Thursday, July 19, 2007

1934 Theologue: The Story of John A. Davis Part 9: "O, Death Where is Thy Sing? O, Grave Where is Thy Victory?"

The days after the death of Dr. Davis were sad days. On Wednesday, March 21, 1934 the funeral of Dr. Davis occurred in King Hall with the Rev. Ernest Crabill giving the main sermon for the funeral. The casket was then taken to the Knoll and the burial occurred.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8


“O, Death Where is Thy Sing?

O, Grave Where is Thy Victory?

1 Corinthians 15:55

The gray heavens were softly weeping. Nature appeared bowed in sympathetic sorrow.

The vast crowd of people within King Hall were profoundly affected. There were beautiful flowers everywhere at the front of the large auditorium.

That three thousand people crowded into King Hall was in itself a wonderful testimony. Two hundred of the Alumni of the School came from many fields of service. Other hundreds who could not come, sent tenderest messages of sympathy, and expressed as fully as words could how deeply they appreciated the life of the man to whom every student who ever stepped upon the Campus owed so much.

Those who participated in the service were: Rev. Ralph W. Carr, John Fulton, Rev. W.S. Crandall, D.D., Evangelist E. G. Crabill, John R. Clements, Rev. J.M. Siveright, Rev. Fred A. MillsDr. Davis’ long time evangelist song leader, and George H. Carr, for years the pianist of the party.

Rev. Fred A. Mills sang “This Day Comes Not Again,” so characteristic of Dr. Davis’ life. Dr. Crandall’s was a most fitting address. In it he likened the struggles of Dr. Davis to a scene which he, himself witnessed in a street in Jerusalem. He described a man staggering along under a huge load of food-stuffs, which he was carrying to a shop some distance down the street, where a group of hungry people were awaiting the arrival of the nourishment. This load bent the shoulders of the man until it seemed as though it would crush him.

This illustration was recognized by all present as most descriptive of the last few years of Dr. Davis’ strain to keep the Bread of Life available still to the students of the Practical Bible Training School.

Reverends Carr and Mills sang beautifully “No Night There.” Following this John R. Clements read from many of the telegrams of sympathy that had come from some of the great men of God of our land.

Mr. Mills sang one of Dr. Davis’ favorite solos; “Live for Others”; after which Evangelist Ernest G. Crabill preached. The sermon began with Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar.”

“Sunset and evening star

And one clear call for me;

And may there be no moaning of the bar,

When I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

Too full for sound or foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,

And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell

When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have crossed the bar.”

The Mr. Crabill continued:

“It is most fitting that I stand here today at this bier to say some last words ere the body of this GREAT SOUL is carried to its resting place to wait the last trump at the coming of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ.

“Many years ago, this man with whom I found a kindred spirit, talked with me of a day such as this, that would come to each of us, and we entered into a covenant, with each other, to minister at that service in the name of our common Lord.

“I find it has fallen to my lot to perform this service to the best of my God-given ability.

“It was 33 years ago this spring, that I first met this man, at a Gospel service in the Binghamton Railroad Young Men’s Christian Association under whose auspices I had been recently converted.

“He captivated me with his loyalty to God’s Word, and his unbounded enthusiasm, exhibiting a real passion for the souls of lost men.

“We became friends at once, and immediately he began to plan to assist me in my burning ambition to become useful in the service for Christ.

“It was he, who laid the plan for me to enter evangelistic work; and my wife and I became members of his party the following fall; a work that I have followed these years. And no one ever rejoiced any more than he over any success I may have had.

“I knew the last time I talked with him that his work was finished; that the body in which he lived was incapacitated to stand the strain longer in the terrific pace which this great soul had been driving it. But I never will be able to tell just how I felt when the telegram came announcing his death. I felt I was in an earthquake. I took hold of myself, but I still trembled inside. I felt that there was a prince and a great man fallen. I never knew I loved him so much.

“I took my Bible and turned to his favorite text which I had heard him quote so many times. Isaiah 50:7, ‘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 that I shallnot be ashamed.’

“I thought, how characteristic of this man. He had set his face like a flint, and never wavered. Nothing could turn him from this course. He had a purpose in life. He sought to find the will of God for his life, and when once it was clear, he utterly refused to look back or turn aside.

“If he was knocked down he got up and went on. If he was knocked down again, he refused to quit. There was no such word as ‘defeat’ in his vocabulary. If there were stumbling stones in his way, he transformed them into stepping stones and thanked the Lord for them. If the mountain was high, he summoned more strength. If the job was hard, he took off his coat.

“He undertook great things for God yet nothing was too small for him. It was God’s work. It must be done. He summoned every willing soul he met to assist him in the great work which God had called him. If they quit he still went on.

“He felt God had a place for every redeemed soul and urged all to work hard at his job, knowing that the night was speedily coming when no man can work.

He was the most opposed man I have ever met. He was opposed by friend and foe. His own parents objected to his entering the ministry. His employer in the Boston Store attempted to dissuade him from his conscious call of God. Fowler knew he was a good salesman. He sold more goods in the store, at the post where he was placed, than anyone before or since.

“He was a great leader. He saw a great Light in the Valley. He knew it was of God. He had a real Christ. He must obey. He packed his grip and started to the railroad station to go to Moody’s without money to pay his fare. Like Abraham—he staggered not at the promise he believed God would help him, and he was not disappointed. Who ever had been?

“He drank deep of the wells of Salvation. He absorbed readily from all great saints of God. He coveted the spirit of devotion and usefulness of men like Moody, Whittle, and others.

“He aimed high, he would learn from anyone. He had only one purpose, namely, to spread God’s Truth and do all the good he could for every needy soul. He was the most unselfish and kindhearted man I have ever known. He thought the least of his own comforts, spending and being spent continually for others. He never seemed to think about eating and when he did eat, he seemed unconscious of what he was eating.

“He was always in a hurry—jealous of wasted time, yet cheerful. He liked play and a clean joke. He was frequently saying, ‘While I live, I will be alive; I would sooner wear out than rust out.’—This he literally did. He might have lived to be old, but he cared not for a long life, but for a useful life. How he is to be admired. No day was long enough for him to work for the Lord. He worked on into the night after others were asleep.

“If others were nonplused, not knowing what to do, he came out from a night spent with God, with a plan that he was sure came from Heaven, and summoned everyone in haste to help him carry it out. He thought it was time to rest when his work was finished. He is resting now—Blessed Dead.

“Everything he touched lived—he was a natural Evangelist, he enthused people. Their spirits revived in his presence. He made people want to do something for God and for souls.

“One religious editor said, ‘A great man gone.’ He has left a monument of his untiring zeal, the Practical Bible Training School, and hundreds of Pastors, Evangelists, Missionaries that are throughout the earth, of those he saved and trained.

“He will not know, nor will others, the extent until the Judgment seat of Christ. What a gathering that will be! ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’

“How he loved this place that God had entrusted to him and how he loved these students. Did he ever turn one away? No! He coveted every one for God and tried his best to impart all God had given him to them to help them multiply their usefulness. God can use me, why not you?

“He made people believe they had some worth and could be used in God’s service. His last request to me and his last conscious thoughts were John 10:27, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.’

John Davis has gone. You will see him here no more. His place is vacant—like the felling of a great oak—he will be missed. When you see him again he will not have a frail body, he will be a mighty giant for God.

“No man can fill his shoes. He has carried burdens enough for ten ordinary men. There was only one John A. Davis. God will still carry on His work, He will reveal His plans to others as He has to John. They may not be the same but God’s purpose will not fail.

It is hard to say ‘Good-bye.’ Every friend of mine that goes, makes me almost sorry that I cannot go.

“Over the river faces I see,

Fair as the morning looking for me.

Free from their sorrows, grief and despair,

Waiting and watching, patiently there.

Looking this way, yes, looking this way

Loved ones are waiting, looking this way.”

“Under an apple tree 40 years ago John Davis received his vision of his life work.

John, I have kept my word. I have done my best; and just one thing more before I have fully kept my covenant with you. I must ask these gathered here if they love your Lord and more.”

Everyone who walked out walked out of King Hall that day, walked out a different person. No one could be in such a service and remain the same. The life of Dr. Davis was vividly and impressively revealed to all.

Two very impressive features of the funeral were the carrying of the casket down a path to the grave on the hillside, through all long row of students formed on either side of the path, many of them with floral displays in their arms; and the other, the many students passing by the grave after the casket had been partly lowered into it, each one as they passed dropping a rose upon the casket of their benefactor and friend.

* * *

The journey from King Hall to the grave was made through a drizzling rain; as if even the Heavens were weeping over the loss the school, the community, and the educational world at large had suffered.

Said one at the funeral: “When we come to yonder hill-slope grave, and have said ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ I trust we will think, even if we do not speak aloud, in the words of the poet, this fond wish for our friends of their years.

“’Warm summer sun shine brightly here;

Soft southern breeze blow gently here;

Green sod above lie light, lie light;

Good night, dear heart;

Good night! Good night!”

Beautiful the thought, and unusual the experience for hundreds of students, past and present, and for hosts of friends to circle the grave in the falling rain, and as the casket was being lowered sing with strong, confident faith, numerous gospel songs including Dr. Robert Lowry’s great resurrection song:

“Up from the grave He arose

With a mighty triumph o’er his foes;

He arose a victor from the dark domain,

And He lives forever with His saints to reign;

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah Christ arose.”

A pledge to the conviction that Christ having arisen, those who are His will rise also.

Coming up: The 10th and final part of the life of John A. Davis from the 1934 Theologue.

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