header image
Home arrow Historical Documents arrow Individual Histories arrow The Life of Elder Rees Prather
The Life of Elder Rees Prather PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rees Prather   


MY WORK AMONG THE CHURCHES

LEBANON
In 1889, while at our Association, there was a letter read that said, “They had no pastor.” This impressed me and I said to my wife that afternoon that I was sorry for that church that had no pastor. About one month after this I received a letter from Le­banon church, which informed me that they had called me as their pastor. This was the church that said they “had no pastor.” They also wrote a letter to my church (Emmaus), asking for my service, which was granted. I made my first visit to them in January 1890. They were all strangers to me, and I found they had been without a pastor for several years, and that there were but five members-two old brethren and three sisters. Neither of these brethren could read nor write their names. They were W. B. Rob­erts, Alex Piper, Eleanor Piper, Judie Tomme and a Sister Pratt. This was not very encouraging to a young preacher, but the dear Lord gave me strength and faith to press on.

At their first conference they agreed to call for my ordination. To this I objected. I told them they didn’t know whether they would be satisfied with me or not. Brother Roberts stuttered, and in a stuttering way said, “No we are satisfied that this is a ‘Peter’ and a ‘Cornelius’ case, and we are not willing to wait.” So there was a committee appointed to go to my church and ask for my ordination, the details of which are given elsewhere. There were several Baptists that had moved into the neighborhood. They put their letters in. The neighbors took an interest in the meetings and we soon had good congregations. That summer, Brother M. M. Tomme and his wife joined, and I baptized my first subjects. Others joined by letter. In a few years we were in the midst of a great revival.

About this time there was a family in the neighborhood that attended our meetings but were not members anywhere. The mother had talked to me and had expressed a desire to join the church, and we had expected her at our next meeting. But she didn’t join. Monday morning, when wife and I passed her home, the lady stopped us and said she was in so much trouble over the matter that she didn’t see how she could wait another month. I told her she need not wait, that I could get the church together in a little while, and we could meet at the creek and have it over with. She agreed. Her husband put his boy on a mule and sent him on one road. We went back to the brother’s home where we spent the night. The brother in surprise, asked, “What is the matter?” I told him I had to bury some one. He said, “Why, who is dead?” Then I explained. In a little while the whole neighborhood was on their way to the creek, so we met at the water, held conference, and the lady and her husband joined. I broke a thin ice, bap­tized them and they went on their way rejoicing, and wife and I went home.

About this time the members would meet at some brother’s or friend’s home every Saturday night of our meeting time, and have prayer service. The whole community attended these meetings and they were much enjoyed by all. These meetings continued for several years, and the fruits of these meetings were that the church enjoyed a great revival. Several of this brother and sisters’ chil­dren mentioned above, joined, together with a lot of others.

I was happy in my church work. The Lord blessed my labors. The neighborhood was moved by this revival and for several years the neighbors of the different orders attended our meetings regu­larly. The brethren and sisters of other churches visited us. The effects of this revival went out among the churches in general and we were much encouraged, both the church and myself. In a few years we had a membership of about fifty. The day I was ordain­ed, Elder W. M. Mitchell, who assisted in my ordination, gave me a private talk, in which he said, “The Lord knows how to deal with His young preachers. In the beginning of your ministry your churches will show much appreciation of you. When you get to the church they will meet you in the yard, take out your horse and show much love and esteem for you. And these conditions may last for some time. But the time will come when you must be TRIED, and walk through the dark valley of despair, for mem­bers will become carnal and neglect their meetings; and when you get to church some of them will be off to one side juggling, and you will have to take out your own horse. These will be dark days, and trouble will get in the church which will threaten her de­struction. This is the time when you must ‘bear hardness as a good soldier’.”

So, after about ten years I was brought face to face with these conditions. Trouble got in the church. One of the deacons told the church one day in conference that he didn’t understand the deacon’s work now as he once did, and if the church was willing for him to use the office as he flow understood it he would continue in the work, but if not he would resign the office. I will not give the details of this trouble more than to say it caused quite a confusion in the church. After so long a time the church accepted his resignation and he was taken out of the deacon’s of­fice. But the confusion didn’t stop there. A little later the church had to exclude the brother, and that made matters worse, for he had a lot of kin in the church. But it was not long till he came back, made an humble confession, was restored to the fellowship of the church and lived his confession till death. Then for a while we had a season of peace. But the church was badly crippled, for it was a sore trial for the church and myself.

This was my first trouble as a pastor, and I remembered the words of Elder Mitchell. During this trouble there was a pre­judiced feeling among some of the members which in later years broke out and caused more trouble. About this time we had sold our home and moved from that community. Wife and I got our letters and I resigned as pastor. Others got letters and those that were left lined up with some disorderly churches, and it was not long till they had no pastor and no services. These conditions lasted for several years. The house about rotted down, and at this time they had but five or six female members. But these sis­ters got together and by the help of some brethren passed resolu­tions confessing their wrongs and were restored to the fellowship of the churches in general. By the help of their neighbors they tore down the old house, builded a nice new meetinghouse and called a pastor. They have visitors from other churches and their services are greatly enjoyed. It has been my privilege to visit them sometimes and enjoy their sweet services. I also remember­ed the joy of former years, which is very precious to me now.
 
Some of their faithful members, who have passed over, are: Hiram Dennis, John Tomme, Sr., Alex Piper,  Wylie Roberts, F. R. Hendon, M. M. Tomme, J. M. Tomme, R. B. Holloway, Ellen Piper, Sister Pratt, Mary Tomme, Mandie Tomme, Will Ficklin and wife, Lizzie Hendon, L. P. Musick, Lizzie Carter and others that I don’t remember.


LAGRANGE CHURCH
I was never pastor of this church but hold a very dear rela­tionship to it. When I began my pastorate at Lebanon church, there were a good number of Baptists that lived in LaGrange. They invited me to preach for them on Friday nights on my way to Lebanon which I did. These meetings increased in interest, and were held at the private homes of the brethren, and some­times at a friend’s home. There was such good interest manifest­ed that the church at Lebanon thought it would be wise for them to extend an arm to LaGrange. This they did. There would be some of the brethren from the church that would meet me in La­Grange Friday nights. This move increased the interest in the meetings. We would hold conference in the regular form, receive members and transact such business as pertained to the members present. There were minutes made of this conference and were read at the church’s regular conference and put to record. After a few years of holding these meetings in private homes we were better provided for. We had a good friend that lived in South LaGrange. He, to promote the religious interest in that part of town, built a house of worship and it was open to all orders. He being a special friend of mine, said to me, “Prather, when that house is finished, I want you to preach the first sermon in it.” I don’t remember whether I did or not, but the house was turned over to us to hold our regular meetings. This was very accommo­dating, and increased the interest in the meetings.

Then we talked among the brethren and sisters about con­stituting a church, but a regular place of worship of their own was the question. My good friend then came to me and said, “Prather, if you Primitive Baptists will organize a church here, I will give you the land, and you pay me what the first cost of the house was and I will make you a deed to it.” This friend was not a member anywhere, but was of a Primitive Baptist family. The brethren then accepted the proposition and then we began to arrange for the constitution. Elder W. W. Rifler, who lived in Buena Vista, Ga., a special friend of mine, was visiting my churches that summer and we held several days’ meeting at LaGrange a few weeks be­fore the constitution. This added much to the interest in the constitution. He made a favorable impression on the people while on this trip. He said to me, “that some of the members had ex­pressed themselves to him, that they thought he would be the proper one for the church as pastor.” He also said he was im­pressed with the same, but that he would not consider the matter only by my approval for the reason that I had labored for about ten years among these Baptists and this church was the fruits of my labor. I told him that if he and the brethren felt that way about it I would be glad for him to serve them, as my time was full anyway.

The arrangements were now all made for the constitution to take place in September, 1902. As I am writing this from memory I have forgotten how many charter members there were, but there were enough to make a good start for a new church. The presby­tery were Elders A. B. Whatley, S. H. Whatley, W. W. Rifler and myself. After the constitution the church held their first con­ference. When they voted for a pastor they divided. I then ad­vised them to defer the matter, get together and agree on one man. They did so and at their next meeting they called Elder Rifler. The church held service the next day after the constitu­tion. Elder Rifler preached for them, a Sister Spikes joined and he baptized for them their first subject. Our friend who sold them the house attended our services, but when he heard that I was not the pastor he didn’t like it, and said that he “sold them the house for Prather to preach in and that he wouldn’t have let them have it for any one else.” He didn’t attend service any more. He built another house of worship on another street and the Methodist people occupied it and our friend attended services there. Elder Rifler made the church a good pastor and the church prospered for several years.

Elder A. B. Whatley was their next pastor. Their meetings were pleasant and they were making fine progress until the pro­gressive spirit got in among them which caused a division in the church. The Progressive side held the house. The old-line side bought a house in another part of town and were soon on their feet again. The Progressive side sold their old house and built them a nice house in another part of town. But neither side has ever prospered very much. The old-line side has had no pastor for several years and have had no service. When I sold my farm and moved to LaGrange I had the pleasure of buying the old church house and living in it while we lived there, for it had been converted into a dwelling house.

BEULAH CHURCH
With Elder A. B. Whatley and others, I attended the Beulah Association in 1889. I had been liberated by our church to exer­cise my gift. I was appointed to preach Saturday morning after Elder Whatley. At this time I had never occupied the stand while speaking, but I was told that I would now have to go in the stand. I was quite timid about it, but the dear Lord strengthened me and I was blessed to speak to the comfort of the dear saints, and to the glory of His great Name. In the congregation was Deacon T. M. Floyd, from Beulah church. He said while I was preaching he felt impressed that I would be their next pastor. Later, I re­ceived a latter from him, asking me to give them an appointment, which I did, and made my first visit to them the second Saturday arid Sunday in April. 1890. This was just one week after my ordi­nation. When I got there I found they had been without a pastor for several years and also had been in disorder, but at this time had purged themselves, but had some brethren under dealings because they wouldn’t submit to the church. They told me they would dispose of this matter before they made a call for a pastor. At their next meeting they took up the matter of these brethren and as they didn’t submit they had to exclude them. One of these brethren, after about a year, came back to the church, made an humble confession, lived an humble and faithful life and died in the full fellowship of his brethren. But when he suffered himself to be excluded, he sowed some seed that brought him the fruits of sorrow later. At this time he had a grown son that said to his mother, “I had thought of joining your church but since father had suffered himself excluded and has shown such a disregard for his church I can’t go now. If he can live out, I can too.” So this father reaped what he had sown, a bitter crop of sorrow that his example had led his son from home. Parents should be very careful as to the influence they have in their homes.

I will relate another incident that I read of. There was a lady that lived in a city. She was a society lady and belonged to the different clubs among the women. She would go to her clubs and they would play their games. This lady seemed to be a suc­cessful player and would bring home her winnings, a pair of hose or a pair of gloves. One day her son, who was about grown, came in and said, “Look here,” and displayed a ten-dollar bill. His mother asked, “Where did you get that?” “I won it in a game” he said. “What sort of a game?” asked his mother. “A game of cards,” was his reply. The mother’s hands went up in horror. “Why, my son, is it possible you are a gambler?” He said, “Mother, you taught me to gamble; have I not seen you bring home things you won at your games. Is it any more sin for me to win ten dollars at a game than it is for you to win a pair of gloves?” So that mother reaped what she had sown and was made to drink the bitter cup of sorrow that her example had made her Son a gambler. This is the fruit of sowing to the flesh. Mothers, sow good seed in your homes by good example.
We will give another incident related by our granddaughter, Mrs. Jimmie L. Hume: “I will give to the readers of grandpapa’s book the benefit of my experience in ‘sowing and reaping.’ In 1927, my grandfather and grandmother Prather celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. Grandpapa had prepared a program for the occasion. At the close of his program I asked to say a few words. I told how, when we were little tots, My little brother and I would go and spend the night at grandpapa’s. He always had family prayer, and my little brother would sit on one side and I on the other and listen to him read the Bible. Then we would all kneel down and grandpapa would pray. His reading and his humble prayers made a deep impression on my little mind. And that humble devotion in this family worship sowed seed in my little heart that bears the fruits of joy till this day. It has been thirty years ago and those prayers live with me till flow and are an inspiration to me; they will ever serve as a guide for me as I journey through life. I thank the Lord for a grandfather that gave us such Godly examples.” This is “Sowing to the spirit.”
Signed, MRS. JIMMIE L. HULME.

This is bread cast upon the waters that has returned and brought joy to our soul. Fathers, pray in your homes. But back to Beulah church.

After the exclusion of these brethren the church then called me as their pastor and sent a committee to my church to ask for my service. But before the time for our meeting, Elder Whatley, our pastor, and I were talking about the condition of this church, and he said, “that I being a young preacher he didn’t think it best for me to serve them in their condition.” I told him I was impressed with the church and if the Lord were in the matter He would take care of me, and bless the church. He said, “If you feel that way about it, you go and the Lord bless you and the church.” When the committee came the church granted their request. In those days it was a custom among all our churches when the church called a pastor they sent a committee to his church asking them to grant them his service. While I think it was just a matter of courtesy, I think it a good practice.

I heard Elder S. T. Bentley tell this incident once. He said there were several committees at his church to ask for his service, and when there was a motion made to grant the request, the dea­con said, “Brother Moderator, before you put that motion I want to ask these committees a question. You are here wanting us to give you the service of our ox. Are you taking care of him as the gospel requires?” When they had satisfied him in regards to the matter, he said, “I am willing to grant this request.” I think the church of the membership of the pastor has the right to inquire into this matter, and if he’s been neglected this church should be admonished to their duty. But the practice of this custom is not followed much now.

The church had a good membership and the community took some interest in it. We had visitors from other churches. There were some that put in their letters, some of the best citizens in that country joined by experience, and we soon had a fine and prosperous church. Our meetings were pleasant and much en­joyed by the church and the visitors.

After about five years I felt that my labors at this church were at an end and that I ought to give them up, but when I mentioned it to some of the brethren they said that they didn’t feel that way about it; that they felt my work was not done there. But this didn’t satisfy my mind, so I took the matter to the Lord, to show me what was my duty. About this time my wife dreamed that there was a small babe given to me to care for that was very lean in flesh, and under my care it gained flesh and soon was strong and healthy. Wife said she felt like this child was Beulah church. I then watched the development of this dream. At their next meeting there was a brother and his wife that lived some distance that came and joined. In this we rejoiced and took cour­age. This was their time also to call their pastor, and when the vote was counted it was unanimous for me. One of the deacons then said, “I want to see how many of this congregation want Brother Prather to serve us. All that do, stand up.” All the congregation stood up. I now began to see the meaning of my wife’s dream. The baptism was arranged for next morning, and another brother and his wife joined. And I had the biggest bap­tizing of my life. The weight of one of these brethren was about 250, and the other about 265; the sister about 180 pounds. I felt so thankful to the dear Lord for this unmistakable evidence in showing me my duty. Some of the best people of that community joined. Others, that lived some distance away came when there were other churches located nearer to them. We were now in the midst of a great revival.

At our annual meeting we had Elder W. W. Riner, from Buena Vista, Ga., with us. At this meeting quite a number joined, and we felt the power of the dear Lord among us. It seemed that everybody was happy. The meeting was good. The preaching was good. The singing was good and everybody felt good. Some of these that joined requested Elder Riner to baptize them. And for the first time in life I went in the water, arm in arm, with an­other Elder. Each one baptized his subjects. This privilege was very much enjoyed by both of us.

I served the church nineteen years, and during this time there was never a discord or any contention in their conferences. They always voted together. They loved their church and the service of the Lord. They appreciated their pastor and made his visits pleasant. The young people of the community held me in the highest esteem. Although it has been about fifty years ago those that are still in the neighborhood are my best friends, and we are always glad to see each other. The time of my pastorate at this church was nineteen years, and according to the records it was the longest period of any pastor in the history of the church. El­der V. D. Whatley served the next longest period, fourteen years.

I will relate an incident that the old deacon told me. He said, that during the time of Elder Whatley’s pastorate, he having plenty at home to live on, didn’t accept any contributions from the church, and the members became so fixed in the habit of not giving that when their next pastor came it was a very hard matter to make them believe that it was their duty to support their pastor; and the church and pastor suffered by this example. The wife of Elder Whatley told me that on his death bed he regretted very much that he didn’t teach the church her duty to her pastor.

After I gave up the church they had a pastor for a few years, but the membership became scattered and they ceased to have any service, but never did dissolve. I love to think of the good old days of long ago when I was young and happy in my church work with them.

Some prominent members who have passed to the eternal city: Deacons Tom Floyd, W. J. Britton, Jeptha Banks; Brethren W. B. Whatley, Billie Jackson; Sister Mary Ann Whitley, who join­ed when she was thirteen years old and was so small that they set her on the table to tell her experience: Sisters Rebekah Brit­ton, Julia Whatley, Susie Jackson, A. J. Whatley, Lucie Whitley, and some others I don’t remember.

HOPEFUL CHURCH
I was called to this church in October 1890. Heretofore they had the service of a regular pastor, who lived in the community, and was very strange in some of his ways. I served them four years. During this time there was nothing of special interest among them. The church lived in peace, our congregations were good, there were several baptized, some additions by letter and our meetings were much enjoyed.­ After I gave them up they called back their former pastor.

In later years when it was convenient, I would visit the church. One time I had an appointment thereon my way to an Association above Atlanta, Ga. At the close of the service there was a lady joined and requested that I baptize her, and as we couldn’t arrange to attend to it that afternoon we arranged to come back the next Sunday, as that was their regular meeting time, and do the baptizing. When I reached the community Saturday evening I was told that the pastor was not at meeting that day. I asked, what was the trouble? They said, “We don’t know, unless it is because they wanted you to do this baptizing.” I said that the pastor ought to be present. Next morning at the water we waited quite a while for him, when his daughter came and told us that he was not coming. I asked the brethren what they were going to do. They said, “You take charge of this service as you did when you were pastor of this church.” I did so and organized the serv­ice. When an opportunity was given for membership there was a young lady joined, Sister Lula Suddith. I baptized the two, then went to the house, held service and that afternoon went home. Later I learned that this old preacher never went to this church again, and the church called another pastor. Jealousy has wreck­ed the life of many preachers and at the same time wounded many innocent persons. How sad and cruel!

I was called to this church again in 1923, and have served up to this date. In this period of time there has been nothing of special interest that has taken place. In 1925 they held their one hundredth anniversary which was an occasion of much interest to the church and others, for the records show that there was never a division in the church. When the Baptists divided over the mission question in 1837, this church was unanimous in op­posing the new issue. They are now one hundred and fourteen years old.

During my pastorate up until now the church has lived In peace, but no ingathering. Some of the members have moved away and many of the faithful ones have passed over to the shores of eternity; there were Blackmon Thornton, Hearod Thornton, John Coleman, John Keen, Bob Jones, C. A. Thornton, (who died a few years ago nearly ninety-four years old.) Of the sisters there were Becky Hartley, M. J. Brogdon, P. Keen, Roxy Standley, Annie Stand­ley, and some others, that I don’t remember. The membership is now very small and haven’t the life and activity that they should have. As I am old and feeble they have an assistant pastor.

EMMAUS CHURCH
In the Fall of 1890 I was called to assist Elder Whatley, as pastor of this, my home church. In 1895 I was called as regular pastor and served two years. During this time there was but one thing worth noticing. There was one brother that was in the habit of drinking. The church had excluded him more than once and he stood excluded at this time. One day he was there and made a statement to the church, but the brethren hesitated to con­sider his confession. He then demanded a hearing from the church, but the church wouldn’t act on it. He then withdrew his ac­knowledgement and the matter was dismissed. Later he asked me why the church wouldn’t act on his acknowledgement, and I told him it was because he had never proved his repentance. He said, “How am I to do this?” I told him he must live sober long enough for his church and everybody else to believe he was a sober man. In such cases I think a church should withhold their for­giveness until she sees some fruits of repentance and righteous living. He died out of the church.

Some of the old members that were pillars in the church are Sirus Jenkins, Billie Hopson, C. K. Bass, T. P. Jenkins, Elder A. B. Whatley, Mary Whatley, Seth Williams, T. J. Denny, H. W. Ward, Frank Thornton, S. B. Denny, John Fuller, Elder Fuller. Of the Sisters, Della Keith, Mary Prather, Ida Denny, Bertha Keith, Sister Bass


FLAT SHOALS CHURCH
I began my pastorate at this church in October 1893. The church was in a badly scattered condition. A few years before this they had a very serious trouble, having excluded nineteen of their members, and those that were left were badly scattered. There were only about six or seven that attended church. One old brother said, “We are in an awful bad fix here,” and on ac­count of this trouble they had been without a pastor for several years. The neighborhood took no interest in the church. When they wrote me that they had called me, they said, “Please don’t say no.” This expression impressed me with the church. When the committee came to my church (Emmaus) to ask for my serv­ice, Elder Whatley, (our pastor) objected, and said “That the church had been in trouble for fifteen years to his knowledge, and as I was a young preacher, he didn’t think it best for me to serve a church in that condition.” But the church granted them my service. The committee was offended at what Elder Whatley said, and he made an apology to them for what was said. This did look like a bad job sure enough for a young preacher. But wonderful are the ways the Lord leads his servants. He gave me faith, courage and strength to press on and blessed me in my labor to gather together this badly scattered flock. Seeing the church’s condition and realizing my ignorance I went to the Lord for wis­dom and grace for this task; and I feel now that His unseen hand led me. In the Spring a lady joined, and this was the beginning of life in the church, and we were much encouraged. Our congre­gations were better and we had visitors from other churches, which gave much strength and courage to the church. There were others that joined, some by experience and others by letter. In a year or so we had a fine church and good congregations. About this time one Sunday, there was a lady who joined and I asked her to tell her experience, but a brother said, “She don’t want to join by experience; she wants to be restored.” She was one of the nineteen mentioned above that were excluded, and she was restored with much joy.

At the next meeting another was restored. This continued for several months, till all the nineteen were restored but two. One of these was a preacher who caused the trouble. One day he came to my home to talk with me about his restoration. I told him that the brethren had talked the matter over and were willing to re­store him as a member, but didn’t think it best to restore him as an Elder. He said this would be satisfactory with him, that he was willing to leave it with the church, and that he would be at our next meeting. He was at the next meeting but didn’t offer. But at the next he was there, and as he came forward, he with tears in his eyes said, “Brethren, I have done without water just as long as I can.” After this he lived a humble and faithful life till death. The old brother that was now not restored was the father of this preacher mentioned above and he was very deaf. It was said the day these nineteen were excluded this preacher said to his father, “When they vote you stand up when I do, so we will vote together.” So the father did as he was instructed, and voted to exclude himself. When they got home he asked, “What did they do there today?” The answer was “They turned you out for one thing.” The old father, being deaf, was led to his death by his son and didn’t know it. How sad. He never was restored.

About this time we had a great revival. Elder W. W. Riner, of Buena Vista, Ga., was visiting some of my churches. Our meet­ing at Flat Shoals began on Friday. Elder Riner did the preaching and it was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of Power.” Its in­fluence was felt in the church and congregation. On Sunday of this meeting there were several baptized, and at the close of the meeting that day there were several more that joined. We agreed to hold service the next day and to baptize these candidates. The next day others joined, and in this way the meeting went on for the most of that week. There were some of these candi­dates that wanted Elder Riner to baptize them, and on the last day of the meeting we both went in the water together, and each one baptized his subjects, both of us appreciating this privilege. That year there were twenty-three added to the church by baptism. During this revival there were several that had been excluded for many years that were restored. These were happy days for me and the church and also for the neighborhood.

I say again, how wonderful are the Lord’s ways. Who sent me to this valley of dry bones and blessed my labors with such a revival. Praise His Holy Name. I served them for fifteen years and about this time there was some dissatisfaction with some of the members. I then thought it best to resign, which I did. After they had been without a pastor for awhile they secured one. As the Progressive spirit was working among the Baptists in this country then it got into the church, and they divided. The Pro­gressives held the house. The old-line side held service in the com­munity for awhile, but as they had no house of worship they dis­solved and went to other churches. Since then this church has held her one hundredth anniversary. I was invited to attend this meeting as one of their former pastors but couldn’t arrange to do so. But I wrote them a letter and in the letter I reviewed my labor with the church. The letter was read so I was told, and when the records were read it showed that there were more added to the church during the time of my pastorate than any other pastor during the hundred years.

There are but two members there now that were there when I left them. The others have gone to their eternal home. It is a comfort to me to think of those happy days. During the fifteen years of service there were added to the church fifty-three by baptism, twenty-odd restored and a good many by letter. The names of some of their old faithful members are: E. Satterwhite, S. H. Satterwhite, Allen Davidson, C. Fuller, E. J. O’Neal, J. D. Hunter, John Hunter, John White, George Carter; Sisters Nan White, Nina O’Neal, M. Hart, and many others that I don’t re­member.

 

SARDIS CHURCH
I was called to this church in October 1896. It was small in membership, but they were in peace and our meetings were pleasant, though our congregations were small. In a few years the church suffered quite a loss; one of their most useful brethren died, but he had some noble children that were of great help in bearing the burdens of the church, although none of them were members. These children, together with their neighbors, were quite a help in building a new church house. After the house was finished the young people of the community organized a singing class at the church. They would sing at the church service which was quite a help to the church. They were also quite a help in building up our congregation. Later, one of the ladies of this class asked me if we had any objections to them putting an organ in the house to use in their singing. I told her to talk to the members, that I was not the one to say. She saw them and they gave their consent to use it during their singing. Soon the news went abroad that Sardis church had an organ. This provoked a great deal of criticism. One Elder in Alabama wrote me a very harsh letter in which he said, “I have read your experience from Babylon to Zion; now I reckon I will read your experience from the old Baptists to the Missionaries.” Well, I felt that such criti­cism was very unjust, unkind and unbrotherly. Of course I felt hurt over such unkindness, but I soon cooled off and wrote the Elder a kind letter in which I explained that the organ belonged to this singing class and not to the church. He wrote me an apology and the matter was dropped, but he never felt very kind toward me after this, and I had trouble with him later on.

In later years, when the Progressive spirit got among the Baptists and there was much said about the organ I told the brethren that for fear some complaint would be made by some Baptists, and it caused confusion, I thought it would be safer for them to ask this singing class to remove the organ, to which they agreed and the organ went out. Some years before this they had trouble with their deacon, and he and his wife were excluded. He and his family took no interest in the church at that time. But one day he and his wife came to the church, made a humble confession and were restored with much rejoicing. After this he was a faithful member and deacon. Our meetings were pleasant and our services sweet. But during the twenty-three years of my service there were but few added to the church. But these good old days are sweet to my memory now in my old age. Later years the members got scattered and the church dissolved.

During the time of my pastorate at this church we had an experience in a disciplinary matter that I never had anywhere else. There was a brother and his wife who joined. He told a very touching experience. He and his wife were received and I bap­tized them. I then learned of his former life. He had always lived in that community, and was a drunkard and profane, and his life was everything that was wicked and mean. I was told that he was a terror to the whole neighborhood. His boys also, were rough. Of course all this made the family undesirable. It was quite a surprise when he came to the church, but the Lord did a wonderful work with him. There was never a greater manifesta­tion of the sovereign grace of God than was in this man’s life. The neighbors said that his home that was once a place of drun­kenness, cursing and confusion was now a little heaven. The reading of the Bible, and prayer, had taken the place of his form­er life. The church never had a more humble and faithful mem­ber than they had in this brother. But after several years of this humble and faithful life, he was overtaken in a fault. He had some business matter with a Negro, and in the argument the Negro provoked him till he lost control of himself and said some bad words. The matter soon spread and got to the church members. One brother came to me with it and painted it up in very dark colors, and had already passed judgment on him from what he had heard. Turn him out was his verdict. I told him not to be too hasty, and let us hear the brother first. But I couldn’t change the decision. At the next meeting the brother was there and made a humble confession of his sin. It was satisfactory to the church, when he made his statement it was not as bad as reported. The law does not condemn a man before it hears him. The church was very willing to forgive him. But this brother that first brought the news to me refused to forgive. But the church’s decision stood. There was nothing said to this old brother; we thought maybe he would submit after he had time to think it over. So at the next meeting I had a talk with him, but he would not agree to forgive the brother, and was very stubborn about the matter, and the church had to exclude him, and he died out of the church. “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as in­iquity and idolatry.” This other old brother lived a most humble, devoted and useful life and died in the full fellowship of his brethren.

Some of the old faithful members who have passed away are J.T. Pearsons, Gus Myhand, B. D. Cook, Charlie Sands, John Pratt; Sister Pearsons, Sister Cook, Sister Terrell Pratt, Sister John Pratt, Sister Myhand and Sister Sands.


EPHESUS CHURCH
I was called to this church at the same time I was called to Sardis, and as my time was now all taken up with other churches I had to serve Sardis and Ephesus on the same Sunday. Ephesus was located in Alabama on one side of the river and Sardis was in Georgia on the other side. I would go to Sardis on Saturday, then to Ephesus for Sunday. Next time I would go to Ephesus on Saturday then to Sardis for Sunday. That gave each church one service a month. This was the best I could do, but such service was not worth much and is never satisfactory. I knew that I would have to give up one of these churches so I went to the Lord to direct me what to do. About this time wife had a dream. She saw in her dream two babies that were very lean and sickly. They were given to me to care for, and the one nearest me improved and did well. The other didn’t. Wife said that she was impressed that these two babies were Sardis and Ephesus churches, and the one that was nearest me was Sardis, so this decided the question. I served out that year, then they called another pastor and did well. After this I would visit them and enjoyed my visits. I will relate an incident that took place that year which will show some of the many provoking things in a preacher’s life.

Ephesus church was located about seven miles down the river from West Point. Sardis was about the same distance in Harris County. To keep from driving my horse this distance in the afternoon one day I put my horse in a livery stable in West Point till my return in the afternoon. I got on the little dummy train that traveled between West Point and Riverview, and went to Ephesus. We had a good meeting and I was feeling fine. When I got back to the livery stable I found the whole thing DRUNK, and part of my harness had been stolen. They were very unconcerned about getting my horse out and hitched up for me to get away.

Well, after our good meeting it was bad for me to be provoked, so that I got hot in the collar. They fixed up my harness with some strings and I got away. On my way, grinding over this provocation I thought of what the scriptures said, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Well, I began to think. I turned around in my buggy to see how high the sun was. The sun was about an hour high. I said, well, I don’t know whether I can make it or not, but I got cool by night.

One time while preaching at Beulah church I had occasion to say something about the many provocations that come in a preacher’s life, and said, sometimes after a good meeting I would come home feeling happy and good. As soon as I reached home I would meet the devil at the gate. Well, I left it there and thought no more about it. When I was over there again I learned that it was talked that wife and I didn’t get along. They had supposed that my wife had always met me at the gate, and she was the devil I referred to. Well, I had to explain that sometimes when I reached home the first thing I would see were the cows in the crop or the hogs were out, or the neighbor’s stock had made a raid in my crop, or maybe something else had gone wrong, and this would be the devil at my gate. Well, the joke was on my wife.

When I served Zion’s Rest church, I had an appointment at an old church several miles up the highway on Sunday afternoon. On my way up there one time, the roads were very muddy. I saw a car coming at a breakneck speed. I got out of his way as far as I could, but he hit a mud-hole and threw mud and water in my face and down my back, and daubed the windshield with mud till I couldn’t see a wink. What a mess I was in. I cleaned off the windshield so I could see to drive. I then drove to a brother’s home to clean up. Did I preach that afternoon? I say not. When I got cleaned up it was too late, and then I was not in any mood for preaching. When I got back and told about the scrape, wife said, “I know you were glad there was no one with you to hear what you said.” Well, I didn’t say anything bad, but I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to have heard what I THOUGHT. These are only a few of the provocations in our life. By these provocations we realize the weakness and corruption of the flesh, and how frail and sinful we are, and how easy we are to be tempted to do wrong. It also teaches us to have no confidence in the flesh and makes us feel more of our dependence upon our Lord. It brings us to Him in humble prayer, to deliver us from the flesh and give us grace to bear these trials. O, how wonderful is the mercy of our dear Lord to bear with us when we are so sinful, bless and praise His holy Name. Our depraved nature is such that it makes us so very unworthy of any favor from our dear Lord. Yet He bears with us and bestows His mercy upon us. “He is our refuge and strength.” and the Shepherd and Bishop of our soul. He feedeth me with the bread of heaven, and I drink from the fountain of His living waters, unworthy as I am.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 19 October 2006 )
< Previous   Next >

Purpose

The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.