« AnteriorContinuar »
THOUGHTS AT STARTING.
Ir has been smartly said by one of the ablest of our moralists, that men seldom talk about themselves with success; for, when they blame themselves, far more is believed than is expressed, and when they praise themselves, much less. There are comparatively few who do not need to ponder this remark frequently, and who would not make themselves greatly more agreeable to those around them by acting on the advice it suggests. We shall try to profit by the moralist's shrewd hint, and make as sparing a use as possible of the first personal pronoun in conducting the periodical which we now send into the world, with warm hopes that it shall soon occupy a high place in public esteem, and which we beg, very humbly, and very affectionately, to dedicate to all good people everywhere.' We shall endeavour not to forget the advice to talk little about ourselves; and so cordially do we approve of it, that, even on this, our introductory page, we shall refrain from violating it. It is right, however, that we speak definitely as to the motives which have induced us to come into the field-the richly clad field, we are happy to think, of cheap weekly literature; and as to our plans, principles, and prospects.
allusion to the Christian religion. We could name many able treatises on physical science, for example, many exquisite poems, many charming romances, which we reckon among the choicest of our intellectual treasures; and yet no reader could infer from these that any revelation from heaven had ever been imparted to man. There are numberless works, worth far more than their weight in gold, on whose pages you will look in vain for any recognition of that system of truth to which we are indebted for our richest comforts and dearest hopes.
There is a place as well as a time for every thing. And we would not have a word to say to any literary or scientific journalist-far less would we cherish a hard thought respecting him-although, in discussing a great many topics, there should not be even the most distant allusion to Christianity-its great motives, its pure precepts, its sublime discoveries. There are some departments, however, from which it cannot, without infinite hazard, be shut out. There are certain provinces from which it will not do to banish sacred truth. There are themes, in unfolding which, if you be studiously silent about the light from on high, you virtually scorn it. The reader will get at our meaning best, should we advert for a moment to the tactics of the class of writers we have now in view, and who, we are willing to believe, are not fully aware of the amount of mischief they are doing. They do not assail Christianity; they say nothing against its Author, and that remedial scheme he came to our world to execute. But search page after page of their writings, even when religion, as they employ that term, happens to be their theme, and you will fail to discover proof of its peculiar truths having been uttered in their hearing. They descant on this and that scheme for regenerating our world, dispelling its ignorance, curing its vices, diminishing its wretchedness, but not a whisper all the while about that gospel which has done and is still doing so much to elevate and bless mankind. They delineate characters of exquisite virtue; they describe them in circumstances the most affecting and trying-in sorrow, in sickness, and even in the prospect of quitting the present scene-as acting with purity, dignity, and grace-and all this without the slightest advertence to that faith which Christianity enjoins, and those hopes it inspires. They do not rudely inveigh against the truths of Scripture; they quietly leave you to infer that they are altogether unnecessary-that society and individuals may safely dispense with them. This is the scepticism
We do not hesitate, then, to say, that HOGG'S WEEKLY INSTRUCTOR Originated in a motive purer and better than a thirst for distinction, or a desire to make money. None of these things ought to be despised; no right-thinking person will despise them; still, nameless contributions in a cheap weekly miscellany are not likely to gain for any one that name which makes an epitaph; and as for the more marketable commodity, we quite assent to the wellknown adage of Sir Walter Scott, that literature, though it may be a good staff, is a bad crutch. The INSTRUCTOR, though not strictly religious in its character, had its origin, we are not ashamed to confess, in religious feelings and motives. It can scarcely have escaped the notice of any discerning person, that a very large proportion of the periodical literature of the day is characterized, if not by a decided enmity to the Christian faith, at least by a cold and obstinate silence respecting it,-a silence which, when maintained in contributions upon a certain class of subjects, we cannot but regard as indicating a suspicion of the divinity of its claims-may we not say, a sullen contempt for them? We are anxious not to be misunderstood. We would fain give no uncertain sound. We wish to speak guardedly but firmly. It would say little for our candour, not to mention our-negative, it will be perceived, rather than positive taste, did we read without relish a discourse on a purely in its character-which, we apprehend, is doing sad literary or scientific subject, or call its writer an unbe- damage among us. It has not a few of the charms liever, merely because it should happen to contain no of literature, philosophy, and poetry, about it; and
we dread it, we own, far inore than the subtle sophistries | ning's fiery wing.' There is Physiology, unfolding to us
of Hume, or the bold thrusts of Voltaire. It is all very well to talk of the 'cross' as now redeemed from reproach, as the ensign the nations love, as adorning the neck of beauty, emblazoned on the banners of battle, and stuck on the sceptres and crowns of royalty; with these outward tokens of respect and veneration there is still such a thing as being ashamed of it. And we deem it no violation of charity to say, that those writers are guilty in this respect, who, in discussing topics such as we have alluded to, treat Christianity as if it had yet to begin its career of triumphs in our world. The parties who are to take charge of the INSTRUCTOR wish it then to be distinctly understood, that they have no sympathy with those who thus keep the Christian revelation studiously in the back ground, or rather coldly beckon it to the door. They feel that its claims to the respect and gratitude of mankind are too strong, that its influence is too great, and its sacred character too well attested, to admit of its being treated as a nonentity. They believe it propounds obligations to virtuous conduct, higher and more lasting than mere temporal convenience or worldly respectability; and to these they shall never be ashamed to appeal. In a word, without encroaching upon the ground already occupied by strictly religious publications, and making theirs a vehicle for theological discussion-a thing never contemplatedthey intend that there shall be such a recognition of Christianity-its precepts, its hopes, its motives, and discoveries as will show that they regard it as the only safe and perfect rule of belief and action. This deference to the 'true Light,' they venture to predict, will not make their pages, in any respect whatever, less attractive.
Having spoken thus freely, and we hope intelligibly, respecting the principles upon which this new candidate for public favour is to be conducted, we may, in a few sentences, indicate the general character of its contents. | It were easy to draw up a showy bill of fare, and to promise a great variety of sumptuous dishes, even though the means of producing them should not be at hand; but we will not mock our friends in this way. We shall take care not to promise more than we think we shall be able to perform, but shall endeavour rather to let our deeds surpass our words.
the structure of the inferior tribes, and the mechanism of our own frame, so fearfully and wonderfully made.' There is Metaphysics, with its keen and searching glance into the laws that regulate our thoughts and affections. There are these and kindred themes, whose tendency is to refine the taste, exalt the imagination, and, by presenting us with proofs of the wisdom and love of the Creator, deepen the piety of the spirit. To whatever extent these shall be discussed in our pages, we trust we shall not forget that humility which so well becomes man when investigating the works of his Maker, which Newton so beautifully displayed when he compared himself to a boy picking up shells by the great ocean Truth;' or when-more touching still perhaps-speaking of a gifted cotemporary, who had gone to an early grave, he remarked: If that young man had lived we should have known something.'
Literature has charms more inviting to many minds than science. It is wrong to exalt the former at the expense of the latter. We concur in the observation of a great poet, lately gone to his rest, that none but maniacs would propose to tear down any of the branches of the tree of knowledge, though they may not bear fruit to their taste or garlands to their honour. 'Scaliger,' he adds, 'has incurred only the contempt of posterity by his absurd diatribe against the usefulness of mathematics; and neither Swift nor Johnson have much raised themselves in the estimation of wise men by having undervalued the natural sciences. For it is clear that those men were misled by overweening vanity in their own pursuits, and by shallowness in those pursuits which they decried, thus bringing into monstrous conjunction the pride of learning with the envy of ignorance.' We sincerely respect both tastes-that for physical science and that for literature also: we would earnestly persuade our readers to cultivate both; we shall do what we can to gratify both. In attempting this, attention will be paid to ancient as well as modern literature; to the productions of the most eminent authors in other lands as well as to those of our own countrymen. Their peculiarities of thought and style; the influence their writings have exerted, especially in retarding or accelerating the improveAs may be inferred from the nature of the work, we do ment of mankind; their tendency, whether vicious or not intend to treat our readers to lengthened and elabo- virtuous; these and similar topics will pass in review rate dissertations on scientific subjects. We would fain before us, and prove, we hope, both agreeable and inhave our papers of such length, and of such a character, structive to our readers. It may be proper to add, that that while the busy shall find sufficient time to read we contemplate a series of sketches, of some extent, rethem, the idle may muster patience. Extended treatises sembling that of Thomas Babington Macaulay in the upon any topic, but especially one demanding severe thought present number. That series shall embrace exclusively and patient inquiry, would, it is obvious, frustrate this those whose writings have influenced to a considerable design completely. Still, a short chapter will be devoted degree the sentiments and tastes either of their cotemnow and then to some particular branch of science-some poraries or of posterity. We are not unaware of the of its interesting facts or latest discoveries, which our difficulty of this undertaking; of the fact that there is readers, we are sure, will find not only instructive but scarcely anything in the wide range of literature harder entertaining. Here, we need scarcely tell them, the field to execute, at least in a style that will please the inis both beautiful and boundless. There is Astronomy, telligent and tasteful. May we venture to hope that with its far off worlds. There is Geology, every day in this matter we have counted the cost, and that to bringing up fresh wonders from the depths of the mine our Portrait Gallery, as picture after picture is proor the caves of the deep. There is Chemistry, acquaint- duced, our kind friends will eagerly repair, in the confiing us with the various elements and properties of ma- dence of finding something fresh and graphic? We terial bodies. There is Botany, with its wild flowers and flatter ourselves there are among our enlisted contriits gardens of beauty and bloom. There is Electricity, butors some one or two who can handle the brush in this showing us how, with Franklin, we may grasp the light-line with no ordinary power; whose pictures have already