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on the same ground, would traverse scenes which other Societies are, by their regulations, forbidden to occupy; and, presenting nothing but the inspired volume, would be sure to circulate truth, and truth alone ; hereby avoiding the occasions of controversy, and opening a channel into which Christians of every name might, without scruple, pour their charitable contributions."
An addition was made to the circular of the following notice :
“SIR,—The prefixed Address is respectfully submitted to your perusal. A Public Meeting will be held relative to the formation of the proposed Society, at the London Tavern, on Wednesday, the 7th of March, when your presence, if you approve the object, is requested by
“GRANVILLE SHARP, ROBERT COWIE, “ WILLIAM ALERS, SAMUEL FOYSTER, - JOSEPH BENWELL, JOSEPH Smith Gosse, “HENRY BOASE, RICHARD LEA, “ Alex. MAITLAND, HERMAN SCHROEDER, “ SAMUEL MILLS, CHRISTOPHER SUNDRIES, “ JOSEPH REYNER, GEORGE WOLFF.
“ The chair will be taken at twelve o'clock precisely."*
Wednesday, the 7th of March arrived, and about three hundred gentlemen assembled at the London Tavern. Mr. Granville Sharp was called to the chair, and the object of the meeting was stated by several
* Owen's History of the First Ten Years of the Bible Society. Vol. I. p. 35, 36.
members of the Tract Society's Committee. The Rev. John Owen, the first clerical Secretary of the Bible Society, and its historian, being induced to attend that meeting, says, “ The business of the day was opened by Robert Cowie, Esq.; William Alers, Esq., followed; and he was succeeded by Samuel Mills, Esq., and the Rev. Mr. Hughes. These gentlemen explained the nature and design of the projected Society ; demonstrated its necessity, from the great want of the Holy Scriptures, and the insufficiency of all the means in existence to supply it; and in a strain of good sense, temperate zeal, and perspicuous information, urged the importance of its immediate establishment. After these speakers had sat down, there arose another advocate, in the person of the Rev. Mr. Steinkopff, whose address corroborated what had been already advanced, and in the happiest manner completed the effect.” Mr. Owen adds, “The author had yielded, he will confess, a reluctant assent to the pleadings of those by whom Mr. Steinkopff was preceded; but the representation which he gave of that scarcity of the Scriptures which he had himself observed in foreign parts, the unaffected simplicity with which he described the spiritual wants of his German fellow-countrymen; and the tender pathos, with which he appealed on their behalf to the compassion and munificence of British Christians, spoke so forcibly both to the mind and the heart, as to subdue all the author's remaining powers of resistance, and decide him in favour of the Institution.
“ After Mr. Steinkopff had resumed his seat, the author rose, by an impulse which he had neither the inclination nor the power to disobey, in order to express his conviction that such an Institution as that which had been recommended was needed. His emotions, on rising, were such as he will not attempt to describe. Surrounded by a multitude of Christians, whose doctrinal and ritual differences had for ages kept them asunder, and who had been taught to regard each other with a sort of pious estrangement, or rather of consecrated hostility ; and reflecting on the object and the end which had brought them so harmoniously together, he felt an impression, which the lapse of more than ten years has scarcely diminished, and which no length of time will entirely remove. The circumstance was new; nothing analogous to it had, perhaps, been exhibited before the public since Christians had begun to organize among each other the strife of separation. To the author it appeared to indicate the dawn of a new era in Christendom; and to portend something like the return of those auspicious days, when the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul ;' and when, as a consequence of that union, to a certain degree at least, the Word of God mightily grew and prevailed.'
“After giving utterance to these feelings, in the best way he could, the author moved, as requested, the following resolutions :
" 1. A Society shall be formed, with this designation, The British AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY ; of which the sole object shall be to encourage a wider dispersion of the Holy Scriptures.
“«2. The Society shall add its endeavours to those employed by other societies for circulating the Scriptures through the British dominions, and shall also, according to its ability, extend its influence to other countries, whether Christian, Mahometan or Pagan.
«8. The Committee shall consist of thirty-six members.""*
Mr. Owen states, that “ more than £700 were immediately subscribed” in aid of “an institution for diffusing, on the grandest scale, the tidings of peace and salvation; a day which will be recorded as peculiarly honourable to the character of Great Britain, and as fixing an important epoch in the religious history of mankind.”
Mr. Owen immediately informed the Bishop of London, of this great event. He says that “he submitted to his Lordship, that the challenge so liberally given on the part of our dissenting brethren, ought, on our part, to be as liberally accepted ;” and expressed his conviction, that “it was equally expedient for the honour of the Church, and for the accomplishment of the Society's object, that the ministers and members of our ecclesiastical establishment should give it their decided countenance and support.
“ This representation was not lost on the enlightened mind and candid temper of Bishop Porteus. After a reasonable delay, the Bishop replied in very satisfactory and encouraging terms. His Lordship
* Owen's History of the First Ten Years of the Bible Society. Vol. I. pp. 45, 46.
stated, that he 'very much approved the design of the Bible Society. But difficulties arose in the Committee; as Mr. Owen states, “ never, perhaps, before were thirty-six persons brought together for the prosecution of a common purpose, whose views and habits, and prejudices, exhibited a greater and more unpromising variety. The first referred to was the appointment of a secretary. On the 12th of March, the subject was started in a full meeting of the Committee; and a respectable member, after passing a deserved encomium on the talents, the character and the services of that individual to whom the Society was so eminently indebted for its origin and formation, concluded by moving, that the Rev. Joseph Hughes be appointed Secretary to the Institution. Under a sense of duty, the author took upon himself the painful, and apparently invidious task of objecting, representing in strong terms, both the impropriety and the impolicy of constituting a dissenting minister, however highly respectable and meritorious, the Secretary of an institution which was designed to unite the whole body of Christians, and for which its Directors had evinced so laudable an anxiety to obtain the patronage and co-operation of the Established Church.
“ It was immediately perceived that the objection might be removed, by associating in the appointment, with the Rev. Mr. Hughes, a clergyman of the Established Church. The author was invited to accept the situation ; but he peremptorily declined it, assigning, as the ground of his refusal, his domestic, parochial and other employments; and