« הקודםהמשך »
Knowledge. Books, and even money, have been sent to them, according to the several necessities of the applicants; and new means are, at the present hour, under consideration, for adding to their spiritual comforts, and for enabling them to join in the worship of God after the manner of their fathers. In this particular part of the kingdom, where our church draws fewer of her members from the lower class of the people, the direct claims upon the bea nefits of the venerable Institution of which I speak are not so numerous as they are elsewhere: but, even here, we are supplied at an easy rate with the means of doing much good, and, we hope, of preventing much evil : and those means, I beg leave to assure you, will always be extended according to your desires, and your several opportunities of contributing to the spiritual edification of your brethren in the Lord.
The principles on which this Society is conducted have recommended themselves to the approbation of all who have inquired into them with candour and Christian feeling. Though confined, in the selection of its members, to the United Church of England and Ireland, and the Episcopal Communion in Scotland, it is ever ready to extend its assistance to all denominations who have the same patriotic objects in
view ; and no class of men who have undertaken to disseminate the knowledge of true religion, or to check the spread of infidel opinions, have at any time been refused the most hearty countenance and co-operation. The motives in which it had its origin were entirely free from all partial or contracted sentiments; and the spirit by which it has all along been animated refuses to make
any distinctions among churchmen, but such as rest upon their more ardent zeal, and the greater constancy of their exertions, in the cause of our common faith. Like the blessed religion, the knowledge of which it labours to promote, it is friendly and tolerant towards all who endeavour to attain good ends by the use of proper means: and it is worthy of remark, that although it has done more for the people of Great Britain than has been effected by all the other religious associations which have been formed in these latter days, it has never, by the slightest breath of contention or rivalry, discomposed for a moment the public peace, or even given occasion to the most transient personal hostility.
In extending the benefit of instruction to their countrymen, the Patrons of this Society have never forgotten, that knowledge without religi,
ous principle is no blessing to the lower class of the people. Mere knowledge, in such a case, is the giving of wine to the giant, without retaining the power to direct his strength or to repress his violence. But the union of Christianity with the elements of a plain education, not only confers light and vigour upon the minds of the peasant and the artizan: it does much more; it guides their exertions towards praiseworthy objects, inspires them with the love of virtue, of peace, and of true independence, and, through the grace of God, prepares them for everlasting happiness in a more perfect state of being:May the countenance of Heaven, therefore, continue to shine upon the labours of this venerable and most useful establishment; and may God, who is the strength of all them that put their trust in Him, mercifully accept our prayers for its furtherance; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good without Him, may he grant us the help of his grace, that, in keeping his commandments, we may please Him, both in will and deed, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Now to God, &c.
Note referred to at p. 31. To prevent any misconception that might arise from the manner in which the argument from miracles is handled in the text, I may be allowed to remind the reader, that there is
a distinction between the use of miracles as the means of proving a divine commission on the part of an inspired teacher, and the use of the same supernatural events as an instru-ment for establishing, at a remote period, the divine origin of the revelation which that teacher may have made. In the former case, the evidence is irresistible ; whereas, in the latter case, the value of the proof resolves itself into the credibility of the testimony upon which it has reached our times. Neither of these considerations, however, interferes, in the smallest degree, with that devotional contemplation of the miracles of our Lord and his Apostles, which may be enjoyed by the sincere Christian as an exercise of faith and piety.
The experience of our Missionaries in different parts of the world, confirms, in some degree, the reasoning pursued in the text. In India, particularly, they have found, that an appeal to tļie miracles recorded in the Gospels makes little impression on the minds of the Brahmins ; not because such manifestations of Almighty power are thought improbable, but because they are supposed to be very common in all religions, and even necessary to a general belief in the existence of the Deity. The Christians, accordingly, in that portion of the British dopinions, have to bewail, not so much the incredulity of the people whom they wish to convert, as the passive, unenquiring disposition, with which they listen to a statement of the most mysterious doctrines and facts connected with our holy faith. The Hindoo not only admits all these, but produces, from the records of his own creed, instances of Divine interposition still more striking than any that are narrated by the Evangelists.
In Africa, on the other hand, the ordinary processes of the physical economy are so little understood, and the line which divides the natural from the wonderful is so vaguely drawn, that every form of evidence derived from miracles is received with equal facility and indifference. In the conception of a Caffre or a Boschman, the healing of the sick, and the opening of the eyes of the blind, would amount to nothing more than the proof of a very powerful charm or prevailing fetiche.
But, to come nearer to ourselves, let me ask, what is the general feeling throughout the Protestant world in regard to the miracles which occupy so large a portion of the Ecclesiastical annals of the Eastern and Western Churches ? Is it not that while, in most cases, we acknowledge the honesty of the historians, we question the accuracy of their information, or their want of the requisite knowledge to discriminate between what was singular and what was supernatural? It is obvious, therefore, that the evidence which addresses itself to the reason and the reflection, is best suited to nature of man, and to the laws of his present condition
We cannot but regret the apathy with which the principal Religious Associations of the Church of England have been viewed in Scotland, the little interest their operations have excited amongst those whose exertions and liberality have evinced that they are neither indifferent to the cause of benevolence, nor to the prosperity of the Episcopal Church of which they are members.
The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge holds the very highest rank amongst the religious associations of the present day. It has been long established, but it is only of late years that it has assumed that activity, and acquired those means, amongst us, which render it so deserving of our assistance. It is conducted entirely and exclusively by members of the Episcopal Church; and all its proceedings and means of instruction are founded on the doctrines and practice of that Church. At home, it has spread instruction with a liberal hand; indeed, there is scarcely a village or bamlet in England where its influence has not extended, by furnishing gratuitously, or at a cheap rate, Bibles, Prayer-books, and Tracts, for the People and for Schools, and, in many instances lending Libraries adapted for the use of the poor. During the last year the Society distributed to its members and the public 54,876 Bibles, 75,547 Testaments and Psalters, 146,668 Books of Common Prayer, 91,897 bound Books, and 1,092,844 Tracts. Great exertions have been made in procuring correct versions of the Bible and Book of Common Prayer in the Irish language. The Society has furnished Gaelic Bibles and Prayerbooks. This year they have contributed L.100 towards the establishment of Episcopal Schools in the Highlands; and they have returned a favourable answer to an application for a grant towards erecting and endowing a Gaelic Chapel in Glasgow. A most important field of the Society's labours will be found in the colonies and dependencies of the British empire ; but no object has in view is more interesting than that of Christianizing India. That much has been attempted there by missionaries, in an injudicious manner, no one will deny. That many exaggerated accounts of conversions under ignorant