Dr. Truett and Baylor University
July 7th, 1968 @ 10:50 AM
1 Timothy 4:12-16
DR. TRUETT AND BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Timothy 4:12-16
7-7-68 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. On the Sunday that is nearest the anniversary of the death of Dr. George W. Truett, for forty-seven years the undershepherd of this dear church in Dallas, I deliver an address on some phase or facet of kingdom work in which he invested his life and which was dear to his heart. This is the twenty-fourth year I have done just that. The Annuity Board was organized in this very church, in this very building. And one of those anniversary days I dedicated to the Annuity Board. Dr. Truett was so significantly a moving personality, and he and Colonel C. C. Slaughter, a member of this church, largely did it. Dr. Truett was a moving personality in the founding of the Baptist Memorial Sanatorium of Texas and now known as Baylor University Hospital in Dallas.
And on and on through these years I have dedicated these addresses to some great kingdom enterprise into which Dr. Truett poured his life: foreign missions, home missions, evangelism, the pastorate of this dear church, the denomination as such. On this day the Sunday coincides exactly with the anniversary of the death of the great pastor. He died the seventh day of July in 1944. And because of a gracious providence that has brought to us the opportunity to establish in the memory of the great preacher, the chair, the professor of evangelism in Baylor, because of the convergence of these meaningful and significant hours, I pray God shall doubly bless the message and the cause we espouse and the announcements that are to be made this gracious and sacred moment.
Dr. Truett was born the sixth day of May in 1867 in a little community, a mountain community named Hayesville in Clay County, North Carolina. When he was eighteen years of age he was graduated from the academy in Hayesville. We would call it the high school. And though so young, immediately he became a school teacher. Across the state line into northern Georgia, just a few miles from his home, in a little one room country school on Crooked Creek, he began to teach.
When he was nineteen years of age, he was saved at an evening service in the little church in the mountains in Hayesville, North Carolina. It was an unusual day. They’d had a week of revival meetings, and the preacher holding the services announced at the conclusion of the noonday hour that he had another engagement and so must leave the revival to fulfill it. But the pastor prepared to preach at the evening service, and as the service began, to the amazement of every one present, in walked the evangelist of the morning hour, came up to the pulpit and whispered something into the ear of the pastor. And the pastor made the announcement that the evangelist had felt constrained of God to come back, to continue the revival there at Hayesville for yet another week. So he preached that night on the text, “The just shall live by faith” [Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17]. It must have been empowered and baptized with the Holy Spirit of God, for when he pressed the appeal, a great number were converted and among them was this nineteen year-old young school teacher, George Washington Truett.
The next night he was received as a candidate for baptism. And on Wednesday night to his amazement and astonishment, in the service the preacher turned to him and asked if he would not press an appeal for Christ, that those, so many, there who were not saved might that night give their hearts in faith to Jesus. The young school teacher, astonished at the request, poured his heart into it, exhorting the lost men and women there to accept Christ as their Savior; walking up and down the aisles, pleading with them to come to God.
As he pressed that appeal, walking up and down the aisles, exhorting in behalf of the Lord, he somehow suddenly became conscious, self-conscious of what he was doing, and sat down, as he describes it, in humiliation, thinking he had so utterly failed. When he could, he left the church, went down the country road to his country home and to his room and to bed. After a while his mother and father came in. And true to a mother’s love and heart, she went to the boy’s room, and he confessed to his mother his humiliation. But she said, “Son, I doubt whether in all of your life you will ever make so effective an appeal for Jesus as you did tonight.” Remember that mother.
So the young man, a Christian now, and a member of the Baptist church in that mountain community of Hazeville, North Carolina, had it in his heart to establish a Christian Baptist academy. And in the county seat of the town where he was teaching school, a little place called Hiwassee, and also because his cousins lived there, one of whom was F.C. McConnell, who at that time, even then though but ten years Truett’s senior, was a famous preacher; he chose to establish the academy in the county seat of Towns County, North Georgia. And God blessed him in it. It was deeply religious, Christian, and in two years he had more than three hundred students in that Hiwassee Baptist Academy. Today it continues, the Truett-McConnell College in Hiwassee, Georgia.
There were many young ministers studying to be preachers in that academy. But at that time the Truett family moved from Hayesville, North Carolina to North Texas, to Whitewright. And it seemed the will of God that the young man, George Truett, follow the family in their removal to Texas. That was an unusual thing also because F.C. McConnell introduced the young teacher to the Baptist Convention of Georgia meeting in Marietta and introduced him as a mountain boy to speak in behalf of mountain education. He electrified the convention, and when he was done speaking, a rich layman stood up and offered there publicly and on the spot to pay for his four years education in Mercer University, the senior Baptist school in Georgia.
And from that address came an extensive mission ministry of our Home Mission Board to the mountain children of Appalachia. But it seemed in the turn of God’s will and the divine providence that he come to Texas; oh, to Texas. When he was twenty-one years of age Dr. Truett came and was working with his father on the farm at Whitewright, and entered Grayson Junior College at Sherman, studying to be a lawyer.
There must have been a dedication, an aura of heaven about the lad, even though he was very young. People were impressed by him and moved by him. He was elected superintendent of the Sunday school at Whitewright. And after the passing of two years, the church gathered together on a Saturday afternoon business session. I have been pastor of little churches that have their conferences, their business sessions on Saturday afternoon. That was a pattern of the old way and the old life.
Well, that afternoon, that Saturday, when the young man came and sat down, he was surprised to see the church filled with people. And after they had done with the regular business of the congregation, an aged and senior deacon stood up and made a little address to this end. “There are times in individual lives,” said this old deacon, “when we must do God’s will.” But the old sage added, “But there are times when as a church God calls us corporately to do His will, and we know that God has called this church to ordain young George W. Truett to the gospel ministry.”
The young man was astonished and abashed and overwhelmed! “No, no!” It was his purpose to be a lawyer. But the people said, “We are acting in accordance with God’s will, and it is God’s will that we ordain you to the gospel ministry and that you be a preacher of the grace of the Son of God.” That is unusual! I have never read in all of my reading and studying, I have never read anything like that that ever happened in the history of the world; the church calling to ordination a young man who had not first said that he felt he ought to be a preacher of the gospel.
But the church was unanimous in it. It was their conviction that that was God’s will for the life of the young man. His mother, he went to his mother. Apparently he had a spiritual affinity with her that was deep and everlasting. Long as he lived and as long as she lived there was a godly rapport between the son and his mother. She was a preacher’s daughter and must have been a deeply spiritual and Christian woman. So she said to him, “Son, these are God’s people. And they have been led of the Lord to ordain you to this ministry, and, my son, this is God’s will for your life.” The next day, Sunday at the 11 o’clock hour, they ordained him to the gospel ministry, twenty-three years of age.
Now, that year was 1890, and Baylor University, which had been founded by that little band and handful of churches and people, called Baptists here in this wild wilderness, at Washington on the Brazos, later combined with Waco University and moved to Waco; Baylor faced closure. They were hopelessly in debt. To us today, the amount seems relatively small, but to the people at that day and in that time, that indebtedness of $92,000 was overwhelming. They saw no way out but to close the school. Dr. J. B. Cranfield had resigned as the financial agent of the university to accept the assignment of corresponding secretary of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. And they had no one to turn to help save the school.
In Waco was one of the giants of all theological history. His name was B.H. Carroll. He was a giant every way. He was about six feet, four inches tall, he weighed about two hundred fifty pounds. He wore a long full beard, like Moses. He looked like Moses to the people who saw him, one of the mightiest preachers and theologians and teachers of our Baptist Zion. He was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Waco and head of the Bible department of the university in Waco.
It was Dr. Carroll, may I parenthesize, who took the Bible department of Baylor University to Ft. Worth and made it the nucleus of the founding and launching of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. To Dr. Carroll there was entrusted the task of finding somebody to save Baylor University. At the convention that year in Waxahachie, they closed the sessions with a covenant of prayer that God would raise somebody to save the school, to raise that $92,000.
One of the men at that convention in Waxahachie, who shared in that covenant of intercession to save the school, was the pastor of the church at Whitewright. His name was Jenkins, and they had just ordained young George Truett to the ministry. Acting under his conviction and leadership of the Holy Spirit of God, the pastor wrote a letter to B.H. Carroll and said, “I have been strangely moved to feel that this young man is the man to save Baylor University and to raise that two and ninety thousand dollars.” That in itself is an amazing thing, just ordained, unknown, and so very young and inexperienced.
Dr. Carroll felt the Spirit of God in the letter, and having made an engagement to speak at an associational meeting in McKinney, Texas, it was arranged for Dr. Carroll and the young George Truett to meet in McKinney. And that came to pass, a friendship that lasted throughout the life of Dr. Carroll until he died in 1914. I wish I could have been there; Dr. Carroll, forty-eight years of age, and the young Truett, twenty-three years of age, spending about three days together there in McKinney, rooming together, staying in the same place, talking about the things of the kingdom and especially, particularly about Baylor.
When Dr. Carroll returned, the young fellow went to his home and after about a month wrote Dr. Carroll accepting the assignment. When he went down to Baylor to be introduced to the trustees, when B.H. Carroll presented him, the trustees thought that Carroll had lost his mind. Truett was very young and very slender. He had been through a severe illness, was very pale. And without experience and just being ordained, the trustees could not imagine such a thing! But they trusted the great Bible teacher and theologian, Dr. Carroll, and if Dr. Carroll said this was the man, that was the man! So they summarily accepted and made a motion that they adjourn. And when the motion was made to adjourn the trustee meeting, the young fellow stood up and said, “No, my brethren, not now. Not now,” and made his first presentation. And when the young fellow was done speaking, as always, there was that aura of heaven about him. There was that something from God that was in him.
Pastor Jenkins had written to Dr. Carroll saying, “This I know. Whatever he asks people to do, they do it.” And that launched the campaign that lasted almost two years, from city to city, from church to church, from community to community, all over this vast state of Texas, Dr. Truett went up and down the land pleading for Baylor University.
I have read many descriptions of those meetings. Women would take the rings off of their fingers and place them in the collection plates. Men would take their pocketbooks and turn them inside out. They’d give anything and everything that they had. And at the end of a little over twenty-three months, Dr. Truett and Dr. Carroll had a prayer meeting in Baylor, thanking God that the victory was won, the money was in hand, the debts were paid, and Baylor University was saved.
And now in the midst of this address, the announcement. As you know, God has placed it in the hearts of some of our dear members that we establish in memory of Dr. Truett a chair of evangelism in Baylor University, to teach young preachers the love of God, and the love of the Book, and the love of lost souls that so characterized and dramatically was emphasized in the life of the great pastor. And the announcement: a man who will not allow us to call his name, has said, “So it was $92,000 that Dr. Truett raised to save the university, I shall match it. I shall give you $92,000. The same sum that he raised in the saving of the school, I will give you $92,000 toward the achievement of the $300,000 goal of establishing the Chair of Evangelism in Baylor University.”
I wish I could call his name. He will not allow it. But we thank God for it, and it is a harbinger, it is an earnest, it is an encouragement of the final and ultimate goal. Not only shall we in our dear First Church here in Dallas share in that appeal and give toward that endowment, but all over the state and wherever my voice may be heard now, and to all who knew and loved Dr. Truett or would love to honor his memory, we invite you to share with us in this most noble and worthy and significant of all dedications.
What could be finer than to teach young men, who are preparing for the gospel ministry, to love those great spiritual Christian biblical ideals and truths that Truett loved and preached? Thank you, my fellow servant of Christ for that unusual gift, and what an unusual way to do it. “The $92,000 that he raised to save the university in the years gone by, I shall match it,” the $92,000 gift today for the establishment of the Chair of Evangelism in the heart of the university.
In the few moments that remain, may I conclude? Another amazing and unusual thing, having saved the school and having now come to be twenty-six years of age, he entered the university as a freshman. And stayed there in the school four years, was graduated four years later, in 1897, at thirty years of age. In those four years at Baylor, from his twenty-sixth year to his thirtieth year, he was called to be pastor of the East Waco Baptist Church. He married the daughter of Judge Jenkins, an illustrious family in Waco. He married their eldest child, Josephine Jenkins, and upon his graduation from the university, planned to go to the Southern Seminary in Louisville to further his theological education.
But at that time and in that day, a pulpit committee was appointed from the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and that pulpit committee in behalf of the church invited the young graduate from the university to become the undershepherd of the First Church here in Dallas. At first he demurred. “It is my intention,” he said, “to go to the Louisville Seminary, our mother seminary,” and he thought to come back to the East Waco Baptist Church and spend the rest of his life.
But as the pulpit committee pressed upon his heart the appeal of the church here, he found once again God’s will for his life. The church then had seven hundred fifteen members. But it was one of the biggest churches in the world at that time and that day, and about the largest one in Texas. As he prayed and as he sought the will of God, he answered that call, and with his wife and I think maybe one child, one baby girl, came here to live in Dallas, to be the pastor of this dear church. And for forty-seven years, until God translated him, he preached in this pulpit, behind this sacred desk, to this congregation.
I wish I had time to try to delineate the impression that Dr. Truett made upon me and upon the people, the throngs who listened to him preach. Maybe some other anniversary I can try to do that. I never knew him personally. I never had opportunity to know him. But I would see him at a convention. I would see him in a revival meeting. I would see him at Baylor University. He was called one time by the trustees to be the president of Baylor University. And after prayer, he answered that appeal in what is to me the most beautifully precious, tender sentence regarding the work of a pastor that I have ever heard in my life. When he was asked to be the president of Baylor, he replied, “I cannot for I have sought and found the shepherd’s heart.” He loved this church, and he loved this congregation.
When John D. Rockefeller, who was his personal friend, sought to urge him to come to the Rockefeller church, the Euclid Avenue Baptist Church in Cleveland, they offered him everything, anything. The chairman of the pulpit committee said, “You write this down, anything you write, any salary and we will pay it if you will just come.” And Dr. Truett said, “No.” Finally the chairman of the pulpit committee said, “Can you be moved?” And Dr. Truett said, “Oh yes, yes.” And the chairman of the committee brightened and said, “What would it take? What would it be?” And he said, “You move my people, and I will move with them.” He loved this church, and preached, and pastored, and ministered until he was called home, after forty-seven years of being your undershepherd, and at the age of seven and seventy years.
I had other things to say. I don’t want to go off the air without saying one thing, and then I must close. There are two reasons why we are building, in God’s grace and love, this Chair of Evangelism in Baylor. One, the name of Truett and Baylor are almost synonymous. When I think of Baylor I think of Truett. When I think of Truett I think of Baylor. And the other reason; Baylor has an incomparable opportunity to train these young men for the gospel ministry.
In that great school that Truett loved so well, our church and the friends of Dr. Truett beyond our church, with God’s help and in His grace and blessing, we shall build this Chair of Evangelism and through the years, until Jesus comes again, seek to instill in the souls of those young men and women that love and devotion that so gloriously graced and crowned the life of our great pastor.
Now we must sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, one somebody you to give himself to Jesus or to come into the fellowship of this dear church, on the first note of the first stanza, come. Make the decision now; as you are, not some other day when I am prepared, some other time when I have rearranged my house, no, no, do it now. You and God do the rearranging, not just you. Let God walk with you. Let God empower you and bless you. Let God give you strength and answer. Come. Make the decision now. You and your wife, come. You and the family, come. Or just you, as God shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.