The Soul-Winner Truett
July 5th, 1959 @ 10:50 AM
THE SOULWINNER TRUETT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 3:19-21
7-5-59 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message.
George W. Truett died July 7, 1944, after having been pastor of this First Baptist Church for forty and seven years. He died after an illness of a year. In that length of time, during the illness, the church had a committee to seek supplies for the pulpit to carry on the ministry of the church. And that pulpit committee, when it became apparent that Dr. Truett could not live, asked the direction of God in seeking a successor to carry on the work here in the church in Dallas. And after the death of Dr. Truett in September of 1944, they asked me to come and to be undershepherd for the congregation.
On each year of the Sunday nearest to the anniversary of the death of Dr. Truett, I have preached a sermon, I have delivered an address, on some phase of his life, or of the church life, or of the denominational life to which he gave his highest devoted interest. I do that because not only does it honor the memory of one of the great modern prophets and servants of God, but it also affords the pastor an opportunity to keep before our hearts the great worldwide religious Christian causes, so well exemplified in the noble ministry of that noble pastor. For example, the Relief and Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention was organized in this church, in this church house. And it was launched largely through the influence of the great pastor here. The Baptist Memorial Sanitarium, which later was named Baylor University Hospital, was largely organized through the dedicated efforts of the pastor of this church, and Colonel Slaughter, a layman in this church, and several other fellow members of this congregation. And on and on we could name these great ministries that found their fountainhead or their great stream of encouragement from the pastoral ministry of this congregation. This is now the fifteenth year that I have done this; speaking on many, many different parts of the kingdom of our Savior, as it is advanced through our prayers and our gifts.
Now, this morning, the fifteenth year, I thought I would turn back and instead of speaking on our ministry of healing through Baylor Hospital, or our ministry to the aged and the retired from the many, many pulpits and denominational offices of our convention, supported by our Relief and Annuity Board, instead of speaking on many other of the phases of the interests of our denomination, I thought this morning I would turn back to the man himself and speak for just a little while on the two great loving interests of his life: one, his mother, who so greatly shaped his destiny; and the other, this First Baptist Church.
You read, as a part of our Scripture this morning, God’s call to Samuel. It was preceded by a devout mother, who, when God had given her a son, brought him to the Lord’s house, and said to the old prophet Eli, "My lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him: Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord" [1 Samuel 1:26-28]. And the next chapter closes with these words:
And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord.
[1 Samuel 3:19-21]
We turn back to these Old Testament patriarchs and prophets and find in their lives great blessing to ours today. We turn back to the story of the apostles and the evangelists of our Lord and find in their words and in their lives great blessings and encouragement to us today. It is not amiss to speak of a modern prophet of God and a contemporary servant of the Lord, and to find in his life great blessings and encouragement for ours today. Of all people, this church should keep alive the memory, the example, the nobility, the word, of the incomparably great preacher and pastor who spoke in this house, behind this desk, and in this pulpit for forty-seven years, our greatest representative and ambassador of Jesus the Son of God.
Dr. Truett was born in a little home in western mountainous North Carolina, in Clay County. His father was not converted until he was forty-five years of age; but his mother, through all the years, was a devout and humble and God-fearing woman. And her influence in the life of her son, George Washington Truett, was beyond doubtless what anyone has realized. Her father was named James Kimsey. He was a tremendous man, with a golden voice, from whom the great pastor of this church inherited his tremendous physical frame and the unusually melodious voice, by which just by speaking, without thinking of the content that he said, he would move an audience to tears. James Kimsey, the father of Dr. Truett’s mother, James Kimsey was a man of vast gifts in the ministry and a devoted man of God. When he lay on his deathbed, he called his friends and his neighbors round, and until he expired, until he drew his last breath, pled with them to give their hearts and their lives to Christ; all of his days he gave his best, highest gifts and talents to the ministry of the Word of God. He was a preacher more than forty years. James Kimsey had a brother named Elijah, who likewise was an unusually gifted mountain preacher. This Uncle Lije had a lisp in his voice, in his tongue, in his language. And one of the most interesting stories you could ever follow is the story of the great revival meeting that swept all the mountain country of western North Carolina and northeastern Georgia and eastern Tennessee. It was in a Methodist camp revival. And upon a day, after he’d prayed all night long, Elijah Kimsey went down before sunrise to see the elders in the Methodist camp meeting. Amazed to see him there so early, he recounted his night of prayer and what God had said to him: God had sent him to preach to that camp meeting. After they talked to him and had seen the earnestness of the man, why, they said, "We have four services: at eight o’clock in the morning, and at eleven o’clock in the morning, at three o’clock in the afternoon, and at seven o’clock in the evening." Wonder what you all would do today if we had services four a day? "Four services; which one of them," they asked Elijah Kimsey, "do you want to preach to?" And he replied, "The sooner the better, for there is a fire burning in my soul." He started at eight o’clock in the morning; nobody knows how long he preached. God came down upon the service. People began to cry out for the mercy and forgiveness of God. Preachers began to work with the lost all around them. The word spread through the nearby countryside, and people began to pour into the camp meeting. Somehow, though there were no telephones, somehow the word spread over the mountain; and the mountaineers began to pour into that camp meeting from all over the country. It was a sweeping revival; turned the whole complexion of that part of the mountain Appalachian range for generations after. That boy, George Truett, listened to Elijah Kimsey preach many, many, many times and caught the spirit of zeal, and flame, and fire, and burning appeal from Uncle Lije.
Somehow George Truett the boy was not converted until he was nineteen years of age. After being up in those mountains and listening to those people preach and testify, I can understand that. The young fellow at nineteen years of age, George Truett, was attending a revival meeting in the little country church, and the pastor had an evangelist, a young fellow. And on that Sunday night, after a week, the meeting was to close, so at the Sunday morning service, the young evangelist preached his last farewell sermon and left to go to hold a revival meeting in another place. And the pastor was to close the revival that night in the evening service. That evening, when the service was in progress and the people had assembled and singing, to their surprise, the young evangelist came walking down the aisle and up to the pulpit, and spoke in quiet tones to the pastor. Then the pastor made the announcement to the country congregation, saying that the evangelist, the young preacher, went away, but he had a tremendous conviction in his heart that God was sending him back for another week. So, the young evangelist stood up and preached that night on the text, "The just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, I shall have no delight in him" [Hebrews 10:38]. And when the young evangelist gave the invitation that night, among others who responded was this nineteen year old boy, George W. Truett.
That night, he and his mother had a long and deep conversation about what he had done, and how God had saved that son, that boy. On Wednesday night of that revival meeting, suddenly, without any pre-announcement or any previous word, the pastor turned to the young boy George Truett, nineteen years of age, and asked him to exhort these hesitating people to come to Christ. I do not suppose that there is any but a small percentage of this congregation who would know quite what that was. A long time ago, our forefathers, when they had revival meetings, not only preached the sermon, but after the sermon was preached and the singing of appeal was made, there would be exhorters who would continue the invitation and exhort the people to come to Christ.
I remember being invited to speak to the Choctaw Nation at Tuskegee Campgrounds in eastern Oklahoma. And after I had preached my best, poured out my heart to those Indian people, under that big tabernacle there, and had done my best, we’d sung the song, and another song, and what few had come had responded, I remember turning to the singer, the Indian singer, the Choctaw singer, and said to him that I was through, I turn the service to him. I meant the service was over, I was done, I was through, I quit, I had dominoed, I had resigned, I had – that was all for me; that’s what I meant. So I turned the service over to him for the benediction. I did not know that he was an exhorter; I had forgotten about exhorters. He thought that I meant I was through preaching, and I was through with my part; I was turning it over to him now for him to exhort. To my amazement, when I sat down, having turned the service over to him, he arose, stood in that pulpit, poured out his heart to those people, got out of the pulpit, up and down the aisles of that Indian congregation, pleading and exhorting the people to come to Christ. And what I had tried to do feebly and didn’t succeed in – he had those people there coming down the aisles from every section of that tabernacle, confessing the Lord, giving their lives to Jesus. It was a wonderful thing to me to look upon.
That’s what they used to do a long time ago; they would plead with people to come to Christ: go back, up and down the aisle, exhorting the people to come to Jesus. That Wednesday night of the revival, the pastor of the church turned to the young man [George Truett], and asked him to exhort the people to come to Jesus. And with trembling timidity, the young fellow stood up and began to exhort the people to accept Christ as Savior. And as he began to speak, the power of the Lord came upon him, and with great unction and with holy fervor, he went up and down the aisles of the church exhorting people to accept Christ as their Savior, then, in the midst of it, in the midst of it, suddenly became aware of what he was doing, and, in great humiliation, sat down, slipped out the church house, and in the night made his way to his home, to his bedroom, and went to bed, ashamed, humiliated at what he’d done. By and by his father and mother came, and his mother sought him out. And the boy said to his mother, "Oh Mother, I’m so ashamed. Those feeble words I spoke." And the mother kissed him and said, "Son, doubtless never in your after life will you ever make as effective an appeal for Jesus as you did tonight."
"For," the book says, "as that young fellow pled for Christ, men and women bowed their heads in prayer, asked for the mercy and forgiveness of God, and came forward accepting Jesus as Savior." From that time on, when the people would see the young man, they would ask him, "Oughtn’t you to be a preacher? You, ought not you to preach the gospel?" Well, it was in our country, in North Texas, that this thing came to pass: setting him aside to the gospel ministry. The family moved to Whitewright, it’s near Sherman – is it in same county as Sherman? – in the same county. The family moved to Whitewright, and soon, very soon, those godly people in Whitewright saw the favor of the Lord upon that young boy. They made him superintendent of the Sunday school. And the same thing happened again: when the people would see him and listen to him, they would ask that inevitable question, "Ought not you to be a preacher?" His reply was, "No," he was going to be a lawyer and had entered Sherman College. They had a college there. He had entered that college and was going to it for a year and a half and was preparing himself to be a lawyer. Well, upon a day, on a Saturday afternoon – I have been pastor of churches that had conferences once a month on Saturday afternoon; I guess that’s another thing a lot of you people have never been in is a Saturday afternoon church conference. Well, I’ve been pastor of country churches where they had their church conferences on Saturday afternoon for a hundred years, and the Whitewright church had their church conference on Saturday afternoon. That Saturday afternoon when the young fellow, George Truett, went to the church conference, the house was full, and it was jammed, and he thought within himself, "Well, how unusual, all of these people here for church conference." Well, it was soon known why: after the people were assembled and after the service was called to order, the oldest deacon, the senior deacon in the little church at Whitewright, stood up, and with great conviction and with great feeling, he said, "All of us have spoken of this, and we prayed about this, and all of us feel called of God for this. We are going to ordain George Truett as a minister of the gospel of the Son of God." Well, the young fellow was overwhelmed. "Oh, no," he said, "I am to be a lawyer. I’ve given my whole interest to law, and it is the vision of my life to be a lawyer."
"No," said those people, "God has called you to preach, and you’re to be a preacher." In desperation, he pled, "For six months, pray about it, to think about it."
"No," said that little congregation of godly sanctified people at Whitewright, "you’re going to be ordained at eleven o’clock in the morning." And they voted to do it and adjourned. That afternoon he had another one of those frequent conferences with his mother, and she said to him, "Son, these are God’s people, and they’ve been led of the Lord to do what they have done. God has laid His hand upon you to preach, these people see it, and they’re convicted of it. And tomorrow, God’s will is to be done. You’re to be a preacher of the gospel."
Well, the young fellow prayed, gave the hours to appeal unto God. And the next morning, when eleven o’clock came, that boy stood up and said, "I have found the will of God for my life. I’ll give what talents I have and such as they are," for he always spoke in such a humble way, "to be a preacher of the gospel of the Son of God." And that morning at eleven o’clock, they ordained him in the little Baptist church at Whitewright, Texas.
In those days, right after that, it looked as if our college in Texas was going under; it had a great debt upon it. Today it does not sound like very much, but in those days, in 1890, it was a stupendous debt; Baylor University was encumbered with $92,000 indebtedness, and it looked as if the school would die, it would go out of existence. B. H. Carroll, Dr. Carroll, Dr. Carroll was a tremendous man physically: he was six feet three inches tall, he weighed two hundred forty pounds, he wore a long beard that came down to his waist; he was a giant of a man. B. H. Carroll was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Waco and head of the Bible department in Baylor. And in desperation they were seeking for a man to lead these Texas Baptist people in the support of their college and school. And the pastor of the church at Whitewright wrote a letter to B. H. Carroll and said, "The man that can lead our Baptist people in lifting the indebtedness from Baylor is a young fellow whom we’ve just ordained to the ministry." And he said this about him: "I know this about George W. Truett: whenever he speaks, the people always do what he asks them." B. H. Carroll came up here to McKinney to an associational meeting, and he sent for George Truett to meet him there. And they had a long conversation, the beginning of a lifetime friendship between Dr. Carroll, who was forty-eight years old, and George Truett, who was twenty-three. And after much prayer, George Truett went down to the home of B. H. Carroll, and, with the trustees, entered into that covenant to raise the indebtedness on Baylor University. From that day until Dr. Truett married, he lived in the home of Dr. Carroll. And from that day until Dr. Carroll died in 1914, they were bosom friends; though separated by so great a span of years. And Dr. Truett went out – and I haven’t time even to begin to recount the results of that campaign – but God blessed it gloriously. And at the end of it, the indebtedness was paid, every penny of it; and Baylor was free and was given an opportunity to go on and to live and to be what God had called that great institution to be. And Dr. Truett, after the campaign, weary in body and soul, went back home and to his mother, and she cared for him, and ministered to him, and comforted him, as when he was a little child.
When I read that about his going back to his mother from that strenuous campaign over all of Texas, it brought to my mind a sermon I heard Dr. Truett preach at one of our Southern Baptist Conventions. I never did know Dr. Truett personally; I’d just see him at a Southern Baptist Convention, or at a Baptist World Alliance. And in one of those sermons, in a way that you never could forget, he described the great orator of the South, Henry W. Grady. And after the years of trial and turmoil, when Grady tried to lead the South in its reconstruction days, Dr. Truett described Henry W. Grady as being worn out in body and soul and kind of losing his grip on God and on the spiritual things of life. He described the great southern orator as going back to the little humble Georgia country home and asking his mother to let him be a little boy again. And he described the mother as she took the great orator, Grady, and put him to bed, and tucked in the covers, and kissed him goodnight, prayed for her boy, slipped away, and how the great orator arose to go back to his work and to his task. Blessed is the boy, strong is the man, that has back of him a great praying godly Christian mother.
I heard him [George Truett] describe her one time, at Ridgecrest. I was there at a retreat in our Baptist retreat in North Carolina. I heard him describe his mother. I wish that it was possible to keep a thing like that forever, as he described his mother, and the time that she walked with him to the garden gate when he went away. And he did not say what his mother said, he just said, "Her words were too holy to be repeated," but that he treasured them in his heart forever.
He went to Baylor then as a student and was called to be pastor of the little church in East Waco, the East Waco Baptist Church. And in 1897, when he was thirty years of age, the First Baptist Church in Dallas at that time had a big debt upon it. Well, that’s what makes the First Baptist Church in Dallas, is to have a big debt upon it, and we’re seeing to it that it stays that way. We have a debt on this church of way over a million dollars; but that’s good for us, that’s good for us. They had a debt on their church, and to them at that time it was a colossal, stupendous amount of money. Dr. Truett came up here to Dallas, and he said that the church, this church, must be missionary, and it must have a vital part in the missionary program of Jesus in our Baptist life and denomination throughout this whole earth. He was much given to it. Well, he came here in September. Now, as you know, in September, we have a Mary Hill Davis week of prayer for state missions. Now, they didn’t have any name to it then, but that was the month for state missions. Well, Dr. Truett had been here two weeks, and he announced that he was going to take up a special offering for state missions, making Texas Christian, winning them to the Lord, our people in the state. Well, those men demurred, said they had a big debt on them, and they better be taking up a collection for that big debt. "No," said Dr. Truett, "this is the time for missions, and we’re taking up a collection for missions." Well, they said, "That’s all right, but you won’t get twenty-five dollars." Dr. Truett was amazed at the men, and he said, "Why, brethren, I’m going to give twenty-five dollars myself. And Colonel Slaughter here, he ought to give at least a hundred dollars." Well, all the men laughed uproariously; they thought that was a good joke on Colonel Slaughter. Truett didn’t laugh; he was in dead earnest. Well, they had the collection; they had a big one. Colonel Slaughter gave the hundred dollars. And he led this church into the great missionary minded congregation that it is today. He loved this First Baptist Church.
"Oh, my fellow Christians of this church," he said, "a church dearer to me than my heart’s blood, I summon you anew today, to give your best to Christ. I summon you to come and give your best to win this city and this state and our world to Jesus." I close with this word of his love for this church – Powhatan James, by the way, in his biography of Dr. Truett, said, "The greatest and most enduring monument to the life and work and ministry of Dr. Truett is the First Baptist Church in Dallas," this congregation. This illustrates his love for this precious congregation, this church. John D. Rockefeller Sr. greatly loved Dr. Truett, greatly admired him, respected him. John D. Rockefeller Sr. was superintendent of the Sunday school at the Euclid Avenue Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and under the influence of John D. Rockefeller Sr., the pulpit committee of the church in Cleveland came down here to get George Truett to be pastor of their church. And under the influence of John D. Rockefeller, the committee was instructed to offer Truett anything, anything, whatever he wants, whatever salary, whatever inducement, whatever it takes, whatever he wants. Dr. Truett refused to go. And the committee, in talking to him, in desperation, finally said, "Well, Dr. Truett, could you be moved at all?" Dr. Truett very solemnly replied, "Yes, yes I could." Then they asked him, "Well, what would it take to move you?" And he replied, "Just to move my people." Take you up there to Cleveland, and he’d go with you. But as long as his people were in Dallas, he was in Dallas. As long as his people were in this church, he was in this church. "Oh, my fellow Christians of this First Baptist Church, dearer to me than my heart’s blood": thus did he speak, thus did he preach, thus did he minister, and thus was he faithful until he died, after forty-seven years, your undershepherd, and God’s true and noble preacher.
Oh, what an inheritance we have! What a monument. God bless his memory to us and through our generations that are yet to come. Thank you for being so patient. I have gone beyond this noon hour, but I’ve said just a little bit, so small a part, compared to what could be said.
While we make our appeal this morning, on the first note of this first stanza, in this great throng, is there somebody you who ought to give your life to Christ? Would you come and stand by me? Is there a family to put your lives in the fellowship of our church? On the first note of this first stanza, in this balcony to come down the stairway, on this lower floor to step into the aisle, would you make it right now, immediately? "Here I am, preacher, and here I come, giving my life to Christ," or "putting our lives with you in the fellowship of this wonderful and precious church." Would you come? Would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.