Friday, July 13, 2007

1934 Theologue: The Story of John A. Davis Part 6: "And it Came to Pass"

Now we are moving into the PBTS days. Though I am surprised this text from the 1934 Theologue does not include about the one dollar given by L.A. Crossan in 1900 that confirmed John A. Davis vision from God. This part (Part 6) is about the founding of the school and the first classes meeting on the corner of Arch and Main Streets in what was then Lestershire, NY (now Johnson City). Then the move the next year to Harrison Street. Enjoy.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5




Mark 1:9

It was in the early summer of 1900 that Rev. John A. Davis sent a notice to the various churches in Binghamton and vicinity to the effect that he was about to organize a Bible class which would meet evenings in a hall room over a store, at the corner of Arch and Main Streets, Lestershire, New York.

Between eighty and ninety people came to this first class. They all were believers, more or less interested in learning how better to study the Bible. The class was called together by Mr. Davis. After brief introductory remarks, he gave the first lecture. The succeeding sessions were carried on in much the same general way. Mr. Davis was the only teacher for the term. The attendance grew, until there were about one hundred and twenty students in the class.

The subjects taught were those in which Mr. Davis was a master, namely, “How to use the Bible”; “Personal Work”; and some introductory studies in Doctrine.

That summer some evenings were cool and pleasant while others were hot and sultry. However, the attendance never dropped nor did the interest flag throughout the whole period. God had need for a school and He inspired Mr. Davis to make this start; and He took care of the interest and the attendance and gave Mr. Davis students to work with from the very beginning. Mr. Davis’ teaching was so inspirational, so absorbing in every detail, that it mattered not whether the evening was sultry or pleasant; the students were attentive to the utmost degree, intensely interested in catching the words of life and power, coming from God’s servant.

During the closing weeks of that first term the class permanently organized and the feeling became general that the work must not be allowed to drop, but that a permanent school building should be obtained and a Bible school established which would give instruction for both day and evening students throughout the year.

Following this determination, land was donated on Harrison Street for a school building. The closing exercises for this first term were held in one of the Lestershire churches. The matter of a permanent school building was presented to the people and several hundred dollars immediately secured toward the project. This gave an impetus to the work which assured its completion. The students organized in groups of five to ten for services in the churches of the immediate vicinity and at distances of many miles. Everywhere they went with the enthusiastic message, “We are going to build the school.” The students would put on a platform service and, at the close, take an offering for the work which was already dear to their hearts. Plans were drawn and the building was quickly completed. The following year found the school housed in this new building on Harrison Street and ready for classes along regular, prescribed courses of study. The first “certificates of completion of introductory studies” were issued under date of September 1, 1901, over the signatures of John R. Clements, President; and John A. Davis, Superintendent.

The selection of a name for the institution deserves mention. Mr. Davis was urged, by a number of people, to call the school “The Davis Bible School.” The selection of a name was delayed for several weeks, due to Mr. Davis’ determination not to call the school after himself. He insisted that what he wanted to give was a practical working knowledge of the Bible to young people, which would enable them to be of unusual service in their respective churches. Again and again, he would say that he wanted a practical Bible-training course. His friends finally surrendered to Mr. Davis’ judgment, and he named the institution “The Practical Bible Training School.”

The School was incorporated under the membership laws of the state of New York in the year 1900, by John A. Davis, John R. Clements, E. Talmadge Graves, A. B. Corby, and George W. Holyoke, all of Binghamton and Lestershire (now Johnson City). The articles of incorporation and application were drawn by Honorable Harry C. Perkins, who later became Secretary and Legal Advisor of the institution. The petition was approved by Supreme Court Justice, Honorable George F. Lyon, himself a Binghamton resident.

In 1901, Rev. William H. Pike was chosen dean of the school and continued in the position until 1917. He was a man of exceptional ability, mighty in the Scriptures, as well as a fine executive. The other men, known nationally, who taught either special subjects in the school or gave large contributions of time in a more general way were: Rev. E. P. Marvin of Lockport; Robert Garry, the “Man of one Book”; Rev. E. F. Hallenbeck, D.D., a Binghamton pastor and gifted Bible teacher; Rev. George L. Aldrich, D.D., a Scranton pastor and deep Bible student; and many others of wide prominence in God’s work. Miss Mary Scotten was a worker at the school from its inception and for years a member of the faculty. She is revered by every student who has ever studied at the Practical Bible Training School.

The building shown in the accompanying cut was erected in 1901, and it was thought of commodious proportions. The building had offices, lecture rooms, and a parlor on the first floor; dining room and culinary department on the floor below; and dormitory accommodations on the second and third floors. The ground was sufficiently sloping so that the dining room opened on the lawn, at the lower side of the building.

In the early days of the Practical Bible Training School on Harrison Street, in Lestershire, the interest became such that a Bible Conference was proposed. The suggestion was carried into effect with telling results. The attendance was large, many coming from surrounding town; each person with Bible and notebook, ready to get real personal inspiration. These were never-to-be-forgotten occasions.

God marvelously answered the soul-stirring prayers. One man claimed Isaiah 40:29, “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.” Thousands who have attended the Practical Bible Training School Summer Bible Conference, held annually since then, will say “Amen” to the truth and confirmation of this promise.

When the glad meeting in eternity where vast numbers who have been inspired and whose hearts melted at such gatherings will join in the resounding notes of Alleluiah Chorus in adoration of Jesus Christ, then will the realization of the success of the comparatively small beginning be know. Bible conferences mark the achievement of another of Dr. Davis’ visions.

“And soon or late to all who sow,

The time of harvest shall be given;

The flower shall bloom, the fruit shall grow,

If not on earth, at last in Heaven.”

One of the earliest students at the Practical Bible Training School was G. Lloyd Hughes, shown in the accompanying cut. He was a young Welshman from the Pennsylvania anthracite regions, called of God for definite service. He came to Lestershire and worked his way through school. He was a thoroughly consecrated young man, who lived close to God, as an incident of his school days will show. Lloyd Hughes had been working at the time and, in his working clothes, was on his way walking from his place of employment to the school, at the close of the day’s work. He was proceeding along a street when he felt an urge to call at a certain home which he was passing. He glanced at the house, realized that he knew no one there and continued down the street. However, the urge to stop at that particular house was so great that he retraced his steps and, because of his having working clothes on, went down the side of the house to the back steps, and up those steps. He knocked at the door, which was opened by a working man. Lloyd said, “I beg your pardon, sir, but did you want to see me?” to which the man replied, “I guess I do; you were speaking on the street corner over in Stella the other evening, and I can’t get away from it. I want to know how to become a Christian.” Lloyd led him to Christ.

Lloyd Hughes made it a practice of being present at the “family devotional period,” held each evening in the parlor immediately after supper. He frequently prayed, “Lord do not let me disappoint you.” These times of worship were honored with God’s presence, and bring blessed memories to mind.

Lloyd went to China and proceeded to the southern part. He was possessed with a longing to preach the Gospel in Annam. He finally did have this pleasure which, however, was short-lived for during the heated season of the year he was stricken with brain fever and went home to be with his Lord. Lloyd lived a brief but brilliant life for God, and was another product resulting from the consecration of John A. Davis.

A Gospel wagon was pressed into service and proved a great help in carrying Gospel singers and workers—also attracting the attention of men, women and children to the inspiring meetings they held. Musical instruments and a large part in calling the crowds.

An incident in the life of John A. Davis is worth mentioning here. H. H. Wagner was one of the first students of the school, and one of the students to go out in the groups for platform meetings. One Monday morning he was waiting at the office for Mr. Davis, in order to make report concerning the meetings held while Mr. Davis had been out on an evangelistic campaign. When Mr. Davis came in, he had his offering from the campaign in coin bags, in a satchel. While receiving his report, he emptied the offering out on his desk and commenced to count it. At this moment, Miss Lena King, matron of the institution, entered. Mr. Davis greeted her and asked how the institution had been getting along during his absence, and whether or not the school’s bill had been paid. She replied that they had not been paid but, on the contrary, there were several which were somewhat pressing. Mr. Davis then counted out three or four small amounts, saying, “I need that for my grocery bill and that for...” designating other bills and, with a sweep of both hands, he pushed the uncounted offering over to Miss King and said, “Miss King, take the rest of it.” This is but one illustration of the unusual sacrifices of John A. Davis for the institution God brought into being through him.

Coming up Part 7: Behold, the Place Wherein We Dwell Is Too Strait for Us

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