July 11th, 1954 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-11-54 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, Texas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message. Our flowers today are dedicated to the memory of an incomparable preacher, a glorious pastor, a soulwinner, a minister of the unsearchable riches of Christ, a prince of preachers. For seven and forty years, lacking one month, he was pastor of this wonderful church. He was the recognized leader of our Baptist people in all the earth. By far he was the greatest preacher that our Southern Baptist people have ever known. His name is George W. Truett. This is the tenth anniversary of his death.
I wonder this morning, how many of you here in this congregation never heard Dr. Truett preach in the flesh. All of you here this morning who never heard Dr. Truett preach, would you raise your hand, all over the house? It is as I thought. A vast multitude in these ten years, a vast multitude who now belong to the church and are carrying on the work of the Lord never saw and never heard that incomparable preacher.
In the first chapter of the Book of Romans, out of which we are preaching and shall be for a long time, is a personal word from Paul, the thirteenth verse, “Now I would not have you without knowledge, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was hindered hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles” [Romans 1:13].
In writing to the people in the church at Rome, “I want to come to see you, to visit with you for a while,” for how, because of what? Everybody that I have ever known that goes to Rome, goes to visit the city, to look at it, walk through the Arch of Titus, through the Arch of Constantine, walk around in the Coliseum, look at the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, and go through the great museum there, all of the other historical things connected with the city of Rome. And if you think Rome is an interesting city today—and I have been through it twice, walked all over it, spent days there looking at it—if you think Rome is an interesting city today, you should think of the imperial queen of the Tiber and the capital of the Roman Empire when Paul was writing!
Now practically everything that you see outside of the Vatican is in ruins, but, oh, to have seen Rome in its glory! It was in those imperial days that Paul was writing. But his visit to Rome moved his heart not at the prospect of seeing the greatest city the world has ever known, but his heart was moved at the prospect that quote “I might have some fruit among you also” [Romans 1:13], that is, that in visiting the church, the Lord might make it possible for him that, there in the imperial and eternal city, he might win somebody to Jesus.
In the ministry of the great pastor preaching in the capital city of Argentina, a city I am told, I have never been there, a city that is remarkable for its spacious, glorious buildings, its wide thoroughfares, its beautiful boulevards, its magnificent public palaces; Buenos Aires is supposed to be one of the great cities of our world. Dr. Truett preached there in his South American tour for a long time. But in the day that he was there, he refused every social engagement, not one did he accept. In the days that he was there, he refused to visit any part or to look upon any section of the city. He gave himself without reserve, with all of the energy of his life, to one thing, one thing; he gave himself to the preaching of the gospel, to the winning of the lost.
And that remarkable thing about the great pastor was true of his spirit and of his life throughout the long years of his preaching. He was a soulwinner; he was an evangelist; he was a seeker after the lost. With the cowmen in the West, holding every year his revival in churches, under tabernacles, in brush arbors, out in the country, in the heart of the city, in big auditoriums, in small places, everywhere, this man George Truett was ever a seeker after souls; “that he might have some fruit among them also.”
Now my doing this today is not perfunctory, nor is it professional, nor am I trying to curry the favor of the people who belonged to this church for a generation and who loved the memory of the great man. The reason I do this is out of the depth of the admiration and gratitude to God in my deepest soul for the man whom I thought was the greatest man I ever saw.
I did not know him personally; I had no opportunity. When he was in his glory, I was in a little bitty town that nobody ever heard of, much less my poor family in it. I just saw him at a distance. I would see him at a convention. I would hear him at our Baptist World Alliance. I would just see him from afar. I did not know him personally. But I never heard anybody preach like that man preached. I never saw anybody that looked like that man looked. Nor have I ever been in any services that were affected like that man could turn a service. It was an indescribable thing, the pathos in his voice, the shepherdly care manifest in his attitude, in his manner, the way he stood, the gestures of his hands, the inclination and instruction of his sentences. All of it, you could not describe, it was of God.
So this morning on the tenth anniversary of his death, forty and seven years pastor of this church, I wanted to present the great preacher as a soulwinner. So I got the material together of his life, and begin to sift it, and read it, and recreate it, and came out with an altogether different thing. You are going to be surprised this morning at what I speak of. But as I looked into his life, and read and thought and turned it over in my mind, and read it again and sifted the material, there is a reason for that man, and it lies in his mother. His father did not become a Christian until he was forty-five years old. But his mother, I wish I could have seen and met and visited with that plain, simple, mountain woman.
Mary Kimsey, his mother, she belonged to a preacher family. Her father, James Kimsey, was a North Carolina mountain preacher. He was an evangelist, large of frame with a tremendous voice, golden, silver voice. And he preached revival, an evangelist, winning people to the Lord. As he lay on his last deathbed, a friend told him he could not live. To the crowd gathered round he exhorted that they take Jesus as a Savior, and died, exhorting the people around his bed to come to Christ. That was Mary Kimsey’s father.
James Kimsey had a brother, Elijah Kimsey, who was an exhorter, a preacher evangelist, an exhorter. Do you know what an exhorter is? Ah, this flimsy, effeminate, washed out, colorless sterile religion that we have today! What is an exhorter? Could I give you an illustration? In Oklahoma I was preaching to the Creek Indians. They have a place in Tuskegee Tabernacle, and once a year the Creek Nation gathers there. I was preaching to them, pouring out my soul and my best, then we had the people sing while I pressed the invitation. And the song leader, full blood Creek Indian there, was leading the singing as I pressed the appeal. And I did not succeed very well. And there were not many people saved.
After I had done my best, I turned to that Creek Indian, and I said, “I turn the service over to you.” I meant for him to take it and to dismiss it in prayer. I had done what I could, but he misunderstood me. He was an exhorter. And when I got through preaching, and I said, “Sir, I turn the service over to you,” he thought I meant that I had turned the service over to him for him to exhort the people that they come to Christ. And when I turned the service over to him, up and down those aisles and backwards and forwards and from side to side, that Creek Indian pled with the people, to the right hand, to the left hand, at the front and at the back, that they come to Christ. And it does something to your soul when a man like that, moved with great compassion, begins to plead for the Lord and they begin to respond. That is an exhorter.
Elijah Kimsey, James’ brother, was an exhorter. And the young boy, George Truett, as he attended those evangelistic services, listened to Uncle Elijah as he preached and as he exhorted men to come to Christ. And it made an indelible and everlasting impression upon his life.
He was converted when he was nineteen years of age in a country Baptist church in Clay County, the mountainous western part in North Carolina. The young evangelist who had come to help the pastor said, “This is the last service.” It had been going on for a week. And so he ended his revival and left.
But that night, Sunday night, to the amazement of the people, when the services began, down the aisle came that evangelist, mounted the pulpit and said to the people, “Under a strange compulsion of the will of God, I have returned. God wants us to continue this revival for another week.” And in the service that night, wonderfully blessed of God, among the many who came forward was this nineteen year-old young school teacher in a mountain school in North Carolina; down the aisle came that nineteen year-old boy, George Truett, giving his hand to the preacher and his heart in faith to God.
The next morning, he describes, getting up early to get on his pony to ride away to his school. But his mother was up before he was. She had breakfast prepared for him. And sitting there, just those two, the boy and his mother, they talked about the night before when the boy had given his heart to Christ. And George Truett describes it as an hour of deep and great joy as mother and son talked about the new-found hope and life in Christ Jesus.
The following Wednesday night, and this is the reason I took time to tell you what an exhorter was, the following Wednesday night after the evangelist had done preaching, he turned the service back to the pastor. And the pastor turned to that nineteen year-old young man, George Truett, and said to him, “Brother George, won’t you stand up and exhort these hesitating people that they come to Christ and be saved.” With fear and trembling, the young man stood up for his first testimony. And then, carried away by the spirit of compassion for the lost, up and down the aisles and back and forth, to the right and to the left, he began to plead and to exhort men and women to come to Christ.
It was a tremendous service! Then suddenly—the psychology of a thing like that you can hardly explain, but I can see—then suddenly, it just dawned upon him what he was doing, and he sat down in great shame and humiliation. As soon as he could, he slipped out of the country church, down the country road, to his home and to bed. Father and mother came in later in the night from the service, after all the meeting was over. And his mother sought him out, came into the room and stood there by the bed, And the young man looking up into the face of his mother said, “O Mother, I am so humiliated, and I am so ashamed at my miserable talk tonight.”
She knelt down by his bed and kissed him, and said, “Son, I doubt, whether in all of your life, you will ever make a more effective testimony for Christ then you did tonight.” “Son,” she said, “Don’t you think you ought to be a preacher?”
The family moved to Whitewright, a town up here north of Dallas. And soon thereafter, the boys came, George Truett and his brother, to make their home with their family in northern Texas on the blacklands of our state.
Upon a Saturday afternoon, they used to have conferences; I pastored churches where we had our conferences on Saturday afternoon. If you grew up in a country church, you would know what I mean, Saturday afternoon, church conference. He went to the conference on Saturday afternoon, and the house was filled. And he thought, “Isn’t it strange, this house filled with people, Saturday afternoon. There is a solemn atmosphere in that house up here in Whitewright?”
And so, after the church was called into conference, the oldest deacon arose. And with great emotion, he said, “This is an hour concerning which we have been praying long time, long time. And we have come to a definite and certain assurance that this is the will of God. I make a motion that we ordain young George Truett to the gospel ministry to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.” It was seconded, and the young man stood up, appalled at what the church was about to do.
I can imagine that; they just did it. They felt God had called him to preach. He wanted to be a lawyer, but over his remarks, pleading that they desist, with great feeling and persuasion they were in the will of God, they voted to ordain him to the gospel ministry at the eleven o’clock hour the following day, Sunday morning. Then the church conference dismissed, and the young man went home, and there again, his mother. She said to him, “Son, that is the voice of God. These are God’s people. This is God’s church. After long prayer and looking to heaven, they have done what God has told them to do.” And he gave his life to the gospel ministry. And at the eleven o’clock the next morning, he was ordained a preacher of the gospel of the Son of God.
The pastor there wrote to B. H. Carroll—Baylor University, under a debt, was staggering and gasping for its life—the pastor there wrote to B. H. Carroll and said, “This one thing I know about George W. Truett: whenever he speaks, the people do what they ask him to do.”
Carroll sent for him—twenty-three years of age then—Carroll sent for him and gave him the task of saving Baylor University. After prayer he accepted the assignment, and all over Texas he went, speaking for Baylor, raising money for Baylor. When the campaign was done, he brought to Dr. Carroll at the front of the church in Waco the last check, a sum making up $92,000, then, in 1890, a colossal amount of money! And the school was saved. Dr. Carroll took the last check, lifted his voice to God and cried, “It is finished.” And somehow, after the strenuous days, Dr. Truett sat down on the steps of the church there in Waco and cried like a child. The tremendous effort and burden of the campaign had almost, had almost undone his life. Sick in body and weary in soul, he went back home. And his mother took him, and treated him like a little child, and strengthened him, and comforted him, and nursed him back to health and strength, which reminds me of one of the times that I heard Dr. Truett speak, and he told this in a way that just moved you so.
The greatest orator of the South was Henry W. Grady of Atlanta, Georgia, in the days of the Reconstruction, oh, what a task upon those men, out of the ashes and out of the dust of the ground, out of poverty, out of the years of war, to raise a new South! And Dr. Truett, describing Henry W. Grady and the work and responsibilities laid upon him, the great preacher said that the orator, weary in soul and heart and in body, turned his back on the big city, turned his back on the people, turned his back upon his great work, sought out his mother on a little farm in Georgia and said to his mother, “Mother, once again, for just tonight, let me be a little boy, just once again. Read to me like you once did out of that Book, pray for me as you once did, with your hand on my head. Tuck me in bed, Mother, just one more time, like you used to do, and kiss me goodnight, Mother, like you used to do.”
And the mother took the great orator, Henry W. Grady, and he was her boy once again, ministering to him, putting him to bed, tucking the covers around, kissing him goodnight. And then strengthened, he turned back to the great work of his day. You know where George Truett found the feeling that he poured into that story. He was just describing the experience of his own heart and his own life.
I never heard him refer to his mother but one time, as I heard him preach here and there. At Ridgecrest, in one of his sermons there—I was attending the conference—in one of his sermons he described his mother. And he thought of the time that he left home there in North Carolina and his mother walked with him out to the gate. And he described the parting and the words that she said to him, “Too hallowed,” he said, “ever to be repeated,” but treasured and remembered in his heart forever.
I wish I could have been here in this church when he presented his mother to this congregation. I have heard some of the people who were here describe that moment. And they said to me that no nobleman ever presented his queen as wonderfully and beautifully, as gloriously as the great preacher and pastor presented that humble, mountain woman to the congregation of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. Were you here, if you were, I covet your remembrance of that beautiful and precious hour.
Now I have time for just one other word. Dr. Truett, as the days passed and the years multiplied, came to be looked upon as the greatest preacher of his generation. He was known a thousand miles from here as well as he is known here. He was known abroad, in the other continents and cities of the world, as well as you knew him here.
Wherever you go in our Baptist world, George Truett is the name from America that they most revere. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of London, England and George Washington Truett, the great Baptist preacher of Dallas, Texas, those are the two giants in our Baptist record, our heritage and history.
I just wanted to say a word about our church and that pastor. He came here in 1897. He was thirty years of age, had a wife, had a little baby girl, had just graduated from Baylor University, had been invited many places, but felt God called him here. The church had 715 members, had a $12,000 debt, had one well-to-do member, Colonel Slaughter, took up their first collection. The church said, “We think we can give $25.00.”
George Truett said, “Why, I intend to give more then that myself and Colonel Slaughter here will surely give $100.00.” And they laughed uproariously. They thought that was a good joke on Colonel Slaughter.
But the church grew. And the preacher grew. And the Slaughter family grew. Without the Slaughter philanthropies we wouldn’t be what we are today. Oh, how God blessed that little group who here in this little place started to raise a great standard for Jesus!
Dr. Truett was invited to be pastor of the Euclid Avenue Church in Cleveland Ohio. That was when John D. Rockefeller, Sr., was superintendent of the Sunday school there. And they came down here to get him. They offered any amount of money. They offered him anything. They said, “You just say anything.” He refused to go. They said, “Can you be moved?”
And Dr. Truett said, “Yes.”
Well, they said, “What would it take to move you?”
And the great pastor replied, “Just move my people, and I will go; just move my people, just move my people.”
That is the heart of the pastor. When they asked him to be president of Baylor University, he said, “No,” and then replied one of the prettiest sentences I have ever heard, “No, I cannot go. I have sought and found the shepherd heart,” and stayed here until he died.
And what a place he built, and what a church. When I came to Dallas, ten years ago, I met one of the big businessmen on our downtown street. He was not a Baptist. He shook my hand and said, “So you are the young pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.” He said, “I want you to know there is more religion to the square inch down there in that church than any other place in God’s world.” And I have found it to be true, more religion: to pray, to give, to go all-out, to build, to sacrifice, to go the second mile, to be loyal, to look up!
Dear people, I also in these ten years, have gone up and down our land. I have looked at our churches. I have visited among our people. In pardonable pride and in deep humility, do I say, at least to me, there is not any church in God’s world like the First Baptist Church in Dallas, our church; there isn’t; there isn’t, its depth of compassion, its spirit of seeking, its great missionary commitment, and a thousand other things beside.
Like you, I love this church—everything about it. I’m not saying we are not full of faults and failures, and I’m not saying we don’t make mistakes, and I’m not saying that we don’t fall short of the glory of God, but I do say our hearts are in it to try. And with His help and in His Spirit, we are still trying to carry on, reaching more people for God, teaching more children the Word, giving more to the evangelization of the world, with His help putting our arms around our city and our state and our lost and weary world.
Now I have to quit. May the Lord bless this word, that somebody this morning give his life to Jesus. May the Lord bless this hour that somebody you, put your life with us in this ministry, by baptism, by confession of faith, by statement, by promise of letter, however God should say the word and lead the way; in the balcony, from side to side, anywhere, somebody you, today would you come? Into the aisle and down here to the front and take my hand, “Pastor, today I give my heart to God. I give my hand in token thereof to you.” Would you come? A family of you here, “Pastor, all of us are here.” All the way through, as God shall say it, would you make it now? In that topmost balcony, to the last seat, anywhere, while we sing the song, would you come? Would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.