February 17, 2019

Sketches From the Past

By Earl Kimbrough

Thomas Fuller, the English theologian, said, "History maketh a young man to be old, without wrinkles or gray hairs, privileging him with the experiences of age, without either the infirmities or inconveniences thereof." I suppose this is as good a reason as any for one being interested in the people and events of the past. In the study of history there are many things to be found which can brighten our own niche in time. Some are encouraging, some warm the heart, some teach valuable lessons, and some bring a smile to the lips or a tear to the eye. Below are three brief sketches about things in the past, which, even if they do none of these things, will perhaps at least be interesting.

Membership Problems: 1902

Those of us who have wrestled with the problems of church attendance and of trying to keep an up-to-date roll of the local membership can appreciate an item that appeared around the turn of the century in the Franklin Times, a weekly newspaper published at Russellville, Alabama. Under the heading "Church Notice." the - elders of the church in that place inserted the following message:

"All members of the Church of Christ at Russellville are requested to attend a meeting at the church on the First Lord's Day in July, at 11 a. in., for the purpose of revising the church roll. We find the names of many, who have been added to the church at this place, are not on the roll, and there are others from other places whose names we have not. There are still others who have seemed to say by their action, "we do not care to be known as members." Now brethren, sisters, we beseech you in Christ's name, "be loyal," "show your faith by your works," "forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is" that the world may know where you stand and your brethren be helped and encouraged by your presence and fellowship. Be present, either in person, by proxy or letter, that the roll may be perfected. J. M. Clark and T. H. Roberson, Elders."

Farming for the Lord

Like many of the pioneer preachers in Alabama, J. H. Halbrook made a living for himself and his family by farming. He sold his farm in Hickman County, Tennessee in order to study under T. B. Larimore at Mars' Hill near Florence, Alabama. He remained at Mars' Hill for two terms and after leaving settled at New River, Alabama, in Fayette County. From there he "traveled over the mountains and hills and plains" of Northwest Alabama preaching the word "in schoolhouses, under the trees, in private homes, in courthouses, along the highways, and wherever people would assemble to hear him." He was a successful farmer and what he made above the needs of his family was spent preaching the gospel.

Brother Halbrook was farming at New River in 1886 when the Alabama Christian Missionary Society was organized at Selma. Not long after the Society got under way, he received a letter from one of its supporters asking him how much could be raised in his field for missionary purposes that year. He wrote back, "I do not know how much can be raised in my field for missionary purposes this year. I have planted my field in cotton, and it is too early in the season to tell how it will pan out; but all it makes is for missionary purposes."

This consecrated man of God baptized thousands of people and established numerous churches. It was not uncommon for him to baptize 40 in one meeting and he seldom ~vent into a new section without establishing a church. He probably did more "evangelizing" by himself than the whole Alabama Christian Missionary Society in the same space of time. And he certainly sought to do it in a scriptural manner.

We need more men like J. H. Halbrook today. If we had more sacrificing preachers and fewer sophisticated promoters, the successful outcome of our present struggle against the hosts of spiritual wickedness would be far less doubtful than it sometimes is.

Posthumous Judgment

Institutionalism is not founded upon a "thus saith the Lord," but some of our liberal brethren who support and encourage the movement are careful to assure us that what they do is "right" and that they wouldn't dare do anything "unscriptural."

I recently read a sixty-year-old newspaper in which the editor expressed a view that reminded me of these brethren. It regarded the lynching of a Negro man in a nearby community. The Negro was accused of trying to molest a white woman and was being held for trial in the jail at Moulton, Alabama. A mob formed, removed the accused man from jail, and promptly hanged him. After setting forth the gory details of the lynching, the editor gave his own editorial approval of the thing. Said he, "And the Times thinks the mob did exactly right, provided the Negro's guilt was clear."

Truth Magazine VIII: 7, pp. 18,24
April 1964