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MATT. V. 6; 2 TIM. I. 9; ROM. XI. 7; ACTS VIII. 37, 38; MATT. XXVIII. 19.
ADDRESS TO OUR SPIRITUAL READERS.
Dear Friends,-It has been no small weight upon our mind when we have thought of having to write the annual Address in the present January number of this magazine. Many things, for weeks before taking pen in hand for the work, have sun spirit low in the dust, and made us cry at times from the bottom of our soul," Who is sufficient for these things?" Conscious as we are of our inability to address you as we feel you need to be addressed for your spiritual edification and instruction in righteousness; and stripped, as we feel to be, and especially so after all that has transpired in connection with the magazine during the past year, of all ambition for mere editorial reputation, or mere prominency of position as a writer in its pages; we can truly say we have felt more trembling of spirit in approaching the work of writing this Address, than what we can remember ever to have felt before when similarly engaged as your servant in the gospel of Christ. The cry, "Lord, help me," has often been poured out with the work in prospect; and now that we have taken pen in hand to do the work, we trust we can say the same cry is leaving our soul. With no stored-up manuscript material to fall back upon, and with a mind barren of spiritual thought, we do indeed feel to need divine help and guidance, and especially a little of the unction of the Spirit. So that, whilst our Address must, as emanating from us, lack the ability which has characterized others of former years, yet that it may be commended to the readers of the magazine for its sincerity and faithfulness, and as being written in a good spirit, is our chief concern and prayer about it.
Well, dear friends, we shall venture, in the first place, to express our sincere desire that neither you who read the magazine, nor we who write for its pages, nor any others in any way connected with it, may ever know another year, as pertaining to our periodical, like the past. We trust that no such occurrences as God, for wise ends, no doubt, suffered the past year to bring about, will ever be repeated. Often, as the year was month by month rolling away, we had, with a bewildered judgment, ta No. 529.
ponder over matters, and consider, as best we were able, how
the walls of Jerusalem might be built in troublous times;" and often it put us about more than a little to know how. However, after the painful disturbances which have taken place of late in the atmosphere of our denomination, and which have caused grief to so many, it is no small mercy to be able to feel that we have not been forsaken of our God; and that, troublous as the times have been, yet that the work of conducting the periodical has not ceased, but that it still goes on. we are, that we have no other wish, hope, and prayer about it, but that it should continue to go on; and whether it be under our management, or that of others, that, with. God's help and blessing, it will continue to maintain the same truth in doctrine, experience, and practice which it ever has done since its commencement.
A periodical, like a poor soul in deep spiritual trouble, may either, through bad management or indiscretion on the part of its friends, be brought to the very brink of destruction; and whilst we are thankful to say this has never been the fate of this magazine, yet the magazine, and those immediately connected with it, have been driven into a corner close enough to jeopardize to a considerable extent the growing prosperity of the onė, and to greatly try the faith, and wound the minds of the others. It has in fact been a time of real trial to many; and such will have occasion to remember the past year as having been a somewhat notable epoch in the history of the periodical.
But then, dear friends, what we need chiefly to be concerned about now is not so much the painful occurrences of the past, but the peace of Zion for the future. Not to have made the least mention in this address of what, during the past twelve months in particular has so much affected the interests of the magazine would, we think, have betrayed an unjustifiable silence. Besides, the little reference we have made to certain recent events only makes our way the more clear to embrace the opportunity we seek in writing this address, to let the longings of our heart flow forth, that our gracious God would henceforth bend our minds, our thoughts and desires, more exclusively towards his own honour and glory. O that, with our eyes raised up through the divine power to such high and holy aim, and as fellow-workers in the gospel of Christ, and “heirs together of the grace of life," we might have grace given us, whereby to trust one another for integrity of motive, purpose, and object, and so go on maintaining the discriminating truth of God, and publishing it either by tongue or pen, and each one according to his own gift, for the good of many! O that the blessed God would come amongst us more than ever in the power of his Spirit, and rather than let us disagree, break our bones, and bruise our spirits, and lay us in the dust together, and so crush all mere trifling differences between us; that we may be constrained to feel that through his unmerited grace, we are one in Christ, and of the same mind and
judgment in the gospel. What we need as a Christian denomination is not new doctrines, nor any lopping off or trimming down of old ones, but more of the Spirit's power and anointing with the truths we hold, and which we trust many of us hold as dear as our lives. O that our gracious God would bestow upon all his people more of this rich gift, and especially give them a larger measure of that charity which “thinketh no evil”! Unity of action, Christian forbearance one towards another, oneness of spirit in contending for things that are right, and concord and agreement among themselves, are blessings which the children of Zion need to beg of God, and especially in a day like the present, to produce among them in greater abundance. They are, we can truly say, the blessings we wish for them, and especially for our readers, and all that part of the household of faith with which we stand more particularly identified. With heart, as well as with pen or lip, we can desire for every church of truth, that peace may be within its borders; and for our brethren and friends who stand connected in any departments of Christian work apart from their respective churches, our real desire is that they may be enabled to go on in peace, harmony, and concord, and without a jostle among themselves.
We enter upon the “ New Year” as being greater sinners than what we were twelve months ago. Our sins and follies during the past year have been very many, and in degree, as well as number, equalled by nothing but the mercies of a covenant God. His goodness and mercy have followed us through the year; he has preserved us in sickness and in health, supported us in trials heavy and crushing in themselves, strengthened us in weakness, succoured us in temptations, comforted us in afflictions, and helped us under our various difficulties; and yet withal we have often rebelled against him, and rewarded him evil for good; and his very mercies have aggravated our guilt. O what obstinacy and ingratitude have at times possessed us! and what strange spots our souls have sometimes been in! How stubborn and perverse in spirit, and how corrupt in thought and imagination! How pride, and lust, and unbelief, and that stump of Dagon-self have plagued us sometimes from morning till night! And yet, again, what blessed moments we hope we have found at times to come in between,-moments when atoning love, and blood, and righteousness, have melted us down in our feelings, and proved a blessed plaster to the very wounds which stunk, and made us feel so corrupt before God. So that we, one and all who have passed through such experiences, enter upon the “ New Year" under greater obligations to God than ever before. May he enable us to enter upon it with warmer hearts, with hearts constrained by his own love and mercy, to bless, and thank, and love him more, and serve him better.
But, then, we enter upon the “ New Year" with remarkably solemn times passing over us as a nation. The occurrences of the past year have fallen upon the nation with peculiar weight.
The calamities occasioned by the aggressions of foreign bellige. rents; the stagnation of business, and the alarming agricultural depression; the failure of banks, and large commercial firms, and of merchants and citizens; and the thousands in consequence thrown out of employment, and the many more who who have been brought up in affluence, but who during the past year have been made through bank failures utterly dependent, are events which bespeak something far beyond ordinary adversity. And when we add to such calamities as these the horrid din of war, and the wailings of those whom it has rendered widows and orphans, and the universal disorder that prevails in human society, who is there among those who have thoughtful minds that will deny that the “New Year" finds the nation groaning under a deal of pressure and distress?
And yet, with such portentous signs as are discernible of still more perilous times coming upon the world, the things we have spoken of may be but the beginning of sorrows. But, then, it is not wealth, nor conquest, nor victories won over barbarous foes, nor territorial annexation, nor any thing of that kind, that exalts a nation; but, as we are told in Scripture, it is “righteousness." Hence, England's troubles at the present time are, we believe, more through the casting off of righteousness than through any other cause; for in casting off the mantle of her Protestantism, as she has long been doing, and giving bit by bit her power to the pope, she is casting off God, and with God her national prosperity; and instead of rising, as in former years, in greatness and moral glory, she is dwindling in strength, retrograding as a Protestant country, and drifting into the same whirlpool of libertinism and lawlessness towards God that other nations that have never been blessed with her light and privileges have long been sunk into. We need not, then, wonder at such national depression and distress as exist at the present time. The wonder is that the infliction of judgments at the hand of God is not of a heavier nature. With the defiling hands of the Romish Hierarchy stretched towards the throne, and its fingers already touching the constitution of the nation; with such a gigantic source of iniquity as the present awful uprise, development, and spread of infidelity and scepticism, and which is corrupting with its pestilential breath the social relationships and morals of the nation, quite as much as popery with its pollutions and biasphemies in doctrine; and with other colossal forms of evil, such as a vast amount of hypocrisy and delusion under a profession of Protestant truth; it must be more for the sake of the godly, and for the accomplishment of his purposes in reference to Zion than anything else, that God makes his judgments upon the nation as light as they are, and so slow in their execution.
Well, our mercy is, if we are among the godly, and a part and parcel of God's Zion, for whose sake the Lord will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the sal. vation thereof as a lamp that burneth.”
Leaving, then, the nation, and all that concerns it, to the wisdom of Him whose counsels are wise and just, we will turn our thoughts again to Zion herself, and to matters which lie more particularly within her own walls.
And, first, it will be only a passing remark or two that we shall make in reference to Zion at large. She is the one" church of God;" not merely the professing church, which in the present day is grown unto a huge cumbrous pile of "wood, hay, stubble,” with comparatively little “gold, silver, precious stones to be found in the motley heap; but the real mystical “body of Christ,” which is made up of silver and gold, without an atom of wood and stubble to disfigure and mar the beauty of the precious metal. And although it forms no part of our finite prerogative to attempt to draw the line, and pronounce with decision of judgment between the gold and the wood, and between the silver and the stubble, as they lie in the pile together, yet it is an easy matter with the Lord, whose eyes are as a “ flame of fire." Great as is the amalgamation, and confounding as it is to our judgment, and much as there is, moreover, that will be burnt up when “ the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is,” yet the good and the bad, the true and the false, are even now as distinguishable unto God as if all the good lay in one heap, and the bad in another.
Whilst, then, to the one true Zion of God, in all her heavenborn race, in all her bonds, ties, relationships, and associations, and in all her length, breadth, and dimensions throughout all lands, we wish well; and wish “grace and peace" to be multiplied unto her, “through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord;" yet it is to those parts of her more particularly where this magazine finds its way from month to month that we must bend our remaining observations in reference to Zion.
There are the various churches of truth with which no doubt the largest part of our readers stand connected, either by way of membership or otherwise; and we may say of all the gospel churches in the Strict Baptist denomination, or of any of them taken apart from the rest, that their prosperity or adversity, their increase or diminishment, must ever depend upon the blessing which the Lord sees fit to give or to withhold. If he give his blessing, prosperity in greater or less degree will be sure to follow upon its bestowment; but if in any church there should be at any time, either through the misconduct of the minister, or any of the deacons or members, things sufficiently flagrant to provoke the holy righteous God to withhold his blessing, nothing but strife and confusion, blight and decay, will be sure to follow its withdrawal; and without a purging of such church of evil, and a renewal of the blessing of God, it may fall to pieces, and come to nothing.
Next to the breaking out of deadly error, no worse calamity can befall a church than immorality of conduct, sin showing itself in the church in gross flagitious acts; and for this reason