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IN the Preface to our twentieth volume, we took a retrospective glance of the general character and events of the fifth part of a century which had then rolled away since we commenced our humble labours. We were enabled to present to our readers, if not a scene glowing with unmingled radiance, yet, upon the whole, such a brightening prospect, in respect to the progress of light and liberty, of humanity and public happiness, of Christian principles and Christian zeal, as served to relieve the many darker shades in the sketch, and to give the assurance of the approach of a more perfect day. No devout reader, we are persuaded, can look back upon the establishment and rapid advance of those benign institutions to which we then adverted, or can contemplate their continued and accelerated progress as recorded even in the succinct digests of our present volume, without feelings of delight and admiration; without lively gratitude to the Author of every good gift, for his manifold mercies to a guilty and perishing world; without fervent prayer that his ways may be speedily known upon earth, his saving health unto all nations; and, in addition to all, without invigorated zeal, and renewed exertions, and warmer love, and inore expanded liberality in forwarding this glorious consummation. If during the last year, we have had the melancholy task of recording wars and rumours of wars; if we have had to lament instances of political selfishness, or crooked policy, or unjust encroachment, or the sacrifice of Christian sympathy and duty at the shrine of a doubtful and short-sighted expediency; if in any instances we have seen power overstrained or po pular liberty abused; if we have witnessed the opposition between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness becoming more fearfully conspicuous, and the latter on any occasion triumphing for a moment over the former; if amidst our domestic events we have had to regret the continuance of distress in some agricultural districts, or the afflictions of the sister kingdom of Ireland, or the awful end of a distinguished statesman, or the removal of many faithful servants of God from their labours on earth to their reward in heaven; if many of our poor are still uneducated, and left destitute of Christian instruction; if our Sabbaths are still polluted; if many blots still remain in our legislation; if vice, irreligion, and blasphemy still continue to distil their venom; and if some of those who should be most anxious to repress them are wasting their energies, and afflicting their country, in arresting the great march of improvement, in denouncing whatever is projected or achieved, except by themselves, to train the uninstructed, to reform the prisoner, to disenthral the slave, to reelaim the vicious, to civilize the barbarian, to christianize the heathen, and to enlighten and bless mankind; and if even in the Christian church itself where far the largest share of disinterested zeal and virtue ought to be expected, and where we are happy to believe a large share really exists, not a few of the above evils are to be found;-if the consideration of subjects like these has too often forced itself upon us in the course of our periodical labours during another year; still while we reflect on the many facts of an opposite tendency which we have had the privilege of recording, and on the powerful influences which, under the Divine favour, are at work for the lasting benefit of the world, we are disposed to "thank God and take courage." It is certainly a blessing of no inconsiderable magnitude to have had another year of peace; to have witnessed an increase of national prosperity; to have seen our poor eating cheap bread and clothed with cheap clothing, and all ranks, with the exception before mentioned,
*Our readers are apprized, that, for the convenience of making the numeral of the year and of our volumes correspond in future with each other, the General Index to the first twenty volumes (which is in a considerable state of forwardness, and may be expected in a very few
enjoying a large share of the comforts of life ;-but what to our minds is still more delightful, because it is as it were the seed-bed of far wider and more numerous blessings to future generations, is the growth of that religious and moral zeal, of that spirit of disinterested philanthropy, of thai desire for universal peace and happiness, and of that disposition to conciliation and concord, which are now evidently in powerful operation, both in our own island and in many other parts of the world. Seldom, we are happy to state, has a year gone by within the period of our labours less marked by actimonious religious controversies among good men than the present; and we would sincerely hope that this abatement of hostility (would that there had not been some exceptions!) does not arise from mere accident, but that it is a consequence of the growing prevalence of scriptural principles of love, piety, and candour. It is refreshing to behold Christians mustering with united strength “to the battle of the Lord against the mighty" and that not only in Great Britain, or, among those who speak a common language with us on the western side of the Atlantic, (towards whom a valued correspondent in our pages has endeavoured, in an interesting series of papers, to awaken just feelings of regard and co-operation,) but that, even in less free and less religious countries, Christian principles are widely extending; that even South America is spurning ignorance and slavery from her soil; that Africa is opening her bosom to civilization and the Gospel of Peace; that Asia is rising to new life, under the beams of the Sun of Righteousness; and above all, ibat Europe is almost every where enlisting Christians of every name under the common banner of their Lord and Saviour for the distribution of his divine word, and the extension of his peaceful triumphs, wherever man and misery are to be found.
What may be the results of these opening scenes of universal peace and holiness, or when we may witness their development, we dare not trust ourselves to predict; nor will we at present check the glow of feeling which must arise, in every Christian mind, at the anticipation of these blessings, by au enumeration of the many formidable obstacles which still lie in the way of their attainment, and which require the constant prayers and exertions of the Christian world to remove. We will rather conclude our remarks with at once congratulating and exhorting the younger part of our leaders, who are, we trust, destined not only to behold but largely to share in these triumphs of mercy and religion. Many to whom our earlier volumes were introduced in childhood and youth, perhaps by pious and affectionate parents who have since "ceased from their labours," and "whose works follow them," are now among the active members of another generation, and are witnessing a new succession growing up around them to supply the places which they also must soon relinquish. On this interesting class of persons much depends. What their fathers laboured, through good report and evil report, to begin, it is their happier lot to follow up with brighter and more animating prospecis. These sous and daughters "of sainted sires" constitute a large and important body of persons whose conduct will be measured, not by the world merely, but by the Searcher of hearts, according to the instructions they have received, and the privileges they have enjoyed; and double will be their guilt and shame, if they recede from the Scriptural principles in which they were educated, or neglect the duties to which they were so anxiously trained. Let them then resolve first "to give themselves to the Lord;" and then let them come forward prepared to tread in the steps of those who taught them how to walk and to please God, and resolved to carry towards perfection what the brevity of buman life, and the feebleuess of individual effort enabled those who have gone before only to plan and to commence.