These two sermons by J. Frank Norris are among his most popular and he reprinted them many times. Delivered in September, 1930, these are Norris’ accounts of the trials and victories of his first twenty-one years as pastor at First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas. They are great examples of Norris’ pulpit presence, his combative spirit, and his every-man appeal. – MBG
My Twenty-one Years in Fort Worth
or Inside the Cup – No. 1
Sermon by Dr. J. Frank Norris Sunday Night, September 14, 1930
I want to call your attention to one verse of Scripture. Just take it and let it stick in your mind – Paul’s second letter to Timothy, fourth chapter and seventh verse “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
There are three great statements in that text, two of them I would like to notice:
“I have fought a good fight. I have kept the faith.”
I went through a certain city some time ago, and a friend of mine was pastor in one of the big churches of the city and I got him on the telephone, and I thought I would have some fun – I love to have fun with folks – the Lord had a streak of humor in Him, or He wouldn’t have made a lot of folks like us. So I called him up and changed my voice – now I can change my voice until I can actually fool my wife, I have tried it. I called him up and I will say his name was Jones, that wasn’t it – and I said, “Is this the Rev. Dr. Jones, pastor of the First Baptist Church?'”
“Yes, sir,” he said in a deep bass voice.
I said, “Well, I am a reporter from the New York Times and I want to interview you concerning the prohibition question and what the conditions are in this part of the country.”
“All right,” he said, in the same deep voice.
“What time will it suit you for me to call on you,” I said.
“WELL,” he said, “LET ME SEE MY PROGRAM FOR THE DAY AND I WILL LET YOU KNOW.”
Then he told me he would see me about 11 o’clock.
His name happens to be John, and I said, “Hello, John, where on earth did you get that voice?”
And he said in his natural voice – “Hello Frank, when did you get to town?” (Laughter.)
Well, you know we are all just human beings, all made out of the same Henry Clay, minus the Henry.
I have a little motto that hangs on my wall that I often look at, and it is a wonderful motto, lots of good sense in it. I don’t think much of what Kipling wrote, but this is, I think, his best. As I look back on these twenty-one years with all the shadows and all the sunshine – which I will go into a little of tonight, I am reminded of this – (Dr. Norris repeats from memory) :
"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies;
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue
Or walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
(And I think this is the climax:)
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run.
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!"
There is the rub. It is a hard thing to do, but it will pay.
You know as we grow older in life it doesn’t make any difference what experiences we may have – listen, I say it doesn’t make any difference what darkness, what depths, what floods, what flames we go through – let me emphasize it, it doesn’t make any difference what befalls us, it is not the avoiding of these things that counts, but how to meet them-that’s the rub!
There isn’t a man or woman in the meridian of life who have not met things you didn’t expect, and some you expected you didn’t have, and some you have had you didn’t look for. What are you going to do? One reason why there is so much unhappiness in married life is because you haven’t been willing to meet the inevitable and adjust yourself to each other.
I want to talk on what may seem like a little unpardonable tonight – one thing I like about my wife – there are many things I like, but I say this to her glory – she is not present tonight, she is attending to the other end of the firm. Sometimes people say to her, I wish you would get your husband to do so and so.” She answers, “You get him to do it.” Not that my wife doesn’t influence me, she does lots of times, but she never lets me find it out. I don’t charge you women anything for that, and so often when I submit to her a certain course, she won’t pass on it. I look at her and I try to find out what she thinks of it. I said to her last week, “Sweetheart, I am going to take the lid off some of the past Sunday night.”
“You are running it, I’m not,” she left me there. Finally she said, “However, I am willing to risk your judgment on it.” I had a hunch she approved.
Sometimes you hear people say, “I like Norris but he is always stirring up trouble.” Did you ever hear anybody say that? (Laughter.) “He is always fighting something,” they say. My friends, there never was a bigger falsehood told on an innocent man than that statement. Let me explain to you. That same charge was brought against every prophet in the Old Testament, and the Apostles in the New.
The neighbors of Noah accused him of stirring up trouble.
The 450 false prophets of Baal and Ahab accused Elijah of stirring up trouble in Samaria.
In the Roman Empire of Caesars they said the same thing concerning the Twelve: “These men have turned the world upside down.”
Rome in the 16th century accused Martin Luther, John Calvin and other reformers, who dared the power of Rome, of stirring up trouble.
Next Sunday night I will show you how this country is facing the greatest crisis since it has been a republic. I will show you how that dark, deep laid conspiracy has now with a most powerful organization throughout this country, laid its hands on Congress, has laid its bloody hands on the press of the country, and undertakes to do what? Break down the greatest piece of moral legislation ever enacted, and when a man gets out to protest against that thing, they say he is stirring up trouble. Depends on your viewpoint.
I came to this city twenty-one years ago last Sunday – I didn’t think I would have to take this off – (removing coat and collar) but I have to use this voice until midnight, and if you will permit me I will shell it off – my wife said when I put this suit on: “It’s a good thing summer is about over, your coat is worn out.” Well, a fellow gave me this one and maybe somebody will give me another one next summer.
Last week four men went to a horrible death down here at a town called West – they came in contact with a live wire and were burned to death – yonder north of Dallas a family of one of them – a mother and her son – a Mrs. Beavers, if I recall the name correctly, got in a car and went to arrange for the funeral services of the dead brother and son at Garland, Texas, and on their way a drunken driver ran into the car and killed this 58-year-old mother and 28-year-old son, and they had a triple funeral, the son who was killed by a live wire and the mother and son who were killed by a drunken driver. What did it? It was the accursed liquor traffic that caused two of those funerals, and if a man undertakes to lift his voice in protest somebody begins to say, “He is dabbling in politics, stirring up trouble!”
I say I came to this city twenty-one years ago – I didn’t know it, but a friend called my attention to it when he told me I had been here longer than any other pastor in the city. Well, I have had a right interesting time. I will never forget the first afternoon we met in the old church, which would seat about 500 – and we are building one now that will hold ten times as many – there were 32 men present – I think you will see the reason that I am going into this when I have finished. They were all high class gentlemen, some of them are still living – some have long since passed to their reward. I offer no criticism against them, or anybody else tonight, I do not find it in my heart to do so – they began to talk, one at a time, and they told what a wonderful church they had – and it was – and what a wonderful city Fort Worth was, and that was the truth – so when they had all spoken around, they asked me did I have anything to say. I said, “Gentlemen, when we get through with each other we won’t look like we do now.” I suppose I said that because I didn’t have anything else to say – I had forgotten it, until years afterwards one of them reminded me of it.
It was a great church, it had a great history.
Can I ever forget how that when a young man 19 years old riding in a buggy with Dr. A. W. McGaha, who was once the pastor of this church – a great man. I was just a green country boy and he was then standing on the crumbling edge of the grave. He said to me, “Frank, God forbid that you or any other preacher shall have to go through with the experience that I had to go through with the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth,” and he told me some of the things, and he called the names of some of the men I met when I came here, and the very men who fought me the hardest. They did every pastor that way, and I decided to stop them. He told me as we jogged along, how they had literally murdered him, crushed his spirit, and broken his heart-and he went to an untimely grave. I found that had been the history of most every man for the last 30 years, and when the war started on me, I told them of their record. I said, “Gentlemen, I understand your record is that you have run off every preacher you have had, but I tell you now – you may do it to me, but you won’t do it with my consent – you’ve got a man now you can’t run off, you can’t ruin, you can’t kill, and if you don’t behave yourselves I’ll turn the last one of you out. Well, they went around and talked about me, said I was “awfully unruly” – a dictator – you know – we have all kinds of “taters” – imitators, dictators, shoe string taters (laughter), and some preachers have tater vines for backbone.
Oh, if I had been some little Lord Fauntleroy to be banded around, booted from pillar, to post, like so many preachers – and good men they are – there would not have been carloads of malicious slanders sent broadcast about me. I fought back with everything at my command and I have no apology to make for it.
We got along two years, just as peaceable and quiet as a graveyard – I want to say now all my troubles have been inside troubles, every last one of them; yes, sir. If I had never had any trouble on the inside I would never have had any from the outside – now you may not believe that, but by nature I am a very timid man, the most timid man you ever saw (laughter). Now I knew you wouldn’t believe it. I got over a lot of it. Now I never had any fights in my life, I never did, never had any in school. I was the quietest, most peaceable boy you ever saw. I know you don’t believe that, but it’s so. One reason why that was so, I was very delicate in health. No one thought I would ever live to be grown – and some people wish I hadn’t. (Laughter.)
CROWD USED POT PLANTS FOR SEATS
Well, after we had run along two years – we would have nice crowds in morning and an empty house Sunday nights – you know what I mean, just the average Sunday night crowd – I wasn’t preaching to any sinners, just preaching to an empty wood yard – I said, “I am going after the crowds of sinners” – and when I did, some of you were there that first night – if Charlie Snelling is here, he remembers what happened that night, some of the rest of you remember it too. The crowd couldn’t get in the church that night – the sisters had decorated the platform with nice pot plants, ferns and some other kind of spreading plant – what are they? (Voice: Palms.) That’s what they were, great big things that grow up this high – well they had the whole platform decorated with palms, and I had to stick my head up over the top of them – like at a funeral or a fashionable wedding – when I put on a new program, the Gospel message, the crowds came, a lot couldn’t get in – some were converted that night who hadn’t been in church for twenty years – here is what they did, some old fellow saw all those pots up there and he decided they would make good seats – and he just turned one of those plants bottom-side up – you know one of those fuzzy-wuzzy plants – I can see him now – I didn’t know what to do – here is the way he turned that pot – this stool is the pot and here are the plants (showing how it was done with a piano stool) up here – he took that thing and turned it upside down this way and sat down on it. (Laughter.) Well, now that put the plant under the bottom and it made a good seat, and so he set the example. And the first thing I knew more of them had turned all the plants upside down and were sitting on them – the next morning! Talk about rows! A committee of sisters looked at those pots and anybody could see they were ruined – and they came and jumped on me – I said, “Don’t jump on me, jump on the fellows that sat on the pots, they are the ones that did it, I didn’t have anything to do with it” – and one of them, I shall never forget it, oh how she did talk – she said, “You are going to ruin this church, our church has good standing in the city, and you are getting this crowd in here, you are going to ruin this church.” Now I don’t mind arguing with a man, but I am not going to argue with a woman, and I just sat there, a nice little boy and listened to her – there was no use talking – the pots were ruined, no use arguing about it, but I was never so glad of a thing in my life. (Laughter.)
Here is the thing I am trying to tell you, it didn’t matter with that crowd – and they were good women – it didn’t matter with them if souls died and went to hell, no, what they thought more of was some old fern in an old jar than the soul of somebody going to hell – that’s what I was up against! That’s the first row I had – I finally told them to take their old pots – and I told them something else I am not going to repeat. You let a bunch of mare mules get after you like that gang got after me and you will say things too; yes, sir.
Sometimes people object to my language but they forget what I have been up against. Martin Luther threw ink bottles at the devil and Moses knocked an Egyptian in the head, but how wonderfully God used him – He can’t use sissies and cowards.
I had another experience that night – have a seat brother (to a man coming down to the front from the edge of the crowd.) Here, I will give you this pot and you can sit on it (handing him the piano stool.) Do you like the sample? I’m glad to see a fellow like you – you are like that fellow that night that turned the pot upside down.
MAN SITTING ON THE STOOL SAYS: Well, I like to hear what you say, and I can’t hear it back there on the outside, the crowd is too big.
DR. NORRIS: Well that same night something else happened – we had a nice little choir – one woman who would start in G and end away up in Gee Whiz, and a beer-guzzling Dutchman for a choir conductor – he had hair as wide as the top of this desk, and he would shake it to the right and to the left. He had been there twelve years, and that night they turned the pots upside down – the crowd had gotten there ahead of time, and I started them to singing some old songs, and this Dutchman came and he couldn’t get in, and he wrote me a note and said: “Please open the way so the choir can get in.” I wrote on the bottom, “Wait until I send for you.” If he had waited he would have been standing there yet. (Laughter.) The next morning that beer-guzzling bunch of hair came around and he shook that head of hair east and west, and north and south, and up and down. Oh, yes, I stood there and watched him shake and tell me what he wasn’t going to stand for until the old windmill run down, and I said, “Are you through?” And I said, “Professor, so we can understand each other, you have resigned.”
“Me resign!” he said.
“You – have – resigned”
“Vell,” he said, “the deacons! the deacons! the deacons! they employed me!”
I said, “The dickens they did – you are out, you know what that means, you are fired.” (Laughter.)
He said, “I will take it up with the deacons.”
And bless your life, he did. He went down to see the deacons – there were three or four bank presidents – and they called a special deacons’ meeting. I saw one of them and he said to me, “Well, I will see you at the deacons’ meeting tonight?” I said, “Are you going to have a deacons’ meeting?” “Yes,” he said. I began to smell sulphur all around in the air, and that night when I walked in, there sat that beer guzzling bunch of hair and he was just laying it off, and the deacons began to talk, and tell me where to head in – one of them began to tell how the professor had played at all the funerals and the weddings. I waited until they got through and I got up and said, “In order that we may understand each other – I told the professor he had resigned, and Mr. Deacon So and So, you have resigned,” and I pointed to another, and said, “You have resigned,” and to another, “You have resigned,” and so on. “We will understand whether or not I am going to be pastor or janitor or whether I am going to play kite-tail to this thing – we might as well understand each other now.” I looked at them and they looked at each other – and they all went out-and one of them told me years afterwards, he said, “I knew that we were into it then.”
I didn’t deserve any credit for taking that stand. Here I was with a wife and three children, and so help me God I didn’t have any other place to go. I had to stay. (Laughter.) You know I have seen preachers all over this country fired out. Well, it never did appeal to me to be fired, never did. (Laughter.)
So things broke loose – I am just giving you a few things in passing, just a few little inside things. I will get to some other things in a few minutes.
CUTTING DOWN THE TENT
In 1911 they had a prohibition election all over Texas – one morning I picked up the Record and saw that the names of three deacons in the First Baptist Church headed the committee that was to receive and welcome the saloon crowd that were coming here for a convention – three deacons in the First Baptist Church! Their names headed the list – one of them was the chairman of the board – he was the chief orang-outang of that committee. I showed it to my wife, and I sat there and looked at her, and she said, “I would go easy.” I said, “There is one thing, they are either going out back or front door.” I called the deacons up and told them I wanted a meeting before the preaching service on Sunday morning. We met, and I took that paper, held it up, and said, “Here is what we have.” And I saw some of them begin to squirm around – one of them is the best friend I have got in the world today. I said, “You can take your choice, you can get out of the church or get out of that crowd, one or the other.” I knew I was right about it then and I know I am right about it now. (Applause.) Well, the fur began to fly, you could just smell sulphur in the air. If you would strike a match it would catch fire anywhere.
Things went on. We were holding a meeting in a tent down here – they demanded that we take it down – Bill Davis was mayor at that time – now Bill and I are good friends today. Bill never comes to town that he doesn’t call me. He told me we would have to take it down. I said, “Why, are we not breaking any law?” He said, “Well, some of your own bunch, some of your own men and the business men have demanded that it be taken down. I said, “I won’t take it down”-and he went down there with the firemen and policemen and they cut it down. Well, all hell broke loose in this old town!
About that time – I want to tell you something – I really hesitate to give this out, all this is being taken down and will be published, and I may put it on the radio.
PASTOR FIRED IN SALOON
They had a meeting – twenty-four of these men, all deacons – they didn’t meet in the First Baptist Church, no, I will tell you where they met – they met upstairs over 808 1/2 Houston Street, and they sent for me to come down before them. I didn’t know what was up and I didn’t know anything about the character of the place – I walked up into that place perfectly innocent – but I had a suspicion that I was going to get notification of my funeral. One of the brethren got up and said: “When we called you here we thought you had some sense, but we have found out now that you haven’t and we here and now notify you that your time is up, and we are going to put another man in your place.” In other words, I was fired – for there was but one man in that crowd that stood for me. I will tell you what I found on the walls – a retail liquor license in the name of one of the men that demanded I leave here. A man had just joined the church about that time – he wouldn’t object to me calling his mame, when I told him what had happened and how things existed, he says to me, “I can hardly believe it.” I could see he doubted it. His name is Mr. W. C. Pool. I said to him, “You come and go there with me and I will show you the place. I will show you the retail liquor license, and the bar, where they called the pastor of this church to meet in a deacons’ meeting. He said, “All right,” and we walked down there and went up the stairs and we found the bar and the white apron bartender and the license, and I would like for Mr. Pool to tell you whether or not that is the truth.
MR. POOL: I saw it just like he is telling it.
DR. NORRIS: Stand up, Mr. Pool, and face the crowd and tell them whether I have told the truth.
MR. POOL: You have.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, there is where the fight started. I told them they could kill me, and they would have liked to have done it “But so help me God,” I said, “I will never leave this fight as long as there is fight in my body. (Prolonged applause.)
Next time you hear one of the gang cussing Norris just tell them what W. C. Pool said here tonight. He is one of the most honored and best known men in Fort Worth.
That’s what I had to go up against. That’s the crowd that began to send out their propaganda. Yes, sir. And one of them was foreman of the grand jury that turned in a bill of indictment against me. He said “We have got no evidence against Norris,” but that man and two others called J. T. Pemberton – Mr. Pemberton was my friend, and said to him, “You go and tell Norris if he will resign and leave Fort Worth we will not indict him, but if he does not we will – and to indict a preacher will ruin him,” and ordinarily speaking that’s true.
Mr. Pemberton said to them: “If you have got any evidence, go ahead and indict him, but don’t use the grand jury as an instrument to destroy an innocent man.” Mr. Pemberton told me what they said. When I went before the grand jury I was very frail in health, and I said to them, “Gentlemen, I know what you have conspired against me and in the name of the best woman that God ever let live, and in the name of three defenseless children, and in the name of Elijah’s God, I don’t ask any quarter, and furthermore I demand that you do your worst, and if there is a God I will be preaching in Fort Worth after the last one of you have been put under the sod.” (Applause.) That’s what I said, and the man that led that fight, his name became a synonym – well, let the mantle of charity be pulled down.
Why, they even had detective agencies spying on me. This thing happened years afterward. Preaching one day in the Bible Institute in Los Angeles to five thousand people, I looked over to the right and I saw a familiar face, but I couldn’t place him. After the services were over he came up and shook hands with me and told me his name. He was head man from the Pinkerton detective agency in New York and they gave him ten thousand dollars to come here and convict me. He gave up in utter disgust after he had been here awhile, and gave his report to Mr. Pemberton and told him to give it to his preacher. This man and I sat down together and talked and he said to me, “The marvel to me is that you are living today – if I were an infidel I would be compelled to believe there is a God.” (Applause.)
I am not saying these things – I don’t have to say them as a matter of defense, I am just giving you some of the inside of the cup. I am just telling you of some of the battles. And perhaps there are some here who are discouraged, some man or woman, and their hold on life is slipping. My word tonight is, “Be a good soldier, fight on, fight on, and never give up, and sing as you fight:
"Am I a soldier of the Cross, And shall I fear to own His cause, Must I be carried to the skies While others fought to win the prize, A follower of the Lamb ? Or blush to speak His name? On flowery beds of ease, And sailed through bloody seas?"
“THE WHOLE BUSINESS A COLOSSAL FRAME-UP OF WICKEDNESS IN WHICH THE MACHINERY OF THE LAW HAS BEEN SEIZED AND USED TO RUIN AN INNOCENT MAN IN ORDER TO SCREEN GUILTY MEN”
-J. B. GAMBRELL
Dr. J. B. Gambrell was editor of the Baptist Standard at that time and May 2, 1912, on the front page of the Standard under title, “The Vindication of Pastor Norris,” Dr. J. B. Gambrell wrote the following editorial:
“The remarkable trial in Fort Worth, which has held the attention of the State and country for weeks, came to an end in a most triumphant way for Pastor J. F. Norris of the First Baptist Church, Fort Worth. The indictment was for perjury, but the trial was for perjury and arson. The verdict was ‘Not guilty.’ The whole country had rendered the verdict on the evidence in advance of the jury.
“Not in the history of America, perhaps, was there ever an indictment brought in by a grand jury on as flimsy and shadowy pretense of evidence. Nor was ever an indictment framed under more questionable circumstances. But that a grand jury would bring in an indictment against one occupying a place so exalted as that of pastor of a great church, and following a series of such crimes as had been committed in Fort Worth gave the country pause. The trial revealed a condition in and around that grand jury reprehensible and regrettable to the last degree.
“Not doubting for a moment that the underworld was beneath the prosecution of the pastor, making the atmosphere for it and filling Fort Worth with its spirit; and not doubting that Pastor Norris was innocent of the charge laid against him, I nevertheless felt that prudence, a decent regard for even the forms of law, as well as the ends of justice, dictated an attitude of waiting. This was the attitude of the country at large and of ministers in par ticular. The comparative silence of the Standard was in deference to civic decorum. But, now in words as plain as can be written, I give my conviction that
“That indictment was an outrage.
“The situation in Fort Worth was unfriendly to a fair trial. Passion was deeply stirred. Prejudice was rife. The forces of evil in Fort Worth are very strong, with ramifications widespread, personal matters, no way related to the case, unhappily became involved. The long and persistent war of Brother Norris on the allied and shameful vices of the city lay in the background. Putting everything together, the situation did not promise well for the defendant. That a verdict of ‘not guilty’ could be had under the conditions obtaining is highly gratifying and honoring to the spirit of justice which rose superior to partisan prejudice, and pronounced a righteous judgment. Great credit is due the twelve men who measured up to a high trust and vindicated the right.
“The First Church, as a body, stood by the pastor, and were present in large numbers when the verdict was brought in. The Dallas News correspondents thus describe the scene that followed the announcement ‘not guilty’:
“Following the reading of this verdict there was a remarkable demonstration. Dr. Norris was not in the court room at the time, having gone to the home of a friend to rest, but scores of women and other friends crowded about Mrs. Norris, sobs shaking their voices as they extended congratulations. Others were more demonstrative and gave a shrill cheer. In a moment this had swelled to what might be called a storm of rejoicing. Almost hysterical laughter, cheers, handclapping, the stamping of feet, all contributed to the noise.
“Finally order was restored sufficiently to permit of the formal discharge of the jury, with the thanks of the court. This done, the demonstration was renewed. Some one began to sing ‘Old-Time Religion’ and scores joined in until the swelling chorus reminded one of the singing at a revival meeting. That hymn was succeeded by “We Shall Meet on the Beautiful Shore’; ‘Nearer My God to Thee’; ‘There Is a Great Day Coming,’ and ‘Are You Ready?’
“DR. NORRIS ARRIVES
“It was at this juncture that Dr. Norris arrived at the court room. He had been notified by telephone of the result and had responded in great haste. As he came in the door he was greeted with the Chautauqua salute and cheered. After greeting Mrs. Norris very affectionately, he personally thanked the jury, while the crowd sang ‘We Praise Thee, O Lord,’ ‘Revive Us Again’ and ‘How Firm a Foundation.’ This last hymn was started by Hon. O. S. Lattimore. Mr. Norris was called upon to speak, and at last, replying to some utterance by Mr. Lattimore, said:
“CONFIDENT OF ACQUITTAL
“‘Yes, I will say something, and it will be the first time I have had anything to say publicly in this matter. I have been confident of the result all along, and this enmding today simply confirms that confidence. I am only going to say a few words, but I will have something to say next Sunday night. I will have a few plain words
to say, then, just a few.
“VICTIM OF PREJUDICE
“‘My friends, when fifteen years ago I went down into the water as a symbol of Christianity, I never even imagined that I could ever by any possibility stand before any of my fellow citizens as one accused of crime. And now, the victim of passion and prejudice as I have been, I want publicly to express my appreciation of the friends who have stood by me. But first of all, I want to lay the crown of laurels on the head of my wife, whose sustaining cheer, comfort and strengthening can simply never be told.
“THANKS HIS FRIENDS
“‘To my friends who have gone down in this valley of trial with me I also give thanks. I can not undertake to name them. There are too many. But to one and all of them go my heartfelt thanks.
“‘To my counsel-the fifteen lawyers who struggled for the right – there was much comment on the number, fifteen, but it could just as well have been five hundred as fifteen if I had taken them all – also go my grateful thanks.
“‘To the jurors who have so nobly done their duty to themselves, to justice, and to their State, a jury of the fair, honest, impartial citizenship of Tarrant County, who have given their aid in the vindication of my good name, that of my wife, that of my children, that of the pastor of the First Baptist Church and the membership of that church to them are special thanks due.
“‘As to the enemies –
“FORGIVENESS FOR ENEMIES
“Here Mr. Lattimore and Mr. Doyle, of Mr. Norris’ counsel, made some suggestions that could not be heard. Mr. Norris made a low-voiced reply to them and then said aloud: ‘I know just what I am going to say, and I am not going to say too much. As to the enemies, I have none but the kindest feelings and not a harsh or unkind word to say. Some have been swept from their feet in this matter, influenced maybe by loud and continued talk, misrepresentations in newspapers or by other influences. Whatever the cause, I repeat I have only the kindest, charitable feelings.’
“DR. GAMBRELL PAYS TRIBUTE TO J. M. GADDY
“Such a scene is not often witnessed in this world, and no heart can resist its pathos. I can but enter into this joyous scene to the full. The woman most conspicuous in it is the daughter of J. M. Gaddy, than whom Texas never had a more valiant soldier for the right. He was brother to my soul. I joined this woman in holy wedlock to the man by whose side she walked these days in the fiery furnace of trial and all the time in the dauntless spirit of her noble sire.
“The verdict might have been properly instructed by the Judge, for the prosecution stood at the end with not the decent shadow of a case. The defense not only destroyed the case of the prosecution, but on the arson part of the case, made out an affirmative case as impregnable as Gibraltar.
“This is an hour for forgiveness and forgetting. In the stress of the battle natural friends may have wounded each other. Vision was blurred. Mischief makers have been in their heyday. Pastor Norris’ words of forgiveness suit a great hour. They were well and nobly spoken. Let all hearts respond and all live up to a high duty and privilege. There is no time for personal wars. The great church must go on with its work. The preacher must proclaim the divine message of peace and good will, living it as well as preaching it. The work of controlling evil is ever with us and must be pushed. Fort Worth has a duty to perform to herself. She ought to inaugurate a campaign for civic righteousness to redeem herself from her bad condition.
“A COLOSSAL FRAME-UP OF WICKEDNESS
“It has been given out that the arson indictment against Pastor Norris is to be prosecuted harder than the perjury indictment was. The country has come with great unanimity to the belief that the whole business is a colossal frame-up of wickedness in which the machinery of the law has been seized and used to ruin an innocent man in order to screen guilty men. The complete play-out of the perjury case, the utter inefficiency of the evidence, even total lack of any evidence in the case, has settled public opinion as to the grand jury, the legal adviser of the jury and the whole business. Hon. O. S. Lattimore did not put it too strong when he said it was a disgrace to the State.”
Dr. Gambrell was editor of the Baptist Standard and the editorial I have just read was published May 2, 1912. It can be found out here in the library at Seminary or in the files of the Standard. Dr. Gambrell was my friend and the machine has misrepresented his attitude toward me all over the Southland. He was three times President of the Southern Baptist Convention and the greatest Baptist statesman of this generation. And the next time a satellite of the Sanhedrin cusses Norris just pull on him what Dr. Gambrell wrote.
“THE ADVOCATE” ON THE TRIAL
Leading editorial of the Texas Christian Advocate, official organ of the M. E. Church, South, says in the issue of May 2, 1912:
“The effect of the verdict was not simply a vindication of Dr. Norris from the charge of perjury, but it was a rebuke to the grand jury which found the indictment. It would seem to mean that the grand jury had little, if any ground for the indictment. The defense contended that it was personal ill-will toward the minister and a disposition to do him all the injury possible regardless of the evidence involved. That ill-will realized that the trial would give an opportunity to abuse and vilify Dr. Norris and present him before the community in the worst light possible, and that this would compensate for their failure to convict him. In proof of this a certain juryman, a venerable citizen of nearly sixty years’ residence in the county and a member of the grand jury, but who voted against the indictment, testified that a juryman said to him, just before the indictment was voted, I do not believe myself that we have enough evidence to indict him,’ but soon thereafter voted for the indictment.”
THE DEMAND FOR RESIGNATION OF PASTOR
Well, I must go on. There are so many angles to this- I want to say to you, and don’t be shocked. I say it kindly-in all the controversies I have had with the outside world, the saloon crowd, they are nothing to compare with what I have had on the inside. Why, ladies and gentlemen, put down this date. I remember it so well because it was Tuesday night in November, the first Tuesday night before the national election, when Woodrow Wilson was elected. I was living right out here at 1201 Sixth Avenue, when six men, and one of them the high priest of the synagogue, wanted to come out to my home and talk to me and they wanted my wife to be present. I didn’t want her to be, but they insisted. They knew if they could break down her will and spirit, why of course they could reach her husband – and as we were sitting there after supper I said, “Some gentlemen are coming out after while.” She said, “Is that so?” I didn’t tell her what they wanted. I felt then, as I have seen her all these years – she has a very quiet way of meeting every situation that rises. After while they came in, six laymen and among them one preacher – so nobody will misunderstand, the preacher was Dr. L R. Scarborough, President of the Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. I say these things kindly. They sat down and I began to talk a blue streak about the national election. (Laughter.) I discussed Roosevelt and Taft, and they sat there, and I talked on – I wouldn’t give them a chance to say a word, and they squirmed around and cleared up their throats (laughter), and they twisted and they would start off to say something – the spokesman – they had his funeral within the last 100 years, peace to his ashes – and they twisted, and I kept batting away (laughter), and they would pull out their watches and look at them, 9 o’clock came and I kept talking away (laughter), and I never let up. Finally one of them said, “Well, we have come to” – I said, “What do you think about Roosevelt’s last speech?'” and I started off again. (Laughter.) After while one of them said, “Well, now it is getting late, and we
don’t want to keep you up – ” “Oh,” I said, “that’s all right, sometimes we don’t go to bed anyway.” (Laughter.) My wife was sitting over there taking in the whole show, and laughing to herself. I knew they had come out to put on a show before her, and I thought I would put on one first. (Laughter.) I had the best time in the world – you know I just sat there and watched them – they were nervous – you know in a red-hot fight always keep your eyes on the other fellow – so I sat there and looked at all of those birds, and there couldn’t a one of them look at me – they all looked like suck-egg hounds going down a back alley. (Laughter.) I just kept looking at them – and it got late – finally one of them said, “Yyyo yo you kn, kn, know wha, what we come out for?” (Laughter.) I said, “How should I know? I thought you came out to see me – the first time you have been in our home, and I am mighty glad to see you.” It was the funniest thing in the world, but not one of them could laugh. One of them began again, “You know, know, know” – “Well,” I said, “I have certainly enjoyed your visit and hope you will come again. I don’t know when I ever enjoyed two hours more than these two hours this evening.” (Laughter.) That’s true, I never did. (Laughter.) I enjoyed seeing those fellows sit on hot embers for two hours. (Laughter.) Finally one of them just broke right in and he said, “You know our situation. The church is torn all to pieces.” I said, “Is that so. I didn’t know there was any trouble.” “Well,” he said, “we have come out here to make you a proposition.” “A proposition about what?”” I said. “We want to make you a proposition like this, that if you will, if you will resign and leave Fort Worth, we have decided to give you a year’s salary in advance and pay your way for any trip you want to go – they didn’t say so, but the farther away it was would have suited them better. I said, “Gentlemen, in other words, you have come to offer me a bribe – I want to tell you that your price is too low.”
THIRTY DAYS’ NOTICE TO LEAVE FORT WORTH
Just giving you a few chapters inside the cup.
Time rolled on, and it rolls fast, but would you believe 156 men met in the dining room of the Metropolitan Hotel, which is now used by the Chamber of Commerce – they met at noon on the first Monday in September, 1916, and drank to my going or death – appointed a committee to notify me of their demands, and believe it or not, this committee actually called on me in the office of the First Baptist Church.
Talk about scared men, they were the worst scared I ever saw, they were shaking from head to foot. It was too funny as far as I was concerned to be very badly scared. Here the whole gang after one poor little preacher. This committee told me they were waiting for my answer down at the hotel and that I had thirty days in which to pack my goods.
I said, “You are very kind to give me thirty days. I will give you back 29 of them and I’ll go down to the hotel with you,” and so we all four walked out of the church together. When we got to the corner one went east and one went west and the third one and I walked on together but he did not say a word. He is sitting over there tonight and is one of the best friends I have in the world.
I answered their un-American demands that night at Fifteenth and Main Streets. How many of you were there? (Large number of hands go up.) My wife wanted to go with me but I said no. I wore a white flannel suit, didn’t have on any coat, went bare-headed and didn’t have a thing on earth in my hands or in my pockets.
The crowd was estimated from twenty to twenty-five thousand, I circularized the town with their demands and threats and that I would answer. I had a friend to park a truck at the place of speaking before the crowd gathered. It was a difficult thing for me to get in through the crowd – three saloons on four of the corners where I spoke.
When I stood before that crowd the first thing I did was to lead them in singing “There’s a Land That Is Fairer Than Day,” and from appearances it looked as if I would be in that land before breakfast. Soon that howling, shrieking mob was quiet and I preached them a sermon on The Prodigal Son. I baptized men for years who were convicted and converted in that service.
Incidentally, the man who presided over that meeting in the hotel met with a most tragic death on the interurban just six days afterwards. I don’t want to refer to it, it’s overwhelming, it sends the most terrific feeling of all through my soul, but the record is well known, every hand that has been lifted against the First Baptist Church has failed to prosper, judgment has come on it. Oh, how true the words of Isaiah, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” (Isa. 54:17)
VISIT FROM THREE BAPTIST PASTORS
Just some of the inside of the cup.
About that time I had a visit from three Baptist pastors. They, like the committee that came to my house, had never been to see me. They professed great concern for my welfare, for my life, and for my family.
They said, “Norris, haven’t you got any sense?”
I said, “”No, I haven’t.”
They said, “If you had any sense you would know you have lost out, your influence is gone, you can’t rebuild – we had no building at that time – you have lost your wealth, the newspapers are against you, city and county officials are against you, all the clubs of the city are against you, all business organizations are against you, your health is gone” – and they just kept piling it up. And three of those birds are roosting on another limb and I don’t know where, but here was my reply, “Go back and tell the gang that sent you in the name of the Triune God and by the faith that my mother gave me I will be preaching in Fort Worth after all of you have gone to parts unknown.”
God forbid that I should boast, just telling you the inside that I may help some struggling soul.
DEEP DARK VALLEYS
I don’t mind telling you that I have been through some deep dark valleys. I have been criticized because I did not wear crepe on the lapel of my coat – I don’t believe in crepe. When King Jehoram walked on the walls of Samaria during the severe famine the wind parted his royal garments and sackcloth was underneath the purple – wear sorrows on the inside, not on the outside. I have told my wife if I go first I don’t want her to wear any mourning for me – I don’t want anybody to have any suspicion as to where her husband is gone. Death is not a dark valley, not a thing of mystery, it’s the opening of the prison door, it’s to depart and be with Christ.
The unfortunate dark tragedy that fell across my life four years ago, of course, every man could wish that such a thing would not happen in his life – that record is well known, I need not discuss it. I did not then and I do not now have any apology to make for any course when such a necessity is forced upon a man. There was the one supreme moment, rather I should say second, when all that a man holds dear, wife, children, stood by my side, and my friends, the God who made me and put the breath of life into me, endowed me first of all with that indescribable something to stand for my wife and children and I did it in that hour, though with deepest regret and sorrow. And whenever the time comes that a man can’t defend his own life and his wife and children in his sacred private study then we should pull down the flag – but I need not discuss it further. I had no hate, I had no malice, there was no murder in my heart and never has been against a single human being. I never saw the unfortunate man until he broke into my study. It is a matter of record as to who sent him there and for what purpose.
I repeat it was a great sorrow, a life-long sorrow, but not one tinge of remorse. I have never even dreamed of it. General Lee, the greatest soldier the South ever produced, and Theodore Roosevelt said he was the greatest soldier in history – he was forced to defend his native state but there was no malice, no hatred, no murder, and, therefore, no remorse in his great soul. But there was the Gethsemane of sorrow. A great preacher in Dallas killed a man – it was not murder, it was accidental, inevitable. There was no remorse but great sorrow.
Talk about the inalienable right of self-defense – there is not a missionary in China who would return home alive but for the American and British gunboats. Only fools and pacifists talk otherwise. Missionaries, preachers and women have as much right to their lives as common gamblers, cut-throats, thugs and hi-jackers. When a man breaks into another man’s private office to assassinate him, why, he just commits suicide provided he jumps on a man who has love and courage to defend his own life for the sake of his own precious wife and children.
Let me tell you something, how unrelenting hate goes on. They say, some of my enemies, “Norris can’t get along with his own denomination.” That’s a mistake, I get along gloriously with my own denomination, I am for my denomimation, but I don’t get along with some of the leaders, with some of the ecclesiastical politicians of the denomination. It’s all summed up in the one word, “But Mordecai bowed not.”
Here’s how the denominational fight was started. In 1920 a noted Methodist minister – he is dead now and I won’t call his name – wrote a book on “The Old Testament in the Light of Today.” Upon his own request I loaned the book to Dr. L. R. Scarborough and in his own handwriting on page 24 of this book he wrote the following:
“What an unpardonable comment and interpretation of Genesis and following divinely inspired book! Moses began his Genesis with “God,’ Rice begins his with ‘poetry,’ ‘folk lore’, prehistoric characters, doubt. Wesley would open Old Testament and say, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ Rice will open his to teach young Methodist preachers and say, ‘thus saith E. J’ or some other figure of the critical fancy of an informed scholar of the Chicago-Berlin school of infidels! Methodism of the old soul-winning Wesley type should rise up and put this invader of Southern Methodist orthodoxy out and rout him out of such a place of influence. ‘Poetic fragments,’ ‘short stories,’ versus ‘All Scripture is inspired of God.’
“L. R. SCARBOROUGH.”
So he helped me put this Methodist modernist out and the Methodists were smart enough to ship him to Oklahoma, C. O. D.
But wait a minute, the Baptists had the same thing and more of it and when I turned the light on Baptist Modernism, Dr. Scarborough and all the rest of the leaders jumped all over me and they are still jumping but not jumping on me for I am not where they are jumping. Trust and mortgage companies are making them jump now. (Laughter.)
DR. SCARBOROUGH USED INFLUENCE TO PREVENT COLLECTION OF INSURANCE BY CHURCH
To show you how things go, I want to read you this statement. We had our fire in 1929, we are rebuilding now – now here is something I hesitate to give out, but I think you ought to know it. We carried insurance on our property, and certain forces undertook to have cancelled every dollar of insurance we had.
After that fire there was a representative of the insurance company – and he had a right to make an investigation – in New York there is what is known as the National Underwriters – among their employees was a man by the name of A. W. Penninger. He is a Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus. He made an investigation which was his privilege – he sent his report to the New York insurance companies – they sent a man here and made an investigation and found out he had falsified in his statement – so when I was in New York a few days ago, the head of one of the companies gave me this report – I had heard that such a report had been made, and I said I wanted it, but wait a minute – that report carried a statement of certain Baptist preachers and Dr. Lee R. Scarborough, President of the Southwestern Baptist Seminary. Now why did these preachers and the Knights of Columbus join in with a statement that had no place in the collection of insurance? Here was a great crowd of people, their building was destroyed, they were entitled to collect their insurance, and thank God the insurance companies paid it. (Applause.)
This report lugged in a lot of things which had no part or lot as to whether or not the insurance should be paid, wholly irrelevant matters. Of course, it was done for the purpose of prejudicing the insurance companies against us and the insurance companies had a special investigation made and I got that report also, and here is what a fair, unbiased investigation reported, the answer they gave the dual ecclesiastical systems, Rome and Baptists:
“That question has no place in the handling of this fire loss. The most eminent Baptist divines in Texas, including the president of its leading colleges and universities in Texas, recognized Norris last year to the extent of debating with him over their church row. These debates were broadcast over radio every night.
“The Baptists in this State have had one of the biggest church rows that was ever staged, with Norris leading a big faction on one side and a number of eminent Baptist ministers leading the other side.
“In conclusion we want to say we have not tried to find out or decide what manner of man J. Frank Norris is in our investigation of this case. The people of Texas have been trying to decide that question for the past twenty years and they are hopelessly divided. If they were called together now to decide the question it would result in the biggest fight that could possibly be pulled off in Texas. A jury could be picked in thirty minutes that would hang him on general principles, or one could be easily found that would acquit him of any charge that might be brought against him. If he is guilty of half of the crimes that have been laid at his door, then he is one of the most dangerous criminals that ever ran at large. If he has been wrongfully accused, then he has been one of the most cruelly persecuted men that was ever the subject of false accusations. In which class he falls only he and the Almighty knows. We are sure the Southwestern Adjustment Company does not. We only know he has been abundantly able to take care of himself and that he has had for 20 years, and still has, the loyal and undivided support of the largest congregation in the world. He is a man of magnetic personality, wonderful ability, a natural born leader of those who believe in him and he divides the world into two parts-those who believe in him and follow him with a loyalty that knows no bounds and those who hate him to the extent that they would like to see him hung.”
FALSE SLANDERS OF 4TH DEGREE KNIGHT OF COLUMBUS
That “investigation” that Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus who got fired because he made false statements on the church fire, wrote in his report that “Norris’ residence was burned at 1:00 a. m. in a mysterious manner.” I had only $7,000 insurance on $16,000 worth of property. You know how my residence was burned. It was not burned at one o’clock at night and nothing “mysterious” about it. Here’s what the Record-Telegram said about that fire.
I am giving examples of the malicious slanders that have been sent out through the long years. But what has happened to every man who circulated them?
FORT WORTH RECORD-TELEGRAM, JAN. 2, 1928
“The home of Rev. J. Frank Norris, pastor of the First Baptist Church, was destroyed by fire with estimated loss of $16,000 Sunday morning. The fire occurred while the pastor was conducting Sunday school and Mrs. Norris, ill for several months, and her mother, Mrs. J. M. Gaddy, 84, were in bed because of illness. The residence, a one and one-half-story frame building, was outside the city limits at Siding 6, Fort Worth-Dallas Interurban.
“Only a few treasured articles were saved. The pastor’s library went up in the flames, origin of which is unknown. Practically all the family’s clothing was destroyed.
“An adjoining vacant residence, owned by W. E. Buchanan, also was destroyed. Both dwellings were outside the city limits and were far removed from fire hydrants. Fire company No. 4 responded to the call and fought the blaze with chemicals.
“The fire originated at 10:15 o’clock Sunday morning while Rev. Mr. Norris, his daughter, Mrs. Charles Weaver, Chicago, and two oldest sons, Jim Gaddy and J. Frank Jr., were at Sunday school at the First Baptist Church. Only Mrs. Norris, Mrs. Gaddy and the pastor’s youngest son, George, 10, were at the house.
“All three of the members of the family had been ill, Mrs. Norris having been confined to her home because of illness. Mrs. Norris got her aged mother and young son out of the flaming house. George ran to a neighbors home, quite a distance away, and telephoned his father after Mrs. Norris attempted to use her telephone to find it was out of order.
“Rev. Mr. Norris, after talking with his 10-year-old son over the telephone, telephoned the fire department and turned in the alarm. The pastor hurried from Sunday school to his home and did not occupy his pulpit Sunday morning.
“Rev. Mr. Norris and members of his family were given shelter in the home of friends Sunday. At the pastor’s office Sunday no announcement was made concerning plans for the family’s home in the immediate future. Mrs. Norris was reported yesterday afternoon to be prostrate.
“The temperature ranged far below freezing Sunday morning when the flames routed the members of the household from the home. Dangerous exposure to the weather was met especially by Mrs. Gaddy because of her age.
“First indications of the fire were found when the young son investigated barking of his dog.
“The fire was announced over the church radio during the morning. Several persons sent in contributions toward erecting a new home for the pastor.
“While the worst blizzard of the winter raged early Sunday morning, 12 fire alarms were sounded in various parts of the city before 3 p. m. Yet the fire damage was light, excepting at the Norris home.”
NEW HOME BUILT BY FRIENDS
But like everything else that has happened to the pastor and church, this was only another example of Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Friends from everywhere responded most generously and the pastor’s family moved into a new modern nine-room home, fully equipped, costing $21,000.00, and not a dollar of indebtedness!
ENEMIES BEING SAVED
Through all the tragic and glorious experiences multitudes of sinners have been saved and saved continually. And large numbers of bitter enemies have been saved and baptized. Here are two typical cases, the head of the liquor organization of Texas and dance hall proprietors.
SALOON GANG PLOT ASSASSINATION
Did not the liquor gang assassinate Rhoderick Gambrell on the streets of Jackson, Mississippi? Did not the same cold-blooded conscienceless liquor gang assassinate Senator Carmack on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee? Did not the same liquor gang brutally attack John Carney and R. H. Coward on Cotton Belt train between Hubbard City and Mount Calm and Coward died from injuries? Did not the same cowardly gang assassinate Fred Roberts on the streets of Corpus Christi? Did not the same liquor gang assassinate the District Attorney in Borger last year, and was he not shot in the back as he went into his own garage? (And to this day the assassin has never been caught.) Did not the same gang make a cowardly attack on Evangelist Mordecai Ham in Fort Worth in 1916? And did not this same gang shoot down in cold blood on Main Street, Fort Worth, District Attorney Jeff McLean? And now we have the testimony of the converted former head of the retail liquor dealers association of Texas of the several secret meetings of the liquor gang where it was discussed and planned “to get rid of Norris because he is ruining our business.” This quotation is the exact language of Bill Blevins, now a Christian and honored member of the First Baptist Church. He was converted and baptized into the First Baptist Church some eight years ago. He was in the saloon business for over forty years and had one of the best known saloons in Fort Worth when prohibition came. He organized the retail liquor dealers association of Texas; was its brains and generalissimo. He sits on the front seat of the First Baptist Church every Sunday and now loves the preacher he once hated and conspired with other saloonkeepers to get rid of. Behold, “what hath God wrought” and how true is Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Bill Blevins is a monument of Divine grace and tells this whole story – the conspiracy against Norris and his miraculous conversion with tears of gratitude! What explanation can be given of it? It is enough to make infidels fall down and own their Lord, and many of them have confessed Him as their only Saviour, like the Philippian jailer, when they saw the marvelous manifestation of Divine Power!
SALVATION OF DANCE HALL PROPRIETORS
Time would fail to tell of many strange and glorious experiences. For example, the happy salvation and baptism of dance hall proprietor and wife who, located a short distance from the old church, Third and Taylor, saw two men running from behind the church the night of the shooting through the window of the church where the pastor was sitting. This occurred in January, 1912. But during the courthouse trial these two witnesses were running a public dance hall and were bitter enemies of the pastor who made war on dance halls. Therefore, they kept closed mouths on this most valuable testimony. Years afterwards both were convicted, gloriously converted and baptized by the very pastor they had so bitterly hated, and who refused to testify for his life when he was fought by a conspiracy as black as Haman’s. They are two of the most honored, active and consecrated members of the First Church today and never miss a service. Their names are Mr. and Mrs. Ben O. Pulliam, and live at 2109 May Street, Fort Worth!
Incidentally, the “hired prosecution,” the state, the conspirators knew of this highly important testimony while they were framing the pastor in the grand juries and the courthouse. Read again what the greatest Baptist commoner said of “the colossal frame-up” in leading editorial of the Baptist Standard, May 2, 1912:
“A COLOSSAL FRAME-UP OF WICKEDNESS”
“It has been given out that the arson indictment against Pastor Norris is to be prosecuted harder than the perjury indictment was. The country has come with great unanimity to the belief that the whole business is a colossal frame-up of wickedness in which the machinery of the law has been seized and used to ruin an innocent man in order to screen guilty men. The complete play-out of the perjury case, the utter inefficiency of evidence, even total lack of any evidence in the case, has settled public opinion as to the grand jury, the legal adviser of the jury, and the whole business. Hon. O. S. Lattimore did not put it too strong when he said it was a disgrace to the state.”
MY TWENTY-ONE YEARS IN FORT WORTH
OR INSIDE THE CUP – No. 2
SERMON BY DR. J. FRANK NORRIS, SUNDAY NIGHT, SEPTEMBER 21, 1930
DR. NORRIS: I want to call your attention to the text used last Sunday night when I didn’t get through. It is found in the third chapter of Esther and second verse: “But Mordecai bowed not” – “But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.”
This, as you recall, is the very familiar character, a Jew by the name of Mordecai, one of the children of captivity, and Haman had been promoted to be Prime Minister over this great empire that reached from India on the southeast way down to Ethiopia in the depths of Africa, including 127 provinces. So Haman was the mighty man in the empire, and when he rode forth, everybody bowed down and saluted him. That meant that three times their heads went down to the ground. But there was one who refused to bow down when Haman rode forth, and because Mordecai re fused to bow down to this unscrupulous politician, Haman sought vengeance, not only against Mordecai, but against all the Jews, and he succeeded in having an Imperial decree written, sealed and signed by Ahasuerus, the king at that time, and sent throughout the 127 provinces of the empire, that every Jew, man, woman and child, be put to death on the 14th day of Adar, or of March. For that imperial decree, Haman paid into the king’s treasury ten thousand talents of silver. The decree went forth, it could not be changed, it was unalterable. You are familiar with the wonderful story of how Esther became queen instead of Vashti, and she was doubly related to Mordecai – she was his first cousin – she was the daughter of his uncle and she was also his adopted child. When the decree went forth Mordecai lay in sackcloth and ashes at the king’s gate. When Hatach brought word to Esther of Mordecai’s weeping in sackcloth, she sent forth royal robes to clothe him and take away his sackcloth and ashes, but he refused to accept them and sent back the word to Esther:
“You go speak to the king that the lives of your people be spared.”
And Esther gave command to Hatach to tell Mordecai: “For thirty days have not I entered into the presence of the king and there is a law in Shushan Palace that if anybody goes uninvited into the king’s presence that means instant death, unless he wills to extend the golden scepter.”
Mordecai again sends back the word: “If you refuse to do this, deliverance will come from another source, but it will not come to you and your household.”
Then Esther said: “I will go and if I perish, I perish.”
So she went unbidden into the presence of the king and stood in the inner court opposite the king’s house. The king saw her and extended the golden scepter and Esther bowed before him.
The result was that Haman was hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai, and Mordecai increased in favor, because of the power of God upon him, and the people were delivered.
The theme that comes down to us through the ages of mankind is the one word: “Mordecai bowed not”–he would not bow down to Haman!
It was with no small hesitation that I made up my mind to go into some things, to discuss some things that I discussed last Sunday night and I am going to finish tonight. I’ll give you a few more chapters on “Inside the cup.”
I want to say to you tonight, to this great audience – that the ministry of this hour is whipped, it is backed off the boards and on the defensive. The last thing on earth God wants and what the world despises is a ministry apologizing for its stand – because we have nothing to apologize for, and if I can help some brother of mine, some fellow soldier in the battle of life, God help me to do it. One of my mottoes I learned when a boy from Henry Drummond, “I shall not pass through this world but once, any good thing therefore that I can do to any human being let me do it now, let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
SHALL NEW TESTAMENT CHURCHES BE FREE?
The issues, my friends, in the history of the First Baptist Church, and I can reduce the plural to the singular, and say the issue in the First Baptist Church through all those years of conflict, is whether or not a New Testament church shall have the unchallenged right to run and order its own affairs according to the Magna Charta of the church. That’s the only issue, all others are side issues.
I don’t know what I said last Sunday night – it was taken down but I haven’t read it over, but I want to make this very clear, that the controversies we have had on the outside compare to nothing to what we have had on the inside, and when I say on the inside I don’t mean altogether members of the First Baptist Church – now for many years we have had no controversies on the inside with members of the First Baptist Church – so when I say on the inside I mean on the inside of the Baptist denomination.
I travel over this country a great deal – I made three addresses out of the city last week, and I am going next week. I like to go. I love to give the message. I spoke in Abilene last week to what the papers there said was more than five thousand. I spoke to them for more than two hours on the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and I am glad to say there were many saved as a result of that meeting. I rejoice to do that kind of service. Of course it is hard. It costs me sweat and blood and nerve and time, but I enjoy it.
I talk a great deal with preachers, and I know what I am talking about, and I say this without fear of contradiction, one of the supreme needs of the hour is that the churches be freed from entangling alliances.
As I speak tonight there are multitudes of people here not members of the church I have the honor to serve, and I am sure you agree with me, whatever be your church faith, that your heart has been made to bleed and your face has been made to blush, as many times you have seen some ungodly clique in your church absolutely rule and dictate the entire church, preacher included. That thing ought to come to an end. That is not what Jesus Christ established for the church – no, no, no, ten thousand times no! (Voices amen.)
Only last week a pastor told me, “Norris, if I should preach on these things, I have four families in my church. I would have the biggest row that ever was raised.”
“Well,” I said, “I would have the biggest row before daylight and go on and preach on what I think I ought to preach on; yes, sir.” (Voices amen.)
Talk about rows – I have had the supreme delight of firing and cleaning out three choirs since I have been in Fort Worth, and I do not hesitate to tell you that when I made up my mind to do it, I had the most delectable experience I ever had, or ever expect to have this side of Paradise. I have nothing against choirs – how I delight in this large magnificent choir.
HEN PARTIES RULE PASTORS
There are some women present tonight who will remember this experience – I am just talking tonight on a few of the inside chapters. We had all these societies – the WMU’s, the Ladies Aid, you know what all the different ones are – everyone of them are just like suckers on corn stalks, and they kept me just juning around all the time, working myself to death, doing what they told me to do, and you needn’t fool yourself they will tell the preacher what to do – talk about them being a help to him – why he is just a fifth wheel trying to keep up – just like a boy riding on the coupling pole – everybody else sitting on the front seats, going to a Fourth of July celebration, and there is no room for the boy and he has to sit on the coupling pole sticking out about ten feet behind the wagon – so I got tired riding on the coupling pole and made up my mind I was going to ride up on the front seat and drive the team, therefore, some people said, “Norris is heady, he is unruly, he raises disturbances.” They wanted me to be like the little boy – he isn’t going to cause any disturbances, certainly not. But I don’t believe any preacher ought to be riding on the coupling pole while some old goozer of a deacon or hen sits on the front seat – that’s his place, let him ride on the front seat and drive the team. That’s my opinion. That’s the way we run things around here. (Voices amen.)
A man asked me not long ago if I ever made mistakes. I said, “I make more of them than anything else, if I didn’t I would be out of fellowship with the whole church.” (Laughter.)
Now talking about those hen parties – now ladies don’t misunderstand me and get mad at me tonight-if you do it isn’t going to do you a bit of good. It is funny to me to hear somebody is mad at me, it doesn’t cause me to lose one minute’s sleep – it’s just like winking in the dark there’s nobody seeing you.
CAUSE OF ENVY
A bunch of Baptist preachers went over to see Dr. Gambrell, and told him that he would have to help them do something with Norris. You can take ninety-nine per cent of the criticism against this church and it is on account of the rest of the fellows are preaching to an empty wood yard and I have a tabernacle full of people. There are plenty of folks for all – like calling hogs – there are some of my hog calling friends sitting over here – they will tell you if you call hogs three times and not shell the corn down to them they won’t come any more.
Well back to these societies – I don’t want to get off on that – you know what, I used to have some women in the church who would call me before breakfast and another one would call me before dinner and they would call me after dinner and they would call me after I would get in bed and then sometimes call up between times. What did they want? I do not know. I never have found out – only they would want me to make a yard and a half of announcements. How many of you here ever heard a preacher get up and make about a yard and half of announcements and you would wish he would hurry up and get through – and if he didn’t make them here they would come! Well that thing went on, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and Sunday – and there I would have to stand up there and read a lot of announcements that nobody cared anything about – until finally one day I decided I wasn’t going to read any more, that it wasn’t the business of the pastor to read a lot of announcements, so when they were handed to me I laid them aside – whoopee! They came around and tried to lay me aside, and they came very near doing it too. (Laughter.) Now they were all good, fine women – they proceeded to give me my walking papers; yes, sir, and I saw what was going to happen. I am one nervous creature and it doesn’t take much to scare me. (Laughter.) You just let a bunch of women get after me – it just makes me nervous, and if you don’t turn around and run after them – well, you’ll just be out – you preachers, you let a bunch of women run you all night and all day and all the week and you won’t feel like preaching the next Sunday.
One of them got after Elijah and he ran 100 miles without looking back or leaving his forwarding address.
I called all the presidents and the secretaries, and the vice-presidents and all of them together the whole posse comitatus in one meeting. I didn’t even tell my wife. She was there. So when they all met that afternoon, the main ramrod said to them: “We are so delighted to have our pastor with us this afternoon, and he has a word he would like to say.”
I got up and said: “Madam President. I just want to say a word – it won’t take me but a minute and I don’t want to disturb you.” Then I said, “As pastor of the First Baptist Church I want to say all your societies have adjourned sine die, to meet no more Man! I said that going out the door. Yes, sir, I had my hat in my hand, and I didn’t lose any time saying it – I think I left my car running. (Laughter.) I heard something going on behind me – like that black panther of Honeyboy and Sassafras! And they stayed adjourned! They don’t win any souls. The main thing they do is gossip about everybody in the neighborhood – the preachers the deacons and everybody else. I got tired of it and I said, “I’m through, that’s all.” Now then talk about getting claw hammers out. (Laughter.)
I’m just giving you a few inside chapters tonight.
NEWSPAPER REFUSED TO PRINT NORRIS’ NAME
I referred to a conspiracy last Sunday night – a man who hasn’t been in this city long, and he is talking about joining the First Baptist Church – I hope he is here tonight – I will give him a chance. He said to me: “Say, you said something about newspapers not publishing your name for two years’ time, is that actually so?” I said, Yes, it is s-o, so. The morning Record, it was then, came out and published an editorial and said, “We will not publish the name of J. Frank Norris in these columns.” How many of you remember that? Hold up your hand. (Large number of hands up.) All right I wanted you to say so, for I want the strangers here to know that took place. All right, listen, instead of discour aging me, I said, “Now you have been delivered into my hands.” And I got some big placards and had printed in red ink and black ink in great big letters: “COME TO HEAR THE PREACHER THAT THE LIQUOR PRESS OF FORT WORTH BOYCOTTS” How many of you remember that placard? I never told who the preacher was – and I plastered the town with them – well they commenced coming. They called a meeting of the directors and the stockholders of this paper and they said: “This thing has got to be stopped.” You know there would be people get married – John Smith and Sallie Brown, and no preacher married them, and they would have funerals and no preacher conducted the funeral – if I was the one that did it. I just kept twisting their angoras and I had more fun in a minute over it, than they ever did have – that thing cost that newspaper – a director told me afterwards! – $175,000! And it went broke!
Let me tell you something, now don’t misunderstand this there are three things that a man is a fool to go against, one, is the Church of Jesus Christ, the other is a woman, and the third is a preacher of the Gospel – you’d better let all three alone. (Laughter.) There are three things that God is jealous for, first, His word, second, His Church, third, His prophet. He will take care of all three. Here is something, I speak of with great hesitation, certainly with great humility. Every hand that has been lifted against the First Baptist Church has failed to prosper. There have been lots of tragedies connected with it.
THE BROKEN DOWN DENOMINATIONAL MACHINE
Take the denominational machine – the Baptists are one thing and the machine is another. Most of their machinery is in the junk heap.
If I had been willing to bow down to the unscriptural demands of the denominational Hamans there would never have been any trouble. If I had never exposed evolution in Baylor University that forced seven evolution professors to resign, there would have been no trouble. If I had meekly and subserviently put on their postmillennial program of institutionalism there would have been no trouble. If I had been willing to take the unscriptural assessments of the ill-fated 75-Million Campaign there would have been no trouble. Oh, I am a New Testament Baptist, not a machine Baptist. I am for the denomination but I am not for a lot of long-standing high-handed misappropriation of sacred mission funds. The main difference between me and other preachers is I have dared to say so openly and they have not. But I have more people to preach to and most of the preachers are looking for a place to hang their hat.
The proudest thing in the history of the First Baptist Church is that we were put out of the synagogue because of our stand for New Testament principles. In 1921 the papers said in big headlines these words:
“ONE LONE MAN AGAINST FOUR THOUSAND DELEGATES.”
But oh things have reversed. We are now in the overwhelming majority and the end is not yet. The machine is broken and rejected. “Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin” is the verdict rendered against the Sanhedrin that has fought and maligned a great soulwinning independent New Testament church.
And the church is growing today as never before. In a short time will enter one of the greatest church auditoriums on the American Continent. I want the Baptist General Convention to meet in that auditorium. There was a time when the Convention would fill it, but it would take two or three conventions of the present to fill our new auditorium. It has been eighteen years since the Convention met in Fort Worth – What are they afraid of? Why don’t they come to Fort Worth?
Would it not be a wonderful thing for the machine to meet in a great church that is turned out because that church chose to study the Bible as its only text book instead of the literature of the Convention? This is unbelievable. But the minutes of the 1923
Convention show that one of the charges against the First Church was that we discontinued the literature of the Sunday School Board! Isn’t that a glorious chapter in the history of any church? We are so grateful for it-strong temptation to boast of this badge of honor, but no, we are humbly grateful that we are counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the pure Word of God, plus nothing and minus nothing. May not this be one reason, the main reason. why the abounding blessing of heaven is on the church? Stand by the Word of God and the God of the word will stand by you.
I have never told this before, only a few friends know about it.
At 10 o’clock one night I received a call to come marry a couple. It was rather a late hour for such a call and it was from a certain section that raised my gravest suspicions. I took the number and found out it was not wise for me to go there, and didn’t go. It wasn’t but a short time until I got another call to marry a couple, still later in the night, and I didn’t go. I was talking to a friend about it and we agreed that if I got another call I would go, and sure enough after while I got another call. I can tell you exactly what the number was, 612 Calhoun Street. When I got this call to come marry a couple, and in view of things going on, and from what I had heard before, I said, “All right I will go.” I asked for the names of the parties. They gave me some names – I don’t know if there were any such parties. It was a cold night – I never said anything to my wife for I didn’t want her to pass on it. I got hold of a man I could depend on to go with me, but I didn’t let this gang know anybody was coming with me. We went to that place – we drove by it two or three times then we stopped. The plan was that he was to get out and stay behind a bush or vine that was there until I needed him. I walked to the door, rung the bell and a woman weighing about 225 pounds came to the door. I said, “Is this where a couple wants to get married?”
She said, “Yes, sir, come in.”
She opened the door, I stepped in, but I left my right foot against the door facing and the door struck my heel.
She said, “Come on in.”
“Where is the couple?” I asked.
“Well,” she says, “come on in and I will call them,” and she caught hold of the door and gave it a shove.
I said, “That’s all right I will keep my hand on the door, get the couple.”
She said, “This is my house.”
I could see under a portiere a half dozen or so feet of men and women. She insisted on my coming in. I called the man on whom I knew I could depend, and said, “Come on.” He walked in and shoved that door wide open, and you never heard such running down the back hall – and there was nobody left but this woman and a girl. I called to the girl, and she broke into tears and told the whole scheme. Two of the city detectives were stationed there and two men in uniform on the outside – the scheme was – there was nobody to be married – she said, “They were to bring you here and then when you got here they were to raid this house and take you to the city hall in order to ruin your name.” Well, I wasn’t afraid of having my name ruined then and I am not afraid now. I made up my mind not to let any low down gang of the underworld assassinate me or put me in a compromising position. I will tell you the other side of the story. That woman in charge of that house where she lived for three years afterwards, one night, bless God, that woman came and heard me preach and was saved, and I baptized her, and one year afterwards I preached her funeral. I got the whole story from her.
Incidentally, you may be interested to know that place was owned by the chairman of the Board of Deacons of the First Baptist Church. It was one of the most notorious resorts of the city. This chairman of the Board of Deacons was fighting me – trying to fire me – I pulled this ownership of this house of ill-repute on him before the whole bunch. The number of the place was 612 Calhoun Street. It has since been cleaned and is a decent section of the city. Board of Deacons – yes, that is what most of them are fit for to fire the preacher, but tables were turned in this case and the gang have been mad ever since, at least some of them.
Why, yes, I will give you another inside chapter – these things are a little interesting now. I was having a fight with the federal powers on the liquor question. I took a trip to California. What was the name of that ranger when Pat Neff was Governor? – Ben Baldwin – he was with the United States Secret Service – now they had a certain man yonder in Los Angeles and one here in Fort Worth. Now it didn’t bother me if they had all the detectives in the world follow me. It didn’t bother me at all, why should it? When I got on that train, I want to tell you somebody else got on. He was a big Ku Kluxer, I wasn’t a member with them, but he was put on that train as my friend. They had my schedule, I was to go to Amarillo, take the Santa Fe, go through New Mexico to Los Angeles. Right across the aisle from me was a nice looking lady. She spoke to me and I didn’t know who she was and I didn’t care. I spoke to her, and we rode that way all throughout the day and the next morning when I got on the Santa Fe, this woman got on too, which she had a perfect right to do. I had also observed two strange men who kept watching me all the day before, and when I passed this other man in the wash room he says: “Keep your eyes open, watch those two fellows.” I had been watching them already as I had been apprised of it by Ben Baldwin. Here was the scheme, listen, to this, in this white man’s country – the scheme was that when we crossed the New Mexico line, this black-mailing woman and those men were to pull off their dirty deal – well they failed You ask why? Because of Mordecai’s God, that’s why. I got the report from the Department of Justice, Ben Baldwin gave me every bit of it.
It is an old trick of the devil, just as old as the conspiracy of Potiphar’s wife against Joseph. The gossipers like to whisper it, the ecclesiastical machines threaten it, but you know such hell-born schemes have never even interested me, much less worried me. Falsehoods, I care not how many and by whom circulated, can hurt no man.
FIGHT ON RADIO
Here is something I hesitate to call attention to, but think you ought to know it. This is of more recent date. There was a petition circulated among the Knights of Columbus of North Texas and out of Texas, to make a protest against my using radio K.F.Q.B., it was then, now K.T.A.T. They tried to put me off the air, I read what they said, I got this from the Radio Commission at Washington. They carried this up there, I can tell you who took it. It was the Deputy Chief Officer of the Knights of Columbus of North Texas, his name is “G-1-e-a-s-o-n,” Gleason; and the mayor of Fort Worth then, no I don’t believe he was mayor then, but he had been, he was in it up to his eyes – here is what they said – that station K. F. Q. B.’s programs were a disgrace to the citizens of the country, and that these Sunday programs which aroused re ligious strife were of a type that are broadcast by only the worst and most vicious type of agitator – that was during the Hoover campaign when Al Smith failed to carry Texas. Among the conspirators to put us off the air – they didn’t know it would get back down here – was a prominent preacher, the President of the Seminary at Fort Worth. Here was the scheme. The former mayor was to put up the money to pay for it, run it to advertise his department store during the week, and the Roman Catholics were to broadcast, and the President of the Seminary was to take my time on Sunday! (Laughter.) Well neither of the three have it yet, and that isn’t all they won’t get it. (Applause.)
Somebody says, “Why refer to these matters?” Here is why. You read in the Old Testament you will find where the prophets reviewed the whole history of the Jews, going back to the time God opened the Red Sea and they walked through dry shod, how they came to the wilderness and God sent manna from the skies, and when their feet touched the brim of Jordan, how God marvelously delivered them -that is the one explanation to it.
I am just giving you the records of the Radio Commission at Washington. Sometimes I have folks say, “Norris, looks like it all would run you crazy and ruin your health.” There was a time they nearly run me crazy and did break my health. In fact, I was broken every way. They said I was financially broke. They told the truth, except I was worse broke than they said. But thank heaven I paid every cent a long time ago. I am not boasting – just trying to help some struggling fellow sailor out in the storm.
You say, how do I have such good health?
Listen, if you want good health, don’t go to bed with any hate in your heart.
If you want good health, have lots of good humor.
If you want good health, fight a good fight and if you lose, forget it and get up and go to fighting again tomorrow.
If you want good health don’t worry about what folks say about you.
If you want good health, don’t worry – go to bed pull up the windows and let the world go to hell until day light. (Laughter.)
If you want to have good health, read your Bible.
If you want to have good health, get hold the latch string of heaven when the stars go out, live in eternity and not in time, put your faith in the arm of Jehovah and not in the weak, frail arm of the flesh. Paul says, “I have no confidence in the flesh.”
You know there are some people that worry themselves into the grave because they worry about what somebody says about them. Suppose what they say is true, quit it, get on the other side, and if what they say is not true, don’t pay any attention to it. A preacher came to see me the other day and he was just wringing his hands worrying about everybody talking about him. I said, “It’s not so, is it?” And he said “No!” “Well,” I said, “go on and preach the gospel, and eat two square meals a day and sleep all night and you will be all right.”
I want to tell you something else. This hasn’t been so far back either. One day the church office got notice the insurance on the church’s building was being cancelled. I didn’t pay any attention to it. I won’t go into all that tonight. One of the biggest insurance men in Texas, not a member of anybody’s church called me up and said, “Norris, I think you ought to know what is going on.”
“What’s going on?” I asked.
He says, “There is a deliberate plan to have cancelled all your insurance and force the mortgage due and foreclose on the property and take it away from you.”
Now that looked like pretty serious business, and we went on for awhile with practically no insurance, and we owed a life insurance company in St. Louis a heavy debt and they held a mortgage on our property. I knew what the scheme was – I never even told my wife this, but I jumped on the old Sunshine Special and went to St. Louis. I arrived in St. Louis and walked over to the office of the President of the company we owed the money to – I didn’t know who he was, but do you know what I found out that he was a brother to a Baptist preacher who was an old school mate of mine, and that President knew me as well as I know any of you. I just laid the cards on the table, and told him what was up. He says, “The law is that you have got to have insurance.”
“I know that,” I said, “but listen, you are not going to bother us until we can get it?”
“Get it just as soon as you can,” he said.
We went on talking, and it was about lunch time and we went to lunch together, and his last word to me was, “Go on and preach the gospel and do the best you can.”
That’s what we have had to go up against. They soon found out they couldn’t get anywhere with a great Christian man head of an insurance company-who told them to go where the fires don’t go out, and said he had faith in the First Baptist Church; he had faith in the God of the First Baptist Church. (Applause.)
Now who had that done? I will tell you. One of them was a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus, and I want you to know there were certain Baptists in it. Who else was into it? A certain merchant who is not living in Fort Worth or anywhere else, was in it, a former mayor.
That’s some of the things we have had to go through in this church. My friends it was enough to run a man crazy, but I felt like it would come out all right, and bless God, it did, and we have one of the finest pieces of property in Fort Worth and we are building our auditorium right on up, and it is going to be so absolutely fire proof that I couldn’t even burn it myself. (Much laughter.)
ECCLESIASTICAL HATE AGAINST FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
I said a moment ago – I give you this word briefly – now you can go up against the saloon and the underworld, whip them, and they will come and join you. They don’t carry malice. Why, I have baptized a large number of ex-saloon keepers. You can whip a man on the political field, and next year he will be voting for you. They don’t carry malice. My friends the meanest and blackest hate on earth is ecclesiastical hate. What was the enemy that pursued the Apostle Paul?
What was it that nailed Christ to the cross? The hate of the Sanhedrin.
What was it cut the heads off the Apostles? It was Ecclesiasticism.
Let me show you something. Just ten years ago the First Baptist Church decided to dump all the Sunday School literature, quarterlies, leaflets. You can’t learn the Bible with such junk – so we decided to take the Bible only and use it in every class of every age, that we would sit down and study together the same lesson out of the Bible, and we went through the entire sixty-six books, every age, every class and we turned around and started through again. This morning the entire Sunday School studied the book of Esther. My friends, that’s one of the charges the ecclesiastical machine made against the First Baptist Church, be cause we refused to use the literature and took the Bible only. I have no use for something some man says about the Bible, all I want is what God says. This church stands forth one hundred per cent for the whole Bible from the first preposition “In” to the last “Amen” of Revelation.
The First Baptist Church believes in the direct creative act of God, that He created the earth, the stars and systems; that He created the fishes of the sea, the birds of the air, the animals of the forest and that the climax of His creation was man.
The First Baptist Church believes in every miracle in the Old and New Testament – that when God said, “Let the waters be gathered” it was so, and we believe when it says He split the sky and fire came down from heaven on Mount Carmel, it was so; we believe when it says a fish swallowed Jonah and it made him so sick of his job that it threw him up, that it was so. (Laughter.)
The First Baptist Church believes that the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary and she brought forth the Son of God, the son of man.
The First Baptist Church believes He performed all the miracles the Bible says He did. We believe that He turned the water into wine; that He opened blind eyes, unstopped deaf ears; that He healed the paralytic and the lame man walked; we believe that when He called to the dead, “Come forth’ they came forth.
The First Baptist Church believes that He has all power to forgive sins; we believe that He was nailed to the cross that, He might bring us to God; we believe that when He died they took His body wrapped it in linen and laid Him in Joseph’s new made tomb, sealed it with hate, and guarded it by Roman Power for three days, and we believe that on the First Day of the week, He burst asunder the bars of death and rose in triumph over the grave; and we believe He was seen on the earth for forty days and that He ascended back to the right hand of the Majesty on high, where He ever liveth to make intercession for us – and thank God we don’t need any black bosomed priest to speak to Him for us through any hole in the wall, to get our sins forgiven; no, sir. We believe that this same Jesus is coming again down the sky in great glory and power to raise the righteous dead, and the righteous living saints will be changed in a moment in the twinkling of an eye, and together! together! together! we shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, where we will ever be with Him, and we believe that He is coming to put down all rule and all principalities and power and chain the Devil and establish His reign on the earth for a thousand years! (Shouting.)
I want to say this last word. Of course nobody is going away and say I am boasting – for there is no ground for boasting – I have got my scars; yes, sir. I have got them, but I am not going to wear any crepe on the lapel of my coat. I am not going around like a weak kitten – no. My friends, you will never find mine on the outside. It is on the inside. It is the great joy of my life that I can look back over the years and say, “I never asked for any quarter.” I haven’t done it yet, and bless God, I don’t expect to. Let them do their worst. When my funeral comes – I hope that will be a long time off – and the friends pass around my coffin, and when last comes my wife and children, and they look on the cold dead face of their father, I want them to say this and it be the truth – He never turned his back in the day of battle.” (Voices amen.)
“Oh” they say, “Norris is a disturber.” That is not the truth by far.
Why do they say that? Because I didn’t run at the first crack of the whip.
Why do they say I am a disturber? Because I refused to let a few worldly deacons run me out of town.
Why do they say I am a fighter? Because I wouldn’t let a lot of half undressed women raise hell in the church and tell me what to do.
Why do they say I am a disturber? Because I declined to let a bunch of singers tell me where to head in.
Why do they say I am a disturber? Because I refused to let the saloon crowd and their sympathizers rule the church when the prohibition fight was on.
Why do they say I am a disturber ? Because I refused to let evolution be taught in our Baptist schools without a protest.
Why do they say I am a disturber? Because I refuse to let any ecclesiastical gang on top side of God’s earth tell the First Baptist Church how to run its business. (Applause.)
Why do they call me a disturber? Because I refused to bow down to Haman, that’s why.
Yes, there have been some dark, deep waters, I don’t deny it, but I have tried with it all, when the darkness deepens, to see the light. When the babel of voices roared there was a song; when the waves were high and the wind tempestuous, I could hear the voice of Him who said: “Be of good cheer, it is I be not afraid.” I have tried as I walked down through the walls of the Red Sea and heard Him saying, “Come on over on this side” – and when I walked through the wilderness there was the shade of His cloud of grace. I have tried when I came to the waters of the swollen Jordan to pick up the stones, carry them to the other side and build up a memorial to our God. I have tried when I walked around the walls of Jericho to sing, “We are marching to Zion,” and when the walls fell down flat, give God the glory. When He said go into the fiery furnace, He went in with me, and when I went into the hungry lion’s den, I thought, if I am eaten by the lions, I will be through and go on home to heaven, and I will not sell my birthright for a mess of pottage, and like Paul and Silas, I have tried to sing and pray at the midnight hour, for the Lord to come and shake down the doors and have a midnight baptizing. (Shouting.)
I have but one joy, that’s all – while ago as I walked down the aisle, I saw a man and his wife standing over there, at first I didn’t recognize them, and I apologized to them, Jake Street, are you still here? (Man answers in audience.) Jake do you mind standing? (Man gets up.) Jake drank for several years. How long was it? About fifteen years wasn’t it? “Yes, sir.” Thank you Jake, be seated. I baptized Jake about two years ago this summer – when I walked down that aisle and saw that man there together with his beautiful wife – he is living a sober Christian life now – why I would rather go out tonight and put my arms around some other Jake down in the depths of wreck and ruin and by the grace of God lift him up, lift him up! lift him up! (voices amen) lift him up! until God reaches down and takes him and gives him back to his wife a sober man, than to have all the wealth of the world – what joy! (Voices amen, shoutings.)
You know that man Shields, that veteran of the 90th Division – whom I baptized, a week ago last Sunday night at 1:30 a. m., when I called for him the next Sunday night and he wasn’t here somebody said: “Norris was just telling that, there isn’t any such fellow.” Mr. Shields are you here tonight? (Man arises.) Come down here and tell that gang how they lied on you. (Man comes to front.) You are not going to tell this fellow that fought in St. Mihiel and the Argonne battles that I lied about it. Come on up here. (Man walks up on platform.) Friends, this is Mr. William
E. Shields, who because when I called for him the other night and he wasn’t here some said, there wasn’t any such man. Will you tell this crowd if your name is Shields?
MR. SHIELDS: It is.
DR. NORRIS: Where do you live?
MR. SHIELDS: 409 Broadus, Seminary Hill.
DR. NORRIS: Tell this crowd if three Sunday nights ago you called my home about five minutes to 12 o’clock?
MR. SHIELDS: I did, yes, sir.
DR. NORRIS: Tell this crowd whether or not you told me, “I have been a wicked sinner and I have committed every sin in the world, but that I got down on my knees tonight and I am saved,” did that happen?
MR. SHIELDS: Yes, sir.
DR. NORRIS: Tell this crowd whether or not you said: “Dr. Norris I want to be baptized tonight?”
MR. SHIELDS: I did.
DR. NORRIS: Tell this crowd whether or not I told you that we didn’t have the baptistry filled and I didn’t know whether we could or not, and you told me that didn’t make any difference I could find some place, and that we could go down to the Trinity River?
MR. SHIELDS: Yes, sir.
DR. NORRIS: Tell this crowd whether or not I told you that I would haptize you if I had to take you to the Trinity River?
MR. SHIELDS: You did.
DR. NORRIS: Tell this crowd whether or not we filled up the baptistry and at 1:30 a. m. on Monday morning I baptized you?
MR. SHIELDS: That’s so.
DR. NORRIS: And you have been happy ever since, and got a good case of religion?
MR. SHIELDS: Yes, sir.
DR. NORRIS: My friends, here is this man who had not been in church for many years, this old boy that faced death in the world war for you and me – why long after all the skyscrapers have fallen down and the earth has melted with fervent heat and all the works of the world have been burned up; long after yonder heavens have been rolled up like a scroll and long after the Angel of Time shall stand, one foot on the land and one foot on the sea and lifting his right hand sware by Him that liveth forever and ever, who created the heaven, and the things that are therein, that time shall no longer be-away out, out yonder in the eternity of eternities William Shields and Frank Norris will sit down together and talk about that midnight baptizing! (Shoutings.)
Folks, I am sorry for you who are not preaching the gospel. (Voices amen.) Yes, sir. Sometimes I have had friends say, “Norris you ought to have made a lawyer.” Lord have mercy on the lawyers – (laughter) – there is not much chance for most of them. Why they never have such joy as that.
I must close, your patient hearing tempts me – I want to give you this last word and give an invitation. I am so hot I have preached my collar and tie off. (Laughter.)
I want to give you the greatest story of my life – some of you have heard it, but I think it will bear repeating. I wanted my wife to come tonight – but she thought she ought to stay at home and help with the radio – and I wouldn’t tell her what I wanted for if I had I knew she wouldn’t come, but I want her to stand here on the platform someday and tell her side of this story. I want you to have it from a woman whose faith never fails.
In the darkest darkness of the tragic summer of 1912 – the reason why it was so dark – everything was gone, my health was gone – I looked like one of these scare crows they put out to keep the crows out of a watermelon patch walking around – I looked like a poor old horse that was string-haltered with blind staggers reeling around – I felt like that and I looked like it. I couldn’t talk more than ten or fifteen minutes until I would begin to cough, and I would tremble like a twig in a March wind, and afterwards I would be so hoarse I couldn’t speak above a whisper. Now I believe I could speak for twenty hours and never know what it is to be hoarse. God has given me a throat with a set of steel vocal cords. I have had some doctors want to cut into my throat – you are not talking to me. Dr. Lipps over there told me not to have my tonsils taken out – now he is the kind of doctor I was looking for. I don’t think I have any tonsils now, I guess I swallowed them, or talked them out, maybe. (Laughter.)
I want to say this to help somebody. Say, did you ever feel like now your feet were going down and down and down, well you ever beloved, I know how you felt.
Did you ever feel like everything on earth was gone and something had gone wrong upstairs? Well I know how you felt.
Have you ever gone to bed and rolled from side to side, and the morning would come and you had not slept a wink? Well I know what you are talking about.
Say, were you ever just worse than broke – I don’t mean badly bent – my enemies said I was broke, they didn’t know the half of it. I was broke all flat. (Laughter.)
During that day when everything was gone, then something seemed to snap up here in my head and I felt like somebody had a sledge hammer hitting me on the back of the head. About that time a friend wired me to come help him in a meeting – I said I can’t hold a meeting I haven’t got the strength to hold a meeting, but I wired him I would come without thinking much about it. When I went down to catch the train, I missed it – I was glad of it, and went to send a telegram that I wasn’t coming, and George Neace – if he were here tonight would perhaps remember this, said, “Brother Norris there is another train going at 11 o’clock.” It made me mad. because he told me. I got on it and went down there and when I got there – a little town of about a thousand people – well it seemed like all the folks and all the dogs were standing there looking at me to see what kind of looking wild animal I was. Brother White came up and took my little old hand satchel – didn’t have much in it – and he said, “You are going to be my guest” – well he was a nice looking, civilized looking man and I went along with him. When we got home he introduced me to his wife and took me to a room – a nice looking room, and said, “This is to be your room.” We went out to the tabernacle that night and everybody was there for forty miles around, and when I stood up to speak I was so weak I couldn’t stand without holding to the stand for support. I was absolutely exhausted. I read a few Scriptures and said “Good night” I didn’t make any appeal. I didn’t have any appeal to make. When we got home that night, Sister White wanted to fix me something to eat – I didn’t want anything to eat. I didn’t have any appetite. I had a dark brown taste in my mouth. I went to bed. I tossed back and forth all night long – the next morning when I was shaving I noticed my hand trembling – my eyes were blood shot – I looked like I had been on a months’ drunk. We went down to the tabernacle that day, and talked a little while and quit. That night there was another big crowd – I preached the best I could and we went home – I had not been able to sleep and I was so tired – my breath was short, just cutting off right here – I woke up to the fact that unless that thing changed I would soon be in my grave or in the asylum. Later on that night – Oh, that night, it was the greatest night I ever experienced on earth, the darkest and the deepest and the saddest – the family went to bed – I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I needed sleep I had lost several nights. I hadn’t been able to eat and sleep all summer and I didn’t weigh but 124 pounds, and I was as tall as I am now – that’s a good deal less than what I weigh now – let me see that’s about sixty pounds less than what I weigh now. After while as the night rolled on and I tossed and tossed – my limbs from my knees down felt like I was standing in red hot fire, and my temples just felt like somebody had my head in a vise bursting it wide open, and I felt like somebody had tweezers pulling my nerves out one at a time. My body felt like it had been flayed and cut to pieces-it was gone, wasted away. Finally I got up, put on my clothes, the window was open, I didn’t want to disturb the family, and I took my shoes in my hand and slipped out, walked out the back way out into the pasture, I walked along slowly until I got way out from the house and I sat down for awhile in the grass – and I sat there – thin, wasted away, broken, discouraged, overcome, overwhelmed – after while I laid down on the grass like Jacob the first night he was away from home – put my hands under my tired aching head and lay there looking up at the glowing stars on that hot July night, and I wondered why all these things had befallen me. What wrong had I done? I went to Fort Worth and made the best fight I could and I had lost – I didn’t care for myself so much, but my wife and three babies, God pity them! My friends had turned away, everything was gone and I knew I was gone too – I am telling you I knew I would soon be in the asylum or in the grave in a short time. I felt myself slipping, and I was terribly alarmed about it. When I got up the cold sweat was on my brow. I started home and the gray streaks of morning were showing up in the eastern sky – I slipped back into bed, but I couldn’t sleep. After while that good old Methodist layman came and knocked gently on my door – I said, “Come in.” He came in and said: “Did you have a good night?” “Yes, sir,” I said. “Well,” he said, “breakfast will soon be ready” – I didn’t want anything to eat, but I went in and sat down at the table. I was so sad I couldn’t think of a word on earth to say, and Sister White wanted to know if there was anything she could fix for me that I could eat. I felt like a man that was drowning and nothing to hold to – every friend I had on earth was gone. I said to myself, I am going home, get my family and I am going to Southern California where nobody knows me and I am going to get out there on a ranch and I am through with the ministry – not that I had lost faith in God, but I had lost my fight, my courage was gone, health was gone, every thing was gone.
When we started to church that night I told the family to go on that I would walk. After they had gone, I got my grip – I didn’t have much in it, just a change of underwear and a necktie – and I said I am going home tonight and I am not going to tell a soul that I am going. I walked on to the tabernacle and went through a peach orchard and I hid my grip in some weeds, and I went into the tabernacle. When the services were over I meant to slip out there, get my grip and catch the 1l o’clock train and come home.
When I got into the tabernacle and started to preach, the pastor leaned over and whispered to me, “Do you see that man sitting back yonder ?” I had already seen him. He said, “That old fellow with the red bandana handkerchief around his neck – he is the meanest man in all this country, it is the first time I have ever known him to come to church – he has a half dozen notches on his gun. If you could reach that man you could reach this whole country.” I can see him now as he sat rared back – he had on boots and spurs, and I learned afterwards bells on his spurs, and he looked at me and I looked at him, we were of mutual curiosity to each other. I stood up, tired and weak, and I looked at him and I thought – “You poor old sinner, it’s the last time I ever expect to preach and I am going to give you the best I have got.”
So what happened? I looked at him and he looked at me – and I began, “A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance in riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country: and he sent him into his fields to feed the swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and he made a great feast”-and about that time I saw that old red-faced sinner bury his face in his hands-it was a hot night and I didn’t know what it meant, but im a minute he just reached up behind and tore that old red bandana loose and 1 saw him bury his face in it and his frame shook like a leaf in a storm – and folks, something happened in this tired weak frame of mine – and I stood up on my hind feet for the first time in a long time and felt strong – and I said if there is a man here who is a sinner lost and will come to the Father’s house tonight, come on! come on! come on! and my friends I can see that old sinner now as he got up and started down the aisle-he had that old red bandana handkerchief in one hand and his cow-boy hat in the other, and you could hear his bells jingling as he came – listen folks, he didn’t stop to shake hands with me, but he fell full length on his face – and when his little old Methodist wife sitting over there, she didn’t even know he was anywhere round, when she saw him, she let out a shout that you could have heard a quarter of a mile and she came running and fell by his side (shoutings) and in five minutes there were more than fifty men and women in that altar seeking Jesus Christ, and salvation came down and that 11 o’clock train whistled and went on and they were still being saved, and twelve o’clock came and folks were still being saved, one o’ clock came and they were still shouting, and two o’clock came and we were still there. When I got back home at 3 o’clock and walked in Brother White said, “Fort Worth is trying to get you” – well I knew who in Fort Worth wanted me. I went to the telephone and tried to talk – I have always been able to keep control of my emotions, but sometime they get the best of me – this was one time they did – I got Fort Worth on the line and they told me Mrs. Norris was trying to get me, and I said, “Bless God I want her too.” When she came to the telephone and said, “Hello, is that you Frank?” I just played the baby act, and I couldn’t do anything but stand there and cry, and central kept saying, “Talk, talk, here they are.” Well I was doing my best to talk and I couldn’t say a word. I turned to Sister White and I said, “You tell her.” She said, “All right, I will tell her,” and she came and took that receiver out of my hand, and she drew back and slung it against the wall and shouted “Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah!” and she just shouted all over the room. I said, “Brother White, you tell her” – he said, “All right,” and he came to the telephone and he said, “Sister Norris,” and that was as far as he got, he just bellowed as loud as he could – and their sixteen-year-old daughter came and she tried it and she just squalled and cried. And I said, “Give me that telephone receiver” – and all the time central was saying, “Talk, talk, talk!” Finally I got my feelings under control enough and I said, “Wife, wife, we have had the biggest meeting you ever saw, more than half hundred sinners have been saved, and they are still shouting all over this country, and the best part of it is, wife, you have a new husband – he has been saved tonight, and he is coming home and we are going to start life over again and lick the tar out of that crowd and build the biggest church in the world.” And she said, I knew it was happening. I have been praying for three days and nights. I haven’t slept a wink, and tonight I had the answer to my prayer, I have been praying that this thing might happen, and my joy is complete, my cup runneth over.” I said, “Wife I will be home Sunday.”
The next Sunday I preached at 7th and Lamar and the fire from heaven came down and we had sixty-two converts to walk down the aisle. Any of you remember that night? (Hands up.) Many of you.
To God be all the glory. I praise His name for good health and for the opportunity He has given me to testify for Him, and as long as there is breath in my body, as long as my tongue can proclaim, that long will I proclaim, the unsearchable riches of Jesus Chris. My only hope of reward, my only ambition, my only joy, is to take some old boy like Shields and Jake Street out there and point them to the way of salvation that shall outlast the shining stars and a life shall be saved for ever and forever! Who will come tonight? (People came from all the tabernacle.)