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Throughout the past year, as aforetime, we have sought to maintain toward sister churches the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. How far we have succeeded in this endeavour, we are not afraid of leaving our candid readers to judge. If it has not always been possible for us to live peaceably, we have at least refrained from either courting or prolonging controversy ; and we persuade ourselves that while it lasted, what moved us to share in it was jealousy for the cause of christian unity and brotherly affection, not a desire for pre-eminence, or a wish to sow strife. We have not yet ceased to feel the impulse of that spirit of union in which our branch of the church originated but a few years ago; and which is happily represented in the denominational name. We believe, also, that the same spirit has other triumphs to gain ere long, in uniting Scottish Presbyterianism. With such influences bearing on us from the past, and such anticipations for the future, we have studied the things that make for peace; and by God's grace will continue to guard sedulously against every sentiment or expression that would cither retard the well consolidated union which we believe to be approaching between us and brethren from whom we are still separated, or would give us just cause for regret and shame before such brethren, should we be spared to meet with them as members of the same united body.
With the Courts of the Established Church in Scotland we have still a controversy. Blind to the staring facts that they now represent but a dwindled minority of the nation, and that the claim on their part to privileges which might belong to them when the Scottish Church was the Scottish people, is now an effete absurdity, they struggle to maintain a semblance of their former selves by keeping a death-gripe of the monopoly of national education, whether in the universities or the parochial schools. We had hoped that they had begun to set their house in order, in expectation that the best men would be admitted into our national institutions of learning, without regard to the Shibboleth of a state kirk. But the hope was a delusion. The last few months have shown that in no circumstances, howerer adverse or abject, will a body which has been accustomed to possess exclusive privileges at the expense of justice, learn to keep itself within narrower bounds than law absolutely requires. In the approaching year the contest with the Established Kirk for free access to the best talent into all offices in national universities and schools, promises to occupy a large share of public attention, and will probably be settled for a time by a vote of the Legislature. To maintain the interests of truth and righteousness at such a crisis, will require the utmost vigilance of the churches, and of the journals by which their opinions are represented.
EDINBURGH, December 1852.
UNITED PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE,
FOR JANUARY, 1852.
THOUGHTS FOR THE NEW YEAR.
ANOTHER year! Yes, the year 1851 has finished its course. Its arrival was regarded with peculiar interest, ringing as it did the knell of a half century; directing inquiry, in various quarters, to the events by which that period had been marked, in the church, in the nation, and in “ the kingdoms of the countries ;” and suggesting what mighty changes may take place—although no one was so bold as to attempt to foreshadow them before the next half century shall have reached its close. This new year has had no such preparations for its arrival, is greeted with no such enthusiastic welcome, and suggests no such extended retrospection and anticipation. Yet we are not content that its birth should be unnoticed; nor would we chronicle its appearance without some endeavour to turn it to account. If our thoughts are the less extended, they may be the more personal; and if the less specula-tive, they may be the more practical.
Another year! The earth has completed another voyage. Silently has she held on her way, amid all the agitations of which her surface has been the scene; with undeviating accuracy she has preserved her path; with a rapidity more than a thousand-fold greater than that of our swiftest conveyances, has she completed her circuit; and at the time appointed has she returned to the place whence she set out. We remember the various phases the earth has presented to us during the course of the year; the alternations of seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, day and night, and cold and heat, we have experienced. We know how to account for all these. We explain them by the rotation of the earth on its axis, and the inclination of that axis to the plane of its orbit, while it is wheeling round the sun. It is well to know the philosophy of these things ; but we ought to look beyond it. There is a proneness to rest in second causes ; and it would almost seem that the danger increases with the increasing light of advancing science. “With a sort of passive irreligion, we allow something conceived as an established order of nature, to take the place of the Author and Ruler of nature, forgetting that all this is nothing but the continually-acting will and power of God! and that nothing can be more absurd than the notion of God's having constituted a system to be for a moment independent of himself!” The Bible comes to the help of
VOL. VI. NO. I.
our philosophy, teaching us to look up to heaven, and Him who sits upon the throne, and say, " The day is thine, the night also is thine. Thou has set all the borders of the earth; thou hast made summer and winter.”
Another year ! We are now called to the interchange of kind congratulations; and with every feeling of respect and kindness for our readers, we wish them "a happy new year.” A late celebrated writer in referring to the “ marriage in Cana of Galilee,” and the Saviour's invitation to it, remarks that, “He did not decline the invitation; and he went to it, not as an ascetic to frown on its bright hopes and warm congratulations; but to sanction it by his presence, and heighten its enjoyments." We desire to breathe his spirit, and embody his religion, in augmenting the joys and alleviating the sorrows of our fellow-men, while we point them to that world where joy shall be unmingled, and sorrow shall be unknown. We reckon that we are fulfilling our mission, when, under the influence and with the aid of his religion, we can in any degree
6 In the festive hour refine
Turn the water into wine." A happy new year! There is a region where no such congratulations are heard-where years are not numbered, and happiness is not known—and we may well felicitate ourselves and one another on our connection with a world which mercy has selected as the theatre of its brightest displayswhere Faith, Hope, and Charity abide, and their blended radiance reflects a divine beauty, and their mingled influences distil a heavenly joy. A happy new year! The wish will be a vain one, without earnest endeavour to secure it. Happy it will be, if it shall bring us near, and keep us near to God, in conscious reconciliation and holy fellowship; if it shall bring with it growth in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; if it shall find us serving God in our generation, and serving our generation according to God's will ; if it shall render Jesus more precious, and heaven more attractive; if it shall make clear our title to mansions in the skies, and yield us in growing measure « the earnest of our inheritance.” And shall we not esteem it the happiest of all our years, should its autumn leaves, or winter snows, fall upon our graves, if,
“ When we leave this weary road,
And sleep in death, we rest in God”? Another year! What grateful thoughts should possess our breasts ! " The grave cannot praise Thee; death cannot celebrate Thee; they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise Thee, as I do this day.” The moments of the year that has closed, “how great is the sum of them !" Yet they have not been more numerous than the mercies of our God! Sit down and reckon up in order the beatings of that pulse of thine during the past year, and remember that every pulsation has indicated the opening of his hand, in whose “hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways.” How varied are the blessings for which we ought to be grateful !—food, raiment, health, reason, the endearments of friendship, the pleasures of home, the rest of the Sabbath, the sound of the Gospel, and other + wells of salvation out of which we have drawn water with joy!” How differently it has fared with others !-- who have been oppressed with poverty, smitten with disease, or desolated by death. How many have been' numbered with the dead! And of those who are alive and remain, how many are there who have never known a Sabbath's rest, or
heard a Saviour's name! How differently it might have fared with ourselves. What nights of weariness might have been allotted us, and what months of vanity, what bodily anguish, and what mental disquietude! And what must have been our portion if we had received “the due reward of our deeds !"
“ Followed through every changing scene,
With goodness all my days ;
A tongue to speak thy praise.” Another year! Alas, that the voice of lamentation must mingle with the voice of praise--that regrets must moderate our rejoicings ! There are some of our readers who, if the last year had closed their connection with time, would have found it better to depart—better to enjoy the rest of heaven, than to sustain the labours of earth better to wear the crown, than to maintain the fight. We ask them, whether, when they have had their most ravishing views of “the glory which is to be revealed,” they have not felt that they have been “unprofitable servants,” and blushed to think how little they had done for his honour, into whose joy they hope to enter ? Take into view only the past year, and let the scrutiny be the more strict, that the period over which it extends is a limited one. What neglects of duty start into view—what misimprovement of privilege—what imperfection of motive, even when actions have been good-what opportunities of usefulness neglected—how defective your exemplification of godliness—how faint your resemblance to your Saviour,--not to speak of direct and flagrant transgression! And then, there are some of our readers for whom the retrospect iš still more painful ; and who may well say, in language resembling that of the ancient emperor,
We have lost a year.” Another year's Sabbaths have been spent in vain ; another year's sermons have been heard in vain ; another year's warnings have been addressed to you in vain; another year's series of providential dispensations has passed over you in vain; another year's voices of revolving seasons, and changing scenes, and dying friends, and opening graves, have sounded in your ears, all in vain! You may have had compunetious visitings ; you may have uttered solemn vows when trouble lay on you ; you may have bribed conscience to silence by the promise of future and obsequious regard; you may have resolved on reformation, and re-résolved, but now the year has closed on you, and left you still the same ! No, not the same-farther from God; more alienated in heart; more hardened in sin; more the “ children of the devil ;” more “ fitted for destruction !” We could mingle our tears with our entreaties, in pleading with you in God's behalf; and we turn to God in your behalf and pray, that while his patience waits, his grace may triumph ; and that after so long a time—too long to have lived “in the flesh to the lusts of men"-you may now hear the voice of mingled authority and kindness, which calls you to return and live.
Another year! How natural the reflection, especially to those who have attained the autumn of life,—“ We spend our years as a tale that is told !” How truly has it been said, -" The wheels of nature are not made to roll backward; everything presses on toward eternity. From the birth of time an impetuous current has set in, which bears all the sons of men towards that interminable ocean.”. When we say another year is gone, 'wè mean that we are so much nearer the end of our journey--so much nearer “the house appointed for all living”_so much nearer the bar of God so much nearer the retributions of eternity. We readily assent to such statements, but oh, what a difference there is between assenting to them and realizing them! How often do we outwardly confess, what we do not inwardly feel;
and verbally declare, what we do not practically own! “Suppose a man confined in some fortress, under the doom to stay there till his death ; and. suppose there is for his use a dark reservoir of water, to which it is certain none can ever be added. He knows, suppose, that the quantity is not very great, he cannot penetrate to ascertain how much, but it may be very little. He has drawn from it, by means of a fountain, a good while already, and draws from it every day; but how would he feel each time of drawing, and each time of thinking of it? Not as if he had a perennial spring to go to: not, "I have a reservoir-I may be at my ease.' No; but I had water yesterday--I have water to-day; but my having had it, and my having it to-day, is the very cause that I shall not have it on some day that is approaching; and at the sametime I am compelled to this fatal expenditure. So of our mortal, transient life !” How beautiful this analogy of Foster's! and hoj solemn the truth which it is employed to illustrate !
“Lord, teach me the celestial skill,
Each awful warning to improve;
THE TACTICS OF VOLUNTARYISM.
He would show himself a tactician indeed who should handle this topic to satisfaction, or should even contrive to write frankly without giving offence. For our part we have no expectation of pleasing every body in what we are about to say. We shall be content if our observations prove helpful, in however small a degree, to advance the cause, which we have much at heart, and which others, from whom it may be our misfortune to differ, have as much at heart as ourselves.
It has often been lamented that there seemed to have crept over many of the friends of Voluntaryism a spirit of apathy, and a habit of inaction, which the world might be excused for interpreting as indifference to the cause. For years past, the subject certainly has not been one of keen and general agitation, That this comparative quiet is the fruit of apathy, or a proof of dereliction of principle, we not only do not admit, but firmly deny. We are convinced that at no former period was there a deeper conviction among adherents of the Voluntary principle of its scriptural authority, and of its practical efficiency, or a more confident expectation of its growing spread and ultimate
That state of repose, which some call apathy, is, we believe, to be in a great measure attributed to the persuasion which, right or wrong, many adherents of the principle entertain, that such is the advantage it has won for itself—such the favourable position to which it has advanced, -and such the space which it commands in public attention, and its recognised influence in all questions affecting the relations of church and state, that it is sure to make its way in the same manner as other great questions do, without its supporters keeping constantly on foot a standing army, and following up every season of hostilities with the planning of another campaign.
Our main purpose just now, is not to pronounce an opinion on the justness or fallacy, policy or impolicy, of this way of thinking; what we affirm is, that, to a considerable extent, such opinion prevails. But if it do, it is plain that such a state of feeling may soon engender an indisposition to aggressive operations; and still more, that it will have this effect to a very