The Old Time Religion

Acts

The Old Time Religion

April 27th, 1975 @ 8:15 AM

Acts 8

And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
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THE OLD TIME RELIGION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 8

4-27-75    8:15 a.m.

 

The Old Time Religion – in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.  And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake. . .And there was great joy in that city" [Acts 8:5-8].  The Old Time Religion, "And there was great joy in that city."

I never went to an old time church that didn’t have in it a big potbellied stove; that was as much a sign of the church as the Gothic window or the cupola or the steeple on top.  And most of the men who came to church chewed tobacco.  They would sit there and chew and chew and chew while I was trying to preach and preach and preach, or as the little boy would sit there and try to listen to the preacher.  But you know, you can’t chew and chew and chew and not somewhere come to a catastrophic point where you are about to drown.  So what they did was, they would go over to that potbellied stove and open the door, or lift up the lid, and spit in the stove and almost put the fire out.

The revival was an epoch; it was an event.  We never had any radios, wasn’t invented; never had a television, never thought of one; didn’t have any automobiles, didn’t have any roads for them to run on if we had an automobile; never had a picture show, never had an entertainment of any kind.  All we did was go to church.  And when the revival was announced, it was an event!  Nor could anybody be saved before Friday of the fourth Sunday in July, before the fourth Sunday in July.  And everybody came to the meeting.  The Baptists all went to the Methodists’, and the Methodists all went to the Baptists’, and sure enough, all of us were for the Pentecostal Holiness’; we never failed to appear.  And it was a sign, everybody was to get religion.  I was standing before a tabernacle and heard, never thought, "What in the world is that?"  And I turned to a fellow and I said, "Listen, what is that?"  He said, "Those are the Hammondses."  Well, I said, "Who are the Hammondses?"  He said, "When we have a revival meeting, they get everybody in the wagon, and they come to church a’shoutin’ and a’singin’ and a’praisin’ God."  And he said, "All during the meeting, they’re there, every evening coming in that wagon, shoutin’ and singin’ and praisin’ God.  And then after the meeting is over you don’t ever see them again, don’t ever hear them again, until Friday before the fourth Sunday in July."  No matter who it was, we all got religion during that revival.  And they were epochs in the life of the people.

And the convocation of God’s people was incomparable.  Somebody said to me while I was over there east of the Mississippi River, they said, "Would you like to go to a Black District Associational Meeting?"  I said, "I would."  So we drove out into the wilderness – I don’t know where, I have no idea where that was – way, way, out and beyond.  And as we went and went and went, suddenly we came to an area, hilly country that was covered with black folks.  They were there; it seemed to me, by the thousands and the thousands.  They covered the horizon.  I never saw so many in my life.  They were camping there.  And the place was dotted with hot dog stands, and hamburger stands, and soda pop stands, and in the center, the church, out there in the country.  Well, I was determined to hear the preacher.  So I couldn’t get near the house, it was surrounded by black people.  I began at the edge and wormed my way.  If anybody even moved or coughed or shook his head, I went that much further, and finally I made my way up to a window.  I put my elbows on the window, and propped my face in my hands, and listened to the service.  You never saw anything like that, I never did.  Every song they sang they sang at least seventy verses to it.  They didn’t stop; seemed to me they made them up as they went along.  And they didn’t have any hymnbooks, as their degenerate brethren and sisters use in our congregation; they just sang out of their hearts.  Didn’t have any instrument; the fellow that led them, the black man, he just had a little tuning fork.  He’d ping that thing, and then set the pace and the tone, and then away they’d sing, and sing, and sing, and sing.  Then the preacher stood up to preach.  He was a tall, slender black man, older man, and his hair was white like wool.  Even though it was an August hot afternoon, he was dressed in a Prince Albert coat, buttoned up here at his collar and went clear down to the tops of his shoes.  And he got in a weaving way, like you hear once in a while.  And in the middle of his sermon, he looked around at all of that throng and he said, "My brothers and my sisters, where was God afore the world was made?  Hmmm?  Where was He?"  So all the brothers and sisters out there in front of him, they shook their heads and they said, "Preacher, we don’t know.  Where was He?"  Now all of his fellow brethren were there, seated back of him.  And he turned to them, and he repeated his question.  He said, "My brothers, where was the Lord before the world was made?"  And they all shook their heads, and they said, "Preacher, we don’t know.  Where was He?"  Well, I stick my head in there in the window, and I was very, very prominently seen – I was the only white man there – he turned to me over there in that window, and he said, "White man, where was the Lord afore the world was made?  Hmmm?  Where was He?" 

Well, I said, "Goodness alive, I don’t know, where was He?"  That tall preacher raised himself to his greatest height and looked around in triumph and repeated his question: "Where was the Lord afore the world was made?  The Lord was in His glory!"  And all the people out there in front said, "That’s right, preacher, that’s right.  The Lord was in His glory."  And he looked at all of his preachers back of him, and they all said, "That’s right, brother; the Lord was in His glory."  And he looked over at me, and I thought, "Stupid, idiot me!  Why didn’t I think of that?"

The services were filled with feeling and emotion.  When I was converted, I couldn’t see the preacher for crying.  On the following Wednesday night, when I stood up to testify at the testimony meeting – most of the Wednesday nights were employed in testifying and in praying – when I stood up to testify, I got about three or four or five words out of my mouth and broke down crying.  I turned to look at my mother for strength and encouragement, who is seated there by my side, and she was crying, and that undid me.  And I just sat down, crying.  There was an old time Baptist preacher, retired, who was there in that church, and when I sat down crying, he stood up and turned to me and said, "Young man, that was a good beginning.  That was a good beginning."  I’ve often thought of that Old Time preacher since I have been pastor of this First Baptist Church in Dallas.  I hope he looks down from heaven and sees what God has done with a country, little town boy, who made a good beginning, trying to testify what Jesus meant for him since he was saved.  Why, world without end, when I was a boy, at those old time meetings, I would bow my head between the benches and cry; felt that a boy should not be seen crying, so I buried my head between my hands and the benches, and just cried my heart out, just filled with the Spirit and the presence and the glory of the Lord.

Today, today, we have a tendency to rule out feeling and emotion in religion.  That doesn’t mean we’re any less emotional, nor does that mean we express it any less.  But we do it now in different ways.  For example, one of the reasons that a picture show is so popular is you can go there and watch some melodramatic scene and just cry your heart out, and there won’t be anybody thinking you’re intellectually weak or emotionally unstable.  And for our enthusiasm we’ll go to the Cotton Bowl, or to Texas Stadium, and there our favorite team will make a touchdown, and we’ll make the whole thing rock; at the stadium, we’ll lift the roof off of it. 

But in church, you’re to be jammed down in your skin.  And if a man were in anywise to respond, they’d usher him out – he’s disturbing the service!  You just don’t do that in church anymore; we’re to be cold, and removed, and unemotional.  That’s the modern way, the sophisticated way of worshipping the Lord.  Why, I remember a fellow coming into one of those high churches, and the preacher was up there, and he said something good about Jesus.  And the man said, "Amen!"  And the preacher got off the beam.  Well, he continued finally, and said something else good about Jesus.  And the fellow said, "Praise the Lord!"  And the preacher forgot his sermon altogether.  There was an usher that went over to him and tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Shut up, don’t you see you’re bothering our preacher?"  And the man said, "Well, I’m just praising the Lord."  And the usher said, "Well, you can’t praise the Lord in this place."  "But," the man said, "I got religion."  And the usher said, "Well, you didn’t get it here.  Shut up!"  The feeling, the feeling, and the emotion that we had in those old time services was salubrious and blessed and felicitous beyond any way to describe it.

I remember one time, seated on a split log, out in Kentucky, and we were having a district association.  And the preacher was up there preaching, and without any announcement or any plan, any programming at all, while he was up there preaching, one of the men seated right there in front of me to my left, stood up and began singing a song.  And as he sang the song, he shook hands with the man next to him, and with the man next to him.  And they stood up and began to shake hands around.  And in a moment the whole throng of them were standing on their feet, just out of their hearts singing that song and shaking hands with everybody else.  I never heard the song before in my life, but I sang it with them, and just walked around shaking hands with people that I had no idea who they were.  But they loved the Lord, and they were happy in Jesus, and all of them were crying, and I weeping in glad tears with them.  That’s the song that Tommy started to play on the organ just a moment ago.  Just walking around in that throng, shaking hands with the people, and all of us singing this song:

 

My heavenly home is bright and fair,

And I feel like traveling on,

No harm or death can enter there,

And I feel like traveling on;

Yes, I feel like traveling on,

I feel like traveling on;

My heavenly home is bright and fair,

And I feel like traveling on.

 

Oh, the Lord has been so good to me,

And I feel like traveling on,

Until those mansions I can see,

Oh, I feel like traveling on;

Yes, I feel like traveling on,

I feel like traveling on;

My heavenly home is bright and fair,

And I feel like traveling on.

 

["I Feel Like Traveling On," ]

 

Did you ever see anything like that today?  Why, it’d be unthinkable, it’d be impossible, it’d be unimaginable, you couldn’t conceive of it.  But that was the old time religion: full of feeling, full of expression, full of emotion, singing songs, mostly about heaven.

They were preachers, the old time preachers, they were preachers of the Book; believed it, preached it.  I never saw an Old Time preacher who doubted the Word of God, not one.  I was mostly grown before I ever heard of a preacher that didn’t believe the Bible.  The Old Time preacher was a preacher of the Book, and he believed it from "kiver to kiver," from the first verse in Genesis to the last verse of the Revelation.  Now sometimes that led them into some unusual situations, believing the Book as they did.

 They told me about an old Southern preacher who picked up his Bible, and opened it to take his text, and unknown to him some mischievous boys had glued some of the pages of his Bible together.  So he opened the Book and he began to read: "And in those days when Noah was a hundred forty-seven years old, he took unto himself a wife."  And he turned what he thought was one page and continued to read, "And she was forty cubits broad, sixty cubits high, eighty cubits long, made out of gopher wood, and daubed on the inside and out with pitch."  He scratched his head and he said, "My brothers and sisters, that’s the first time I ever saw that in the Word of God."  He looked at it again, and he said, "But if God says it, I believe it."  And then thinking a little more, he said, "That just goes to prove that other text in the Bible where it says we are wonderfully and fearfully made!"  [Psalm 139:14].

They all believed the Bible, and they all preached the Word of God.  Nor did I ever hear of anything else in all those years when I was growing up as a boy – the Old Time preacher, and the Old Time Book, the Old Time message, the Old Time gospel, the Old Time Jesus, the Old Time religion.  I grew up, as most of you know, in far northwest Texas.  The little town, the little tiny town in which I grew up had been a line camp on the western side of the XIT Ranch. 

The XIT Ranch was a large, very, very, large tract of land that was given to an English company to build the capitol in Austin.  Rather than tax the people to get money for the structure, they took that land in West Texas, and traded it to a company to build the capitol for them; so that’s where the XIT Ranch came from.  And the little town in which I grew up was a line camp, long, long ago for the XIT Ranch.  When I was a boy, I used to sit in my father’s shop and listen to those old cowmen as they would tell stories about the long ago, before fencing was invented, when the range was open, and they punched cattle in the roundups in the fall, in the spring, and worked on the ranch.  I’ve listened to those old cowmen by the uncounted hours as they’d talk about the long ago days on the ranch.  The stories that they would tell, sometimes you’ll see them on television, a westerner, sometimes you’ll see it in a theater, a western play, stories of the long ago ranching in the West.  But it’s a rare thing that you’ll ever hear or see the recounting or the portrayal of a religious story.  And yet as those men would talk about the days on the ranch, many, many of their stories were of the Lord, and of the church, and of Christ, and of heaven, and of home, many of them were.  And this is one that I heard as a boy.

There was a Christian boss man, and he made it a habit in his life of trying to win all of his cowboys to Jesus.  When the work was done in the day, and they were seated around the campfire at night, he’d take his big black Bible and read to his cowboys out of the Book, and try to win them to Jesus.  In a fall roundup, out there on the range, one of those cowboys came back into camp and to the corral to get a fresh mount, to get a fresh horse.  So he went into the corral, and he picked out the one that he wanted, roped it, bridled it, saddled it, mounted it, went to the gate, opened it, rode out, but the horse was young and fresh and largely unbroken.  And as the cowboy started off, the horse began to buck and to pitch and to sun step and sidestep.  And in the vigorous bucking, the horse lost his balance and fell back over on the cowboy.  The horse got up and scampered away, but when the cowboy sought to rise, he was crushed internally, bleeding from his mouth, and couldn’t get up.  The cook in the camp had watched what had happened.  And he ran over there to the lad and picked him up and laid him on a cot in the camp.  And the boy, continuing to hemorrhage from his mouth, hurt internally, crushed internally, his life began to ebb away.  So he said to the cook, he said, "Jake, you know that big black Bible the boss man’s always reading to us out of?  Jake, could you find it?"  So Jake went to the chuck wagon, and among the boss’s effects, he found the boss man’s Bible.  He brought it to the boy, and the boy said, "Jake, you know that verse he’s always reading to us?  John 3:16, Jake, could you find that verse?"  And Jake went through the Bible and came to John, followed John to chapter 3, followed chapter 3 down to verse 16.  And the boy said, "Jake, read it to me.  Read it to me."  And Jake read the beautiful promise in John 3:16, that if we trust in Jesus we’d have everlasting life.  And when he got through reading the verse, the boy said, "Jake, would you take that Bible and put it on my chest just so?  Jake, will you take my finger and put it on that verse?"  And Jake took his finger and put it on the verse, and the boy in his last breath said, "Now Jake, when the boss man comes in the evening, you tell him that I died with my finger on John 3:16."

 

One glad smile of pleasure

Oo’er the cowboy’s face was spread;

One dark convulsive shadow,

And the tall young lad was dead.

Far from his home and family

They laid him down to rest

With his saddle for his pillow,

And that Bible on his breast.

[adapted from "The Dying Ranger," traditional, transcribed by Jess Fears, 1912]

 

It’s the old time religion.  Would you sing it with me?

 

Give me that old time religion

Give me that old time religion

Give me that old time religion

It’s good enough for me

 

It will do when I am dying

It will do when I am dying

It will do when I am dying

It’s good enough for me

 

Give me that old time religion

Give me that old time religion

Give me that old time religion

It’s good enough for me

 

It will take us all to heaven

It will take us all to heaven

It will take us all to heaven

It’s good enough for me

 

Give me that old time religion

Give me that old time religion

Give me that old time religion

It’s good enough for me.

 

["Old Time Religion," by Charles D. Tillman]

 

I wish our boys and girls could grow up as I grew up: in that kind of a religious world.  Our whole horizon, from side to side, and day to day, was filled with the presence of the Lord.  There was no other interest outside of making a living than going to church, going to revival, reading the Bible, praying, praising, worshipping the Lord – the old way of loving God.

We are going to stand now and sing our hymn of appeal.  And while we sing it, a somebody you today to give his heart to Jesus, to come into the fellowship of His church, to put your life with us; a couple, a family, a child, a whole household, while we sing the hymn, if God bids you come, make it now.  Do it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.

THE OLD-TIME RELIGION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 8:8

4-27-75

 

I.              Introduction

1.    Lived between old shouting, mourning, weeping and beginning of new sophisticated but the old is most remembered

2.    Pot bellied stove

3.    Heartfelt with many tears

II.            Religion of the Book

III.           Religion of the blood, Hebrews 9:22, redemption

IV.          Religion of the blessed hope