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The Bible Cause in Alabama
By A. C. Dayton, M. D., 1855
      At the late meeting of the Alabama Baptist Bible Society, at Marion, I had the pleasure to be present, and to meet, among many other most excellent and valued friends of the Bible cause, with our Brother DeVotie, the president of that society - a man who has few equals, if he has any, in that eloquence which while it convinces the intellect, reaches and carries captive the heart. I had long wished to meet with this most efficient and laborious co-worker in the Master's vineyard, and desired to have a free and full conversation with him, concerning Bible matters in Alabama; but this I was (owing to the pressure of other business during the session of the Convention) not able to do. I saw, however, enough of him and of the other Alabama brethren to be satisfied that they have deeply at heart the welfare of the good cause, and will heartily engage in any work which has for its object the wide spread distribution of the Word of Life. The Brethren of Alabama have been preparing for severa1 years to arrange and set in (operation a system of colporteurage coextensive with the State. The plan proposed, is

      1st. To secure a general depository fund of some three thousand or four thousand dollars, to be permanently invested in Bibles, Testaments, and other religious and denominational works - which shall be placed in one or more places easily accessible from the several portions of the State, in order that there may be no difficulty or delay at any season of the year in supplying the colporteurs with the materials for the work.

      2d. To raise in each Association, district, city or congregation, where a colporteur is to operate, a sum sufficient to buy books enough to set him to work, (say from fifty to a hundred or two hundred dollars, according to the circumstances of the case,) and with this, purchase the books from the depository for cash at wholesale prices, and place them in the hands of the colporteur, with such securities as may be thought best by those employing him. As fast as the books are sold the money to be reinvested in the same way, so as to keep him always supplied.

      3d. To employ suitable men. Earnest, warm hearted, praying Christians, of good capacity, and pay them good wages. A fixed salary of so much per month, in addition to the profits on the books, (which will not, probably, be sufficient of itself.) For the brethren do not want men for this work who are not good for any thing else - but they want good, talented, and efficient men - who can make their work and the Baptist name respectable. And to secure such men we must pay something more than the wages of a common hod [cement] carrier or dirt digger. The duty of these men will be to visit every family in their district sell them Bibles and other books if practical, enquire into the destitution which exists, and supply it according to their instructions. Converse and pray with those who seem likely to be benefitted by their so doing, and solicit contributions to sustain the Alabama Bible Society in this work and labor of love.

      Such is the plan. I do not doubt that it can be carried out, as soon as it shall be officially and formally adopted by the society. This should have been done at their regular meeting of which we are speaking - but as only a short afternoon near the close of the convention was allotted to the Bible Society, there was not time enough to consider maturely and arrange carefully all the details of so extensive and important a movement. The subject was consequently merely presented for consideration, and with other business referred to the Board of Managers. I had greatly hoped that this board could hold a special meeting for the perfecting and execution of these designs, before I left the place - because I desired to understand perfectly what was to be done, and in what way it was to be accomplished - and to assist (if my assistance could be of any value) in the execution of the work. Owing, however, to some unlooked for contingencies. Brother Devotie was called away, and it was rendered impossible to act in the premises, just at that time. I trust, e'er now, they have been able to consider the matter maturely, and have taken, or soon will take, some decisive action, and arrange and adopt if not this at least some system of colporteurage coextensive with the State. It will do more, I have no doubt, to spread a pure and untraditional Christianity in Alabama than any other means which have yet been adopted or suggested.


      Which was held on one night during the session of the convention, was to me one of the most interesting meetings that I ever attended. The sermon was preached according to previous appointment by Brother Tichener, of Montgomery. It was truly a most excellent discourse. And he who could listen to it and not feel his heart beat with zeal to scatter broadcast the word of life in every land, and especially in our own, must have but little love for his race or for his country. I will not try to give yon even an abstract of the sermon, but I wish, for the good of our cause and the welfare of our country, it could be printed and road by every citizen of the United States.

      After the sermon, Bro. Devotie, president of the Bible Society, addressed the congregation, who continued to listen with most attentive ears, although a violent storm of rain had come up since we entered the house, and threatened to make our getting home a very disagreeable task. The collection amounted to between three and four hundred dollars, (as I was afterwards informed.) It was more than I expected, and yet probably not nearly so much as it would have been but for the lowering aspect of the sky, which prevented many from going to the meeting, and the rain which compelled some to leave at an early hour. This very generous contribution was made, not to the Bible Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, but to the State Bible Society, and will probably, with the other funds reported, (amounting, if I do not forget, to something over fifteen hundred dollars,) be used in carrying out some plan for a complete system of colportenrage. Alabama is doing nobly now, but when this system is adopted and has worked out its natural and legitimate results, she will be able and willing to do much more. And even while she is doing this we venture to express our hope that she will not forget those who are perishing in other places for lack of the bread of life. She will, we are sure, not be content to let another year pass without doing something more for the supply of China, and of Africa, and of California. The sums sent up for these specific purposes to the Convention were less than three hundred dollars, of which two hundred was contributed by one man. Bro. Jenkins sent two hundred dollars, one hundred of which is to be used to spread the Bible among the Chinese in China, by Bro. Roberts, the other hundred to furnish the Chinese in California, through Bro. Shuck. And eighty nine dollars came up from various sources to be used at our discretion in the foreign field.

      The Alabama Baptist Bible Society is a well organized, well officered and efficient body; and their agent. Elder J. D. Williams, is a long tried and faithful servant of the truth. It was my pleasant lot to occupy the same room with him, at the hospitable mansion of President Jewett, during the session of the Convention. And I was not a little delighted to meet in him a brother who seems to labor in our cause for the love of the cause. And whose far-seeing mind looks not so much to the cash collected now as to the future and prominent results of his labors. He longs to nee the Bible cause in Alabama placed on a firm as well as a broad foundation. Owing to his feeble health and advancing age, he does not consider himself competent to endure all the labor which he thinks should be performed by the agent of the Society. But so far as one can judge by the results he has been a good agent, and I earnestly hope that he will feel it his duty not to resign - as he proposes to do - but to work on as well as his strength will permit; at least till the colporteurage system is not only adopted but carried into successful operation in every association in the State. He has the confidence of the churches. He is familiar with their condition and with the wants of the country His knowledge of the subject, his prudence and sound judgment are invaluable to the cause at this crisis - and if they are withdrawn it will, I fear, be hard to fill his place.

A. C. Dayton,
Corresponding Secretary B. B. of S. B. C.
[From Tennessee Baptist newspaper, January 20, 1855. p. 2. CD edition from M/F. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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