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WE have been accustomed, at the close of our annual labours, to advert to a few of the principal topics which have engaged onr attention during the year. For such a purpose the last twelve months would furnish many fruitful and instructive themes :—Abroad, the political struggles which bave occurred in various parts of the world, and particularly the momentous events in Naples, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, and South America; the progress of liberty, and, we grieve to add, the still greater progress of licentiousness, with the corresponding growth of a spirit of arbitrary interference with the rights of independent states; and the death of that singularly gifted and singularly fated Individual who had so rapidly subjected almost the whole of Europe to his sway, and whose end has left an imperishable lesson to posterity :—at home, the alarming animosities respecting the late Queen, with which the year was ushered in ; the sudden and striking Death of their Object; the splendid and imposing ceremonial of the Coronation ; the recent occurrences in Ireland; the many important questions which have been agitated, affecting, not only the commerce, manufactures, and agriculture of the United Kingdom, but the moral and religious welfare of all classes of its inhabitants ; and lastly, what to every Christian mind must be a subject of intense interest, the general progress of piety, and the proceedings of those numerous institutions whose success involves the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom throughout the world.
Such are some of the subjects on which the memoranda of the past year would naturally lead us to expatiate; but, in closing our TWENTIETH volume, we feel inclined to take into view a yet larger portion of human history, and to cast back a glance on a fifth part of a century, now“ numbered with the years beyond the flood,” during which the Christian Observer has contributed in its proportion towards the welfare or the injury of mankind.
Under a deep impression of our responsibility, we look back, not without trembling, to the accumulated pages of our volumes, considering into how many thousands of families they must have found their way, and what effect, during so many years, they may have produced on numbers who are now acting their part in the important scenes of life, or are gone to their eternal account, to answer for what they have read, as we shall have to do for what we have written. Before that awful tribunal our only
sentiment must be that of the deepest humiliation; and even before our readers, we are not unwilling to acknowledge the numerous blemishes and defects which may have marked our labours. At the same time we cannot hut cherish a humble consciousness, that, with whatever imperfections we may be chargeable, sit has been our earnest and unremitted endeavour, in our public career, “ to maintain a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man," and not to pen even a single “ line which dying we might wish to blot." Nor are we less firmly persuaded of the general propriety of the moderate line we have taken in regard to the dis, cordant opinions both in religion and politics, which prevail among
It would have cost us less care and thought, and would have greatly conduced to enlarge the number of our active supporters, had we pursued a different course, and become, for example, the vehement partizans, either of Arminianism, or of Calvinism; of High Church, or of Low Church; of Ministers, or of Opposition: but it was not our original plan, neither could we have reconciled it to our principles, thus to compromise our independence; and after the ex, perience of so many years, we are fixed in the belief, potwithstand, ing the reproaches we have occasionally had to endure from very opposite quarters, that if any benetit has accrued to society from our feeble labours, it has been owing, in no small degree, to our preference of what we deemed the truth to any party considera, tions, and to the moderation by which it has been our aim, in advocating even our own views, that our pages should be cha, racterized. And that some benefit has thus accrued, we trust we may without vanity assume, when we look back on the list of valuable friends and correspondents, now, gone to their, eternal rest, who have from time to time made the Christian Observer a vehicle for the diffusion of their sentiments; or when we advert to the names of many living ones to whom we are deeply indebted for their past contributions, and whose continued assistance, as well as that of our correspondents in, general, we respectfully and earnestly, solicit in our future volumes.
Chequered as have been the events of the last twenty years, we cannot review the period without the warmest gratitude to God. In our earlier volumes, we had little comparatively to record of a pleasing or hopeful kind: Europe seemed to be rapidly sinking under one vast overpowering, despotism; while infidelity and irreligion were despoiling mankind of their eternal hopes. In the mean, time, but little was attempted for their improvement. How striking, the reverse at the present moment, the auspicious dawn, as we trust, of a brighter day, wbich is about to open upon us! Let our readers compare the confined and feeble efforts of the Christian world, as they appear in our earlier Numbers, when it was difficult to collect -sufficient religious intelligence of an
interesting nature to fill up a few brief pages, with the overwhelming materials of this description which now accumulate around us, and require our utmost efforts to abridge and condense, so as to furnish even a passing sketch, a succinct digest, of the progress of morals, education, religion, and general improvement in various parts of the world.—In the course of our labours, we have had to record, among numerous other topics of interest to the philanthropist and the Christian, the struggles and the triumph which signalized the Abolition of the African Slavetrade; the opening of the East to Christian instruction; the emancipation of Europe from a military usurpation ;-the wide diffusion of just principles of liberty ;-the increased attention devoted to moral and political economy, with a view to better the condition of mankind ;-the modern reviviscence and extension of several societies which had previously existed for the promotion of religious and benevolent objects throughout the world, and the origin and wonderful progress of those more recent Bible and Missionary Institutions, which have now taken fast root in every quarter of the globe, all simultaneously operating to hasten on the time when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms. of our Lord and of his Christ; the astonishing progress of education under the system of mutual instruction, the vast powers of which were unknown to Europe till long within the period of which we are speaking, and the societies formed to diffuse its benefits throughout the world, and the important results of their exertions : and, besides all this, Societies for the circulation of religious publications among the poor; Societies for the Conversion of the Jews.; Societies for promoting Virtue and suppressing Vice; Societies Literary and Philosophical; Mendicity Societies, Savings Banks, and Friendly Societies; Prison Societies; Church Building Societies; Colonization Societies for the outcasts of Africa; Societies for assisting indigent Clergymen; Societies for improving the condition of the Poor; to say nothing of numerous institutions of a more limited kind, which have for their object the relief of various calamities incident to our fallen humanity.
Nor is it the least pleasing feature of the events which we have witnessed and recorded, that our own Church has experienced a great improvement; that her Clergy are enlisting themselves in increasing numbers under the scriptural banners of her martyrs and reformers, and that of her laity also, multitudes, influenced by Christian motives, aspire to assist in the general extension of religious knowledge. It is with peculiar satisfaction that we advert to this topic; because if there has been any one object to which our attention, has been more anxiously directed than another, it has been the diffusion among the ininisters and members of the National Church, of sound sçriptural principles and personal piety, combined with
candour, moderation, intelligence, and good taste, and animated by ardent zeal and unwearied philanthropy. Would that the improvement were universal! that our Churches were sufficiently numerous for the population ! that the Clergy who minister in them were, without exception, orthodox, laborious, and devout ! and that the people who attend them were uniformly educated in sound principles, and leading holy and exemplary lives! But on the afflicting contrast to such a state of things, which is exhibited in the actual circumstances of society, even in this highly favoured country, we will not now enlarge. We would rather use the painful retrospect as an occasion of earnest prayer, that each succeeding year may witness the progressive removal of every evil we deplore, and the rapid extension of the benign and peaceful spirit of the Gospel of Christ, not only in our own Church, but throughout the world.
Before we take our annual leave of our readers, it may be neces. sary to state, that we have received various suggestions from friends and correspondents on completing our fourth lustrum, relative to the future plan of our work; all of which we have weighed with attention, but upon mature consideration are of opinion (for reasons which it would be tedious and unnecessary to detail) that it would not be advisable to make any of the alterations which have been proposed to us.
It has further been repeatedly suggested, and we have long entertained the idea ourselves, that a General Index to the Christian Observer has become very desirable, and that the termination of the twentieth volume is a proper resting place for the purpose. We have therefore taken measures for the accomplishment of this object, and hope in a very few months to have the Index ready for publication. To those who have taken in, or completed, their sets of the Christian Observer from the commencement of the work, it will, we trust, be found highly useful; and scarcely less so to those who have only a few volumes in their possession : for as the references in it are intended to be to the year, and not merely to the number of the volume, it will be of service for reference to any detached part as well as to the whole of the series. It is intended to comprise it in a thin, moderately priced volume, and to number it Vol. XXI., in order that in future the numeral of our volumes may correspond with that of the year; and thus obviate an inconvenience which has arisen from our work having begun one year after the commencement of the present century, which has caused the date of the volume to be always a year before the number of it. In future, the year of the century, and the number of the volume will correspond; beginning with Vol. XXII. for 1822, to Vol. XCIX. for 1899, should the work survive to so distant a period,