What with all the screaming, screeching, caterwauling idiocies now polluting the air-waves, it may be that very few of our readers will be able to recall such a lovely old classic as "Birmingham Jail." But this was one of the popular and haunting folk songs of those olden, golden days of long ago. One statement in it keeps lingering in our memory — "twenty-one years, boys, is a mighty long time." That's how long this forlorn and dejected soul was supposed to remain in Birmingham jail. Whether he is out yet or not, we do not know. But with this issue, "twenty-one years" is precisely how long this soul (neither forlorn nor dejected) has been confined to the editorial chair of the Gospel Guardian. That adds up to well over one thousand issues — a thousand and fifty, or something like that — which have gone forth under our imprimatur. The editorial chair has gotten warm a time or two, and we would not have anyone think for a moment that every kick aimed at us, or every brickbat hurled in this direction has landed harmlessly off target. Some of them have been right on the button. But we've tried to shrug them off with all the nonchalance and bravado of the eight-year old footballer who, knocked half senseless with a flying tackle, wobbles to his feet with the stout assertion, "That didn't hurt a bit!"
But, all in all, they have been rich and happy years. Sad because of the division which has come to God's people, sad because of the weaknesses of long trusted friends who have succumbed to the popular tide, sad because of disappointment in men; but warm and happy because of the many thousands who have stood firm and unflinching in the face of terrible pressure. Such valiant souls would warm the heart and brighten the life of even the sourest of editors — among whom this particular scribe certainly does not number himself.
The writer of Ecclesiastes states that "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die. . ." We can have no choice at all as to that first "time" (being born), and usually no choice as to the "time to die," unless it be by our own hand. But we do have a full range of choices as to what we will do with the interval between. Life's brief day of consciousness is ours to use for good or evil; and what we do with it will determine forever the nature of our destiny. Twenty-one years is a pretty good chunk of that "interval between" in any man's life. The history of those years has now gone into the record, and we are content to leave it so. To say that we would live them over again exactly as we did live them would certainly be the word of a fool. What man has ever lived and looked back over twenty-one years of his life without being able to pick out any number of mistakes and wrong decisions! But no man is infallible — and editors are probably subject to more obvious fallibility than most men inasmuch as their words and deeds are so often of record, and it is easier to check on their boo-boos.
We find the future more exciting than the past, and more interesting. Let historians and archaeologists spend time in delving into what has happened in bye-gone days; we look to the future. And especially to the future of the Gospel Guardian and those principles for which it has contended through the years. Being relieved of the burden of business management, and able to devote more time to study and (hopefully) travel, we truly feel that the most fruitful and effective years for this editor (and for this journal) lie in the decade immediately before us. The 70's promise to be a time of immense change and development. Beyond all question, we believe this decade will witness a major cleavage within the Churches of Christ. The forces of liberalism and "ecumenism" are going to be powerfully at work — and the more conservative element within the Churches of Christ will react with renewed emphasis on the matter of Biblical authority and a demand that all things be done "according to the pattern." That may, or may not, bring about closer ties between these conservatives and that other great company of conservative "anti-Herald of Truth, anti-centralized control, anti-benevolent societies" brethren who have been rather ruthlessly pushed out of association with many of these congregations during these past twenty years. We do not know what will happen. It will be interesting to watch.
So, hats off to the days to come! This particular editorial is being written in Columbus, Mississippi, where we are in the midst of a fine gospel meeting. When you read it (the last week in the month) the editor will be somewhere deep in the heart of Old Mexico; but whether in season or out of season, whether in Mississippi or in Mexico, our course is set; the stars that shine from the nightly skies are not more true to their destined orbit than we hope to keep this Gospel Guardian true to its original commitment: "Dedicated to a Defense and Proclamation of New Testament Christianity."
— F. Y. T.