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but an equality of power and interest, between the two parties, is the avowed basis, on which this modern Society is built.
It is true, that those members of it, who are attached to the Church, may so far correct the evil, that when they have obtained Bibles for distribution from this Society, they may of themselves add Prayer-books, and Religious Tracts in unison with the established faith, and that this correction will be rendered easy, if (as frequently happens) they are members also of the other Society. But, to say nothing of the question, whether it is not more advisable for Churchmen to adhere wholly to a Society, which, in proportion as its numbers increase, will supply their wants without the necessity of correction, the dissenting members have the same resource with their brethren of the establishment, it being equally in their power to distribute Bibles in company with such Religious Tracts, as favor their own opinions, and are always at hand, whenever they are wanted. The principle of equality therefore, on which the modern Bible Society is formed, and which places Christians of every denomination on the same level, is, upon the whole, preserved : and in this constitutional equality there is evident danger, that the pre-eminence of the established religion should be gradually forgotten, and finally lost.
It is far from my intention to be unfriendly or disrespect. ful toward those, whose religious opinions are different from my own. Though sincerely attached to the Established Church, and desirous of promoting its welfare by all fair and honorable means, I fully recognise the natural, and in this country legal, right of private judgment in matters of reli. gion; and I should be ever ready both to deplore and to oppose every effort to abridge the freedom of religious opi. nion, or religious worship, which is exercised in this country by Dissenters of every description. But though I respect
religious opinions in general, however different from my own, and respect them because they are religious opinions, yet I deeply lament that such diversity exists, not only because the greater the diversity the more abundant is the error, but because religious dissension, in consequence of our mixed constitution, is closely connected with political dissension. political evil ; and as such should not be encouraged, though Religious dissension therefore in this country becomes a Dissenters of every description should for conscience sake be tolerated. This is the true line of distinction, which every Churchman should invariably observe ; and I am convinced that every candid Dissenter, so far from resenting this open and honest avowal, will do justice to the purity of my intentions. Indeed, every man, who loves his country, will be ready to adopt a principle, which is calculated to promote political good, without producing religious evil.
Let us apply this principle to the modern Bible Society, as far as relates to the conduct of Churchmen : for nothing which is here said is intended as a restraint on the conduct of those, who dissent from the Established Church. They have full liberty to distribute Bibles, either alone, or accompanied with such Religious Tracts as they may think proper : and, if a Society consisting solely of Dissenters had been formed for this purpose, the members of the Establishment would have had no right, either to interfere or even to complain of it. Such a society would have been perfectly consistent with those principles of toleration, which are happily established in these realms. But it is certainly a question for consideration among Churchmen, whether it is prudent to augment the power of such a Society, by throwing into its scale the weight of the Establishment. If Churchmen give the whole of their influence to the ancient Bible Society, they retain the strength of the Established Church within its own channel, and thus contribute to preserve it. If they
divide their influence, and still more if they give it wholly to the modern Bible Society, they divert the strength of the Establishment into a foreign channel, where the current may at least be turned against them. In supporting the ancient Bible Society, they have ample security, that they are supporting at the same time the Established Church ; but in supporting the modern Bible Society, they have no such security, either in its constitution, or in the general friendship of its members. It is true, that the professed object of the modern Bible Society is to distribute Bibles without note or comment, and, in this country, according to the authorised version. But were it certain, that, as the power of this Society increases, the present avowed object would still be retained, we can have no guarantee that other objects, inimi. • cal to the Church, will not in time be associated with the main object. The experience of only seven years, under circumstances where circumspection has been peculiarly necessary, is a poor ground of consolation. The Dissenters, however well affected in other respects, cannot be well affected to the Church, or they would not be dissenters from it. Their interests, in respect to religion, are different from ours, and therefore must lead them a different way: and though we know, from experience, that they can combine for the purpose of opposing the Church, it would be contrary both to experience, and to the common principles of human action to expect their co-operation, if the object in view was the interest of the Church. If we apply then the principle above-mentioned, that Churchmen should tolerate, but not encourage Dissenters, we shall find in it a strong argument against the promotion of the modern Bible Society. For, independently of the reason above-stated, that Churchmen should unite the Liturgy with the Bible, and thus prevent its misapplication to other doctrines, the very constitution of the modern Bible Society gives an importance to the dis
senting interest, which, otherwise, it would never have ob, tained, and consequently brings a fresh accession of danger to the Established Church. That Churchmen, by their association with Dissenters in this modern Bible Society, increase both the political and the religious importance of the latter, is too obvious to require illustration. And that this increase of influence may hereafter be applied in a manner not contemplated by those, who now inadvertently promote it, is likewise a position which cannot be controverted. But by increasing the influence of the ancient Bible Society, we necessarily increase the influence of the Established Church; for the ancient Bible Society is one of its firmest bulwarks. On the one hand, therefore, our encouragement of the an. cient Society must contribute to the welfare of the Established Church, while, on the other hand, our encouragement of the modern Society not only contributes nothing to it in preference to other churches, but may contribute even to its dissolution. Now if we injure, or even neglect to support, our own Church, we shall hardly make compensation by our distribution of Bibles in foreign parts. If our own Church, as we have reason to believe, professes Christianity in its purest form, the downfal of such a Church would be an irreparable loss, not to this nation only, but to the whole world,
Under these circumstances, I respectfully submit the question to the consideration of this University, which of the two Bible Societies is most entitled to encouragement on the part of a body, whose peculiar duty (a duty so nobly dis, played on a late occasion) is the support of the Established Church,
HERBERT MARSH, ,
Margaret Professor of Divinity,