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Two of the Irish Archbishops, after having for years held offices in the Hibernian Bible Society, have lately withdrawn from it; and some of the Irish Bishops have followed their example. The following is Mr. Jay's account of this occurrence ; and to us it has always seemed to make more in favour of Bible Societies than against them.
"I have before me, the letter of the late primate of Ireland, requiring his name to be withdrawn from the Society; and in this letter he declares himself "a
friend to the circulation of the scriptures ;" and expresses the reluctance, and even pain he feels on leaving the Society, He then assigns as his reasons, the change which he thinks has been made in the constitution of the Society; and the improper topics and expressions introduced in the speeches delivered at the public meetings.
What stronger evidence can quire than this very letter, of the pri mate's approbation of the principles of Bible Societies? are we not expressly given to understand, that had not the constitution been changed, and had no improprieties occurred at the public meetings, he would gladly have continued his patronage to the Society. We have every reason for believing that the reasous assigned by the primate, are the same which influenced the other bishops who seceded from the Irish Society; and yet their names are included in the forty five, who you inform us do not support the British and Foreign Bible Society.
acquainted, from the period of their first establishment to the present time. And now Sir, to what a little insignificant band is your formidable array of forty five bishops reduced? Of forty five bishops, wefind two, (both since deceased) who on being invited to accept offices in the auxiliary society, declined the intended honour and one of these instead of disapproving of the principles of the Bible Society contents himself with expressing his
preference for those societies which are immediately connected with the establishment; and we find five who in their charges, object to the Society and advise their clergy not to join it. Of these, one refuses to print his charge; another tells his clergy, that it is a question on which good men differ, and that they must act according to the dictates of their own consciences; and a third the present bishop of Peterborough, in pointed terms approves of the union of christians for the diffusion of the scriptures, without note or comment, wherever christianity is pro fessed under a form different from the Established Church; declaring that the circulation of the Bible unquestionably promotes christian knowledge, and that the use of it makes men christians.
From certain facts which have come to my knowledge, I am inclined to believe that there were some grounds for the primate's complaints, although not to the extent he seems to have supposed; and that the Hibernian Society had been guilty of some indiscretions, arising rather from that ardency of feeling so peculiar to the Irish character, than from any intention to violate the fundamental principles of the Society; and I cannot but attribute to the same ardency of feeling, the hasty step of the primate in withdrawing from the society, without first interposing his authority and influence to correct the errors which offended him. Several of the Irish Bishops belong to the British and Foreign Bible Society, and from that Institution it is not known that any bishop has ever withdrawn his name."-First Lett. p. 27.
We are now sir, prepared to judge how far in opposing Bible Societies, you are acting "with those in the highest stations of the church from which we are descended;" and how far the nature of your hostility is sanctioned by their example. pp. 27, 28.
After this recital Mr. Jay adds, I have thus, Sir, candidly and honestly stated every instance of opposition to Bible Societies on the part of the English, Irish and Scotch bishops, with which I am VOL. VI.-No. 2. 12
But we are still farther prepared for judging in the matter, when, having "reconnoitred our enemies," we "take an account of our friends and allies," and number the Bishops of the Established Church, who have borne their testimony in favor of Bible Societies. This cannot be done better, or more plainly, than we find it done by Mr. Jay.
It is obvious that the principles of these associations, whether correct or otherwise, can in no degree be affected by the names by which they are distinguished. If it be wrong in Episcopalians to support the British and Foreign Bible Society, it must be equally wroug in them to support the Naval and Military Society, or the Hibernian Society, since they are all founded upon the same principle of universal cooperation, for the distribution of the uncommented Scriptures. It is this principle that you condemn; and in support of your opinion, you give us the names of forty-five Bishops, who do not belong to the British and Foreign Bible Society. But
if any of these Bishops belong to other Bible Societies, or have, in any manner whatever, declared their approbation of the very principles which you condemn, then, Sir. you appeal to them in vain to sanction your hostility. You have not, it is true, asserted that these forty-five Bishops were opposed to Bible Societies, nor that they do not support them; but merely that their names "do not appear among the supporters of the British and Foreign Bible Society." Your prudence in selecting these precise terms is rendered peculiarly manifest by the singular fact, that the dignified name which is placed at the head of your array of the non-supporters of the British and Foreign Bible Society, will likewise be found at the head of my list of the Episcopal Patrons of Bible Societies. You cannot, Sir, be ignorant, that the Primate of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has for years been, and still is, at the head of the Naval and Military Bible Society, which does not in the least degree differ in principle from the British and Foreign Bible Society; but only in` the more limited sphere of its operations. You are also probably aware, that many of the Irish Bishops were satisfied with patronizing the Bible Society of their own country, and did not remit contributions to the British Society. Their secession from the Hibernian Society has already been noticed, and we have seen that it arose from the indiscretions of the Society, and not from any disapprobation of the Bishcps with the principles on which it was professedly founded. Yet are the names of some of these Bishops, who have for years been supporters of a Bible Society, included among the forty-five non-supporters of the British and Foreign Bible Society.
As before remarked, the British and Foreign Bible Society was established in 1804, and within the period which has since elapsed, the following Prelates of the Established Church, have united with their fellow christians in distributing the Scriptures, without note or comment; thus incurring, according to the doctrines of your charge, the guilt of separating "The Church from the word of God."
Patron of the Naval and Military Bible
Members and Officers of the British and
Soda and Man.
Litchfield and Coventry.
Members and Officers of the Hibernian Bible Society.
Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland.
Archbishop of Dublin, Bishop of Kilmore.
Killaloe. Dromore. Cork.
To the above should be added the name of Dr. Warren, Bishop of Bangor, who, although he never, I believe, belonged to any Bible Society, yet instructed the rural Deans throughout his Diocess, to distribute the plans of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and to solicit contributions to its funds; a pretty strong proof that it is possible to refrain from joining a society, without being opposed to it. We thus find that, since 1804, thirty-two Bishops have openly supported Bible Societies, and seven have openly expressed their disapprobation of them.-p. 29-31.
Such, it seems, are the facts, as to the question of Episcopal patronage in the Established Church of England and Ireland; and we rejoice to find that Mr. Jay has avowedly given us all the facts appertaining to the case. In such questions, we like to be put in possession of the whole ground. It is only in this way, that we can "judge righteous judgment." Bishop Hobart indeed declares that, "the point at issue is, as to what Bishops now support Bible Societies.(a) But though we have no fears as to the result, should we confine ourselves to this point, yet it is fit and right that we should know "the whole truth," as well as "nothing but the truth." For after all that may be said,
(a) Corrector, p. 44.
the point which will be first and mainly in the mind of every one who would enquire thoroughly into the subject, is, what amount of Episcopal patronage and influence has been enlisted, either for or against Bible Societies? and to settle this, we want to be told what has been said and done by Bishops who are now, we trust, sleeping in Jesus, and those who still wear the mitre. Nor should Bishop Hobart object to this. For if Death has called away some of our friends, as Mr. Jay sums them up, it has also called away some of our opponents. Of the latter, two out of the seven have been removed.
But let us hear what the Bishop says, when we find his host of fortyfive, whom he had set in array beside himself, reduced down to a band of five. He will surely give up the Irish Bishops, who, although not members of the British and Foreign, are members of the Hibernian Bible Society? We find not a word of the kind. And what does he say of the Archbishop of Canterbury? He admits that the Archbishop is President of the Naval and Military Bible Society; and he admits that this Society at least, is now the same in principle with the British and Foreign. But he tells us, on the authority of Norris, that since the Archbishop took the Presidency of it, "alterations have been made without his approbation, changing materially the character of the Institution.(b) Then we presume the Archbishop, as a consistent man, has withdrawn from it? Nothing of the kind is even hinted by either Bishop Hobart or Mr. Norris. That exalted dignitary then, if Bishop Hobart is right in claiming him as of the same opinion with himself respecting Bible Societies, permits his name to stand at the head of an Institution which is so materially changed in its character since he took the Presidency of it, as to have become "unsound in principle, and injurious in tendency;" as to be employed in the work of "separating (b) Corrector, p. 45.
many of the Bishops have not, in their charges,opposed Bible Societies; therefore you argue they are not opposed to them. This is a mistake, Mr. Jay has named two Bishops as being opposed to Bible Societies, who have not opposed them in their char ges. The point which Mr. Jay argues is, that Bishops who have not manifested opposition ought not to be set down as opposers. All that he asks for is, the application of a rule long since admitted as essential to equity in judgment.
De non existentibus et non apparentibus eadem est ratio.
But not so, the Bishop. He tells us;
I consider it perfectly plain, under the circumstances of the case, that Bishops withholding their support from Bible Societies, is evidence of their disapprobation of them. These Bible Societies come
forward, professing the strongest claims to patronage, as the most powerful and efficacious instruments which the world ever witnessed, of propagating christian
ity. They urge their claims with the imposing sanctions of numbers and rank, and station, and wealth, and zeal and pow
What motives then could influence a Bishop in withholding his support from institutions thus recommended, but disapprobation of them? Corrector, pp. 43,
We must again remind the Bishop that by this mode of reasoning he will involve many of the most estimable Bishops he can name, in the * Corrector, page 43.
charge of disapproving of societies which are altogether Episcopal in their character and tendency.
There are no "circumstances of the case," which he does specify, or can specify, to authorize the conclusion that the Bishops who do not become members of Bible Societies are of course opposed to them, which would not also authorize the same conclusion respecting the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge: yet so late as 1812 there were many Bishops who had not become members of that Society; though it had then existed more than one hundred years. And will Bishop Hobart say that withholding their support from it, is evidence of their disapprobation of it?
The same might be shown concerning other Societies; and such as must from their nature, have the approbation not only of Bishops, but of all good men. For ourselves, we know of many, and important societies in our day and land, of which we "do not appear as the supporters;" but which yet have our best wishes and prayers for their success. Nor do we greatly blame ourselves for supineness in the matter. We see them conducted happily and wisely by those who have the management of them; while God in his providence has called us to other duties. In the same manner we presume may many Bishops reason; and indeed, considering the appropriate duties of the Episcopate, and seeing how long in many instances, they have delayed to join some of the most excellent Institutions in Britain; we have been surprized to find so many of them already enlisted in Bible Societies.
There is one other view which may be taken of this subject. If Bishop Hobart is right in claiming these forty-five dignitaries as holding the same opinions with himself, how comes it to pass that nearly all of them, and especially those most likely to beheard, have to this day continued silent on the subject? He be
lieves Bible Societies to be unsound and injurious; and has again and again publicly warned his church and clergy against them. We commend his zeal and honesty, though we lament bis error. But what shall we say of the zeal and honesty of those Bishops who, while they think with him, decline to act with him? What are we to think of their fidelity as shepherds over the Lord's heritage, who, believing with Bishop Hobart, that, as it respects Churchmen, "the tendency of Bible Societies is not less injurious than the principle on which they are founded is erroneous," do nevertheless, suffer years to pass away, without once raising a warning voice against them, or making a single effort to recal those who are led astray by them, in great numbers, from among their own flocks?
From the silence of these Right Reverend Gentlemen, Bishop Hobart draws one conclusion, and we another. Whether his conclusion, or ours, exhibits them in the more favorable light our readers will judge.
We are pleased to find that Bishop Hobart has not endeavoured to add to his strength, by numbering any of the Bishops of this country as our opponents. Indeed when he looks to this quarter, he finds it very difficult to keep himself from being ranked among the avowed friends of Bible Societies. The voice of the American Bishops, as a body, has been given most explicitly and deliberately in favour of these institutions.
In their pastoral letter addressed to their churches in 1814, as we have already shown, they declare with express reference to Bible Societies;
"We should conceive ourselves want
ing on this occasion to the high duties of
our stations, were we to neglect to hear our testimony in favour of this energetic effort, for the disappointment of the wicked designs of infidelity, for the extending of the influence of pure and undefiled religion. and finally, for the carrying into effect of those gracious promises of heaven,
which will not have been accomplished
But had Bishop Hobart no share
until the knowledge of the Lord shall cov in these public acts? When the re
er the earth, as the waters cover the sea.'
A more faithful and earnest recommendation of Bible Societies to the patronage and support of Episcopaljans throughout our country, no friend of the cause could desire. It was given too, by the House of Bishops in their official capacity, as the superior court of their church; and, no doubt, was solemnly and carefully weighed before it was given. subject was not novel in the christian world; and in the Episcopal Church especially, it had been largely discussed. The chief part of the controversy in England was then over; and these Right Reverend Gentlemen must have known what had been said for and against Bible Societies in that Church from which, as Bishop Hobart declares, they "are descended." With all these advantages for weighing the matter well and wisely, they published their official recommendation of Bible Societies to the Episcopal Church of North America. And although the House of Bishops has since been increased by the consecration of several new members; they have in their subsequent acts taken care to shew that there has been no change of sentiment on this or other subjects which they had previously presented to their churches, as of great importance.
In their last pastoral letter of May 1823, they make an avowal which, under all the circumstances of the case, is very pointed and explicit. They tell the churches-"In our former pastoral letter, we have freely delivered our opinions on the various points which were considered by us at the several times as most interesting to our communion. They are still held by us in the same grade of importance; but at present we rather refer to those addresses, as records of the sentiments which we are still desirous of sustaining, and of impressing on the minds of all degrees of persons within our church."
commendation passed in 1814, the House consisted of Bishops White, Moore, Griswold, and Hobart; and it seems they were all present at the time. Did Bishop Hobart then oppose this full and unequivocal recommendation of Bible Societies? From his own concession in his first reply to Mr. Jay, it appears that he did not. He tells us,
Admitting (which I presume is the fact) that Bishop Hobart agreed to that pastoral letter, it does not follow that he approved of every part of it. It was suf ficient to obtain his assent to it, that he liked it as a whole; and this general approbation is not in the least incompatible with dislike to a particular part. In an instrument containing so much matter as a pastoral letter, that unanimity would seldom be attained, which, I understand, the Bishops, when assembled as a House, are always desirous to secure, if an obnoxious passage were made the ground of dissent by any one Bishop, to the whole production. p. 46.
Love of unanimity, it seems, then kept Bishop Hobart from making any opposition to this letter, when the House of Bishops adopted it. Had he acted on this principle throughout, we should have thought there was weight in this plea. But after keeping silence in the House of Bishops, and in silence permitting this recommendation to pass, and all for the sake of unanimity and peace, he repairs to his diocess, and before the lapse of a year, addresses a pastoral letter to the churches under his command, condemning the very Institutions which the House of Bishops had so warmly recommended; and dissuading his churches from a measure to which the House of Bishops had advised them. This strikes us as being a most novel way of maintaining unanimity and peace in the church of Christ. One great end to be answered by the higher courts of Ecclesiastical Judicature is to bring the rulers of the church together, so that by comparing their views on the measures which wisdom and duty suggest, they may send them forth to their churches recommend