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For many months previous to her lamented decease, which took place on the 13th April, 1824, Miss Taylor had been compelled, through ill health, to discontinue her connection with this Magazine, but the articles from her pen appeared with little intermission for a series of years, and were welcomed every month with encreasing eagerness.
After her decease, Mrs. Sherwood became, at the solicitation of the Committee, a writer in its pages,-at first under the sigture of M. M., and afterwards of M. M. S., by which initials her interesting papers are still identified. Writing to us on this, the anniversary of the first issue of our Magazine, our valued contributor remarks, “ It has been the favorite of many young people with whom I have been personally acquainted. One little child, I remember, who saved all her pocket money to procure this Magazine every month, and who used to count on its arrival as others do for the recurrence of some bright holiday. Another informed me, that, her first ideas of the importance of religion were cotemporary with her perusal of one of the earlier copies o. the Magazine, at the time when the lamented Miss Taylor enriched it with her pious contributions; and a third, a young friend, was deeply impressed with a pathetic tale which appeared in the Magazine at a later period; one who, though now grown up, still speaks with pious gratitude of the first means by which the simple, yet touching narrative was brought to her knowledge.”
On the commencement of the second series, in 1816, the Committee availed themselves of the kind assistance of Dr. Cope, which has been continued unremittingly to the present day. His long and intimate connection with the Magazine has enabled him to see and hear a variety of beneficial results from his valued labors in connection with those of his colleagues in the work. In many cases, says he, “ it has been rendered extremely useful. Instances have occurred in Ireland, and many parts of England, of the most gratifying character. The writer of this has heard with real pleasure of its beneficial effects on many young persons, either in deepening their serious impressions, instructing them in the truths of the gospel, removing their doubts and fears, exciting them to active exertions in the cause of divine truth, or inducing them to make a public avowal of their attachment to God.”
Amongst the cases of benefit derived from the perusal of Dr. Cope's communications, we may instance the following. John Orchard, formerly of South Tawton, but afterwards of St. Thomas, Exeter, was executed in April, 1827, for forgery in the re-conveyance of an estate. During his confinement in gaol, he was greatly impressed and comforted by the repeated perusal of a hymn entitled “The Anchor,” and commencing with the line “ When guilt distracts my labouring breast," which appeared first in the Youths' Magazine for January, 1818, and was afterwards inserted in the Hymn Book published by the Religious Tract Society, where it is supposed the unhappy man first read it. These verses, according to the Exeter “ Alfred” of 17th April, 1827, were also sung in the chapel during the service on the Sunday preceding his execution, “at his particular request.” “ Whether original or selected," adds that paper, “they were well chosen for the situation in which he stood, and pourtray a mind deeply conscious of sin, and filled with religious fortitude."
Several papers by this valued correspondent have been reprinted; amongst these “The History of a Religious Tract," (1818) and "The Ploughboy,” (1820) have each passed through three editions,
Other articles, too, by writers whose names have not been mentioned, have been several times republished ; and some years since a proposition was made by highly useful minister of the gospel in Paris to translate the magazine into French, and re-issue it in that capital, but owing to a variety of circumstances the suggestion we believe was never carried out. As a proof of its extensive popularity, it may be well here to mention that contributions have been received within the same month from Sydney, the West Indies, Germany, and Lisbon.
What changes have taken place within the last forty years ! And wedded, though some may be to "the good old times, we cannot doubt that they have been changes for the better. The period when this Magazine was sent forth was one of no ordinary interest. The good seed scattered, half a century before, by Whitefield and his followers, though its first results were soon evident, and the harvest that immediately succeeded it was abundant, lay in many other instances long dormant. The vision was for an appointed time, but it spoke out with startling distinctness in the end. A great movement in the Christian world took place about the close of the last, and the commencement of the present century. So marked was this revival, that Dr. Claudius Buchanan, a name deservedly dear to all who have the cause of missions at heart, described it as the third of those “ Eras of Light,” of which the promulgation of the gospel by Christ was the first, and the Protestant Reformation, the second. “ It is with propriety,” says he, “ that we distinguish the present period * as a third era of light in the Christian dispensation. Yet it is true that while infidelity, like the pillar of the cloud hanging over the Egyptians, is rising an awful form, threatening to involve the world in darkness; the religion of Christ on the other side, like a pillar of fire, is giving light to the world.” The signs of the times he then describes to be, an increased knowledge of the Scriptures, producing the cultivation and practice of gospel principles; the almost universal instruction of the poor ; the more general worship of God in our land; the publication of the Bible in new languages; missions to all nations, and efforts for the promotion of Christianity among the Jews.
Refreshing as were these indications of revival to the Christian, they were not allowed to pass without vehement reprobation by the enemies of Revelation. It soon, indeed, became evident that they were causing a powerful reaction, stirring up all the vilest passions of the heart, and stimulating the emissaries of Satan to oppose to them the firebrands, arrows, and death of their hard speeches and ungodly writings. Never, to follow up the beautiful figure of Dr. Buchanan, did the cloud of open infidelity more fearfully over-shadow the good old paths, than at this crisis. A host of writers following in the wake of Volney and Paine, poured forth their ribaldry against Revelation, increasing the bitterness of their invective just in proportion as they saw the Truth gaining ground in the world.
Nor had Christianity this monster evil, only, to contend against. Superstition, the inevitable result of ignorance, and especially of spiritual ignorance, reigned to a very great extent, and under the form of religious fanaticism, and a belief in augury
* The sermon here quoted was preached before the University of Cambridge, 1st July, 1810.
and witchcraft, struck deep root, not only among the lower, but the middle classes of society.
But not the least dangerous opponents to the spread of Bible principles were found amongst the professed friends of Christianity. The then senior merchant of the East India Company's Bengal establishment, wrote home to that body, in the greatest crepidation, on the mere announcement of the formation of the British and Foreign Bible Society, stating that our possessions in the East were “ in a situation of most imminent and unprecedented peril!” “My mind," he adds, “is oppressed with dread and astonishment. I have lived in India in what have been supposed to be dangerous times. I have seen our security threatened by the most formidable force from without : I have seen it more seriously threatened by weakness from within; but never have I seen any danger so alarming as that which I am now submitting to your attention. It is a fact, and I think a most improper and a most alarming fact, that the Vice-Provost of the Company's College, at Fort William, * has actually bestowed a prize of £500. at each of the Universities, for the best dissertation on the following question:-“ What are the best means of civilizing the subjects of British India, and of diffusing the light of the Christian religion through the eastern world ?”
God be thanked that the lines have fallen to us in happier times and places. Such groundless apprehensions would be now met only by the smile of complacency, or the all-sufficient rebuke, “God is the author of peace, and not of confusion." Yet they spoke the sentiments of a wealthy and influential party in the day when they were first uttered, some of whom, as Lord Valentia, were perhaps more honest than prudent, in stating the real reason of their opposition. “ Putting a translation of the Scriptures into the hands of the natives,” says that nobleman, “ will induce them to make unfavorable comparisons between our lives and our doctrines, and consequently expose us to contempt.” Worthy representatives of those querulous persons of old time who cried out, to the best of all teachers, Master, thus saying, Thou reproachest us also!"
Such was the opposition raised by those who “ made no claim to peculiar sanctity.” But there were fightings within the pale of the church almost as formidable as these assaults from without. Those who were living at the period will remember the sensation created, when the king in council rebuked the intolerance of the Jamaica legislature, by disallowing their act which provided that no methodist, missionary, or other sectary, or preacher, should presume to instruct the slaves in that island, or to receive them into their houses, chapels, or conventicles of any sort or description, under the penalty of £20. for every individual. So undecided, indeed, appear to have been the views of many engaged in the good cause of Bible truth, that the members of the London Society for the Conversion of the Jews, urged by the voice of public opinion, actually condescended to stake its existence upon the issue of the question, whether it was not doing more harm than good by destroying one of the best evidences of the truth of Revelation! On a division, after five evenings' discussion, the numbers were found to be equal, and the casting vote of the chairman, alone, preserved that institution from disorganization.
* Dr. Buchanan, before referred to.
We mention these facts to shew that the publication of the Youths' Magazine was peculiarly well-timed. To have slept on while the enemy was thus sowing tares among the good seed, would have been indeed culpable. The public mind, more particularly as regarded those just rising into manhood, was putting forth new faculties, and realizing the force of that well-known axiom—“Knowledge is power,” when this “ Evangelical Miscellany" came forth to give a gospel bearing to that power, and to direct its energies to purposes of true philanthropy. The epithet, “ Evangelical,” like that of Methodist, or Saint, was at that time a favorite term of reproach. Some well-meaning persons went even so far as to attach a reproachful sense to the word “ Christian ;” that expression having been rejected in favor of “Religious,” when the Tract Society was formed in 1799 ; although the powerful influence of good old Rowland Hill was thrown into the opposite scale.
There is a significance little noticed in these days of gospel light and liberality, in the very title of that venerated and timehonored periodical —" The Evangelical Magazine.” That its manly advocacy of the claims of New Testament Christianity should have been sufficient to confer a specific name upon the