September 14, 2003


[EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article is taken from Lard's Quarterly. It was published in the present form in 1876 by T. Holman, Printer and Publisher. If any of our readers know anything about the later history of the congregation at South Point in Ray County, Missouri, this editor would like to hear from you. -CRJ]

In the summer of 1853 I had an appointment to preach in Richfield, Missouri. The Sunday morning at length came, and I rode down to the village. While hitching my horse a black man came up to me and said "You do not know me; but I know you, and have known you for a long time. My name is Dick; I once belonged to the Church at Stanley's, where old Bro. Warrinner used to preach and near which he is buried. Since his death the church has gone to pieces; and I have been long without its privileges. I have come 15 miles today to hear you preach, and have brought with me my young master, Thomas. He is a good boy; and I think would be a Christian if he knew how."

With this artless tale of a poor servant man my heart was touched. My memory at once became fragrant with reminiscences of the past. The strange, sweet eloquence of Jacob Warrinner warbled once more through my soul; and I felt the spell of that dear man. He had been my friend and I loved him still. When a young man, and trying to preach, I had sometimes blundered. Others had criticized me coarsely; but Jacob Warrinner patted me on the shoulder, looked me warmly in the eye, and said: Go on, my son, you have done well. Be thoughtful and persevere; and when I am gone, you will be a man." These were precious words; and dear to me still were the lips that had spoken them. My preaching brother, perhaps you have many years and much experience on your side. Your counsel is weighty. Then lay your hand gently on that young brother whose devoted, anxious heart prompts him to preach. Criticize him gently. If God stooped to make him, he may not be worthless. An encouraging word will cost you nothing. Risk a few, then, on that young man. You may one day be glad you did it. But I am wandering.

Dick soon introduced me to Thomas, whom I took to be an honest, steady boy. Musing on this incident, I went into the meetinghouse. May there not be, I said to myself, something providential in this? I recollected that many people do not believe in special providences; yet, just then, the conviction of their reality clung very close to my heart. Indeed, I was in no mood to debate a question which strung me for the work of the day and which afforded me so easy and so pleasing a solution of the presence of Dick and Thomas. Let fatalists talk as they may, thought I, I believe there is something in this. For why should God condescend to give his Son to save us, and yet decline to guide some trivial incident of life, when it can be made subservient to that great end? Or why should He think it worth while to number the very hairs of our heads, and still overlook the small worldly affair which may help to save the immortal spirit? If He is not ashamed to watch the fall of sparrows, is it unworthy of him to so link the events of earth as to make one, now and then, so fall out as to help on his way back some prodigal longing to return? This may all be superstition; but I confess I envy not him his cold incredulity who can so regard it. I love the thought to lie close to my heart that on even the humblest child of man God looks evermore with special solicitude. Earth in its truer features is but the type of heaven. Here the mother sends her earnest wish with her boy wherever ho wanders. Tell me not, then, that God leaves that child to pass through life a deserted and unnoticed orphan. Never.

But I was now in the meeting-house. The audience was of good size; yet not a Christian in it had come 15 miles to worship that day, save Dick. Is not this a critique, I asked myself, on the small zeal of the proud white man? He does not toil; yet he travels no 15 miles to meeting. I thought of the previous week's labor of Dick, he might, with much reason, have claimed that day as a day of rest. I counted again his 15 miles, and then went to work with heart. Thomas was in that congregation - a circumstance which I determined not to forget for the next hour and a half. In other words, though many were present, I intended my audience to consist, except by chance, of a single person. In my boyhood's days, when hunting was the idol of my heart, I loved the single fatal rifle shot. I resolved to try it now. In my speech I kept steadily in mind a plain, honest boy of 16. I knew if he had no great, cultivated mind to comprehend the subtleties of Christianity, he had an anxious, yearning heart to feel its blessed provisions. To this I trusted largely and never have I trusted it in vain. Let him who sets out to preach early learn this lesson; that man has a heart as well a head. Logic is for this, love and sympathy for that. The one requires large culture in the hearer, the other large honesty in the speaker. The one can not be misguided, the other should not. Logic merely cracks nuts; but love and sympathy unseal fountains of kindness; and few men, after all, are so lost as to be wholly devoid of the latter. In preaching, I have always found it both safe and profitable to trust largely to the spiritual and better instincts of the human family. With them all are richly endowed, and, no doubt, for wise and gracious ends. But I am wandering again. 

My discourse, as already intimated, was to Thomas; and was exceedingly plain. It consisted in a simple statement of what Christ had done for him, and now required of him. In plowman's phrase, I told the tale. This was my early dialect, and I spoke it to perfection. I felt that, might be, the interests of an immortal spirit were staked on that speech. I did not wish to make it too long; nor was I willing to stop short of the mark. At length I guessed the time and closed. My invitation ended, Thomas came forward and gave me his hand. Poor Dick was as near heaven then as he will ever be again, till lie reaches that blessed abode. He could not sit; he could not stand; he did not shout, but clapped his hands while tears ran over those toil worn cheeks. He meekly occupied a distant corner of the house and I felt, if angels delight to gather around the heart that is all full of gratitude to Christ, surely they must have a strange pleasure in folding their wings in that corner just then. I borrowed clothes for Thomas, and immersed him that evening. He and Dick retraced those 15 miles, but in what mood the true heart needs not be told. The day had been a glorious one to me; and I returned home happy and thankful.

Two weeks after this I was going to an appointment at Lexington, same State, when, within about one mile of their home, I met Dick and Thomas in the road. I need not say they were glad to see me. As Thomas was a quiet boy, Dick did most of the talking. "You have stirred up the Devil in this neighborhood," he began. (Dick alluded to the preachers!) "Since you baptized Thomas, the preachers have made you their text generally; sometimes Thomas; and, sir, they have even stooped to talk of poor Dick. For the Lord's sake come and preach for us just once, if no more." "Dick," said I, "On next Wednesday, God willing, I shall return this way on my road home. If you and Thomas will smooth off the top of a stump, under some shade trees, somewhere in the neighborhood, and will circulate the appointment on that day, at 11, I will preach for you." "God bless you," replied Dick, "you shall have a place to preach, if Thomas and I have to work every night from now till then." In a few minutes I took leave of Dick and Thomas, perfectly confident that this promise would be kept to the letter.

On the following Wednesday I returned. In the shade of some great trees, according to promise of Dick, I found a stand for myself, and seats for the people. True, my stand was not an imposing one in appearance; nor were the seats of the model to suggest the easiest posture of body. But, then, from the one, the gospel could be preached, and on the others, heard and what cared I for more than this? Long ago, in Missouri, on stands like this stood James McBride, Allen Wright, Duke Young, and other men of like noble type and preached Christ to the crowds that came to hear them - and seldom has it been better done. They are now gone to their rest but 100 years from this writing will still show traces of the vast, and now ill-appreciated, labors of these men of God. I felt proud to stand where they had stood, and humbly aid in carrying forward the work in which their lives had been spent.

The audience was large, unusually large for a Wednesday. A glance at it told me who they were, and what they were. They were an honest, agricultural people blest with pertinent common sense and sound hearts. I deemed them a soil full of promise. There was a repose in the eye and an unsinister look, a candor in the expression of face, and an artlessness of manner, which filled me with hope. I felt inspired for the work of the day. The religious element of the audience was chiefly Methodist and Baptist. They were a plain, honest, unlettered people. Their prejudices I knew to be many and strong; and believing them to be sincerely held, I determined to treat them tenderly. We, ourselves, do not like to be treated harshly. Let us remember this in dealing with others.

I had only that day and one more to remain in the neighborhood, without making a disappointment in a distant county, which I was most anxious to avoid. I consequently resolved to make the most of my limited time. Accordingly, I spoke for two hours and thirty minutes - an unconscionable length of time I grant. The attention was profound and most respectful. Indeed I never saw better. I felt sure a deep and good impression had been made. The audience lingered on the ground, as if enchanted. The discourse was freely spoken of. Some dissented but the greater number heartily approved. An appointment was made for the next day, and the congregation separated.

The next day came and found the audience undiminished in size. Again the discourse reached through two hours and a half. At the close, four of the neighbor men came forward to confess their faith in Christ. The excitement was intense. Many a bosom, then, for the first time, heaved with deep, religious emotion; and men, unused to tears, bravely wept. I loved to see this. The heart that can weep is not wholly corrupt; and when men turn to Christ, I like to see them deeply broken in spirit. Let the proud heart be melted, and tears stream freely; it is well. There is hope in such tokens. The scene now to be enacted was an unusual one in that community. We had met in the shade of grand old trees. Never had Christ, there, in that primeval forest, been confessed after the primitive manner. The audience was silent as the dead. Each of those four strong men then formally and solemnly avowed his faith in Christ. We sang a song, gave them the hand and said, "God be with you." The old members of the Stanley church now came out, and greeted these their neighbors and greeted each other; and in the joy of that glad hour, forgot the privations of past years. Last of all came Dick - that same Dick gentle reader, that traveled those 15 miles, and took with him Thomas. His heart was full. "Thank God," was all he said, as he shook my hand and passed on to his seat.

I now felt that it would he highly improper to leave that audience in its present mood, and proceed to another appointment where, possibly, nothing might be accomplished, and so resolved to stay. Meeting was accordingly announced for the next day; and we again adjourned. On the following day, eight confessed their faith in Christ. Thus the meeting continued, from day to day, until about forty were immersed.

Shortly after this, we met, about a mile distant, at a more convenient spot, for the purpose of organizing a church. The day was a glorious one - being the ever memorable first of the week. Previous devotion had prepared the brethren for the occasion. The whole country flocked together to witness the scene. The new converts were all present. Here, too, had come all that remained of the old Stanley church to take their seats once more in an assembly of the saints. Their joy was complete. They had long been disbanded. Meantime, their children had grown up; and in the recent meeting many of them had entered the family of God. Now parents and children and neighbors sat down together to have their names enrolled as members of the "one body." Lovely was that sight! The object of the meeting was concisely, but clearly set forth. All were made fully sensible of the solemn step about to be taken. Appropriate portions of Scripture were read and the names of the brethren then taken down in a book provided for the purpose. A hymn was now sung, and they gave each other the right hand of fellowship. The protection of the "Great Shepherd of the Sheep" was then fervently invoked on that little flock and it was committed to His keeping. Will these dear brethren ever forget that day, that scene, and the resolutions there formed? I trust not.

A table was then spread and on it were placed the emblematic loaf and cup. The supper was then eaten in memory of the Master, a song sung, and the services of the hour closed.

A question now arose as to where their future meetings should be held. It was unanimously agreed that they should be held on that spot. It was the base of a gentle hill looking toward the south. But what name should it bear? With one consent it was called South Point. It lies in Ray County, Missouri. Thus originated the name South Point, and the church meeting there. It is very dear to the writer of this piece. He may never more see these brethren in the flesh. His fervent prayer is, that they may be ever true to their high calling. Also, will they remember to be kind to Dick, to whom, in the providence of God, they owe their existence as a church?

Here, on this same spot, these brethren subsequently built them a house and here do they still come to meet to worship God. On the top of that gentle hill sleep the remains of Jacob Warrinner. His grave, like a faithful sentinel, looks over down on the house at its base. It is hallowed ground. May God keep and bless the church that is planted there!

Thus, kind reader, to a single act of a servant man in his fidelity to Christ, do I trace the origin of a church, the joy of a neighborhood, and the salvation of many a soul. You may think it accidental; be not angry with me, if I see fit to view it in a different light.

--Anonymous, 1876, from Lard's Quarterly



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