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Berwick, proceedings of, 27,


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Original Papers.


THERE are few religious denominations not, in some way or other, represented by the periodical press-for the promulgation of their peculiar tenets, and also for disseminating information respecting local and missionary efforts. The weekly or monthly periodical forms an important part of ecclesiastical machinery. For a time, these pioneers occupied fields almost untrodden by any competitor, and few exertions were necessary to secure for them a favourable amount of patronage. But private speculation has, of late years, seriously assailed them: the floods of cheap literature issuing from the press, restricted by no denominational limits, have broken in upon their quiet security; and so hard has the struggle become for popular favour, that even the oldest and best-established "Denominationals" have been forced to enter the arena in self-defence, and engage in the common struggle for existence. Some of these appeal to many years of active and efficient service, both in literary and benevolent points of view; others, to the greater amount of good they might render, if receiving the measure of support to which they think themselves entitled. Judging from the experience of the last few years, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the denominational class of periodical literature in this country is on the wane. We believe, if the facts were known, it would be found that some periodicals which at one time commanded nearly the highest circulation among their religious contemporaries in this country, are now reduced by nearly a third; and, were it not from the profits arising from their advertising columns, would scarcely be self-sustaining. This diminution is partly owing to the numerous competitors which have since arisen, adapting themselves in all shapes and forms to popular fancy; but we fear it also arises in some measure from the decrease of denominational interest among the members of our several Christian communities. If right in our last conjecture, it is certainly a matter to be deplored; for we hold that the man who, in these days, does not make himself acquainted with the doings of the religious body to which he belongs, is not likely to be very No. 73.-New Series. VOL. VI.


active for its interests; and if his zeal does not find an outlet through his own denomination, it is almost sure not to be very profuse for the interests of any other. In saying this we are not defending that "narrowness," and "sectarian exclusiveness," with which denominational zeal has (sometimes justly), been charged: for we see no antagonism between its active exercise and the most liberal charity towards others; and we usually find that with a manly Christianity there exists firm and decided denominational views. We believe, therefore, that when a more healthy and firmer tone pervades our various religious communities, the class of literature in question will be attended with corresponding prosperity.

In our December supply of periodicals we generally feel a peculiar interest. The editorial we, assumes greater personality; it is seen more clearly how the pulse is beating-whether there are symptoms of health and longevity, or of premature sickness and decay,-whether "neglect has stung him to the core," and laid the labourer lifeless, or merely roused him into new resolves and more active energies. We present a few extracts from these December " Addresses" of our contemporaries, believing they will not only be perused with interest, but will also afford practical hints to those who are inclined to use them.

The first selected is a sad one, which we perused with very sincere regret. It is from our old and ever-welcome friend, the "Free Church Magazine," who has brought us the unexpected tidings of his own decease. With his usual appearance of health and vigour we were startled on meeting, at the close of the Editor's Preface, with the following


"It is now our duty to announce to our readers, that it is not in contemplation to continue the issue of the Free Church Magazine.' It may seem strange to discontinue the issue of a periodical which counts its subscribers by thousands; and the publishers would not have thought of this step, if they did not believe that, by other arrangements, a larger amount of good may eventually be done."

We are then informed that our good old friend is to give place to the "Journal of Missions," which we may describe as a sort of monthly missionary newspaper Messrs. Johnston and Hunter are about to issue: but we can scarcely regard this as a substitute for the Magazine, nor are we willing to believe that the discontinuance of the one was necessary to the success of the other, had it met with that measure of support to which its merits entitled it.

The "Evangelical Magazine"-which comes incased in no fewer than eighty-two pages of bills and advertisements-is one of the oldest of the denominational "monthlies," having now reached its sixtieth year. Its present Editor, Dr. Morison, of Chelsea, informs us, that he "sits down to write his thirtieth preface;" and that during that long period "he has never had occasion to devolve his responsibilities, for a single month, on any second party." "With all the earnestness he can command," he urges his brethren to read and circulate the Magazine for its own sake, and then for the sake of those ministers' widows amongst whom the annual profits are distributed. Under this latter plea he says:

"Do not forget the 150 widows of your deceased brethren, who are dependant for subsistence and comfort upon the annual votes of the Trustees; do not devolve on that highly respectable body the sad mortification of reducing the incomes of these godly women, who are struggling hard to maintain themselves in respectability, and to keep their heads above water. Do not do this, especially when a little zealous effort, and a warm notice from the Christian pulpit, would ward off the whole


calamity. With a steady circulation of 2,000 more copies monthly, the Trustees will be able to continue their gratuities without diminution."

Next in size we take up the "Baptist Magazine," which has now completed its forty-fifth volume, the profits of which are devoted to the same benevolent purposes as that of the "Evangelical." The total amount in this way distributed, since its commencement, is 5,910l. But with this there are also symptoms of decline, as will be seen in the following extract from a special appeal which appears in the present number :—

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"That the Baptist Magazine' has been greatly conducive to the prosperity of valuable institutions which were then in their infancy, and that it has been instrumental in the formation of others of kindred character which had not then been projected, we have the highest authority for asserting. The treasurers and secretaries of our principal societies, and the presidents of our colleges, united some time ago in an address to pastors and deacons, in which they declare this, and add, ‘It has been for some years the chief medium through which the conductors of our most important societies have laid before the public that information which they desired to diffuse, and it has afforded facility for discussions and appeals which have tended greatly to the advantage of the whole body. You will not, therefore, be surprised that we should be anxious to give an impetus to its circulation, or think it improper that we should suggest to you the desirableness of calling the attention of the congregations with which you are connected to its claims. In our own circles we are accustomed to recommend it, believing that in so doing we are rendering service to our friends; and we respectfully submit to you that it is in your power to accomplish much good, in several important ways, by inducing the members of your Churches and congregations, who have not been accustomed to receive the magazine, to begin purchasing it at the commencement of the coming year.'"

We next come to our untiring neighbour, Dr. Campbell, who, besides the pastoral care of a large congregation, finds time to write volumes on Popery, edit the "British Banner newspaper, the "Christian Witness," and the "Christian's Penny Magazine." In a very long address on "The Magazines of the Congregational Union," he states, that since their commencement-ten, and eight, years-about 9,584,000 have been printed; and that the profits have amounted to about 10,8007. Under the head of "facts for consideration," we have the following important statements :—

"There are several considerations of the gravest moment, to which we would now invite the attention of the Churches with their pastors.

"Death is always working changes. In a multitude of cases, the loss of a life is the loss of a subscriber. Removal, which largely obtains among the lowest class of our adherents, is not without its effects. Whether as to individuals or families, in case of change of residence, they are often placed in circumstances which render it difficult to obtain the magazines; and, in consequence, the thing is dropped. Emigration is another and serious source of injury, which requires particular attention. The Christian Witness' has had much-far more than any of its contemporaries-to do with promoting emigration, and has been largely instrumental in sending a multitude of the excellent of the earth to the Colonies; but the result is, that, wherever it has succeeded to make an emigrant, it has lost a reader! All this is merely intended to show that periodical literature is a fit emblem of human society. What with war, shipwreck, accident, disease, and natural decay, were it not for the constant increase supplied by the nursery, nations would at length, and soon, die out. Let the magazines every where find their way to the mass, both of the individuals, and of the families connected with the Independent Churches of the land. By this means an impulse to circulation will be immediately imparted, of the most extraordinary character; habits of the most beneficial order will, in consequence, be formed, which will remain so long as life shall last in the present fullgrown generation.

"New Churches next call for attention. These are happily, from time to time, being planted throughout the land. So soon, then, as circumstances will permit, it will be necessary that the magazines and the rest of the denominational literature of the body should be introduced to the infant community; for this end provision should be made, as much as for anything else connected with the spread of the Gospel. If the matter be left to itself, nothing effective will be accomplished; but, with proper means, it will become, with the bulk of the people, as much a matter of course to receive the periodicals, as to attend the ministration of the Gospel. This gained, all will be in the way of being gained. At no time, and in no circumstances, is our denominational literature so important. In such cases large numbers come in from the world who know nothing about our Churches or our polity, our public institutions or our philanthropic and religious movements. Since such matters cannot be taught from the pulpit, they must either be taught by our press, or remain untaught altogether. For the want of this teaching it is that a state of things is found so extensively to obtain which constitutes denominational weakness, and which is fraught with great harm and loss to the spiritual interests of families and of Churches."

We trust that our readers will weigh seriously these important facts; and if they bear in mind that removals are more frequent in our own Church than in any other in this country, and that the loss of one reader to the Messenger" is equal to the loss of two to the "Christian Witness," they will surely not fail to use those efforts on our behalf which are so indispensable in other denominations.

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Under the head of "Plans of Action," the appointment of an "Officer of Literature" in connexion with each congregation, whose business it would be to use means for the circulation of the magazines and other literature, is enforced with the Doctor's usual zeal. The facts and examples contained in the following paragraph are worthy of attention and imitation:

"This is one of those projects in which success is certain. We are aware of no instance of failure. With proper management the magazines may find their way to every home of the Nonconformist community. But, if the work is to be done effectually, it is necessary that in every congregation there shall be an 'Oflicer of Literature,'-one whose business it would be to bring the magazines and the other publications of the Union before every family of every flock. We must hold by this point. When this shall have been accomplished, it will be one of the most impressive proofs of growing intelligence and moral progress that can be given. Why, then, should it not be done? Here, again, we are not speculating. Mr. Mackay, a worthy colonial missionary, in the state of St. John's, New Brunswick, in addressing the Rev. Thomas James, the Secretary of the Colonial Missionary Society, says,

"Our congregations continue to increase; our Sabbath-school was never in a more prosperous condition. Nearly 200 children attend, and the number keeps gradually augmenting. I have acted on the wise suggestion of Dr. Campbell, and appointed a young gentleman, a member of the Church, who is looking forward to the word of the ministry, as an "Officer of Literature." He has entered on his duty with commendable zeal, and the result has been an order for nearly double the number of the "Christian Witness" and other periodicals that we have been accustomed heretofore to take; and I believe that next year the order will be trebled. have laboured to inculcate on my people this fact, viz., that the less a Church does, the less it thinks it can do; but that the more a Church does, the more it is disposed to do. And I know of no better way to make a Church a thriving Church-a working Church-a giving Church-a missionary Church, than thoroughly to imbue it with our periodical congregational literature.'

"This witness is true. Would that we could multiply this zealous minister by two or three thousand! We should then see brighter days."

The "Wesleyan Methodist Magazine" has now reached its seventysixth year, and, judging from the very brief and somewhat independent address of the editor, we suppose it has still the good fortune of being in "comfortable circumstances." Instead of "thanks and good wishes to readers and friends," he closes with a hint which, from experience, we fear he will not find very generally adopted :-"If any discriminating friends

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