Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-26-57 7:30 p.m.
In the third chapter of the Book of Philippians – the chapter in the Bible to which we have come after more than eleven years preaching through the Word – this morning, we left off at the fourteenth verse. So going back to read a context, I shall start at the twelfth verse and read the following:
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect –
but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Let us therefore, as many as be mature –
perfect, grown –
bethus minded; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
Nevertheless, whereunto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an example.
Now, that is my text: "Brethren, be followers together of me" [Philippians 3:17] summimētai, "mimics." You could translate it: "Be mimics of me, followers of me." The best English word would be "imitators."
"Be imitators together – all of us imitators, be imitators of me, and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for a tupon" [Philippians 3:17]. The English word – that same Greek word in the English is type. You could translate it well: "having us for a model and example, a pattern."
So I’m going to speak tonight on following the example of those who have gone before us. As Paul beseeches the brethren there in the church in Philippi to be a follower, a mimic, of him – using him and other great apostolic leaders like him as a type, as a pattern – we are to be imitators of these great and noble of God who have preceded us.
The great Hebrew prophets had a habit of calling their people back to the great forebears who established and founded and lost their nation. For example, Isaiah says in the fifty-first chapter of his great book and the second verse: "Look unto the rock from which ye are hewn, and unto the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah who bare you" [Isaiah 51:1-2].
It’s good – it is always good for us who are coming on and following along to look unto these who have preceded us and who so nobly and wonderfully have set glorious examples for us. So tonight, we are to turn first to the glorious examples of those who founded the school, the name of which school is on your diplomas. It is on mine. I have two degrees from Baylor University. I have a B. A. degree. I have a Doctor of Divinity degree. I am proud that on those parchments is written the name of Baylor.
So we’re going to harken back to those noble, dedicated men of God whose examples it would be highly worthy for us to follow and to emulate. May we go back to a revival meeting in the year 1848 to the little town of Washington [Washington, Texas] on the Brazos [Brazos River in Texas]? There’s a young man, just twenty-five years of age, who is pouring out his soul to that congregation pleading the cause and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And after he has preached his sermon and after he has made his appeal, there stands up in the congregation a tall, fine-looking, big, distinguished man. He is six feet three inches in height and magnificently proportioned.
He comes to the front of the congregation, and, facing the people, begins to make an appeal himself in the name of the Lord Christ. And in that appeal, that fine, distinguished-looking man says, "You have just heard the sermon of this young pastor. His predecessor," says this distinguished gentleman, "was the pastor in Houston, Texas when the ravages of yellow fever destroyed so many of the lives in his congregation and that young minister fell himself ministering to his people.
"The young man you’ve just heard preach has come to Texas," says this distinguished-looking man, "to take the place of that fallen pastor. Now," says this distinguished man, "there’s a yellow fever epidemic raging again in the city of Houston, and our young preacher for the evening is returning to minister to his people. And for all except in the grace and providence of God, this shall be the last time we shall look upon his face. He too may lose his life in this epidemic."
Then says this distinguished man, "You have heard the pastor preaching tonight as a dying man to dying men. Tonight, won’t you come and listen to his appeal and accept Christ as your Savior?" And he did that with tears.
Who were those men? The young pastor who died just a year before was named William E. Tryon [d. 1847]. The young preacher, twenty-five years of age who was pouring out his heart in that revival meeting, was named Rufus C. Burleson [1823-1901]. And the distinguished, tall, handsome judge – a layman who came down to make that exhortation before the people – was named Judge R. E. B. Baylor [Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor, 1793-1874].
Judge Baylor came to Texas in 1838. He had been twice a Congressman from Alabama in the United States Congress. He had been a member of the Supreme Court of Alabama. He came to Texas and dedicated his life to the young Republic. And as a great Christian judge, wherever he held court, he’d lay on one side of the bar his Bible and on the other side he’d place his gun. And first with the gun and the Bible, he’d hold court. And then with the Bible and the gun, he’d preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the people.
William E. Tryon came to Texas in 1841. He was a city-bred young fellow, born in New York City, described as one of the most eloquent preachers of his day – a learned, scholarly, neatly-dressed young man, who, as I say, lost his life in 1847 ministering to his people in Houston, dying under the ravages of yellow fever.
Rufus C. Burleson came to Texas in 1847 upon the death of Tryon and was called as pastor of the church in Houston. He was a dedicated man leaving Alabama – a gifted young fellow who, falling on the sands of the shore at Galveston, cried to God saying, "Give me Texas. Give me Texas for Christ."
In 1840, there gathered a little group of the messengers from three churches, and they formed – altogether just 45 members – they formed a Baptist association. They called it the Union Baptist Association. The first thing they did was to appoint a committee to see about the organization of a Christian educational society.
In 1841, the association met again; and the committee reported, and they organized that Christian education society and named as its president Judge R. E. B. Baylor. In 1842, they launched that program, but to the south of them were eight million angry Mexicans, and to the west and to the north of them were sixty thousand rampaging, hostile Indians.
In 1842, there came the fearful invasion from old Mexico, and in abeyance were the plans of the little congregations to build a Baptist school here in the territory in the open country of Texas. But under the splendid and matchless and eloquent preaching of Tryon and by the love and encouragement of Judge Baylor, the hopes of the little school was kept alive.
So after the war, in 1845, the little Baptist group appointed a committee to go down to the Texas legislature and there secure a charter for the new institution. February 1, 1845, the Texas legislature – the Republic of Texas – granted to this educational society the right to found the new little institution, the first institution of higher learning in this country. "But," said Leonard Anderson, the vicepresident, in talking to William Tryon and to R. E. B. Baylor – "But," said Anderson, "the charter is prepared. All of it is ready, but there’s a blank there for the name of the school. Before the charter can be granted, you must name the school."
They asked for time, but said Anderson, "If you delay, Congress will be done, and it’ll be another year before it can be granted. You must name it now."
So Anderson sitting there, Baylor here, and Tryon there – Tryon said to Baylor, "We shall call it Baylor University."
Baylor said to Tryon, "No. We shall call it Tryon University."
Baylor said, "Nay."
Tryon said, "Yea," and Anderson there, just waiting for those two gentleman to get through the argument. Finally, Tryon said to Baylor, "Look, I have a wonderful name for the school."
"Fine," said Baylor, "Whatever you write in – that wonderful name – that’ll be the name of the school."
And he handed the charter to Tryon, and Tryon dipped the quill and ink and wrote: "It shall be called Baylor University."
When Baylor read that he said, "No," but Anderson was seated there in the trio. And Anderson said, "It’s a good name, and I say, it’s ‘Baylor.’" So over Judge Baylor’s wishes, Anderson took the document, the Congress gave the charter, and it came to be known as Baylor University.
Those are the men who founded that school. Burleson later was its president for many, many years. It goes back – that name, that school, this college, that university – goes back to a great dedicated Christian group of men who, under God, built an empire for Christ in this southwestern, raw and open country.
"Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn; look unto the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged" [Isaiah 51:1]. These are our forbearers. They are our worthy examples, and the Book says and encourages us to be "followers together" of them [Philippians 3:17].
Now, a dental college: preaching one time to a graduating class of Baylor College of Dentistry, one of the men said to me, "Pastor, did you know that the first dental college ever organized in this world was organized in a Baptist church?"
I said, "No. I’ve heard of a lot of things going on in a Baptist church, but I never heard of that."
Well, he said, "It’s the truth."
Well, I said, "You just send me those facts." So he did.
This article, he says, appeared in the year 1840 in one of the Baltimore [Maryland] newspapers. The fact that I am proud of is that this was the first attempt to organize a dental school in this country, and it was in a Baptist church. Then, he’s got an exclamation point after his last sentence, "I bet it was a downtown Baptist church!"
Now, this is the article. He has copied it from this newspaper in Baltimore in 1840. "Baltimore College of Dental Surgery" – that’s the little announcement:
The introductory lectures in this institution will be delivered in the Baptist Church on Calvert Street between Lexington and Saratoga Streets, commencing Tuesday, November third, at seven-thirty o’clock in the evening, to which the Board of Visitors, the reverend clergy, the medical faculty and public generally are invited to attend.
The following is the order in which they will be delivered:
Tuesday, Professor H. H. Hyden, M. D., Professor of Dental Physiology and Pathology;
Wednesday, Professor Thomas E. Bond, Sr., M. D., Professor of Special Pathology and Therapeutics;
Thursday, Professor Chapin A. Harris, M. D., Professor of Practical Dentistry;
Saturday, Professor H. Hillis Boxley, M. D., Professor of Anatomy and Physiology;
Chapin A. Harris, Dean.
That was the beginning of the first dental college in this country – beginning in a Baptist church. And did you notice in the invitation to the opening and to the week of that grand occasion, they invite the faculty, the medical faculty, the board of visitors – whatever that could be – and the reverend clergy?
Well, when I read that, I thought, "That’s right. That’s right. In the building of a school, in the education of these young men, how appropriate that it should be born in a church, and how appropriate that there should be in attendance not only the M. D., and the D. D. S., but the D. D. – the preacher, the reverend clergy." Why not? Oh what an open door, blessed and precious, God hath given to you young men and you young women.
Now, may I say a word of your task? You’re going out into community life – some of you in a little town, community, some of you in a city. All over this country, you’ll be scattered. What will you work for, and what is the reward that you seek?
"Well, it’d be very plain, preacher, what I am going to work for. I’m going to work for the money I get out of it."
Well, that’s a reward. That’s right. You have to have money to live, pay expenses, buy your clothes, feed yourself, pay your rent, buy your house, run the car. That’s right. You have to have money. But I tell you not only as a preacher but as just a common piece of humanity, the lowest aim that a man could reach for and the sorriest reward that a man could work for is to do it for money: "Pay me. That’s all I want: to live and to work and to be a professional man, trained and ingenious, and trade it out for filthy lucre, money."
You know, I had one of the strangest come to passes. I was in Detroit preaching there at a meeting, and my friend who was with me in the car stopped before a mansion. He said, "I want you to look at that mansion."
Now, it was a beautiful, spacious home. He said, "But there’s something unusual about that, and what happened in it." He said, "That’s the home of Henry Ford: unused, vacant now." He said, "It was a strange thing." He said, "You know, Henry Ford was a billionaire and the richest man in the world. But," he said, "when Henry Ford died, he died without a doctor, without lights, without water, without electricity, without heat, alone."
I said, "What do you mean?"
He said, "I mean exactly that."
Well, I said, "How did that come to pass?"
He said, "It was just one of those unusual turns of fortune."
He said, "When Henry Ford died, there was a terrific storm in Detroit. And the little creek that runs out in front of his house," he said, "that creek became a rushing, wild river, and nobody could approach the place." And he said, "Everything connected with the house was severed: telephone line out, electric light line out – everything out – the heat system cut off in the house." And he said, "It just happened to be that Henry Ford died alone. Not even a doctor could reach him without a telephone, without a light, without water, without anything."
Well, I began to think about that. Just exactly how could your money buy those things five minutes after you die anyway? Pile upon pile, heap upon heap, mound upon mound, and you’re dead. Oh, the vanity of life and the emptiness of these material rewards! If that’s what you’re working for, you’d might as well have been a day laborer. If that’s what you seek, you’d might as well entered any other kind of a ministry that mind could think of.
But oh, you! Why, with what pride and with what joy and with what gladness can you look forward to the glorious rewards of your life and of your hands! "This is the doctor," and you’ll be introduced as Dr. Thus and Dr. So, and you’ll be received as such.
I grew up in a little community, and I’ve been pastor in little places. And if we were fortunate enough to have a dentist, he was one of the most accepted and cherished and respected of all of the men in the community. And some of the finest men in our church are these doctors of dental surgery, one of whom has led our invocation tonight and is an honored, ordained deacon in our midst.
What you going out for? Oh, young men and young women, to serve God. Why not? Why not? "To serve God: This is my calling. This is my task. The preacher up there preaching the gospel because he feels God called him to be a preacher of the unsearchable riches of Christ – I, I feel just as much called of God to be a good, worthy workman in my profession, and to it, I dedicate my life."
Why not? Why not? Working for money? No. Working to honor God and to serve my fellow man – what an open door and what a blessing you can be in the community wherever the Spirit of the Lord doth lead and send you.
Now, I want to make one final appeal then I’m through. I don’t know why it is – and I say it with tears – I don’t know why it is, but most of our medical profession passes by the Lord and His church. I can’t understand that because I’ve always felt that men who were doctors and were ministering to the illnesses of humanity, out of all people in the world to love God and to follow the Lord and to be faithful to His church – I don’t know why most of them pass God by and most of them you’ll never see in church.
Young men, oh, my soul! I don’t know how to frame the word to make the appeal to you, but you remember it forever. But what a blessing and what a strength you could be if you will, if you would.
There are many, many, many, many of these great noble men who are honored in Westminister Abbey, but the one that appeals to me most is a scientist that I suppose the world never heard of. He was an astronomer [Jeremiah Horrocks, 1618-1641]. And in Westminister Abbey is the strangest inscription on the monument dedicated to him. This is it: "Called aside to greater tasks, which must not be neglected for subordinate pursuits."
Such a strange thing to write on a man’s monument! Well, this is where it came from. He had predicted as an astronomer that there would appear in the sky a certain star. Mathematically, he had made that prophecy and he watched and he waited. And in the providence of God, when the time came for his star to appear, he heard the church bell ringing for divine worship. He arose. He wrote in his diary that little sentence: "Called aside to greater tasks, which must not be neglected for subordinate pursuits," and he left his star and went down to the little church.
O Lord, that we had men like that today! "Brethren, be mimētai; be followers, imitators, of me, and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for a tupon," – a pattern, an example [Philippians 3:17]. May God give to us grace to walk in the train of these noble men of God who have bequeathed to us an invaluable and eternal inheritance!
Now, I realize that upon a baccalaureate occasion, you hardly expect people to give their lives in faith and in trust to Jesus, but this is still God’s hour, and it’s God’s time for somebody.
In the great throng of people here tonight, is there somebody you humbly would give his life in trust to the Lord or somebody you to put his life in the fellowship of the church – a family of you or just one you? Coming down these stairwells here to the front or from side to side, while we sing this invitation appeal, into the aisle and down here by my side, would you come? Would you give me your hand? "Preacher, I’ve given my heart to God. I give you my hand." Coming by faith or into the fellowship of the church, while we sing this appeal, would you come? Would you make it now while we stand and while we sing?