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VOL. LXIX. - DECEMBER, 1873.- No. XII.
THE NEW BIBLE HOUSE AT CONSTANTINOPLE.
By Rev. E. E. BLISS.
Many readers of the Herald were contributors to the special fund for the erection of a Bible House in Constantinople, which was collected in this country a few years since by Rev. I. G. Bliss, D. D., Agent of the American Bible Society in the Levant. All such will be glad to see, as they may on the opposite page, a picture of the building as it now stands finished and in use. It is a building of light yellowish stone, measures 80 feet in length and 71 in depth, has iron doors and shutters, is regarded as fire-proof, and cost between sixty and seventy thousand dollars. Its location upon a somewhat elevated site, and on what is becoming more and more a thronged thoroughfare, its goodly dimensions, and its chaste but attractive architecture, make it a very conspicuous object in the midst of the Turkish houses and shops of the neighborhood. The brief experience already had of the facilities afforded by this building for the Bible and missionary work, in the city and throughout the country, fully justifies all the expectations of the friends of the enterprise. Walking down the street which appears in the foreground of the picture, we come first to a commodious bookstore, in the corner of the building, with its large windows and door of plated glass. Here may be found books in all the many languages of Turkey — Bibles, school books, religious books and tracts, illustrated newspapers for children, etc., etc. The windows are filled with specimens of these various publications, the open page placed against the glass, so that each passerby may, if he will, read some portion of the divine word in his own tongue, or have his eye attracted to a book or picture, and be induced to enter and purchase that which may turn his feet to the paths of a new life. At almost any hour of the day individuals, sometimes many, may be seen in front of these windows, scanning the contents with curious eyes. Thus the bookstore becomes a street preacher, in a city where the police regulations would not allow the living missionary to announce his message in the public ways.
The remaining portions of the ground-floor of the building are to be rented for business purposes, as suitable tenants are found. The second door from the
bookstore, just under the balcony as seen in the picture, is the main entrance, from which we ascend to the Bible and missionary offices in the upper stories, On the second floor are the rooms occupied by the American Bible Society and the Treasury Department of the missions of the A. B. C. F. M. In one of the rooms on this story is held a daily prayer-meeting, at twelve o'clock m. On the third floor are the offices of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Here, too, are large and convenient rooms for the storage of books. On the fourth floor are the rooms appropriated to the use of missionaries and native helpers engaged in the publication work. On this same floor is a large audience-room, fitted with tables, chairs, and settees for religious meetings. Here, besides various occasional meetings, is held the monthly concert of prayer, to which gather, as far as health and strength will permit, all the members of the missionary circle in Constantinople, to speak to each other of the encouragements and discouragements in their various spheres of labor, and to unite their voices in prayer for God's blessing on their work. Here, too, once a year, is held the annual meeting of the mission to Western Turkey. In this commodious upper room, far abore the bustle of the noisy city, with the free, pure air circulating all around, the delegates from the various stations, with the missionary ladies also, married and unmarried, unite in counsel in regard to the great interests committed to their charge. These annual meetings bring with them perplexing questions to be discussed and settled, but they bring also religious and social privileges most highly prized by all. One of the very pleasant features of the daily sessions, and one which, till the erection of this Bible House, could never be enjoyed as now, is the gathering of all the missionaries and their families in the intermission, at noon, for a simple social repast, in rooms adjoining this in which the business meetings are held. These adjoining rooms are usually occupied, as mentioned above, by translators and proof-readers connected with the Publication Department, but during the annual meeting these usual occupants betake themselves to such other corners of the building as they can find, and their rooms, which communicate by folding-doors, are thrown together, and long tables are spread rfor the entertainment of the numerous company. The missionary children and the unmarried ladies act as waiters, and in their turn are served by their elders, while all are as merry as mutual love and common joys can make them. That reader of the Herald is a favored mortal, who has seen or belonged to a happier group than these missionary families gathered around these tables, albeit the tables are of plain pine boards, and the viands such as can be prepared with least expense of time and labor. From the fourth floor of the building it is easy to mount to the flat roof and get the wide extended view of the great city, the Golden Horn, and the beautiful Bosphorus. And when the visitor has descended to the basement, not as he ascended, in the front, but in the rear, through rooms appropriated to printing-presses and type-setters, and takes note of the numerous nationalities he has found employed about the building, American, English, Scotch, Turkish, Armenian, Greek, Bulgarian, Jewish, all engaged in the one work of giving a Christian literature to Turkey, he will find a new meaning in the “ E pluribus unum” he saw carved under the figure of the American eagle, as he entered the building. And could this visitor see, in contrast with these large, airy, convenient apartments, the confined, dingy, and most inconvenient places formerly occupied, - could he know, in contrast
with the facilities presented in this building for the transaction of the everincreasing business connected with the Bible and missionary work in Turkey, the former utter want of such facilities, — he would unite heartily with the occupants of the building, and their associates all over Turkey, in thanksgiving to God, who put it into the hearts of his servants to provide so suitable an edifice for the help of his own work, in that important center of Christian labor.
THE WORK OF THE AMERICAN BOARD IN NOMINALLY
This new work was not begun a day too soon. Everything is ripe for its vigorous prosecution. Spain is in the midst of a political struggle, out of which, it may be hoped, will come religious freedom, and the largest liberty for evangelical labors. Mexico, at a stride, pronounces in favor of religious toleration and the separation of church and state, and is giving missionaries a welcome for which they were quite unprepared. The field seems white to the harvest, and promises early and large returns for labor. Italy already counts its evangelical communities at nearly all the most important centers of influence, and is in pressing need of educated laborers to publish the gospel far and wide, under the protection of one of the freest governments in Europe. Movements in favor of religious toleration are already in progress in the Austrian Empire, and legal restrictions will not long remain on the statute-book against an enlightened public opinion. The Old Catholic movement is loosening the minds and hearts of thousands from their bondage, and under the patronage of the German Empire, seems destined to have an immense influence on the religious destinies of Europe. In all these countries there is a widespread revolt on the part of the better classes from the pretensions of Romanism, and its flagrant abuses of the religious sentiment of mankind. In the absence of a purer faith, multitudes are being carried over to infidelity, and the rejection of Christianity itself — known only under so repulsive a form, and so dishonored by its adherents.
These changes are everywhere going on with the greatest rapidity. A wise Christian economy will not lose a moment in pouring in the light of the gospel upon these millions, just waking from the night of superstition and groping after the truth. A year now may be worth a dozen a few years hence. The American Board has already over twenty missionaries — men and women engaged in this work, — in Spain, five; Italy, four; the Austrian Empire, eight; Mexico, four, and two more just ready to go. The Board will be called to make still larger expenditure than for the past year, if the opportunity is to be improved - native evangelists employed, a Christian literature put in circulation, and training-schools established. The men in the field have shown an ability, and their efforts have already been attended with a success that should inspire the liveliest hopes for the future.
Despite the prevalence of civil war, in Spain the gospel has been making progress. Protestant communities have been established, and Protestant ideas are finding a lodgment in many minds. At Santander, the brothers Gulick are encouraged by the attendance of a stable congregation at religious services, and