In the year 1891 the population of the world was less than one quarter of its present size. The paper clip and Coca-Cola had not been invented, and a further four years would elapse before the German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen began to develop the scientific use of X-rays. In the United States (there were only 44 of them then) Thomas Edison had his first success with recording motion pictures whilst, in Europe, great excitement was caused by the first telephone link between London and Paris.
Even as many of the things that are commonplace today were emerging at the end of the 19th century, a 38-year old preacher in Kilmarnock, Scotland, printed the first edition of the 'Believer's Magazine'. John Ritchie and his wife Jeannie had moved to Kilmarnock from Dalmellington some 12 years earlier, and his publishing business was beginning to flourish. John Ritchie edited the Magazine for nearly 40 years and, when he was called home to be with his Lord in 1930, Mr J Charleton Steen took over. His contribution was all too brief, the Lord calling him home after less than two years in the role. Another well-known and widely respected teacher of the Word, Mr William Hoste, assumed responsibility for the Believer's Magazine for the next seven years. The storm clouds that heralded the outbreak of the Second World War were gathering when Mr Andrew Borland became Editor in 1938, a task he fulfilled with great ability until 1974. Apart from Mr Ritchie himself, no other Editor has been at the helm of the Magazine for so long a time. Other notable men, known for their godly service and knowledge of the Scriptures, then helped on a committee basis for the next 24 years. They were Jim Anderson, Jim Baker, Robert McPike, Robert Rae, Fred Stallan, Keith Stapley and Tom Wilson. In 1998 the editorship passed to John Grant who, for the next 17 years, somehow managed to skilfully edit the Magazine with its unremitting frequency of publication, and also maintain a heavy schedule of ministry at home and abroad. We must not forget that, behind the men who have diligently laboured with editorial responsibility over the years, there are the wives and families that have made sacrifices, and the brethren who have contributed wholesome material for the spiritual wellbeing of the Lord's people. To all these dear saints we owe a great debt of thanks.
Consideration of the rich heritage of the Believer's Magazine causes a deep sense of privilege and responsibility to weigh upon the new Editor. Perhaps readers anticipate immediate changes in format or content of the Magazine. After all, we live in a fast-changing world where the only constant is change. But think back over the history that the Believer's Magazine has 'seen'. Has there not been continuous change in the world, politically, morally, spiritually, for the whole of the Magazine's 125 years? And against that backdrop of change and deterioration, has not this publication continued to provide, faithfully and consistently, a regular diet of wholesome, Christ-exalting ministry to cheer and encourage the redeemed of the Lord? Some changes in presentation may well evolve, of course, and material from new contributors will complement that which, thankfully, will continue to come from dear brethren who have supported the work for a long time. Innovation will not be ignored, but conservation will be paramount in the Editor's mind. The principle can be applied as much to written ministry as to oral teaching: "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim 2.2). Men come and go, but what they hold in trust must always remain "the same".
When the Believer's Magazine reached its centenary edition, brother Tom Wilson wrote, "Perhaps the natural man would have concluded that the signs did not augur well for John Ritchie's unpretentious paper. But God blessed it to many and through many. It was to pursue a straight course, eschewing both a populist approach and a sectarian bias. It was to encourage interest in the Lord's work, including ministry for both young and mature in the faith, and pay respect to humble saints on their home call". With God's gracious help, and your prayerful support, that "straight course" will be maintained.