These Twenty Years

1 Samuel

These Twenty Years

October 4th, 1964 @ 10:50 AM

1 Samuel 7:12-17

Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us. So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath; and the coasts thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places. And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD.
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THESE TWENTY YEARS

Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Samuel 7:12-17

10-4-64    10:50 a.m.

I could stand here and speak for hours – literally – and hours of these past twenty years.  And on the radio and on television you are sharing the services of our beloved First Baptist Church in Dallas.  And this is the pastor speaking on his twentieth anniversary.  And the message is entitled These Twenty Years.  In the Book of [1] Samuel chapter 7, verse 12:

Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us,

And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.

And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places.

And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the Lord.

[1 Samuel 7:12, 15-17]

 

On the seventh day of July, in 1944, after a year of intense suffering and severe illness, the great and incomparable preacher and pastor, Dr. George W. Truett, fell asleep in Jesus.  That August, I received a letter from Brother Bob Coleman, pastor’s assistant and song leader in this church for forty-two years.  I received a letter from Brother Bob Coleman; and he couched it like this:  he said, “During the long illness of our pastor, and now after his death, the brethren of our Southern Baptist Convention have been most kind in helping us carry forward the work of this great church.  Would you be thus kind, and help us for one Sunday?  Pick out a Sunday in August, and come and preach for us.”  So that invitation was accepted; and in August, in 1944, when I was thirty-four years old, I came and stood in this pulpit for the first time.

On Wednesday night, the twenty-seventh day of September, the church called me as pastor; and that night, Brother Bob Coleman telephoned me in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where I was pastor of the First Baptist Church, and told me what the church had done.  There were some things that had happened in the days and the weeks previous that had made me wonder at the providences of God and this church.  But his call that night was an amazing and an overwhelming surprise to me!  Nobody had said any word to me; just that they had felt led of God to extend that call that I be pastor of this First Baptist Church in Dallas.

In the years since, I have learned of a multitude of conspiring providences and factors and influences that lay back of that call.  When I was a student in the Southern Seminary in Louisville, I was pastor of a little village church in southern Kentucky, named Oakland.  It belongs to the Warren Baptist Association.  And just two miles north is the little town called Smith’s Grove.  And in the winter time, we were having a monthly worker’s conference at Smith’s Grove.  It was very cold.  And when the group divided, and the brotherhood went to the empty parsonage – they were without a pastor – for their meeting, and the women stayed in the church for their meeting, there was present in the group Dr. John L. Hill and B. B. McKinney, who had come up from Nashville, Tennessee, to bring the main address at the Warren Associational Worker’s Conference.  They went with us, Dr. Hill and B. B. McKinney – the famous song leader – they went with us to the parsonage.

It was very cold; there was a fire in the open grate.  I would suppose there were fifteen to sixteen or seventeen men who were present.  The man who headed the brotherhood and who had charge of that service stood up and said, “Now the program that we had arranged has fallen through, and we do not have a program.  But Brother Criswell, the pastor at Oakland, is here; and he will now preach for us.”  And the man sat down.  I never dreamed of any such thing; I hadn’t even thought about any such thing.  I was just sitting there with that sixteen or seventeen men.  And when the man sat down, there wasn’t anything to do but for me to stride up to the front, open my Bible, ask God to give me something to say, and just turn loose.  Well, that I did.  And after the meeting was over, John L. Hill, one of the princeliest men in the whole earth, John L. Hill came up and put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Young man, I have my eyes on you.”  I had no idea what he meant.  That was when I was a student in the seminary.

The pulpit committee of the First Baptist Church here in Dallas wrote a letter to John L. Hill, and asked Dr. Hill, as a layman, if he had a recommendation for the pastorate of the church in Dallas, since Dr. Truett had been translated.  Dr. Hill wrote back, and said, “Yes, there’s one man,” and he wrote my name, “Pastor of the First Church at Muskogee, Oklahoma.”  The committee looked at one another, “Did you ever hear him?”

“No.”

“Did you ever hear of him?”

“No.”  No member of the committee had ever heard about the fellow, so they dropped the letter in the wastebasket.

The days passed, and they had come down to about three names that they were considering.  So they wrote another letter to Dr. John L. Hill, this illustrious Baptist layman, and said, “We have these three names, and we want you to tell us what you think about these three names.”

Dr. Hill wrote back and said, “First one,” and a little sentence about that, dismissed it.  “Second one,” little sentence about that; dismissed it.  “Third one,” little sentence about that; dismissed it.  Then added, “But I have told you that there is one man you ought to call as pastor of the First Church in Dallas, and that’s,” and he called my name, “First Baptist Church Muskogee, Oklahoma.”

Well, the committee looked at one another and said, “Nobody of us has ever heard of him, but we ought to look at him.  John L. Hill is thus insistent.”  So the committee instructed Brother Bob Coleman to write that letter; and he couched it in a way that I would never in the earth have known anything at all:  I was just doing my denominational duty, coming down here and helping this church in the great loss of their pastor.

And those things that happened, you could recount them by the hour and the hour.  When I stood up here to read the Bible and to deliver my message, my hands trembled, and the Bible shook in my hand.  I was so ashamed of that.  Try as hard as I could, I couldn’t keep that Bible from trembling in my hand.  And I was so ashamed and mortified that I couldn’t keep the Bible from trembling in my hand.  This is just a little instance of how God works.  That pulpit committee was composed of Judge Frank M. Ryburn, chairman of the deacons and chairman of the committee; and Ralph Baker was representing the young people of the church – these are the only two that remain with us – Chesley Brown, translated to heaven; Bob Coleman, translated to heaven; Paul Danna, translated to heaven; and Mrs. Earl Smith, who has moved away.  That was the pulpit committee.

Paul Danna said to the pulpit committee, “I have made up my mind; I know exactly who’s God’s man for us.”

And Judge Ryburn says, “Well, Paul, who is it?”

 And he says, “It’s that young man Criswell, up there in Muskogee, Oklahoma.”

 And Judge Ryburn and the rest said, “Well, what makes you think that God has selected him?”

And Paul Danna said, “When he stood up to preach and held the Bible in his hand, his hands trembled.”

And they said, “Well Paul, what makes you think that points him out as God’s man?”

And Paul Danna said, “Well, heretofore we’ve had a long list of men who have come and stood in that pulpit,” and he said, “my impression of them as they stood there was, ‘Well, this is just ordinary thing for me, this is just something I do every other day of my life.  There’s nothing special or nothing unusual about my being here in this pulpit.'”  He said, “That’s the impression I’ve had of those men.  But,” he said, “when that young man stood up and his hands trembled,” he said, “it just seemed to me that he was conscious of his responsibility unto God.  And I have the conviction that he is God’s man for this place.”

Isn’t that an amazing thing?  Our weaknesses God turns to His glory.  And the things of our mortality and our humanity the Lord overrules to glorify His wonderful name.

So, the first day of October, in 1944, the first Sunday came on the first day.  I came down here after they had called me as pastor, and I preached that Sunday.  The sermon was 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”  And I preached on Make it a Matter of Prayer.  And when I got through preaching, I knelt down here on this side of the pulpit and took it to God.  It was one of the most moving services I have ever attended or shared.  I counted the people who joined the church that day – their names are in the Reminder – there were fifty-nine who joined the church that hour; many, many of them by baptism.  And when the service was over and Brother Bob Coleman and I walked back to the study, he put his arms around me, and said, “Young man, I’ve never been in such a service in my life.”  He said, “This is your anniversary Sunday.  It is never to be any other Sunday.  The first Sunday in October is to be your anniversary, in memory of this holy and Pentecostal day.”  Dear people, in the providences of God, for twenty years I have never preached in this pulpit, morning and night, but that God has given us a harvest; for twenty years, every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, there has been a response, and God has added to His church.

When I began the work in November, I preached a sermon entitled Facing the Future with God.  And in January of the new year, I preached on The Downtown Church.  Every new year since, first Sunday I preach on The Downtown Church.  And on the eighth day of July, that following year of 1945, I preached my first sermon on the life and ministry of Dr. Truett; the first one, Hebrews 11:4, Dr. George W. Truett, He Being Dead Yet Speaketh.  And every Sunday nearest the seventh day of July, I have prepared an address and delivered a message on some glorious work in the life and ministry of the incomparable pastor.

In 1944, we were in the midst of a cruel and a merciless war.  As a small child, I remembered World War I; but World War II I lived through, poignantly, every syllable of it, every tear of it, every drop of blood in it.  Near Muskogee, Oklahoma, was Camp Gruber; they had from forty to fifty thousand soldiers there throughout the years of the war.  The 88th Division was activated there; a division that was cut down again and again and again through the war, and replaced and replaced.  Those men who were activated – and I shared in that ceremony – practically all of those men were killed.  The 42nd Rainbow Division, General Douglas MacArthur’s division, was activated in Camp Gruber near Muskogee, Oklahoma.  And in the years of the war, we ministered to those soldiers.  When I came here, I picked up that same ministry.  We had a service center, and Mrs. Bowles, whose boys were in the war, directed it.  In the Reminder we had a “For God and Country” column; and when you looked through those Reminders, once in a while you will see a black border, and a boy’s name, “Killed in Action in Okinawa”, killed in action over the face of the globe as that cruel war was fought.  And the sermons that I preached in those days, one entitled Their Sacrifice and Ours; another one entitled Spiritual Sabotage; another one entitled Blood, Sweat, and Tears; another one, on John 3:16, The Gold Star in God’s Service Flag; another one Victory through Prayer Power.  Oh, those days!  Those epochal and dreadful days.

And then after the war, I made a trip to Europe, and I came back and delivered an address entitled The Red Plague.  I sensed then, as all of you did, the horror of seeing Soviet Russia pour over Eastern Europe and to the very boundaries of Germany itself.

In February of 1946, God called Brother Bob Coleman home.  The Lord left him here a year and a half with me.  And in the memorial address that I made in this place upon the translation of Brother Bob, I used an illustration:  the Katy Railroad had a train, the Texas Special, very, very long train; and from Union Station it stopped at Highland Park Station.  And at Highland Park Station there was a booster engine added to it that pushed it over the hill, and so on north.  And I said that was what Brother Bob Coleman had done for me and that God had left him here for a year and a half to help me get started in this glorious work in the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  That was one of God’s true saints, Brother Bob Coleman; and when he died, B. B. McKinney, the immortal song writer, wrote this tribute to Brother Bob:

God’s singer has gone to that city, to dwell with the glorified throng,

Who sweetened the life of his neighbors, with beautiful jewels of song.

He sang of that wonderful homeland, where love ever shines as the sun;

He sang of eternal salvation, through Jesus the Crucified One.

He sang and the lonely found comfort, he sang and God’s children were blessed,

He sang and the poor wayward sinner found Jesus, the Giver of rest.

Sing on, dear friend, in yon city; you’re free from all sorrow and pain;

Someday we’ll meet at life’s river, and sing together again.

 

So God took home dear Brother Bob Coleman.

My first introduction to the church in its stewardship and mission program was again an overwhelming thing to me.  As you know, I grew up in a very small town, in a very little church.  And even though I’d been pastoring as time went on fine churches such as Muskogee, I was not accustomed to what was expected of a congregation as I immediately was introduced to here in Dallas.  Now I’m talking about this:  when I came to be pastor of the church, they asked us for $200,000 for the Truett Memorial Hospital Building.  They asked us for $50,000 for the Fleming Scarborough Truett Building on the campus of Southwestern Seminary.  They asked us for $10,000 for the Baylor University Bible Building.  And then they asked us $50,000 for world relief for our starving brethren across the seas, whose homes and property had been lost in this cruel war.  I’d never heard of such sums of money:  $200,000, $50,000, $10,000, $50,000; and this in addition to what we were trying to do in the church.  Well, as a young fellow, I sat down with our deacons.  And Judge Ryburn presided over those wonderful men, and they never hesitated!  They never debated.  They never discussed.  They just said, “Why, by the grace of God, and with His help, we will do it!”  Why, I couldn’t believe it.  I couldn’t believe it; the assurance and the spirit of triumph and victory among those wonderful men.  And every cent of that was paid:  $200,000 to that hospital, $50,000 to the seminary, $10,000 to Baylor for their building, and $50,000 for world relief.  Why, it just thrilled my heart just to look at this church and to see these men.

Our budget the year before, they had a budget of $180,000.  My first one was $200,000.  Then it went to $300,000, $400,000, $500,000; finally it went to $1,000,000, and now $1,500,000.  And when our deacons discussed this present budget, they said, “We are confident that the day will come when the regular giving program of the First Baptist Church in Dallas will be over $2,000,000 for Jesus a year.”  Why, it just seems phenomenal and astronomical to me!

Then immediately we began our six missions.  There was a man who came into the fellowship of our church named Ira McAlister.  I asked God for that man.  He was busy in all of these civic enterprises, helping poor people and directing ministries and work.  I have always felt there is never a solution to poverty or want or ignorance or need except in the power of God.  I could expatiate on that endlessly.  You will never get India fed and clothed and housed until India changes its faith and its religion.  It’s not because the land’s poor or unproductive, or the people cannot work; it’s because of their religion they remain everlastingly poor and starving and in need.  And I felt that way about any community or any blight or any situation: there is no solution for children, for delinquency, for crime, for anything that’s wrong except in God.

Well, I prayed for that man, and the Lord sent him to us; and his three sons-in-law, all four of those men standing down there together.  And then we started our work.  We turned our silent work [for the deaf] into a ministry, and then we took over the West Dallas mission, our Calvary Chapel for Latin Americans.  Then in 1950, we started Meadow Gardens in South Oak Cliff and then two years later the Truett Chapel, a gift of Hattie Rankin Moore – a providence of God.  And then in September of that same year, our Good Shepherd department was organized.  Last year, Ms. Bob Frye gave the flowers in memory of the twelfth anniversary of our downtown mission, the Good Shepherd department, a ministry to the poor who are pressed against this city.

I’ve always had a deep conviction and everlastingly will that this church has, this church has an obligation and a ministry to all the poor people who are pressed against the heart of this city.  And then in 1956, our sixth mission, which we named after brother Bob, Coleman Chapel, which is located out there in the housing project in West Dallas.

Then our building program – and we must hasten.  When I came here I married our young people all over this city, never here; always some other place.  I’d be holding our wedding services in Perkins’ Chapel, in Cox’s Chapel, in all the different denominational churches.  It just hurt my heart.  And I began to say to the people, “Now I want a chapel in which to marry my young people.  I want a chapel.  I want a chapel.”  And I stayed with it, “I want a chapel.”  And they got so tired of it, they said, “Let’s get him a chapel just to change the tune, if nothing else.”  I want a chapel.  And that’s what started that building over there.  On the twenty-fifth day of May, in 1947, Judge Ryburn presented a recommendation from our deacons that we raise $250,000 and build this preacher a chapel.

Well, the four Slaughter girls, I buried all four of those dear girls, Mrs. G. G. Wright, Mrs. George W. Veal, Mrs. Carrie Dean, Mrs. John Henry Dean, and Mrs. Ira DeLoach, Mrs. Nell Slaughter-DeLoach; they came and said, “We’ll build the chapel.”  And dear Dr. Embree, who belonged to another denomination, in memory of his precious wife, a missionary family, he gave us Embree Hall, our prayer meeting hall.  Then a terrible delay:  there was a steel strike.  And then another terrible delay, the Korean War.  And the cost went up, and up, and up, and up, and up, and up, and up astronomically upward, that cost went up.  And then of course, the church was growing, and by the time we let the contract for that building – Mr. Zachary, you signed the contract – $1,750,000.  We started off at $250,000 for the building.  The building cost $1,750,000!  The recommendation to build it was made May 25, 1947.  We dedicated in February 1954.  It took seven years to get that building up.  We built on the lower floor a beautiful place for our young people, with a stage and lights and everything.  By the time the building was erected, our young people’s group had so grown, they never used it a single time.  They haven’t been in it to this day.

Then in those days – and this is a story that I haven’t time to recount – in those days, the property townside came up for sale.  And Mrs. Veal gave us the money to buy the property; and then gave us $1,500,000 on which to build the Minnie Slaughter Veal Parking and Recreational Building.  In June of 1958, we bought the Burt Building for a $1,000,000.  Counting the money that we’ve spent conforming the Truett Building, this building, to all of the other educational purposes that we’ve erected, our air conditioning, the lots we have bought for future expansion, we have spent in these twenty years over $5,000,000, expanding this plant.

The staff, there were five of us when I assumed the responsibility of being God’s undershepherd in this congregation.  There has never been any trouble in this church.  There was never any trouble forty-seven years under Dr. Truett.  There has never been any trouble the twenty years I’ve been here.  Sixty-seven years and this church has never had any trouble.  The only little thing that ever arose, I said to the deacons, “I cannot do this as Dr. Truett did; he had his way and his personality and his ministry.  I can’t even begin to think of doing this work as Dr. Truett did; I have to do it my way, as God puts it on my heart.”  And I said, “I cannot do it without a church staff, without a staff.”  That’s the only thing that ever arose; and the church never knew it.  There was opposition; there was bitter opposition.  So it came to a head in the deacons meeting.  I brought it to a head.  I’m like Sam Jones:  I don’t mind being swallowed by a whale, but I don’t want to be nibbled to death by minnows.  So we just got it over with, got it over with.  You’re going to have trouble, get over it, get over it.

Well, God was with us.  After I presented the case, and the opposition had presented the case, Judge Ryburn stood up – and he’ll never in this earth know what that one thing meant to me, he’ll never know; I’m his debtor as long as I live – after it was over, the debate was over, Judge Ryburn stood up and calmly said, as he stood up, he said, “All of you deacons who want to stand by the pastor, get to your feet, get to your feet.”  And every one of those deacons, beside the opposition, got to their feet; every one of them.  It was never mentioned again; those that opposed it left the church.  And from that moment onward, in the dedicated ministries of this staff that you see, music, recreation, educational, mission, our church has grown and risen from glory to glory.

I haven’t time to speak of the program they’ve initiated.  One of the funny things to me – you see the church was not accustomed to things like this – in September of 1948, I pulled off a Round-up here at the church.  And in the Reminder there was an advertisement calling for saddles, and bridles, and spurs, and branding irons, and ropes, and buggy whips, and hitching posts, and horseshoes.  And it advertised, “Fun, food, frolic, festivities, and it’s the fun sensation of the century!”  And then they published a picture of me dressed in cowboy clothes, with an old battered hat on, swinging a rope and catching a calf.  Well, the church was scandalized!  Hitching posts, spurs, horseshoes, and our pastor swinging a rope catching a calf, oh my!  Oh my!  Well, they’ve gotten so used to it now, they’ve even forgotten how it used to be.  Oh my!  I wish I could tell the story of the sweet little maid whose beneficence and remembrance gave us our lodge out at the camp.  Now I have to close, reluctantly.

At the end of February, in 1946, I began preaching through the Bible.  And I preached every Sunday morning and every Sunday night through that Bible, until October of 1963; a period of seventeen years, eight months.  For seventeen years, eight months, starting at Genesis, I preached through the Word of the living God.  Time after time after time it seems to me I’d just get started in that exposition when it was time to quit.  So New Year’s Eve fell on December 31, 1961, and the congregation, so many of them, came up to me and said, “Pastor, there’s hardly a sermon that you’ve preached here, going through the Bible, that you haven’t said, ‘Now I’ve just got started and the clock’s at twelve o’clock;’ or, ‘I’ve just got started and it’s time to quit.’  Now New Year’s Eve is on Sunday night.  Suppose you start at seven-thirty o’clock and preach for the remainder of the year!  Suppose you do it.”  Well, they thought they were kidding me.  They thought that was something they had, they thought, you know, “Well, isn’t that the funniest thing you ever saw in life; just imagine suggesting to the pastor he start at seven-thirty o’clock and then preach until 12:00.”

Well, I surprised them.  I’ll never in the earth forget that night.  That was one of the most hilarious nights to me I have ever experienced in my life.  I preached, and I preached, and I preached, and I preached, and I preached, and I preached, and I preached, and I preached.  I preached until after midnight.  Now this church was jammed, and the people were standing all around the walls upstairs and downstairs, and they were in Coleman Hall listening on the PA system.  Well I thought after I’d preached two or three hours, why, most of them would leave.  I want you to know, when I got through preaching at midnight, there were about as many people still standing around these walls and listening to the Word of God as when I first began at seven-thirty o’clock.  The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible, oh, I’ll never forget that; that was the greatest preaching experience I’ll ever have in my life.

Oh, I have to quit.  Did you know it was November in 1955 when I began the two morning services here?  I began preaching at 8:30rty o’clock, then we changed it to 8:15 because they wanted to give me more time.  At 8:15 o’clock, I intended to preach twice Sunday morning until January, then turn it over to somebody else.  Well, I couldn’t turn it over to somebody else, so I decided I’d preach through June, two services Sunday morning, then I’d turn it over to somebody else.  You know that’s been nine years ago, lacking a month; nine years ago since we started those two morning hours, and we’re still at it, we’re still at it.

Now I had a conclusion to this, and I haven’t time to speak it.  But I’ll tell you what it was based on.  We used to have some glorious revivals in this church.  And we don’t have them anymore.  I copied out of the Reminder one of those revivals:  we had 145 additions by letter; we had 150 additions by baptism; we had 11 by statement; and counting those who came by reclamation in full time service, we had 460 people in that revival.  We don’t have that anymore, and I don’t know why.  I don’t know why.  I haven’t seen a revival in the last several years.  There’s a spiritual dearth in the land; it’s everywhere, it’s everywhere.  I feel like the prayer of Habakkuk, “O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known:  in wrath remember mercy” [Habakkuk 3:22].

O for the flood on the thirsty land!

O for a mighty revival!

O for a fearless, sanctified band,

Ready to hail its arrival!

[“Abundant Life”; William Leslie]

 

Send it, Lord, send it.  The old time power, the Pentecostal power, Thy floodgates of mercy on us throw open wide; Lord do it again, do it again.  And may our eyes live to see the glorious coming of the Lord in spiritual power, and maybe, and maybe, oh glorious, and maybe we shall all rise to meet our Lord together.  I wish it could be so.  No more funerals, no more wreaths on the doors, no more funeral processions, no more graves, no more sorrow and sickness and sadness, we just go to meet Jesus together.  He said, “Behold, I come quickly” [Revelation 22:7].   And our answering prayer is, “Please, God, if we know our hearts, we are ready.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20].  The Lord bless us as we begin now the second score of years.  And God be with us as we pray and give ourselves and love the Lord all over and anew.

And as long, as long as the Spirit wills and the church is thus persuaded, the cable that binds us together shall be made out of steel.  But if the Spirit says, “Nay,” and the will of the people is, “No,” the rope that binds us together is a rope of sand.  I’m not here as a fixture, and you can’t get rid of him, and you don’t know what to do with him.  The moment that God’s Holy Spirit says, “His task is finished; I have raised Me up another man,” that moment this other man God hath chosen shall have this glorious pulpit and this wonderful church.  And I will pray for him and will rejoice in God’s blessings upon him just as earnestly and prayerfully as I did hope that God’s people would pray for me when I came to stand in this sacred place.

I know it’s late.  We won’t ever do this again.  I want to kneel as I did twenty years ago, and pray.

Our Lord, it’s been a long, long time.  In some ways, it’s been like a watch in the night, so brief, so very brief.  As I speak of these things and recall them to mind, it seems but yesterday.  And yet, when we review what God hath wrought and what the Spirit hath done, it’s been a long, long time.  O Lord, I thank Thee and forever for the love, and the prayers, and the sympathy of this great people.  The mistakes that I have made, they’ve overlooked; and the wrong judgments they’ve forgiven; and the weaknesses of a ministry they have just prayed God to give strength and to help.  Following so noble and so famous a preacher, and here I come.  O Lord, no other church in the world would have done it but this church.  And Lord, if God shall give me an eternity, I shall thank Thee for their love, their encouragement, their sympathy, their devotion.  Now Lord, reward them for it.  If I can be used still to glorify the name of Jesus, and the will of the Spirit that we abide here in this holy place a pastor and his people, Lord, it shall be as long as God shall say the word.  Then when the Spirit says it’s enough, the task is finished, then Lord we shall leave it into Thy blessed hands and look to God for a successor.  In God’s will and in God’s time, in God’s choice and in God’s purpose, we serve.  Master, bless our church.  And as we share in its devoted ministry together, with increasing unction and power may the Holy Spirit fall upon us.  Thank Thee, Lord, more than syllable or sentence could convey the word, thank Thee, Lord, for the years that are passed; and now humbly and earnestly, we beseech Thy remembrance in the year and the years, as the Spirit shall say, that lie ahead.  In Thy dear name, and to the glory of Jesus, amen.

While we sing our song of appeal, somebody you this day to give his heart to Jesus or to put your life in the fellowship of the church, would you come?  I know it is very late, but stay with us until our invitation hymn is done.  Then you’ll have opportunity to leave as we take into the church these whom God shall give us this holy hour.  And then as we break bread together, if you have opportunity to remain; but don’t leave now.  Ask God to bless this appeal we make for our Savior.  Somebody you trusting Him, giving your life to Him; or a family you, one somebody you, putting his life in the fellowship of the church; while we sing the song, come now, while we stand and while we sing.