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Tuesday January 1 2019

Looking Back: Life and Work, No. 1

Archibald Charteris's opening remarks in the first Life and Work, published in January 1879.


FOR several years the Committee on Christian Life and Work has had to report to the General Assembly the strongly expressed desire of many ministers for some Magazine which they could circulate in name of the Church of Scotland in their parishes. In May 1878 the Assembly authorised the Committee to publish such a Magazine if they should find it practicable. The present number is an attempt to begin a Scottish Parish Magazine.

There are, undoubtedly, many magazines in circulation, but there is none occupying the place for which this is designed. It needs only a little thought to make one see plainly that among the many penny magazines published, there is not one likely to command a wide circulation among Scottish people. They are all addressed to Englishmen; they are full of reference to English manners and customs, which make them very nearly unintelligible to the untravelled Scot. What can an ordinary Scotchman make of allusions to Epiphany and Advent, commendations of a child who has learnt the Collect of the Day, casual mention of the chancel, the offertory, the surplice, or even the Litany? All such terms, familiar to every English reader, are Hebrew and Greek to many of our countrymen; and even to those who do understand them, they speak of the “Life and Work” of another country, and not of that of our own.

It is difficult for any one who has not read these English popular periodicals from a purely Scottish point of view, to understand either how unintelligible they are, and how unsuitable for wide circulation on this side of the Tweed, or how necessary it is that we in Scotland should have a distinctively Scottish Magazine. Many ministers in Scotland, feeling the need of a medium through which to address their people systematically, have been fain to borrow an English Magazine, and to circulate it in their parishes, with a local supplement, chronicling the parish history of the month. Because of the Supplement, it has been well received wherever it has been tried, showing the great need of such a channel of communication and sympathy. But the ministers who have tried it are those who – just because they have tried it – are most impressed with the unsuitableness to us of the Anglican Magazines, and it is they who, more than any others, press the Committee to speak with a Scottish tongue to their countrymen.

Some have feared that such a Magazine as this might encroach on the sphere of the Missionary Record, but the immense majority who have expressed an opinion believe that such a fear is groundless. The Missionary Record is the chronicle in detail of the work which the Church of Scotland is doing through its Committees; and without such a chronicle, no church can exist. But our Magazine, apart from all Mission Committees, seeks to represent the influence of Christian life in all the manifold forms of human activity and concern. The proposed title, “LIFE AND WORK,” intimates what is aimed at.

The present number (though scarcely so special in its contents as we hope its successors may be) shows in some degree how we propose to proceed. The contributors have come to our help mainly because of their sympathy with the attempt to speak to the people of every parish in Scotland. To the eminent writers who have in the kindest way put their gifts of fiction at our disposal, we owe special thanks. To our friends who furnish the other papers we are indebted for their ready response to our call. In subsequent numbers we hope to have sketches of the lives of great missionaries; notices of famous workers at home and abroad; descriptions of country life which may be news to the dwellers in the heart of great cities; and facts in city life which may wake sympathy in those who live far from the smoke and hurry of the town.

It may seem that we aim at far more than a penny Magazine can do; but we believe that if only we are welcomed and supported, our effort may be the means of doing much good. The Christian Church has probably never yet made full use of the mighty powers of the Press; certainly the Church of Scotland never has. The Press has made a revolution in every family in the land; it is, for good or ill, teaching every responsible member of the community every day. But the Christian Church is only beginning to see what could be done with its help.

It is, however, undeniably beginning. Reports of congregational work, and pastoral letters by ministers, are becoming more common every year; and how much this use of the printing-press does to bind congregations together, and to deepen their shared interest in the work of Christ both among themselves and throughout the world, only those who have actually tried it can tell. A wider use of the great power thus lying to our hand will cause an incalculable advance in deeds of love and charity; and to promote it is one object we have in offering ourselves.

We cannot go on without a circulation of 35,000 at least; and apart from all ordinary means of circulation, our main trust is in the personal efforts of ministers, through their parochial organisations. But landowners, farmers, owners of factories, and other employers of labour, and all who are interested in the welfare of their neighbours, are invited to help us in what we believe to be a Christian enterprise. We have been greatly encouraged by receiving, in reply to the circular we sent out, orders for 25,000 copies before even going to press.

We shall doubtless have to learn and to unlearn much, as experience shall teach us, but we hope to keep before us the one aim, to promote pure and undefiled religion in our beloved land. And we expect the success which we shall do our best to deserve; looking to Him who, we believe, is sending us.


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