Dr. Truett and Baylor University
July 7th, 1968 @ 8:15 AM
DR. TRUETT AND BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Timothy 4:12-16
7-7-68 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message of this hour. Tonight we not only shall have a patriotic service and the pastor’s message will concern our Lord and His blessings upon our country, but at the end of the service we shall have a dedication for these teenagers and their sponsors and leaders who are making this marvelous mission tour of Europe. It is a strange thing to say, but one of the most needy mission fields in the world is Europe. The churches for the most part have died in that extensive civilized land. There are not two percent of the people in most of those countries who attend church.
And our choir, not only singing at the Baptist World Youth Congress in Bern, Switzerland, but throughout those nations will be under the guidance and tutelage and direction of our Baptist missionaries. And I would think, by my own experience in watching our work and evaluating it, that there is not anything that we could do to encourage and further that gospel witness than for the great capital cities of Europe to see two hundred young people who are aflame and alive and in love with our Lord. If for no other reason, so these people in Canada told me last year, if for no other reason, just to see that many in uniform walking down the street, stops traffic, creates jams in the cities, and I don’t know what all. And I can easily understand. They do that for me. Every time I look at them my heart turns a little flip-flop and especially so since you are dressed as you are this morning in green and gold, which brings us to the message of this hour.
On the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the death of the great far-famed pastor, George W. Truett, I always deliver a message on some phase of kingdom work into which he poured his life. In the providences of God, this Sunday is the exact anniversary Sunday of his death. Dr. Truett died the seventh day of July in 1944, twenty-four years ago today. And the title of the sermon is Dr. Truett and Baylor University. As a background passage I read from  Timothy chapter 4 beginning at verse 12:
Till I come, give attendance to reading,
—that’s reading the Word of God, out loud and privately—
Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
[1 Timothy 4:12-16]
The Baptist people of America have never produced a preacher the equal of the pastor of this great church for forty-seven years; the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the president of the Baptist World Alliance, the representative spokesman for God and for our communion everywhere in the world, George W. Truett. He was born the sixth day of May in 1867, in a little place, Hayesville, Clay County, North Carolina. When he was eighteen years of age, he was graduated from what we would call a high school; it was the Hayesville Academy. And though so very young, immediately he began to teach school; did so just south of his home a few miles, but it crossed the state line into Georgia. And there on Crooked Creek he taught a rural school when he was eighteen years of age.
When he was nineteen years old, he was converted in a revival meeting in the little rural church at Hayesville in the mountains of North Carolina. On Wednesday night of the second week of that revival, he, having been converted Sunday morning before, and the next evening joining the church by baptism, on Wednesday night suddenly the preacher turned to the young school teacher and asked him to make an appeal for Christ, that those in that audience would give their hearts to Jesus. And though it was an astonishing request to George Truett, he stood up and began to exhort the people to accept Jesus as Savior and walked up and down the aisles of the little country church exhorting the people to accept the Lord. Then suddenly he became self-conscious, seeing what he was doing with great fervor and emotional appeal, and sat down in what he called humiliation, thinking he had done so poorly for the Lord.
At his first opportunity he left the service, walked down the country road to their country home and to his room and to bed in great humiliation. But his mother and father, coming in that night, she found her way up to his room and talked to her boy. And he confessed to her how self-conscious he was in what he had done. But she replied to him, “My son, I doubt whether in all of your life you will ever give a finer testimony for Jesus than you did tonight. The whole congregation was moved God-ward and many were saved.”
At nineteen years of age, teaching school, he had the dream of building a Baptist academy in Hiwassee, the county seat of Towns County, in which he was teaching a rural school. He chose the place because it was central to the mountain people in North Georgia and southern North Carolina and also because he had cousins there, the McConnell boys. F. C. McConnell was a famous preacher at that time, and ten years the senior of George Truett. He established that academy, it is still continuing today. It is called the Truett-McConnell College at Hiwassee in Towns County, North Georgia.
And giving his life to that academy, deeply religious, in two years it had grown to an enrollment of more than three hundred with more than a score of young preachers attending the school. In the midst of his work as the principal of that Baptist academy in Hiwassee, the family moved to North Texas. His father, mother, and the family moved to Whitewright, Texas, and in the providences of God, the young man, twenty-one years of age, followed his parents and came to North Texas, on the farm at Whitewright, and worked with his father on the farm. He also entered Grayson County Junior College, then flourishing at Sherman, Texas, preparing to be a lawyer.
When he was twenty-three years of age, in the church at Whitewright, so impressive was he to the people in the church—he was their Sunday school superintendent, he was a spiritually motivated and responsive young man—that the people began to say to one another as they had said in North Carolina and in Georgia, “This young man ought to be preaching the gospel.” Upon a Saturday afternoon when he was twenty-three years of age—as they used to have in the old time church and in churches that I have pastored, the church conferences were held on Saturday afternoon—that Saturday afternoon, when the young man, twenty-three years of age, went to the church conference, he was surprised to see the church house filled.
And after the business and order of the day had been completed, their senior deacon stood up and said, “There were times when the church ought to act by the Spirit and direction of God, as there are times when an individual man so ought to act.” And he said, “That the time has come for the church to act.” And he made the motion that they ordain young George Truett to the full gospel ministry of Christ. It was seconded, and the young man stood up and said, “No, oh no. No.” He demurred and deferred and delayed, and was greatly astonished by what the church was planning to do. But the people stood up and said, “This is something that God has asked us to do, and we must ordain this young man to the gospel ministry.”
And it was unanimously voted. This is a most unusual thing for any church ever to do. He went home and was so deeply agonizing over what the church in conference had voted to do. So his mother talked to him. As you read the story of his life, so many times you will find him going to his mother. I understand that. So she said to him, “Son, these are godly people. What they have done, they have done at the direction of heaven, and you must listen to them, my boy. This is of God.” So the next day at the 11 o’clock service they ordained the young man to the gospel ministry. All of that is very unusual. I never heard of it or read of it anywhere in my extensive studying and reading in the story of our people.
Now we have come to the year of 1890 when Truett was twenty-three years of age. At that time Baylor University, the fledgling school that the Baptists of Texas had founded at Washington on the Brazos in 1845, and had been joined with Waco University and moved to Waco, the school was facing closure. They had an indebtedness of $92,000, which to us seems so small, but to the people at that time was a crushing burden. And J.B. Cranfield, a member of this church, had resigned as the financial agent of the school to accept the office of corresponding secretary of the convention in Texas. And Dr. B.H. Carroll, who headed the Bible department at Baylor and who was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Waco, Dr. Carroll was given the responsibility by the university of seeking someone to save the school. At the Baptist convention in Waxahachie, they closed the convention with a covenant of prayer that God would raise somebody to save Baylor University and to pay off that indebtedness.
One of the messengers at the convention in Waxahachie was the pastor of the church at Whitewright, Brother Jenkins. And keeping his covenant to pray with the brethren over the state, he was led to the conviction that the one to save the school was the young man they had just ordained, George W. Truett. So he wrote a letter to B.H. Carroll and suggested to him the young minister they had just ordained. And in that letter, said, “There is one thing about young George Truett. It is this. Whatever he asks people to do, they do it.”
Somehow Dr. Carroll was moved by the letter that the pastor at Whitewright had written. So he made arrangements, since he was coming to McKinney to speak at an associational mission meeting—arrangements were made for B.H. Carroll to meet the young minister that the church at Whitewright had just ordained. They met together in McKinney; B.H. Carroll, forty-eight years of age and George Truett, twenty-three. And they spent several days together there in McKinney, as B.H. Carroll talked to the young man and laid before him all of the responsibilities of such an assignment.
The young man prayed about it, then wrote to Dr. Carroll that he felt moved of God to assume that task. When they had their trustee meeting at Baylor in order to see about the election of the young man for this assignment, there was disappointment and consternation when the young fellow came in and was introduced. He was very slender. He had been through a long illness, very pale. And the trustees thought that B.H. Carroll had lost his mind. But, after the introduction was made and Dr. Carroll had said, “This is God’s man,” they accepted Dr. Carroll’s word for it and voted to have him assume the responsibility, and one of the men said, “Now, let’s go.” But the young fellow stood up and said, “No, my brethren, not now.” And he made his appeal his first appearance. And when he did, the men felt something from heaven. You always felt that when you looked at or heard Dr. Truett. There was something about him of heaven.
For two years he poured his life with Dr. Carroll into that appeal from one side of the state to the other. I wish I could have been in some of those convocations. Women took rings off of their fingers, turned their purses inside out, gave of their land and what they possessed, moved by the appeal of that young preacher, George Truett. And the money was raised, all of it, and Baylor University was saved, and the doors of the school were kept open. It was then that the young fellow entered the school as a freshman. A remarkable and unusual thing, having saved the school, he enrolled as a freshman, living in the home of B.H. Carroll. And for four years he attended Baylor University and after the four years, in 1897, was graduated. While he was there at Baylor he became pastor of the East Waco Baptist Church. While he was at Baylor he married Judge Jenkins’ daughter, his eldest child Josephine.
And at the end of his four years in the school, he was preparing to go to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville for his theological degree. At that time, when he was graduated from Baylor, the pulpit committee of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, representing seven hundred and fifteen members, which was one of the largest Baptist churches in the whole part of the earth, the First Baptist Church in Dallas called him to be their pastor.
Truett at that time was thirty years of age and had just finished Baylor University. It was a very unusual thing, the way that he felt and responded to that appeal. There were other churches that had called, others that were interested in him, and, of course, his desire to attend the seminary, but the church here in Dallas had a very unusual appeal. There was something in it of God.
After prayer and visiting with the committee, he decided to come. So, the second Sunday in September, 1897, he began his ministry in this dear church. And he continued here as the pastor of the church for forty-seven years, lacking just a few weeks. He died at the age of seventy-seven the seventh of July in 1944.
And all through those years, forty-seven years, as the pastor of this church, he increasingly, increasingly, increasingly represented what Baptist people believe and are and did so around the world to the ends of the earth. And in those years became so identified with Baylor until when you think of Truett you think of Baylor. And to somebody such as I, when I think of Baylor I think of Truett.
When I went to school at Baylor, in the library, there was on either side of the main entrance into the book room a bust of Dr. Truett on one side, the pastor of this church in Dallas, and a bust of Pat Neff on the other side, who was the governor of the state of Texas. In my freshman year in Baylor I attended the Baptist Student Union convention. It was held in this church. And I attended the Sunday morning service and sat over there to my left. Across the proscenium here in the great auditorium was the theme of the BSU convention, “Christ Adequate.” And at the 11 o’clock service that morning, I listened to Dr. Truett as he preached on the theme of the BSU convention, “Christ Adequate.” That was the only time that I was ever in the church and ever heard Dr. Truett preach here in this pulpit.
He came down to Baylor one time and spoke on the laws of Christian character. I attended the Baptist General Convention of Texas in Amarillo, and at that time S. P. Brooks, the president of Baylor, was trying to persuade the Baptist Convention of Texas to launch the Baptist Foundation. And it was set in motion and found ultimate realization after that convention meeting in Amarillo.
And at that convention, Dr. Truett took up a collection for Christian education. And as everything else that he did, it just moved my heart just to listen to him. As I sat there as a boy in that convention in Amarillo, where I was attending high school, and listened to him preach, my heart was just overflowing at the tone of his voice, at the appeal that he made, everything about him had the aura of heaven.
Now in this tremendous effort into which he poured his life, the cause of Christian education, so many times would he rise to some tremendous hour and occasion and speak for our Christian schools. I have copied here, I have clipped out here, a part of his address that he made a the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, Texas, Thursday morning, the thirteenth of May in 1926. And he begins:
I am keenly sensitive 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.
Just here emerges 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 are 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. To fail to do so is to be guilty of educational simony and to betray Christ’s cause in the house of His professed friends.
The present hour as never before is the hour of destiny for Christian education and the Christian school. The renaissance was an intellectual awakening. The reformation was a religious awakening. The French Revolution was a political awakening. But the awakening of today are all these and more.
They are intellectual, and political, and social, and industrial, and educational, and moral, and religious; all, all combined. We have come to the day 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?
That is George Truett. Now in behalf of that great school and its ministry to thousands of young people, and especially in its ministry to young preachers, such as I once was, and in memory of the great pastor of this church, it is our conviction and our commitment that we establish a chair of evangelism, a professor’s ministry of evangelism in the heart of that great university.
That is chosen because of Truett’s ministries there. And it is chosen also because of the far-flung influence of Baylor in the religious world. The chairman of this committee, Jim Irwin, brought to me a set of statistics comparing Baylor and the next largest Baptist school in the world. The enrollment last fall in Baylor was 7,649; the next largest school was 3,163. Baylor had 240 ministerial students. The next largest school had 50. Baylor had 190 mission volunteers; the next largest school had 12. Baylor had 57 church education volunteers; the next largest school had 36. Baylor had 38 young men and women giving their lives in preparation for the ministry of music in the church; the next largest school had 4. Other church related vocational ministries to which the young people were preparing, Baylor had 410; the next largest school had 0.
In all of these Christian vocations, Baylor had 985 preparing for the work of the kingdom. The next largest school had 102. And these statistics could continue in every relationship, the pastors, the missionaries, the denominational workers, all who pour their lives into the building up of Christ’s cause in the earth.
It can be easily seen therefore why it is that we have committed ourselves to this blessed and purposeful and significant endowment. And in God’s grace and with God’s help, we shall do that fine and magnificent thing for Baylor and, in God’s goodness and grace, this wonderful tribute to the memory of the greatest Baptist pastor and preacher and denominational statesman that our people has ever produced.
And to do that in this church with our people and with the friends of Dr. Truett beyond our church, in the state of Texas and wherever anyone would like to help, we are most grateful to God that we can open such a door, lead in the way and call to such a heavenly and celestial challenge.
May God bless us in that ministry and give us victory and triumph in this commitment, and I know that He will. Now our time is so fast moving, has gone, and we must sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, this day in answer to somebody’s love and prayer for you, to give your heart to Jesus, would you come and stand by me? To put your life in the fellowship of the church, as God shall lead in the way, would you come and give the pastor your hand? As the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, while we sing this hymn, on the first note of the first stanza, come. A couple you, a family you, or one somebody you, make the decision now, and when you stand up; stand up coming, and God welcome you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.