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144 MISSIONS CHARACTERISTIC OF OUR TIMES. countryman Boyle urged the East India Company to promote Christianity in the east, and supported their application for a charter with that view. In 1701, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was incorporated by William m. Three years later, a similar society was formed and incorporated in Scotland. About the middle of the eighteenth century, also, (1769,) Methodism" Christianity in action”-had sent out labourers to America. Nor were Christians of other nations less active. The missionary church of the United Brethren, the descendants of those Bohemians whom the papacy had never ceased to persecute since the days of Huss, had commenced their work, and in the days of Charles II. had received aid from English Protestants, on the recommendation of archbishop Sancroft. The Danish mission on the Coromandel coast, and the Dutch mission in Ceylon, gained honours in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which their later history has bardly sustained; while elsewhere the labours of Elliot and Brainerd had done much to render missionary efforts fragrant even among the heathen.
In spite of these facts, however, we are justified in calling Christian missions the characteristic of our times. They are not peculiar to us; but they distinguish our age from the past. Previous efforts were partial, being either confined to our colonies, or maintained as incidental and exceptional labours by portions only of the religious communities with
145 which they were connected. "The church of Christ is bound to give the gospel to the world, and cannot rest contented till that is done,” is a conviction that has grown gradually during the last sixty years, and belongs in its intensity and comprehensiveness to the present century.
This conviction seems to have originated, in modern times, with the revivals of America and Scotland. Tidings of the labours of Edwards and Whitfield in the former country, were read with much interest at Cambuslang, Kilsyth, and in the centre of England. Towards the middle of the eighteenth century, monthly meetings began to be held very generally in all these districts, to pray for the outpourings of the Spirit upon the church, and then upon the world ; first “upon him that was thirsty," and then “upon the dry ground.” Prayer prompted the question, whether Christians were not bound to “ use means for the conversion of the. world." And at Kettering, in 1792, the first English Missionary Society was formed for the propagation of the gospel among the heathen. In rapid succession other Societies sprang up. In 1795, appeared the London Missionary Society, having on its direction members of several evangelical bodies; the Church Missionary Society in 1800 ; and the Wesleyan Missionary Society in 1817. The progress of these various associations, and others of a kindred order, may be gathered from the fact, that now* upwards of thirty Societies are at
THE THREE ERAS. work in this country, seeking the evangelization of nations beyond the bounds of the British islands, and having an income devoted chiefly to this work of about half a million sterling.
Bible and Tract Societies were formed about the same time; the Religious Tract Society in 1799, and the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804. These have been followed by the formation of auxiliaries and kindred societies too numerous to name.
Confining ourselves to the object of this volume, the results of their continued efforts may be easily given. In the first ten centuries of the Christian era, the Scriptures were translated into as many different tongues ; Chaldee, Greek, Syriac, Latin, Egyptian, Ethiopic, Armenian, Gothic, Sclavonio, Arabic, and, perhaps, Anglo-Saxon; and some thousands of copies probably were transcribed. In the two hunodred and fifty years subsequent to the Reformation, the Scriptures were translated on the continent into twenty-two languages more (see page 127 ;) and at most five million copies were printed. In the last sixty years, the Bible, or some part of the Bible, has been published by various Bible Societies in about one hundred and sixty different languages or dialects; and of those about one hundred and thirty were never printed before. Five million copies in two hundred and fifty years was a noble achievement. The Bible Society has printed for Europe alone 8,575,657 copies in different
"ues, or including those issued by fifty-nine RESULTS IN FINLAND, WALES,
continental societies, nearly sixteen million copies. For India there have been printed by all societies, 3,122,121 ; for all the world besides, 541,916 copies. Upwards of twenty millions of copies, therefore, have been printed in sixty years for different nations of the earth, not including those in our English tongue.
If these facts could be examined in detail, the results would be yet more impressive. Finland, for example, a country first led to profess the Christian faith by an Englishman, about the middle of the twelfth century, contained in 1841, one hundred and twenty thousand families without a copy of the Scriptures. A resolution was formed by the British and Foreign Bible Society to supply them all; and the last edition of five-and-twenty thousand required for this purpose, is now in course of preparation. When distributed, every family in Finland will possess a copy of the word of God.* The Bible Society originated, in one sense, with Wales; the destitution of that part of the country having suggested the idea of a society for providing Bibles for those destitute of them. In 1804, persons interested in religion were in the habit of travelling many miles to the nearest church or minister, in order to read for themselves the words of life. In forty-eight years upwards of seven hundred thousand copies had 148 AND PARIS. BUNYAN. been printed and circulated in the principality; a number equal, it is reckoned, to the entire Welsh population. In the days of the “first consul,” one of our countrymen visited Paris, and was anxious when there to obtain a French Bible. He applied to the various booksellers of Paris in vain ; a copy was not to be obtained. Last year the number of copies issued from the depôt of the Bible Society in that city amounted to upwards of ninety thousand, and in the last nineteen years more than two millions of copies have been distributed.
* In 1806, not one in a thousand of the people of Russia could read, and it was generally known a hundred versts off (seventy miles) where the treasure of a Bible was to be found. In ten years the Russian Bible Society issued eight hundred and sixty-one thousand copies.-Dealtry's Vindication, p.
An analogous fact may be added. The Religious Tract Society has printed within the same time five hundred million copies of more than five thousand different publications, in as many as one hundred and ten different tongues ; little books, with the very doctrines contained in those quarto tracts which first opened men's minds to the truths of the Reformation. As a specimen of these, Bunyan's “Pilgrim's Progress” has been published by that Society in twenty-eight languages, spoken by more than half the population of the globe. If the Reformation illustrates the grace of God, and excites our admiration, with what feelings must these facts be contemplated ? With humility, that we have ever faltered in our labours, and that those labours have been so unworthy ; but with devoutest thankfulness, that God has been pleased so signally to own and bless them.
The first place is due in this chapter to individual effort.