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CHRISTIAN WITNESS ,
Church Members' Magazine.
Should the day ever arrive when the Dissenting body shall be distinguished for the number of its members who adorn the
Thas lived, for two or three ages, the successors of the Apostles. But when, through Constantine's lavish superstition, they
THE PROFITS OF THIS WORK
DEVOTED TO THE BENEFIT OF ACED MINISTERS.
Seven years have now passed over the world since we issued the first number of the CHRISTIAN WITNESS, and seven such years, in some respects, as could not be selected in succession, from any portion of the last seven centuries. During these agitated, tumultuous, and eventful times, they to whose lot it has fallen to share in the guidance of the public mind, have been clothed with a high responsibility, and subjected to an unusual amount of anxious and arduous labour; and, so far as a judgment may be formed from appearances, these times are not likely soon to subside. New tributaries are constantly augmenting the current, which thus, as it advances, is daily becoming wider, deeper, stronger, and rolling on with accelerated velocity. Thus the office of conducting the press is becoming more and more difficult
, calling for a correspondent increase of the wisdom that is from above, and the aid which only the faithful among men can impart. Our sense of the importance of our vocation is becoming so strong, that it is allied to the painful; it is, at times, absolutely oppressive, ever prompting the exclamation, i Who is sufficient for these things ?”—and we derive encouragement only from the fact that for this, as for everything, sufficiency is to be sought and found in God. It is the Divine plan to work by means, and to aid his burdened children through the instrumentality of their brethren. Under these convictions it is, that we ask, with more earnestness than ever before, the prayers and counsels and co-operation of the intelligent, the observant, and the experienced among the people of God, whether in or out of the ministry of reconciliation,
Our convictions, during the last eighteen months, on the subject of the Revival of Religion, bave gradually been gaining strength, till they have reached a state which may be considered one of fixity. We are most deeply convinced, that this is the great want of the times, and the object to which all communities of Christians, with the utmost earnestness, ought to bend their attention. We do not croak; and we have no desire to fill the office of prophets of evil; but we must speak the things we know, and testify to what is everywhere to be seen. On this subject, our pages have often spoken in ihe course of the present year. One part of our object has been, to show, that for this special end, special means must be adopted, since it is not to be expected that merely the same means will make things better; as by a law in morals, as well as in physics, the same causes, in the same circumstances, will always produce the same effects. All such Revival must be from God, but means are appointed to secure the blessing, and the observance of those means, in the right spirit, and in the proper measure, will not fail. We have uniformly taught, that it is vain to look for any great movement in the way of conversion, without a mighty awakening in the Church. There is an established connection between the state of the Church, and the multiplication of believers. The more of the life of God there is in the Church, the more power there will be in the ministration of the Gospel,--the more freely will it run and be glorified. On this great matter, for the year to come, our pages will continue to testiiy. As the heaven-appointed remedy for the removal of individual sorrow, and every ill that betides our world, to promote it should become the prime vocation,-as the only true philanthropy, and the most exalted patriotism.
The recent turn things have taken in relation to Popery will require that the Pens as well as the Pulpits of the Protestant Church, shall perform their part in the great conflict with the powers of darkness now setting in, to an extent far exceeding anything known in our day, or in the days which immediately preceded it. Protestantism can no longer afford to stand merely on the defensive. But the fate of the controversy will not turn upon the abstract doctrines of Protestantism, however Scriptural ; Protestant truth will be impotent without Protestant holiness. Every Protestant, in his own person, must be an argument of the truth of his religion, a living monument of its power and beauty. The real, must be even greater than the apparent, rather than less. Popery abounds in the form- Protestantism must excel in the substance. Popery is a thing by itself; a system of falsehood; it is wholly
independent of the grace of God. As the empire of darkness, it requiresmit admits of no aids but those which are Satanic. With those aids, it is an undertaking to which mere human nature is every way sufficient. The house it builds does not require—it hardly ever admits--of the use of spiritual stones; while, as a religion, it is easy to flesh and blood, nothing is so easy as the propagation of it. Every priest lays claim to the power, by which all is done that requires to be done, to make men Romish Christians. He can impart Divine life,-he can forgive all sin,-he can prepare men for heaven, and send them to it, on his own authority-nay, he can bring them up even from the depths of hell, and set them in Paradise! Popery operates no change in the heart or the life. Its converts are permitted, without restraint, to live after the flesh, and walk on in the course of this evil world, the subjects of a wisdom that is from beneath, "earthly, sensual, and devilish.” Its materials are corrupt nature, and darkness is its element. The more benighted the state of a people, the more fit is that people for the introduction of Popery ; the greater the prowess of the Church of Rome; the more rapid and splendid its victories.
We enter on the eighth year of our labours with an intense desire, that it may prove more efficient than any of its predecessors. The experience of seven long years should go for something; and we are anxious that it should be brought fully to bear upon the interests of Christ's kingdom. But that it may be strongly availing, there must be co-operation. The beneficial influence of a Journal is in the ratio of its cireulation,-a matter which exclusively appertains to the existing circle of its readers, which, like a fire surrounded by appropriate materials, ought to extend itself. An Editor is fixed to a spot; he can only deserve patronage ; he cannot command it. Where there is real merit in a Journal, there is scarcely any other limit to its circulation than that which is set by its approving readers. By them, if constituting, as in our case, a large body, with a moderate portion of heart, it might be extended indefinitely, incredibly, on every hand. The power of activity and address in this matter is still to be proved upon a large scale. There is reason to fear that it has been far too much the habit and the practice among the churches, generally, to leave such matters to take their course; if Magazines found their way into the families of churches, and congregations, and neighbourhoods, it was well; it not, it did not matter. Facts have occasionally come to our knowledge of a character lamentably illustrative of this allegation. We almost blush to state them. We refer to the case of small churches not taking a single copy of any magazine whatever! We need hardly add, that, in every such case, the Church was in a miserable condition; so much so that, at length, it reached a point which brought things to a halt. The drowsy shepherd who cumbered the ground had to retire, and on the settlement of a new and competent pastor it was quickly found that the people wanted neither the will nor the ability to avail themselves of the benefits of periodical literature. Scarcely has such a minister been settled, when sometimes a large number both of the Penny MAGAZINE and CHRISTIAN Witness have been ordered, received with pleasure, and read with avidity. Stimulation is the great ruling principle of modern commerce; it is the soul of trade : the system whereby it is carried on is most costly, complex, and wonderful. The expenditure of money and of
agency in this one thing, would suffice to carry on the affairs of a great empire ; and if this is found to be needful in the case of things appertaining to the physical interests of men, how much more in those which address themselves to the understanding and the heart, which rarely longs for that which most it needs. How easy it were, in many a given locality to find a hundred families, all more or less connected with some place of worship, not one of whom takes in any magazine, and not one of whom, if let alone, will ever take one; whereas by a persevering and vigorous course of canvassing and stimulation, by the individuals and families mixed up with them, aided by the pastors and officers, a majority, if not the whole, might be induced to become subscribers, and, in the end, intelligent and profited readers. On these grounds then, in the prospect of 1851, we make our appeal to our friends, and ask the aid which only they can impart, and by which they will become our fellowhelpers to the kingdom of God. The suggestions we have to offer on this subject, will be found on the wrapper of the present number. Dec. 1st, 1850.