Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 27, 1961
NUMBER 50, PAGE 4,13b

Twelve Years


Twelve years is a sizeable portion of any man's life. Whether those years pass swiftly or slowly, whether they be fruitful or barren, happy or miserable, will depend not so much on outward circumstances as on inward attitudes. This issue of the Gospel Guardian completes Volume Twelve — twelve years of weekly publication. This is the length of time I have served as editor of the journal. Many of these weeks have passed with such swift movement as to leave one almost unbelieving when another mailing date rolls around; the passage has been what Shakespeare called "the inaudible and noiseless foot of time." Others have been in the tradition of Carlyle's exclamation, "And the roaring flood of existence rushes on forever similar, forever changing!"

To say that this twelve-year epoch has been "educational" would hardly cover the case. It has been simply overwhelming in some aspects. I have seen brethren behave toward one another in a way I would not have believed possible in an earlier and happier time; I have seen bitterness, littleness, self-seeking ambition, hypocrisy and cynicism on a staggering scale. So much, indeed, that it could easily wreck the faith of one whose feet were not firmly planted on the solid rock of divine truth. But I have also seen sacrifice, devotion to truth, and uncomplaining acceptance of mistreatment and injustice which made me bow my head in gratitude that God had permitted me to know, and be helped by, such noble saints. Editing a religious journal is not an easy task. It calls for soul-searching and for a willingness to accept the consequences of one's mistakes. I recall a remark of B. C. Goodpasture's in which he quoted David Lipscomb as having said that any man who could edit the Gospel Advocate for ten years without becoming a cynic would have to be a pretty good man — or some such sentiment to that effect.

I can certainly appreciate the feeling. Perhaps the temptation to cynicism is not quite so great in editing the Gospel Guardian as in editing the Advocate, but the problem is the same in kind, even if lesser in degree. One difference, of course, is that I can have confidence in, and a high regard for, the integrity and convictions of most of those with whom I have much dealings. Men do not openly associate themselves with the unpopular side of things for ulterior and base motives. But any man who is on the popular side of a question can never be sure whether his friends and supporters are truly sincere in their profession, or whether they have "jumped on the band-wagon," and have made their "confessions" with tongue in cheek and with an avaricious eye to advantage.

But, on the other hand, these are some attitudes among those who stand for the truth on the institutional issues which give me great concern. One is the general lack of missionary fervor (and I use "missionary" in an accommodative sense), the ineffective and lackadaisical attitude of so many brethren. Is it possible that we have become so terribly engrossed in trying to save the church from apostasy that we have forgotten that her greatest strength and glory is in an aggressive evangelism? I receive regularly perhaps half a hundred bulletins from all parts of the nation, and at irregular intervals see in a year's time probably twice that many more. I am depressed by noting how much space is given to "the issues" and relatively how little to other questions. (I feel that the Gospel Guardian itself is open to criticism on this very point. One of the hardest jobs I have, as an editor, is to get brethren to write on some other subject!)

Twelve years — and time moves on! Is it possible that it was only eleven years ago that brother G. H. P. Showalter wrote an editorial in the Firm Foundation objecting to something I had written, and referring to me in a rather condescending way as "young editor Yater?" Well, if he were in the land of the living now, I could assure him that the last eleven years have forever taken care of that "young editor" idea! Maybe someday I'll be "old brother Yater," but never, never again, "young editor Yater!"

When the church split over the instrumental music — missionary society question in the last century there was a considerable element of "middle of the road" sentiment "We deny that the mode of procedure characteristic of the average Bible school maintained by churches of Christ is the same as that followed in such denominational schools. Sectarian Sunday Schools have their boards, conventions, rules of government, superintendents, treasurers, etc., etc., concomitants conspicuous by their absence in the Bible schools among us. If isolated instances can be produced where brethren have adopted some of these sectarian tendencies, we will offer no defense. Apostasies have always occurred in every good work." (Gospel Advocate, December 21, 1944, page 830)

Most brethren today who endorse human organizations through which to do the work of benevolence would strongly oppose a similar arrangement through which to do the work c f edification. If it is unscriptural and wrong to build and maintain an organization characterized by boards and governed by them for edifying the body of Christ, by what rule of logic is it scriptural and right to build and maintain an organization or society characterized by the same officers and similar arrangements for doing the work of benevolence?

The issue today is basically the same as the issue was in 1849. The issue then involved the scripturalness or the unscripturalness of boards and conclaves through which to do the work of the church; the issue today involves the matter of whether or not it is scriptural to form boards and conclaves through which to do the work of benevolence. Then the question centered around evangelism; today the question centers around benevolence, BUT THE ISSUE IS THE SAME in principle. It is therefore lamentable, almost unbelievable, and laughable, if it were not so serious, that brethren among us who affect to see grave danger in Missionary Societies scruple not to form similar organizations through which to do the work of benevolence!