By Dennis Gulledge
The late B. C. Goodpasture used to tell of a time when James A. Harding held a gospel meeting in Clark County, Kentucky. The year was 1877. When an elder of the church was asked about it, he said it was “. . . not much of a meeting. Oh, brother Harding did his usually powerful preaching, the attendance was fair, but the results were negligible. Only little Jimmy Shepherd was baptized.”
Someone has said that you can count the number seeds in an apple, but you cannot count the number of apples in a seed. When applied to the preaching of the gospel that means that you can count the number of people who respond to gospel preaching to be baptized, but you cannot count the number of goods things done in the life of one person who becomes a Christian, as in the case of James W. Shepherd.
Brother Shepherd went to the College of the Bible, Kentucky University, and graduated in 1884. On February 29, 1888, he traveled with his family to New Zealand, remaining there two years. From New Zealand, he went to Australia, where he remained almost three years, during which time he preached in Sydney, Melbourne, Balarat, New Castle, and Adelaide. Leaving Australia he returned to the United States by way of the Orient. He traveled extensively. Passing through the Suez Canal, he could see Mt. Sinai in the distance, but he did not visit the Bible land. He did visit Scotland and England, and being a lover of books, he collected many volumes for his private library and materials for books which he would later write. From 1905 to 1912, he served as office editor for the Gospel Advocate. Later he preached for churches of Christ in Detroit, Michigan; Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Virginia; and Birmingham, Alabama.
His famous Handbook on Baptism was published in 1894. His teacher at the College of the Bible, J.W. McGarvey, referred to the book as “The best and most comprehensive work of its kind in existence.” In 1910 brother Shepherd edited and compiled Queries and Answers, containing questions answered by David Lipscomb in the Gospel Advocate. He put together material for another volume bearing the name of David Lipscomb, that being the book entitled Salvation From Sin. Also, at the request of the aged Lipscomb, brother Shepherd took Lipscomb’s notes on some of the New Testament epistles and completed them for publication in the Gospel Advocate series of New Testament commentaries.
Brother Shepherd passed from this life on Tuesday evening, July 27, 1948. The good that was accomplished in the response of “little Jimmy Shepherd” to a gospel sermon heard long ago can never fully be measured in human terms.
It is when we can “count the seeds in an apple” that we think the greatest amount of work is done. But the good accomplished for the cause of Christ by men and women of average existence are “the apples in the seed” that we are rarely possessed with the patience to count.
Try to count the apples in a seed!
(Reprinted From The Old Path II, Bulletin of the Jamestown, IN Church of Christ.)
Guardian of Truth XL: 11 p. 1
June 6, 1996