the entire unadulterated records of one faith to the ignorant and the perishing. It was reserved for our own age and century to make this grand discovery-and to put into operation this simple but all-powerful machinery.
Until the year 1804, an association for the sole purpose of distributing the Bible, without note or comment,
to all the people, was unheard of. Towards the close of that memorable year was duly organized the British and Foreign Bible Society. It was immediately greeted with the approbation and good wishes of thousands of Christians of all denominations. It bore, as it were, a neutral flag—a flag of peace-of catholicism-of charity and love. It was Christian in its entire character, tendency and bearing. It exhibited the insignia of no party, and favoured the views and dogmas of no selfish, ambitious, bigoted or exclusive sect. It opened a field of active philanthropic enterprise, boundless in extent and in duration. It was designed and calculated to concentrate the energies of the Christian world to one grand and good work. It was the first step towards a better understanding among brethren of the same family-towards a better temper and spirit-towards nobler and more generous efforts in promoting the common cause of human happiness throughout the world.
Can it be credited that such a project should have been opposed at the beginning of this liberal and enlightened nineteenth century? Yes verily, it was opposed-opposed most fiercely and perseveringly; opposed too by men who ought to have known better-and from whom a different course might have been anticipated. But, in thus encountering opposition, it merely shared the usual fortune of all great, beneficent and useful plans and institutions. Every man, acquainted with the history of our world, knows that every enterprise undertaken for the welfare of mankind has been opposed. And this opposition is generally proportioned to the excellence of
the object in view. There are always men at hand ready to denounce, to misrepresent, to slander, and to thwart, as far as they can, whatever is virtuous, benevolent and praiseworthy. Many regard every improvement as a dangerous innovation; they fain would travel along as their grandsires had done before them; they are jealous of all reformers, and hostile to all changes. With such men it is vain to argue:-and happily for the world, their complaints and murmurs, their forebodings and predictions have little influence in impeding or retarding the march of human intellect and the melioration of human society. Multitudes oppose at first from ignorance and prejudice; but a successful experiment usually brings them, sooner or later, to a more correct judgment and temper. Others oppose from sheer malice-from downright wickedness; their oppoşition is deliberate and systematic; and never ceases while the means for maintaining it exist.
The parent Bible Society met with opposition from all these sources: nor has opposition ceased even to this day. Still, the cause has continued to prosper, and to advance far beyond the hopes and anticipations even of the most sanguine. Only twenty-two years have elapsed since this Society commenced its operations. During that period, it has aided, directly or indirectly, in printing, publishing, circulating or translating the Bible, in whole or in part, in 150 different languages and dialects. It has issued in Great Britain and on the Continent of Europe, not less, probably, up to this time, than six millions of copies of the sacred volume;—and, by societies
in connexion with it, a grand total of at least nine millions of copies. Its annual income is little short of half a million of dollars.
The first Bible Society organized in America was that of Philadelphia in 1808,. (Dec. 11.) The American Bible Society was instituted in May, 1816. It has been in operation ten years. Its present yearly income is above $50,000. It has issued, by this time, probably about 500,000 Bibles and Testaments. It numbers already among its auxiliaries not less than 600 societies in various parts of the Union.
There are, it is believed, from 1200 to 1500 Bible societies in the world. And these have issued, as nearly as we can estimate, between twelve and fifteen millions of Bibles and Testaments. Further details, time does not permit me to attempt. And these are not given as literally accurate. They are probably only approximations to the truth.
The objects of this Society are twofold. First, to supply our own domestic wants-to furnish every individual, at least every family, in Davidson County, with a Bible. Has this primary object been effected? Have we searched out the nakedness of the land-have we ascertained how many of our own fellow-citizens-of our neighbours, friends and acquaintances are still destitute of this inestimable treasure? If not-then have we hitherto neglected our first duty, and our most important duty. Let us immediately take this matter into our most serious consideration. Let us resolve-as did the Bible Society of Monroe County in New York, in refer