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ADDRESS at the Fourth Anniversary of the
MERIONETHSHIRE AUXILIARY BRITISH and FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY, held at the County Hall, in Bala, on Saturday, August 10, 1816, on moving the thanks of the Meeting to Sir W. W. WYNN, Bart. M. P. &c.
MR. HIGH SHERIFF,
BEG leave to apologize to you and to this Society for appearing before you, an utter stranger, on the present occasion; but being accidentally in this neighbourhood on behalf of another Society, I did not feel myself at liberty to decline the invitation of the Committee to attend at this Anniversary; and I can truly say I shall be most happy if my residence in the metropolis, and my opportunities of frequenting the Committee of the Parent Society, shall enable me to forward in the humblest manner a cause which I verily believe to be
more nearly connected with the glory of God and the salvation of mankind than any other project of mercy now on foot in this nation.
But, Sir, before I come to the special motion now assigned me, I may perhaps be expected to take a view of the question connected with the British and Foreign Bible Society, the object of which is, to circulate the Holy Scriptures without note or comment throughout the world. And here I will first ask, Whether it be in itself a good and right thing to disseminate the Word of God as widely as possible ? But surely I need not seriously reply to such a question. If it be our duty to love our neighbour as ourselves, it must surely be the principal part of that duty to communicate to him those sacred oracles which the mercy of God has bestowed upon ourselves. The parting command of our Saviour to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, has never yet been recalled. It is the reproach of Christendom, that after eighteen hundred years so little has been done to diffuse the blessings of revealed truth. The greatest gift of God to man, next to the gift of his Son to die for our sins, is the Bible ; and can it be a question whether we shall distribute this volume to the whole human race? If we disseminate with the utmost eagerness our inventions in the arts and sciences, how much more should we labour
to propagate, not the discovery of man, but the revelation of God, the volume which discloses the fall and the redemption of mankind, which opens to him a stupendous scheme of pardon, unfolds a glorious immortality, and teaches him to attain it? On this first point then I will dwell no longer. No Christian can deny that it is his paramount duty to send the Bible to every accessible quarter of the globe.
It may however be naturally asked in the next place, Whether any considerable want of the Holy Scriptures prevailed previous to the existence of this Society? Because, however pure the object, yet if no extreme necessity appeared for the labours of the Institution, those labours would of course be in a great degree superfluous. Now, Sir, with regard to this point, a single word will suffice. All Europe, from Iceland to Gibraltar, and from the Mediterranean to the Frozen Sea, were in want of the word of life. In Iceland alone not fifty Bibles were found among fifty thousand people. In Asia, with its four or five hundred millions of every tongue, scarcely were any copies of the Scriptures to be met with. Twelve unparalleled zeal have hardly been enough to give her numerous tribes even a taste of the heavenly gift. And what shall I say of Africa, of Northern and Southern America, or of the countless islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans: The whole earth fainted for the waters of life. Nor were we without afflicting wants at home. In Ireland, before this Society existed, you might pass through three millions of people without finding three hundred Bibles. Scotland, in the Highland part of it especially, called importunately for the Word of God. In the metropolis of your empire, one half of the poorer population were destitute of the Scriptures. And in this ancient and loyal principality, who is ignorant that for twenty-five years the mass of the people were sighing, and sighing in vain, for the best boon of heaven? It is a fact, Sir, that in ten parishes in Flintshire, thirteen hundred houses were found without Bibles; nor is it less true that one hundred and thirty thousand Welsh Bibles and Testaments circulated by this Society, besides a very large impression by the venerable Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, have but just served to satisfy the immense demand. In short, there never was a cry raised so loudly at home, and reverberated so distinctly from every region of the earth, as that cry of pity which gave birth to the simple but magnificent scheme which we are now assembled to support.
I pass on, then, in the next place to inquire, Whether the plan on which the British and Foreign Bible Society acts be the best that could have been devised; or if not the best, yet such at least as to deserve and demand our support? For bowever good the end in view, and however pressing the necessity, yet Christian prudence and integrity will always consider whether the means of attaining it be pure and laudable. Now, Sir, I conceive the uniting of all Christians in a plan in which they all agree, is the best and most efficient method that can be adopted; because it brings together the collected strength of the whole Christian community, and at the same time tends to promote our obedience to the great command of our Saviour, to love one another. In a Society then where the project begins and ends with the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, there can be no possible reason for limitation or exclusion. For myself, I must confess, that as a clergyman of the Established Church, I am happy to show that the separation of the different classes of Christians in this country from our communion on points of external discipline, does not lessen my readiness to co-operate with them in a scheme so simple and yet so important as the circulation of the Bible. Belonging, as I do, to the reformed apostolical Church of these realms, the leading principle of which is, that the Bible, and the Bible alone, contains the religion of Protestants; though I may and do lament what appears to me to be the errors of the different