Fifty years ago, in 1966, in the centennial issue of CHRISTIAN STANDARD, the editor reprinted Easter editorials from each of the nine editors who had served up to that time.
This is one of those editorials. It was written by Isaac Errett, CHRISTIAN STANDARD’s founding editor, and one of 11 editors who have served the magazine during its 150-year history. This editorial appeared in the April 16, 1881, issue.
By Isaac Errett
In the church of Christ the resurrection is a weekly, not an annual, festival. The soul’s interest in it is too vital to allow it to be pushed away into a yearly observance. The demands of the gratitude and joy of ransomed souls could be met with nothing less than the sanctification of the first day of the week as a day of holy and joyful memories—a sanctification demanded by grateful and trusting hearts rather than by any statute law. Hence on the first day of the week the disciples came together to break bread (Acts 20:7), combining the sacred memories of death and resurrection.
Nothing is more beautiful in the history of the New Testament churches than this cheerful outflow of gratitude and love, in response, not to the thunders of law at Mount Sinai, but to the redeeming love that speaks from Mount Zion—the response of the heart to the beams of heavenly grace, like that of the rose that opens its beauties and yields its fragrance to the rising sun. Paul (1 Corinthians 15), in stating the gospel facts—the death of Christ for our sin, His burial, and His resurrection from the dead—says, “by which ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you.” The memory of the death of Jesus for our sins and His glorious triumph over the powers of darkness in His resurrection, feeds the saved soul with the inspirations constantly needed to preserve it from reenslavement to time and sense, and to give it victory over the world, the flesh and the devil.
The first day of the week, therefore—the day of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead—is a day to be sacredly observed by all Christians, as it was observed by the first churches, under the guidance of the apostles. Nor is there anything objectionable in emphasizing the annual observance of the day, in the beautiful springtime, when the desolations of winter give place to birdsongs and flowers, and a new outburst of life that thrills heaven and earth with a new joy.
Not philosophy, but fact
Most of us have but a faint idea of the despair that had settled upon the race, as to a future life, at the time that Jesus came and “brought life and immorality to light.” The multitudes in heathen lands, it is true, were still under the spell of superstitions that gave some dream of another life; but neither the superstitions nor the hopes they authorized were of an elevated character. And the more intelligent classes, knowing that these were superstitions, and having nothing to take their place, while they apparently countenanced what they knew to be false for the sake of maintaining a hold on the people, secretly scoffed at the ignorance and folly of the multitude, and gave themselves up to a creed of despair. Philosophers, indeed, sought to reach a conviction of the immorality of the soul by processes of reasoning; but at best they could only persuade themselves that it might be—and even this poor comfort was reached by philosophizings which the masses of the people could not understand.
The future life, in the gospel, rests on an entirely different basis. It is not abstract reasoning—it is demonstration. It rests not on assumed and disputable premises, but on a grand fact. Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead, thus demonstrating the existence of a power stronger than death. This fact, even when standing alone, outweighs in value all the reasonings of philosophers; but when viewed in connection with all that went before in the life and teaching of Jesus—His wondrous works, His personal power over death, the preannouncement of His death and resurrection—as the climax of a succession of wonders, the consummation of a previously declared purpose, the crucial test of a divine mission which, failing of this achievement, must have failed to prove itself divine, it is a beautiful, harmonious, triumphant completion of the series of miracles of grace and power by which He is declared to be the Son of God, the resurrection and the life.
All men are not capable of philosophical reasoning. Indeed, very few men can be said to be successful in this line. But all men are capable of grasping facts, and of weighing the evidence of which they rest, and of seizing the conclusions that legitimately spring from them. If Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among the people by miracles and wonders and signs which God did by Him, did really rise from the dead, then death is conquered, and there is a power on which mortal men may rely for redemption from the grave. We received by faith an assurance which mere reason was never able to reach, and by faith we follow the glorious Conqueror of death in His ascension to the highest heavens, and “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
Death is no more our dread. Despair no longer gathers in blackness over the graves of our beloved ones. The bright angel rolls away the stone from every sepulcher, and from the depths of death’s dark empire, where unbroken silence had reigned for ages, breaks forth a song of exultation that thrills to heaven, and which, caught up by the believer, becomes the song of his pilgrimage through the desert of mortal life until he reaches the heavenly home which his risen Lord has gone to prepare.
The place of our participation
So vital a fact was the resurrection of Jesus, that every follower of His, at the very threshold of his new life, was called to express his faith in it by submission to an ordinance in which he identified himself with Jesus as a risen Saviour. “We are buried with him by immersion into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” “Buried with him in immersion, wherein ye also are risen with him, through faith in the operation of God, who raised him from the dead.” If there were no other reason to protest against the corruption and perversion of this ordinance by the substitution of sprinkling and pouring for immersion, it would be sufficient reason for earnest and perpetual protest, that it destroys the beautiful symbol, hushes the voice of this divine witness to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and conceals the sublime import of this act of consecration to the service of God.
Let us be glad and rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Let us not sorrow for our dead as those who have no hope. Let us realize that we are strangers and pilgrims in this world—that our citizenship is in heaven. Resting in the power of God and the truth of His promises, let us drink in the inspiration of heavenly hope, and look up with ever increasing longings for our heavenly home. And let the “power of the resurrection” of Christ, along with “the fellowship of his sufferings,” enter into our daily experience, that, being risen with Christ, we may “set our affections on things above,” and “lay hold of eternal life.”
Isaac Errett, CHRISTIAN STANDARD’s founding editor, served in that position from 1866 until his death in 1888.