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NEW SERIES-NO. 1.
For January and February, 1819.
In the "Review of 1818," which appeared in the No. of this work for December, some remarks and solicitations were introduced, from which it would naturally be inferred, that the writer expected to continue his labours as Editor of the Christian Disciple. It may therefore be proper to say, that such was his expectation at the time of writing the article. But, soon after, his health received a serious injury; and the weight of care and responsibility which bore on bim as the editor of two periodical works, with little aid on which he could regularly depend, was too oppressive. Be sides, he was aware that, at sixty years of age, it was in vain to hope for the vigor and energy of youth; especially in one of impaired health, and who had for many years been devoted to unceasing study and inquiry. He therefore resolved to relinquish the care of the Christian Disciple, and to devote himself solely to the work of promoting peace on earth.
It had indeed been the aim of the editor to make the Christian Disciple subservient to the diffusion of beneficent and pacific sentiments, so far as this might comport with its object as a miscellaneous work; and perhaps he may have exceeded the bounds of propriety in the admission of articles which seemed to him adapted to promote the cause of peace. For he is free to confess, that for several years his mind has been so absorbed by the inquiries which relate to war and peace, that it has often been difficult for him to
New Series-vol. I.
write on other subjects. Perhaps this circumstance should have induced him to resign the Christian Disciple at an earlier period. But he indulges the hope that nothing has appeared in the work, which will be ultimately injurious to any one; and that the time is approaching, when pacific principles will be more generally and more highly esteemed.
The convictions and impressions under which the Christian Disciple has heretofore been conducted, were distinctly and honestly stated in the "Review of 1818." They need not be repeated. It may suffice to add, that it was the aim of the editor to conduct the work in a manner corresponding with its title, "THE CHRISTIAN DISCIPLE," and with its motto, "Speaking the truth in love." He may, however, have been liable to the charge of deviating from the rule that he had prescribed to himself, and for which he may need the forgiveness of God, and the candour of his brethren. Both of which he hopes to obtain.
In cordial friendship with all his associates, and with grateful affection to all his patrons, the past editor of the Christian Disciple has resigned the work to the direction of its original proprietors. He is aware that the work is capable of great improvements, and of being enriched with a greater variety of useful articles. He sincerely indulges the hope, that in future it will be conducted with more abil ity, more prudence, and more of the Christian spirit than has been possessed by him; that it will be the means of illuminating the minds and improving the hearts of many thousands of readers, of uniting the various denominations of Christians in the bonds of that charity which is the end of gospel doctrines and precepts, and that it will thus be the means of preparing multitudes for those regions of light and love, in which party names and distinctions will cease to mar the happiness of man. But whatever shall be the future character of the work, the subscriber is no longer responsible.
January 16th, 1819.
THE Christian Disciple, though commenced by a particular class of Christians, was intended to be distinguished from similar works, by proposing as its principal object, not the defence of particular opinions, but the spreading of the candid, toler
ant, and philanthropic spirit of the Gospel. It was believed that the best service which could be rendered to truth, was to bring men's minds into that dispassionate and benevolent frame, which is most congenial with truth. For this purpose, the work was committed to a gentleman distinguished by the mildness as well as ability with which he had conducted theological controversy, and who is universally acknowledged to have laboured with exemplary faithfulness to make the Disciple the minister of peace and kind affections. Unhappily his health, long declining, is now so impaired as to oblige him to discontinue the superintendance of the work.
The publication will hereafter be conducted by several gentlemen, who wish to promote the mild and charitable spirit which distinguished its former editor, but who have thought that its usefulness requires an extension of its original plan. The work will be devoted, as before, to christian charity and practical religion, and at the same time to theological learning, biblical criticism, discussions of the doctrines of natural and revealed religion, and to Reviews of new publications. It will aim to point out the methods and sources of a right interpretation of the Scriptures; to throw light on the obscurities of those ancient records; to state and maintain the leading principles of christianity; to vindicate it from the misrepresentations of friends, and the cavils of enemies; to illustrate its power in the lives of eminent christians; to give discriminating views of evangelical virtue, and of the doctrines most favoura ble to its growth; to weigh impartially the merits of theologi cal works, and of other books which have a bearing on morals and religion; and to furnish interesting information particularly in regard to the religious condition of the world.
In the present state of this country, periodical works are particularly valuable. We have many men, who can write well, but who want leisure to write volumes; many who think deeply, but whose thoughts will die with them, unless publications like the present shall give them circulation. It is well known that not a few among us spend their lives in theological studies, and it is matter of reproach that nothing more is contributed by us to the stock of just criticism, and of moral and religious truth. It is believed that this reproach may be removed in a degree, by opening new channels for the communication of original and interesting thought, and by multiplying in this way excitements to intellectual activity.
It does not become the conductors of the work to begin their labours with large promises. They will only say, that they wish to serve faithfully the cause of good learning and holy living. Though disposed to express freely their views
of the doctrines which divide christians into parties, they seek a higher good than the building up of a sect. They wish to encourage and aid a serious and upright investigation of truth, and would especially do something towards extending the power of christianity over men's minds and lives, by holding it forth in those rational, and amiable characters in which its Author first delivered it to the world.
WHAT IS FAITH?
THE great importance given to Faith in the New Testament, makes it deeply interesting that we should have the most clear and just conceptions of its meaning, and its objects. It gives unspeakable interest to the inquiry, in every serious mind, is mine the faith required of a christian? What then is that faith, which is a condition of salvation?
Faith, defined generally, signifies the assent of the mind to any proposition or fact, upon suitable testimony. Whenever we believe the testimony to be suitable, and there is no oppos-, ing interest or passion to bias our determination, we readily yield our faith to what is proposed to it; and conform our conduct to our belief with as strong an assurance, as we should to our actual knowledge. I believe a physician, of whose skill in his profession I am satisfied, when he tells me that a certain part of my system is diseased; though I neither see the part, nor am sensible of pain in it. I believe my friend, in whose veracity I have confidence, when he informs me that he has been a witness of events, of the truth of which I should other wise have doubted; and I repose all the reliance on his promises, which I can upon his ability to perform them, and upon the continuance of his life. If the question then be settled in our minds, that the Bible contains a revelation from God, it is perfectly reasonable in God to require of us, that we receive whatever He has taught, with as firm a persuasion, as if every circumstance and object were actually exposed to our senses. Every perfection of God is here, to my mind, a ground of reliance; and I am guilty of distrusting God, and of practical infidelity, whenever, in my disposition or conduct, I disregard what He has taught me, and act in contradiction to what He has revealed of his character, His moral government, and His designs in judgment and eternity. I have indeed religious faith in no greater degree, than I have a perfect assurance that all which God has taught is true, and all that he has promised will be accomplished.