Monday, July 09, 2007

1934 Theologue: The Story of John A. Davis Part 4: "What Wonders God Hath Wrought"

I hope everyone has been learning something new about the life of the founder of Practical Bible Training School/Practical Bible College/Davis College. His life is a very interesting one as any life like that is consecrated to God. Here is part 4 of the 10 part series of the life of Dr. John Adelbert Davis.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


Acts 15:12

Environment was not the chief cause of the joy that flooded the hearts of the faithful little band that forty ago met for worship in the old school house of Hallstead, Pennsylvania.

When the cool evenings caused too much discomfort at prayer-meetings, the small group sat around a stove with a cherry fire built by Deacon Amos Millard, whose lighted lantern furnished illumination. Songs of praise were lifted, and the prayers for a shepherd to lead the flock were intensely earnest. God heard and answered in His own best way, as He always does. In 1894 John A. Davis was called to the pastorate of this struggling church, with such, humanly speaking, unfavorable conditions. He began a strenuous work and kept it up.

The Boy Evangelist had the faculty of enlisting the interest and services of many railroad men. He frequently jumped on cabooses and engines, to become acquainted with the men. Many of them are now in glory through the personal work of this Boy Evangelist, who, in the great-acquainted talks showed them their need of a Saviour; and how to make this Saviour their Saviour. It became quite customary for those men to read their Bibles in their cabooses as the opportunity offered. The round house was a good place at the noon hour to go for a few minutes to chat, and there dispense lemonade and invite the trainmen to the tent evangelistic meetings. Men responded, too. It was true of Mr. Davis that he sought there for souls as he always continued to do.

The young pastor made a practice of calling in the home with telling effect, such as: “Don’t fail to be at prayer-meeting tonight. A great time is expected! Come early and bring your family.” In another home: “How about it? Are you willing, Mr. Blank, to quote a chapter from the Bible next Sunday evening?” Again at some gathering: “Let’s have a real Thanksgiving sunrise prayer meeting. Everyone who can do so, please bring something, -- either groceries or baked goods for those less fortunate than we; then distribute them among the shut-ins and needy after the meeting.” Enthused with this plan, the merchants in town contributed flour, sugar, tea, coffee, butter, and other staples. At each place a song, a bit of Scripture and prayer added to the Thanksgiving spirit. One lady attending the next prayer-meeting at the church, said she came to see what sort of folks were doing such kind deeds. Later she and her husband joined the church. Their boys also came to Sunday School. Friends brought to the sunrise meeting, turkeys and chickens enough to supply each of the fourteen bushel baskets with one.

What thrilling and blessed sunrise meetings those were! The youngsters were also on hand to do their part. Isaiah 50:7 was a favorite verse of the pastor’s: “For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know I shall not be ashamed.” He was first, last and always, a zealous personal worker, Bible teacher, Evangelist and pastor. Never was he made “ashamed” when his face was set like a flint, to follow the Lord’s leading. To illustrate: There was ample evidence of the need of a church ground for a foundation. At the same time of this excavating, men’s hearts were cleansed of rubbish for God’s service. They hauled stones and helped to lay them, doing anything and everything possible to erect this new structure. In the course of construction, also after completion, it was a common thing for two or more men to be found at the church praying. This was one of the happiest ways wherein God kept His word that He would not allow His followers to be “confounded.” Steady growth was another, for many were added to the church. A special prayer-meeting was held the night previous to the dedicatory services, December 3, 4, 1895, asking God to lead the people to pledge $4,000 on the church building fund the next day. He did, and $4,000 was pledged. What a dedication this was!

Christian activities were contagious in the community. Soon the Presbyterians built a fine brick church. The Methodists, too, built an attractive house of worship. Good fellowship prevailed. Evangelistic campaigns were wonderfully blessed by God, souls were born again. Great was the rejoicing when drunkards were saved, and saloons lost much patronage or were put entirely out of commission. The pastor, though young, glimpsed the sore tests that would come to such converts when they would draw their monthly pay, meet their old pals, be urged to drink and gamble away the support for their families, the church, and payments due on their debts. What was done to prevent their yielding to such temptations? PRAYER. Mr. Davis believed in helping to answer prayers. Groups of ladies gathered at homes and earnestly prayed for the “new-born babes in Christ,” for many of the men were such. They prayed for others who had not yet entered the flock of the Shepherd of souls. While the ladies were thus engaged, Mr. Davis would go to meet some of the railroad men who might be tempted of Satan to be led astray. Many a night did he walk the streets with them, linked arm in arm until the men reached home safely with their money still in their pockets.

Evangelism was carried on in various ways. Mr. Davis inspired others; he urged all to go on to victory. Conviction was strong that each person, young and old, should have some part in both the worship and activities of the church. One who took no part in prayer-meeting felt conspicuous. One lady said: “A person told me that I would soon go back to my former life; but what is there to go back to? Nothing but husks compared to the joy and friendship of my Saviour and His followers.” Thrilling reports were given in these services of divine power and grace to overthrow Satan’s allurements.

The baby organ was an important factor, for it seemed to say:

“I’ll go where you want me to go dear Lord,

I’ll do what you want me to do.”

That meant going into various homes with groups of enthusiastic young people for praise and prayer services, Bible study, and personal work. Again the organ accompanied zealous young Christians to a school house or a distant church for religious meetings. In those days a Gospel wagon was kept busy to convey singers and speakers to distant localities for services. The choir was accustomed to meet for prayer and praise previous to each service and to invite those whom they wished to win for Jesus Christ to be present! A credit to all concerned was the strong missionary spirit that prevailed among the church members.

Mr. Davis had ambition to launch out into deeper waters for souls, but how could his presence be spared? Easily answered. God says in Isaiah 65:24 “And it shall come to pass that before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear.” To prepare for such contingencies, Mr. Davis had certainly been divinely led in the early days of his ministry to take to himself an ardent Christian wife, a tactful, sweet-spirited, energetic, young lady with musical ability. Mrs. John A. Davis was warmly welcomed by all, and proved herself to be a most helpful pastor’s assistant. She took his place in the pulpit when he was led of the Holy Spirit to go into other vicinities to conduct evangelistic campaigns. The again some of the members would hold a platform service, or someone would preach a God-given soul-stirring sermon from his heart. Progress was marked in every department of the work of the church and with blessed results.

How the parish and village was stirred one day as a young man ran his bicycle at top speed, that he might proclaim to his friends and neighbors the new of a new arrival in town, and at his home! A baby boy named Gordon C, Davis, a love-gift from God, had begun his life at the Baptist parsonage. Later this young child, and the home was blessed again when another son, Charles J. Davis, was given to the proud parents by Him who giveth every good and perfect gift. The pleased parents had much to “tell the world” about their boys. Those were happy days for the Davis family, yes, and for the community too.

A Christian Endeavor society was soon organized and functioned successfully. On one occasion, thirty men were welcomed into it. Glorious times were continually experienced. Its membership was one hundred. One hundred boys and girls constituted the Junior Christian Endeavor society. These organizations had joyful and important parts in the church activities. They stood loyally by the pastor. They had the honor of being the largest of like groups in Susquehanna County.

The Hallstead Fire Company invited similar companies from Binghamton and other towns to join in a celebration and parade at Hallstead. They came in large numbers in fine uniforms and with brass bands. Both the Senior and Junior Christian Endeavor societies were ready for them. When marchers halted long enough to be served with lemonade by hustling Seniors, the Juniors invaded the ranks with dainty buttonhole bouquets, each attached with ribbon to a card with a Scripture passage written thereon. The boys and girls did quick work to make sure each fireman had one pinned on his uniform. It meant much work for these societies to gather and prepare all the flowers and cards, but the deep impression made on the firemen was assurance that all the work was amply rewarded by the joy and blessing given.

The following quotation is from a booklet, entitled “History of the First Baptist Church of Hallstead, Pennsylvania.” “During Mr. Davis’ pastorate he spent much time in evangelistic work in other fields. In September, 1899, he tendered his resignation, in order that he might devote all of his time to this special work to which he felt the Lord had called him. Women, children and strong men wept at the service when he announced his resignation, yet none would have asked him to remain against the leading of the Holy Spirit. November 26, 1899, both morning and evening, large audiences attended the farewell services for Pastor Davis. The morning text was 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 ‘And I brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’; the evening text was 1 Samuel 12:24 ‘Only fear the Lord, serve Him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things He hath done for you.’ He moved to Binghamton to give full time to his evangelistic work in which he became renowned. Be it known that some of his best and most blessed work was at Hallstead.”

Coming up Part 5: “Do the Work of an Evangelist”

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