By James W. Adams
Three times in ten verses, David, king of Israel, uses the expression of our title in his lamentation over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan in battle (2 Sam. 1:17-27). When the familiar voice of a long-time friend and brother came to me out of the darkness of midnight via the miracle of the modern telephone very early on May 13, 1985 saying, “Jim, Roy (Cogdill) is dead; he died of a heart attack shortly after midnight,” like David, I cried out in my heart, “How are the mighty fallen! The beauty of Israel is perished! Very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women! “
David used the term “mighty” in the sense in which we use the term “great.” Each is a relative term and is qualified by the context of its application and the point of view of him who uses it. From my point of view and in the context of my relationship to Roy E. Cogdill, he was a “mighty” man and among the “greatest” preachers and defenders of the gospel of Jesus Christ of this generation. I knew him intimately, loved him personally, admired his talent and ability inordinately, and trusted him implicitly.
As a lad, I lived in a small southeast Texas town that had one outstanding feature. Just west of town on the top of a small hill (the highest thereabout) stood a gigantic pine tree-the only pine in the area as it was live oak country. It could be seen for miles around and served as a landmark from which one could always get his bearings. A few years ago, I drove through this little town after more than fifty years absence and noted with dismay that the giant pine was no more. It had yielded to the mutations of time and the ravages of circumstances. In a word, it “had gone the way of all the earth.” It is difficult to describe, and harder to explain, the sense of personal loss that swept over me and the loneliness that gripped my heart with the realization that the rugged pine of my youth was no more. Like the “everlasting hills,” I somehow imagined it would never die. That old, giant tree standing tall in majestic splendor against the western sky, keeping silent vigil over us in the halcyon days of childhood, had imperceptibly become to me a symbol making secure the continuity of my life. Now, it was gone! And with its passing a vital link in the golden chain that bound the present to the past had vanished. So I wept unashamedly in nostalgic loneliness for that which was and would never be again.
This is how I felt when the news of the death of my friend and brother, Roy E. Cogdill, came to me. Roy was seven years older than I. He began preaching earlier in life than did I by some four years. He began preaching under circumstances more conducive to the rapid development of a gospel preacher than did I. Hence, when I came on the scene, he was already widely experienced and almost universally acclaimed as a preacher among the brethren. When I first heard of him in 1935, 1 knew enough to recognize the superiority of his talents, so he immediately became to me symbolic of what is par excellence in gospel preaching.
Through the fifty years since and with considerable growth in my own knowledge and the development of a close personal relationship with Roy, I have never had an occasion to change my first impression of him relative to gospel preaching. He was gifted by nature with all the qualities essential to becoming a great preacher: a strong body, a mellow and powerful voice, a brilliant intellect, a retentive memory, a resolute will, and a dynamic personality.
Roy was a strong character. Good character was instilled in him from birth by a consecrated, devoted, almost doting, mother. She was a strong, New Testament Christian of the “old school”-God bless her! From her and from some of the greatest preachers and debaters of the day in western Oklahoma, Roy imbibed a knowledge and love of the truth of the gospel of Christ which he never forgot or outgrew. From callow youth to learned and sophisticated manhood and old age, he believed with reverence, cherished with love, defended with vigor, and proclaimed with eloquence and power the New Testament gospel embraced in the dawn of his life- a “thus saith the Lord” was literally the motto of his life! Roy was living proof of the validity of the proverb of the Wise Man: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
When friends of Roy met in Houston on the evening of April 23, 1985 to honor God in giving vocal expression of appreciation for Roy’s “work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ,” several of us noted that Roy probably sacrificed fame, wealth, and worldly power in turning from a blooming, lucrative law practice to the “preaching of the word.” At the close of the service Roy, from his wheel chair, made some remarks. Replying to our statements, he told of an incident which occurred when he was a junior in high school. He began to go about with a crowd of young people whom his mother considered not good for Roy’s spiritual welfare. Roy’s father had been killed in an industrial accident when Roy was eight years of age leaving sister Cogdill a widow. Times were hard and Roy’s father left only a $500.00 insurance policy. With this money, Roy’s mother bought a small house to shelter her four girls and one boy. When she perceived that Roy’s soul might be in jeopardy, she went to an elder of the church, put up her house for security, and borrowed money to send Roy to Cordell Christian College where his faith had a better chance for survival and where he might develop his already evident, superior talents for preaching the word of God. Roy said that he did not know his mother had done this until several years later. Then gazing with complete absorption at a large full length picture of his mother presented to him by brother and sister James and Mildred Yates (elder of the Fry Rd. church and wife), Roy said with tears streaming down his cheeks, “After learning this, I could never do anything but preach the word! ” A more beautiful and poignant incident I think I have never witnessed, and I think it altogether fitting that Roy’s body lies less than a hundred yards in Hobart, Oklahoma Municipal Cemetery from that loving mother’s body, who meant so much to him, awaiting the resurrection of the just.
Lord Macaulay, learned author of a great history of England, once wrote: “Society indeed has its great men and its little men, as the earth has its mountains and its valleys.” Roy Cogdill’s natural gifts and disposition made it inevitable that he would be a leader. He was not destined to follow other men but to lead them. Being thrust into greatness as a leader (Shakespeare), he learned the solemn truth of Lord Byron’s poetic observation: “He who ascends to mountain tops shall find the loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow; he who surpasses or subdues mankind, must look down on the hate of them below.” Roy never evoked a neutral response from people, even in the kingdom of God. People either loved him or passionately disliked him. Most leaders are men like this. It is warp and woof of that which makes them capable of leadership. So, when I heard of his death, like David, I was constrained to cry, “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.” Lovers of the truth solemnly weep as we bid goodbye to a faithful soldier of the cross of Christ who has made his last march to lay his armor at the feet of his blessed King. Proponents of error within and without no doubt rejoice and triumph in the streets of spiritual Askelon.
Others will write of Roy’s books, debates, and publishing accomplishments. I shall not infringe upon these areas. It suffices to say: whatever Roy set his hand and heart to do, in the language of Scripture, “He did it with his might.” Therefore, he distinguished himself in many fields. In all of which, we do honor him.
For me personally, a tall, rugged tree, that has always been there since first I began to preach, has fallen. While it stood, it provided for saints across the world a point of reference from which they often got their spirutal bearings. It cast, and continues to cast, a long shadow. Like the echo of a mighty blast reverberating across the land, the shadow cast by Roy’s life and works will shelter many a weary soldier from the burning heat of the great “fight of faith.” Yet, for me, there is a lonely place against the sky as I make my way toward the setting sun of life. However, my deep sense of irreparable loss is tempered by a hope so well expressed in the beautiful song, “Beyond the Sunset.” I find great solace in the fact that “beyond the sunset’s radiant glow, there is a brighter world I know” where Roy, other great soldiers of the cross long dead, and I will one day sit down together and recount earth’s happy experiences in “delightful days that never end.”
As I pen these lines, I think I must feel as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow felt when he penned the following hauntingly beautiful verses:
The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
That my soul cannot resist.
A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
For Roy, earth’s day is done, but the Everlasting “Sun” has risen for him in fairer climes on the verdant fields of eternal glory. For us who remain, there is melancholy but not sadness nor pain. We softly weep for days that were and will never be again, but we weep not as “they who have no hope!”
Special Word Of Appreciation
Upon learning of the death of brother Cogdill, I conferred with several men regarding publishing a memorial edition of Guardian of Truth to his memory. After a decision to do so was made, I contacted brother James W. Adams to see if he would undertake the task of editing this special edition. This issue has been made possible through his efforts and labor. Brother Adams has been a close personal friend of brother Roy E. Cogdill for many years; they stood side by side engaged in the battles of the Lord, having respect and love for each other. I could not think of anyone more qualified to edit this material.
Brother Adams had a free hand to ask whomever he chose to write for this issue. I felt privileged to be asked to write one of the articles, inasmuch as most other contributors have had greater personal contact with brother Cogdill and have done the Lord’s kingdom a much greater service than I.
I sincerely appreciate brother Adams’ work in getting this material together for this special issue of Guardian of Truth.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 14, pp. 418, 436-437
July 18, 1985