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DELIVERED AT THE
FIRST ANNIVERSARY MEETING
VALE OF AYLESBURY AUXILIARY BIBLE SOCIETY,
HELD AT HADDENHAM,
AUGUST 7, 1816.
The Report which you have now heard has anticipated many remarks which I should otherwise have made on this occasion. Indeed the reflections which it has suggested to my mind, or revived in it, dispose me especially to thankful congratulation. I cannot but congratulate myself that I have lived to hear of and witness such things as have been concisely recited to you, but with which I have much opportunity of becoming more fully acquainted. Little did I think about thirty-five years ago, when the religious state of the earth at large first began to occupy my attention, that I should have witnessed such scenes as now gladden the hearts of all zealous Christians. Few at that period, few even of the ministers or professors of the gospel, had their minds enlarged to look much beyond their own contracted circle. The conversion of Jews, or Gentiles, or Mohammedans, in distant regions of the globe, nay, the religious interests of other nations in Europe, seldom were mentioned in their social meetings, or even heard of in their prayers ! When these topics were introduced, they seemed new things, exciting surprise, regrets mingled with fears, and even objections or suspicions. The obligation of Christians to attempt things of this nature was recognized by few: others were ready to say, “ The time is not yet :” nay, to suppose that the endeavour would be a premature and unseasonable interference with the plans of Providence. The whole seemed, on this point, like a hard frost, excluding all prospect of vegetation to the seed thus attempted to be sown.
But I am spared to witness a revolution in the minds and judgments of Christians throughout this land, and almost in every part of the globe, far exceeding even my most sanguine but transient hopes. An impulse has been given, and felt, and communicated very widely indeed. Christians in every land generally recognize their obligations, and own the duty of communicating the light of life, by every peaceful means, to all those, throughout the whole earth, who “ still sit in darkness and “ the shadow of death,” and are “perishing for “ lack of knowledge.” The different Missionary Societies, successively established, have all recognized and diffused the principle, and are acting extensively and decidedly upon it, with various measures of success. May that success be increased a hundred and a thousand fold,“ how much soever “ it may be !" But I must here adopt the words of the report, and say respecting them, as compared with the British and Foreign Bible Society, “Many “ daughters have done virtuously, but thou excel« lest them all."
The enmity of infidels and atheists, after having long and perniciously wrought more secretly, burst forth openly about twenty-five years ago, and boasted, and menaced the destruction of Christi
anity, and the degradation of the Bible to share the fate of the antiquated legends of superstition. “ The enemy" indeed “ came in like a flood;" but “the Spirit of the Lord hath lifted up a standard “against him.” Never, since the beginning of the world, have the Oracles of God been so widely and effectually honoured, as they are at this day. Yet this is evidently but the dawn of a still brighter season approaching, and speedily approaching. “It is the “ Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes." Many have been honoured in this service, but I must repeat, what I have elsewhere advanced, that the Bible Society has been, and is, the principal standardbearer. The impulse is given; and I am confident no opposition will ever stop it. I therefore congratulate myself on having been spared to see this dawn; and am disposed to say, as good old Simeon, when he held the infant Saviour in his arms, and foresaw the effects of his coming ; I have lived long enough: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in “ peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation ; “ which thou hast prepared before the face of all “people ; a light to lighten the gentiles, and the “glory of thy people Israel.”
I also most thankfully congratulate my beloved country, as honoured of God to be that nation which was first to receive, and then to communicate this sacred impulse to all ranks and orders of men, in many great and powerful nations abroad, and indeed in every quarter of the globe. In our land, the noble and vast design originated, of giving the word of life to every man on earth, in his own language! of making apostles and prophets speak to mankind at large, and to every man individually