Letters of George Borrow to Bible Society by George Borrow - HTML preview

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Letter 62: 20th November, 1837

To the Rev. A. Brandram
(ENDORSED: recd. Dec. 2, 1837)

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - On the other side you have an account of the money which I expended during my journey, and also of what I have laid out in the Society's service since my return. In respect to my expenses, I wish to state that most articles are very dear in Spain, especially in the parts where I have travelled, and that I have been subjected to many expenses which I have not specified in the account, for example the gate-dues for the books, in every town where I have introduced them - the printing of advertisements - and particularly farriers' bills, as the poor horses were continually ailing from over-work, bad provender and falls received amongst the mountains. In the account of Testaments sold you will observe that I make no mention of by far the greater number, namely those disposed of at Lugo, Saint James, etc., etc., as I have not yet received the money from the booksellers. About a week since I received advice from Leon that the forty copies which I had left there had been all sold, and that the money was in readiness; I have despatched a fresh supply of fifty to that important town, where last summer I nearly lost my life in a burning fever. I am expecting every day a fresh order from Salamanca, and hope that, as the circle widens in the lake into which a stripling has cast a pebble, so will the circle of our usefulness continue widening until it has embraced the whole vast region of Spain.

I have delayed writing for nearly a fortnight, as during that period I have been looking out for a suitable shop in which to commence operations in Madrid. I have just found one quite to my mind, situated in the CALLE DEL PRINCIPE, one of the principal streets. The rent, it is true, is rather high (eight REALS per diem); but a good situation, as you are well aware, must be paid for. I came to the resolution of establishing a shop from finding that the Madrid booksellers entrusted with the Testaments gave themselves no manner of trouble to secure the sale, and even withheld advertisements from the public with which they were supplied. But now everything will be on another footing, and I have sanguine hopes of selling all that remain of the edition within a short time.

A violent and furious letter against the Bible Society and its proceedings has lately appeared in a public print; it is prefixed to a Pastoral of the Spiritual Governor [I.E. Bishop] of Valencia, in which he forbids the sale of the London Bible in that see. About a week since I inserted in the ESPANOL an answer to that letter, which answer has been read and praised. I send you herewith an English translation of it. You will doubtless deem it too warm and fiery, but tameness and gentleness are of little avail when surrounded by the vassal slaves of bloody Rome. It has answered one purpose - it has silenced our antagonist, who, it seems, is an unprincipled benefice-hunting curate. As you read Spanish, I have copied his own words respecting the omission of the Apocrypha; nevertheless, lest you should find some difficulty in understanding it, I subjoin here the English.

'If the works of Luther were to be given to the world curtailed of their PRINCIPAL CHAPTERS, and his maxims and precepts to a certain degree transformed, what would his followers and disciples do? Would they not rise with one accord in numerous bands, and, in order to sustain the honour of their preceptor, would they not recur to the original writings and produce in his support his manuscripts? Would they not resort to all kinds of argument to prove the spuriousness of that edition, and employ declamation and reasoning in order to blacken the illicit and fraudulent means which the Catholics were employing?' etc., etc., etc.

I deemed it my duty, as Agent of the Bible Society in Spain, not to permit so brutal an attack upon it to pass unanswered. Indeed I was called upon by my friends to reply, and though I am adverse to all theological and political disputes, I feared to refuse, lest the motives of my silence should be misconstrued. But now I must be permitted to say (between ourselves) that it was a very unadvised act to send such a Bible as the London one over to Spain, a Bible which does the editor no credit and the Society less; and it was a still more unadvised act to advertise in the prints of Valencia that it would be given GRATIS to the poor. Mr. Villiers, whom I consulted, made use of these words: 'How is it possible for you (meaning myself) to sell books at Madrid and other places, when it becomes known that those very same books are being given away at Valencia? Moreover, giving away Bibles to the multitude will seem to imply that there is some plot or conspiracy in the wind, and the Government, with some shadow of reason, may be called upon to interfere, and the proceedings of the Society may be brought to a sudden stop in Spain.' I hope you will excuse these hints; they are well meant, and in uttering them I have, as you know, the prosperity of our hallowed cause solely at heart.

G. B.


(I am still very unwell.)



GENTLEMEN, - My attention has this moment been directed by a friend to a letter which appeared in your journal of the 5th instant, signed Jose Francisco Garcia and prefixed to a circular of the Governor of the See of Valencia, the object of which is to forbid the purchasing or reading of the Castilian version of the Bible by Father Felipe Scio, as edited in London by the British and Foreign Bible Society, and which the Agent of the Society at Valencia has announced for sale.

Did the principles of the Bible Society permit them to rejoice at the misfortunes of their fellow-creatures, even of their enemies, the style and tone which the writer of this epistle has, unfortunately for himself and his cause, adopted, would afford them plenteous matter for congratulation. He calls himself an ecclesiastic and talks about 'the sacred duty of his august ministry,' and for the purpose, I suppose, of showing how strictly he fulfils the precepts of his mild Master and Redeemer, he styles the Society in question 'an infernal Society,' and speaks of 'its accursed fecundity.' Goodly words! Charitable words! May I be permitted to enquire in what part of the sacred writings he found them recommended? Perhaps in the following text of the Vulgate:-

'Vae vobis Scribae et Phariseai hypocritae, qui decimatis mentham, et anethum, et cyminum, et reliquistis quae graviora sunt legis, JUDICIUM, ET MISERICORDIAM, et fidem. Haec oportuit facere, et illa non omittere.'

Matt. cap. xxiii. vers. 23.

Ay de vosotros, Escribas y Phariseos hipocritas, que diezmais la yerba buena, y el eneldo, y el comino, y habeis dexado las cosas, que son mas importantes de la Ley, LA JUSTICIA, Y LA MISERICORDIA, y la fe! Esto era menester hacer, y no dexar lo otro.

The British and Foreign Bible Society is an infernal society and consequently its members, one and all, are children of the devil. Now, what is required to constitute a child of the devil, according to the opinion of the Founder of Christianity - of Jesus - the Living Word - the Eternal God? Let me quote HIS own words, according to the Vulgate, the book of the Church of Rome:

'Vos ex patre diabolo estis: et desideria patris vestri vultis facere. Ille homicida erat ab initio, et in veritate non stetit, quia non est veritas in eo: cum loquitur mendacium, ex propriis loquitur, quia mendax est et pater ejus.'

Joan. cap. viii. vers. 44.

'Vosotros sois hijos del diablo, y quereis cumplir los deseos de vuestro padre: el fue homicida desde el principio, y no permanecio en la verdad; porque no hay verdad en el: quando habla mentira, de suyo habla; porque es mentiroso, y padre de la mentira.'

By this it should appear that the infernal Bible Society by the propagation of the Scriptures merely fulfils the desire of its father the devil, and disseminates that which is his. Being a child of the devil it cannot propagate truth; it propagates the Gospel, and nothing else - ERGO, the Gospel is a lie and the father of it the devil.

But the Bible Society is accused, not only in the circular, but in the epistle which introduces it to the ESPANOL, of vending a mutilated and curtailed version of the holy books. It is accused of omitting six of the books which are generally bound up with what is denominated the Bible; viz., Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Sabiduria, Eclesiastico, y 1* y 2* de los Machabeos. The CHRISTIAN ECCLESIASTIC, the author of the epistle, in indignation at this omission becomes suddenly argumentative, and puts a case to the heretics, which he deems in point; 'Si vieran la luz publica las obras de Lutero mutiladas en sus PRINCIPALES CAPITULOS, y transformadas en cierto modo sus maximas y preceptos; que diligencias no practicarian sus secuaces y discipulos? Se levantarian a una en tropas numerosas para sostener el honor de su preceptor, y con el fin de dejar en su justo lugar a su amado maestre, recurririan a sus escritos originales, manifestarian en su apoyo los manuscritos, apelarian a todo linage de argumentos para acreditar la ilegitimidad de aquella edicion, y emplearian sus declamaciones y raciocinios para ascar los medios rateres e ilicitos de que se valia el catolicismo.'

Hear it in Gath! hear it in Gilead! hear it on the hills of Israel! yea let the furthest corners of the earth hear it! The PRINCIPAL CHAPTERS of the Bible are not those of the New Testament, which contains the will and words of the Saviour, by whom we are to be judged - not those of Isaiah, who foretold so beautifully and distinctly the coming of that Saviour to the world - not those of Moses, who wrote of things in their earliest date, and so nobly depicted the progress of the creation,
- but those of the books of Tobit, Baruch, etc., books which the Roman Church itself has called apocryphal, and the greater part of which exhibit an internal character of spuriousness which precludes the possibility of their being the offspring of inspired minds, though they contain some things useful and instructive, such as may be found in the writings of the early doctors, who however never claimed nor were deemed to possess the gift of inspiration from on high.

Let me here ask: what is to be discovered in the chapters of Tobit, etc., of first rate importance to the Christian in his worldly pilgrimage, or which serves to corroborate and illustrate other parts of Scripture? Above all, is Christ crucified spoken of or hinted at, as in the authenticated writings of the Prophets? If not, what is their value in comparison with that of other books of Scripture, even could their authenticity be proved?

Now to that point. This Christian ecclesiastic calls with a loud voice upon his brethren to prove by pamphlets and writing the divinity of the books of Tobit, Judith, etc. Yea, let them accomplish that - let them bring sufficient evidence that these apocryphal writings were held in veneration by the Jews, that they enjoyed a place in the sanctuary along with the inspired writings, let them show that they were penned by Prophets, above all LET THEM PRODUCE THE ORIGINALS - and the Bible Society will immediately admit them into its editions. Why not? I am not aware that one point of doctrine, either Protestant or Roman, depends upon their reception or rejection.

In conclusion. What struck me most on the perusal of this singular epistle, all the main points of which I believe I have tolerably well answered, and without much trouble, was the ignorance more than childish, the extraordinary, unaccountable ignorance, which the author displays on the subject on which he has written, and all which relates to it, notwithstanding that subject is a religious one, and he, an ecclesiastic as he gives the world to know, standing forward as champion of the Church of Rome. He is evidently as well acquainted with Scripture and the works of the Fathers as with the Talmud and Zend-avesta, and with the ideas and dogmas of those whom he calls heretics, as with the religious opinions of the Mongols and the followers of the Lama of the Himalayan hills. The miserable attack which, in his rancorous feebleness, he has just committed on the Bible Society will redound merely to his own shame and ridicule, and the disgrace of the sect to which he belongs. What could persuade him to speak of the Vulgate? What could induce him to grasp that two-edged sword? Does it not cut off his own hands? Does the Vulgate allude to the Bible Society, or to him and his fellows, when it cries:-

Vae vobis legisperitis, quia tulistis clavem scientiae, ipsi non introistis: et eos, qui introibant, prohibuistis. - Lucae, cap. xi. vers. 52.


'Ay de vosotros, Doctores de la Ley que os alzasteis con la llave de la ciencia! vosotros no entrasteis, y habeis prohibido a los que entraban.'


And again:-


Qui ex Deo est, verba Dei audit. Propterea vos non auditis, quia ex Deo non estis. - Joan. cap. viii. vers. 47.


'El que es de Dios, oye las palabras de Dios. Por eso vosotros no las ois, porque no sois de Dios.'

What could induce him to speak of Luther and his works? What does he, what do his abettors, know of Luther and his writings, or of the ideas which the heretics entertain respecting either? I will instruct them. Luther was a bold inquiring man, with some learning; he read the Scriptures in the original tongues, and found that their contents were in entire variance with the doctrines of the Church of the Seven Hills; he told the world so, as other men had done, with feebler voices, before, and the best part of the world believed - not him - but the Scripture, for he gave it to them in a shape which they could understand. The heretics look not for salvation by the merits either of Luther or Calvin, for merits they had none - being merely the instruments which Providence selected to commence a great work which He has hitherto not thought proper to perfect. The heretics look for salvation to Christ and hope to be forgiven by lively faith in Him and by virtue of His blood-shedding. They trust not in Peter nor in Paul - both men and sinners - in Luther nor in Calvin - greater sinners still - but in Christ alone. They trust not in stick nor stone, in picture nor in image, in splinter of cross nor bone of saint, but in Christ alone - not in His mother or His brother - He Himself has said: 'those that do the will of my Father that is in heaven, they are my mother, they are my brethren.'

Quae est mater mea, et qui sunt fratres mei? . . .


Quicumque fecerit voluntatem Patris mei, qui in coelis est, ipse meus frater et soror et mater est. - Matt. cap. xii. vers. 48-50.


Christ alone is the foundation and cope-stone of the true Church. GEORGE BORROW.