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FOR JANUARY, 1818.
OF THE EDITORS OF THE METHODIST MAGAZINE, TO ITS PATRONS AND FRIENDS IN THE UNITED STATES, AND ESPECIALLY TO THE MEMBERS OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
In publishing this periodical Miscellany, the Editors feel all those sensibilities which arise from a conviction that its merits are to be tested under the inspection of an enlightened community.
The care and labour inseparable from the agency of the Book Concern, torbid our devoting as much time and application to the selection and arrangement of materials for publication in the magazine, as its nature and importance demand.
But, notwithstanding these embarrassments exist, we trust the work will be found both useful and Entertaining to the real friends of Zion.
The great design of this publication is to circulate religious knowledge,—a design which embraces the highest interests of rational existence, as the sum of individual and social happiness, increases on a scale of proportion with the increase of spiritual light and information.
In the execution of this design, the strictest care will be taken to guard the purity and simplicity of the doctrines of the gospel against the innovations of superstition on the one-hand, and of false philosophy on the other.
In admitting controversial subjects into this work, the heat of party zeal, and personal crimination, will be cautiously avoided.
Snch contentions have already done great evil in the Christian world, and especially in arming infidels against a religion, the nature and principles of which are calculated to harmonize, improve, and sanctify the human species. Every benevolent mind—every friend of unity and peace—every heart influenced by the social affections—in short, every lover of God and man, will rejoice to see the spirit of party zeal retiring, and giving place to candour, moderation, and charity.
The few years of the present century which have already passed away, have opened the most important and auspicious events, relative to the establishment of the kingdom of Jesus Christ upon earth. The united exertions of thousands of all denominations of Christians to spread the holy scriptures—the unadulterated word of God, savours much of that catholic spirit by which the friends of Christianity should always be governed, and furnishes a pleasing prospect of the extensive triumph of evangelical truth. To the accomplishment of such an object we earnestly desire this miscellany may prove an efficient auxiliary.
We are aware, that, by many readers, no periodical work iviU be approved, unless it is replenished with curious tales, wonderful narratives, or miraculous phenomena. With such readers we apprehend this work will meet a cool reception.— Curiosity should be indulged only within the limits of reason, and in such a way as to strengthen moral and religious principles. If the Governor of the universe recognises man as a subject of reason, it follows that faith must be grounded in evidence; and therefore vre should consider it as an intrusion upon the rights of an intelligent being, to publish a narrative of any wonderful occurrence without the support of competent testimony.
It should never be forgotten that the age of miracles is past; the ends for which they were wrought by Jesus Christ and his apostles being accomplished; and that any pretended addition to them rather weakens than strengthens the evidence they afford oi the truth and excellency of the christian revelation.
These observations are far from being intended to eclipse the lustre of the divine administration as displayed in the dispensations of providence and grace.
That the universe, in the whole, and in every part, is governed by infinite wisdom, power, and goodness, is a doctrine which will ever be held sacred by the friends of religion; and will never cease to be a ground of consolation and support to them in the midst of the disorders with w hich they arc surrounded.
The grace of God manifested in the redemption of a fallen and guilty world through Jesus Christ—in the gift of the holy Spirit—in the establishment and spread of the gospel, and in the conviction, conversion, and sanctification of the souls of men, is a subject which the human mind must contemplate with mingled emotions of astonishment and joy.
But, whether this manifestation of grace is considered as an historic fact, recorded by the evangelists and apostles, or viewed in the light of the experience of thousands which comes within the circle of our own observation, we cannot but feel the force <>f the evidence with which it is attended ;—evidence capable of application on the same principles, and in the same way that it is applied for the confirmation of other truths.
This alone is sufficient to convince us, that, in the economy »f grace, man is not governed by mechanical, but by moral laws. That the government of God over all his works is perfectly analogous—That intelligent beings are recognized in the capacity of reason—that they must act as subjects of moral obligation, and be finally judged on the ground of such action.
These principles form the general outlines of a picture which the more particular delineations through this work are designed lo fill up. The hand of the painter trembles at the task. The eye of the critical observer will, doubtless, discover many blemishes; but candor will be neither hasty nor rash in her decisions. %In forming the general heads under which the various materials are arranged, we have found it necessary to be as concise as possible, both in number, and expression. The number, and order are as follows. 1. Divinity. 2. Biography. 3. Scripture illustrated. 4. The Attributes of God displayed in the works of Creation and Providence. 5. The grace of God manifested. 6. Miscellaneous. 7. Religious and Missionary intelligence. 8. Obituary. 9. Poetry.
It cannot be expected, where the general divisions are so limited, that there should be a critical connexion between each head, and every particular which may be placed under it: such connexion, however, will be preserved as far as the nature of the subject will admit. A treatise will not always be destined to the Miscellaneous department because it is compounded, or mixed; nut its proper place will be determined by its leading character.
Before we close this address, we think it proper to caution our rtaders in general, and the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in particular, to guard against two evils. 1. Many persons, after they have read a pamphlet, lay it aside as a useless thing—It soon falls into the hands of children, or servants, where it is defaced or destroyed: or thrown promiscuously with the common news or waste papers, it is forgotten and lost in the lapse of time. Let it not be so with this Magazine. RecoU lect that it contains many valuable subjects, the completion of which many require several numbers, and which may, sometimes form a chain to connect volumes.
Let parents consider the Methodist Magazine as a legacy for their posterity, and as soon as the last number for the year is received, have the whole bound together and carefully preserved.
2. Without offering any violence to the rights of men, we think ourselves authorized to caution our friends against purchasing, or encouraging the publication, sale, or purchase of any book, or books, directly or indirectly under the name or title of " Methodist," unless they are published and sold in conformity to the rules of the Discipline in such cases made and provided.
As an example of this kind of imposition, we give the following fact.—A short time past, a book was put into our hands by a friend, the title page of which begins thus, " The new Methodist Pocket Hymn-Book." This heterogeneous mass had its untimely birth in a back county of this state. It is a libel upon the Methodist Episcopal Church, and a reproach to her name.
It is like counterfeit coin, which could never obtain currenc^y by its real worth, and therefore must circulate under a forged stamp.
We have no disposition to abridge the rights which a wise and liberal constitution secures to every citizen. Real merit should be suitably appreciated and encouraged wherever it exists. But that man who does not blush at the recollection of being the author of a book which can gain credit only from a borrowed title, must have learned the art of eluding the sensibilities of conviction.
If any man, after having read the sentimental, sublime and spiritual Hymns of Mr. Wesley, and other authors from whose works our Hymn-Book is composed, can sit down and derive either edification or entertainment from the common-place poetry of the day, we are far from wishing to lessen his enjoyment; but the honour of the Church, whose interests we are sacredly bound to promote, calls upon us, as far as our influence