Dr. Truett and Christian Education
July 2nd, 1967 @ 10:50 AM
DR. TRUETT AND CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
Dr. W. A Criswell
1 Timothy 4:12
7-02-67 10:50 a.m.
In the fourth chapter of the Book of 1Timothy out of the passage that you read, "Till I come, give attendance to reading" [1 Timothy 4:13], and he meant by that, the reading of the Word of God. And in the fourth chapter of the second Timothy letter and the thirteenth verse, "The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, and especially the parchments" [2 Timothy 4:13].
The books were doubtless commentaries upon the Word of God. The parchments were the Scriptures themselves. These words were written by the apostle Paul in the Mamertine dungeon before he was executed on the Ostian Way, being a Roman citizen, before he was beheaded. Yet in this last letter he asks for his books, and especially the Holy Scriptures. And he wrote to young Timothy, whom he called his son in the ministry [1 Timothy 1:2]. "Give attendance to reading, to study" [1 Timothy 4:13], for true religion, the religion of the Bible, has always had an intimate affinity for and with academic excellence, intellectual scholarship. The two, through the centuries and the generations, have always gone together.
An ignorant preacher is no trophy in God’s diadem or kingdom, not if he is able to be not ignorant. Ignorance, in itself, is no glory of God. And for us to suppose so, or think so, is diametrically opposite to the Spirit of Jesus and of the Holy Scriptures themselves. I have always felt that if a man were a man of God by virtue of his high calling, he is also to be a man of learning, a studious man, a man given to books. That does not mean that there is not a place in God’s kingdom for a Dwight L. Moody. But Moody did what he did, not because of his lack of education, but because of the Spirit of God that worked through him, even in his handicap.
God has always Himself had an affinity for the trained mind and the trained man. The great lawgiver Moses was learned, and the Bible expressly describes him as such. "He was learned in all of the knowledge and the wisdom of the Egyptians" [Acts 7:22].
Moses was the prepared man in his day; in the New Testament, the great and towering figure of the apostle Paul. Paul was a graduate of the great university in Tarsus, the capital city of Cilicia. When he spoke to the Greek Areopagus, the supreme court of the Athenians on Mars’ Hill in Athens, he was perfectly at home with those Stoic and Epicurean philosophers, and quoted at will from their poets [Acts 17:19-32]. He was learned in Gamaliel, rabbinical theology [Acts 22:3], and when he spake to his brethren in Jerusalem, he was perfectly at home there or anywhere in the Roman world. He was a trained man, and God Himself, I say, has that affinity for the educated man.
When, therefore, we speak of "Christian education," we are speaking of one of the sisters of the work of Christ in His kingdom, the church and the school, the two sisters in the work of our Lord.
I have been asked, "Why do you do this, this dedicated service in the memory of Dr. Truett?" I have three reasons. First: it is a delight to my heart to keep alive in this congregation, the vivid memory of the world’s greatest preacher. Dr. Truett was the undershepherd of this congregation for forty-seven years, lacking about six weeks. Outside of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the noble and far-famed Baptist preacher in London, England – next to Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the greatest preacher our Baptist people have ever produced, is George W. Truett. There was none like him in his generation or in his time, nor has ever been produced in America. He was more like God, in my thinking of God, than any man I ever saw or heard. If I were looking for a picture of God, to me he would look like Dr. Truett. If I were listening to the voice of God, I would expect it to sound like the deep-toned voice of Dr. Truett. And to keep alive in the church here, the memory, vividly so, of that incomparable preacher is a supernal delight.
Second: Dr. Truett gave himself, without reserve, Dr. Truett gave himself to the work of the kingdom, to Christ’s mission in the earth; all of it, all of it. Our mission fields, our institutions, evangelism, our pastors, in every area of our Baptist denominational life he took a noble and a worthy part. The significant contribution of Dr. Truett to the building of our Baptist denomination could not be delineated. What you see in our Baptist world is so largely a result of the tremendous dedication of this man of God. And to speak on some facet of that work gives this present preacher an opportunity to say things that ought to be said about our great Baptist Christian commitments.
And third: I love to do it personally. I grew up as a boy in the day when Dr. Truett was known and heard at every convention and every convocation of Baptist people. His shadow covered the whole Baptist world, and I grew up in that shadow. He was the paragon of all homiletical excellences to me, the supreme example of a pastor, of a preacher, of a man of God. And to speak of these things is a personal delight.
I was so disappointed that upon the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Dr. Truett, the sixth day of May of this year, that I was in a revival meeting at the Belleview Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and was not present. But on that day, there was a service of gratitude to God for the gift, the one hundredth birthday of this mighty preacher. After playing the record of one of his sermons, "The Conquest of Fear," our people laid a wreath upon his grave in Hillcrest Cemetery.
Dr. Truett was born, as I said, the sixth day of May in 1867. When he was eighteen years of age, he was graduated from the Hayesville Academy, the little community where he was born in Clay County, the mountain part of North Carolina. Even though he was but eighteen, upon his graduation from the academy – a high school, you would call it now – he began teaching in a rural church in Towns County, northern Georgia, just below the North Carolina line. When he was nineteen he was gloriously saved and baptized into that little church in Hayesville.
And when he was nineteen he conceived the idea of founding an academy in the county seat of Towns County – a place called Hiawassee, Hiawassee – and to make it a deeply religious, Christian school. God blessed him in that. In Towns County in northern Georgia lived the McConnell family, his cousins. And F. C. McConnell, ten years his senior, was already then a mighty preacher. And in the naming of the successor of the Hiawassee Academy, they chose those two men to honor. It is the Truett-McConnell College, named after George W. Truett and F. C. McConnell, two great men, and they were cousins. God blessed the effort there, and in two years there were over three hundred students, large for that day, and there were twenty-three young preachers attending.
In those days when Dr. Truett was about twenty to twenty-one years of age, he was introduced by F. C. McConnell to the Georgia Baptist Convention in Marietta. And the young mountain boy stood up without previous notice at the invitation of Dr. McConnell, to speak concerning the work in the mountains. Out of that address came the work of the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention through the years in the mountain sections of our nation. And when the young man finished his speaking, he electrified that convention. And a rich layman stood up and offered to send him to Mercer University at Macon, Georgia. Some of the people from Macon are here today, our visitors. But the young fellow followed, instead, his parents to Whitewright, Texas. And he came here when he was about twenty-one years of age.
When he was about twenty-three years of age, in 1890, the church at Whitewright, Texas, on a conference Saturday afternoon – and I have been pastor of churches that had their business sessions on Saturday afternoon – when the young fellow went to the business conference on Saturday afternoon, he was amazed to find the church house filled. And as he sat down, and the church was called into conference, their leading and presiding deacon said, "We are here for a very serious purpose. God has laid it on our hearts to ordain young George Truett to the gospel ministry." And he demurred, "Oh, my brethren, no." But they insisted, "God has called you, and God has placed upon us the responsibility of setting you aside to the gospel ministry."
He loved his mother. He talked to her about it, and she said, "Son, these are godly people; and the church has stated in formal conference, has voted to ordain you to the gospel ministry. This is God’s will for your life." So the young fellow, who had purposed in his heart to be a lawyer, was ordained the next day, Sunday morning, at the 11:00 o’clock hour. That was in 1890.
In 1890, the Baptist General Convention of Texas met in Waxahachie, a flourishing city in that day, and I hope today – a flourishing city in the northern central part of Texas. But the convention met that year in great sorrow and heaviness of spirit. Apparently, their first school, Baylor University, faced extinction. They were being forced to close the doors of the school. The school was running increasingly in debt and was being encumbered with an obligation of over ninety-two thousand dollars. To us that seems so small, but in 1890 it was an astronomical sum. The financial agent, Dr. J. B. Cranfield of this church, resigned his place to become corresponding secretary of the Baptist Convention in Texas. And they knew not where to turn to find somebody who might be able to save the school.
So the convention ended with casting that responsibility of finding someone to save Baylor in the care of Dr. B. H. Carroll, who was the head of the Bible Department of Baylor, who took the Bible Department to Ft. Worth and organized the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary out of it, and who was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Waco. And they left Waxahachie, covenanting together in a covenant that they would pray for Dr. Carroll as he sought somebody to save the school.
One of the messengers at that convention in Waxahachie was Pastor Jenkins of the church at Whitewright. And he wrote to B. H. Carroll and said, "There is a young man we have just ordained to the gospel ministry, and I believe he can save the school. This one thing I know," he said in his letter, "When he stands up to speak, people do that for which he asks."
It was arranged that B. H. Carroll would meet the young man in McKinney, Texas upon an occasion when Dr. Carroll was speaking at an associational meeting in McKinney. And for the first time, those two men met face to face. And God seemed to weld them together. Though Dr. Carroll, at that time, was forty-eight years of age and George Truett was twenty-three. It was agreed after prayer that George Truett would accept that responsibility.
B. H. Carroll went down to Waco and to the leaders of the university and the Baptist people there and announced what he had done. He had chosen an unknown young man named George Truett to save the school. The people murmured and said, "We might as well close the doors now. There’s no need to go any further. Whoever heard of him? And what could he do?" But Dr. Carroll said, "You wait." And later, when he introduced the young man from Whitewright, Texas to the leadership of the university and to the leadership of our Baptist people, they were overwhelmed by the speaking and the presentation and the appeal of the young man from Whitewright.
For twenty-three months thereafter, they carried that campaign all over the state of Texas. I have read of it again and again. Folks say that people literally came down the aisles of churches and turned their purses inside out; giving everything they had to keep the school alive. And after twenty-three months, Dr. Truett raised that ninety-two thousand dollars and the debt was paid, and the school lived, and its doors were open. At the end of that campaign in 1893, twenty-six years of age, Dr. Truett entered Baylor as a student. While he was there, he pastored the little East Waco Baptist Church. While he was there, he married Judge Jenkins daughter, Josephine, the sister of Martha Marchman, our sweet and precious fellow member and Sunday school teacher here this morning.
Now, it was Dr. Truett’s intention to pastor that little East Waco church the rest of his life. But when he was graduated in 1897, the great First Baptist Church of Dallas, with the stupendous membership of seven hundred fifteen, called the young man to come here. At that time, this was a tremendous church because, as always, it had a twelve thousand dollars debt on it, which, at that time, was a great and astronomical sum. Though he was invited many other places, and had intended going to the Southern Seminary, the urgency of this call was so great that he accepted it and became undershepherd of this congregation the second Sunday in September of 1897. And he continued to be pastor of this church until his death, the seventh day of July in 1944. And here in this place he made and built the most famous pulpit in our Baptist Zion. And in his tutelage, and wisdom, and fervor, and commitment, and leadership, there is not a place more sacred in all the Baptist world than the soil on which this First Baptist Church is reared.
When I came here to be pastor of the church, I inherited the study back of the auditorium. As you know, we’ve built other buildings and the study is now over yonder. But I could not tell you the number of times that a minister would walk in the study and pause, and look around, and say, "Ah, this is where Dr. Truett had his study, and this is where he sat, and there’s his desk. This is holy, holy ground. I feel like bowing my head." Well, you might say that is such sentimentality, but I feel the same way. And after twenty-three years I still feel that same way. I still feel that same aura of holiness about this church. This is a place and a congregation and a people that God has singly and unusually honored and blessed in the life and the memory and the ministry of our greatest preacher.
Now, in the days of his denominational leadership, he gave of himself without reserve, unstintedly to the furthering of these great denominational causes that we now support, one of which is the tremendous appeal and necessity for our Christian college.
When I was a student at Baylor, in the library at Baylor were two busts. I have looked upon them a thousand times, a thousand times. One of them was Pat Neff, the governor of the state, a son of Baylor. And the other was George W. Truett, the pastor of this glorious church here in Dallas. And when I was at Baylor, I would listen to him as he would come and visit the campus. In my freshman year there, I attended the Baptist Student Union, the BSU. It was held here in this church. And I sat over there, to my left. And the little church in which I had grown up had six pews in it. And even the First Church at Amarillo, where I went to high school at old Ninth and Polk, was just a little thing, comparatively. And when I came here in this auditorium and sat there and looked over this vast, mammoth, cavernous building and that throng, I thought I had never seen – I did not know anything like this was in the earth. Oh, it looked gigantic and mammoth to me! That may be one little thing in which I have changed, it has shrunk up in these years that have passed; but it still is a gigantic church auditorium. But oh, how it looked to me then! And Dr. Truett stood here. Across this proscenium was the banner of the BSU Convention, "Christ Adequate," and Dr. Truett preached on that subject that morning, "Christ Adequate."
I can just hear him now. "Adequate for the yesteryears, adequate for today, adequate for tomorrow and the eternity that is to come; adequate in youth, adequate in manhood, adequate in old age; Christ adequate." I was seventeen years old. Why, I can just hear him and see him as though it were yesterday. That was the only time I was ever here in this auditorium and in this church was at that BSU convention. Oh! Of a thousand things that I could say, I must stop.
In 1926, Dr. Truett thrilled and blessed the Southern Baptist Convention with his message on Christian education. And I did not want this hour to pass that I did not say something from him. What did he say about the Christian school? I have chosen his beginning as he began that address. I have chosen a passage in the center of it. I have chosen the conclusion. He begins:
I am keenly sensible of my inability to speak as one should speak at this hour for the high claims of Christian education. It is impossible for a busy pastor to be informed and equipped to speak about our Christian schools as our noble schoolmen themselves could speak. If, however, an increasing and ever-deepening interest in these schools be a qualification for one who would plead for them, then I have that one qualification. If ever the drumbeat of duty sounded clearly in the ears of God’s people to take a great step forward in behalf of our Christian schools, it is my deep conviction that it is thus sounding this very hour.
And with that magnificent beginning, humble but tremendous, committed; then he begins:
Just here emerges in the heart of his message, one of the highest and most challenging privileges allowed Christian men and women, and that is the privilege of planting and worthily maintaining the right kind of Christian schools. These schools are to be fundamentally, unfalteringly, and aggressively Christian. They ought to be ready, at all times, to give a reason for the faith that is in them, and faithfully to impart that faith to all who come within their halls. Our Christian schools are ever faithfully to remember that the soul of culture is the culture of the soul. All education is atmospheric. The whole atmosphere of the Christian school is to be devoutly, passionately, constructively Christian. The noble McMaster University in Canada has the right motto for every Christian school. "In Him all things consist."
Amen, Dr. Truett. Then he closed. I haven’t time to read what I have selected, just the last sentences:
Well does the historian Guizot, the famous French historian Guizot say, "Though God sometimes seemed to require a thousand years for one step and other times He takes a step of a thousand years in one day." The Renaissance was an intellectual awakening, the Reformation was a religious awakening, the French Revolution was a political awakening. But the awakenings of today are all these and more –
You’d think he’s talking of us now –
They are intellectual, and political, and social, and industrial, and educational, and moral, and rigid, all, all combined. We have come to the days of days for our Baptist people. Are we big enough to see our day and faithful enough to meet it according to the will of God?
I heard him deliver a like address and raise over one hundred thousand dollars for Christian education.
We face – and I must close, I realize – we face a critical hour in the life of our Christian schools. I do not think that we can exist as a denomination without the Christian school. Your leader has to be trained somewhere. Who shall train him? His training must lie in the hands of devout and godly Christian men and women, and how the solution of that shall be, the support of the school. Oh, there are such heavy questions that attend Christian education today. For every nickel we give the school, it needs a hundred dollars. God has to bless. God has to help. God has to remember.
I just have this personal testimony. I could not, in a thousand years, I could not say or express the debt of gratitude I feel in my heart for the Christian education I received in the four years I attended Baylor University, and in the six years I attended our Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. And I could wish for every young minister and every young Christian leader that lives now or shall ever live, a like, glorious heritage from the wonderful teachers I knew in Baylor. And from those marvelous scholars in Greek and Hebrew and scriptural literature under whom I studied in the Southern Seminary.
Well, dear people, we have much to do, a great assignment, and may the Lord make us equal in our day and hour, as they were equal in Dr. Truett’s day and Dr. Truett’s hour.
Now, Lee Roy, we must sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, somebody you, give himself to Jesus. A couple you, a family you, coming into the fellowship of the church, as the Spirit of the Lord shall open the door and lead in the way, make it now, come now, on the first note of the first stanza. Come today, while we stand and while we sing.