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BOOK 3, CH. 12,
THE COADJUTOR OF THE BIBLE SOCIETY
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THE COADJUTOR OF THE BIBLE SOCIETY
The rise of the British and Foreign Bible Society was one of the signs which, at the opening of the nineteenth century, inaugurated a new era in the religious history of the world. Till the nations of the earth are brought under the influence of a direct revelation from God, they will never be renewed. No words, then, can tell the grandeur of the thought which at that time began more fully to move the minds of British Christians, TO GIVE THE WORLD THE BIBLE, or express the solemn gratitude which the true philanthropist must feel in reviewing the successes which have attended the blessed enterprise, through which, by persevering toil, and not a little sacrifice, “by the patience of hope and the labor of love,” millions and millions in many lands and tongues have read and heard the words that are spirit and life. All honor to the men who, so few in number, and so feeble in resources, arose to do this work, and unveil the fair aspect of truth for the eyes of all humanity!
In this most beneficent undertaking Dr. Adam Clarke had the honor of taking a conspicuous part. Mr. Butterworth, who was one of the originators of the Society, soon enlisted his brother-in-law in a work for which his whole heart was predisposed, and for which his biblical knowledge and evangelic zeal so eminently qualified him. The committee, as soon as they commenced active measures for printing the various Oriental versions of the Scriptures, found in him the very man they needed. As we are now looking at the aspects of his literary life, it is only in this point of view that our limits will allow us to consider his relations to the Society. Dr. Clarke, then, was, as we may say, the standing counsel of the committee in that department; and the papers which in that capacity he communicated to them not only show the sound advice and practical help he was enabled to give, but embody some essays on the Eastern translations of the Bible which deserve an endless permanence. These papers, which are too long for insertion here, may he found in the second volume of the family Life of Dr. Clarke, edited by his son and daughter; and, in the event of a new edition of the Doctor’s Works, they should be incorporated in it. He not only gave these important advices viva voce in the committee-meetings, of which he was a punctual attendant, and in the written instructions now referred to; but he superintended, as well, the preparation of the Oriental types. With a lively sense of the zeal with which he carried these aids into prosperous effect, the committee desired to give him some token of their esteem. To use the words of their historian, Mr. Owen, “For the eminent services which had cost Mr. Clarke no ordinary sacrifice of time and labor, they requested permission to present him with fifty pounds; an offering which that learned and publicspirited individual respectfully but peremptorily declined to accept.
Gratuitous exertions in the cause of the Society, and refusals to accept pecuniary returns, have abounded in every period of its history. Mr. Adam Clarke is, however, not to be classed with ordinary benefactors.”
When Providence removed Dr. Clarke from London, the Committee of the Bible Society felt that they were losing one of their most valued helpers, and expressed their sentiments in an official letter of thanks. But, though he was thus taken away from the sphere in which he could personally cooperate with the committee, his influence and services were at the command of the Society wherever he had opportunity of serving the glorious cause for which it exists.
Since those days the career of the British and Foreign Bible Society exhibits one ceaseless advance and that splendid experiment of Christian zeal has been attended with a success which confirms the assurance that its purpose will be accomplished in giving the word of God to the human race.
Vast as is the design, every year utters more distinctly the prophecy of its fulfilment. The astronomer, from a known section of the pathway of a new planet, can describe its entire orbit, and its time of revolving, even to a day: so, in the progress this great institution has made within the last fifty years, there may be formed the pledge that its destiny will be carried out, and even the elements that may serve in calculating the period when the consummation shall be gained.