: recd. June 25, 1838)
REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- Immediately after having despatched my letter of yesterday, I received through my friend, Mr. Wood, a communication from the Bishop of -- -, the president of the body of ecclesiastics at present engaged in examining our Bible.
He is of my opinion that the Committee of the Bible Society should in the present exigency draw up an exposition of their views respecting Spain, stating what they are prepared to do, and what they are not prepared to do -- above all, whether in seeking to circulate the Gospel in this country they harbour any projects hostile to the Government and the established religion; moreover, whether the late distribution of tracts was done by their connivance or authority, and whether they are disposed to sanction in future the publication in Spain of such a class of writings.
It of course does not become me to advise the Committee and yourself upon this point. I merely take the liberty of communicating the circumstance, and observing that the Prelate in question is a most learned and respectable man, and one of the warmest of our friends.
I have not seen any of the tracts seized at Murcia, nor do I wish. If examined by the Council, I shall declare on oath that I am innocent and ignorant of the matter, and that I believe the Bible Society to be the same. Sir George assured me that one or two of them were outrages not only to common sense but decency.
I forgot to tell you yesterday that my poor servant is dead. He died of the pestilential typhus caught in the prison; his body at the period of his death was a frightful mass of putridity, and was in consequence obliged to be instantly shovelled into the Campo Santo or common field of the dead near Madrid. May Christ be his stay at the Great Day; a more affectionate creature never breathed.
Hear now what the Madrid Gazette says of our Society, in an article in which it reproves in the strongest terms the conduct lately pursued by pseudo-agents, and gives me a rap on the knuckles for an anti-catholic expression or two in the advertisement in which I denounced them. The Gazette is the official organ of the Government, and all it says is under authority: --
'We will not conclude this article without bestowing the merited tribute of praise on the project truly magnificent of the Bible Society, considered not under the religious but the social aspect. Christianity has been, is, and will be the grand agent in the civilisation of the world; and the preaching of its doctrine, and the propagation of its maxims among the nations who know it not, is the most costly present which can be offered them, and the pledge of belonging one day to the civilised world; or if they already belong to it, of ameliorating their actual condition in society.
'Excellent moral results must also be produced among the poorer classes of the people in Christian countries by the distribution of copies of the sacred writings; and the Bible Society acts with the highest prudence, by accommodating itself to the civil and ecclesiastic laws of each country, and by adopting the editions there current. In Spain, where every translation of the Bible is forbidden, and in general every book of religion, without previous censure and license of the ecclesiastical authority, much good may arise from distributing either of the two translations, that of Father Scio or that of Amat; but precisely as they are, and without the suppression of the notes, which explain some difficult passages. If the great object be the propagation of the evangelic maxims, the notes are no obstacle, and by preserving them we fulfil our religious principle of not permitting to private reason the interpretation of the sacred Word.'
Excuse me this long extract.
I remain, Revd. and dear Sir, most truly yours,
P.S. -- I should wish to make another Biblical tour this summer, until the storm be blown over. Should I undertake such an expedition, I should avoid the towns and devote myself entirely to the peasantry. I have sometimes thought of visiting the villages of the Alpujarra mountains in Andalusia, where the people live quite secluded from the world. What do you think of my project?