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Members of the Established Church.
THE YEAR 1861.
HATCHARD AND CO., 187, PICCADILLY.
If we could hope that our pages, in the last twelve months, have fairly represented the progress of events and the course of opinion on religious subjects, we might flatter ourselves that we sat down to write a posthumous Preface to a volume of no inconsiderable value. Stirring as the times and impetuous as "the rush of thought" have been for a whole generation, yet it seems as if each year added to the excitement, and gave to speculative minds additional energy and greater daring. So rapid are the changes, that it is only in a periodical work that they can even be noted down. Yet they ought not to be overlooked. Some of them for good, and others for undoubted evil; but all of them, as the materials out of which those who come after us may gather lessons by our experience, deserve to be recorded. This is the service which periodical literature renders to society. Frivolous or grave, catholic or sectarian, scriptural or infidel, it serves at least this useful purpose; while it either aggravates what is bad, or gives firmness and purpose to the better tendencies of its own age, it transmits, with more accuracy than any other form of literature, to a future generation the features of the past.
A religious periodical work undertakes a task second in importance only to that of the Christian ministry. Its aim is to a great extent the same; it is the edification of the Church of Christ, giving to that term a wide significance. At least it will not be denied that, if its influ ence for good is sometimes over-estimated by those who are interested in its success, it is scarcely possible to over-rate its power of mischief.
Such reflections naturally force themselves upon us as we review the history of the Christian Observer for the sixty years which are completed with the volume we now close. That it may have betrayed many faults, is highly probable. But we believe that its purposes have been always honest; that its conductors have been christian men, of whom less cannot be said than that they proved themselves worthy of the confidence reposed in them by two generations of many of the best, the most learned, and wisest men of whom the church of England has had to boast. It has maintained, through storm and sunshine, the doctrines of the gospel, and enforced a higher tone of Christian practice than the world has ever been willing to receive. It has done something, too, in correcting those errors of judgment into which the