The first connexional magazine was first published in 1778 as part of John Wesley's response to the continuing challenge of Calvinism by promulgating the gospel of 'universal redemption'. The first issue opened with a life of Arminius. The original intention was to include 'no news, no politics, no personal invective' and 'nothing offensive either to religion, decency, good nature or good manners'. As a handbook of spiritual pilgrimage each issue would have four parts: (1) writings that defended universal redemption; (2) biographies of holy persons; (3) letters and accounts of the experience of pious living persons and (4) poetry explaining and confirming essential doctrines. Wesley came to see its function increasingly as broader than Arminian propaganda and responded to the charge that it lacked variety by publishing his own sermons and lives of other Methodists beside his preachers. Engravings of many of the itinerants featured as frontispieces. Later issues contained condensations of travel books, accounts of supernatural phenomena and of marvels and 'providences', all designed to show God's presence and activity in the world.
After Wesley's death some of the contents became more miraculous and strange and in the 19th century included poetry not only by James Montgomery, but by Wordsworth, Scott and Byron. The title was changed to the Methodist Magazine in 1798 and in 1822 Jabez Bunting added the prefix 'Wesleyan' to distinguish it from those of the other branches of Methodism. In 1913 it became The Magazine [of the WM Church], reverting to the title Methodist Magazine at the time of the 1932 Union. On the formation of the Women's Fellowship in 1944 a section devoted to its interests was included. Articles became wider in scope and of more general interest. But in 1969 'the oldest magazine in the world' succumbed to a changing climate and Methodist decline.
Between 1811 and 1870 an 'abridged edition' (known as the 'sixpenny edition') was published. This became the City Road Magazine in 1871 and under the editorship of Benjamin Gregory developed into almost an independent magazine, but ceased publication in 1876.
The title Arminian Magazine was also used at first by the Bible Christians for their connexional magazine, launched in 1822.
The Arminian and WM Magazines are now available online at: www.britishonlinearchives.co.uk
Entry written by: EWD and GSW
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