In June of 1809, an “Address to the Christian Public” was prepared by the Rev. Joseph Buckminster and published in the Boston journals and papers of the day. As a result, one hundred seven men responded (a later record claims 200, but only 107 names are listed as being present.) by arriving in the Representatives Room of the Massachusetts State House on July 6, 1809 to lend their support. The Massachusetts Bible Society was formed. It would be formally incorporated the following February.
The address here is a direct transcription of the original, still in the offices of the Massachusetts Bible Society at 199 Herrick Rd., Newton Centre, Mass.
Following the address of Mr. Phillips are biographies of the men who filled that room, as best as can be determined. That day only names were recorded, some with titles, some without. Some names were abbreviated. The rationale behind the original order of their listing is unknown, save for the fact that all those listed as “Rev.” were listed first.
For the sake of easier reference, these biographies are presented in alphabetical order and with obvious name abbreviations (such as Eben. for Ebenezer) are spelled out. Otherwise they are listed as they appear in the original. The original listing is given at the close of this booklet.
Address to the Christian Public
The attention of the Christian Public is requested to a very important object. Within a few years, several societies have been instituted in Europe and America, for distributing the Holy Scriptures. It is proposed that an association be formed in this State for this Christian and benevolent design.
It is difficult to conceive an object which promises greater benefit, or has a stronger claim on the support of Christians.
The Book to be distributed is universally acknowledged to be the only pure source of religious truth, the only perfect rule of Faith and Practice. In distributing it, we furnish men with the most interesting knowledge, the knowledge of their Creator and Redeemer, of their duties and destination. We furnish them with an unerring and authoritative guide of life, with the most powerful motives to virtue and holiness, and with the only unfailing support and solace in affliction.
If we consider that the Bible views and addresses man as an immortal being, and is designed to secure his eternal felicity, we shall see that in distributing it, we exert ourselves to promote an infinite good: and will Christian benevolence be indifferent, when such an object is proposed?
It is the influence of the Bible not only to fit men for a future life, but to promote the order, tranquility and happiness of the present. In distributing the pure and benevolent system of Jesus Christ, we adopt one of the best methods to refine the temper and manners of men, to restrain unjust practices and licentious desires, to render families peaceful and affectionate, and to improve every relation of the social State.
It is interesting to recollect the exertions and sacrifices made by the author of our faith, by his chosen apostles, and by Christians of every age, for the purpose of extending through the earth, and of transmitting to all generations, the truth contained in the Bible. This truth has been sealed with the most precious blood: and shall not we count it an honor and privilege to be associated with Jesus Christ, and his most faithful servants, in communicating this valuable blessing to mankind?
It becomes Christians to consider that their master was very mindful of the poor, and represented his Gospel as peculiarly designed for that class of Society. Its great truths are level to their capacities; and its precepts and promises are peculiarly suited to impart that support and consolation, and to form that patience, resignation, uprightness, and freedom from envy, which are so necessary in a state of poverty. Is there not, then, the strongest obligation to circulate the Bible as widely as possible among the poor?
It is a distinguishing recommendation of this charity, that when we give a Bible, we communicate an undoubted good. We give what is needed by men of every age, character, rank and condition. We circulate not an imperfect production of men, but the Book of God; not a work of controversy, but the gospel of peace, which all Christians acknowledge to be the standard, by which their controversies must be judged.
This object is recommended by its great simplicity, and by the facility with which it may be accomplished. It requires no intimate arrangements. The distribution of a single book is the only thing intended. The object is so definite, as almost to preclude the possibility of misapplying the funds of the proposed association. No heavy burdens need be laid on individuals. A small annual subscription from Christians in moderate circumstances, united with the donations of the opulent, will be sufficient to distribute the Bible wherever it is wanted.
One more advantage, and a very important one remains to be mentioned. This is an object, in which all Christians may unite. Here is a common ground, on which all denominations may meet, and join heart and hand, and forget the distinctions which keep them asunder. Let Christians of every name concur in the good end here proposed, and they can hardly help improving in that love, which is the badge of the true disciples of the Saviour.
There is but one objection which can be offered to the institution here proposed, viz. that the people of this land are too well supplied with Bibles to need the aid of a Bible Society. But we must not judge of the country at large from what falls under our immediate observation. The Philadelphia Society, in their address to the public, expresses the opinion, that one fourth part of the families of this country are destitute of Bibles. If we confine ourselves to New England, we have reason to suppose that this want is considerably felt in Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Maine. In many houses where the Bible is found, it is so much worn and so wretchedly printed, that its usefulness is very much diminished. In all our towns, there are poor families, to whom a neat edition of the Bible, in a good type, would be a most acceptable present. In our prisons also there are many unhappy individuals, who peculiarly need this charity.
These are the considerations which have called forth this address. It is hoped that they will engage the serious attention of the friend of Religion and Mankind. Those persons who feel the importance of this object, are requested to meet at the State-House, in the Representatives’ room, on Thursday the sixth day of July next, to consider the expediency of associating for the distribution of the Bible. A general attendance of the respectable and influential part of society, and of Christians of all denominations, is desired and anticipated.
--Boston June, 1809