« PreviousContinue »
The American Sunday-School Union publish a portion of their books in the form of a library for Sunday schools, day schools, and families, so exceedingly cheap as to promise a very wide circulation. The following is a statement of the project, and it has since been completed
* We are upon the eve of publishing a library well suited to a large class of Sunday schools, as well as for families, daily schools, &c., especially for those whose means of supply are limited. It consists of ONE HUNDRED BOUND VOLUMES, from 72 to 252 pages, and will be sold for TEN DOLLARS. It would be quite impracticable to sell the separate volumes which compose this library, at the prices they bear in this collection. But by having them printed on less expensive paper, and dispensing with some items of embellishment, we are enabled to put the collection as a whole at this price. "THE TEN DOLLAR LIBRARY' is substantially bound with muslin backs and. marble sides, each volume regularly numbered, and ready to distribute, with twentyfive catalogues for the use of the school. We have the satisfaction to believe, that considering the size and number of the books, this is by far the cheapest collection, in this form, which has ever been published in our country.”- Twenty-first Annual Report of the Amer. §. $. Union, pp. 21-23.
The following is the statement of the Presbyterian Board of Publication :
“During the year ending March 30th, 1845, the Presbyterian Board of Publication have added to their catalogue twenty-eight new books, amounting in all to 53,000 copies, varying in size from royal 8vo. to 32mo., and in price from four dollars to four cents. Of these works eighteen are sabbath-school books, peculiarly suited in style, size, and price, for the use of children.
They have also printed 71,500 volumes of new editions from stereotype plates." - Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Publication of the Presbyterian Church, p. 3.
We here have a glance at the efforts of one year to furnish the country with popular reading, made by several Calvinistic associations. But a more complete view will be afforded of the power of their system, by noticing the plans which are adopted to circulate these books. They have established a system of “colportage, which is designed, when completed, to cover the whole country, and to introduce their libraries, single volumes, and tracts, wherever they can be sold; and among the poor and destitute, books and tracts are gratuitously bestowed. Here is the statement of the results of this system :
“It will be seen that one hundred and forty-three colporteurs, volume agents, and superintendents of colportage, have been engaged in the
society's service during the whole or a part of the year, in twenty-four states and territories, (including Texas,) exclusive of those in the service of the society at Boston, and other branches and auxiliaries; of whom one hundred and three are still employed. Of the whole number three colporteurs have been devoted to the Welsh, Irish, and colored population ; three to sailors and seamen; four to the French ; twentysix to the Germans, (including converted Romanists,) and a hundred and seven chiefly to the destitute native population. The total number of families visited exceeds one hundred and fifty-three thousand, with most of whom the colporteurs have had religious conversation or prayer: not far from forty-seven thousand families, who were previously destitute of all religious books except the Bible, were each supplied with a book like Baxter's Call gratuitously, and several thousands with the Bible or Testament, by sale or gift. The total circulation of volumes exceeds three hundred and seventy-four thousand, including twentyfour thousand sets of D’Aubigné’s History of the Reformation.”—Twentienth Annual Report of the American Tract Society, p. 51.
The following will give the details of the system more fully, and will show what the probable results will be when it is fully developed :
“Mr. Seely Wood, reporting the labors of his associates in the western and south-western states, writes :
“It may not be uninteresting to the friends of the colporteur enterprise to know that since 1841 the work has been commenced in fortyfour counties in Ohio, exclusive of the Western Reserve ; forty-five counties in Indiana ; fifty-five in Kentucky; twenty-one in Tennessee, exclusive of the eastern portion ; twenty-two in Illinois ; thirteen in Missouri ; nineteen in Arkansas, and eleven in Mississippi ; and since that period, including the circulation of two or three volume agents, 209,516 volumes have been circulated, of which 57,288 have been granted to the destitute.
“To carry forward the work efficiently in the counties where it has been commenced, and to occupy as many more counties within the same period of time, we need a large increase in the number of wellqualified laborers. Large portions of Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky, should be occupied the present year.'
“ The interesting details of western colportage are classified in the subsequent pages of this document. We insert in this connection simply the statistical results of the labors on the field superintended by Mr. Wood. The aggregate of sales is 45,624 volumes, amounting to $11,406 93, and of grants about 18,000 volumes, besides tracts, making 5,590,710 pages in all, amounting to $3,727 14.
“Mr. Solomon Sala, who has labored in Tuscarawas, Stark, Holmes, and Coshocton counties, reports the sale of 1,980 volumes amounting to $495 05, and the grant of 605 volumes of the value of $99 56.
“Rev. C. Danforth commenced his labors in November, in Highland county, and has visited 460 families; conversed and prayed with 405; sold 456 volumes, and granted 300 to the destitute ; found 66 families without the Bible, 60 of whom he supplied. A portion of his time has been employed in raising funds.
“Mr. David Rothen, laboring among the German population in Putnam and adjoining counties, reports from April to August, (when his labors were interrupted by sickness,) that he visited 534 families, sold 217 volumes, and granted 358 to the destitute. He has resumed his labors with encouraging prospects.
* Mr. Geo. F. Yahnke (German) reports the sale of 674 volumes and the gift of 264 volumes to the destitute in Pickaway, Ross, and Pike counties.
“Mr. Philip Lacker has visited more than 1,000 families in Montgómery, Preble, Warren, Butler, and Miami counties, Ohio, and Wayne county, Indiana; and has circulated 1,386 volumes by sale, amounting to $348 29, and granted 1,675 volumes of the value of $212 34. He has made it a point to supply as far as possible every destitute family with the Scriptures, and has distributed 41 English and Gerinan Bibles, and 68 English and German Testaments.
“Mr. Thomas Spencer reports that he has sold 2,528 volumes, and supplied 606 destitute families gratuitously, in Laurence, Pike, and Gallia counties. He has distributed a number of Bibles, and about 300 Testaments. He frequently lectured four and five times a week on the subject of temperance, and found it profitable at the close of his lectures to distribute temperance tracts and books.
“Mr. Leger Ritty, laboring among the German population of Ohio, reports that he has received $155 99 for publications sold during the year, and that he has granted books and tracts to destitute Romanist families, to the value of $198 66. Many encouraging statements from his letters will be found in subsequent pages of the Report.”—Ibid.
pp. 65, 66.
We do by no means present these facts for the purpose of opposition or censure. · We would not have the country alarmed at these formidable efforts to spread books and to make converts. The books in the main are good, and the colporteurs are self-denying, godly men, and are doing a great and good work, and one in which we most heartily bid them God speed. Our object is to excite emulation, or, if possible, to awaken the Methodist mind in the country upon the subject of increasing the circulation of our own books. We see that if our books are not procured and read by our people, others will be. And, however valuable may be the publications of these associations for those who are attached to the Calvinistic churches, who of us will question whether ours are not better for us--for our churches and congregations? In one instance, a colporteur in the south-west circulated “sixty volumes at a camp-meeting." And in another instance, it is stated by a colporteur, that “an aged Methodist found a copy of Baxter's Call twenty miles below his place of residence, and was so well pleased with it, that he borrowed it;" and he proceeds to say: "When I came to his house he had just finished reading it, and said of it, “That book is all marrow.""
Now, the books distributed at the camp-meeting, doubtless, did much good, and Baxter's Call was good food for this “ aged Methodist." We rejoice in these interesting facts, as heartily as any one else can. We do not note them for the purpose of fault-finding. By no means. But they are worthy of note for other reasons. They teach us, that with suitable efforts our own books might be much more widely diffused, and they teach us also, that if we will not supply the people who wait upon our ministry with books, our enterprising brethren of the American Tract Society will do it for us. And if our people cannot get Baxter's Call and the Saint's Rest, abridged by Mr. Wesley-as we publish them—why then let them get them from the colporteurs, as published by the American Tract Society. And if they cannot have Wesley's Sermons, and the Lives of Bramwell, Mrs. Rogers, Carvosso, &c., then it is, doubtless, a great blessing for them to have the practical works of Doddridge, Flavel, and President Edwards. But why will our people "go abroad” for food when they have a feast at home?" We fear our excellent system is not always so fully carried out as it might be: that we too often content ourselves with preaching to the people, and gathering them into the church, without supplying them with the means of spiritual health and comfort when we are absent from them: that after housing them in the church, we, in too many instances, leave them to get books as best they may. And if, indeed, there is anything better than our own publications, then let them go out of the market, and let us give up the publishing business. But what intelligent Methodist believes this? Who among us believes that there is anything in the language better calculated to impart sound Scriptural views of the plan of salvation, to awaken the consciences of sinners, and to build up believers in the faith of the gospel, than the writings of our own divines? Whoever may prefer other books, ours are best for us; and, indeed, we believe they are among the best books for general circulation. And yet there is a strange apathy among us in relation to their circulation. But we must return from this digression.
The principal use we intended to make of the facts above presented, was to show that the religious communities around us are giving increased attention to their own literature, and that the result will be that the portions of the community which adhere to them are likely to be well instructed in religious truth in general, and in their own peculiar views. The great mass of the publications which these associations are publishing and circulating with so much diligence occupies general ground; and, so far as it goes, will continue to elevate the standard of religious knowledge among the people—particularly among the young. A portion of the publications of the Presbyterian Board is strictly denominational, and presents the doctrines and polity of the Presbyterian Church in all their strength. Among these are the Confession of Faith, Larger Catechism, Calvin's Institutes, Green's Lectures on the Catechism, Questions on the Confession of Faith, Miller on Ruling Elders, Scott's Translation of the Synod of Dort, Scott's Force of Truth, Dickinson on the Five Points, Owen on Indwelling Sin, Snodgrass on Sanctification, &c. Such books, freely circulated and diligently read, will arm and equip the people, even the young, for defense and aggression; and will not fail to give them a decided advantage over us, unless we are equally well read in the general principles which we hold in common with them, and in our own distinctive doctrines and polity. If the Calvinistic churches are prepared to converse intelligently upon the great principles of Christianity, and also upon their own distinctive doctrines and usages, and we are unread, the result will be that while they are strong in their positions, we shall be weak in ours. It will be of little avail to us that we have the argument on our side, if we are not able to wield it; nor shall we be able to maintain our influence over the public mind. Those who are the better read will carry with them the portions of the community which wield the strength and influence of the country: and whatever advantage we may have over them in point of Scriptural truth and consistency, they will do, the most good and will exert the greatest influence over the public mind. The truth always suffers in unskillful hands. And if we would not suffer that beautiful system of doctrines and polity which our fathers drew from the Scriptures, and set forth with such admirable simplicity, to be disparaged and to lose its appropriate influence, we must study it, understand it, and thus be prepared to honor, maintain, and defend it. A bad defense often dishonors the truth, and a poor representative disgraces a good cause. Is there any reason why the Methodist people, old and young, should not be as well read as any other religious community in the land? We see none. And yet we fear that we may fall behind our enterprising brethren of other churches in the average progress of religious knowledge. If it should be so, it will be our own fault. It will