With thanksgiving to the bountiful giver of every good and perfect gift, we greet the advent of another New Year, and pray that it may be attended with greater happiness to our readers than the last two of its predecessors have been. Our devout gratitude is due to our gracious and long-suffering God, that amid all the calamities, strife, conflicts and carnage of the last year, our lives have been preserved, and we have been favored so far beyond many of our fellows. But as our days are flying faster than the weaver’s shuttle, hurrying us on to that destiny which lies before us, it is meet that we should enter upon the developments of the new year with ardent prayer that God may guide, direct, support and protect us in and throughout all our subsequent pilgrimage. May the God of all grace so teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. And if we be risen with Christ, may we seek those things that are above, and may we set our affection on things above, and not on things on the earth. Here on earth we have no continuing city; we are but wayfaring and transient passengers, rapidly filling up the measure of our days, and hastening to the house appointed for all the living.
Who of us, in a retrospection of the past year, can feel satisfied that we have passed the time of our sojourning with that singleness of heart that becomes us, as the professed flowers of the meek and lowly Lamb of God? That we have used our example and influence in striving to allay the spirit of strife and discord with which all the elements around us are so fearfully surcharged? Who of us can feel assurance that the blessing of the peace-maker belongs to us? We may not have designedly fanned the flame of discord, or urged our fellow men to deeds of blood guiltiness, but have we exemplified in our own lives and deportment the spirit which breaths “Peace on earth and good will to men?” A most solemn obligation rests on us who profess the religion of him who, when he was reviled, reviled not again, lest we belie our holy profession, deny our Lord and Master, and earn for ourselves a classification with those who have gone in the way of Cain.
But whatever may have been our waywardness, our wanderings, God has graciously spared our unprofitable lives, and here we are now entering upon the incoming year as monuments of the forbearance and long suffering of our merciful God. May the sincere aspirations of our hearts arise in thankful strains of praise to God, and in supplication that he may grant us grace to keep us from evil, and that his Holy Spirit may guide us in the way of holiness, for his name’s sake.
In entering upon the labors of the new year, our patrons will naturally expect an expression from us in regard to our designs and our prospects. It is true paper and all other materials for printing are very high, and the general rise in the price of provisions, fuel, rents, clothing, and all the necessaries of life, will increase the expense of labor, so that the actual cost of publishing will be increased about fifty per cent above the average cost for the first twenty-nine years of our labor, and the depreciation of our paper currency below the standard value of gold, would justify a proportionate increase in our terms; but still, as we greatly desire to keep our terms of subscription within the limited means of the poor, we have undertaken to adhere to our old terms. Yet in doing so, we have presumed on the noble generosity of our more affluent brethren and friends, whose seasonable aid during the last year, saved us from loss, and enabled us to supply the paper to several hundred non-paying subscribers. There are scattered through the country, as our brethren are well aware, very many aged, infirmed, and poor, who take great delight in reading the “Signs of the Times”, but are really too poor to pay even One Dollar a year for the privilege: these, to the extent of our ability, we have always endeavored to supply gratuitously, but many of them during the last year have been supplied by the liberality of kind-hearted friends.
We were also substantially aided by the vigilance of our friends in procuring for us new paying subscribers. Our list during the past year was increased nearly one thousand. With an enlarged circulation the “Signs of the Times” would be remunerative at one dollar a year paid in advance, provided all were able and prompt to pay that amount, but to enable us to supply the needy we require not only an increase of paying patronage, but the generous contributions of those who are able and willing to assist.
We do not deem it expedient to offer any pledges to our subscribers in regard to the manner in which we intend, if spared, to conduct the publication, more than to say, the best and utmost of our ability shall be employed to make the “Signs of the Times” an interesting and edifying visitant; as the thirty-one years of constant devotion to the work will afford more reliable indemnity than any amount of verbal pledges we could make. For nearly one third of a century our subscribers have born with our infirmities, and kindly overlooked our failures and our imperfections. They have always stood by us, through evil and good report, and when we have been wantonly assailed by persecution, and the envenomed tongue of slander has been employed against us, they have never yet failed to come to our rescue. We are not aware of any essential change in our sentiments in regard to the doctrine, order or ordinances of the gospel since we first commenced our labors, thirty-one years ago. We do flatter ourself that so long a correspondence with very many thousands of our brethren in all parts of the country, embracing those of all ages, gifts and peculiarities has served to strengthen our faith, enlarge our understanding, and to greatly confirm us in the doctrine and practice by which the Old School Baptists are distinguished from every other religious profession on earth.
If our brethren and friends are looking for anything more or better in the forthcoming volume than they have had in the former volumes, we fear they will be disappointed, although there is abundant room for improvement, and so far as God shall give ability, our constant aim shall be, as it has hitherto been, to do the best we can.
Sensible as we are of short-coming on our part, we feel a pleasing consciousness that we have not shunned to declare all the counsel of God (so far as we were able) from any fear of consequences. We are certain that God himself will sustain his own eternal truth, and maintain his own most precious cause, against any and all opposition, and if we have been or shall be permitted to publish anything incompatible with God’s cause and his truth, the sooner it shall be exposed the better.
As we begin the new Volume we enter the sixty-fourth year of our natural life in the flesh: one-half of that time has been devoted to the publication of this paper. The allotted years of man are now drawing rapidly to their close. But a very few more years can be reasonably anticipated at the very most, and as we descend the steep declivity of mortal life, should we still be spared, our mental as well as physical powers must fail. Our readers will doubtless discover that the meridian with us has long been passed, and the declining of our sun, so far as our days on earth are concerned, indicates that it soon will set. But the Sun of Righteousness, with healing wings bears upward the hope of immortality, so that, although the outward man decays, the inward man is renewed day by day.
January 1, 1864.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 444 – 447