This little booklet from around 1924 tells the story of a Landmark Baptist preacher’s ministry in North Texas from the 1880’s to the 1920’s. It has been in my family for a while because it mentions my great-great-grandfather W.A. Souther, who was a Landmark Baptist preacher. I present it here with only a few spelling corrections from the original (while probably adding a few of my own). Scans of the original book are included at the end. I’ve also tried to locate the places mentioned and link to historical sources about them. Some I am unable to locate while other the best I can do is find a cemetery.
I have a deep admiration for what men like this did. We wouldn’t have the heritage we have today without these unsung heroes who ministered in places passed over by history. I hope that the life and ministry of Joseph Thetford (1854-1928) opens your eyes to these types of pioneer preachers. – MBG
This little book is sent forth into the world, first, because I want to give the people the benefit of my experience and life work as a preacher; second, because so many of my brethren have requested me to do so. And I send it forth hoping it may bring a blessing to them and might encourage them to press on the harder in the Master’s work, and to leave a mark in the world that would live on after I am gone, and I trust it will inspire many to greater courage
ELDER J. THETFORD
The Experience and Life Work of Elder J. Thetford As A Preacher
I felt I was called to the ministry when I was about thirteen years old. At this time I had never gone to school; this was soon after the close of the Civil War and, of course, there were only a few schools in the country. I was an orphan and the schools were pay schools, therefore, I could not go, and I said, Lord, I can’t preach. So I battled along until I was twenty-seven years old before I entered the work. I promised the Lord many things I would do if He would spare me when I got in trouble, but when He would help me our of them I would not do them. And finally I told Him if He would give me a wife I would preach. Finally He gave me the wife and still I would not preach. In course of time there were born unto us two happy, sweet little children, and then I would not preach. Finally the Lord took these away by death. I said, Lord, I will go regardless of education or anything else.
This came to the ears of the church where my membership was, and on Saturday before the first Sunday in May 1881, the church licensed me to exercise my gift in public, and I have been preaching from that time until now. The first sermon I preached was in our own church (Bethany Baptist Church), and then began preaching in school houses, and such other places as I could secure. However, when I preached my first sermon a good old brother (who stutters very much) came to me and said, Wi, wi, wi Brother Joe, if I were you I would never try to preach again. But in a few days I changed my mind, and was preaching, and have been preaching forty-two years, leaning on the strong arm of the Lord, and while I was yet a licensed preacher I held several protracted meetings in which there were several conversions. I first came into notice as a preacher when the church of which I was a member held her first protracted meeting after I was licensed. The church had three splendid preachers for the meeting; they preached ten days and nights with seemingly no results, so they were ready to close. One of the preachers asked me if I wanted to talk. I said yes; I arose and quoted Jno. 3:14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of Man be lifted up , that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have eternal life.” At the close of my talk there were thirty came forward for prayer, and seventeen of these were converted, and from that time until this all of my time has been called for and been given to the Lord.
In the year A.D. 1884 this church (Bethany) ordained me to the full work of the gospel ministry. The churches being well supplied with pastors, it was left for me to assist them in protracted meetings and preach throughout the country. This I did until the year 1887, at which time we decided to go to new fields, and moved to Montague County, Texas, and settled on the head of Denton creek, this being the fall of the year and the church having called their pastor, I was without work, and being a stranger I thought I would not let myself be known as a preacher, but it was made known and the brethren began to put me up to preach. I did the best I could for them, but this did not suit me, so in the spring of 1888 I went to what was then known as Bridgewater school house, and at this place I organized a church with seven members and became her first pastor. This was in May 1888. I preached for them until July and then held a meeting, which resulted in 37 baptisms, and several by letter. There were some incidents occurred during this time which I will here related. In the first place, this church was instituted in a strong Campbellite nest and, of course, they tried to put me our of business, but my brethren stayed with me and we finally gained the victory. Then they challenged me for a debate with their pastor I accepted, then they backed out and challenged us with one Mr. Thurman, who was an old debater. We agreed to let them have their man and we would get ours. They got Mr. Thurman, one of as great preachers as they had. We called on Bro. J.K.P. Williams. The debate was fixed to come off in May, 1889. On the morning the debate began the people gathered from all parts of the country, and the hill was covered, but no Williams; then they began to say, What did I tell you?We knew he would not come. The hour had come and some of my brethren said, What will we do? Our man is not here. Some of my brethren said I would have to take his place, and I said if there is no other chance I will do it, but you must give us a chance to fix up our propositions. So eleven o’clock had come so we turned the services over to the congregation. Mr. House, who came to be Mr. Thurman’s moderator, took the floor and began preaching. So while we were waiting Mr. House got through preaching. By this time Bro. Williams had arrived. This made me fell good and very much relieved. Bro. Williams and Mr. Thurman were soon ready and the debate began and lasted six days. At the close most all the people were well pleased with the Baptist victory. This was in May, 1889. So the following July I held a protracted meeting with the church at the close of which I baptized thirty-six, eighteen of whom were Campbellites. Another incident that was amusing: a had preached on a Sunday morning and talked about creeds, especially Pendleton’s Manual, and one man arose and said he was glad he belonged to a church that had no creed, whereupon I told him his church had a larger creed or book of discipline than did the Baptist. At this point one man came up and said if I would produce the book he would give me five hundred dollars; another said he would give me a fine span of mules; to this we agreed publicly but I did not have the book at hand just then. I sent to D.B. Ray at St. Louis for the book entitled “The Christian System,” and Sunday of my next appointment I had the Campbellite discipline on hand. At the close of the sermon on Sunday I called the attention of the people to the contract we had made and I believe nine-tenths of the people stood and said by that act, Thetford, you have filled your contract and they ought to pay you (but they did not). Then I called the attention of the people to the fact and asked if any of them wanted to join a church like that and many of them said no, and I was not bothered much more with the Campbellites at that place. I pastored the church seven years, and left them with a membership of about one hundred and fifty, and a prosperous growing church, and this was my first pastorate.
The next church that called me as a pastor was the church at Centralia, about three miles east of Montague town in Montague County. This was a weak church, but I went to work with them and it soon began to grow and prosper, and as usual, the Campbellites were strong at this place and always meddling with the Baptist. This was the case here, but this was soon overcome, and we went on with our work. But before we did we had to clean up on them. The cleaning up came about in this way; I went to my appointment one Saturday, as usual, and when I got there I found a Campbellite who said he did not know it was my day, so he asked me to divide time with him. I said I would do what the church said for me to do. They said for me to fill my time, whereupon he jumped up and said he would preach and answer the things which I had been preaching to the people. He announced he would preach the next afternoon at three o’clock. The time came, the preaching done, and I was there to hear him. Among the many things that he said was that he knew Baptist doctrine better than I did for he had preached for the Baptists for twenty years. When he was through I announced I would preach that night. There was a very large crowd present, and while preaching I noticed many things he had said; just one or two we will notice here: When he said he knew Baptist doctrine better than I, for he had preached the Baptists twenty years, I replied by saying, Will you please tell us what you was turned out of the Baptist church for? Of course, he would not tell us that. I suggested I had known people being turned out for stealing horses, and other things, of course I did not know this was true in his case but I was told afterward that he was turned out of the church for stealing hogs, and this practically cleaned up the Campbellites. I preached for this church three years and left it a good old Landmark Baptist, so far as I know. We had some good meetings with this church and baptized many folks into her fellowship. In the meantime I was called to a church at Lake Valley, four miles east of Sunset, Texas, and preached for them two years, with good results. Space forbids giving full details of all the work at all the churches and places where I preached and the incidents that occurred, so I will five the most interesting things at the end of our work. Everything was left in good shape with the churches greatly built up. The next church that called me was Pleasant Ridge. This church was weak and surrounded with all kinds of isms. I do not remember just how long I preached for them but for several years. One incident occurred while there I will relate: The people of this country had what they called a County Union Sunday School, and of course had their regular meetings, and at this particular time came to our church and it being our Sunday they put me on the program to preach, and I made special preparations for the hour. There was a large congregation coming from all parts of the country. Of course, I was not in harmony with that kind of Sunday School. I went into the pulpit and preached a sermon on Sunday School work. I said many things and among others I said I had just a soon my children would go fishing on Sunday morning as a union Sunday School. You may known this put a bomb-shell in the union Sunday School there. I became old Joe Thetford, but none of these things shook me, I am staying with my job. The reader will remember I preached for these churches from two to eight years. But I must say I left Pleasant Ridge church four times stronger than I found it. I pastored the Lindale church in Montague County, near the town of Bowie. Also the Church at Denver City for a time, and with these churches held good meetings and did good work.
While living in this part of the country I helped hold meetings where I was not the pastor. The places are too numerous to mention in this connection.
About this time, in 1890, we moved from the head of Denton Creek to what was then known as the Big Belcher pasture, and here we settled for about three years. Of course, this brought about a change in my work to some extent. While here I went out to a school house called Long Branch and organized a church and became its first pastor. I preached for them 2 years, and then resigned to take mission work. This work was offered me by Montague Association but before we deal further with this mission work we will tell of an experience at Long Branch in after years. We we back in that country, stopped to stay all night with a brother whose name was Eaton, who asked if we would like to go to church, to which we said yes. We went; there was a one Mr. Scaggs, a Campbellite, who was holding a meeting. Among some of the things he said at the close is, we have learned that the first gospel sermon was preached on Pentecost. Second, that the church was set up on Pentecost. Third, that the Holy Spirit was first given on Pentecost an then insisted that if anyone had anything to say, say it, and, of course, that being a school house, I had something to say and I took forty-five minutes in answering and condemning that heresy, seemingly to the delight of the congregation, for they gave me fine attention.
Back to our mission work. At that time the Association included the counties of Montague, Clay, Wichita, and part of Young County, so you see I had a large field, more than I could possibly cover, especially traveling in a buggy. About the first things I did was to go over to a school house at Riverland in Clay County and organize a church with twelve members, and became its missionary pastor. So we began to work for God. The Campbellites began to stick their heads up crying, we want a debate, and continued until the debate came. It came about this way; One Saturday when I went to fill my appointment, lo and behold! they had a man there who said he had not come to interfere with my appointment but to hold a meeting as soon as my appointment closed on Sunday night, but he asked me to divide time with him. I told him I could not do that as my time belonged to Montague Association and the church had sent me to preach. But he kept on nagging my brethren until they said, Bro. Thetford it seems that nothing else but a debate is going to satisfy them. I said: If I take this debate you brethren will have to pay for it because I cannot afford to lose this time. They agreed to do so. We opened the debate on Monday and it lasted 4 days. I shall not undertake to give all the details of this debate, however, I want to give the most interesting details to you. It was tit for tat until we came to the closing speech, and this was the ground of salvation by grace. He had spread his speech on the blackboard and when we came to our closing speech we took up his text he had written on the board and when I got after it (his speech) there was not a drop of water left in it. Neither a bit of works, then I took my handkerchief and rubbed the thing off the board and his people sure enough believed I had cleaned up on him. This ended the debate and won a gracious victory for the Baptist. So the gentleman did not stay for his meeting but left at once. I preached for the church three or four more years and left her a live wire. I lived at Nocona during the time of this year’s mission work, but I soon moved to Clay County where I lived nine years. During this time I pastored churches both in and out of the country, therefore I will have something to say about the work while I lived here. My home was at Cambridge, three miles east of Henrietta, Texas. I pastored the church at Bensianue, Clay County. I pastored this church five years and the Lord made this a successful work. One thing occurred while here, somewhat amusing, while holding a meeting for this church the Lord saved a man who was teaching the school at this place who said he was a Baptist all right but that he had a peculiar notion as to the place of baptism and if I would go with him to the Jordan where Christ was baptized he would submit to the ordinance. I told him if he would furnish the money I would surely go, but this he would not do. But back to the work. I also pastored the church at Cambridge for five years. This church I organized while missionary of Montague Association; this church did a dine work during these years. I also pastored Blue Grove for seven years. This church was twelve miles south of Henrietta, Texas, and was a splendid church. I baptized many folks into her membership. I remember on one occasion while holding a meeting with this church the meetings was dragging along; one night I made the appeal of my live and there were nine young women came to the altar for prayer, and these constituted the singing class in the Sunday School. This class was taught by one Bro. South, a Godly man who had much interest in their salvation. I called him to the altar to offer prayer for them, at the close of the prayer they all arose and gave God the glory, being happily converted. Since then I have taken some interest in Sunday School work. This was the beginning of a great meeting; I do not remember the number of baptisms, but I left this church in fine shape. During this time I was preaching to some churches not in this county. I preached to the following church as pastor in other counties; I preached for Crafton church for seven years. When I began work here they had a small membership. They and the Methodist worshiped in the school house. You know what that meant sooner or later. The Methodist went to work and built them a house, and it was a good one, too. When they had finished building they sent a committee to meet us in conference and invited us to use their house for one Sunday in each month. There was a motion to accept the invitation. I arose as pastor and moderator and said, Look out, brethren, we have just got out of one trouble and don’t want to get into another. At this point one of the Methodist committeemen said that they did not want to put a bridle on Baptist preachers and we could preach what we wanted to. I then said do as you please brethren, and they accepted, and we began preaching in their house. You may guess how this terminated. We will give the story as it occurred: In a few months after we began preaching in their house the Methodist changed pastors and when the new pastor came he said he did not know whether they were Methodist or not and the next appointment he would preach on Methodist doctrine, and he came with his grape shot and canister, which he called Methodist doctrine. He preached five sermons, the Baptists were there and said he took his text on the Baptist and finished on the Baptist. So all parties became awakened to the point, and they (Baptists and Methodists) began to say hard things about each other. The Baptist wrote me to come prepared to preach some Baptist doctrine. I got my old books and made ready for the fight, and when I wen to my next appointment I announced I was ready to preach some Baptist doctrine, and when I had commenced I said there are seven peculiarities that distinguish Baptist from all other denominations, and here I lad them down; First of which, the Baptist church or kingdom alone recognizes Jesus Christ as her Head and Founder. Second, the Baptist alone takes the Bibles as their rule of faith and practice. Third, the Baptists only perpetuate the Bible order of the Commandments, they teach repentance, faith, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Fourth, Baptists immerse or bury with Christ in baptism all those who profess to be dead to or freed from son. Fifth, Baptists alone recognize equal rights or privileges in the execution of the laws of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Sixth, Baptists observe the Lord’s Supper at His table in His kingdom. Seventh, Baptists have never persecuted other, but have themselves always been peculiarly persecuted, and everywhere spoken against. There is no existing leading denomination which holds to these peculiarities except Baptists. Using for a text the saying of Solomon, it is said by Him wisdom had builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars. I used this for my text to found five sermons upon. When I got through with these five sermons and had gone back home I soon began to get letters from the brethren who said the war was on. I said alright, and when I went back I found the doors of the church closed and my people standing out by the school house. I said let’s go in brethren, this is not the first time Baptists have been driven out of doors. And this marked the time up to where they said we will build us a house. We went into the school house and had services and when they went into conference they soon decided they would build a house. The committee was appointed and they went to work and secured eight hundred dollars and we soon had a little house in the little town of Crafton that now towers up toward Heaven, a test of their faithful labor. But after we got into the house the Methodist began to grow strong and the Baptists stronger. The Campbellites began to stick their heads up and so we had to have a pull at them. To make a long story short we secured Bro. J.K.P. Williams and they selected Mr. A.W. Young, two of Texas’ strongest men. The debate was pulled off with a great victory for the Baptists. That gave us a rest for a while, and by the help of the Lord we built up a great church, that we trust is honoring God to this day. I pastored this church until I resigned to move to Cooke County, Texas. During two years of this time I preached at Park Springs in Wise County. There was one incident occurred here I want to relate. I cam to my appointment one Saturday and a bunch of Holy Ghost fellows were there, men and women; they like others were innocent of my appointment; they said they wanted to divide time with me. I told them the time belonged to the church and I would not divide time unless the church said so. They then asked if they could preach there the next evening. We said we had no objections. We went on with our services until their time came and we thought we would go to hear the,; and when they had gotten well into their services, one good warm hearted brother got up and said: “Now we want on hundred red-hot testimonies, the was is open to everybody.” I concluded that took in me, so after a few had testified, I got up and addressed the Chairman and said: “I have a red-hot testimony I wish to bring.” “All right said the Chairman bring it.” I began with my testimony and in few minutes they began to sing me down, but I would not sing down. When their song was ended I was still standing; I said “You may sing, you may pray, but I have a red-hot testimony and I must bring it for it is still burning, and then the Chairman said: “Let us pray.” Down they went on their knees, I just stood there. They told me the Lord they knew He always had heard them and they wanted me sanctified; they said I was a good man, had been saved and justified but had not been sanctified, so they go through praying, I was still standing and said: “Here I come with my red hot testimony, and when I began they all fell at my feet, that I hardly had room to stand, but they soon crept away, then I gave them my red hot testimony and when I had given it I am sure they did not want another. This broke up the Holiness business there.
We did a great work at Park Springs, that I believe will tell in time and in eternity. Also I was pastor of the church at Sanger, while living at Henrietta, I was called to that place to hold a meeting in May 1896. We had a great meeting and a very precious one. We had twenty-six conversions; one boy, ten years old, another, eighteen, the other twenty-four were men and women ranging in age from thirty-six to seventy-two, this was in May and in July I was called to her care a pastor. At that time all worshiped in one house and it only partly finished. So when I began work I began to plead for a house to worship in, then we had another great meeting, but about this time Boardism began to show up and in a year or two the church split. The board being the strongest, held the property, but the Landmarkers had the grace and courage to stay with their principles and since they could not work together the Landmarkers bought them a lot and built them a house, moved in and organized themselves into a regular Baptist church and are keeping house for God. Awhile after the split I pastored the church and we got along fine and built up greatly. Brother W.A. Souther is pastor at this time and they are doing very well.
While I lived in Clay County I also pastored the church at Valley View in Cooke County. I preached for them two years and held two great meetings, this was a pleasant and profitable work, leaving the church in fine shape. About this time, in 1900 I moved to Cooke County and have been living here ever since. But before I left Clay County there came a time when the First Baptist church in Henrietta was pastorless and some of the Deacons invited me to come and preach on a certain Sunday, to this I consented, the day came, I went but got there a little late. The folks were singing, they had all kinds of instruments; it sounded to me like the Devil’s music. They sang “Come Angel Band and Bear Me Away On Your Snowy White Wings’; at the close, I walked into the pulpit and said hush that, you are not fit to be carried away on a buzzard’s wing. I said I have come here as a man of God, and the Devil and me can’t stay in the pulpit together. So they scattered, and I proceeded to preach. At the close of the sermon there was a lady came to me and said: “Brother Thetford, that was a fine sermon, if you could have refrained from crying.” I said, yes, but some time when I preach I cry and can’t help it, and not giving you a short answer, I don’t try to help it. But the brethren were so elated over the sermon they asked me to preach at night and so I did, and here was a fine young lady converted and we had a real good revival meeting. A few days after this I met one of the Deacons and he told be that was the first conversion there had been in the church in three years. I said no wonder, you had the devil in the pulpit all these years.”
In the mean time while I was moving to Cooke County, I was called to the care of New Hope church in Montague County which I accepted, this church had organized years before, but on account of the distance I did not serve them but one year, at this time I had moved to Bulcher in Sadler’s Bend on Red River and when the church at Bulcher found that I was going to move they called me to her care. I had not moved yet so I took a load of household goods down before I moved my family and happened to be down on a Sunday, so the brethren notified me I must preach for them on Sunday, which I did to the delight of all present and told them I hoped to be moved by the next meeting and would give them an answer as to my accepting the call. I said: “Listen I am a stranger among you and you don’t know whether I am a Baptist, neither do I know you are Baptists, so when I come I will preach a series of what I call “Baptist Doctrine” and if I find that you and I agree then we will yoke up together. The time came. I preached the five in number. I preached from the text found in Solomon’s saying: “Wisdom has builded her house; she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” and here I discussed the seven peculiarities which distinguish Baptists from all other. My Baptist brethren were well pleased and I took up the oversight of them as undershepherd. How these 7 sermons stirred the Campbellites as they were never stirred before and of course they began to annoy to and say al kinds of hard things about us and some of their preachers said they would run me out of there but I told them if they did I would be at the running; I said, I have moved down here and brought my knitting with me for the purpose of staying and when they run me out I would be at the running, of course I stated the seven principles I first laid down and my brethren stayed with me. The time came for our protracted meeting. This was July, we had secured Eld. S.R. King to assist us in the meeting. We began and the Devil began also. I said let us begin now to pray for God to give us the victory. I said I am going to pray that the Lord will give us enough good members to double the membership of this church during the this meeting and the Lord did this very thing. We received twenty-five into the church during this meeting and that was the original membership and during this meeting we made it so hard for the Campbellites that they bothered us very little more. I will have something more to say about this church later. Be it remembered that when I moved to this country I had not known of a Landmark church anywhere. I had longed to see one, so when I got here I found a little group of them thinly scattered through the country. There was some at Center, Bulcher, Marysville, Shiloah, Mt. Zion, Indian Creek and Fellowship and possibly two or three others. I only had two churches Center and Paradise, in Wise County which I had not resigned. the little group of churches I found here had organized into an association and was doing business for the Lord. So I attended one of their fifth Sunday meetings and the gospel they preached sounded like old pids Bell. I said to them you preach to suit me and if you will me I will join in and work with you. They said come and I have been with the Landmark Baptists ever since. This was in 1900. I had joined the little church at Saddler Bend that is known as Shiloah and my membership is there today. I did not become pastor until two years later. In the mean time the little Association I had joined got their Missionary killed and that left them without a Missionary. Since I was preaching for only two churches, they called the churches together and elected me Missionary for half time for the remaining part of the Associational year. During this work I organized one church which is now at High Point in Cooke County. That church was represented in the Grayson County Association this year (1924).
My time was all called for as pastor, I was again called by Center Church, I accepted and went to work. The church at High Point called me also. I pastored them one year, built up a good church and that church is standing today. I was also called to the care of the church at Jim Town, I accepted and went to work with them, I held one great meeting with them and baptized twenty-five and left them a great church. I don’t remember now just how many years I preached to these churches but from one to six years. I was called to the church at Illinois Bend. I remember I preached for them seven years and held many great meetings. This church is solid as a rock while they have not done great things the last four years they are still standing life a flinty-rock. God bless them, it was to this church our beloved Bro. Vaughn, a great preacher belonged.
Now since I can’t give the exact number of years I preached for these several churches I will try to give some of the works and incidences that occurred during my ministry with them. I will begin with my home church, Shiloah number two, located in the northwest corner of Cooke County near where I own a little farm and now live, the place I moved to when I came to this Country. I was called to this church in the year 1903, it was located in Saddler’s Bend in a little school house and had thirty-three members all good stuff. We went to work, the church began to grow and soon became a strong church and in five years we had built a large house and paid for it. We built on what is known as the Jim Abell’s grave yard ground. This house stands there now as a monument to God and the faithful church. When we moved to our new church so beautifully located it became so attractive that we began to gather members, rapidly and soon had a church of one hundred and sixty members. The church at Center disbanded and came to us. We had many great meetings with this church and baptized many into her fellowship. I remember on one occasion I baptized four Methodist households and did not baptize a single infant. I baptized many Pedoes and Campbellites since I have been preaching here, and we have a good church at this time. This church has liberated seven young preachers in the last year. I have pastored this church for twenty-two years, with the exception of a few years I was in the Missionary work am still their humble pastor (1923).
Soon after I moved to Saddler Bend I was called to the church at Saint Jo. I had previously held a meeting there while Bro. S.R. King was pastor and we had a great meeting. This meeting was held before I moved from Clay County. So after I moved it was only a short time until they made this call, but by this time boardism had crept in among them until it was not pleasant to preach for them longer, so after four months I resigned. There was no visible results at this time. During this time I pastored the church at Leon, Oklahoma, here we some great meetings, I got acquainted with this church in this way; at this time I was pastor of the church in Illinois Bend, closed out my meeting there on Sunday morning and being sick, I intended to go home but having heard of the meeting at Leon, thought I would go by and meet the brethren I had never met. So I attended to baptism early in the morning and I was soon on my way to Leon. Notwithstanding I was sick, my trouble was a large carbuncle on the back of my neck and sure was bad, but I hooked up my two little mules to the buggy and was soon on my way. The road was dusty and the weather very warm. I arrived about eleven-thirty , and you may guess how dirty I was, so I drove around to the back of the arbor in just as sly a way as I could, hitched my mules, went in and took a back seat. The man of God had just read this text, though I don’t remember what it was, but he sure did preach. There was just one man present that I knew that was Brother Woodcox whom I had preached to in Illinois Bend. So after the sermon Bro. Woodcox came to me and said let’s go and get acquainted with the preachers, for there were several present. The pastor, Eld. J.M. Wester, Jap. Baker and others, whose names I do not remember.
Well, I guess I did look dirty, for these gave me very little attention and they went every fellow his own way. I went home with Bro. Woodcox, intending to go home that evening, but he insisted on me staying and I stated, after while night came and we went to church. So during recess Bro. Woodcox went to the pastor and told him I was no tramp and he would make no mistake in having me to preach. When I came in a great crowd had gathered, the pastor came to me and said; “We want you to preach.” I said no, I don’t want to kill the meeting and he said there is none to kill. I offered every kind of excuse but he would not let me off. There I was, without any special preparation, with my head drawn and the carbunkle on my neck with a red handkerchief tied around it. Finally I said sing another song, when they were through singing I arose and said; “We never saw it on this fashion, did you?” I turned my head with my body and looked over the congregation, and all heads were down. After a pause I straightened up and said this is the text for this hour; “We Never Saw It On This Fashion”, Mark 2:12. As I began to warm up to my subject I could see the heads come up and as I further warmed up the heads would come higher until they were as high as they well could be. It looked as if everybody was being drawn by the gospel. When I was through with my sermon I turned to the pastor and said Bro. Pastor if you don’t care I will call for mourners, he said go on, I didn’t known whether these folks practiced the mourner’s bench or note. I said sing a song, they began singing “I Will Arise and Go To Jesus”, and by the time the song was finished there were six souls saved and a score or more at the anxious seat mourning God’s love to know. So they kept this old sinner for a week preaching and the next Sunday that pastor baptized thirty-six happy converts.
Two or three years after this the church called me as her pastor. As before said, I served them two years, left them in fine shape, but alas, after while the Board element began to work and they are torn asunder, but thank God there is enough left to keep house for Him. Since the church divided they have had the courage to stand by their conscience. I pray God’s blessings to rest on them. I was invited to hold a meeting for them this summer but was so situated I could not.
The next church I preached to in Oklahoma was at Burneyville, this church seemed to be the leading church of the little town. It was to this (Burneyville) church, J.W. Wester belonged and was one of its best members. I preached for them three years with good results, holding some fine meetings with them. Leaving them in good shape. I will now come to notice some of my Texas pastorates.
I will take Mt. Hope, as I organized her several years ago while I was Missionary for the Grayson County Baptist Association. perhaps fourteen years ago, I found a few brethren in the Mt. Hope community, called them together and organized what is known as Mt. Hope Church. I preached for them as Missionary pastor until the close of the Associational year and she called me for her pastor. I went to work for them and remained most of the time until now, except the few years I was Missionary for the Grayson County Baptist Association. I preached for this church possibly ten years and built up a strong church. We have not been troubled much with Campbellites but we have baptized some of them and quite a number of pedoes into her fellowship. We have had many great meetings with the church and she is landmark to the core and she has send out three young preachers last year. Their names are: Allen Branch, Lee Branch and Will Wyatt. Whom we trust will honor their calling and make good for the Lord. Bro. Lee Morris is their pastor at this time. I will go from here to Fellowship. I pastored this church only one year. had a good meeting, baptized six happy converts and had a real pleasant pastorate with her. She still stands landmark. I went from there to Dexter. I had previously been to this church and assisted their pastor in a meeting which was a very fine one. If my memory serves me right, we baptized eighteen, had fourteen by letter and statement, making thirty-two additions to the church. Bro. J.W. Owen was their pastor at this time and had been for many years but at this time she changed pastors. They called me, I accepted and went to work and we built up considerably during my stay with them, which was three years. I have preached there many times since. This church stands solid for gospel truth and is located twenty-eight miles southeast of Gainesville, Texas. So I closed another pleasant pastorate of three years. At about this time I was called to the care of Mr. Zion, number two church, located fourteen miles southeast of Gainesville, Texas. This church also was one among the first to cut loose from the State Convention. It was to this church that Bro. A.W. Cox and most of his family belonged and had such pastors as John Powers, H.M. Cagle, S.R. King and others. This is one of the highly recognized churches of the Grayson County Baptist Association. I preached for this church three or four years, had some good revivals and several additions to the church. I have assisted other pastors in holding meetings for this church. So I have done under God as good work for this church. Bro. C.A. Cox is the honored pastor of this church at this time. About this time I began to pastor the church at Day located seven miles east of Collinsville in Grayson County, Texas this was a Mission Station. Bro. H.M. Cagle was the Missionary pastor, he being the Missionary of the Grayson County Baptist Association. I went with him on a mission tour and among other places we went to Bug Tussel, as it was then called. Though we did not preach at that time he began to talk to the brethren about me holding a meeting for them and ask me if I would hold it. I said yes if they wanted me to. Since I was a stranger to them they did not take hold on me. So after awhile the time was fixed for a month ahead. The time came the meeting began. I could see they thought Cagle had gotten the wrong preacher but after I had preached three sermons they began saying no, we have got the right man. So the meeting began to take on interest and we had a great meeting. I baptized sixteen happy converts and many came in by letter and statement. Then they decided they would be a Mission Station no longer and they called me as pastor. I accepted and preached for her three years but in after years the Devil got among them and finally they split up and the true Baptists soon left the mob and joined other churches that was true blue. So there is not much left of Day church today. About this time I was called to the Plainview church located five miles north of Southmayed, Grayson County, Texas, this was a fine church. I preached for them several years at intervals; whit time I preached for them she did well. Bro. Cox followed me here as pastor and perhaps preached for them two years. About this time some the older members died and other moved away, this weakened them very much and finally a few wen to the board, but still there is a little struggling church.
In just a few years I was called to the church at Ambrose, twelve miles southeast of Denison, Texas. I accepted the call and had gracious and harmonious years with them, them I was called by the Grayson County Association for the mission work. I resigned for this work. The church called Bro. Souther; he preached for them one year. At the close of this they called me back to the care of the church and I am their humble servant and pastor, though I have not filled and appointment for six months on account of sickness. I consider this church, though sometimes up and sometimes down, a good loyal church. I have had some great meetings with her, and she stands pat for old Landmarkism.
I have been pastor of the church at Bethany several times since she ordained me forty-two years ago; she was probably twelve years old at the time, but has stood the storms until this day. I didn’t pastor her in her early history, but in recent years they have had a hard fight with the boardites, and they tried to get the property, but were unsuccessful, whereupon the few that pulled off built them a house about three hundred yards from the old one, but they have never don nay good. The old church of church I was pastor is still standing true, and Bro. C.A. Cox is their pastor at present.
When I first took this church I followed Bro. S.R. Kiney, who had just pulled them through one of the greatest fights of their life, and of course every things was against them, but the right; they were left weak, but first of all, I held them a good meeting and built them up greatly, and we had a pleasant work together for several years.
The reader will remember this church ordained me forty-two years ago, and is standing yet. I will also say to the readers I love old Bethany Baptists church. I can truly say in the language of the poet, “I love thy church, O God, her walls before Thee stand dear as the apple of Thine eye and graven on They hand; for her my prayers ascend, for her my toils and cares be given, until toils and cares shall end.” They are weak in number but strong in the Lord, may the blessings of the Lord rest upon them until He comes.
My next and last pastorate was at Mt. Pleasant church, at Denison, Texas; am the pastor of this church now and have been for the last year and a half, notwithstanding I have not preached for them for the last six months, on account of sickness. I was called by this church at the close of my last year’s work as a missionary. This church is about sixty years old and has had many battles and many pastors. When I began work with them they had just built them a new house that would be a credit in any community, but owed a few hundred dollars, which they were to pay out on the installment plan at twenty-five dollars per month. This they have done up to this time, and kept the pastor’s salary. The first year I was with them they had thirty-eight additions to the church. This was a wonderful revival, and this church stands fully for Landmark principles. During the revival there were several board-party folks came to us who are not good substantial Baptists.
During my stay here we licensed one man to preach, Bro. Elison. This is as pleasant a pastorate as I ever had among the churches. I followed Bro. C.A. Smith; he had followed Bro. M.P. Matheny, both of these men were strong in the Gospel. To this church most of the Coffman family belongs; this is an old pioneer family who came to the country in an early day and settled at what is known as the Coffman school house, and in this house the church was organized.
I had forgotten the fact that I had preached to Pilot Point church two years; this is a fine little church located in Pilot Point, Texas. In this church there had been a split but the Landmark Baptists held the house: they were left few in numbers, but strong in the Gospel. Eld. D.H. Pitts is their pastor at present.
Now, since I have given my experience and work with the church where I have been pastor, I will now say that I have been missionary for several years.
Space will not permit me to give the details of all the work, so I wive my last report to the Grayson County Baptist Association:
Dear Brethren: I herewith submit my report as your County Missionary. Time labored, ten months, at a salary of $100 per month, which makes one thousand dollars; miles traveled, thirty-six hundred and eighty-six. Sermons preached, two hundred and sixteen; religious addresses, seventy; total number sermons and addresses, two hundred eighty-six. Conversions, forty-none; eighteen by baptism, four by statement, four by restoration, two by relation; total received, fifty-seven. Religious visits, thirty-two. Personal talks on religion, ninety-six. Places preached, regular and irregular, twenty-seven. Organized one church, one Sunday School, Sunday School talk, one. Homes visited, two hundred thirty-three. Deacons ordained, four.
By referring to the minutes of the meeting with Mt. Hope church in the year 1921, you will find the full report. I suppose my reports as missionary will average, so I will drop them her and proceed to notice my work and experience where I held meetings and places preached where there was no pastor.
This will cover my ministry, but I will only speak of those experiences and work as a side line. I began with Grayson County, as I said in the beginning, my first great meeting was with my home church, the old Bethany Baptist church. My next meeting was held at was was known as the old Burleson school house, located on the water of Choctaw Creek, six miles southeast of Sherman, Texas. Nine conversions and four reclamations was the result I secured with the help of J.W. Holman, who was an ordained preacher, and he organized a church with twelve members, received the nine and baptized them, and this church is standing today, but has gone with the board party; it moved from there is known as the Ida church. I also preached at Pink Hill, Locust Grove, and Dripping Springs. One incident happened I will relate.
I went there one Sunday morning and preached. After I was through, one brother came to me and said, I like you sermon fine, but I think you make too much of Christ and Him crucified; if you would leave some of that it would be much better. I said; Great God; if I leave out Christ and Him crucified, what under Heaven can a preach? And this almost upset me, but when I though it all over I said: There is nothing else to preach, and I have been preaching Christ and Him crucified ever since. I preached at Georgetown church, at a place on Red River called Arkansas; also a place called Buzzard Roost. At this place I attended a great debate between Bro. J.K.P. Williams and one Mr. Burnett, a Campbellite, in which it seems to me if Baptist ever gained a victory, it was here.
I also preached some at the old Hebron church; no special incidents happened while here. Preached at Bloomfield and at Pottsboro, and, by the way, it was here I organized a church during my last work as missionary. I have preached at Duggan school house and Moors Chapel, and many private homes too numerous to mention here.
Bro. H.M. Cagle and myself held on of the greatest meetings under a tabernacle nine miles east of Sherman, Texas, which perhaps was the greatest ever seen in that country. I do not remember how many were saved, but there were many. This meeting was held under the direction of Bethany church. I preached some at Lone Star, four miles southeast of Whitesboro; preached at Center, four miles south of Whitesboro; preached at Jernigan school house, and assisted in the organization of a church; preached some at Sister Grove; held some good meetings with this church; preached at Keet Chapel, Rockport, and held one meeting with the Farmington church during H.M. Cagle’s life, and while he was her pastor, and am sure this meeting is in many of their hearts yet. This is a fine church and doing well. I have preached at Mt. Zion No. 1, at Shiloh No. 1, and at Red Branch school house. I have preached at Dixie.
Eld. C.A. Cox and I held a great meeting at Indian Creek church. I have preached at Collinsville, Copperhead school house, there is no church at this place. I have spoken of all the places where I preached in Grayson County, except in private homes and at funerals. I will now pass into Oklahoma.
About two years ago while I was missionary, I went to Thackerville and preached three sermons, which was received with joy, notwithstanding this is a board church. No doubt they would have me if I could have served them, but a brother went over and told them he would serve them if they would pay his expenses. Some years ago while I was missionary I went to Marietta to preach and all the churches closed their doors but the Campbellites, and their house was too far out, so I secured the courthouse and preached a few sermons, I though to good effect.
Some years before this I was called to the church at Marsden to assist their pastor in a meeting. This church was located eight miles southwest of Ardmore. I arrived on time. We began the meeting; in two or three days, we had a great meeting in progress. It attracted attention in Ardmore and Marietta; they began to come. The result of this meeting was thirty-four conversions and thirty-three baptisms. On my way home from this meeting I stopped at Oswalt and preached that night and there was a woman converted. Bro. Hammon was pastor of these two churches.
I preached a few sermons at Grassboro, three miles south of Leon. From here I went to Courtney Flat for a protracted meeting; had been invited by the church to hold them a meeting. We had a great meeting. I practiced the mourner’s bench, as usual. So I would invite them to come during the singing of the last song before preaching, and every time some one would come, and in every case they would be saved. So one night no one came, I said, if anybody had come they would have been saved; if you don’t believe me, just try it, and if it don’t happen I will take my saddle pockets in the morning and for home. There was no on e came that night, but when the meeting closed for the night there was one big-ike, a man who was an infidel, said to the boys about him, if I made that proposition the next night he would try it. The boys came and told me what he had said. Night came, I went on with the devotional service, and before preaching I arose and said, If there is a man or woman here that wants to be save, and will come and take this mourners’ bench and remain until the close of the service, and are not saved I will close this meeting, and to my surprise here came this infidel. I said, Lord, my trust in in You; I will lean on Your strong arm in this time of need, and so I did. I went to him, got down on my knees and asked God to save him that night. When I arose from prayer there were a half dozen of my brethren, who had come to my relief. I announced my text and began to preach. I could see the man begin to tremble. When I was about half through it became so hot for him he either had to run or submit. So he got up and ran. I said stay with your job and you will be saved. After he got out he said there is not one on top side of earth can stay up there without being saved. Such as the power in that meeting. Bro. Jap Baker was their pastor at this time. I left the meeting on Friday night, and the infidel was saved on Sunday. So this closed a great meeting.
Then I preached some at a place near Petersburg, I don’t remember the name, it was just across the river from Nocona, Texas. Here I agreed to meet a Mormon in debate, but then the time came he backed out. I went to the place ready for the fight, but no Mormon preacher, so I had the debate all to myself. I gave them five lectures that worked them up, and the little church gave me a collection and went home rejoicing over the victory over Mormonism, for this was a victory.
My next point was at Rhyne, here I preached three sermons to the satisfaction of all. In about the year 1896 I got a letter from Bro. J.C.Ward, who lived at Loco, stating the church wanted me to come and hold them a revival meeting. I noted in the letter he said, ‘hold a revival’ and did not say assist them in a meeting, so I wrote him that if it pleased the Lord I would come and assist them in a meeting. The time came, I went. Since it was twenty miles from the railroad I was a little late. When I reached the place I found a large arbor built for the meeting, and a very large crowd assembled, and a man whose name was Jackson was preaching. He got through, the pastor arose and said, Bro. Thetford is here, has come to hold us a revival meeting, announced the hours of meeting, and asked if I had anything to say. Whereupon I said, I notice Bro. Ward says I am to hold a revival meeting. Since that is true, I would like to submit a proposition to this congregation. I judge there were five hundred people present, the proposition was this; I want every Christian here to stand, they did; and I could see by one exception in that great congregation. I turned to the pastor and said, Bro. Ward, there are no unsaved folks here. He said, I wrote you to come and hold us a revival and that is what we ant. I went home with him that night, and said to him. Why is it you wrote me to come and hold a revival? The next morning we went and began to work; in two or three days the revival broke out. I preached day and night until the following Sunday at eleven, and went to the water and baptized twenty-five, the preacher’s boy being on of the number. We had thirty-two conversions and revived, they said, as never before. The fact is, there were one hundred and fifty-one Christians in that community and all but one man was baptized and he was faithful in attendance. Those who were converted came from other communities, and many of them called for their letters at the water after being baptized. This closed as great a meeting as I was ever in. This church had one hundred seventy-five members and not but one pedo in the community; this is remarkable.
While here a number of brethren from Comanche attended the meeting, and insisted on me coming to that place and holding a meeting. So I went and preached a few sermons, but it rained so much while there I could not do much, but this was a good loyal crowd of brethren, and they treated be right.
Some years ago I was called to Ada to hold a meeting. I was there six days and preached at night only; everybody was stirred, especially the board Baptists; and they talked of sending for a preacher to rout me out. I said, all right, I will be at the routing, but they did not do it. So the meeting closed and the brethren sent me home in good shape. Just one more meeting and I will be done with my work in that state.
This meeting was held at Hammon, about three hundred miles northwest of Gainesville, Texas. I received a letter stating I was invited to come and hold a meeting for the church at that place. I answered by saying I would be there at the appointed time; the time came, I was there, the meeting began. I preached ten days and nights and not a soul saved that we knew of. Here we encountered strong boardism, and of course had to combat it. This was done successfully, and to the satisfaction of the Landmark Baptists, and they came to us and said, Here is fifty-four dollars for your services.
This brought to my mind a thing I have always advocated, and that is, the idea of churches sending to Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, or anywhere else, to get a preacher to hold them a meeting when they had just as good preachers among them as came from anywhere. So I had gone three hundred miles, preached for this church, paid $20 railroad fare, and apparently done no good. They had a good preacher for pastor, and also another good preacher who was a member with them. Of course, these good brethren rejoiced because of the victory over boardism, and said to me come again, and if we ever have an opportunity we shall gladly go.
Now we will come again to our Texas work, but before starting will say that the church at Leon, Okla., invited us to hold a meeting for her last summer, but time forbid, I could not go.
We began in Wichita County, but did little work in this county, we only preached a few sermons. At Iowa Park the church had called me for her pastor and I made two trips and preached for them but did not accept the call. So that ended my work in that county.
Now I will come to the meetings and incidents connected with them in Clay County, where I did not pastor. First, I preached two sermons at Jolly that closed my work there, I also preached a few sermons at Deer Grove. I also preached several sermons at Hernville, ten miles north of Henrietta, thus my work with the destitution in the county came to a close.
Now we come to Montague County an visited the destitute places where we preached. I held quite and interesting meeting at Ringgold. Bro. J.B. Selman was their pastor and that was a new church at that time, as well as a new town. We had a good meeting, I do not know how many were saved, but quite a few. I also preached a few times in Bowie. I preached a few times at Bridgeport. I held a meeting about four miles northwest of Paradise, in which there were forty conversions, and baptized thirty-four into the fellowship of Paradise church. This was truly a great meeting. I also preached at Sunset. I preached several sermons at Brushy Creek, three miles east of Bowie. It was at this point I went home with a brother. He went to his tank, pulled out a six pound carp, and we had fish for dinner. This ended my work with them. They were a noble set of brethren. I bid them goodbye and went to other fields, praying God’s blessings on them. I also preached a few times at the east Belknap church. While preaching here one day, there were two young ladies laughing and talking. I was preaching on the influence the Gospel had on the world, and said it seems to me there are folks here who do not realize what the Gospel has done for humanity, they overlook the fact that Christ died to make an atonement for sin, and that He sent His messengers to tell the world about it. Had it not been for this fact the women and girls would be abject slaves of the men today, as is the heathen in the jungles of Africa, and you bound they cheesed their racket. I also preached a few times at Belcherville. I remember I was at home one Sunday while I lived at Belcher , and I went to the Baptist Sunday School, and it being the Methodist day to preach, so after Sunday School a number of us went to hear the man preach, and the Methodist preacher did not come and the Methodist and Baptist asked me to preach. I said, since my business is preaching, all right, I will preach. So I went into the stand; they sang a song, I arose, announced my text, Heb. 11:10, and lit into it in my peculiar way. When I was done someone began to sing that good old song, “Jesus Lover of My Soul,” and people began to shout all over the house. Now I said I have spoiled it all. So this closed my preaching at Belcher. I also preached southeast of Bowie seven miles, but do not remember the name of the place. Old Bro. J.W. Jackson was pastor there. I preached a few sermons sermons at Mt. Joy, and also a Montague town, and a few sermons at Dyemound school house. There I got into a nest of Campbellites, and there was staged a debate between myself and a Mr. George Savage, which was to last four days. The time came, we met for the fight, and had two rounds each, and a runner came for me, stating my wife was sick, and of course I had to go; we agreed to fight it our later, but never got together again. So this ended my work at Dye. I preached a few sermons at Bluemound and at a school house near Illinois Bend, but do not remember the name, and at a school house five miles west of Nocona; also one four miles south. Have preached at the Fox school house. Here I held a good meeting. Have preached a few times at the Red Bud school house, and at Post Oak Prairie school house. Here I helped Bro. C.S. Walker hold a very fine meeting. There were several conversions, several additions, and the church greatly revived. Have preached a few sermons at Spencer school house, and also preached awhile at Tyler Bluff. Here I organized a church, which later moved to the Wagner school house, four miles east of St. Joe, and preached at Antioch church, eight miles south. Here Bro. J.F. Elder and myself held a great meeting several years ago. There were sixteen additions by baptisms. There may be other places in Montague County where I have preached, but not many.
Now we will come to consider out work and experience in Cooke County, the county in which we live, as touching destitution, and the churches we have never served as pastor. We have preached at Wagner school house, and a school house seven miles northeast of So. Jo, called Arkansas, also in the town of Muenster. While preaching here I was told by a Presbyterian preacher not to be on the streets at night, for this was a Catholic town. I have preached at Valley Creek school house, and at Sadlers Bend school house. I held a big meeting in Bead pasture, this was a great meeting. Have preached several times at Marysville and at Warrens Bend school house, and in Sivells Bend, and in what is called Fray Bottom, on Red River. We have preached at Red River church, ten miles north of Gainesville. At this place we helped Bro. Jess Holman in a meeting, and it was a good one. We have preached in Gainesville, the result of church was the organization of a small church composing eleven members. I preached to them four months, and leaving them with twenty-one members. When I gave up this work they scattered and went defunct. I held a good meeting with Bro. S.R. Kiney and his church at the Reed school house, on Elm creek, and also assisted him at Fair Plains, four miles south of Gainesville. We preached here ten days and nights and had twenty-one conversions and baptized sixteen and received several by letter and by statement. They said this was the best meeting in the history of the church, and to show their appreciation they have me a very fine Bible, a fine Berkshire pig and twenty-six dollars in money and I went home rejoicing and saying Amen. I have often preached at Oak Valley school house, four miles east of Gainesville. There is a little church at this place which was organized about twenty years ago by Eld. H. M. Cagle and where he held membership for several years, but this church has been and is now a small strangling church, being so close to Gainesville. A few years after they organized the board Baptist built what they called the Tabernacle church and there has been a fight going on ever since, but thank God, the little band is still contending for the faith which was once delivered to the saints, but they have no pastor at this time and some of you young preachers would make no mistake to come this way and preach some for them. The few that are there are good loyal brethren and need a pastor. I pray the Lord that He will send them one.
I have preached at a school house about four miles east of Woodbine, but I do not remember the name. I shall now close this book with these statements.
Dear brethren, sisters, and friends, in a brief way I have given to you the history of my life work as a preacher, giving to you many incidents that occurred these forty-two years of my ministerial life, hoping and praying that they may enlist some to greater service for God, and be a blessing to all who may read them, and I will not write the authority by which I have done this work, contained therein.
Certificate of Ordination
This is to certify that Bro. Joseph Thetford was ordained to the Gospel ministry by prayer and the laying on of hands of the Eldership on the seventh of December, eighteen hundred and eight-four. He was called to ordination by the Bethany Baptist church of which he was a member, which had ample opportunity to become acquainted with his piety and ministerial gifts. After a deliberate and thorough examination of the candidate, we cordially recommend him for ordination, our beloved brother, the bearer of this paper, has therefore the entire approbation of the ordaining council in being publicly set apart to preach the Gospel and administer the ordinances of Christ. May he like Baranabas, be full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, and through him may much people be added to the Lord.
B. Wilson, moderator, W.P. Cherry, church clerk. Ordaining council, B. Wilson, T.X. Wilson, W.B. Savage, Eld. J.W. Bell, Deacon T.J. Gaskel.
I herewith append, for your consideration, a sermon we preached at one of our associational meetings, using for a text Matthew 28:20. Theme: Jesus’ Presence in His Marvelous Message. Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Then the eleven disciples went a way into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them, and when they saw Him they worshiped Him. But some doubted, and Jesus came, and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto me both in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you and lo, I am with you.
First, here is spread out the world wide, and age-lasting commission. To whom was it given? there is, we believe, three views taken, who of which must be wrong. Some say it was given to the apostles in their apostolic office; other say it was given to them as preachers, and still others say it was given to them as a church. The last position we adopt. We will proceed to notice. The first, it could not have been given in their apostolic office, for this reason: if it had, when the last apostle died the office would have died also, and the text says, Lo, I am with you all way even to the end of the world. So you see it could not have been given to the apostles as such.
And it could not have been given to them as individuals, or as preachers, for if it had been the whole responsibility would be resting on preachers, and the churches would be under no responsibility at all, and if it had been given to them as individuals then the commission would wholly be resting on us as such, but it was given to them as a church.
Second: This will bring us to consider what a church is, and if given to her it will remain with her until the end of the age. So we will see what a church is. First, it is a congregation of baptized believers in Christ congregated together to keep house for God and living under His law, and observing His ordinances. The constitution of a church requires territory, subjects, laws, and a King. Now we will see what we can find and put these together. When we do so we have found the church, it matters not by what name it is called. And in the days of these kings shall the God of Heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but that break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Dan. 2:44.
I quote this passage first to prove that Jesus Christ is Head and Founder of His church, pointing to the days of His ministry when He would set up His kingdom, and this kingdom was to stand forever, and was not to be left to other people. The same characters He gave commission to hold it today He declared; to this end was I born to be King. So we have the King, and when John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea the people believed on Jesus and this they were made subjects of his, so when Christ came and was baptized of John He began to call these disciples unto Him, and this calling continued until He reached the mountain top; and then He called unto Him whom He would, and of them He ordained twelve and sent them forth to preach. Here we have the King, and the subjects and the world is the territory, and He began to give them His law. So we have at the mountain see all the elements that go to make a church. This is the little body to whom Christ gave the world-wide and age-lasting commission. It was not given to a convention; it was not given to a ladies aid society, not any executive board, but alone to the church of Jesus Christ. And when He had instructed them, He sent them away into Galilee where He had appointed them and He appeared unto them and said: All power is heaven and in earth is given unto me. God ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Now we come to the theme: “Jesus’ Presence in His Marvelous Message.”
Lo I am with you alway even unto the end of the world. First, the message is marvelous because of the character behind it. Jesus, in His unique personality ever remains the most wonderful being of the world’s history. He could stand on the hill side and cry, I am the bread of life, and yet He hungered. And again He could stand in the plain and cry, I thirst, and yet He was the water of life; and could feed and water the thousands that gathered around Him. Second, the message is wonderful because of the power behind it. All power both in heaven and in earth is given into my hand. Matt. 11:27. All things are delivered unto me of my Father. Jno. 17:2. As you hast given Him power over all flesh that He should give eternal life to as many as thou has given Him. It took more power to make the sacrifice on the cross than it would have taken to have sunk this world into oblivion.
Third, the message is marvelous because of the field. First, all the world, second, all nations, and third, every creature. All the world is the object of Gospel conquest. Every nation is to be visited by those who bear this marvelous message. And then every individual, and not one to be slighted. Personal work is a thing Christ tried to impress on His disciples. He was a personal worker Himself, proven by His talk to Nicodemus, Jno. 3. Also the Woman at the well of Samaria, Jno. 4:10-20. Yes, my brethren we should go forth in the power and strength of Israel’s God, and preach the gospel to every creature beneath the stars, since we have the pure gospel of life, and no others have.
Jesus said, Fear not little flock, it pleased the Father to give unto you the kingdom. But again the message is marvelous, because of its marvelous messenger. They are heaven born and heaven sent, blood washer, and divinely chosen. They are called angels, that is what the word means in the Greek.
Now, my dear brethren, as we are heaven born, blood washed and chosen of God, and since the world-wide and age-lasting commission was given to us a church, if Jesus Christ (and not any kind of society) let us go under the command, let us go under the blood, and take the blood-stained banner of Prince Emmanuel to earth’s remotest bounds, shouting victory as we go tor we know that all power, both in heaven and in earth, stands behinds us.
Fifth, the message is marvelous because of its wonderful and marvelous influence. It started with the lowly fishermen of Galilee, and has reached the kings on their thrones. All nations of the earth that are recognized as civilized have felt its power and uplifting touch. They owe it to the Gospel of Christ. Yes, the Gospel started at Galilee by the twelve illiterate fishermen, and swept on until its power and influence has felt almost in the all the world. Now since we have shown that this great message was given to the churches and know that we Landmark Baptist have it, we should to. The fact is, no others have it, and hence, the responsibility is upon us. But how shall we go? Go as churches of Jesus Christ, and not as individuals, not as B.Y.P.U.’s, not as boards, but as churches of Christ. For to His church He said: Lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world. So it is ours to go, and it is His to go with us, into all the ends of the earth. But how is a church to go? First, God has called men into the work and these men are in the churches. The Lord tells the churches to seek them out, so the Lord called them and the church sought them out and send them to preach. So the preacher has become the servant of the church, through this servant the church preaches the gospel and administers the ordinances of the church.
The commission was first confined to the land of Judea and after the death of Christ it was to go into all the world, hence He said tarry ye in Jerusalem until ye be imbued with power from on high. So they returned to Jerusalem and tarried ten days and received power to speak in different dialects of the nations of the earth. With this power they were prepared to speak in every known tongue, so they were to go first to Jerusalem, second they were to go into Judea, third, they were to go into Samaria, and, fourth unto uttermost parts of the world.
So we have a world wide and age lasting commission, given to the churches. Now as heaven born messengers and blood washed messengers, let us go knowing that all power is given unto Him who said, Go. So we have all this power behind us. If He has given this world-wide commission to His churches, has He given it to S.B.C.? We say, No. Neither did He give it to the B.Y.P.U., or any other kind of institution hence He is not with anything but His churches.
So go under the authority given by Jesus Christ, through His churches, with the assurance that Jesus Christ is with you, even unto the end of the world.
Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
ELD. J. THETFORD