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PRE FACE.

W ere it possible to realize the idea, that only a single copy of the Bible was upon earth, and that all mankind knew, where it was deposited, with what delight would myriads hasten to the favoured spot! what pilgrimages would be undertaken, to catch even a glimpse of the inestimable treasure! Kings would lay down their crowns before it; and Sages press, from the shades of retirement and the schools of science, to partake of wisdom at the fountain which Mercy had unlocked.

And is the value of this treasure impaired, because means are devised to render it accessible to all? Is the light of Revelation the less valuable, because it no longer emits “a struggling ray” through the jealous door-ways and narrow windows of the temple, but bursts forth in all the brightness of its majesty, to console, and cheer, and animate the universal family of man?

The application of the system detailed in the following pages has been the subject of surprise to some, and of ridicule to others :--but it is by the nature and importance of the object in view, and the adaptation of the means provided for its attainment, that the candid and judicious will decide. It is no longer a question, whether the Bible Society be entitled to general support:-its claims are felt and acknowledged by the public: and the only matter of astonishment is, how, in a country professedly Christian, a doubt could have arisen in reference to the subject. If the religion we profess, be The Truth; if the BIBLE be the basis on which it rests; if “ life and immortality" are indeed “ brought

to light through the Gospel ;" no duty can be more clear and imperative than that of disseminating the holy scriptures, wherever a human eye can peruse their glorious truths, or a • human heart be changed and sanctified by that Holy Spirit whence they proceeded, and to which they lead.

Nor is it possible to conceive a work, wherein the time, the talents, and the energies of mankind can be more profitably engaged. Shall he be commended, who applies the resources of ingenuity to the accumulation of temporal wealth ? and shall censure or ridicule be the portion of him, who facilitates: the attainment of the imperishable treasures of an eternal world?

In tracing the progress of the system, and its practical operation and results among the various classes of society; it has been the aim of the author to establish and illustrate a position, of the truth of which he is himself convinced ;-that the several component parts are essentially necessary; that no portion can be spared without injury to the whole ; and that, throughout all the departments of this extraordinary Institution, however designated, no one of its branches interferes with another. United in principle and harmonious in practice, the several Societies occupy their respective stations; and the health and vigour of all are indicated by the welfare and success of each particular part. Whether this system have yet attained the degree of perfection of which it is susceptible, is a question whereon the reader will form his own opinion: but the author may be allowed to observe, that among the motives by which he was influenced, to this publication, not the least powerful has been a hope that an opportunity will thus be afforded, to those who are interested in the object, for any, suggestions and remarks which may tend to its improvement. That any hints in furtherance of this end will be gratefully accepted by the Committee of the Parent Institution, and, on their recommendation, by the numerous Local Societies, there cannot be

à doubt: but the author begs it may be distinctly understood, that the present work is submitted without any authority, except that which it derives from its own merits. If he has quoted the sentiments of those who are qualified by experience and observation to form a correct judgment on the subject, he has done so merely to verify the accuracy of his own opinions,--not to get rid of that responsibility which attaches exclusively to himself.

To a respected and valued friend, the eloquent Historian of the Society, an apology is due, for the freedom with which his language has been occasionally borrowed. While acknow. ledging this obligation, the author may be permitted to express a sanguine, though perhaps presumptuous expectation, that the extracts by which he has enriched his own pages, may be the means of exciting more general attention to a work which cannot be too highly commended.' '.

How far the system detailed and explained in the present work is applicable to Foreign Countries, it is not for the author to hazard an opinion :-his wishes will be amply gratified, if his labours tend, in any degree, to promote its extension in our own. But he indulges a hope, that, with such modifications as the circumstances and habits of other nations may render necessary, it may conduce to the establishment and organization of Bible Societies generally; and thus extend those practical benefits which are attendant on the steady pursuit of an object altogether good.

In a work of this nature, a considerable degree of repetition is unavoidable; but reference to preceding facts and documents has been made wherever the practice could be adopted without ambiguity.

In returning his acknowledgments to many estimable friends, for the zeal which they have manifested in promoting sub

scriptions to the present volume, the author' begs them to accept his assurance, that the sense of gratitude is heightened, rather than impaired, by the reflection that he has no pecuniary interest in the success of their generous exertions.

and unexpected delay of the publication. Nearly two years have elapsed since the prospectus was circulated, during the greater part of which period the author has been afflicted with severe indisposition :-to the same cause the candid reader will ascribe some portion of the imperfection with which the work has been performed. But however painful that delay, and however obvious this imperfection, there is one consideration which he humbly trusts will always connect itself with the subject, in his own mind;--never did the Bible assume so high a value, as when perused in the silent solitude of a sick chamber ;-never did he feel less inclined to repent his connexion with the BIBLE Society, than when he had reason to believe it was about to terminate for ever!

Since the last sheets of this work were sent to press, Mr. BENJAMIN BARKER, of Aleppo, has been appointed one of the Society's Agents in the Levant. The vacancy caused by the lamented decease of the Rev. CHARLES WILLIAMSON (see page 29) is thus filled, with every prospect of considerable advantage to the Institution, and extensive benefit to that interesting portion of the globe.

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