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The late Editor having been compelled by his distance from Boston and his other engagements to relinquish the care of this work, I have agreed to take charge of it, not with a view to becoming myself a large contributor to its pages, but in consequence of such arrangements, as, while they will relieve me of labor, enable me to speak with confidence of its future character. It will be conducted on the same general principles that were expressed at its commencement, with some slight alterations in its plan which have been thought desirable. One or two sentences from the original Prospectus will exhibit the purpose which is still contemplated in its publication. “ It will be the great object of the Miscellany, to furnish religious reading for the people; to discuss subjects of religion and morals, and of literature in its relig. ious aspects, in a manner which shall meet the wants of intelligent and enquiring laymen. It is not designed to be a controversial work. Its exbibitions of truth duty will indeed be founded on Unitarian views of Christianity, but it will be the object of this work, not so much to defend these opinions, as to treat them in their practical bear. ings, and to show their power to produce holiness of life.”
Pains will be taken to make the Miscellany a depository of Religious Intelligence, particularly so much as belongs to the history of the Unitarian churches in this country and in Great Britain. I hope also, to give frequently, if not every month, a sermon from some one of our ministers, which will supply a want that has been felt by many persons since the suspension of the “Liberal Preacher." Keeping in view the claims of the Bible, I shall be glad, if by any thing that may appear in this work the authority of Scripture shall be made more distinct, or its contents more intelligible, than I fear they now are. The Miscellany will be devoted to “Religion " rather than to “ Letters," its immediate aim being to present in various ways the spiritual, prac. tical, and missionary character of our religion. With the assistance which I am sure of receiving, I feel no doubt that it will be found an agreeable and useful publication. Something of the kind seems to me to be needed; something between the “ Christian Examiner” and the “ Christian Register,” which co-operating with these periodicals, yet taking a somewhat different course from either of them, may bear a part in promoting the spiritual improvement of the people.
It is due to the Publishers to notice the efforts they have made to render this work worthy of support. Each number will in future contain 60 pages, instead of 48, making an increase of nearly 150 pages annually, while the price is the same as at first. The page has also been enlarged, both in length and breadth, so as to contain a greater quantity of matter without impairing the neatness of its appear.
A new volume is commenced with the present number for sake of convenience;* those who have paid for a year, will be considered as having paid for three months in advance, or one quarter of the subscription of the present year. It was impossible to issue this number on the 1st of January, as the change in the editorial arrangements was not effected till near the close of the year, and the number for February may also be delayed a few days; but afterwards the subscribers will not probably be disappointed in the time of publication.
E. S. G.
THE CLOSE OF THE YEAR.
ANOTHER year has just completed its circle of months. Such an event, forced upon our notice, if by nothing else, by the change it
* We have thought it best to consider this the commencement of the second volume, although the last three numbers had borne this designation. All the former numbers may be bound in one volume as the first of the series.
makes in the designation of the current year, is fruitful of suggestion to the considerate mind. It calls up both pleasant and painful recollections, stimulates inquiry into the use we have made of past time, and directs the glance of anxious curiosity along the future. Among the topics of thought which it suggests, the two most obvious are also the two most important-one drawn from the past, the other from the future. The insecurity of life is taught us on the one hand, while on the other we are reminded of the approach of death.
Each year furnishes new evidence of the instability of earthly plans and the uncertainty of life, and should therefore strengthen our conviction of these truths. Not a month nor a week passes by, which does not present examples of the frailty of human relations ; not a week, which does not by the same means warn us against placing our reliance upon schemes originating or ending in human will. Man is both mortal and feeble-ignorant and dependent. The more bonds of connexion we form with our fellow-men, the more do we multiply on the one hand the chances of disappointment, as on the other the sources of enjoyment or success. To live a year, and not feel the sting of grief nor the chill of misfortune, is a rare exemption. Calamity travels over the earth, and has free entrance at all doors. Death has the world for his range, and goes hither and thither, and no one can turn him from his course. We live in the midst of change and decay ; ourselves no less liable to change and decay than every thing around us. The household, that yesterday rejoiced in their common health, are now gathered within the chamber where one of their number is struggling to retain a mortal existence. They whose last greeting was with smiles, shall next salute each other with tears. Nothing is so brittle as life, and nothing so unstable as earthly condition. What changes will a year work, not in the appearance of an individual only, but in the aspect of a community! They who thought themselves rich a year, perhaps a week ago, can only say—Take what I have and leave me poor, but still a debtor. We know not what a year may bring forth of disaster or bereavement. And it is well we do not know. In wisdom and kindness have we been gifted with a power of vision that can survey only the present. But the experience of the oldest and of the youngest alike teaches, that change and sadness must enter into the composition of life through all its stages.
Seldom is this truth so impressively brought under our notice as within the year which has just been closed. Calamity has overwhelmed families that thought themselves secure at its commence
Distress has involved large portions of the community within its gloom. And recently what waste of human life! We shall manifest indifference to a solemn voice of Providence, if we do not religiously consider the sad events which have made the present month memorable in the annals of New England. Our coast has been strewed with wrecks, and human life been tossed and torn by the raging sea, as if it were a thing of no value. The circumstances which have in some instances attended this mournful loss of life, are suited to give a peculiar emphasis, both to the feeling of sadness with which it is regarded, and to the conviction that man, with all his skill and strength and confidence, is but a frail and feeble creature. Behold a ship which has ploughed its way safely across the breadth of the Atlantic, and brought its crew within sight of their home, seized by the surious tempest and thrown upon the very shore which they were so eager to reach, a victim for the waves to rend in pieces, while they who had so gallantly guided it through the pathless ocean perish in the darkness of midnight, with no voice to which they can listen but the cry of the storm, and no winding sheet before they sink into the deep but the thickening snow. Behold again a vessel struggling with the waves before it give up all of life that it contains, approached by bold and generous men who succeed in snatching one from his exposure, who on the moment of his rescue is torn from their grasp and devoured by the sea in the sight of his despairing, rejoicing, now heart-broken wife. Such events, thank God, are not common. But they are of annual occurrence, and this year they have come so nigh to us, that we must be both blind and deaf not to notice them. They repeat, in an unusual manner and a sadder strain, the truth which every instance of mortality proclaims. They remind us that God alone is everlasting and almighty, while man is weak and sure to be the prey of death. They teach us that hope should rest on something more solid than worldly calculation. They direct us to the thought of that eternal life which can never be taken from the believer, and those riches which can never perish. They compel our minds perplexed, and our hearts afflicted, by such disastrous ills, to rest on him whose command, “ Peace, be still,” tranquillized the angry waves, and whose influence can soothe the troubled bosom and revive the fainting spirit,
The conviction of the insecurity of life must be joined with another, which the passage of time cannot but force upon the mind,—that we are approaching the close of our earthly existence. Every year brings us nearer to the end of life. “It is appointed unto man once to die," and whether he die on land or sea, suddenly or after wasting disease, he must obey the universal law. We all must die, and die before many more years shall have passed,
for the longest life, what is it, but a space of few years ?—and every year brings us nearer to death. “But after death, the judgment,” to which also every year is bringing us nearer. This is the solemn fact which we ought to weigh—that we have travelled over a part of the distance which separated us from the retributions of eternity. We have less time than we had a year ago to make whatever preparation we need for another world. Be our death ever so far off, it is nearer to us by a whole year's extent. Methinks this should make us reflect. Suppose that life be not so insecure as all observation shows it to besuppose that we are destined to live ten or twenty years longer; every year diminishes this period. By and bye, it will have been reduced to a single year, to less than a year. Time moves rapidly, the years follow one another in quick succession. Unless we give heed to their disappearance, before we think of it, the last will be here, and we must depart—to take our place with the congregation of the countless dead—aye, and with the assembled multitudes before the throne of God. To die is not to lie down in the grave and revive no more. If it were, we might live on regardless of the close of life with comparative propriety. But when we believe on the authority of a Divine Messenger, that death will only introduce us to farther consciousness, which will correspond in character to that which we have cherished here, indifference is folly, and perseverance in a course which we know will plunge us into wretchedness escapes the name of insanity only in consequence of the number of those by whose example it is sanctioned.
Did we know that twenty years hence we should be turned out of our homes, stripped of all our possessions, and sent naked into the world to contend as we might with its evils, we should be busy in devising some plan by which we might lighten the misery of such a condition. We do know that not many years hence we shall be compelled to leave these bodies and all our outward goods, and be exposed with no protection but our characters to the judgment of an Infinite Tribunal ; and shall we not care whether this protection