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“Nurenberg was the portion of continental ground on which the Bible Society had begun their foreign labours. It was, in fact, the cradle of their continental greatness.” To the £100 originally contributed at the formation of the Society, the committee added a second donation of £200 in aid of an impression of the entire Bible.
These operations gave a powerful impulse to the Canstein Bible Institution, founded at Halle, in Saxony, in 1710; and by the example of Nurenberg, the Rev. J. Joenické succeeded in forming the Berlin Bible Society, which obtained the formal sanction, February 11, 1806, of his Prussian majesty.
Domestic proceedings were carried forward of an interesting character ; for in September, 1805, an edition of the English Testament was ready for delivery, printed from stereotype plates. Copies of this were presented to the Vice-President and Committee, and the circulation of it was effected by individual agents and by Sunday schools. The Dublin Association assisted in this work; the Naval and Military Bible Society also, and other religious institutions. One of the early results of this distribution was the establishment of a Bible Society for Dublin, affiliated with the parent Society.
Scotland attracted the attention of the Committee, by the reported destitution of the Highland population. Those who only understood the Gaelic language were computed at more than 300,000 persons. It was, therefore, determined to print an edition of the Bible for their use.
Prisoners of war, French, Spanish, and Dutch, amounting to about 30,000 in England, excited the sympathy of the Committee. It was determined, therefore, December 23, 1805, to print for these “strangers in an enemy's country,” an impression of the Spanish Testament, and another of the French Bible; and £100 were issued for purchasing French Testaments, for immediate distribution among these unhappy persons.
Foreigners settled in England also were regarded, and 1000 Testaments were purchased at Nurenberg, as a present supply for the Germans in London.
With a view to obtain the funds necessary for these operations, the Report of the Society was advertised and circulated, especially in public places of resort. But these labours occasioned the opposition of several eminent in the church of England, among whom were Dr. Wordsworth, Bishop Randolph, and Rev. Mr. (afterwards Dr.) Sprig. Considerable alarm was felt, therefore, by the Bishop of London, but after an investigation of the charges brought against the Society, particularly of those in a pamphlet, which was found to have been written by the “country clergyman,” who had published the other in the past year, it was seen that no ground existed for fear. That “clergyman” being discovered was made ashamed of his accusations, and consented to withdraw his pamphlet from publication.
These several attacks, however, instead of injuring the Bible Society, rather advanced its interests; for they made it more extensively known, and increased the active liberality of its friends. Two Associations were now formed of great importance ; one was in London, in July, 1806, chiefly composed of young men,” for the purpose of contributing to the funds of the British and Foreign Bible Society.” The other was an “ Auxiliary Society,” for Birmingham, in April, 1806. The chief promoters of this were Rev. Edward Burn, a clergyman, and George Simcox, Esq., a magistrate ; but the Dissenters joined in the good work, and the first proceeds of this Association were transmitted, as “ the united contribution of the different denominations of Christians in the town of of Birmingham.”
Amidst the calamities of an expensive war with Bonaparte, who appeared the common enemy of all nations in Europe, by which extraordinary burdens were brought upon the people of England, the treasury of the Bible Society was amply supplied to carry forward its work of heavenly benevolence. And thus multitudes were being excited to seek their own spiritual welfare, blessed with the knowledge of the gospel of Christ.
THE THIRD YEAR OF THE SOCIETY, 1806-1807. AMPLE funds, by an increase of nearly £300 in the annual subscriptions, and of more than £1000 from Wales, with nearly £4000 received from Scotland, encouraged the Committee of the Bible Society in their third year. A lady, also, in June, added her donation of one thousand guineas to their treasury. Testimonies of approbation from many on the Continent, as well as in the United Kingdom, multiplied, confirming them in their course, and they prosecuted their work with confidence and vigour.
Zeal for the Bible cause increased on the Continent. The German Bible Society at Nurenberg transferred the centre of its operations to Bâsle, as more eligible for its design. Dantzig united with Berlin in the work; and encouraged by a second grant from the Committee in London, resolved, August 12, 1806, to print an edition of 3,000 Bohemian Bibles. But the French army, under Bonaparte, took possession of Berlin, under which calamity an officer in the Prussian army purchased 3,000 New Testaments with Psalms, from the Bible Institution at Halle, as a temporary supply. For these he paid 600 rix-dollars, and 100 more to defray the expenses of conveyance to the Protestants in Bohemia.
Destitution of the Scriptures in Iceland was reported to the Committee, August 4, 1806, from information gained by Rev. Ebenezer Henderson and Rev. John Paterson, and sent to friends in Scotland. These devoted men were at Copenhagen, seeking, but in vain, the means of serving Christ as missionaries to the Hindoos, in Coromandel, subject to the Danish crown. The Committee authorized the President, to offer to the Bishop of Iceland, to defray half the expense of 5,000 Icelandic New Testaments. Messrs. Henderson and Paterson visited the Island of Funen, where was a small society, determining on printing 2,000 New Testaments, which were increased by the London Committee making known their vote regarding the 5,000 Icelandic Testaments. This transaction brought these two eminently-endowed men to the notice, and afterwards to the employment, of the Bible Society.
Other places in the north of Europe were made known to the Committee, as deplorably destitute of the Scriptures; and the province of Esthonia, on the Baltic, and Karass, on the Caspian Sea, a station occupied by Rev. Henry Brunton and Rev. Robert Pinkerton, as missionaries from the Edinburgh Society. The Committee ordered a new fount of Arabic types, and a sufficient quantity of paper and ink, to enable these missionaries to print 5,000 copies of the New Testament in the Turkish and Tartar dialects. A poor colony of Germans also, on the river Wolga, was supplied with 400 German Bibles and 200 Testaments, by the Committee. Thus, in three different parts the benevolence of the Society was exercised towards the subjects of his imperial Majesty of Russia. These services prepared the way for the operations of the Society throughout the vast empire of Russia, which were commenced by a communication from Lord Teignmouth, to the Metropolitan of the Greek church, Archbishop Plato.
While these efforts were being made for circulating the Scriptures in the north of Europe, means were taken to disseminate copies of them in other places. Among those who participated in these exertions were the French at St. Domingo, the Spaniards at Buenos Ayres, and the British settlers, soldiers and colonists in North America, the Cape of Good Hope, New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land.