Blum, Texas, Jan. 28, 1902.
Editors of the Signs of the Times – Esteemed Brethren in a Precious Hope: – As I have been requested by a brother and a sister in Christ to write for the Signs, I now with much hesitation make the attempt. I will endeavor to write my experience as best I can.
I was born on the 13th of May, in Jackson Co., Ala., in 18138. My father and mother were Old Baptists in belief, and I had the pleasure of seeing my father baptized in the fellowship of an Old Baptist church, in Young Co., Texas, in 1883. My mother never made a public profession, though she was strong in the belief of the doctrine of salvation by grace. Father died in his seventy-seventh year; mother died in her eighty-first year. They had many sore trials and tribulations, the greatest was the loss of my two youngest brothers, James K., on the battlefield of Chickamanga, and John Wilson, who was killed outright, in Young Co., Texas, February, 1883.
In the month of August, 1858, there was a great religions excitement in our part of the country, and I became deeply troubled over my sinful condition, and mourned many days. Much of the time I mourned because I could not mourn, and even after I had felt that my sins were all forgiven, and that old things had passed away, and behold all things had become new, and though it seemed that for a short time I was in a new world, I fell into doubts and fears, and greatly desired to realize my change again, so I might understand it better, and know that it was a true change. But with all my weeping and lamentation I was as I verily thought, without hope and without God in the world. I certainly realized that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelt no good thing, and how to perform that which is good I found not. I lost all hope in the help of man. I was in this hopeless condition for weeks, but at the Lord’s appointed time I was relieved of all my trouble, and found that the Lord was better than all my fears. I was made to rejoice in God my Savior with joy inexpressible, and full of glory.
The following October I, with two other brethren, went to Salem Church of Old School Baptists, and were received into the fellowship of a precious band of brethren and sisters, (nearly all of whom have long since passed away) and were baptized the following day, by Elder James Austill, who was a gifted preacher of salvation by grace. The God he loved so dearly, and served so faithfully, gave him a long, eventful life, and no doubt he died in the faith that works by love, and purifies the heart. I received the answer of a good conscience in following our dear Lord and Master down into the water, and being buried beneath its yielding waves, and being raised up to walk in newness of life. I shall never forget the sweet comfort and peace I enjoyed on that beautiful fourth Sunday evening of October, 1858. It seemed that when I had passed from death unto life, I would never see any more trouble, so it seemed the day I was baptized. I was delighted with my home in the church of the living and true God, the ground and pillar of the truth, a glorious habitation for the saints of the Most High, to dwell together in peace, union and dear esteem. I felt that I never should grieve or suffer again.
A short time after I was received into the church, I was liberated to speak in public, and my first appointment was at the house of brother Joe Gentry. A large congregation came out to hear me. I had good attention, and perhaps the sympathy of all present, but that is about all I ever did know about my first meeting. Brother and sister Gentry have long since passed away, but their house was for many years a pleasant home for Old Baptists.
On the 26th of November, I860, I was married to Mrs. Sarah A. Gover, whose maiden name was Matthews. She had been raised up by Methodist parents, but never professed a hope in Christ until some time in August, 1858, soon after which time she joined the Cumberland Presbyterians, and received pouring for baptism. While I was on a visit at her home, we talked on the subject of baptism, and I asked her if she felt happy when the minister poured water on her head? Her reply was with light remarks about immersion, but from that time on the subject of baptism became a serious question in her mind.
When she was a little girl, her father bought a Bible that had a picture in it representing the Savior kneeling in the water, and John the Baptist pouring water on his bead out of a horn. Her grandfather Williams was an Old Baptist, and when he saw the picture he cut out the horn. By asking questions she learned that her grandfather did not like such a perversion of the ordinance of baptism. That circumstance also bore on her mind when she came to investigate the subject of baptism. But she after awhile learned obedience by the things she suffered. While the war was going on between the States, religious meetings in our part of the country were very much interrupted. Some of the meeting houses were torn down by the Federal army to build winter quarters. I was in the war some time, and even when at home I was so worldly minded that I cared but little about church meetings. In fact I might say that for several years I was almost a castaway. In the fall of 1865 we moved from Alabama to Franklin Co., Tenn., to live among my wife’s people, who by this time were nearly all Presbyterians. I became acquainted with Elder James Wagner, then of Deckerd, Tenn., and after a short time I had him come and preach at our house. His preaching pleased my wife so well that she learned to love brother Wagner better than her own preacher. The doctrine of grace was a feast to her soul, but she still desired to live in a church with her people. But the Lord showed her in a little while what great things she must suffer for his sake. About this time we had several cases of serious sickness, and my wife was given up to die; she was so low that she could not speak above a whisper. She called her sister, as she wanted to talk about her hope and trust in the Lord, and said, if she should get well she wanted to be baptized in the fellowship of the Old Baptists, but if not, she wanted Elder Austill to preach at her funeral. Her sister said she was not rational; the doctor said it was the effects of opium. She talked the same to me, and I knew she was quite rational. It was a travail of mind about her duty as a child of God. She had been persuaded that sprinkling, or pouring, if not baptism, would answer the purpose all the same. She could not from that time on regard it anything but a gross perversion of the sacred ordinance of baptism. In 1867 I took a letter from Old Salem Church, and joined Wagners Creek Church, Elder Wagner pastor. My wife went with me up to the church to hear Elder David Jacks, who was one of the greatest preachers of that country, and she was so pleased with the preaching, she thought surely on that day she had an ear to hear the glorious sound of the gospel.
In 1879 we moved up near Wagners Creek Church. I had been licensed by this church to speak in public. On Saturday before the fourth Sunday in May, my wife went before the church, and gave a reason of her hope in Christ: “With weeping, and with supplications, will I bring them, saith the Lord.” The dear brethren and sisters received her with joy and gladness. The following day she and sister West were baptized by Elder Wagner.
At the June meeting I was ordained to the full work of the ministry, by a presbytery comprising Elder James Wagner, James H. Holman, of Lincoln Co., and Elijah Rogers, of Warren Co., all of middle Tennessee. And the following September we bid the brethren, sisters and friends of that country farewell, and started on our long journey in wagons to Hood Co., Texas. Samuel P. Rogers, my oldest brother, and brethren Sol. Wagner and Joe Night, and their families, came with us, but brother Night stopped in Arkansas. Our trials and tribulations in Texas for several years were many. In 1873 I joined old County Line Church, of the Trinity River Association, thirty miles east of my home, and continued a member of that church until 1879, when I took a letter to go into the constitution of Friendship Church, near my home, Hood Co., Texas. I was called to the care of this church, and have continued pastor ever since. I have had the care of from two to four churches for the last twenty years, but I must confess that my service as pastor of churches has come so far short of what it should have been, that I have been in despair much of the time.
On the 17th of August, 1892, my faithful wife, partner of all my joys and sorrows for thirty-two years, was taken from us by death, but thanks be to God’s holy name, she died in the true faith. “O death, where is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In October, 1894, I was married again to Mrs. Mary S. Donaldson, of near Blum, Hill Co., Texas, whose experience was published in the Signs of the Times several years ago. She was baptized in the fellowship of Friendship Church, the first Sunday in November, 1894, and her daughter, Mrs. Lizzie Raines, was baptized by the writer in the fellowship of Sardis Church, in April, 1900, which is near Arlington, Texas.
The God of our salvation, both for time and eternity, has certainly blessed the unworthy writer with two faithful and devoted companions, through many sore conflicts in this world of sin and sorrow.
Dear brother Beebe, I submit this to your better judgment; I cannot tell whether it should go into our family paper, the Signs, or not.
Yours in hope,
W. L. ROGERS.
Signs of the Times
Volume 70, No. 5
March 1, 1902