Tuesday, July 17, 2007

1934 Theologue: The Story of John A. Davis Part 8: "Precious in the Sight of the Lord Is the Death of His Saints"

The history of John A. Davis in the 1934 Theologue goes from the moving to Bible School Park and a brief history of Dr. Davis' time there to his illness in early 1934 leading to his death on Saturday, March 17, 1934.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7


“Precious in the Sight of the Lord Is the Death of His Saints”

Psalms 116:15

John A. Davis’ circle of friends was large and far-reaching. During the days which God graciously permitted him to linger with us, people from every walk of life came to call. The rich and the poor, the high and the low alike had felt the influence of his Christ-like life. Hardly anyone came whom he could not recognize and he frequently spoke of the work in which they were engaged.

Many Christian workers came to see him and always went away inspired to do a greater work for God.

Business men of repute came to his bedside.

More than one of those prominent business men spoke of letters which Dr. Davis had written to him, wherein he had instilled bits of help for the Christian life.

No, his work for Christ never ceased when he stepped from the platform or walked from the room where he had been teaching his class, but he carried Christ into the office, in his business, in conversation, in the trains, on the buses, everywhere he went. As a result of a conversation on the bus or train, many a man has knelt, with a humble and a contrite heart at the foot of the Cross and received the knowledge of sins forgiven and the “peace that passeth understanding” and, for the first time in life caught a glimpse of the Truth.

Some of those stood by his bier and wept as they tenderly remembered moments when the great character had introduced them to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and He, in turn, had taken them by the hand and led them “in the Way everlasting!”

One dear old man, with snow white hair, stood looking for the last time on the noble face. For a moment, he was overcome by emotion but regaining control of himself he told of the time when it seemed as though he could not go one step farther. In front there was nothing but dense blackness. Above, the very clouds seemed to be pressing close down fairly smothering him in their density. His heart was breaking, he was friendless and penniless. What was he to do? What he did do was to put on his coat and hat and slop out into the darkness of the night and walk up to Bible School Park. The hour was late but in one of the windows of the administration building, he saw a light. He knew this to be the office of Dr. Davis. Dr. Davis’ cheery “Come in” greeted his knock. He walked into the little office and sat down. Dr. Davis, busy as he was, pushed back his work and was at once all attention. After listening carefully to all that the man had to say, he took him to the Throne of Grace, asking for courage and strength to be given to this brother in Christ. Afterward he sympathized with him, as only Dr. Davis could; then given him a dollar which he had in his pocket, he sent him away feeling that, after all, life was really worth living and that there was, somewhere in this old world, a little corner, where he might work for Christ and be a blessing to someone else.

This is one of many, many incidents which could be told of this same nature. John A. Davis always thought of and lived for others.

Even on his bed during his last illness this was true. He tried to plan for the school and students, both always dear to his heart. He often sent messages from his bed, telling them to “carry on.”

During the very last days of his illness, three members of the faculty went to the little cottage to see him. He was very weak and had little interest in the things about him. As the names of the instructors were mentioned, he gave sign that he recognized them. Lifting his hand in that characteristic gesture, he pointed ahead three times. The teachers caught the mute message and cherished it in their hearts, resolving truly to “carry on” and move forward for God.

He knew that his life’s work and finished and on his lips might well have been the words, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” He strove not to be a burden during the days when he was so ill. No, quite the contrary, it was a cherished blessing and a precious privilege to be near him.

One afternoon, as his loved ones were near, wishing in their hearts that there might be just some little thing that they could do for him; suddenly the thin hand on the white coverlet stirred a bit. The eyes opened and that fine face lighted up as he appeared to be looking far into the recesses of heaven (and we believe he saw heaven that day) and he said, “Is that Moody? Oh, I want to go and be with Jesus!”

His passing from this earth was tranquil. Surrounding his bed were the members of the family, a sister of Mrs. Davis, Mr. M. C. Patterson, three nurses who had ministered to him during the entire five weeks of his illness, and a young man, one of the student body, who was there to aid in the caring of him.

He went out without a struggle. About one-half hour before his passing, his breathing grew more irregular. Twice they thought he was gone but his tremendous energy which had characterized his whole life, seemed reluctant to subside. One minute was here with us and then quickly as a flash, he was in another world with the One, Whom he had served so faithfully these many years.

His loyal wife, stood by his side until he had breathed his last. Then with tears streaming down her face she bent over and tenderly kissed the furrowed brow, whispering as she did so, “It’s all right, John dear, we’ve been together these thirty-nine years and it’s all right.” And looking around at each one of their little group and calling each one by their individual names, she said, “You wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for him. The only thing I can think of is the song, ‘When the Saints Come Marching In.’”

Gordon, his faithful son, who stood at the other side of the bed, bent emotionally over his father, saying, “Yes, it’s all right father, the Gates of Glory are opening now and you’re going on to your reward.”

A few moments later, the big bell in the main dormitory solemnly tolled sixty-two times, thus telling the sad news to the neighborhood. A great man of God had gone home. But behind he had left hundreds of persons whose lives he had vitally influenced for his Lord.

Though the solemn bell tolled out in mournful cadence there was no sorrow for him in his death. He was one of those who:

“...Sustained and soothed

By an unfaltering trust, approach the grave,

Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch

About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”

Coming up- Part 9: O, Death Where is Thy Sing? O, Grave Where is Thy Victory?

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