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Life & Work - St. Stephen's Parish Magazine

TO THE PARISHIONERS OF ST. STEPHEN’S, In issuing this first number of the St. Stephen's Parish Magazine, let me explain in a few sentences what the Magazine is, and what it aims at. For many years there has been a desire among the ministers of the Church of Scotland for a publication which might be circulated in their parishes, with a local supplement of one or two pages where desired. Hitherto this want has been met to some extent by English Magazines, which have been localised in several parishes with considerable success. At the same time it is obvious that these magazines, which necessarily abound with allusions and expressions unfamiliar to our ears, are more or less unsuitable for circulation among Scottish readers. Accordingly the last General Assembly authorised the Committee on Christian Life and Work to provide a Magazine of the kind now referred to, should they find it practicable; and after mature deliberation, it has been resolved to make the attempt. The aim of the Committee is to provide a Monthly Penny Magazine containing articles from writers eminent in various walks of literature, which may be read with profit by all classes of the community, and while future numbers will doubtless be more special in their contents, it is hoped that this one may be regarded as a fair specimen of what is to follow.

Then, with respect to the local supplement, it is obvious that such a method of communication may be turned to invaluable account in connection with our Parochial and Congregational work. As minister of the parish, I rejoice in such an opportunity of addressing you from time to time on any points to which it may appear necessary to direct particular attention, and I shall endeavour to use it always for edification. I trust it is scarcely necessary to add that the Magazine will not be political or sectarian in its character. True, it will claim to speak to you in the name of the Church of Scotland, one of its chief objects being to quicken and increase your interest in all that affects the well-being and prosperity of that Church. At no time was the Church of Scotland more deserving of the loyal support of all her children than she now is. There never was a period in her history when the "Truth as it is in Jesus” was more faithfully proclaimed from her pulpits; and never was she more earnest in her endeavours worthily to occupy the position which she holds as the National Church of this country. There is no reason, therefore, why we should be ashamed of the Church of our fathers. She has many faults, and it is our duty to do everything in our power to remedy these faults ; but no church is perfect, and it is for those who are clamouring for the destruction of the National Establishment to tell us what they are prepared to substitute for that admirable parochial system which has been for so many ages the glory of our land. There is a vast amount of misapprehension on the part of many with regard to the whole subject; as, for instance, that the endowments of the Established Church are paid out of the taxes of the country, the fact of course being that these endowments are almost wholly the provision which the piety of former generations has made for the supply of religious ordinances, especially among the poor and destitute. There are many points of this nature to which attention may sometimes be directed in these pages, but surely it is possible to vindicate our own Church without attacking others, and I sincerely hope and believe that no word will ever be found in this Magazine which is calculated to give pain or just ground of offence to the members of any Evangelical Church. Its purpose is not controversial, but moral and religious. The end contemplated, in short, is the promotion of Christian Life and Work in all the manifold forms of human activity and concern, and if at any time it may be deemed necessary to say aught in explanation or defence of the position of the Church of Scotland, it is hoped that this will invariably be done in the tone and spirit of Christian courtesy. Such, being the general objects of this new Magazine, let me commend it most warmly to all the parishioners of St. Stephen’s, whether they worship in the Parish Church or elsewhere. And may the blessing of God rest on this endeavour, and make it helpful in many ways for the diffusion of “pure and undefiled religion” in our own and other parishes.

And now a few words appropriate to the season.

This first number of our Parish Magazine will be put into your hands at the commencement of the new year, and it is only fitting that this additional channel of communication with the parishioners of St. Stephen’s should be opened, on my part, by the expression of those kindly greetings which are customary at this time. Most heartily do I wish you, dear friends, “a Good New Year,” and may God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, abundantly bless and prosper you and yours in all things temporal and spiritual. The year which has just closed has been, in many respects, a singularly disastrous one. How terrible have been the catastrophes which have happened by sea and land ! How manifold the anxieties and dangers which have agitated the public mind during the last twelve months ! What distress of nations with perplexity—men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth ! The calamities which have overtaken the commercial world in particular are, I suppose, unprecedented, and hundreds and thousands of our fellow-countrymen who were in comfort and affluence at the commencement of last year have been reduced, through no fault of their own, to a condition which it is most painful to contemplate. The depression of trade still continues, and it is to be feared that, as the winter advances, there will be an exceptional amount of suffering among the poorer classes. Most earnestly is it to be hoped that all who have the means of helping others may be found ready at this time to extend, not their sympathy only, but the succour of a practical benevolence and charity to all such as are in any need. “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and ye say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?" But while the circumstances of the moment are somewhat dark, even those who have been most directly afflicted by recent events can yet “sing of mercy as well as of judgment,” and all have abundant reason to "thank God, and take courage.” For some time back the Parish has been remarkably free from all infectious and epidemic disease. That is one great cause of thankfulness. And how many are the blessings which God has bestowed upon us as families and individuals in the various relationships of life I We can but say, “Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Nor would I have you to be unmindful at this season of the many tokens of the Lord’s favour which have been vouchsafed to us as a congregation entrusted with great and solemn responsibilities. Lately we commemorated, with becoming thankfulness, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Parish Church. Half a century is a long time in the history of a congregation as well as of individuals; and few now remain who were worshippers in the church on the opening day. But the work then commenced is still, thank God, in active operation. “Other men have laboured, and we have entered into their labours and I trust that we, in our turn, may be enabled to leave to others, unimpaired, the blessings we have ourselves inherited. To this end may God bless and prosper us during the coming year in every "good word and work;” forgiving all our sloth and faithlessness, and quickening us to greater zeal and diligence in His service. “Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord among us may have free course and be glorified.”

Norman Macleod.

Volume 1 January to December 1879 (pdf)

Volume 4 January to December 1882 (pdf)

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