Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #28

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Well, I finally made it into the 1860s in my reading of the Bible Society Record.  Even in the wake of Fort Sumter and the start of the Civil War, the American Bible Society continued to insist that it was a national organization.  Early in the war the ABS was able to convince its auxiliary societies in the South to stay connected with the national organization.  Even the South Carolina Bible Society and the local Bible Society of Charleston agreed to continue working with the New York-based ABS.  Here is a taste of a letter from the President of the Bible Society of Charleston (N.R. Middletown) to the President of the American Bible Society (Theodore Frelinghuysen), dated January 18, 1861:

My Dear Sir, 

I had the pleasure of reading to our Board this evening your very kind and fraternal letter, and I am sure it would have been gratifying to you to witness the hearty response it met with.  It was unanimously agreed that the arrangement with Mr. Bolles should be continued heretofore, and that political differences should not be permitted to interfere with the existing relationship of the Societies.”

And here is another snippet:

In conclusion, permit me to join you in the hope you express, that the difficulties in which we are involved will not be permitted to affect Christian relationships or to sever Christian bonds.   Surely there is no reason why a work so entirely catholic as the one in which we are engaged should suffer in any way from dissensions in which it is in no way involved.  Political considerations should always be subordinated to the claims of the Word of God; and if the spirit of the Word were in practical operation throughout this great country, it would not now be divided and torn by civil discord.”  

The ABS is not taking sides here, but how long will this be able to last?  How long will political considerations "be subordinated to the claims of the Word of God" and its distribution?  Stay tuned.