|Bible Research > English Versions > 19th Century > American Bible Union > Maclay|
The following letter of Rev. Archibald Maclay, addressed to John L. Fulton, was originally published privately as a pamphlet to be sent to interested parties, under the title The Resignation of Rev. Archibald Maclay, D.D. as President of the American Bible Union, Explained, in a Letter to Rev. John I. Fulton (New York, 1856). It was subsequently published in The New York Daily Times of July 23, 1856. We reproduce the Letter exactly as it appeared in the New York Daily Times.
STILLWATER, N.Y., June 6, 1856.
Rev. A. MACLAY, D.D.: My venerated father—I have just heard with grief that you have resigned your office as President of the American Bible Union; and I am anxious to know what it is that has led you to such a step. Will you have the kindness to inform me? I have for some time felt a deep solicitude in regard to the affairs of the Union, and, though it would pain me exceedingly to find anything is going wrong, yet if it be so really, I would have nothing concealed; lest evils which, if taken in time, might be corrected, grow too great for any remedy. Please let me hear from you at your earliest convenience.
Yours for the truth,
JOHN L. FULTON.
Dr. Maclay's Reply.
New York, June 12, 1856.
DEAR BROTHER FULTON: My resignation was sent to the Secretary of the American Bible Union the 31st of May. I have not received any official notice of its acceptance, but have understood from some of those who were present that it came before the Board on the 4th inst.; that its acceptance was moved by the Corresponding Secretary in a series of resolutions which he said had been approved by the Committee on Versions and other Standing Committees; that WM. COLGATE, Esq., proposed the appointment of a Special Committee to prepare suitable resolutions, and report at a subsequent meeting, and WM. D. MURPHY, Esq., wished a Committee appointed to confer with me, to see if the cause of my resignation could not be removed; but the Secretary thought the Board should pass his resolutions at once, as they might not feel free to make such a conciliatory expression at any future time, and they were passed; whereupon the Secretary moved to appoint a Committee of five to nominate my successor, and report at that meeting. Brother JUDD inquired if this also had been before the Standing Committees, and was answered by the Secretary in the affirmative. He maintained that the election of a President belonged properly to the Union, and that the power to fill vacancies should not be exercised by the Board in the appointment of this officer, especially for so short a time before the Anniversary, unless demanded by exigencies such as do not at present exist; and that no committee or officer should prepare such business beforehand. Other members wished the subject deferred, and proposed that if the Committee were appointed it should report at the next meeting. But the Secretary said the Board might be attacked, and it was important for them to present an unbroken front. So the motion was carried. Dr. ARMITAGE nominated Messrs. Wyckoff, Pier, Shepard, Remington and Stillman as the Committee, which was appointed. The Secretary moved that the Committee have leave to retire, and the motion was carried. The Secretary moved that, while the Committee were out, the Board spend the time in prayer for divine direction. Brother WM. D. MURPHY thought this was one of the few cases where such a prayer was inappropriate, as the matter seemed to have been already determined. But the motion prevailed, and Messrs. BAKER and D.S. PARMLEE prayed for divine direction. After a few minutes the Committee returned and reported the nomination of Rev. T. ARMITAGE, D.D., for President. A motion was then made by Brother TRIPP to lay this report on the table till the next regular meeting. Brother COLGATE and others also thought the Board better take a month to think of the subject before any final action. But the motion of Brother TRIPP was lost, and the report adopted by a majority vote.
I give you these particulars because there is a necessary though not an obviously apparent connection between them and some others to which your attention will be hereafter called, and because they show that, although the Board, as such, may appear to have taken but little time to fix upon my successor, yet the selection was not made without the usual mode of deliberation; and I hope it may prove to have been determined by divine direction.
The duty which I have discharged in resigning the Presidency of the American Bible Union, and withdrawing from its Board of Managers, has been a very painful one. You know how much the Bible Union has been to me, and how much I have laboured to promote the object of its organization. You need no assurance, therefore, to satisfy you that I would not abandon the enterprise for any trifling consideration.
Some of my esteemed friends, of whom it is proper to mention the name of Rev. O.B. Judd, LL. D., urged me to withhold my resignation, and retain my official connection with the Union till the next Anniversary. But, after several months' deliberation, in deference to such solicitations—after many prayers for a knowledge of the mind of God in this matter, and for grace to do His will, I concluded to submit my resignation to the Board without further delay.
I have no wish to make any exposure discreditable to the Bible Union, except what is necessary to explain the step I have taken, and to discharge my responsibilities in this undertaking. But you, in common with many of my numerous friends, who have a right to know the grounds of my action, have already pressed me with inquiries on the subject, and I have reason to believe that such inquiries will be greatly multiplied—so that I have deemed it not only due to myself, but also obligatory upon me, as an honest man and a Christian, to answer them frankly once for all.
During the last six years, from the origin of the Bible Union till a few months ago, I labored as its agent, most of the time at a distance from the seat of its operations; so that I had but very little opportunity to examine minutely the internal management of the Institution. I relied mainly on the published documents of the Union, to which the official correspondence of the Secretary seldom added anything of importance. I did not so much as know the names of the revisers, with a few exceptions. Hence the statements which I made, publicly and privately, during my agency, rested for the most part on the assurances of those for whom I acted.
But on being elected President of the Union, in October, 1855, I found myself in a position of more direct and unqualified responsibility; and under these circumstances I felt the importance of becoming more particularly acquainted with the operations of the body. I then for the first time ascertained who the revisers were; and found, to my astonishment, that, instead of there having been about forty individuals actually engaged in translating the New Testament, as I had understood from the Secretary, and often stated, there had not been more than twenty-three or twenty-four. Instead of all these being competent scholars, as I had supposed, and as the plan of the Union required, and as is often reiterated in the offical documents of the Union, some of them unquestionably lacked the essential qualifications of a translator.
Here I reluctantly suspended my investigation, to visit Baltimore, as an agent, at the earnest solicitation of the Secretary.
Hitherto it had been, I believe, the invariable custom of the Board to meet for organization, the appointment of Standing Committees, &c., the next week after the Anniversary. But this year that time passed and no meeting of the Board was called; for which omission no adequate reason, so far as I know, was then assigned. I left soon after with a heavy heart, weighed down with anxious solicitude, in regard to the issue of this great enterprise, to which I had given so many years of my life. I made it the subject of special and earnest prayer, in which I came to the conclusion that I ought to resign my agency and devote my attention, as President, to the operations of the Union in New York. I accordingly returned to this City as soon as the object of my visit to Baltimore was accomplished.
On my arrival home, I found that, during my absence, in the organization of the Board, at its meeting in November, (one of the Vice Presidents, Rev. T. ARMITAGE, D.D., being in the Chair,) the Committee on Versions, and the Committee on Finance, had undergone important changes, the character of which, and the alleged reasons for which, greatly impaired my confidence in the directing power of the Board. And although I am not naturally suspicious, but rather confiding, yet I could not in this case overlook the apearances of design in omitting the October meeting, and urging me to Baltimore before the regular meeting in November; as the projector of these changes had the means of knowing that no such prescriptive nominations could ever be made to the Board, through me as its Chairman.
On resuming my examination in the revisers' department, I found that numerous translations had been made, which, though not in all cases inconsistent with good scholarship, were nevertheless calculated, on other grounds, to compromise the character of the Union, and to shake the confidence of men in the truth of God's word. Of these the following may serve as specimens:
"In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and God was the word" —John i., 1.
"He it is that immerses in a holy spirit" —John i., 33.
"If any one be not born of water and spirit" —John iii., 5.
"The Son can do nothing of himself, if he see not the Father doing anything." —John v., 19.
"But this he said of the spirit which those believing on him were about to receive: for there was not yet a holy spirit." —John vii., 39.
"And I give to them eternal life, and they shall not perish, forever." —John x., 28.
"Jesus, therefore, when he saw her weeping, and the Jews, who came with her, weeping, groaned in the spirit, and troubled himself." —John xi., 33.
"Who were begotten—not of blood, nor of a will of flesh, nor of a will of man—but of God. And the word became flesh and dwelt among us (and we saw his glory, a glory as of one only begotten of a father) full of grace and truth." —John i., 13, 14.
These are by no means the most objectionable renderings. In this and other books are some which I would not disclose to the public eye. And on a closer examination in the department of revision, I found that, in addition to the shocking translations already referred to, the misguided hand of the reviser had been rashly laid upon the original text, as it seemed to me, without any authority of the Board. It will be recollected that, in the famous Amity-Street letter, Dr. WILLIAMS charged the Bible Union with improper secrecy, in withholding from the Churches a knowledge of the Greek text, to be used as the standard of revision; and that in the reply written by Dr. JUDD, and adopted by the Board, it was said:
"This subject received our early and prayerful attention, and after obtaining the most satisfactory information respecting it, with the counsel of competent advisers, and our own mature deliberation, we determined to use the 'received text,' as critically edited by the best scholars of the age, and published by Bagster & Sons, London, octavo edition, 1851."
Previous to this the Board had established certain "General Rules for the Direction of Translators and Revisers," of which the third reads thus:
"Translations or revisions of the New Testament shall be made from the received Greek text, critically edited, with known errors corrected."
Also certain "Special Instructions to the Revisers of the English New Testament," of which the first reads as follows:
"The common English version must be the basis of revision; the Greek text, Bagster & Sons' octavo edition of 1851."
These are all the rules of the Union respecting the Greek text; neither of them has ever been abrogated or altered; and as they stand, they admit of no departure from the "received text:" as critically edited, (not by revisers of the Bible Union, but by distinguished scholars in times past,) and subsequently published by Bagster and Sons in 1851. Yet it appeared, on examination, that some revisers had undertaken what seemed to me even more presumptuous than the selection of some other text; such as Griesbach's, Sholz's or Tichendorf's, and more unsafe than the preparation of a new, independent recension by competent hands from original sources; viz. a revision of the "received Greek text," by weighing all the different manuscripts, to ascertain the relative value of their various readings, as given by second-hand authorities, verifying or modifying these readings by ancient versions and patristic writings, collating and comparing the opinions of different editors; then selecting or rejecting any particular readings, according as it was found to be, in the reviser's judgment, genuine or spurious; his English version being conformed to this eclectic edition of the Greek text. In one book, which came under my observation, after it had been stereotyped, a cursory examination showed that the reviser had deviated from the "received Greek text" in two places, by adding something to it; in twelve places, by substituting something for it; in twenty-two places, by rejecting something of it. And one of the portions rejected as spurious, embraced twelve consecutive verses! In another place the following passage is cast out of the Bible:
"For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water; whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in, was made whole of whatsoever disease he had."
Where the common version reads, "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life," the received Greek text has been so critically edited that in the revised English version, the same passage reads thus: "That every one that believes on him may have eternal life." And the rejection of "Jesus," "John," "Christ," and "Amen," are specimens of the smaller changes, which have resulted from this revision of the Greek text.
Now, it is not the question with me, whether the reviser is right or wrong, as to the genuineness of those passages; but the question is, whether any such matter has ever been submitted to the judgment of a reviser by the Board of the Bible Union. To me the very supposition of such a thing is absurd. For there could be no reason in selecting, as a standard, the "received text," if the reviser is left at liberty to modify it at discretion. If we so interpret the clause, "critically edited, with known errors corrected," as to allow a reviser to depart from the "received text," as "published by Bagster & Sons in 1851," then he is at liberty, if his judgment so determine, to take GRIESBACH's text, or any other, which has ever been critically edited, with what the reviser may judge to have been "known errors," corrected from the "received text." But such interpretation can be fairly put upon that clause. [sic] I admit that the Board might have selected some other text, such as SHOLZ's or TICHENDORF's, had they deemed it was wise to do so; or it might have employed competent scholars to prepare an independent recension from original manuscripts, ancient verions, &c., which could have been made the standard of translations after being approved as such. But I do not believe that the Board could understandingly have committed to every reviser in its employ the task of making up a new edition of the "received Greek text," or of modifying any existing edition, by a discretionary selection or rejection of words, phrases and passages, out of all the various readings that have ever been discovered—no two revisers making their selection or rejection upon the same principles.
At all events, I never understood that persons employed by the Bible Union to revise the common English version were authorized or at liberty to revise the Greek text. Had I so understood it, and known the men, I certainly should never have allowed my humble name to be associated with the enterprise.
The Secretary urged me again to leave New York and travel abroad as an agent. I informed him that, with the views that I then entertained, I could not conscientiously act in the capacity of an agent; that, among other things, I had assured the people that we have competent scholars to translate the Scriptures, and that the funds of the Union were judiciously and economically expended, but I could do so no longer; that I had aimed to live an honest man, and I meant to die an honest man; and that if I were to go out and publish my honest impressions regarding the operations of the Bible Union, I should only damage its reputation, which, under existing circumstances, I was not prepared to do. One would have supposed that such a statement would have precinded any further request from the Secretary for me to go abroad as an agent of the Union. His subsequent repeated reiteration of this request, besides the imputation of a disbelief in my own statement which it conveyed, exhibited such a solicitude for the services, and such an indifference for the conscientious views of an agent, as equally surprised and pained me, I was the more resolved to examine thoroughly the whole policy and conduct of the Institution; to inquire more fully into the character and qualifications of our revisers, the practical working of our plan for the production of a revised English version, the condition and effect of our periodical publications, and the appropriate economy of our expenditures. I accordingly resigned my agency, and went on with the examination. But finding it difficult to prosecute this investigation single-handed, I consulted with a venerable brother, who was an officer of the Union, and a tried friend of the cause. I found that he had had, for a long time, a similar solicitude in regard to the conduct of our affairs, and was prepared to sympathize with me in the matter. He at once brought his practical mind to devise some plan by which our hopes and fears might be resolved, and by which whatever evils should be found to exist might be remedied. He proposed a Committee of Investigation, and, pursuant to this proposition, he offered, in a meeting of the Board held January, 1856, the following:
"Resolved, That a Committee of five be appointed to look at the present condition and practical working of our enterprise, with a view to the greatest economy of our means consistent with the most thorough and speedy accomplishment of our work; and to report the result of their examination as soon as practicable, with such recommendations as the case shall seem to demand; and that the officers and revisers be requested to furnish all the facilities in their power, which the Committee may require for the most thorough performance of their duty."
After an ineffectual attempt of the Secretary to have the examination referred to one of the Standing Committees, of which he himself was a member, the resolution was adopted, and Messrs. Wm. Colgate, S. Baker, Geo. W. Abbe, O.B. Judd and A. Maclay were appointed such Committee. Then, at the same meeting, on motion of Mr. MERWIN, Messrs. WYCKOFF and SARLES were added. Then, before the Committee had been convened, I was requested by Mr. BUCKBEE and others to call a special meeting of the Board, for the ostensible purpose of appointing an agent, and adjusting the salary of a reviser. The Board met, the agent was appointed, but the matter of a salary was not brought up. As the Board seemed ready to adjourn without having done anything to justify the calling of a Special Meeting, Mr. MERWIN said the denomination to which he belonged was not represented on the Committee of Investigation, and he would, therefore, move the addition of Messrs. E. SMITH and S.E. SHEPARD. After these had been appointed, Dr. ARMITAGE said there was another denomination in the Board which was not represented on that Committee, and he would, therefore, move the addition of T.B. STILLMAN , who was thereupon appointed. I had then no doubt as to the real object of the Special Meeting of the Board, which was the largest, I think, that I ever attended; nor could I have any doubt as to the object of such additions to the Committee. I frankly expressed the opinion that the Secretary ought not to be on any Committee, and least of all, on that Committee, which was to examine matters of his own transaction. The introduction of denominational representation, in the appointment of Committees, was also strongly deprecated by Brother JUDD, as contrary to the fundamental principle of our organization, and subversive of that unity of purpose which he deemed essential to our successful cooperation. It was the first time, he said, since the origin of our enterprise, that sectarian elements had ever been stirred, or recognized, in the Board of the American Bible Union.
With the Committee as constituted, it was not to be expected that the object of an impartial investigation could be attained; as the result thus far has clearly proved. By the most indefatigable exertion, and searching inquiries, however, much important information has been elicited; but in the only two points on which the Committee has yet been called to vote, what seemed to me self-evidently right could not be sustained. It appeared to be a settled axiom, with those who had been added to the original Committee, that nothing should be done which would imply the least censure against the Secretary. For example: It was found that the revised version of Job, by Dr. CONANT, had been stereotyped, by order of the Secretary, in six different forms, without any examination by other scholars, as is required by the general plan of the Union, and the special contract with Dr. CONANT, and without any authorization of the Board for more than one form. Yet the majority of that Committee voted against the following:
"Resolved, That we recommend that the English version, as made by a reviser of the American Bible Union, be not printed in more than one form, nor stereotyped in more than one set of plates, before it shall have been examined by other scholars, as provided for in the plan of revision adopted by the Board."
Messrs. COLGATE, ABBE and JUDD voted for it; Messrs. WYCKOFF, SARLES, SHEPARD, SMITH and STILLMAN against it; Dr. BAKER and myself being absent.
Again, it was found that the Hebrew of Job had been, by order of the Secretary, without the knowledge of the Board, stereotyped in three different forms, the last of which was to be a purely Hebrew book, with various readings and grammatical notes, for the use of students learning the Hebrew language; such a book as a society, whose only and exclusive object is "to procure and circulate the most faithful versions of the Holy Scriptures, in all languages throughout the world," has no right to publish; and yet, at the same meeting of that Committee such a resolution as the following could not be carried:
"Resolved, That we recommend that no portion of the original Scriptures be printed or stereotyped in the name or at the expense of the American Bible Union, as a school-book, to be used in acquiring a knowledge of the Hebrew or the Greek language."
Messrs. COLGATE, ABBE, JUDD and SMITH voted for it, the vote of Mr. SMITH being previously explained and qualified; Messrs. WYCKOFF, SARLES, SHEPARD, and STILLMAN against it; Dr. BAKER and myself being absent.
As I said, these resolutions appeared to me self-evidently right, and under existing circumstances, necessary. Indeed, the occasion which called them forth, and the opposition made to their passage, demonstrated such a disregard of the Constitution, and the established rules of the Bible Union, that my worst fears for the safety of our enterprise, were confirmed; and I told the brethren, at a meeting previous to that in which the vote was taken, that if such a resolution, offered under such circumstances, could not be passed, I should be compelled to retire from the Institution, as I would from a sinking ship.
I know that brother CONANT, in that extraordinary letter of April 23, 1856, which the Secretary got up and sent out as a Circular of the Bible Union, pronounces my dissatisfaction "groundless," attributing it to mental imbecility; and this judgment, though contrary to my own consciousness, would have had great weight on my mind, if he were not himself an interested party. But a man who has already received nearly six thousand dollars before finishing the translation of Job, on a contract which secures to him, in addition to a salary of $1,200 from the Theological Seminary at Rochester, $2,000 a year for the portion of time not required in his professional duties, till he shall have completed the Old Testament, with a copy-right interest, and a percentage on the future sales of his translation, when published with notes; a man for whose pupils the Hebrew school-book, with grammatical notes, was specially designed, and the stereotyping of whose translation, in six different forms, without any examination by other scholars, according to the contract, and without any authorization of the Board, was one occasion of my dissatisfaction, occupies a position in relation to the affairs under consideration which greatly depreciates, if it does not utterly destroy, the admissibility of his testimony. And I think that all well informed impartial men will agree that he, who has such grounds for his own satisfaction, is not sufficiently disinterested to sit in judgment upon my dissatisfaction; (especially when the one to be judged is, as he says, "evidently feeling the weight of years,") and to pronounce the honest anxious fears of such a one "groundless." At all events, I cannot defer to his judgment in this matter.
The plan of revision adopted by the Board differs materially from that which seemed to me the best. But I looked upon it as combining some peculiar advantages, and thought that, if it could be faithfully carried out, we should secure an English version far superior to the one now in common use; and I have always advocated the revision enterprise on the principles of translation, and the rules of procedure laid down in the official documents of the Bible Union. One of these rules reads as follows:
"As soon as the revision of any one book of the New Testament is finished, it shall be sent to the Secretary of the Bible Union, or to such other person as shall be designated by the Committee on Versions, in order that copies may be taken and furnished to the revisers of the other books, to be returned with their suggestions to the reviser or revisers of that book. After being revised, with the aid of their suggestions, a carefully prepared copy shall be forwarded to the Secretary."
The process of examination and revision, as prescribed in this rule, is set forth by Dr. ARMITAGE in his Report to the Memphis Convention; by Rev. A. WHEELOCK, in his Sermon before the Union; by Dr. LYND, in his Address before the Union, by myself, in an Address to the Baptists of New Brunswick; by Rev. J. CHALLEN, in his Adress before the Union; by Dr. EATON, in his Address before the Union; by WM. H. WYCKOFF, endorsed by Dr. CONE and WM. COLGATE, Esq., in Tract No. 11; and often elsewhere.
Notwithstanding the plain provisions of this rule, it was found that some portions of the revised version had been stereotyped more than a year without being submitted to any other reviser for examination, and that a number of revisions in manuscript, made by some of the most distinguished scholars employed on the work in this country, had been long since received and laid aside, as not worthy of the examination provided for in the above rule. It then appeared that the Committee on Versions, somposed of Messrs. Wyckoff, Armitage, Baker, Sarles, and I.T. Smith, claimed the prerogative of passing judgment upon the merits of every reviser's work, selecting such as they considered fit to be printed and subjected to the criticism of the other revisers, as "the basis of the final examination;" laying aside others to be submitted, without such criticism or revision, in manuscript, to the final body of judges; and setting apart others to be used merely as "aid to others who will do the work more thoroughly;" with the addtional prerogative of publishing to the whole world whatever revision they might approve for the purpose, without the previous inspection of any one else but themselves and the author.
In support of these prerogatives, it was held by the Secretary that a resolution, passed by the Board in November, 1852, so modified the original rule, above quoted, as to clothe that Committee with all this discretionary power. It was the first time I ever heard that that rule had been so modified, or that the Committee on Versions had assumed such prerogatives.
The resolution referred to was "to authorize and require the Committee on Versions to examine each revision made by scholars employed by the Union, and to decide whether it be of sufficient merit to justify the Board in printing it, and sending copies to scholars." This, I understood, originated with the Secretary, and came before the Board in a recommendation from the Committee on Versions. It was then regarded, by some at least, as designed to guard against the publication and circulation, beyond the other revisers, of inferior or superficial revisions in the expensive style of that already issued, without interfering with the uniform operation of the rule which required copies of every revision to be taken by printing or otherwise, for the examination and suggestions of other revisers. The "sending copies to scholars" was not then taken to signify the same, in this resolution, as the "copies taken, and furnished to the revisers of the other books, to be returned, with their suggestions, to the reviser or revisers of that book," in the language of the rule. And after a careful examination, I am satisfied that neither the Board nor the Secretary understood the resolution at the time of its passage, and for years afterwards, as abrogating any portion of the rule in question, and thus changing the plan of revision. For no such thing was declared, or necessarily implied in the resolution, or in any other act of the Board. On the contrary, the rule was repeatedly published, in the name of the Board, without any intimation that a portion of it had been repealed, from November, 1852, to October, 1855. And although the Secretary now maintains that the rule never made it obligatory upon the Board to subject the work of every reviser to the criticism of the other revisers, but only required the work of each to be sent in "order that copies may be taken," &c., yet in September, 1852, he wrote the following preface to the first revision published by the Bible Union:
"In accordance with the plan of the American Bible Union for the revision of the English New Testament, the work of each of the revisers MUST be subjected to the critical examination of the rest, and of such other scholars as have expressed a willingness to assist; and after being revised again by the author, with the aid of their suggestions, be submitted to a Committee of Revisers appointed by the Union, for final adjudication upon every word and phrase. W.H. WYCKOFF, Cor. Secretary."
Such was his interpretation of the rule at that time. And the republication of this, with the clause "must be subjected," unaltered, in an official document of the Union, signed by the President, Secretary and Treasurer, in Jan., 1853, shows, not only that the Secretary did not change his interpretation of the rule, with the passage of the resolution, in Nov., 1852, but also that that resolution was not then regarded, even by the Secretary himself, as having made such a modification in the plan of revision. The truth is, this new policy is manifestly of much later origin, however much of an earlier date may now be brought to sustain it.
It was my firm conviction that, if it was necessary to intrust one Committee with power to control the appointment and conduct of revisers—to pass judgment upon the merit of their work, stamping some portions as approved for the most favorable treatment, and branding others as of little or no value—to be the sole inspectors of such as are printed, previous to their indiscriminate circulation,—that Committee should be composed of first rate scholars. But I saw no necessity or occasion for investing any Committee of the Bible Union with such discretionary power. A strict adherence to the original plan seemed to me the only safe course; and such a deviation as that which has been proposed and is being prosecuted by the Committee on Versions, I am satisfied is fraught with the most imminent danger, if not with certain disaster, to the enterprise. The plea of saving money and time by such a deviation, is, in my judgment, extremely frivolous, compared with the risk and damage consequent upon it. And I am amazed that, with no other plea, the Secretary should contend so pertinaciously to secure this almost absolute power over the revisers and their work, to the Committee on Versions, of which he himself, from his offical position, is the most influential member. But so it is; and at a meeting held May 12, 1856, this new policy, pressed with all the appliances of offical power, was indorsed by a special act of the Board.
In the plan of revision , as originally adopted, it was provided that, "Whenever an alteration from the common version is made on any authority additional to that of the reviser, such authority must be cited in the manuscript, either on the same page or in an appendix." To such a citation of authorities I never felt any objection; presuming, of course, that it would be made with proper discretion. But, instead of a simple collation of authorities, within the limits of this rule, I found extensive notes of a doctrinal and practical nature, which were alike foreign to the work of translation, and inconsistent with the unsectarian character of the Union, and the preparation of which, beyond what was required by the rule, must have occupied more time than the translation itself. Now, as a revised version, and not a critical commentary, was the avowed object of the Bible Union, and as all such notes, beyond the collation of authorities, prescribed in this rule, were attended with enormous expense, and laid the foundation for a conflict of sentiments which belonged alone to the province of interpretation, I felt pained that such a deviation from the explicit, published rule of revision had been allowed.
Again, on looking more carefully at another feature of the revision work, I was persuaded that a great deal of unnecessary expense had been made by employing several revisers to translate the same book. It appeared that in eleven books a second, and a third, if not a fourth reviser had been employed on the same portion, at a great loss of time and money, and good-will. It must not be supposed that in such cases the work of a predecessor can be made serviceable, in any material degree, to his successor, as this will not be found practically true. For example—the whole New Testament has been revised for the Bible Union in England, but, so far as I could learn, this revision was of little or no service to the revisers in this country. And the same was true of other persons successively employed on the same portions in this country. In one case, where a reviser was employed at $1,200 a year, another was engaged to be his "assistant" at a salary of $1,400—an arrangement singularly inconsistent, and unnecessarily expensive, if not greatly disadvantageous.
It has been said that whatever is wanting now in the revision department, will be supplied when the final college of revisers come together; and that whatever is wrong now, will then be rectified. But however others may think of this flattering promise, I cannot but look upon it as altogether delusive. If it were in the power of such a college to provide a remedy, that remedy would come too late to obviate or counteract many of the evils which now exist. It is not possible in the nature of the case for any such college to make up the deficiencies and damages consequent upon the present mismanagement of the Institution; especially when constituted as this is likely to be. I had always understood that the final college of revisers were to be appointed by the Union, and that, in the absence of any special provision for nomination, the privilege of nomination belonged in all cases to the appointing power; but in this case I understand the Committee on Versions has taken up the matter, asked the Board for power to nominate the members of that final college, and to prepare the plan of its operations; and that, the request being granted, the Committee has referred the whole business to the Secretary, with only one other member, thus enabling one man, with all the peculiar advantages of his official position, and an unparalleled concentration of power, to control the appointment and proceedings of the final college of revisers, according to any personal predilection or prejudices, to which, in the weakness of human nature, he may be subject; leaving little ground to hope that errors which have been once approved for publication by the Committee on Versions, will ever be corrected by a college of revisers constituted under their direction. Considering, then, the past and the present, I saw nothing in the prospect of such a final college, to relieve my despair.
Now, knowing what I did, of the incompetency of some of the revisers, and of the character of some of their translations, and of the practical working of this new policy—and seeing no prospect of any remedy for existing growing evils, I felt it my duty to throw off all responsibility in the matter.
On looking at the publication department, it was found that, there also, everything appeared to be directly or indirectly under the control of the Secretary, all without any adequate authorization of the Board. What was originally nothing more nor less than an ordinary Annual Report of the Union, subsequently divided into four parts to save postage, had become a Quarterly Reporter, octavo, "edited by WM. H. WYCKOFF and C.A. BUCKBEE," extended to such size, and filled with such matter, as these self-constituted editors judged best; then sent gratuitously to all Life Directors, Life Members, and Life Members in part, at an annual expense to the Union of not less than $1,800. It appeared, also, that the plan of the Monthly Reporter, quarto, which has been in course of publication since last October, was projected, and the first number printed, before the subject was even so much as mentioned in the Board. Each number of this contained sixteen pages of Dr. CONANT's revision, and four pages of miscellaneous matter, selected or written at the discretion of the Secretary; who, without any authority from the Board, fixed the price at $1 a year, with a commission of 40 per cent. off in many cases to agents, and postage pre-paid; which, reckoning the cost of stereotype plates, was enough to ruin any ordinary establishment in a short time. And yet the project of publishing the whole Bible in that way, would require, at the least calculation, more than thirty years. Besides, it appeared that the Secretary had, without any authority from the Board, made arrangements with a house in London for the republication of this periodical, and sent duplicate stereotype plates, made in New York; allowing such terms as his discretion dictated and the London publisher was willing to accept. What arrangement had been made for the editorial conduct of the miscellaneous department of this Bible Union Reporter, in London, I could not ascertain. This periodical has created an immense amount of business, in book-keeping, correspondence, &c., almost equal to the office of a newspaper. So that the number of persons regularly employed in the rooms, exclusive of revisers, has so increased as to involve an expenditure from the funds of the Union, for this class of employees alone, at the rate of between $1,000 and $5,000 per annum.
The reasons against the publication of such periodicals in the name and at the expense of the Bible Union, may not be obvious to all; especially to those who, from any cause, have but a partial view of the subject. But I am satisfied that a judicious consideration of this whole matter would lead the great body of the intelligent patrons of the Union to confine its publications to its Annual Reports, the revised version, and such intelligence as independent religious journals would be always ready to insert. No such periodicals were contemplated by the founders of the Institution nor by the original subscribers, although the exigencies which encompassed the early history of the Union were such as would have furnished a plea for the establishment of such publications, if it could be justified under any circumstances. They knew that to make such a publication creditable would involve an unnecessary expense, and that the time of the officers and other employees would be taken up with correspondence, book-keeping, &c., belonging rather to the office of a newspaper than to that of a Bible Society. They knew the danger of creating an agency over which they could have no control commensurate with their responsibility, which might with the greatest facility be perverted to strengthen the power of an individual or a party rather than to subserve the interests of the enterprise; and that, too, by a discretionary use of funds contributed from the hard earnings of the poor, and sacredly devoted to one of the holiest purposes of Christian benevolence.
Again, a portion of the New York Chronicle, secured by an annual appropriation of one thousand dollars, for the publication of revision matter, was found to be practically under the absolute control of the Secretary, and to be used according to his pleasure. I do not object to the appropriation made by the Board; but I think the object of the appropriation has been perverted to invest the Secretary with power which no such officer should possess.
And beyond all these periodical publications, there have been slips and circulars, in lithograph and letter press, forming no part of the ordinary correspondence of the Union, multiplied to any extent, and circulated at any expense of time and money which the Secretary deemed proper. A fair example of the exercise of his discretionary power in such matters is found in the late Circular containing the letter of Dr. CONANT, of which the following is a true copy:
AMERICAN BIBLE UNION ROOMS, 350 Broome St., NEW YORK, May, 1856.
MY DEAR BROTHER: The following letter was written by Dr. CONANT to one of our agents. We have obtained permission from its author to send copies of it to a few friends, although it is not thought proper at present to have it published. Affectionately,
WM. H. WYCKOFF, Cor. Sec.
NEW YORK, April 23d, 1856.
MY DEAR BROTHER: I have received several letters from Rev. Dr. MACLAY, President of the Am. Bible Union, giving in detail his objections to the course pursued by the Corresponding Secretary of the Union, and to the general policy which it has adopted for the revision of the Holy Scriptures.
I have now spent a week in New York, making inquiries on the subject. I have also had free and full conversations with the Chairman (WM. COLGATE, Esq.) of a Committee of ten appointed by the Board of Managers to hear the objections made by Dr. MACLAY or others, and to investigate the grounds of them.
For myself, I must say, that I see nothing in the things objected to by Dr. MACLAY in his communications to me, which is at variance with the settled policy of the Union from its first organization, or with the timely and satisfactory completion of its work.
I am also happy to say that Mr. COLGATE, the Chairman of the Committee of Investigation, who himself moved the appointment of the Committee, assures me that after a patient and full hearing and investigation of the matters objected to, the Committee find no ground of complaint against the Secretary, and have sustained his course in every particular.
Dr. MACLAY is evidently feeling the weight of years. To this, and not to any ill intention or natural defect of judgment, I attribute the groundless dissatisfaction which he has expressed.
This was got up by the Secretary, and circulated through the mails, some time before its existence was known in New York, beyond the most intimate associates of the author. It was discovered by accident, and at once condemned by numerous friends of the Union. Dr. CHURCH, a brother-in-law of Dr. CONANT, said he was shocked when he read it. A motion was made by Mr. ABBE to suppress it; seven voted for its suppression, and seven, including the Secretary, against it; the Chairman, Dr. ARMITAGE, gave the casting vote against it, afterwards explaining that he could not vote in the affirmative without seeming to censure the Secretary. How any right-minded man could vote for its circulation, I cannot conceive; for in this letter Dr. CONANT says that he spent a week in New York inquiring into the grounds of my dissatisfaction; that he "had free and full conversations with the Chairman (WM. COLGATE, Esq.) of a Committee of ten, appointed by the Board of Managers to hear the objections made by Dr. MACLAY or others, and to investigate the grounds of them;" that Mr. COLGATE assured him "that after a patient and full hearing and investigation of the matters objected to, the Committee find no grounds of complaint against the Secretary, and have sustained his course in every particular;" that "Dr. MACLAY is evidently feeling the weight of years;" and that to this should be attributed his "groundless dissatisfaction."
I am amazed at these statements. No "complaint against the Secretary" was ever made the occasion of investigation by the Board, and the Committee was not appointed for the purpose here stated, as any one can see by referring to the resolution on which it was appointed, as quoted on p. 10. That Committee has not yet reported, nor is its investigation completed. It has taken no action on any "particular," except the resolutions, given above, in relation to Dr. CONANT's work. And, I understand Mr. COLGATE declares that he never said anything which would warrant the above statement of Dr. CONANT. By what authority Dr. CONANT takes the business of the Committee into his own hands, spends a week in this city making inquiries, pronounces the investigation finished, and publishes its alleged results, all before any final action has been taken by the Committee itself, is more than I can understand. Indeed, such a course seems to me entirely inconsistent with his relations and obligations to the Union as a reviser. In his contract with the Board, he agreed to devote all the time, not required in his professional duties, to the work of revision. I am very sorry that he should now leave that work to find, after a week's investigation, the origin of all my dissatisfaction—in the imbecility of one through whose agency he and his family have been supplied, for the last three years, with a good portion of their daily bread. But I am more amazed that the Secretary should publish such a letter in the name of the Bible Union, without a special act of the Board.
In all this there is an assumption of power which no ordinary circumstances will justify, a prodigality of means which no abundance of consecrated treasures will warrant, a mode of publishing the first work of a reviser inconsistent with the general plan of the Union and the special contracts of the Board, and a medium for the communication of miscellaneous matter perfectly ruinous to the reputation of the Union. Some articles have been published in the Monthly Reporter, containing misstatements, misrepresentations, and literary blunders, which would disgrace the meanest scholarship of the world. And I am credibly informed that in the Hebrew of the April number there are upwards of one hundred and forty typographical errors.
On looking into the financial department I found the same state of things. The funds of the Union were, to a great extent, disbursed by the stipendiary office-bearers, the business of the Finance Committee being but little, if anything, more than to sanction expenditures already made. And while the Constitution prohibits the Treasurer from paying out money, except on orders of the Board certified by the Recording Secretary, I found that the same man, and he a salaried employee, was acting as Recording Secretary and Treasurer's Assistant, making a compliance with the spirit of the Constitution impossible. It appeared that most of the remittances were made to the Corresponding Secretary, and that disbursements were made, to considerable extent, by the Assistant, Mr. BUCKBEE, so that much of the money contributed to the Union never reached the general treasury, except in book account; that moneys were customarily paid out at the discretion of one or two officers at the rooms, for purposes which could not be held consistent with trustworthy economy, in a benevolent Institution like the Bible Union. I do not mean here to question the integrity of any one. But honesty furnishes no justification for such unnecessary exercise of discretionary power, and such arrogant disregard of the Constitution in managing the finances of a great Institution.
But in this, as in every other department, I found myself unable to remedy the existing growing evils. My best endeavors, in the whole affair, instead of being met with candor and frankness, have been captiously and obstinately thwarted.
Being thus compelled to relinquish all hope of reform, and my honest endeavor being so treated, I was constrained some time ago to withdraw from the meetings of the Board. It only remains for me, therefore, to take care that I be not a party to wrongs which I have, in vain, sought to remedy. And being fully satisfied, from personal examination, that the funds which I have done so much to collect, and which I know have been most sacredly devoted, by the rich and the poor, to one of the holiest purposes of Christian charity, are being squandered; that a vast amount is expended for operations remote from the one great object of the Institution; that men are employed to translate the word of God who are not qualified for the work; that unwarrantable translations have been made, which, if published, must bring into discredit the most precious doctrines of my faith, sap the fundamental truths of Christianity, as indubitably revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and shake the confidence of the people in the canon of the sacred writings; that such revisions are likely to be published for indiscriminate circulation, without the previous precautionary examination, provided for, and required by, the plan and rules of revision, as originally adopted by the Board; that the controlling power of the institution has become completely centralized in one man; and that the exercise of that power is not only such as to forbid the hope of reform, but also to blast the name and influence of every one who advocates reform*—feeling perfectly assured of all this, I am compelled, by a stern sense of duty, to abandon the enterprise, and to free myself, as far as possible, from all further responsibility. And I cannot doubt that my friends, when rightly informed, will justify me in so doing.
No one who is acquainted with me, and knows what the Bible Union has been to me during the six years of its existence, will suppose that I could believe all this upon any slight grounds, or lightly arrive at such a conclusion, and take a step which I know must inflict pain, similar to that which I have myself endured, upon the hearts of many of my best friends, whose hopes, like my own, will thus be sorely blasted.
From successive disappointments, in the great aim of my later life, and from all the excitements of public discussion, I would gladly have withdrawn in silence, to seek in the family and social circle, with whose love a merciful God has blessed me, that repose which my heart so much desires, and which my years demand. But at no period of my life could I have silently lent my name to a course which I consider unjust to my brethren and dishonoring to the God of the Bible. And having now, after half a century spent in the ministry of the gospel, devoted all my strength and influence, for the last six years, to inspire the public mind with confidence in what seemed to me the greatest enterprise of the age,—having induced thousands throughout the United States, in the British Provinces, and in Europe, to become self-sacrificing supporters of the American Bible Union—and being myself at last compelled, by the hopeless mismanagement of that Institution, which is barely outlined in this letter, to abandon the enterprise, I feel bound, as an honest man, and a Christian, to answer the inquiries which are coming to me from every quarter, by frankly stating, once for all, the reasons of my action.
But, in withdrawing from the American Bible Union, I do not repudiate the principle on which it is based, nor renounce the object for which it was organized. And if, by any reformation, or despite the abuses to which that Institution is now subjected, its glorious undertaking should be finally crowned with success, I shall rejoice.
In conclusion, I desire to say that, towards my brethren in the Board of the Bible Union, with some of whom I have been for many years intimately associated; and exchanged many tokens of Christian friendship, I cherish feelings of unmingled kindness and brotherly love; and for the patrons of the Union scattered abroad throughout this country and in Europe, among whom are many of my personal friends, I have the most cordial fellowship. I shall ever hold them in grateful remembrance, which neither distance nor time can obliterate. And, although the step which I have now taken in retiring from the field of my labors for the Bible Union, as well as the brevity of my life, which is now so nearly spent, admonishes me that most of those "among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more," in the flesh, yet I rejoice in the precious assurance of a glorious immortality beyond the grave—in the blessed hope that, through the abounding grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we shall meet in Heaven, far above the changing scenes of this inconstant world. Very respectfully and affectionately yours,
* An illustration of this is afforded, not only in my own case, but in that of my esteemed friend and brother, Rev. O.B. JUDD, LL. D., who, after having performed an incalculable amount of unrequited labor, was induced by Dr. CONE, Dr. ARMITAGE, Mr. WYCKOFF, and others, to relinquish his post as an editor, and to devote his whole attention to the work of revision. The object and tenure of his employment must be determined by the following resolution of the Board, passed May 3, 1854 :
"Resolved, That we authorize the Committee on Versions to make an arrangement with Rev. O.B. JUDD to devote his time and attention exclusively to the business of revision, and the passing of the parts through the press, as they shall severally be prepared, at a salary not to exceed fifteen hundred dollars per annum."
It now appears that when the arrangememt herein authorized was made, a record of the Committee was so worded by the Secretary as to convey the idea that Mr. JUDD was employed for one year from June 1st, 1854; but notwithstanding this minute, the services of Mr. JUDD were continued without intermission, and his salary was paid monthly by the Treasurer or the Union, without any further action of the Board or the Committee, up to May 30, 1856; which implied a mutual understanding, and established a contract between him and the Board, independent of the Committee's record, in accordance with the above resolution. It was understood that his engagement, though on a salary, would be continuous at least until the completion of the Gospel of Matthew. which the Board had assigned him for revision, and the Secretary, in assigning reasons why Mr. JUDD should not be a member of the Committee on Versions, said to me: "We mean to continue him as a reviser." But this was before the Committee of Investigation was appointed; since that time a change has taken place, and on the 30th of May, only one day before the expiration of the year, (reckoning from the commencement of his engagement on a salary,) the Committee on Versions, without consulting the Board, notified him that "their contract" with him as a reviser, was "no longer in force;" thus arresting the revision of Matthew, and taking from the Union the services of a man of unquestioned qualifications as a scholar, to say nothing of his peculiar relations to the Union as one of its originators and firmest supporters. I cannot but regard this transaction as an exhibition of personal hostility towards brother JUDD, and a corresponding recklessness towards the best interests of the Bible Union. I am sure that in point of honor, it is a breach of good faith; and I understand also, that gentlemen learned in the law have pronounced it illegal, both as regards the rights of Dr. JUDD, who could not be lawfully dismissed before completing the work for which he was employed, except for good cause and after reasonable notice; and as respects the power of the Committee, which had been so vested in its agent by the contracting party as to authorize only the making of a contract, and not its forcible dissolution. But I have all confidence that my injured brother will take such a course in the matter as justice and wisdom approve in the conduct of a Christian.
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