« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
more and more to some efficient method of removing that destitution. To this Samuel J. Mills turned his thoughts, and took the lead in derising the way of relief. He saw the wants of the country in his missionary tour, in 1812 and 1813, and he saw as clearly that the local Societies were not able to meet them, and that some other and more efficient plan must be devised. This was the beginning.
“It is,” says Dr. Spring, in his admirable memoir of Mills," but justice to say that the plan of the existing American Bible Society originated in the bosom of Samuel J. Mills. . . . The formation of this national institution he thought of, and suggested, and pressed the suggestion, long before it entered into the mind of any other individual. With the gentlemen who were interested in the early stages of this measure, he had frequent interviews; and, though he concealed the hand that moved it forward, was himself the principal mover of the design, and a principal agent in inducing others of greater weight of character to become its abeitors. The writer well recollects the efforts of this persevering man to attain this important object."
Equally clear and decisive is the testimony of the Rev. Daniel Smith, of Natchez, the companion of Mills in his second missionary tour in the Southwest, who says:
“An important matter, that occupied much of the attention of our lamented brother, was the formation of the American Bible Society. It was on his mind for years before it was formed. Indeed, he once gave me distinctly to understand that it originated with him. At a very early period, he procured a friend to write one or more essays on the subject, which were published. He carried the plan with him on both his missionary tours to the South and West, and exerted his influence in favour of the contemplated institution.”
As far back, then, as 1812, the plan of such a Society was in the grasp of Mills, and was urged upon the attention of others. The "essays,” to which Mr. Smith refers, were, doubtless, those which are found in the Panoplist for October, 1813, and March, 1814, in which the plan of such a Society is set forth with great clearness and force. The simple fact is, that Mills went from one individual to another, and from place to place, with this burden on his heart, and tried to interest men in it. In the early part of 1814, he procured a consultation of sundry individuals as to the expediency of setting the plan on foot at the meeting of the Presbyterian General Assembly, of that year. It was thought, bowever, to be best that the movement should begin with some one of the State Societies. The way onward is now easily traced. An individual, a member of the Assembly that year, and to whom Mills had unbosomed himself fully on the subject, on his way home from Philadelphia, called on Dr. Boudinot, and conferred with bim on the subject. The result of this interview soon developed itself in the action of the New Jersey Bible Society, which met on the 31st of August, of that year, in the city of Burlington. The Board of Managers, at their meeting the day before, appointed Dr. Boudipot and Rev. Drs. Wharton and Woodbull a committee to consider and report upon "the most probable means, in the power of the Society, for uniting the people of God, of all denominations, in the great work of disseminating the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.” The Committee next day reported, recommending the formation of a “General Association of the Bible Societies in the United States," which should be composed of delegates, appointed by the Societies in each State, and should meet annually or biennially in some central place, for the purpose
of conducting the interests of the whole, where they respect the distribution of the Bible beyond the limits of particular States, or where a Society in a State cannot furnish as many copies as are wanted.”
The Society directed the President to send a copy of this action to the several Societies, with a request that, in case the plan was approved by them, they would appoint delegates to meet the next year, at a specified time and place, for the purpose of forming such an association. This was the Burlington action, and is wholly unlike the present organization. It was not the plan of Mills, and did not meet with general approbation. The Philadelphia Society issued a circular in December, in opposition to it, and sent it to the different Societies. Their objections were, that such an association is unseasonable-is unsanctioned by example---will be useless--may be injurious—and is impracticable. To this, Dr. Boudinot replied, in a very able pamphlet, but the plan was abandoned, and the contemplated meeting did not take place. The great object, however, was not given up. The New York Bible Society, where Mills's influence was more particularly felt, afterwards took up the subject in a more practicable form, and considered the question of establishing a national institution. Their deliberation resulted in the adoption of a resolution :
That it is highly desirable to obtain, upon as large a scale as possible, a co-operation of the efforts of the Christian community throughout the United States, for the efficient distribution of the Holy Scriptures.”
To secure this end, they proposed that a convention be called, to meet at
day of next, for the purpose of effecting such co-operation, in the formation of a “General Bible Society.” A copy of this action was sent, by them, to Dr. Boudinot, with the request that he would fill the blanks, and issue a call for such a convention. The venerable man entered at once and heartily into the measure-issued the call, and thus convened that body of great and good men, who met in New York, in May, 1816, and formed the American Bible Society. It was a glorious day in the feelings of Mills—the completion of his long-cherished desire and persevering efforts. He was, of course, present on the occasion, and, says his biographer,
“When the discussions had proceeded so far that it was no longer doubtful that a union of different denominations would be formed in this stupendous work of charity, then you might have seen him, elevated on a distant seat behind the crowd, contemplating the scene with a look of divine delight, which it would require the pencil of a West or a Raphael to delineate.”
“We were greatly surprised,” said a venerable member of that con. vention, who still lives to see the good which was then secured to this country and to the world,“ upon coming together, to find that we all thought and felt alike on the subject before us, and we afterwards learned that the reason of it was, that Mills had communed with most of us on the subject before we came together.” The simple truth is, that he was the great pioneer in this movement. The plan of the Society originated, as Dr. Spring says, in his bosom. His was the hand which, under God, moved it forward. He was the chief agent in founding the Society. Its great antecedents were not in Burlington, but elsewhere, and in the soul of this devoted man. We would detract nothing from the praise of that venerable patriarch who took such an interest in the formation of the
VOL. VIII. NO. 9
Society, and whose liberality gave it such an early impulse. The name of Boudinot will long live among men,
and be cherished from the cottage, where the poor widow weeps over her Bible, to the wigwam of the forest, where the Indian learns, at the foot of the cross, to forgive and bless his enemies. But, while we say this, and feel this, we are not willing to see the origin of the Bible Society removed from the place where it belongs, the bosom of Samuel J. Mills. It is to us a pleasing fact, that men of the same name were concerned in laying the foundations of the two great national societies, which, in England and America, are giving the bread of life to a famishing world.
DR. VAN RENSSELAER'S REPLY TO CAMEROY.
ON THE ORIGIN OF THE AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY.
All Christian men seek “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” So far as I may have committed errors in the history of the American Bible Society, or may hereafter commit them, it is my sincere desire that they may be corrected. I do not admit, however, that my revised statement of the origin of the American Bible Society contains any error; while I think it can be shown that my old friend “Cameroy” has himself fallen into material mistakes. Let the truth be evolved by discussion.
The idea of a national Bible Society was undoubtedly in many minds long before its formation. The British and Foreign Bible Society, which was established in 1804, suggested to the Philadelphia Bible Society the expediency of forming a similar institution in the United States. The proposition was received by some favourably, as appears from the advocacy of Mills and from the New Jersey movement, but it met with opposition from the Philadelphia and New York Bible Societies, and elsewhere. There can be no doubt that Samuel J. Mills ardently desired the formation of a national Bible Society; and other prominent and enterprising men of that day were of a similar mind. I have no disposition to detract a particle from the merits of Mills, whose name is precious among the people of God. I am forward with “ Cameroy,” in giving to that truly good and gifted man, all praises for his thoughts and efforts and prayers, as a Bible distributor, and as an advocate for a national institution. But the chief question is, who originated and planned the measures which led to the final success of the scheme? Hundreds had thought of applying steam to machinery and machinery to navigation ; but Watt and Fulton enjoy the reputation of reducing those great ideas to practical and useful results. Without at all disparaging the efficiency of Mills in propagating sentiments favourable to the organization of a National Bible Society, I believe that the claims of Dr. Boudinot, as its founder, cannot be overthrown.
Dr. Spring, whose admirable Life of Mills has furnished the principal facts in Cameroy's communication, summed up the question more impartially than Cameroy has done ; and I beg leave to add a sentence to the extracts, quoted by Cameroy from that book. Dr. Spring speaking of the interview between “ a respectable member of the General Assembly." and Dr. Boudinot, at Burlington, N. J., after the rising of the Assembly in June, 1814, says:
" It was at this interview the foundation of this lofty elifice [the American Bible Society) was laid, and if it has inscribed on one side the endeared and memorable name of Elias BOUDINOT, it has on the other the humble inscription of Samuel J. Mills." p. 97.
The terms "originated," " founded," &c., are used somewhat indefinitely. Neither Mills nor Boudinot " originated” the idea of a National Bible Society. All admit that its formation was first proposed by the British and Foreign Bible Society. Mills took up the idea with great earnestness, and advocated it with all his powers; but Boudinot was the man who originated and executed, under God, the measures which re. sulted in its formation. Let us examine the facts, and see if they do not warrant this conclusion.
At a meeting of the Board of Managers, held on August 30th, 1814, at Burlington, in Dr. Boudinot's house, resolutions were offered by Dr. Boudinot, which had in view the formation of a National Bible Society. On the following day, Dr. Boudinot, chairman of the committee on this subject, brought in a report, which was adopted by the Managers, and also adopted by the State Society, which met in Burlington on the same day, August 31st. The great object in view was to form a national union of Bible Societies, " for the purpose of disseminating the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament according to the present approved version, without note or comment, in places beyond the limits of the United States, or within them, where the State Societies, or any one of them, shall be unable, from any circumstance whatever, to supply their wants, or where there shall not be a Bible Society established in the State.” The details of this plan might have been changed, certainly with the approbation of the local Societies, by the Convention, when met. The object was, in general, the same that is contemplated by the existing American Bible Society.
Dr. Boudinot immediately issued circulars to all the Bible Societies in the United States, then few in number. The subject met with favour for a time; but the Philadelphia Bible Society, the oldest of all, became strongly opposed to the contemplated movement for a general Society, and sent a circular in opposition to the one issued by Dr. Boudinot. Dr. Boudinot states, in his report of 3d of April, 1815, that he sent answers to the Philadelphia circular, “but in most instances they arrived too late, the Societies having taken their measures immediately on receipt of the address from Philadelphia. This has prevented the success of the whole measure, which at first seemed to give universal satisfaction.”
The good man, however, was not discouraged, although he had much to contend with. The Philadelphia Society, with Bishop White and Robert Ralston at its head, was opposed to a national institution under any form. The Philadelphia plan was simply to secure annually the publication of a report, giving an account of the operations of all the Bible Societies in the country. The Society in New York also declined to take any measures to send delegates to the first general meeting, which was to have been held in Philadelphia during the meeting of the Assembly in May, 1815.
In regard to this opposition on the part of the New York Bible Society, Cameroy omits to state, that it was owing to objections to any General Society, as well as to objections to the plan proposed. The Report of the Board of Managers, of the date of Nov. 29th, 1814, says :
“ This Board, however, were not able to discover any advantages likely to result from the contemplated institution, which could not be compassed by a more simple, expeditious, and less expensive process, namely, by correspondence." The Report then specifies objections arising from [the expense of delegates, consumption of time, impracticability of securing their attendance, and concludes by declaring] “ the inexpediency of delegating in this manner the control of their respective funds, under any regulations that might be devised, to secure the ends proposed.”—pp. 11, 12.
The New York Bible Society, therefore, was at this time, not only opposed to Dr. Boudinot's plan, but to any plan whatever for a General Society; preferring to do the work by “correspondence," and unwilling to trust its funds out of its own hands. The Board of Managers of the Society, where “the influence of Mills was more particularly felt,” state that they were “unanimous” in their conclusion.
Such an amount of opposition to a General Bible Union would have caused many a man, less resolute than Dr. Boudinot, to abandon the project in despair. But Dr. Boudinot felt that he was commissioned to do a great work, in his divine Master's name. At the meeting of the New Jersey Bible Society, on August 30th, 1815, he made "a very long report” on his favourite subject, which was referred to the Board of Managers, and by them referred to a committee to report at their next meeting in April, 1816. But the meeting in April was too remote for a man of his energy. He continued to correspond on the subject, with his large heart bent on accomplishing its purpose. Fortunately, about this time, the New York Bible Society, under the urgent representations of Mills, began to reconsider their previous position of opposition to a general Bible Union of any sort. Thus it was that the Society where Mills's influence was more particularly felt,' began, more than a year after the New Jersey movement, to think favourably of a General Bible Institution for the United States,' as they expressed it.
In Cameroy's attenipt to elevate Mills above Boudinot, he deems it necessary to maintain that the difference between the Burlington plan and the one ultimately adopted, nullified the claim of Dr. Boudinot to be considered the founder of the American Bible Society. He is unwilling to look upon all the movements in behalf of a national institution, as a succession of the same evangelistic efforts. As Cameroy and myself do not agree upon Dr. Boudinot's claim to be regarded the founder of the American Bible Society, I propose to bring up, for examination, witnesses of the olden time; and, inasmuch as Cameroy loves to consult the original, I will quote from official documents. I will begin with the New York BIBLE SOCIETY, where, according to Cameroy, “Mills's influence was more particularly felt.” This Society, in their report of December, 1915, state they judged it expedient to call a convention, " for the purpose of considering whether such co-operation may be effected in a better manner than by the correspondence of the different Societies, as now established; and if so, that the delegates prepare a draft of a plan of such co-operation, to be submitted to the different Societies for their decision.” Here, it