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RESPONSIBILITY OF EDITORS.
BY THE EDITOR.
We know full well that it is a delicate task for preachers to preach to preachers, and yet it is sometimes a duty. So it is a serious matter for an editor to undertake to write for editors. But as we wish to say a few words suggestively rather than dictatorially, we hope to be patiently heard. Should, however, any choose to take offence at our remarks, this being a free country, he is at liberty to bite the file to his heart's content.
Is an editor responsible for what he publishes ? That is the question. It would seem a very plain question to answer. Every unsopbisticated man would at once say, yes, certainly he is responsible. But this is plainly not the view taken of it by many editors. They say, We must publish what occurs-a newspaper must reflect the face of the community in which it circulates—it must suit the taste of its readers.' Hence they aim at keeping the public in good humor with themselves, and so in good humor with their paper.
Is this a correct view of human responsibility ? Is an editor, who, by his very position, and by virtue of the influence wielded by the press under his control, to make himself the mere feeder of the corrupt tastes of men ? Is he to do this, or is he not rather to seek their elevation. The boast is made—and by none more freely and boldly than by editors themselves, that the press is a kind of second light of the world. Shall it then descend from the lofty position thus claimed, for it to make itself the dog that regards it as its highest glory to lick the band of its master.
Can we apply the same principles to men in other stations ? Is a minister to reflect, in his preaching, the sentiments of his hearers ? Is a teacher to instruct the prejudices of his pupils ? You say, certainly not. Then we say, no more has an editor the right to pamper the corrupt tastes of his readers. If he does so, he is responsible for the growth which he cultivates, just as truly as a minister is responsible for the errors which he instils in the minds of his hearers.
‘But the people buy the papers and read them, hence the responsibility is theirs. They need not do so.' This does not take the responsibility from the editor. I have no right to treat another meanly because he is willing to be so treated. I have no right to tempt one who is wil. ling to be tempted, to injure one willing to be injured, or to klll one willing to be killed. In like manner, an editor has no right to furnish that which will corrupt his reader, on the grouud that he is willing to have it so. His very calling and duty is to lead his readers away from that which will injure him, and cultivate his higher and better taste. If his object is not this, but rather merely to minister to corrupt tastes in order i hereby to benefit bimself by the degradation of his patrons, then keeping a grog-shop, gaming house, or any other place of profligacy or gate of hell, would suit bim just as well.
How many things do many of our editors publish which are low, obscene, irreverent and profane-things which no parent would dare to to read to his own family circle-and which perhaps the editor himself would blash to read to his own children; and yet he permits such matter to go into his paper. Why? Because the corrrupt and v.cious are pleased with it; because it mingles in well with “the song of the drunkard," or the obscene and low wit of the debased who burrow in the misery and filth of their own depraved natures. Is this the business and the high calling of an editor ?
We sometimes hear of a distinction between the man and the editor. As a man he would not admit such stuff, but in the capacity of an editor he may do it! This reminds us of a certain bishop who was seen to go out to the field covered with the accoutrements of a military officer. Some one remonstrated with him on the impropriety of bis conduct. “I do not go out in the capacity of bishop, but as General," said the bishop. "Well," said the other, “if the devil comes to carry off the general, what will become of the bishop ?” It is very convenient to cover personal responsibility under cloak of office or position, but when the devil calls for the editor what will become of the man !
The case is not different in regard to the advertisements. Some consider it a clear case that editors are not responsible for their advertise. ments; and hence allow their readers to be humbugged and corrupted through their advertising columns as much as those who pay may desire. Even some religious journals seem to go according to this code of morality. It is but a few weeks since, at least three of our religious papers, organs in a sense of the denominations patronizing them, have published the advertisement of the New York Ledger-and not content with that, even published in the same paper, a puff of the Ledger as “an excellent family paper."
Were they ignorant of the wishy-washy character of the paper they advertised and puffed ? then they are not fit for the place they occupy. Did they know the paper, then they were sadly untrue to their solemn and sacred trust. “It pays well,” does it ? Mas it come to this, then, that religious papers are up at auction to be sold to the highest bidder? Is it the mission-or part of it-of religious papers, for “thirty pieces of silver," to betray their unsuspecting readers into the hands of corrupting newspaper mongers, pill mongers, and all sorts of impostors and quacks. If this is to be the mission of our Church organs, then the sooner, like their archetype of old, they “fall down headlong and their bowels gush out," the better it will be for the glory of Christ and the good of the church.
We know the plea generally made. It is that there must be advertisements, or the paper cannot be sustained. To this we reply, if there must be advertisements, let them be such as belong to an honest business. If such cannot be procured, and the paper must die, let it die in its innocence. Suppose a minister cannot be sustained by preaching the gospel, shall be prostitute his office so as to secure the support of the vile? You say, certainly not. But does not the same rule apply to an editor of a religious paper. Just lay down the rule that consideration of gain is a justification of an act, and there is an end to both morals and manners.
Far be it from us to set ourselves forth as an example of righteousness, for we have sins enough of which we are daily ashamed; but this we may say, advertisements offering from $25 to $35 have been offered us over and over for the cover of the Guardian. Our magazine needs support as well as other journals; but this is our determination, that we shall “stop the paper" before we will stir monkeys for impostors and quacks, or aid the unprincipled in dishing up filth for the upsuspecting or the vicious, for an inducement of $25.
“It pays well,” because a quack advertisement in a religious paper is worth more than it is in any other. The innocent people take the fact that it appears in their church paper as an endorsement of it, whether the editor so intends it or not. No doubt the Ledger-man laughed in his sleeve to see his paper puffed in religious journals as "an excellent family paper." That is all he needed yet, the blessing of the Church, and he was willing to pay well for it. We have not the least doubt that through the influence of religious papers in commending by advertisement in their columns quack medicines, money enough has been sent by church members to these humbugs to endow half a theological seminary. “It must be a good thing, or it would not be admitted into our church paper, is a sentiment often heard among the people. It is natural that it should be so. People take papers, especially church papers, not to be humbugged, but to be informed, and they have a perfect right to suppose that they will be fairly dealt with. The very fact that this trusty feeling exists in the hearts of the pepole, is only auother influence wielded by such papers, and of the solemn responsibility of their editors. How cruel for any consideration to trifle with such a repose of trust! An editor that can do it is welcome to all the money he can make by it; but if his conscience is such that he can "sleep well o' nights” on the head of it, we regard his case rather deplorable.
In conclusion, we must acknowledge to our brother editors that there is a good deal of salt and pepper in our article, and perhaps an appology is due. We will cheerfully make it. It is this : Our strictures do not apply to the innocent; and as for the guilty, who are not willing to repent and turn to better ways, we neither court their favor nor fear tueir frowns.
Life is a pathway often dark and drear,
And foolish mortals murmur as they tread
Mrking each journey with a sigh or tear.
Though it bring sadness, as in kindness sent
On that pure land where ransom'd spirits range.
Since it ne'er comes unsent by high decree;
Earth lent, until earth's Owner asks their breath.
Is known to God-who ruleth, guideth all.
THE NAME OUT ON THE ROCK. You will find it on the Natural Bridge, unless it bas become effaced by the hand of time. It was cut by a boy who tried to procure a little glory for himself in an unusual way.
One day this boy and several companions came to the rocky archway to cat their pames on its sides. Some put them towards the bottom, and some choose a higher place; but the boy I am speaking of was a great deal bolder than the rest, and, after looking up and seeing the pames of many visitors high above him, he said : “ Poob! I am not go. ing to creep on the ground like the rest of you, when I cut my name! I'm going to put it where the people at the Rappahannock can see it. Look here, boys,” he continued, “I've got my big knife along, and may be you'll see me a little higher than the rest, pretty soon."
"You aren't going to venture up there,” said one of the boys.
"I think I am, though. What's the use of walking this long way and doing nothing after all ?”
"Don't brag, Jim," said his next neighbor, who was standing on the roots of a small cedar tree, and hard at work scratching his initials
_“W. J. B.”-upon the softest part of the rock he could find ; “don't brag!"
"Well, you'll see what I can do," was Jim's reply, "so here goes !" and away he was commencing to climb the jutting crag. He got on very well at first, by holding the bushes and brambles, until he was beyond nearly all the names on the side of the rock.
“Hurrah! where are you ?” he shouted to his comrades; "come on, and follow your leader if you dare."
“You are high enough now, Jim," said Bob Willis ; " I'd stop there, if I were you."
"Not half way yet, yon little coward !" answered Jim; “don't give your advice to your betters till rou can spell 'a-b-l-e,'" and the adventurous boy, who had stopped to take breath, resumed the ascent, and went up until he was above the tops of the highest trees which grew in the valley; and still upward he went, until the boys below began to get afraid in earnest, and begged him to stop.
“You'll break your neck, as sure as your name is Jim Vaugh,” shout. ed little Joe Ednor.
But Jim, who was also beginning to think that he was bigh enough, just bappened to see, at a short distance above him a name; and, in his pride, he shouted, "Mind your own business, Josey; I'm not going to let anybody put his old name over my head."
Again he went on with his climbing. He cut notches in the side of the rock, and, holding on with one band, worked away with the other.
At last he was at a point which no one before had reached, and there he scratched and cut his name as deeply as he could. By this time he was pretty well tired; but the excitement of the occasion kept him from feeling much fatigued.
Having finished his work, the climber thought of getting back to the ground. But this was not so casy a matter as he had at first taken it to
be. If it was hard to go up, it was yet harder to go down. He saw the danger into which his pride bad led him, and his head began to grow dizzy.
By this time a large number of people had come together. The boys, becoming alarmed, had run to spread the news in the neighborhood : one of them went to Mr. Vaugh's house, and soon Jim's father, mother, brother and sister were there also.
“You can't descend,"shouted one of the crowd; “no use to attempt it; try and gain the top."
And this was all that could be done. Poor Jim! he would have given worlds to be on the ground, but he had no time for lamentation. A desperate effort must be made, or he would soon loose his hold, and be dashed to vieces. He determined to put forth all his remaining energies. Step by step he began to cut and scrape his way upward. At length his strengih was nearly gone, and he clung to the sides of the rock. It was a moment of fearful suspense.
Some of the people had hastened to the top of the bridge with ropes, which were let down to their full extent. In deepest agony of mind the father shouted to him, “Jim ! Jim! do not look down. Your mother, and Henry, and Harriet are all here. We are praying for you. Do not look down. Keep your eye towards the top."
At the sound of his faiher's voice, the boy grasped his knife again, and upward he was seen once more slowly to move, until he found himself near the arch. The sight of ropes hanging from above roused him to new efforts. The blade of his kuife was now worn to the last half inch. He cut one notch more with it, and it fell from his hands at his mother's feet.
What was now to be done to save him ? At this moment a man lay down at his full length, with nearly half of his body hanging over the top of the bridge. He lowered a looped rope within reach of the fainting youth, who was now just able to place it over his head, and then under each arm. And now he was seen swinging over the fearful height, whilst those from above gently raised him to the top. As he came up, one of the crowd on the top of the bridge seized him in his arms, and held him up to the view of the rest; while the shout, “He's safe! he's safe !” was heard above and below.
How great was the joy of his parents, and how indescribable his own feelings, as he thought of the dangers he had passed! I do not know whether Jim Vaugh knelt down that night to thank the Lord—I hope he did; but of this I am certain, that he never again attempted to climb the Natural Bridge.
You have listend to my story, children ; now attend to what I have yet to say. Some of you boys, are good climbers; but high as you may have ascended, you have not climbed as high, nor did Jim Vaugh, as some of whom I have heard, who wished to cut their names higher than others in the world, and sought to reach lofty places of earthly renown. Shall I tell you about some of them?
King Solomon climbed till his head grew dizzy. He “withheld his heart from no joy.” Then, as he returned to God, from whom he had wandered, he said of laughter, “ It is mad,” and of mirth, “What doeth it ?" of all his clitubing, “ It is vanity and vexation of spirit."