LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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Chapter 20

 

 

INDEPENDENT HOLINESS CHURCH

 

 

Relentless warfare was waged on both preachers and people who preached and professed holiness in the early days of the movement in Texas. There was a united effort on the part of the old-line churches to crush out this “modern heresy,” as they called it. Preachers preached sermons, and published books against the doctrine. Among the Baptists they excluded them from fellowship. The Cumberland Presbyterians rejected them in their synods, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, placed their preachers in local relations for “inefficiency,” even though they brought up all finances, and reported great revivals on their work. One Methodist bishop said openly at an annual conference that they would stamp holiness out of their conference if it took five years to do it. Well, they did that very thing. At that time there were eighteen pastors in that conference preaching the doctrine, and their people were sweeping into the blessing by the hundred. In the allotted time, five years, there was not one left who preached the doctrine and called seekers for the blessing. They all either left the church or compromised and quit preaching holiness.

Just following this the Holiness Association of Texas was organized, to in some sort of way hold the holiness people together. They were a mixed people, coming from almost every church in Christendom, many of them excommunicated, while others held only a nominal relation, and were not granted work of any kind in their churches. Some others, such as the Free Methodists and Wesleyan Methodists, were held in good standing in their churches.

God’s Revivalist, at Cincinnati, held out to the people a church home; the Apostolic Holiness Church, but this did not seem to satisfy the demands of the South. Seeking a church home where the sacraments could be administered, C. B. Jernigan and his wife, Mrs. Johnny Jernigan, and Rev. A. G. Jeffries united with that church, and were ordained.

The Holiness Association of Texas was now in full blast, and had on its roster the names of more than two hundred ministers; but little provisions were made for the laity. True, holiness bands were organized, and some of them had a regular preacher who preached for them, but there was no baptism, nor sacraments for her people, and they were called come-outers by the church people. Their children were deprived of these privileges, and derided for the same reason, until the sting of the conditions were sorely felt by some.

The Holiness Church, which was brought from California by Dennis and Tom Rogers, seemed too narrow, as their manual did not allow the church organ, nor a public collection. Some churches had been organized and I believe about five church buildings were built, but they were on the decline.

About this time Rev. C. B. Jernigan, in company with Rev. E. C. DeJernett and Rev. Ben Cordell, spent a night in a hotel at Van Alstyne, Texas, and before retiring that night asked the Lord to send a holiness preacher to hold a meeting in that beautiful, rich town. In a few months Rev. C. B. Jernigan and Rev. Noah Cooley were called there by Rev. John Majors, and his brother, Frank, for a meeting. It was in the dead of winter and the Texas black mud was sticking in a terrible way, while the rain poured. This meeting was started in the Presbyterian church, but the rain poured until attendance was small. While in prayer over the situation the Spirit gave the evangelists a very unique announcement, which was printed and the town sown down with them the next day, which brought out great crowds from that on. We reproduce the handbill:

 

 

AN AWFUL CYCLONE

 

3,120 STRUCK BY LIGHTNING

A CITY TERRIBLY SHAKEN

A MAGNIFICENT CHURCH RUINED

PEOPLE SCREAMING IN THE STREETS LIKE DRUNK MEN

 

 

 

 This cyclone struck Jerusalem A. D. 33: The exact date was the day of Pentecost. Struck by lightning: One hundred and twenty sanctified—three thousand converted. Thunder: Now when this was noised abroad. The church ruined: Jewish formality completely destroyed. Drunk men in the streets: Others mocking, said these men are full of new wine. Peter answered, “These men are not drunken as ye suppose.” For further description, read second chapter of the Acts, and attend the holiness meeting now in progress at the Presbyterian church.

In spite of the rain and Texas black mud the people came and the power of God was present to convict, save, and sanctify; and the shouting soon began to annoy the staid and orderly people of the church, and the evangelists were told to close the meeting. But the town was just getting interested in the revival, so the opera house was rented and the revival continued. The preacher who had invited the evangelists now became nervous about leaving a church and going into the opera house with the meeting, but the revival went on and nearly one hundred people were blessed in that meeting, and plans were laid for a tent meeting in the following summer, which resulted in more than one hundred more sweeping into the kingdom. Many of the hardest cases in town had been saved in these meetings, among them drunkards, bootleggers, gamblers, and horse traders.

These diamonds dug from the rough, together with their families, and many others, needed a shepherd’s care, but no church home was provided, and the evangelist did not urge them to join holiness fighting churches; but they longed for a place of worship, so they attended the different churches in town, looking for a congenial church home. They found the different pastors arrayed against the holiness people, and sharp insinuations cast at them from the pulpit.

In the early spring of 1901 these people sent a delegation to the evangelist who had preached holiness to them, with the demand for a holiness church home. He visited them again and after a consultation together they could find no church that suited them, so it was decided to organize a new holiness church; and to call it the Independent Holiness Church, so as to distinguish it from the Holiness Church that came from California some years before, that had about become extinct. At the Carter opera house, where the meeting was held at first, the first Independent Holiness Church was organized in June, 1901. Rev. C. B. Jernigan was chosen pastor. A committee, after much prayer, wrote out a manual. Not a man in the whole number of charter members was a land owner. All poor renters, but God was with them. There was no money in the treasury to pay for printing the new manual, and John C. Tipton, then a very poor man, living on a rented farm, volunteered to sell a load of wheat out of his granary that he was keeping for his own family flour, and out of this he paid for the printing of five hundred copies of the manual. These were sent out to others who were interested in church affairs.

The pastor gave half time to this church, and the balance to evangelistic work. At the first meeting there was another church organized at Red Oak, near Blossom, Texas, and then another at Lawson, and soon there were other calls for churches.

The next spring, at the regular spring revival at Peniel, at the Texas Holiness University, while Rev. H. C. Morrison was preaching, he took occasion to severely rebuke the starting of a new church. Among other things he said, “An unknown wood chopper had gotten him a jack knife and a corn stalk and sat down under the shadow of a haystack and whittled him out a church to suit himself, and now was trying to herd the whole holiness movement into it.” He further said, “When we need a new church we will call a great convention and we will find us a Moses, and when he starts down the road there will be a dust in the desert.” At this there was a great stampede, and a rousing chorus of “Amen! Amen!” from many quarters, while the man who had organized these churches sat still in the congregation in deep meditation; wondering where the great convention was held, and who attended when the real Moses was called. If the records are true, there was only Moses, the burning bush, and Jehovah. This is the usual convention when God needs a man. In January, 1902, at a meeting it was agreed to build a church in Van Alstyne, and a subscription was started, and $400 was subscribed by the members of this poor church. A building committee was organized and work began on the house. God moved on the hearts of the people and the house went up like magic, and when the last nail was driven there was money enough in the treasury for the paint, and the house was finished at the cost of over $1,000 and not a penny of debt was against the building. The people of the town were amazed; and said they never saw a church built so easily.

On February 16, 1902, Rev. E. C. DeJernett preached the dedicatory sermon, and the power of God was on the church, and it grew in numbers and prospered. Great opposition sprang up from the Holiness Association folks against the little holiness church, and articles were written against it in some of the holiness papers, and many stories were adrift about these “would-be leaders”; but it soon became apparent that the Independent Holiness Church had come to stay, and people flocked into it by the hundred.

Our schools and papers and missionary interests had been started as undenominational affairs, and now to see the church coming in like a tide, with a paper and a school that stood distinctively for church work, and for it to gain such rapid prosperity and favor among the people, the leaders of these undenominational institutions were perplexed to know just what to do with their work thus started. Indeed it was a vexing question, and one that kept the Pentecostal Mission work at Nashville, Tenn. (the McClurkan work), out of the Pentecostal Nazarene Church for a long time. People from many denominations, and many who were not in any denomination, had contributed liberally to these institutions, and now to break with them so suddenly and all come into a church, and begin work as a church, was indeed a vexing question. Thousands of dollars had been put into these institutions, and hundreds of students were in attendance at their schools. The question was: What effect will it have on them? The coming church was inevitable. It had come to stay. In spite of all its opposition it grew and prospered.

 

FIRST INDEPENDENT HOLINESS CHURCH COUNCIL

 

In October, 1902, during the Rees meeting at Paris, Texas, a number of the leading preachers and laymen who were interested in church work met and discussed the necessity for having an annual council of the Independent Holiness church. Up to this time there had been no annual meeting of the various churches, as they had made their reports annually at the annual meeting of the Holiness Association of Texas, and many of the leaders of the association were opposed to a separate organization, but thought that it would be best for the holiness movement to still remain in one body. Some of the association preachers who did not see the necessity of a holiness church and who never did unite with the church, but wanted to become pastors of some of the holiness churches, raised quite a stir because of the organization of another annual meeting which they thought would interfere with the annual meetings of the association and opposed the annual council vigorously.

At this meeting in Paris many of the church leaders were present and formed a tentative annual council, and blocked out its policy to be adopted at a meeting that was set for February, 1903, to meet in Blossom, Texas.

The Blossom meeting was well attended, and a spiritual feast was indeed spread, the business sessions would sometimes end in an altar call, and souls would pray through at the altar. The saints would leap and shout for joy, and a revival wave was on the whole town. Truly God was honoring the work.

At the Paris meeting Rev. C. B. Jernigan was elected president of the annual council, and Rev. James B. Chapman, secretary. Rev. Mr. Chapman had been a mighty champion for the organization of holiness churches. As soon as he heard of the organization of the first church at Van Alstyne, Texas, he wrote to know about the church and how to proceed with the organization of the work where he had held meetings. Soon he was in the church, and was among the very first to push church organization and conserve his work. All through eastern Texas and in Oklahoma he had held meetings and saw the need of some method of holding his people together. He organized churches along the line of Louisiana, at Bivins, Texas, and Vivian, La.

 

A MARRIAGE AT THE FIRST ANNUAL COUNCIL

 

Like the marriage at Cana of Galilee, the water of free and easy unrestrained, unorganized holiness, was transformed into soul-stirring wine of order and organization. As the saints were partaking of this new wine, at the last of the feast, and boldly praising the King for the best wine now being served, Rev. James B. Chapman entered the church in open session of the annual council with Miss Maude Fredrick by his side, accompanied by some friends and relatives.

Rev. C. B. Jernigan met them at the altar and the marriage ceremony was performed which made them one. Waves of glory swept over the congregation while the preacher was praying, which continued while congratulations were extended. Such marriage ceremonies are not always seen, even in church. Surely the seal of God was placed on this marriage. We can never forget the scenes of that hour.

 

SECOND ANNUAL COUNCIL

 

In November, 1903, the second annual council of the Independent Holiness Church convened at Greenville, Texas. It met in a rented hall that was at that time being used for a holiness mission. There were twelve churches represented at this council. Up to this time there had been no separate annual meeting of the holiness churches, but they had met in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Holiness Association of Texas. Now to break with the association and meet in a separate annual meeting was too much for some of the association people, and there was talk of charges of disloyalty against their leaders when the association met. When the council met the association people were afraid of this new church movement, and did little toward the entertainment of the delegates to the council, and spoke against it in very discouraging terms. Few homes were open for the delegates, in fact, none at the first, and the entire delegation was fed from the table of Rev. C. B. Jernigan, while the women slept in his home, and the men slept in the mission hall on rented beds. When the council opened he had $1.50 in money and half a sack of flour; but when it closed he had $15 and three sacks of flour. The merchants in town sent down great back loads of provisions of their own accord, while the delegates paid in money, without the asking. There were about sixty people in all, delegates and anxious visitors.

Rev. Seth C. Rees, who was one of the leading spirits at that time in the Apostolic Holiness Church, was invited to attend this council, with the view of the union of the two bodies, as there was no thought of a lone church, but simply to start an organization that would hold the people together until a union of holiness churches could be perfected, which was afterward consummated. This invitation aroused the editor of a holiness paper and he wrote a strong article about a “cleaver” that was destined to split the holiness movement. This editor had not yet got the vision. In this article he said to Rees, “Please do not come among us.” On seeing this editorial Rees was asked not to attend, as it might work harm at this time. The council was a decided success, and great power was on the people from the very first. The leading men in this work were Rev. C. B. Jernigan, who had organized the first church; Rev. James B. Chapman, who had done a great work in eastern Texas and Oklahoma in revivals and organization; Rev. J. W. Land, of Louisiana; Rev. C. C. Cluck, who had conducted many great revivals in eastern Texas; Rev. I. D. Farmer, the co-laborer with C. C. Cluck; Rev. Dennis Rogers, who had always stood for an organized holiness church; and others whose names we can not now recall. Rev. C. B. Jernigan was elected president, with Rev. J. B. Chapman, secretary.

The third annual council met at Blossom, Texas, October 5, 1904. This was a splendid gathering of representative holiness people, many of whom were in attendance to see if the church was a success. The revival tide ran high, and many people were blessed in this council. Twenty-seven churches were represented at this council. Just prior to this meeting the president of the council had been invited to attend the annual convocation of the Holiness Baptist Church, at Piney Grove church, near Prescott, Ark., with the view of the union of the two churches. They sent representatives to this council, as the Rising Star council was to convene in November the same year, at which two holiness churches united, but the Holiness Baptist Church would not unite.

At this session of the annual council delegates were elected to represent the Independent Holiness Church at the annual council of the Church of Christ that met the next month at Rising Star, Texas, at which plans for union were laid.