Early last spring my mind became strangely impressed to visit Texas, but it was not until the middle of June that the way was opened for me to go. On my way I stopped some weeks in the western portions of the state of Kentucky and Tennessee. It is in this region that the contentions over predestination and conditionalism have recently divided the Baptists. My appointments were made among those churches that remained in the ancient faith and order, refusing to follow the cunningly devised fables of certain men. I had heard and read many hard things of these people, but my visit among them disclosed the following facts: Their ministers seem to be humble, God-fearing men, walking in meekness in the commandments of Jesus. They are not boasters, not heady, not high minded, but on the contrary they are grave, sober minded men, meek and lowly in heart, speaking the truth in love. As far as I was enabled to observe, they rule well their own house, and have a good report of them that are without. The members also bear the scriptural marks of the church of God. The women are modest, grave and sedate, chaste, keepers at home, and the men provide for their households honestly in the sight of all men. They all seem to be of one mind, living in peace, and striving together for the faith of the gospel. I felt while among them that I was indeed with the Lord’s portion.
This remnant that is left is not as much in the minority as some people would make believe. A brother in Texas who attended the Fulton Convention went out to one of Elder Perkins’ churches on Saturday, and that brother says there were more Baptists at Elder Perkins’ Conference meeting on Saturday than there were at the National Convention.
From Tennessee I went to Arkansas. I visited four or five churches in that state, and found them walking in the faith and order of the gospel.
My first appointment in Texas was at Big Spring Church, in the eastern part of the state. This is a large church, with a pastor who believes and loves the truth. My second appointment was at Mt. Vernon. Several hundred people met me here, the church has a membership of one hundred and thirty, and has the pastoral care of Elder H. B. Jones. There was a schism in this church a few years ago, about twenty members declared against the doctrine of Predestination and all those that believe it. These were hopelessly in the minority, so they were excluded from the church. The leaders of them have about all united with the Missionary Baptists. There is no ground between Predestinarian Baptists and Arminianism for a new denomination, or a compromising body to stand.
From Mt. Vernon I pursued my journey on toward central Texas, filling appointments by the way. Everywhere I was greeted by good congregations, frequently very large ones; of whole-soul lovers of the truth. I attended the New Harmony Association, in central Texas. The place selected to hold this about forty miles from Brownwood. My party reached the place on Thursday evening, after an all-day drive from Brownwood. We found several hundred people there pitching their camps. On account of the sparse population here, it is the custom of all to camp on the grounds during these meetings. Indeed, these people seem to be just as much at home on the road or in camp as they are in their own houses. After selecting our places and striking camp, we partook heartily of a well relished supper in true camp style, and then assembled under the arbor and listened to a wholesome gospel sermon. Service being ended, all repaired to their beds, for all were weary, many having driven one hundred and fifty miles, and had been on the road four or five days. Our slumbers were soon disturbed by the howling of wolves about the camp; not wolves in sheep’s clothing, but real wolves, wolves in their own dress without any attempt at disguise; they were attracted not by the scent of religious lucre, but by the scent of the beef that had been butchered for the occasion. New comers were arriving all night and all through the forenoon of the next day. Aged women sixty, seventy, and even eighty years of age, had driven long distances, having been on the road many days, and had camped by the wayside at night, to reach this meeting, many aged men had done likewise, many of them who were readers of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES had long known me, but had never expected to see me. These aged pilgrims took me by the hand, and with tears in their eyes and thankfulness in their hearts, welcomed me in the name of the Lord. As I was received by these godly people, I thought of Abraham, the friend of God, of old Anna serving God night and day, of Simeon waiting for the consolation of Israel, of Lydia, whose heart the Lord had opened, of Phebe, the servant of the church, and of many others of the cloud of witnesses with which we are compassed.
The meeting was formally opened on Friday morning by the Introductory Sermon. The sermon was preached by Elder Wood, a godly man who is fervent in the Spirit. In his discourse he said that he could not preach conditional time salvation, because it falls short of his case. The preaching on Friday was acceptable, and the day was spent in the fear and service of the Lord. After the service on Friday night, a number came forward and related the Lord’s dealings with them, and were heartily received into the fellowship of the saints. Saturday afternoon was the time set for the baptism. At the time appointed a large crowd repaired to the beautiful Colorado River nearby, to witness the ordinance. As the people were gathering there in that wilderness place, a panorama of Bible scenes passed before me. John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and baptizing in Jordan, Christ, the Lamb of God, coming to be baptized, the Christ coming up out of the water, the heavens opening and the Spirit descending upon Him. But instead of John on this occasion, it was some of his faithful brethren perpetuating the same ancient doctrine and order; instead of Christ coming to be baptized, it was a company of His humble followers, his little children, whom He had given grace and faith to follow Him. Instead of imaginary scenes of two thousand years ago, it was a real occurrence before mine own eyes. I know that heaven must have been opened in the heart and consciences of those baptized, for I could see heaven in their faces, and felt it in my own unworthy heart. So Saturday passed away with much to praise God for.
Sunday came, which proved to be the last and great day of the feast. Elder J. C. Sikes was appointed to speak on Sunday morning. This man has suffered more persecution for the truth’s sake than any other in Texas. He and I camped together during the meeting. All Saturday night he was pressed in spirit, and he wrestled with the Lord in prayers and strong supplications. If ever I prayed for another in all my life, I prayed for this poor man, who had by this time become a precious brother to me. Sunday morning as all were seated under the arbor while Brother Sikes was pleading with the Lord in prayer, and my whole being was engaged for him that the Lord would open a door of utterances to him, that he might preach the wonderful works of God, I felt in my heart that the Lord had liberated him to speak the gospel that day. I felt his liberation as plainly as I ever felt anything in my life. I waited in joyful expectation for him to speak. I felt the sermon coming before a word was spoken, as one feels the grateful rain approaching before even a drop has fallen. My feelings were not disappointed. The Lord filled Brother Sikes with the everlasting gospel. It came not only in gentle showers but in torrents, carrying all with it. The windows of heaven were opened, and the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and everything seemed to me to be flooded with the glorious gospel of the Son of God. Few times if ever in my life have I been blessed with a more glorious hearing. It was a time that will long be remembered with me. May God preserve and sustain this dear minister of his gospel, and may God’s people love and minister to him for the truth’s sake. I feel that all that I have is his, because he ministered unto me most wonderfully spiritual things.
After Elder Sikes, Elder Harris, an aged and beloved man, spoke. He spoke fervently of the love of God, and spoke the truth in love and meekness. His words were lovely and profitable to me. I met many ministers whose names I have not mentioned, but with whom I feel a union of soul. May God bless them all, and lead them in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
There were sharp contentions in some localities in Texas over Conditional Time Salvation, but the great majority of Baptists there will not accept that theory. Resolutions are being passed in some localities against the doctrines of Salvation wholly by Grace. Novices and strikers are risen up against the ancient order and doctrine of the church, who speak evil of the way of truth, but as the test comes these men are disappointed sorely to find themselves in the minority, when they naturally expected and coveted the majority.
My tour in Texas is fraught with many sweet remembrances, because it was attended by so many mercies. God gave me favor in the eyes of his people there, and their fellowship and many kindnesses strengthened and encouraged me.
H. M. Curry.