LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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Chapter 15

 

 

CHURCH TRIALS IN TEXAS

 

 

On one occasion a great holiness meeting was held by Revs. Dennis Rogers and Tom Rogers in Collin County, Texas, in a Baptist neighborhood and seventeen members of that church were arraigned before the church on the charge of “heresy,” for professing to be sanctified and living without sin. A committee was appointed to wait on these and labor with them for their error, and try to get them restored to the faith of the church. This committee found that one of the number did not profess to be sanctified, but on the contrary, told them that he was not even regenerated, and that if he should die as he was then that he would go to hell an unsaved man. The other sixteen refused to retract, but stoutly professed holiness. The committee in their report recommended that the one who did not profess holiness be retained in the church, and that the church withdraw fellowship from those who professed to be sanctified, one of whom was a brother of the pastor who acted as moderator in the trial. This man was called to preach, and for years preached holiness all over northern Texas and hundreds were saved and sanctified under his ministry. These sixteen were expelled from the church while the unsaved man was retained.

On another occasion two men were arraigned before the church in an adjoining neighborhood, one for getting drunk, the other for professing to be sanctified. The man who got drunk confessed his guilt and begged pardon of the church and promised to do so no more, while the man who professed to be sanctified also pleaded guilty, but would not promise “to do so no more,” and he was excommunicated. In Oklahoma a man and his wife and son, a sixteen-year-old boy, were members of the Baptist Church. The father and mother got into a holiness meeting and were gloriously sanctified and testified to it on all proper occasions, but the son did not get the blessing. In the same neighborhood was a member of the same church who got drunk, and the three were labored with by a committee; two for professing holiness and one for getting drunk. When the committee came to see the man and wife, the son, who did not get sanctified, got mad and cursed the committee for trying to interfere with the religion of his parents. They reported his case also to the church and recommended that the church withdraw fellowship from all four. The vote carried, and when the verdict was rendered by the moderator, the young man asked permission to speak, which was granted. He said that he wanted to know how much religion it took to make a good Baptist. They turned his father and mother out for getting sanctified, and him for cursing, and his neighbor for getting drunk.

On another occasion a man in Clay County, Texas, was sanctified and at the prayermeeting the next week testified that he went to the holiness meeting and was sanctified, and was now in a place where he could live without sin and keep the commandments of God, and quoted Ezekiel 16:27, “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.” He got happy and shouted to know that he had the causing power put in him to enable him to keep the commandments of God.

He was immediately charged with heresy for professing to live without sin and keeping the commandments. A committee waited on and labored with him, but to no avail, as he kept on professing holiness. The day of trial came and the church was packed, as he was a very prominent man in the community, and when the moderator stated the case and it was discussed pro and con, he turned to the heretic and asked if he wanted to make any statement before the vote was taken. He replied that he only wanted to ask two questions and read one verse of Scripture. The moderator told him to go ahead, as they could answer any question that he could ask, and that they believed the whole Bible.

He arose and stated that he was on trial for professing to keep the commandments and living without sin. He then asked all who were members of that church who could say that they knew God to stand to their feet. The whole church arose. He asked them to sit down, then he asked that all who could put the hands on their heart and testify that they were keeping the commandments of God to stand, whereupon only one woman stood. The rest who were trying him for keeping the commandments kept their seats. He then opened his Bible at 1 John 2:4, and read, “He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him.” They took the vote and withdrew fellowship from him.

Many other instances similar to these took place in those days when they preached holiness without fear or favor, and awful persecution, like Pentecostal days, followed, but the Word of God mightily grew and prospered.

 

EXPULSION OF E. C. DEJERNETT

 

In September, 1897, Rev. E. C. DeJernett, assisted by C. B. Jernigan and wife and Ben Cordell, held a meeting in the public school building in Jefferson, Texas. This was the birthplace of Rev. E. C. DeJernett, the place where he had been converted and in later years was licensed to preach a the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and now, as he was preaching holiness, many of his old friends invited him to hold a meeting there.

When Rev. Ellis Smith, who was at that time pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, at Jefferson, heard of the coming meeting, he entered a protest by sending a telegram to Rev. Mr. DeJernett, while he was yet in a meeting at Mount Pleasant, Texas, that he was not wanted by the Methodists of Jefferson for a meeting. This did not stop the meeting, but it went on just the same. Rev. Mr. Smith was one of the preachers that was assisting the bishop to “stamp holiness out of the church in five years.” God gave a good meeting in Jefferson in spite of the vigorous protest.

From Jefferson this band of workers went to Linden, Texas, and held a meeting under a pine brush arbor. From Linden they went to Atlanta, Texas, where they were invited by the Methodist Episcopal people for a meeting in their little hall that they were using for a church. The meeting ran several days and the crowds came in spite of vigorous protests from the pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, as all of these preachers were members of the latter church. While engaged in a street meeting the following Saturday, three preachers, all pastors in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, accosted Rev. E. C. DeJernett and took him to one side and “read the riot act” to him. They told him that he could take his choice: close the meeting now in progress in Atlanta, withdraw from the church, or meet a charge at the coming quarterly conference. He promptly told them that the meeting would go on, and that he did not care to withdraw from the church, and that they could do as they liked about preferring charges against him. Just at this very moment, while C. B. Jernigan was preaching on the street and the preachers were “holding up” DeJernett, a photographer who knew nothing of what was going on adjusted his camera and made a picture of the street meeting, thinking that he had a very salable picture of these fanatics.

The meetings continued with renewed interest, as all of this only served as an advertisement for the holiness meeting. The preachers who served on this committee to stop DeJernett were: A. A. Wagnon, pastor at Atlanta, F. A. Rosser, the pastor of DeJernett at Greenville, and Stuart Nelson, a nearby pastor.

In a few days they had to move the meeting to larger quarters and they secured a large planing mill shed that served for a church. People came for miles to see the sights and hear this new doctrine that was responsible for such a stir in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and were “cut to the heart.” Many fell at the altar, and over one hundred people were either converted or sanctified in this meeting. The next Monday Rev. Mr. Wagnon met C. B. Jernigan in the post office and told him that charges had been preferred against the whole band and that they would be turned out of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for disloyalty and fanaticism, as they were not Methodists, anyway. The charges against C. B. Jernigan never appeared, as he was not at that time a licensed preacher, but a layman preaching without license; and there was no law then in the discipline against a layman holding religious services. The next general conference, however, put in such a law.

After the meeting closed Rev. Mr. DeJernett was cited to trial at his own quarterly conference, as the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, tried its preachers then before the quarterly conference. At the appointed time the presiding elder was in his chair and all members of the conference were in their places, and the house was packed with spectators to witness this novel church trial of a preacher “on whose escutcheon was not a stain, and whose moral character was above reproach” (the exact words of the presiding elder in the opening of the trial).

The presiding elder had laid aside his cigar as he came into the door of the church, and called the house to order and had the secretary read the charges: contumacious conduct. Specifications: holding a meeting in the town of Atlanta, Texas, over the protest of the preacher in charge. Then he asked if the defense was ready for trial. Whereupon Rev. E. C. DeJernett arose and said, “I think myself happy, presiding elder, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all things whereof I am accused: especially because I know thee to be an expert in all customs and questions which are among the Methodists: wherefore, I beseech thee to hear me patiently. My manner of life from my youth, which has ever been among the Methodists, mine own people, know all these people assembled here tonight, for after the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Methodist, which I hope to prove by these authorities;” pointing to a pile of Methodist books on the table nearby.

He was promptly stopped, and informed that he was not being tried for false doctrine; but a question of law; that he had violated paragraph 103 in the Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and for this alone he must answer. Then after much discussion among the conference, DeJernett was excused and the conference brought in a verdict of guilty, and the penalty was expulsion from the church and ministry, and his credentials were demanded. The presiding elder who sat as chairman in this trial and ruled with an iron hand was some time after this caught in a gross sin, refused to meet the charges at the annual conference, surrendered his credentials, and when last heard from he was not in any church, but was selling groceries for a living in a small country village. Every time that he goes to the wholesale house for supplies, he drives right in front of the Texas Holiness University, which DeJernett prayed into existence after he was expelled from the church. In this institution DeJernett was dean of the faculty for years, and hundreds of preachers who are now preaching holiness obtained their education here. This institution could not have existed had DeJernett not been expelled from the church.

The presiding elder who put his hand on the ark went down in disgrace, while God has made the wrath of man to praise Him. Oppression has ever been the one thing that made holiness to prosper, and when we fail to arouse the Devil and his gang in battle array against us, we will be too far gone to send for a doctor. “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.”

 

WILL NOT SUPPORT THIS SECOND BLESSING PASTOR

 

About this time Rev. C. M. Keith, who was pastor of the Weston circuit, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, attended the great Greenville holiness campmeeting and was gloriously sanctified, and returned to his church and began to preach holiness to his people. One Sunday he preached at Honey Creek church on the text, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” While he was in the midst of the sermon one of his stewards became aroused against this “second blessing heresy” and as he sat near a window, he jumped out of the window and called to his family to come on and go home. Others left also while he was preaching.

Soon their presiding elder was notified that they would not support this second blessing pastor, and that he must be removed. So he was transferred to the Kingston circuit, and a holiness fighting preacher installed in his place. Honey Creek was at one time an old Methodist camp ground, where hundreds of people had been converted, and they had some great meetings, but the Spirit of God was grieved at this action of that church and in a few short years that church was without a pastor. Some years later the writer was talking with B. M. Fowler, who was a member of that church at that time, but since was sanctified, who told him that he had recently visited that old church and that they had not had a pastor for years; that the old church was not now used, and that not a Sunday school nor a prayermeeting was held there. He wanted to go into the old church once more, so he and his son entered the church where the glory of God once shined from beneath the wings of the cherubims, but now filled with dust and cobwebs, with its closed doors and hushed organ. They went to the pulpit, and as they walked up on the platform saw a hole in the organ lid, and turning it back saw an owl’s nest on the keyboard and it contained two little hungry owlets that stretched their necks and opened their mouths for food. Then he thought of the prophecy against Babylon: “And the owl shall dwell there, and the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses.”

Rev. C. M. Keith soon retired from the itinerancy and started the Texas Holiness Advocate, the leading paper of the holiness movement then, and for years the official organ of the Holiness Association of Texas, which was afterward called The Pentecostal Advocate, and was transferred to Rev. B. W. Huckabee and C. A. McConnell, editors.

As editor of the Texas Holiness Advocate, C. M. Keith pushed the doctrine of holiness as a second blessing and opposed the lodges, with which he was formerly associated, until he was no more an acceptable member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and soon had to withdraw to have his freedom.

These were critical times in the holiness movement, when to preach the doctrine clearly meant to lose your standing in the popular churches. About this time Rev. H. C. Morrison began to publish a series of articles in his paper, The Pentecostal Herald, asking what could be done to conserve the movement. It was evident that they had reached a crisis in the movement among the churches, when they no longer were allowed to preach full salvation without hindrance, and the dawning of a new era was in sight.