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In commencing a new volume of the Magazine, the Editor would thankfully acknowledge the Divine goodness, thus far extended to his imperfect labors, in this department of Christian usefulness. He deeply feels the kindness of those friends, whose contributions have appeared in its pages the last year, and have done so much to increase its interest and sustain its reputation. But mere reputation is not all. And the Editor, while soliciting, in the most earnest manner, the renewal of their favors for the present year, would entreat them to think of the amount of good which has flowed from their contributions of the number of immortal minds to whom they have spoken, and will continue to speak so often as the Magazine shall be read and it will be read) in years to come. There are others, whom he would affectionately remind of the opportunity of doing good, which the pages of this important periodical every month present; and ask if there are not pens neglected, that should be employed—if there are not precious thoughts silently revolved in the depths of their souls, like the rich pearls of the ocean that never yet saw the light, which, if brought before the public, might augment the intellectual and moral wealth of the Church, and be bound as gems forever in her heart?
The patrons of the Magazine will doubtless rejoice to learn that the subscription list is increasing. Still it is far below what might be expected, and what every real and hearty friend to our missionary operations must desire. It appears to us there is here something defective in the views of many of our most active and judicious brethren. Many, even of our Ministers, do not seem to reflect on the peculiar position held by this work, as the only official organ of the Board of Missions, and the only safe depository of statistical information, and indeed of all important documents, connected with the principal history and progress of our growing denomination. As such, it stands alone.
As such, it stands first in its claims on universal patronage. No local paper, however valuable, has more than a secondary claim. The excellence of many of these, we joyfully acknowledge. After the
Magazine, in the order of time and importance, we view them as indispensable to the diffusion of sound information and animating intelligence of the Redeemer's kingdom. We wish every state in the Union to have its Baptist periodical, whose weekly arrival shall gladden every church and every family. But let our firstborn periodical, the beginning of our strength, the fountain-head of our missionary intelligence, and the only permanent store-house of our principles and history, the official organ, and representative of the whole denomination in the United States,-let this be taken first, in every church and every family. Let the local paper never supersede it, but ever be its follower, associate, and auxiliary. We appeal to our brethren, if this is unreasonable. We appeal to our Ministers, on whose agency the patronage of both depends. We appeal to our editorial brethren themselves, who might easily aid us, to their own advantage.
It is the design of the Board that the Magazine shall be conducted the present year on the same general principles as the last, with the exception of devoting a larger proportion of its pages to Missionary Intelligence, and adding, at the close, a Summary of Religious Information. It is believed these changes will be regarded as improvements. Interesting Biographies, Essays, Poetry, Reviews, Literary Notices, Notices of Revivals, Statistics; in a word, all Communications adapted to the nature of our work, and the wants of our numerous readers, are affectionately requested by the Editor, from all parts of the Union. Its terms will continue the same.
It would be difficult to find a periodical of its class, afforded at so cheap a rate as this. Its avails to the cause of Missions can be small indeed, without a large subscription.
The past year has been marked with many signal blessings from above. Both at home and abroad, the great Hearer of Prayer has crowned the labors of his people with the most encouraging success. The translation of the whole Bible into Burman—the large reinforcement sent out—the establishment of the Mission and press at Ava—the fruits of missionary toil gathered in 'unto life eternal'—the prospects opening in Siam, China, France, and Germany—the establishment of Christian Churches far beyond the Mississippi—and the progress of Religion in our congregations at the East and West, and North and South-all these things, and many more, assure us that a brighter day is dawning on the church. Let us seize the auspicious moments, to do with our might whatsoerer our hand findeth to do, for the kingdom of our Lord.
He who is slightly conversant with the history of his race, cannot be ignorant of the controlling influence which the literature of any age or nation has exercised in the formation of its moral character. Hence arises a strong necessity that the productions of cultivated intellect should be deeply imbued with a religious spirit. But, perhaps, this will be best perceived, if we briefly notice the moral features of the literature which has hitherto been chiefly studied and admired.
A careful examination of the works of Greek and Roman writers must produce an abiding conviction that their tendency, if not counteracted by the sedulous efforts of decidedly Christian instructers, is adverse to the cultivation of religious feeling, and to the establishment of Christian character. We are not disposed to deny that many solid advantages accrue from an acquaintance with the ancient classics. There is much reason, however, to fear that the attainment of these is accompanied with no inconsiderable admixture of evil.
Pagan mythology, which is completely inwrought into the texture of its literature, greatly tends to modify our views of the true and living God. The qualities and actions ascribed to heathen deities imperceptibly become attached to the God of the Bible. At least, the disgusting exhibitions of vice, which their lives present, beget a disbelief in the existence of a Supreme Being, which prevents a cordial reception of the Scripture account of the Almighty. Despising the objects and rites of heathen worship, individuals easily fall into a contempt of all religion.
But, if it be doubted whether these exploded superstitions are capable of inflicting any serious injury, no one, that is much ac
quainted with the tone of its morality, will deny that ancient clas. sic literature has powerfully contributed to foster the spirit of licentiousness. Learning, genius, and eloquence were there employed in arraying vice in the most seductive forms, and in throwing over her the robe of virtue. As the natural consequence of this deep-rooted and universal corruption, the choicest efforts of mind which have heen transmitted to us from that era of intellectual splendor, are replete with refined obscenity. If we consider the multitude who, from childhood, have been continually influenced by this presentation of impurity, clothed with all the felicities of style, can we hesitate to believe that many cultivated minds have been morally sacrificed at the shrine of classic literature. What other result could be anticipated, when ihe objects of religious veneration were monsters of depravity, when the most popular goddess was the patroness of prostitution, when the mansions of courtezans were the favorite retreats of philosophers, poets and patriots?
But, perhaps, it may be said that the exhibition of lofty sentiment and of illustrious character with which many of these writers abound, presents a redeeming trait, rendering them worthy of our delighted perusal. So far, however, as moral sentiment is formed by a familiarity with them, we hazard little in asserting that it will be utterly repugnant to the spirit of the Gospel. What is the moral ofihe bliad? Its enthusiastic admirer is taught to regard ferocious courage as the greatest virtue. If he turn from its pages, to contemplate the character of Christ and his apostles, he will almost shrink with aversion from their peaceful virtues. The reason is obvious. He has accustomed himself to admire the actions of men, most of whose qualities were ertirely at variance with the heavenly dispositions inculcated by Jesus. He has willingly yielded to ihe fascinations of song; he has hung, with rapture, upon the vivid descriptions of successful war, and has panted with desire to emulate these beroic characters. The potency of genius has been too successfully employed in bringing to maturity those evil propensities which the Gospel aims to cradicate.
Many heathen philosophers, indeed, exhibited a rare combination of mental power with illustrious virtue; which, in all succeeding ages, has invested their memory with moral grandeur. 'The study of their biography, however, though the brightest page in classic literature, is yet fraught with pernicious consequences. Their style of excellence was altogether different from that which the precepts of the Bible teach us to cultivate, while the motives which actuated them were opposite to those which Christianity enjoins. This will appear strikingly evident, when we compare the most eminent sage of antiquity with the founder of our religion. The forbearance, meekness, and humility of the Son of God are strongly contrasted with the impatience, the pride, and unforgiving spirit of the heathen moralist. Meekness and humility, indeed, the capital virtues of the Gospel, were wholly unknown to these ancient sages, or were known only to be despised.