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The completion of the first volume of THE CHURCHMAN imposes upon its Editor the grateful duty of rendering his hearty thanks to the friends under whose advice and encouragement the Magazine has come into existence, to the contributors who have lent to its pages their literary ability, experience, and learning, and to the subscribers who have given it their support. THE CHURCHMAN is indebted to their combined influence for an early history full of promise. It has already acquired a circulation considerably larger than was attained by the Christian Observer, in the years when that Magazine was a power in the Church, a circulation larger, indeed, than many of its hearty supporters ventured to expect. THE CHURCHMAN may, therefore, be regarded as a commercial success. If the same amount of support can be secured from the laity as the clergy have generously accorded, a prolonged career of influence and usefulness may be confidently anticipated.
In soliciting the enlarged co-operation of the clergy in bringing The CHURCHMAN under the notice of their lay friends, the Editor bases his appeal on the recognised need of some organ of public opinion among Evangelical Churchmen. Evangelical Protestantism in the Church of England must needs have its own standpoint. A representative periodical, which at once possesses a clear insight into the real meaning of current events, and is competent to express a sound judgment on the most important works in sacred and secular literature, cannot fail to render valuable service in the guidance of opinion, the defence of truth, and the encouragement of well-directed Christian effort.
The Editor is, however, fully aware that the final success of any magazine must depend upon its own merits. If it proves false to the principles it professes, or fails to accomplish the purposes for which it was founded, by falling short of the literary excellence demanded by the growth of taste and the increase of knowledge, no goodwill of its friends will save it from decay. For THE CHURCHMAN's faithfulness to its principles the Editor can pledge himself; for its literary excellence he must in some degree be dependent on his friends.
The Evangelical section of the Church has proved itself to possess ample abilities and learning to hold its own in any competition, if they can be fully enlisted in the work.
There are two difficulties inherent in the conditions of the task laid upon the Editor and his co-workers, of which it is desirable that all friends of the cause should form a clear and adequate conception. One arises from the limited space of a monthly serial containing only eighty pages: another from the constitution and circumstances of the Evangelical body.
The first affects the details of management. Two classes of readers have to be consulted. The one asks for readable articles on general subjects; the other for the complete and exhaustive treatment of questions of a higher order. Papers of this latter kind cannot possibly be short. If excessive condensation be employed, all grace and vivacity of style are necessarily forfeited. If the length be excessive, they not only weary ordinary readers with their prolixity, but they occupy so large a portion of the space at command as to render variety of subjects impracticable. To adjust the mutual claims of the two modes of treatment is a task of equal difficulty and delicacy. Should the Editor sometimes be thought to miss the happy mean, he can only deprecate severity of judgment, and appeal to the forbearance of the student and the patience of the general reader.
Nor is the task less difficult to regulate the allowance to be made for diversities of opinion on secondary points, consistently with the firm and most unflinching maintenance of the distinctive principles of Evangelical truth. Wide variations of opinion, even on points of doctrine, have always existed, wider, indeed, than persons, conversant only with the history of their own times, are probably aware. It is inevitable that this should be the case in a School, of which a primary principle is the bounden duty of private judgment. Profound reverence for the absolute authority of the Word of God, and devout belief in Christ's
promise of the gift of the Spirit of truth, encourage an independence of judgment, which calls no man master. It would be strangely foreign to all past experience of human nature if such a tendency did not sometimes run into excess; but in itself it is right and good. If on one side it renders a close organisation and anything approaching to party discipline impracticable, it nurtures on the other side a free vigorous life, which grows by exercise and is full of spiritual force.
That the difficulty of adjusting these two various claims has been felt by the Evangelical Fathers of the past generation will be seen from the following extracts. They proceed from the pen of the Reverend Henry Venn, whose sagacity of judgment was as eminent as was his jealousy for the truth of God:
No one intimately acquainted, by tradition or by the careful study of the biographies and letters of the early Evangelical ministers, will be surprised that such differences as those alluded to should arise within the Evangelical body. Differences on secondary matters always have existed, often to a far greater extent than at present; many such differences have been precisely of the same character as some at this day-many on far more important theological questions."
He sums up the whole question as follows :
In addition to the cautions here given respecting the treatment of young and immature inquirers after the truth, it must ever be borne in mind that while the Evangelical body are united by certain great principles essential to the life of the soul, there always have been, there always must be, differences on many points, without compromising those principles, arising from the natural bias of mind, or individual relations, or, it may be, from idiosyncrasies which call for mutual forbearance, candid construction, and charity which is the bond of perfectness.
On these lines THE CHURCHMAN will be conducted. The Editor earnestly asks the prayers of those who are alive to the necessities of modern controversy, that a work, commenced out of a single desire to promote the glory of God, may be guided by His Spirit, and effectually prospered to the maintenance of His truth.