We have only to turn to the report for 1910 in order to ascertain how far this purpose has been carried out. We find that the Bible is to-day the cheapest book in the world. The New Testament, for instance, can be obtained for Id. in England, I 1/4d. in China and Japan, and in the principal Indian languages Gospels are sold at 1/4d. each.
In 1909 over six million and a half Bibles, or portions of the Bible, were circulated all over the world among people speaking 424 different languages. These include six new languages in which Gospels have just been issued, languages which did not even contain an alphabet, and had first to be reduced to writing. Volumes might be filled with the difficulties which translators have had to overcome. In many languages such words as love, conscience, honesty are non-existent, and new words have to be coined. Even where words have their equivalents strange mistakes are apt to creep in. To give an example. An American camping with the Micmac Indians found that in their version of St. Matthew, chapter xxiv., verse 7 was translated, "A pair of snow-shoes shall rise up against a pair of snowshoes." Only one letter was wrong, "Naooktuku-miksijik" is a nation, "Naook-takumiksijik" is a snowshoe.
In many languages throughout the world scholars are engaged revising and translating the Scriptures, often assisted by the natives of the various countries, who are anxious to have God's message in their mother tongue. We are told that "the vision of these native Tyndales, Coverdales, and Luthers, now skilled and able and willing to take their place on translation and revision committees, is one that is full of hope."
Through the agency of the Bible Society, "translators belonging to different Churches, of different races of mankind, of different tongues, different ages, different national ability, and different educational acquirements are engaged all the world over, sometimes alone, sometimes in companies, upon the one great work of putting the Word of God into the languages of the whole earth."
Mary Jones on the way to Bala to purchase her Bible
The society provides the missions of almost every reformed Church with the Scriptures for their foreign work. It co-operates with the missionaries in preparing the versions which they need. It prints the editions, bears the cost involved in their sale at reduced prices, and pays the carriage of the books to the furthest mission stations. It has helped to provide Scriptures in over thirty languages in embossed type for the blind.
It spends 9,000 a year on grants of Scriptures, free or at greatly reduced rates, to Sunday-schools and home missions, and to religious and philanthropic agencies in England and Wales.
It has issued, since its foundation in 1804, over 222,000,000 copies of the Scriptures, and has expended altogether £15,615,000.
Women are to-day taking their part in this great work - some as translators. In China, Miss Bryer has been translating the New Testament and parts of the Old into the Kienning colloquial. Miss Grover has recently translated the Psalms into Toda, following up the pioneer work of Miss Ling in that direction. Mrs. Church and Miss Reid have been preparing references for the Urdu Bible, etc.
In the work of collecting funds women are invaluable. Many hundreds are now engaged as collectors. Many more are needed. It is interesting in this connection to look back to the year 1816, when the possibility of women assisting in the work was first mooted. We are told that "there was much head shaking, grave talk of the proprieties, of the refinement of the sex, of the sphere of the ' Christian fair.' " Members of the committee were filled with misgivings and apprehensions; but the women carried the day acquirements are engaged all the world over, sometimes alone, sometimes in companies, upon the one great work of putting the Word of God into the languages of the whole earth."
and vindicated their claim to a share in the work by doing it! By 1824, of the 2,000 associations 500 were "ladies' associations." In 1831, for the first time, the "Christian fair" were allowed to be present at the society's annual meeting.
Jatkl (Persian characters)
Marathi (Bombay Presidency)
Gond (Central India)
Fuchau (Fukien, China)
Here are shown a few lines from the Bible printed in four different languages. In each case the quotation is the same - i.e., "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
(St. John, iii. 16)
Had it not been for the admission of women, one branch of the work could never have been undertaken. The society at the present time supports 600 bible-women in the East, who read the Gospel to their sisters, who otherwise would have no opportunity of hearing the Good News which was sent into the world for all people. It is not only in the zenanas that the bible-woman is to be found, but in hospitals, dispensaries, and prisons.
The thought first arose in the heart of a woman, Mrs. Ran-yard, who from her girlhood had distributed Bibles and collected funds for the Bible Society. The first bible-woman began work in London in 1857, and, with Mrs. Ran-yard's help, held the first mothers' meeting. This bible-woman was so warmly welcomed that soon others were added, and the idea was adopted in the provinces and abroad.
Besides bible-women, the society also supports a few women colporteurs, who sell Bibles from house to house.
Often the posts of auxiliary secretary and treasurer are occupied by women; while the organisation of meetings, etc., constantly falls to their care.
The financial resources of the society are greatly helped by sales of work, which are in nearly every case arranged and carried through by women.
No account of the Bible Society would be complete without some reference to the first woman whose name was connected with it, and to whose influence, perhaps, even the society itself owes its existence.
In the year 1800 a little Welsh girl of sixteen, Mary Jones, having saved up her money for six years in order to buy a Bible,
Religion tramped twenty-five miles over the hills, from Llanfihangel to Bala, in order to buy it. When she reached Bala every precious copy had been sold. Bibles in those days were not then to be had in every town; often there were none to be bought "unless some poor person pinched by poverty was obliged to sell his Bible."
Mary's grief so moved the heart of the Rev. Thomas Charles, to whom she had gone, that he gave her a copy he had reserved for a friend, and Mary returned home with a joyful heart.
This incident strengthened Mr. Charles in his determination to leave no stone unturned to procure an adequate supply of Bibles for Wales. He went to London to ask for assistance from the Religious Tract Society to found a society to supply the
Scriptures to the Welsh. A member of the committee exclaimed, "If for Wales, why not for the kingdom? Why not for the World?" And so the British and Foreign
Bible Society was founded. The Bible of Mary Jones is amongst the collection of Bibles, the largest in the world, at the Bible House, 146, Queen Victoria Street, E.c. Visitors are welcome at any time.
"Yet never the story may tire as First graven on symbols of stone, Rewritten on scrolls of papyrus And parchment, and scattered and blown By the winds of the tongues of all nations, Like a litter of leaves wildly whirled Down the rack of a hundred translations. From the earliest lisp of the world "