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PUBLIC LIBRARY

143465 ASTOR, LENOX AND TILDEN FOUNDATIONS.

1897.

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PREFACE.

When a periodical publication has been in existence many years, and has passed through several changes in its form or price during that period, it

may be expedient and proper to refer to these, in order to the information of its present subscribers; and we feel ourselves called upon to do so at this time, as this publication has recently been reduced in its pages and its price.

But first we may be permitted to remind our readers, that periodical publications, which have now obtained such a wide circulation in our country, and are exerting such a powerful influence for evil or for good, are comparatively of recent date. At the beginning of the last century, several eminent literary men commenced the publication of periodical papers like the “Spectator;" but these were not perpetuated. Then came a few solitary monthly magazines, like the Gentleman's;" but

“ these were circulated, almost exclusively, among the higher classes of society. There were no periodicals for the poor or middle classes. Neither were there any religious periodicals, until, if we recollect correctly, Wesley issued his monthly magazine. Then came the “Evangelical,” which embraced all the various denominations, both churchmen and dissenters, who held evangelical principles. With regard to the baptists, they, too, were included with the “ Evangelical," until Dan Taylor published his “General Baptist Magazine." Then came the

Baptist Magazine,” as the organ of the “ Particular" section of the baptist body These magazines the organs of the two sections—were in existence when the Reporter was commenced by its present Editor in 1826.

The design of the Editor of the Reporter was, and yet is, to furnish that numerous class of readers in baptist churches and congregations, who could not afford to purchase a larger publication, with a cheap periodical, containing brief yet comprehensive intelligence of what was doing among the baptists, not only in this country, but throughout the world. It was conceived that such a publication would be acceptable in both sections of the body, provided discussion upon subjects on which they were not entirely agreed were avoided, and all their proceedings reported faithfully and impartially. Another advantage of no small importance would, it was hoped, accrue. Such a publication, circulated in both sections, might serve to draw those of them nearer together who had too long stood wide apart, and convince them that the great things respecting which they both agreed, were of far more importance than the lesser ones respecting which they differed.

With regard to the leading design, success crowned the attempt. The circulation became extensive, and so far attracted the attention of the religious public, that Dr. Campbell was led thereby, as he himself stated at the time, to propose a similar cheap publication for the Independents.

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This was in 1843, and in 1844 the Witness appeared. Wishing to do for the baptists what the energetic Editor of the Witness proposed to do for the Independents, the Editor of the Reporter enlarged his pages to the same size and price. But we could not keep pace with our fast-going competitor. For several years we struggled hard to follow in his track and reach him, but we could not; for although the Witness slackened considerably in its speed, yet the Reporter was left far behind.

Why this was we are not careful to know, but so it was; and therefore, after much consideration, and to the mortification of our venerable vanity, if we had any, we left off the pursuit of our young and energetic competitor, and returned to our former course as regarded the price; but we retained the enlarged size, and now give as many pages in proportion to the price as the better-supported Witness does.

This, then, is our present position-we are as cheap as ever we were, and cheaper, for we give more pages in proportion to the price than we

ever did.

With regard to the other good result which we hoped would accrue, we have reasons to believe that it has to a considerable extent been realized. Evangelical baptists, of every shade, seem now to understand and respect each other better than they did thirty years ago. As for ourselves, we have so far succeeded in our impartiality, that, though we have not been careful to conceal the views we hold, we have often had the question put by our correspondents — are you Calvinistic or Arminian?-an open or a free communionist?

We might have mentioned other advantages which a cheap baptist monthly like this offers. But we may just observe that it affords a medium of information and correspondence to persons in humble life, whose habits and modes of thought might not qualify them for being contributors to our larger publications, which are usually prepared for, and circulated among, persons of more refined manners and cultivated taste. Whilst, therefore, the Reporter interferes not with the province of other periodicals, it desires to cultivate its own; furnishing to our brethren in the more humble ranks of life, not only a medium of correspondence, but an instrument adapted to their use when they wish to express their views to their neighbours around them. Let none, then, despise us or our labour. Let the rich and the learned talk and write and print, and read and diffuse their sentiments in their own way all we ask is, that we, and our humbler contributors and readers, may be permitted to do the same.

We have deemed it needful to make these statements at the close of the present year. The reduction was made in April, 1852; and the consequence was, as we expected, an enlargement of our sales. We have now tried the experiment another year, and finding that the circulation has been again further extended, we have to inform our subscribers that next year we shall go on with our present price and pages, as better adapted to the circumstances and desires of our readers ; and we do not apprehend that circumstances can again arise to induce us to depart from this arrangement.

Having taken this brief review of our past history, may we be permitted to say a few words to our friends on our future prospects.

This is a wonderful age; and in nothing more wonderful than in the productions of the press, which have multiplied, and are multiplying, to an almost indefinite extent. The saying of Solomon is now verified, * Of making many books there is no end.” And this fact furnishes the best answer that can be given to the question,—“Is education spreading in our land ?" It is: for the existence of a more widely-extended course of education amongst the people, has created an insatiable demand for books. The faculty of reading has been created ; its appetite has been excited; and its hunger for knowledge must be satisfied. Hence the appearance of books and periodical publications of all kinds, for all classes, in the cheapest form.

An enlightened philanthrophist would rejoice in these facts, providing the writers of books, and their readers, were alike influenced by the highest motives. But unhappily this is not the fact. The vast power of the press is not alone in the hands of such. There are who pervert it to evil purposes.

The enemy has sowed tares among the wheat. We refer to the vast efforts which libertines and infidels, papists and formalists, are making by means of the press, to spread their pernicious principles on every hand.

What is to be done? Are we to desire the return of those days when books were scarce and only a select few could read them?

Are we to wish that printing had never been invented ? Shall we break up our presses and melt down our types ? Because this power is abused by some, shall we refuse to use it? Nay, verily: let us rather ply it more powerfully; let us fight the great battle with the enemies of truth and righteousness on equal ground, inspired by the glorious conviction that TRUTH IS GREAT AND MUST PREVAIL. If they write, we will write; if they print, we will print; if they circulate, we will circulate ; if they are indefatigable, we will never be weary in well-doing.

And let our brethren who now read this remember that, as a denomination of evangelical christians, we are not only called upon to stand our ground, along with others, against the common enemies of our God, our bible, and our faith, but we have to maintain our own peculiar position as conservators of the institutions of the gospel. In saying this, we arrogate not, neither do we boast. We cheerfully allow that many of our brethren maintain one of these institutions in its integrity and purity; but we as distinctly affirm that the other has been perverted and superseded. We do not affirm this from any other motive than faithful allegiance to our Lord and Master, and a desire to sustain the spirituality of His kingdom amongst men.

Long, very long, for many ages now, have the Baptists been misrepresented and abused for their firm adherence to this principle—that the voluntary profession of faith in Christ by baptism is required of all believers in Him, in order to their admission to the privileges of His people. And what could possibly be more expressive of the faith of a believer in the death and resurrection of our Lord, than his burial in baptism ? The whole service is natural, striking, and appropriate. Not so the custom which is made to supersede this solemn act of voluntary worship and obedience. Originating in priestly presumption, it is sustained, not by scriptural authority, but by human power or prejudice.

In vindication of these remarks, we might refer to the observations made by various speakers at the late “ German Kirchentag." With what proud scorn did some of these state-paid Lutherans refer to the Baptists, as scarcely worthy to be tolerated.

And yet, notwithstanding all that has been said and done to put us down, we yet live, and are growing in numbers and strength in all parts of the world where our doctrines have free course, and men are left free to prove them by the Divine Word.

Let us thank God and take courage. A glorious future is before us if we remain faithful to our principles, and diligently make use of all scriptural means for their propagation. We have no more doubt of this than that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. The degree of our progress will doubtless depend upon our own diligence. Of the blessing of God on our efforts we can have no doubt at all.

May we, then, exhort our friends to stand fast, and aid our humble labours in this good cause. Two things, and two only, we ask them to do. The first is, to introduce this Magazine to the notice of their neighbours as the best means of making it known, and so of extending its circulation yet wider—and the second, to us far more important, is, that they will not fail to “pray for us,” that we may have wisdom from above to discharge our responsible duty with discretion.

THE EDITOR

Leicester, Dec. 1, 1853.

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