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" For there are Three that bear record in heaven, the FATHER, the Word, and the
HOLY GHost ; and these Three are One.”-1 John v. 7.
What epitaph shall be inscribed on the tomb of the departing year ? What language can fully pourtray 1848, in its revolutions, its wars, its pestilence, its privations, its national perils and its individual woes? When at the close of its dreary predecessor, we cast a glance retrospective, and pondered the calamities then past ; hope looking forward, and believing that the fleece of tribulation had been well nigh wrung out, anticipated a coming calm. Alas, the bygone year was peace in comparison with that which is now closing ; and the serious observer must now feel that God hath indeed a controversy with the nations, a controversy with England, a controversy with the professing church.
Let us with much humility betake ourselves to the prophet's watch-tower, and looking out from the turrets of our spiritual Zion, upon the changes and the tumults in the world's ever-revolving panorama, inquire, What of the night ? and What of the coming morn ?
Turn we first to the nations surrounding us. The populations long inert, accustomed to the despotism of Popery and the serfdom of centuries, are responding to the movements of mind, and ignorant of that faith which inculcates the fear of the Lord, and of that love which suffereth long and is kind, have arisen in giant strength, and shaking themselves free from the pampered drones of aristocracy, who have so long in idleness revelled upon their toil, now with cruel retribution stride forward in blood and havoc to the expected freedom. The powers that were have very much to thank themselves for all this. Unyielding tyranny will not be always borne, and happy is that nation whose rulers willingly concede so far to the spirit of the age, as to adapt the laws to the altering positions of the people, and the advancing intelligence of the times.
Who shall say what will be the end of these things. Far be it from us to advocate great organic changes effected by revolutionary means. Every feeling of our souls revolts at the republican schemes which some in England advocate, and which upon the Continent are being put into practice. Even despotism is preferable to the miseries of a mob government ; but we rejoice that the constitutional monarchy under which we dwell, leaves no reason for change, except in the breasts of those whose trade is insubordination, and to whom plunder and tumult are a delight. Let but our rulers legislate with due attention to the just rights of an industrious population, and we believe and hope that England will still be preserved from the anarchy and confusion now prevalent in the nations surrounding her.
But the Lord hath a controversy with England. Our once protestant land is conceding the name and the character which hath so long made her the envy of all nations. Since the fatal year when the first breach was made by our rulers in our Protestant constitution, the principle of concession hath been continued, and we are now on the very verge of having the priesthood of Antichrist endowed out of the national funds. Dissenters though we are, we have always advocated and gloried in that national profession of faith which a National Church exhibits ; and much as we lament that hirelings, enticed by its wealth, are amongst its ministers, and that unscriptural phraseology and unscriptural discipline, the result of its Popish parentage, are not yet swept out of its service-book ; we still discern so much of God's truth in its Liturgy, and such a measure of God's grace in some of its ministers, that we have loved to regard our Protestant Establishment as a panoply from temporal evils, and a source of temporal prosperity. We hesitate not however to say, that rather than have a Popish priesthood similarly endowedwhich we pray God to avert—we would prefer to see all the ecclesiastical parapheranalia of our land overturned, and the churches severally dependant on their respective adherents. That personal godliness might thus flourish equally or even in a greater degree, we will not question. Vital religion gains nothing by its connexion with the State, but who shall estimate the amount of temporal good