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Dr. Thomson opens his pleading by declaring the question involved in the discussion to be important beyond any thing, ' which ever engaged the attention of the Christian world;' and in support of this most extravagant assertion, he represents the question as referring to a species of abuse · which affects 'the very foundation of our hope, and which, after all the ad* miration avd gratitude with which the British and Foreign • Bible Society has been contemplated, leaves it doubtful whe'ther we have not more reason to lament the evil it has committed, * than to rejoice at the good it has accomplished.' Such is the spirit, such the views with which this champion enters the • lists,' to use his own phrase, with the London Committee. Unhappily, however, he is not alone. Mr. Robert Haldane, a man of a very different temper, and whose only fault appears to spring from his being somewhat too much attached to his own opinions and his own way of doing good, which he has an undoubted right to deem the best, if he would but allow the same liberty to those who differ from him,-has issued a pamphlet denouncing the whole foreign administration of the Bible Society, from the beginning until now, as altogether erroneous in principle and mischievous in result. He avows his object to be, a total change of management. In fact, he wishes the Bible Society to be remodelled on the plan of the Continental Society,--a very admirable institution, but which, we confess, we should not like to see built up on the ruins of the British and Foreign Bible Society. The object of both pamphlets is, to open the eyes of the public to the unfitness of Lord Teignmouth and others, the Vice-presidents, secretaries, and Committee of the semi-popish confederacy in question, and to shew the necessity of some such reform as should replace its present patrons by presbyters instead of prelates, its committee by leal and true inen from the North, and its secretaries by sone Andrew Thomson. As to the goodness of Mr. Haldane's design, we unfeignedly declare that we do not harbour a doubt; and if in the course of the discussion we should find ourselves compelled to adopt the language of censure and even indignant remonstrance, we must once for all profess, that we honour bis zeal, bis disinterested and munificent generosity, his talents, and his piety too highly to have any pleasure in holding him up to public reprehension for the mistaken, and, we think, very blameable part which he has taken in this pamphlet.
But first, we must address ourselves to Dr. Thomson and the Edinburgh Committee ; and it is fit that our readers should know on what grounds the Resolution above cited has been pronounced unsatisfactory. They may be briefly summed up as follows. Vol. XXV. N.S.
1. The Resolution does not contain a distinct recognition of the fundamental law and principle of the Society.
2. • It speaks of the books which are usually termed Apocryphal.'
3. The Resolution may be evaded, and ' the pretended • honour of the Societies, or of individuals, is no bar to this.'
4. • The London Committee is not to be trusted.'
The last of these counts is, it will be seen, the capital one. And indeed, this being established, it would seem quite superfluous to cavil at the language of the Resolution. Dr. Thomson and his friends were evidently prepared to object to any Resolution, as unsatisfactory. A Committee guilty of so much disingenuousness,'. contumacy,' shifting,' ambiguity,'-a Committee that has actually proceeded to the iniquitous length of circulating a Bible with marginal references !!-is not to be trusted ; they may resolve and re-resolve, and do the same.' We are tempted to bring up the culprits before our readers by name.
• Of the twenty-one members comprising the Special Committee, there are at least sixteen who were known at the time to be favourable to Apocryphal distribution' (Dr. Thomson means distribution of the Apocrypha) in any form that circumstances might suggest. The following is a list of the Committee.
Lord Teignmouth, President.
William Wilberforce, Esq.
Thomas Allan, Esq. Rev, W. Dealtry.
Joseph Butterworth, Esq. M.P. Rev. W. Orme.
Zachary Macauley, Esq. Rev. Josiah Pratt,
Richard Phillips, Esq. Rev. Charles Simeon.
Robert Steven, Esq.
Joseph Trueman, Esq.
these to be men who will remain firm to their conscientious opinions; and it is very much on that account that we hold them most unfit for the office which was assigned to them. Because, if they were really convinced that the circulation of the Apocrypha was innocent in itself, and essential to the success of the Bible Society abroad, they could not be conceived capable of relinquishing that practice for the purpose of satisfying any body of complainers, or for answering any inferior end whatever. And remaining in the direction, and agreeing to perform the duty committed to them, we are entitled
to conclude, that it was under the impression that such a resolution could be concocted as would gain over the great bulk of those who were discontented, and yet leave an opening for continuing to do that which created the discontent, and which cannot be done avowedly, without exciting universal opposition.'
We are not suficiently acquainted with the personal sentiments of the individual members of the Committee, to be able to point out the Apocryphal sixtcen; and we have strong doubts as to the accuracy of Dr. Thomson's representation. But all who assisted in concocting the resolution are obviously involved in Dr. Thomson's libellous charge. Not only so, but the whole of the Parent Committee, by whom it was adopted, are equally guilty of the attempt to impose on the public.
« To those who have not watched and followed the London Com. mittee through all their windings,' says this reverend gentleman, 'the resolution will bear an aspect of conciliation, and explicitness, and abundant concession; but to those who regard it with the wholesome jealousy which the Committee itself has taught them to cherish, and who are resolved to be satisfied with no half measure, we have no doubt that the resolution, though veiled in a more dexterous phraseology than those which preceded it, is, in its real import and tendency, as far away as any one of them from that great and pure purpose for which we have all along been contending.
Here, then, is a distinct charge brought against three noblemen of the highest respectability, a distinguished prelate, nine clergymen and Dissenting ministers, two members of the House of Commons, and six other gentlemen, of a deliberate attempt to deceive the religious public. That Dr. Thomson should bring the charge, does not so much astonish us as that he should get a body of Scotch presbyterian ministers and gentlemen to back him in it. Who then, the public have a right to ask, are this Dr. Thomson, and Dr. Davidson, and Dr. Peddie, &c. &c. that, laying aside the courtesy of gentlemen and the charity of Christian ministers, they should join in preferring so serious a charge against the integrity of men their equals, in some respects more than their equals ? Shame, shame upon them! The imputation can disgrace only those who are the authors of it.
We are far from holding that the Committee of the Bible Society, or of any other society, can do no wrong, or even from maintaining that the London Committee have not erred. Their great error has been an apparent vacillation and indecision, which have, we are persuaded, done more mischief than all the statements of the Edinburgh Committee. Dr. Thomson complains,' that they have all along done too much to meet the wishes of others,'-he basely adds, as well as to gratify
their own. We think that their anxiety to conciliate has been carried to an extent that has paralysed their friends, without satisfying their enemies. The Committee were entitled to take higher ground; and had they at once come forward with a manly, explicit statement of their determination, leaving it to a general meeting of the Society to sanction or to disapprove their proceedings, the ferment would soon have subsided. That they have not taken this course, though it is matter of regret, is easily to be accounted for. In the first place, the Committee, it is well understood, were not fully agreed either as to the principle or the expediency of their own uniform practice. Strange to say, certain members of their own body, who for twenty years had actively and knowingly concurred in assisting foreign societies with money grants, all at once made the discovery, that every such grant, from the very
of the Society's operations, had been improper. This sudden illumination, we have never been able to account for. One meinber of the Special Committee is understood to have framed a resolution of so violent a character, that he found no one to second it. But in the next place, the Committee were prevented from taking a more decided part, by the consideration, that the public, of whose contributions they were the trustees, have the ultimate right to prescribe how the funds of the Society should be disposed of. With this view, they were for the most part disposed not to consult their own feelings, nor even to follow up their own convictions, so much as to collect the opinions of the auxiliary societies and the sentiments of the subscribers at large. The information brought them was, as might be expected, various and contradictory; hence their apparent indecision; hence their vibrating resolutions, which have given a handle and a paltry triumph to Dr. Thomson and his friends; and hence, at length, a final determination, which, being meant as a concession, is charged with being both a blind and a compromise. In this conduct on the part of the Committee, however, we can perceive nothing either deceptive or dishonourable. Divided as they were in opinion among themselves, the only plan, it may be thought, that was left, was, to endeavour to collect the opinions of the public. We believe that a nice feeling of responsibility, as well as an anxiety to prevent any interruption in the harmony of the Society, dictated this cautious proceeding. Every apparent vacillation has been immediately occasioned by representations from without. They have only given ear too patiently, and given way too timidly. They should firmly have adhered to the practice of twenty years, and have suffered the Edinburgh Committee to secede as they wished to do.
But Dr. Thomson cannot conceive, and he thinks nobody else can, how any members of a Committee, convinced that they had done right in assisting foreign societies, could relinquish that practice to satisfy any body of complainers, without the secret intention to compass their object by covert and dishonest means.
He has no idea of a man's giving up his opinion. Concession, in his view, implies dishonesty, and obstinacy is the test of virtue. A minority, on bis principle, should never yield, nor a representative body sacrifice their private convictions to the wishes of their constituents. If the members of the London Committee cannot do all the good they wish, they ought, it seems, to refuse to act at all. They have done wrong, we are told, to relinquish their practice, to satisfy any body of complainers : they should have turned out, like honest men, on finding that they could not carry things their own way, and then, Dr. Thomson would have thought better of them. These gentlemen may, however, justly consider it as treatment not altogether fair, that Dr. Thomson, judging of their temper and spirit by his own, should represent them as incapable of relinquishing any practice they had once adopted, and of the propriety of which they were satisfied, without some sinister intention, some unworthy motive : he cannot conceive of the thing, but few persons, we imagine, possessed of the smallest degree of candour, will find any difficulty in the matter.
Whatever might be the private convictions of any members of the London Committee as to the lawfulness and propriety of the existing practice, they found themselves at last compelled to defer to the clamour that had been raised, or risk the peace and integrity of the Society ; and one consideration which was made use of to induce them to accede to the Resolution, was this; That, in relinquishing the practice, they made no sacrifice of conscience, whereas the plea of conscience was urged by the objectors. But Dr. Thomson tells them, that they ought not to have suffered this consideration to weigh with them; and, on this point, we are disposed to agree with him. The rule of giving no offence, of following after the things which make for peace, of bearing with the scrupulosities of the weak, it becomes every Christian to observe in his private conduct, nor is he in any danger of carrying it too far. But neither the Bible Society nor any other religious association can be conducted on any such principle. The conscience of one person will not allow him to give away a Bible without the prayer-book; the conscience of another is scandalized by marginal references; a third cannot conscientiously adhere to a Society that gives away a version that he deems exception