LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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Chapter 16

 

 

ORGANIZATION—FREE METHODIST CHURCH

 

 

The Free Methodist church has been an important factor in conserving the work of holiness in the Southwest, as it was the first church on the field that stood out clearly for the doctrine of holiness as a second definite work of grace. They began the organization of Free Methodist churches in the very beginning of the great holiness revival in Texas. Just two years after the first holiness meeting in Texas there was a Free Methodist church organized.

The door of opportunity was thrown wide open to her, since she was on the ground floor, with all of the necessary organization and church machinery, from the office of a bishop down to the humblest layman, who had equal representation in all of her legislative, as well as in her executive bodies.

In fact, it is a well organized church whose doctrines are pure and wholesome. The lives of her people are clean and holy. Her preachers are a set of the most self-sacrificing men and women that we know; they are zealous and pushing in their work; and to a man they preach the doctrine of entire sanctification without fear or fanaticism. Her doctrines are in perfect keeping with the great holiness movement, and her teachings are safe, and she was originally intended for the church home for the oppressed and despised holiness people, who were not welcomed in other churches on account of the “second blessing” for which they stood; and had it not been for their strenuous objections to instrumental music in public worship, and a few other things of minor importance, the great holiness movement would have found a shelter in her folds by the thousands, but after thirty-five years there are less than that number of Free Methodist churches in Texas.

Among her ministry are to be found some as great men as God has ever raised up in these last days. Among them are Rev. George McCulloch, that master preacher, and father in Israel, who has stood like a stone wall for holiness all of these thirty-five years, and whose integrity and piety have won for him the office of district elder most of these years; Rev. R. A. Thompson, that mighty preacher and organizer, who for thirty-two years has not missed a roll call in his conference; Rev. W. C. Rose, who joined the conference about the same time, and has been one of the untiring workers in that church; and Rev. H. A. Hanson, who united with the church in the start and has remained at his post of duty. Among her laymen are Cyrus Hogan, Father Rose, and Father Hickey, who are real fathers in Israel and always found in their places. Among her noble women preachers were Mrs. Mary Hogan, Mrs. Peppers, and Miss Lily Snow.

The first Free Methodist church in the Southwest was organized by Rev. G. R. Harvey at Lawrence, Kaufman County, Texas, in 1879. Rev. Mr. Harvey was an Englishman and a member of the Susquehanna conference, who had come to eastern Texas for his health. On arriving at his new home he found that there were no Free Methodists in the country, but found that the president of the Methodist Protestant Church was a holiness man, so he united with that church and took work with them; but on arriving at his new charge and preaching a few sermons on holiness, as was his custom, his parishioners were so disturbed that they rejected him and refused to support him unless he would modify his preaching. This he would not do; so he at once withdrew from the church and went back to his former church home, the Free Methodists. Soon he learned of a band of holiness people at Lawrence, Kaufman County, Texas, and in 1879 he went there and preached among them for some time, and there he organized the first Free Methodist Church in the Southwest, the only church at that time that stood out clearly for the doctrine and experience of holiness. Rev. R. A. Thompson united with this church in 1888.

In the fall of 1879 Rev. G. H. Harvey went to Ennis, Texas, where there had just been a rousing holiness meeting, held by Rev. Hardin Wallace and wife and Rev. Mr. Ellis, all of whom were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, but were formerly members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, joining the former church when they had decided to locate in the South.

In Ennis Rev. G. R. Harvey found quite a number of holiness people in the various churches, all of whom felt that they should cast their lot together in one church and thus conserve the work of holiness and better spread this glorious doctrine, so on the arrival of Rev. G. H. Harvey they came together and he read to them the general rules of the Free Methodist Church, which were in perfect accord with the doctrine and experience of holiness, and he then organized the second Free Methodist Church in Texas, at Ennis, and soon they had a neat church building erected, which was the first Free Methodist Church building in Texas.

This formed a sort of nucleus, around which to work on holiness lines, and Ennis soon became a holiness center, and a Free Methodist stronghold; whereupon Rev. G. R. Harvey moved to Ennis and became their pastor.

Rev. Mr. Harvey wrote to Bishop B. T. Roberts, of the Free Methodist Church, telling him what he had done, and the bishop formed the Texas-Louisiana district of the Missouri-Kansas conference of the Free Methodist Church, and appointed Rev. G. R. Harvey, district elder. This gave Rev. Mr. Harvey greater power and new courage and he pushed the work of organization vigorously, and soon had things ready for the organization of the Texas conference.

In 1879 the great holiness revival broke out in Corsicana, Texas, under the leadership of Dr. Bush, a presiding elder in the Methodist Episcopal Church, assisted by Rev. G. R. Harvey, the Free Methodist district elder, and a host of others, both preachers and laymen. This meeting ran six weeks, and resulted in the conversion or sanctification of more than six hundred people. This made a wide open field for the organization of another Free Methodist Church, which was soon effected by Rev. Mr. Harvey.

On the eighth day of July, 1881, the Texas conference of the Free Methodist Church was organized in a grove in west Corsicana by Bishop B. T. Roberts with two elders, two laymen, and four licensed preachers, and a total membership of fifty-eight. The elders were Rev. G. R. Harvey and Rev. Phillip Allen. The licentiates were Rev. H. A. Hanson, Rev. S. H. Sherlock, Rev. Warren Parker, and Rev. H. V. Haslem. The lay delegates were Cyrus Hogan and John P. Yates.

The four preachers above were received into the conference on trial. This was a small beginning, but with holy zeal and courage this band of holiness people dared to erect the flag pole of full salvation, and fly in the breezes the banner of “Holiness unto the Lord,” and open a home for the poor, despised second blessing people whose cause they had espoused.

The second Texas conference was held at Mount Pleasant, in Titus County, August 23, 1882, with Bishop E. P. Hart in the chair. At this conference the Louisiana conference of the Union Episcopal Methodist Church (a small body of holiness people) united with the Free Methodist Church in a body.

The third conference was held in the new Free Methodist Church in Corsicana, November, 1883, with a total membership of 179, seventeen preachers taking work with this conference, Bishop E. P. Hart presiding. At this conference Rev. George McCulloch came into the Free Methodist Church as an ordained elder from the Methodist Protestant Church.

The fourth annual conference convened in Ennis, with Bishop B. T. Roberts presiding, October 23, 1884. At this time there were ninety-eight names on the roll, with eight preachers and three delegates present. During the last year the Louisiana conference had been formed, and much of the former Texas conference went with them, thus reducing the membership.

At this conference Rev. Phillip Allen was re-elected district elder, and began his conference year with flattering prospects before him. He was a strong preacher, and an able exponent of the Word. About this time there came a woman preacher from Ohio to Ennis, who posed as a holiness preacher and a prison evangelist. She possessed great personal magnetism and soon had a strong hold on the holiness people around Ennis, and Rev. Phillip Allen allowed her to preach among the Free Methodists, and he himself soon became a convert to her come-out doctrine. She called all churches Babylon, and vigorously opposed any sort of church organization and soon had the Free Methodists mightily scattered, and Rev. Phillip Allen withdrew from the church and, in order to defend his position, began to vilify the church, and oppose all law and order. He got revelations direct from heaven, and was led by a spirit to leave his wife and go to Kansas, where the spirit told him that he was to marry a certain woman whom he had not so much as seen, but had heard about her, and on his arrival there he told the woman that God had sent him there to marry her; whereupon she told him that it was passing strange that God would send him so far, and to leave his own wife and to marry her, and that the spirit had not said a word to her about the matter. He insisted that they marry, until she was compelled to drive him from her home.

The last that was heard of this poor, deluded man he was selling penny papers on the streets of St. Louis, Mo., in poverty, shame, and rags. Reader, beware of fanaticism; it has wrecked thousands.

The fifth annual session of the Free Methodist conference was held at Kosse, Texas, November 4, 1885. In the absence of a bishop, Rev. A. F. Ferris was elected president, pro tem. It was at this conference that Rev. R. L. Averill and Rev. H. L. Harris were admitted on trial. Rev. R. L. Harris afterward went to Africa, and established a missionary station, the first Free Methodist station in Africa. He returned to America and raised $2,000 to plant and equip this station. He soon withdrew from the church and began the organization of a new church which was known as the New Testament Church of Christ, which soon had a few churches scattered over western Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

The sixth annual conference convened at Corsicana, Texas, February 18, 1886. At this conference Rev. R. A. Thompson was admitted on trial. This conference was composed of 104 members.

In January, 1885, the first holiness paper was published at Aquilla, Texas, with Rev. J. H. Padgett, a Free Methodist preacher, as editor. It was launched in the interest of holiness in general, and the Free Methodist Church in particular. It was a good paper, but for some cause there was only one copy printed. It was called Salvation News. In February, the same year, the name was changed to Salvation Telephone, with Rev. J. H. Padgett and Rev. S. H. Sherlock as editors. It was at this time made a twenty-four-page monthly journal and only three issues were published. In September, the same year, Rev. J. H. Padgett launched another paper, which was called The Gospel Flame. This paper was published several years with gratifying results and was a blessing to the cause of holiness.

At this writing the Free Methodist Church has a good school at Campbell, Texas, and a church paper called The Free Methodist, edited by J. T. Logan. They have twenty-nine churches now in Texas with a membership of 700. This church has stood all these years a clean, uncompromising church for holiness of heart and life, and has ably defended the second blessing doctrine of heart purity.