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On various occasions during the last twenty winters, at the commencement of a new year, the Editor has taken the liberty of addressing you, respecting the actual state and prospects of this Magazine. The existence of a Periodical to advocate, to extend, and to vindicate the holy cause of a genuine Christianity founded on the pure truths and doctrines of the everlasting Gospel of our Saviour God, has, from the very beginning, proved itself to be indispensable. The
is evidently, under the Lord's providence, the great engine of use, and of progress in the propagation of the doctrines of the New Dispensation. Swedenborg worked solely by the press, and the same medium, so wonderfully developed as to its resources, and the extension of its uses since his time, is still the great instrumentality by which the new ideas of Truth and of Goodness, arising from an enlightened understanding of God's Word, can be made known, confirmed, and vindicated amongst
Since the Periodical was established, now nearly half a century ago (in 1812), great, indeed, have been the changes which have marked the progress of the age. It has been our lot, during the last thirty years, to labour in this field of usefulness, and to exert our feeble energies in behalf of the cause advocated by this Magazine. We have, therefore, had abundant opportunities to observe these changes in the horizon of the human mind, and, to a considerable extent, they stand recorded from time to time in the pages of this Periodical. As an historical document, therefore, of some importance as to the early periods of the church, it will, in future generations, be esteemed as possessing some
[Enl. Series.-No. 61, vol. vi.
valuable information. The origination of all our useful institutionsof our Printing, Tract, Missionary, and School Societies, was first inaugurated, and their projects and plans of usefulness first developed, in its pages. Time has shown how well these institutions have, through the Lord's blessing, worked for the good of the holy cause we have endeavoured to maintain.
When this Periodical commenced its career, education among the masses of the people had made but little progress. Literature and science were confined to a limited circle of students and readers. Ignorance, prejudice, and bigotry, as to the introduction of new ideas in theology, almost universally triumphed. The name of Swedenborg, in respect to theology, like that of Copernicus, or of Galileo, in respect to astronomy in their time, and in the subsequent generation, was either mentioned with contempt, or passed over in contemptuous silence. But now the name of Swedenborg is beginning to be respected in regard to the highest department of human knowledge, the truths of theology, as the names of Copernicus and of Galileo are now honoured in respect to the truths of astronomical science. We gratefully, however, acknowledge, in Swedenborg's behalf, an especial illumination, through the Lord's providence and mercy, to enable him to accomplish his mission.
There were at that period but few writers who could contribute to Periodical literature. The burden rested upon the mental shoulders of a few. But how great is the change! Now nearly every individual has the ability to read and to express his ideas in writing, or with little exertion and at little expense he may acquire that ability. His mind is also enlarged by exercising the mental powers on the elements of science, and the abundant stores of knowledge applicable to all the uses of life are opened and displayed to his mind, and presented for his acceptance almost without money and without price. The system of teaching also, as one of the most useful of the arts, is immensely improved. The dignity was formerly confined to our universities and colleges, and higher academies, but now it is installed in our village schools, as it should be, with the honours of a profession. It is no longer considered that the man who has been unsuccessful in his business can now undertake the important duties of a teacher, irrespective of the qualifications and experience necessary
for the office.
The superior quality of books in every branch of knowledge, and the amazing cheapness of their cost, should also be considered. All other kinds of apparatus, as diagrams, maps, pictorial representations, &c., so necessary for effective teaching, are also abundantly and cheaply supplied. All these things plainly shew that an immense machinery is being prepared for the cultivation of the mental faculties, as a preliminary to the reception of the new ideas on the Truths of the Word, and of the spiritual life after death, which are so abundantly supplied in the writings and doctrines of the New Church.
Nor should it be forgotten that since this Periodical was commenced, the strongholds of false doctrines and of dark metaphysical creeds have been shaken to their very foundation. The face of the earth, or of the church, and the state of human minds, as demonstrated in our Papers on the Last Judgment in this Periodical during the first months of 1857, is being entirely changed. Old things are passing away, and all tbings are becoming new. Thus every reflecting New Churchman has abundant reason for encouragement, and every ground of hope that the "new heavens and the new earth” of a glorious state of things, both as to internals and externals, for the human race, are being gradually formed.
It is the great mission of the church of the New Jerusalem to come and minister to this new order of things, as Melchizedeck, the king of Salem, came and ministered bread and wine to Abraham after his battles and his victories. It is the mission of the New Church to supply its truths to the new state of things as necessary for its enlightenment, and its guidance in the path of peace; and it is the especial object of this Magazine to labour in this important field of eternal usefulness to mankind. The object is, consequently, to instruct and to edify the members of the church in the doctrines and principles which it advocates; and the treasures of science and the stores of ancient and of modern literature are welcome to its pages, as the means of elucidating and of confirming those Truths.
With these prospects arising out of the new developments and tendencies of the age, which are the result of a new and powerful influence from on High, the Editor, during the last twenty years, has had his encouragements and enjoyments, as well as his difficulties and his anxieties, in conducting this Magazine. He has had the satisfaction to see its sale, up to a recent period, gradually increased from 600 as a bi-monthly in 1837,* to 1,300 copies per month, and to exceed in its circulation several of the religious Periodicals of the day. In 1854 it was considerably enlarged, at an expense of £30. per annum, arising from the profits of its sale, which was an additional ground of encouragement for further exertions on the part of the Editor. If these encouraging conditions and prospects had not existed, the
See Minutes of Conference for that year.
Editor would long ago have resigned his office, and withdrawn from Periodical literature. The time, however, has now come when it is necessary that this Magazine should meet with a still more liberal support, especially as the Conf nce has been at an additional expense in the endeavour to render it more instructive and interesting to the readers.
The miscellaneous department is greatly enriched by a variety of information respecting the efforts made by the church in the propagation of its doctrines, and by intelligence respecting its progress in different parts of the world. The able services of the Rev. W. Woodman, as assistant Editor, have contributed to this result, and at this juncture in the history of this Magazine it was not to be expected that its sale should, as appears from the Minutes of the last Conference, be diminished. This may have arisen partly from the depressed state of business during the past year, and partly from an apathy and lethargy as to spiritual improvement, which in states of depression and trial are apt to come over us. We trust that with the beginning of a New Year this lethargy will be dispersed, and that we may put forth new energies in support of the righteous cause.
We sincerely thank our correspondents for the contributions they have kindly sent to us, and for the interest they have manifested in the usefulness and prosperity of this Magazine.
The first thing, we admit, that ought to be expected from every member of the church is that of a good life, according to the principles he professes. The next is probably that of promoting the knowledge of truth, as the means of leading others to the same most desirable end, for the sake of happiness in this life, and of eternal blessedness hereafter. The least, therefore, that can be expected of every New Churchman is, the support of the literature of the church in so far as he considers
to be conducive to the promotion of the Good and the True, which should be at the root of every publication, and form its spirit and its life. Our encouragement to do so is, as we have seen, abundantly ample. “The harvest, truly, is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest.” Every one of us, in whatever station of life he may be, or with whatever capacity he may be gifted, is thus mercifully entreated to come and to labour in this glorious harvest of eternal Truth, and to gather in the fruits thereof for eternal life.
I am, beloved brethren,
LUKE xiii. 6-9. He spake also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard: and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none : cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he, answering, said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down." It is a wise ordination by our great Creator, that the outward works of His hands should have a fixed relation to the mind of man. In this way they are full of use: they call forth good states, and help them forward, or they give admonition and reproof. The changing seasons, as they mirror forth man's regeneration, either help him into harmony therewith, or they reprove him for his backward state. The changes themselves are to plead with him against continuing in evil, and urge him to proceed in the heavenward way. They tell him that this world is not his resting-place.
Such thoughts as these arise in our minds at our entrance on a new year. We see their truth at such a time.
The close of one year
and the commencement of another, is an important period in life. It rouses man up, calls home his thoughts, and disposes them to seriousness. It turns him to serious reflections as to his state of mind, his newness of life, or to the sad truth that he is still at ease in Zion, and wedded to his evils. Happy are such reflections if they make a salutary impression; if they produce a real change; if they melt the heart by thoughts of the Divine goodness to man, in prolonging his stay on the earth from year to year, in spite of his barren state of heart and mind, and his want of gratitude. Happy are such solemn thoughts when they lead to a change of purpose and a better state. At this time we, my brethren, are called to such reflections as these. We have now entered on a new year.
We are called to think upon our present position as candidates for eternal life. We are to consider the use we have made and are making of our time on the earth ; of the means we possess for good ; of our progress heavenward, and our fitness, even now, for the bliss which awaits us hereafter. Let us, then, consider these things. Let us think on them in connection with the Divine goodness towards us in seeking so much and at all times to promote our best interests, and with the Divine forbearance towards us in not dealing with us according to our sins, but according to his mercy.
Let us consider them from a passage in the Divine Word, appropriate to the