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NEGLECT OF THE BIBLE.
· great principle of Protestantism, which freed men from the authority of human teaching, and sent them to the Bible, was but imperfectly applied by the successors of the reformers. Translations were made, as we have seen, into most of the countries of Europe; but either the people could not read, or copies of the Scriptures were not to be obtained in numbers at all equal to their wants. In many cases, the printing of the Scriptures ceased. In Italy, for example, where we find as many as thirty-three editions of the Scriptures before 1579, we have not a single edition published during the whole of the seventeenth century; nor was anything done to give Italy the Bible, (excepting by Diodati and other Protestants,) till the latter part of the eighteenth century, when it was thought that the printing of the Roman Catholic version might be resumed without risk. In Spain, again, the publication of the Scriptures was practically prohibited during the whole of this period. Before the days of Luther, some encouragement had been given to the work of translation ; but when the effects of the study of the Bible were seen, all encouragement was withheld. Some editions of the New Testament in Spanish were printed abroad, at Venice and Amsterdam ; but it was found impossible to circulate them in that country. As late, indeed, as 1786, Dr. Geddes, himself a Roman Catholic and a competent witness, observes that there was not even then a single edited version of the whole 140 NEGLECT OF THE BIBLE. Bible in Spanish. Portugal was equally degtitute of the Scriptures. Editions had been printed at Amsterdam, Batavia, and Tranqnebar; but those were all intended for foreign settlements, and found no entrance into Por tugal. During the whole of the eighteenth century, a single edition was published at Lisbon in twenty-three volumes, and that was neither intended nor adapted for common use. Elsewhere, more active efforts were made to coun
editions in Flemish, in Basque, in Hungarian, in Carniolan, were bought up, or forcibly seized by the Jesuits ; and wherever those spiritual janissaries went, they regarded it as an important part of their office to destroy single copies. A burned Bible was to them a crushed foe. Even in districts accessible to Scripture, the work of printing had not kept pace with the work of translation. The reformers had made a noble beginning, but they handed down their labours to children not worthy of them, Protestant Europe was practically without the Bible. Counting the entire number of
two hundred years that followed the reformation of Luther at five thousand, (a large estimate,) and the number of each edition in the vernacular tongues at one thousand, (still a large estimate, we have but five million copies of the word of God in languages spoken by one hundred millions of people--a third only of the copies printed in the last fifty years for
142 onr own country. Protestantism without the Bible is a cold negation; true, because the denial of error, but powerless; and Protestants without Bibles are soldiers without weapons, ready neither for conquest nor for defence.
This view is not coinpleted till we add the inhuman persecutions and cruelties with which the church of Rome assailed her opponents, and which had the effect of destroying the most conscientious and devoted of their number. The massacres of France cut off one hundred thousand persons in three months. Pope Julius the seventh was the occasion of the slaughter of two hundred thousand Christians in seven years. Forty years after the institution of the Jesuits, nine hundred thousand had perished through their instrumentality. The duke of Alva put thirty thousand to death in the Netherlands, and the Inquisition destroyed, in thirty-six years, one hundred and fifty thousand more.* Those martyrs were “slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” If such a termination of their course be regarded as the triumph of Popery, it is in a higher sense a triumph of the principles which strengthened and sustained them.
The lessons are plain. If we desire the spread of the principles of the Reformation and the downfal of error, let us be holy and spiritual, united and aggressive ; above all, let us honour and circulate the Bible. The Pro
* See Claude's Defence of the Reformation, Life, p. lxi.
CAUSES OF DECLINE. testantism which possesses these qualities is sure to triumph : the Protestantism which is without them is little better than the system it seeks to supersede.
CHAPTER IV. THE BIBLE AND CHRISTIAN MISSIONS. Nothing can be more unjust than to affirm, that the missionary spirit of the church of Christ is peculiar to our times. From the very first she has deemed herself charged to give the gospel to the world. The labours of the early Christians, and the versions of Scripture made by them into the various languages of the east, and of imperial Rome, attest the strength of this conviction in the very first ages. In the sixteenth century, moreover, she was always aggressive. Wycliffe, in England, Luther, in Germany, Farel, in France, Zwingle, in Switzerland, not only sought to reform abuses and to correct error--they sought the conversion of the careless and ungodly. The reformers were all missionaries, and the Reformation was essentially a mission for the “obedience of faith.”
Even in the restricted meaning of the terma ineaning that appropriates the name mission to efforts on behalf of the heathen-the spirit of missions was found among all sections of the reformed churches. As early us 1676, our