wsparkman

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Preaching on the Plains, Chapter Four – Through High School

In Rev. David K. Myers, D.D. on June 28, 2010 at 8:25 am

Great news : Preaching on the Plains has now been published!
Details and order information can be found at http://preachingontheplains.wordpress.com/
Preaching on the Plains is available as a paperback or an E-book.

We continue with the posting of chapters from the Rev. David K. Myers’ autobiography, Preaching on the Plains.  His son, the Rev. David T. Myers was good to preserve the only surviving copy of this manuscript by donating it to the PCA Historical Center.  It is our great pleasure to post selected chapters from this testimony.  Some of the more interesting chapters will post in coming weeks.

Preaching on the Plains
Chapter IV
by the Rev. David K. Myers, D.D.

“. . . it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, . . .” (Galatians 1:15)

Training for a life work for any Christian involves a multitude of life’s experiences. We are all a good deal the products of our past. As a lad, in addition to my usual education in the public schools, there came to me an opportunity for employment. It was that of a delivery boy using my bicycle bringing meats to home purchasers from a butcher shop on Chicago Avenue. This experience and the later like deliveries by auto when in college had the same value. Early in life when seeing women at work in their homes and all their situation to the extent of times of coming into houses to deliver products, I early made up an assessment of the worth of a wife and mother. It was worded when I said to myself, “Theirs is the biggest, biggest job”.

Later on in High School, mine was the same place of employment where my brothers worked when they were in High School. It was with the Hope Publishing Company on Lake Street. What excellent Christian people! The elderly Mr. Shorney was from England. His younger partner, Mr. Kingsbury, was likewise a wonderful employer, always kind and considerate to us all. It was an echo, I believe, of the great Moody-Sankey revivals in England. Of Mr. Shorney I meant to add, ‘It was a treat to meet him’. His son Gordon was often in the packaging room with us learning more of the business. We school workers were there ‘after school’ and Saturdays. Years later when a young pastor in drought country, I wrote for hymn books to Gordon Shorney, then President, for one of my churches in the west. I asked for “seconds” but he replied they no longer had them, but would send first line books at a discount, and it was considerable. He stated that they did not want to make any money from a former Hope employee. What a kind letter it was!

I graduated from Austin High School in 1921 but not before mine was the experience of attending the meetings at the huge ‘Lake-front’ tabernacle of “Billy” or Dr. William A. Sunday, “ex big league ball player” and evangelist. How mighty those meetings were. They were well prepared in advance. All over the city of Chicago, preceding the meetings themselves for perhaps several months, prayer meetings were held weekly in neighborhood homes, often one home to each city block of homes. It was a revelation to watch Dr. Sunday in his meetings. With the zest of a famous ball player, he threw it all into his preaching. He’d tear at his tie and collar when he’d begin to get warm, cast them behind him. He would dash from one end of the long platform to the other. I think I heard he has divested himself of coat and shirt, though I doubt the latter. He would lean way out over the high platform to emphasize a point. I suppose he would not be above teetering on a pulpit if necessary, but this I also doubt. He had good taste, I thought, in spite of it all. He had been a baseball player of note as a champion sprinter. He did win a staged race around the bases against a college champion sprinter according to Connie Mack. But however he did it, Billy Sunday was a ball player turned evangelist and he was himself, as he got his points across in language all could understand. When he gave the ‘invitation’ the sawdust aisles were filled with people surging forward to accept the Saviour. There were those who looked the most derelict type of “winos” to respectable people of society. Sunday himself had been converted at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, a partly drunk ball player. In one of his meetings I saw one who looked the part of a man we call a “wino”, but he stood in the aisle in tears, his head thoughtfully on one side, considering what he had heard. Billy Sunday was able to preach in the man’s language. He had been where he was.

So heightened was the revival in Chicago that one traveling on the street cars would find Christian people walking up and down the aisles who would earnestly ask occupants at every seat if they were saved. My own brother, the banker, in Chicago visiting from Las Vegas, New Mexico, was so accosted, and also was a man who was seated beside him. His companion answered in the affirmative, but somehow the way the man replied made my brother ask him after the inquirer passed, “But are you saved?” The man replied, “Well, no I am not, son”.

On the big green street car on which I once came from the meetings, I recall people of the nearby Swedish Baptist church were singing gospel songs. I remember one: “Whosoever Meaneth Me” — “Surely Meaneth Me”. How good it was. The gospel appeared for the time to have taken over a great deal of Chicago those old days. Its spirit invaded the High Schools. Homer Rodeheaver, the great son leader and trombonist, was speaker and player of his instrument in my High School at a special assembly. How impressive it was.

By the way, I recall one good effect of that Swedish Baptist church at the corner of Central Avenue and Iowa Street. An old derelict we always called “drunken Fritz” would get drunk at a “blind pig”, a house where liquor was sold in a dry area near us. Regular as each Saturday night he would totter north on Parkside Avenue, as a rule attended by a retinue of taunting jeering youngsters. Frothing, he would turn back on his tormentors in helpless rage. If anyone I would have thought was a person who was “beyond redemption point” when I was a boy, it was this man. But after I grew up I learned that Fritz became saved! And also that it was the Swedish Baptist Church’s evangelistic ministry which was used to bring Fritz at last to the Lord and free from jesting taunters and his alcohol after all.

In my High School “Freshman” class study room, I was also put in with others, indeed others who were all girls! All but me, girls! And me who had no sisters. I was terrified. They were amused at my hapless situation and confusion. Somehow there may have been a reason. Later, say nine years, I would have been a poor pastor in the west if I had wanted to run away from all presence of the women of my parish. Sometimes I have been tempted to think my mother was behind it all, and knowing we were all boys, asked school authorities to arrange it so. However, this seems far fetched. And somehow in the four years this situation remained. I gradually lost the fear of the forty and was thinking of but one of them. I worshiped her from afar the four years and at the near close of the last year, asked her for a date, having put my courage to the test to go and see the Cubs play the Cincinnati “Reds”, the great Grover Cleveland Alexander being the Chicago pitcher. She turned me down and that was that! Puppy love is ineffective, nonplussed and but temporary.

My generation in High School days was not yet an auto traveled or auto-bussed company of school goers. I walked about a mile and a half, just one way from our home, then on North Mason Avenue, north of Division, to the High School on Central Avenue, south of Lake Street. It may have been a 3-4 miles each day and was taken in stride by school children of my time. I must hasten to add that I take note, too, of jogging habits of many present day energetic young people. While I admit this, I still wonder if they’d be willing to walk prosaically with the expenditure of time and on such a regular basis throughout the years of school. School buses abound today with consequent costs, and consequent burden on the economy.

Before finishing with my mother’s ministry or training, I should list one other thing she did for me. She prayed for me, and that, before I was born. Some years later when in my second summer of student ministry and at Fairview, Montana, on my 25th birthday I received a letter from her. I was then beginning to wonder if after all I was truly called to be ultimately a pastor. It was slow getting under way on the field which recently had had no pastor. Indeed, was it even right for me to be in the work as a student there? Arrangments were slow in being made to have my pay come, and what little money I had left after train fare to pay weekly board and room was running out. But mother’s letter came on that 25th birthday, June 10, and told me something she had told no one else. It was that before I was born she had prayed for a fourth son (she had no daughters), and that that son would be prepared for the gospel ministry. She went on to say that she had prayed for the older boys that they would be good boys. But that in my case, she had prayed for a son to enter the gospel ministry; and that she had told no one, even my father, for she had feared she might be deemed presumptuous to wish for a particular calling rather than another for a child. She wrote that it had been ‘the prayer of her life’.

What ‘got’ to me in this was that Mother had never strong-armed me in the slightest in this, or tried to influence me. She said she just made it her prayer and left it with God. She did let me read the books of early famous missionaries, such as Mackay of Formosa (Taiwan). I had become a ‘bookworm’ as a child. I read of Dr. Mackay, how he went to Formosa where mountain people were cannibals. He was used when God converted a native woman and then Dr. Mackay made her his wife. I thought, ‘Ah, that is wonderful. When I grow up I am going to become a foreign missionary and convert a native cannibal island lady and marry’. Little did I know that I would turn out to be in time a home missionary in the northern Plains in America, and instead of marrying someone like a native Formosan, would one day travel to Edinburgh and marry a daughter descended from the fierce clansmen of the Scottish Highlands. It is one of my stale jokes to say this and add that the fierceness of the Scottish clansmen was seen in one of their battles with the English. To it they carried scythes, hacamores or whatever, gained the victory in the battle by cutting off the feet of the English soldiery, and then did return from their sanguinary carnage to the native homes ‘with great glee’ after it. We would well insert here that the great Christian Faith and Courage of John Knox years later, who prayed, ‘Give me Scotland or I die!’ was used of God in his life work to see in the 16th century the Great Protestant Revival and Reformation in that same land. Anthropologists have said too, I believe, that the ancestors of the Scots were cannibals. (However, I am afraid, too, the same anthropologists have said darkly that the ancestry of the rest of us have been cannibals also).

However, returning to the truly solid and biblical truths of Mother and her prayers, when I received her letter and since that time in all my life and ministry, I have never doubted my calling, except for part of my first year after ordination. At this time I faced a long and desperate period of darkness and need of surrender and getting right with God, of which I expect to write more later in this narrative.

Preaching on the Plains, Chapter Three – Early Training

In Preaching on the Plains, Rev. David K. Myers, D.D. on June 22, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Great news : Preaching on the Plains has now been published!
Details and order information can be found at http://preachingontheplains.wordpress.com/
Preaching on the Plains is available as a paperback or an E-book.

Preaching on the Plains
Chapter III.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
(Proverbs 22:6)

Suffer an old man of 77 now to think of a few things about the training of a child toward his life work as a Christian. In fact, the training of his life before he becomes a Christian. I have spoken herein of my mother being a Baptist. She was this, even though she spent her married life as the wife of a Presbyterian elder. The important thing was that she was truly a Christian. From my earliest memory the things she did were to the end of instilling in her children Christian and moral values. I can recall just a scrap of a lullaby she sang to me. It was the story of a lad who wandered to the railroad tracks. I listened always enthralled. The bottom line ended, “He never came back from the railroad track. And that was the end of _____”. The name I do not remember but it rhymed with “track”. It made me dead earnest at that point, I would never go near a railroad track, lest the dire result would come to me also.

One of my earliest memories associated with a church was of one week night when, after being put to sleep, I awoke. I found the house deserted. But I was sure where my parents were! They were not at home so they were at church! So in my white night-gown I sallied forth and faithful old black Joe, the family dog, attended me. And we went the city block or two to the church. We walked in the front door and my memory is the doog and I were greeted with a shout of laughter by the worshippers at the mid week prayer meeting or Sunday night Service whichever it was. As I remember my mother’s face was a deep red as she hurried back, gathered boy of three and the dog and hurried home with us. As recently as last Yuletide a letter came from a long family friend. A very fine Christian whose maiden name was Lazetta Mottashed wrote from Texas and corrected my impression in an earlier greeting to her saying I came that night in a dirty night gown and a dog. But she replied, “No, you had a very clean white gown and a dirty dog!” She spoke of the amusement of all at the scene in an earlier letter.

Now the important part of this was its relationship to moral teaching and the gospel church. It was before me at an early age. My mother never did flippant things in her training us. She was too busy raising four boys for that. And though she was Baptist by conviction, this is one thing of force to me as a Presbyterian. I believe in Infant Baptism; not that it is a saving ordinance in itself. It is not. As Titus 3: 5,6 as quoted on a previous page shows. But because the Lord said in the Great Commission:

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 28:19)

The word here in the above quotation for “teach” is from the less familiar in the Greek original of that word. it is “mathetuo” – “make disciple of”. The lexicons appear to indicate that it stresses the outward matters of truths to be taught. In other words, just as we endeavor to train our children even in outward duties to show them right from wrong, and the kind of life that is moral, right, and Christian. This we do from the very first with our children and before they reach the age of discretion and can choose salvation through faith. We pray at meal times, saying “grace” . . . I have seen babes as it were in child’s high chairs bowing their heads because they see their parents doing so. “Make disciples”. These the Great Commission tells us to baptize. Now it is plain to me that an adult who is not saved is not a disciple. But a child who has the promise by godly parents that they will bring him up being disciplined and on this basis I believe should receive baptism. And the promise is strong: “and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). There is every hope the child, when it is older, will become a believer.

These things we have seen in our children. Two, the sons, are ministers of the Gospel. The two others are girls, and are truly saved and believe the gospel. I felt it was necessary to obey the standard our Lord set before the apostles. “Disciple” or teach all nations, baptizing them (who are being taught).

Later in life when Mother was in her eighties, I happened on a visit at home to speak of my views in the matter. When ended my mother said, honestly, “I can’t see it”. I felt glad that while we differed, this was the first time the subject ever arose between us.

Mother was a faithful disciplinarian. When we were young if we misbehaved we could expect consequences. If she felt one of us deserved it, she would punish us duly. Her favorite method was to make us go out and cut a switch from a lilac bush outside the house with which she was to chastise us. And it would never do to pick a small slender one which bent or broke easily. She would make us go out at once and pick another one. I recall that on some occasions if she felt more than one needed chastising, we would get it together. An older brother of mine had a habit of falling down on all fours, feigning at once he was greatly hurt before a blow would be struck, crying out. I would fall with him and I’m afraid I tried a regular trick on him for a while. I would be, too, on my fours, but would creep close to him, thinking his body would be higher and it would protect me from the blows. One time, though, he became aware of this, and thrust me off saying, “Get away there!”

But Mother, if stern and just, was never cruel. The force of her rule in her house was realized by us years later when we were all home together on vacations. The four of us were in quite an argument which waxed rather warm. We did not mind. We were used to it, in fact, I think, liked it. But Mother, hearing us, came into the room and feeling we were out of order, commanded us to desist at once! My eldest brother, I think, was then in his 60s, my two elder below him were in their 50s. I may have been in my late 40s. The eldest was trained in agriculture but had been employed otherwise. The second eldest was a banker, and the third, a teacher. When Mother left the room we laughed to one another, not in ridicule, but because the force of our mother’s discipline had been such that even in such late years, at her command we just stopped automatically. It was custom to us!

Mother lived to 95. She was a happy, contented lady. One of her remarks was, “The Devil does not have any happy old people”. She always carefully picked the churches she would attend, insisting that only those who preached the old time Gospel of Christ, His Redeeming Atonement, and His Resurrection, and His Power to save all who came to Him, would have her support! She was the first one in her father’s family to be converted, but lived to see all her family saved. Her mother was of Pennsylvania Dutch (German) “Dunker” (Baptist) background but married a husband who became an alcoholic. He came to Christ at her leading on his death bed. The training our mother gave us when we were children found all four boys confessed to become Christians. Ernest, the eldest, most conscientious and kind, died last May (1980). He declared he knew the time to the moment when he was saved as a lad. Andrew, a banker in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Edwin, the teacher — we would all rise up and call our mother blessed, I am sure, together. I say this for I think many would disagree with the methods of discipline who read these memoirs. May I make a gentle assent, however to the diligent discipline of a conscientious mother.

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15)

Preaching on the Plains, Chapter Two – Family Roots

In Preaching on the Plains on June 20, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Great news : Preaching on the Plains has now been published!
Details and order information can be found at http://preachingontheplains.wordpress.com/
Preaching on the Plains is available as a paperback or an E-book.

by the Rev. David K. Myers, D.D. (1983)

“Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17).

A new life born into the world is common to all and exciting. I was born in Aurora, Illinois, June 10, 1903, and the youngest of four boys. My father, J. Andrew Myers, was the youngest of his family also. No wonder that his father, who I never saw, was born in Bavaria as long ago as 1822. he and his bride came over in sailing days in 1848. Grandmother insisted on coming to America as a condition of her marriage. She did not want him to be liable to military service. The German areas in those days were divided into separate sovereign states. One could be at the bidding of any princeling. There was, as today, fear of involvement in war. His father had been a corporal in the army under Napoleon. It was the “Grand Armee” which invaded Russia and which suffered terrible hardships and decimation in the retreat from Moscow. He was one of the two percent which still lived and made it home. Bavarians thought that Napoleon would save them (like some who so viewed Hitler later). But my great–grandfather did not live long after that war. His son, my grandfather, had to be the man of the house after he died. When I was an army chaplain after World War II in Germany I saw the very villages, both near each other, where my grandfather, as a boy we’d been told, brought the sheep home from the woods to their home in the evenings.

In America grandfather settled in Goshen, Indiana. For a time he was a police officer. Our home had his headquarters’ chair as an heirloom. Later, he was in a crew of workers which built the Elkhart River Dam near Goshen. Still later, he was paymaster and clerk at the end of rails in the Colorado and New Mexico areas working for the Santa Fe Railroad as it was building on its way to the west coast. My mother and father were natives of Goshen, and moved to Chicago at the time of their marriage (circa 1890). Father had been raised a Methodist, and Mother was a Baptist. They settled in the “Austin” area on Chicago’s west side and were near a newly organized “Faith Presbyterian Church”. Father in time became an Elder and remained one the rest of his life, though his views and practical devotions continued old-time Methodist ideals. His occupation was that of a proof-reader in printing offices. An intense and very hard worker, he would yet tell prospective employers he could not work on Sundays because of his religious convictions. At the same time, he would tell them he was willing to work days and nights on end during the week if they asked him to do so. I recall that he did that and quite often during “rush times”. At best, he would take only cat naps during the long week days and nights of labor. I recall how he would look when he would return Saturday night after an entire week. His face would be white with fatigue. But when next morning came, a Sunday, he would be up early and shouting to us in our bedrooms: “Get up, it’s time to get ready for Sunday School and Church!” he was seeing to it that the entire family, including himself, would be in Sunday School “on time” and also be present for the second Church Service hour. I can remember as a child the long (uninteresting then to me) sermon times.

It was a family pew. Mother was on the inside. Father was on the outside (next to the aisle). We boys were between them and “I couldn’t get out” as I was well aware. The effect of this faithfulness on four boys in later life can be well imagined. Mother said years later that only one of the boys, and then but once, attempted any revision of this program. He got the idea one day that he was going to too many meetings. So he came to Mother with this idea he had cooked up: he offered a compromise. “Mother,” he said, “I believe I go to too many meetings in church.” He enumerated them: Sunday School and Worship Service in the morning followed with Evening Service and Young People’s Meeting at night. And he offered to go to any two of them she would indicate. Mother said she was surprised. It was the first time any of the boys had demurred. The others just went as a matter of course. She said she looked at him and he at her, while he showed no further resentment. He evidently felt he was being reasonable. The she said, “Well _____,” naming him, as long as you are in this house, you belong to us and we belong to you. And you’ll go where we go and do as we do.” She said that was that. He just wen t along to church without any question afterward.

My father regarded his religion as not just a light matter, or carelessly to be observed. They (his duties in his church) were most serious matters. They were not to be lightly attended. Many a man or woman, if they were to work as steadily as he did for a week, would have stayed away from church the following Sunday morning and for less.

Yet father and mother made home life a delight for us. They played games with us. What ‘high times’ we had. We had Carom and Crokinol. Fingers snapping at disks. Father taught us chess from our early years. I won two college tournaments at Wheaton when a young man. We went everywhere our parents went and life was not dull.

Mother did her part. She has first a family begun with my eldest brother, then at my birth a family of six to feed and clothe. She was really able to ‘manage’. Mother and father were tithers. Each week when father brought home his pay, he first put away ten percent of it in a little special drawer. Next day, Sunday, he would take the ten percent out and take it to the church as his offering. This he did in the 1890’s from his first pay after marriage when his weekly income was but $15.00. Then when his pay increased through the years, and with union membership days, his tithe with each payment increased greatly also. Then came the depression days and in older years his eyes gave out so he could not work. But somehow he seemed to be protected even then. With no social security in those days, yet his stocks, investments and real estate property found him just seeming to do the right thing at the right time.

I have heard him give his testimony to young men who were neighbors, that he believed God took care of him because he was a Christian and a tither (Malachi Chapter 3 and I Corinthians 16:2).

Mother’s partnership was to think out house investments and conserve. The first house was on Augusta Street (now a boulevard), east of Pine just where the land dropped as if it were an old shore line. The house had an upstairs (“flat”) where the rent from another family helped pay for the house. Then there was another house purchased and another, and in her old age Mother had four houses. She could point to the fact that all four boys had received college educations. One, a grad of Missouri U., was an agricultural student. He had differing employments later in life, but always could make things just spring out of the ground. His farm near Bangor, Michigan provided a home for his parents to live in their old age. The second son, who sent west seeking help in lung illness at 20 became a banker-lawyer in Las Vegas, New Mexico. The third became a chemistry teacher in Chicago’s Carl Shurz High School.

Mother was never for spending unnecessarily, but insisted on living very frugally. Yet besides her care for us even into our twenties, she left each of the four boys a sizable sum at her death in her will. I have often heard my mother speak of those who clad themselves in silk (rich attire in the early 1900’s), but would have little left. She did not depend on her clothes or new clothes or hats for her pleasing, vivacious appearance or manners.

The secret of it all concerning Mother was that she was truly a converted woman in her faith. Early in her teens she had sought salvation. A gospel tract, “God’s Plan of Salvation”, by Dr. B. B. Warfield of old Princeton Seminary in its original Fundamentalist days, came to her attention. As a high school girl, my mother felt it was used to encourage her and lead her to Christ. Finally, the word in John 7:17 was hers which reads, “If any man will to do His will he shall know of the doctrine”. She was willing to do His will. John 6:37 was her experience. She had come to her Saviour!

Because I had such a father and mother, I am sure the way for me to come to Christ was well prepared. I was brought to the saving grace of God at the age of 15. Things happened this way. In my steady attendance with parents who always brought me to church, I was there one Sunday morning when the pastor, Rev. Clyde L. Lucas, preached a sermon on Hell. He believed it was in the Bible and that to be balanced in preaching he should preach a sermon on Hell that Sunday. From that day I took serious note of what the preacher would be saying. I did not want to go to Hell. I wanted to go to Heaven instead! Then too, many people were joining the church in those days. The church was full of people. One day I thought, noting people from time to time joined the church, “Well, I will join the church, then I will go to heaven”. I did join the church. I told my father, “Father, I want to join the church”. I remember the look of joy on my father’s face. But he was faithful for he said, “You want to become a Christian, do you, David?” He took me to the Pastor, and then to meet also the Elders in the “Session”. I remember their questions, and how it was feeling fearful my answers would not be rightly given. But somehow I got by. The baptism was a following Sunday at age 14, and the being received into the church. I can still remember the embarrassment before the very full church. But, I am sure as I write this that I was not saved, nor had truly come to Christ. The Word of God says in Titus 3: 5,6:

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;”

And here I was, trying to do something, i.e., joining the church to be saved.

It was not until the following summer, inn 1918, when fifteen years of age, Mother took me to the Moody Church Bible Conference grounds at Cedar Lake, Indiana, when saving grace came to me. One Sunday morning I heard Dr. Paul Rader preach on the Love of God the Father, to give His Son to die on the Cross for our sins. The boy beside me, my own age, at the invitation to come to Christ, looked up at me and said, “Let’s go up”. I said at once, “No!” He just looked terribly disappointed. At that I was terribly concerned. I could have perhaps stood it to take the risk of going to Hell myself, but the thought that I was influencing him by my refusal so that two of us would go to Hell, I could not stand. I said to him, “All right.” He eagerly led the way into the sawdust trail aisle, and we went forward to kneel. I am sure it was not doing anything just then that made the difference, but a receiving of Christ. I recall the settled peace that was mine. That night in the sleeping tent, I heard a Christian pleading with another, an older man, and I recall how anxious I was that the man would yield but he would not, and how sorry I was that he rejected Christ and ridiculed and jeered.

I knew what side I was on from that time forth from it. “. . . if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”  They were passed away from that time, and new things were ahead.

Preaching on the Plains, Chapter One – First Preaching

In Preaching on the Plains on June 12, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Great news : Preaching on the Plains has now been published!
Details and order information can be found at http://preachingontheplains.wordpress.com/
Preaching on the Plains is available as a paperback or an E-book.

Preaching on the Plains, by David K. Myers, D.D.

Chapter 1

“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
bringing his sheaves with him.”
(Psalm 126:6)

The year was 1927 and the month was May. A young man in his mid-twenties was on the trailing, New England train bound for Nova Scotia. It had left Boston to the south, and hugging somewhat the Atlantic Coast, the state of Maine was passed and the high watery gorge at the border city of St. John’s New Brunswick. Then rolling above the northern reach of the Bay of Fundy, the steam train came to the charming city of Truro, Nova Scotia. De-training at this point, the young man entered the combined mail and passenger carrying auto. In this he began to see the sights of the picturesque western shore of Minas Basin and in time was brought to his journey’s end, the village of Economy.

Minas Basin is a beautiful and historic inlet from the Atlantic Ocean. Its tides flow through a narrow defile to a broadpointed gulf. These tides wash even to a point near Truro. On its eastern shore across from Economy is the site of Grand Prez from whence French settlers had been cruelly expelled at the time of the French and Indian wars for Canada. The region was called Acadia, as is also an area of Louisiana today, to which some of the expelled were taken by the British. Longfellow celebrated this sad event in his “Evangeline”.

As one traveled and approached Economy, he could still see the old French dikes bordering creeks and marshy lands. Some could still be seen sturdy after two centuries or more. They seemed to be in surprisingly good condition showing the faithful labors in their construction long ago.

Passing Bass River, a furniture town, Economy was soon seen to the south in a pastoral setting such as all the coastal areas had revealed. Yet spring weather had hardly released this northern clime from its winter cold. Small pastures, trees and bay brought beauty to one’s eyes everywhere.

The young man fancies a legend concerning the name, “Economy”. It is that the place was called by the Indians, “Oconomo”. When the French came it was “Oicionomoi”. Then the Scottish settlers came and it was, “Economy”. While the writer does not vouch for the truth of these statements, the concoctions of his own fertile mind; still, after marriage to his faithful wife he first met in Edinburgh, Scotland, nearly fifty years ago (1931), he can state that the word and practice of economy is a good name for one’s habits or for a village in Nova Scotia.

Now it may be fairly guessed that the young man described above is the writer of this record, Preaching on the Plains. Hereafter he plans to take the liberty of writing in the first person. While he is writing he is far from the Great Plains of the American West where a good deal of his ministry was to be. And Economy, Nova Scotia, in this point in the narrative, was also distant from the same region. But he believes it was a most helpful place for the beginning of his ministry. It will be described in this and a following chapter.

A “student minister”, for that was my status, is not an ordained minister. He cannot marry any one, but he can officiate at burial ceremonies. He is expected to visit the people of a church or preaching field. Where it is needed he is also expected to preach according to his best efforts although his training is still limited in scope. Often, students from Bible Colleges, Institutes or Seminaries were so employed summer vacations, or during the year’s academic periods within reach of the schools they were attending.

At the time related above, a request had come to the Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey, asking for twenty students to come to Maritime churches that adhered to the Presbyterian faith. Most of us were ‘Juniors’ or first year men at Seminary. I saw the request listed on the bulletin board. My first thought was to pass it by. I felt I was far short of being equipped to preach. While the greatest of teachers were our mentors — such as Drs. Robert Dick Wilson (Hebrew), J. Gresham Machen (Greek), Caspar Wistar Hodge (Systematic Theology) — I felt short of training, or adequate to care for a church, or to preach for twenty summer weeks. (It is to be said that no one is ever sufficient “of ourselves”, II Corinthians 3:5, 6. Paul, too, had said before, “And who is sufficient for these things?”, II Corinthians 2:16).

But I noticed that the bulletin board did not fill up with twenty volunteers and began to feel for the Canadian churches. They were then like Fundamentalists. They did not go into the liberal and ecumenical United Church of Canada. At that time in Economy they were old time Scot Presbyterian laymen who wished to preserve their heritage. And they believed in the verbal inspiration of Holy Scripture. I finally said to myself, “Well, I am not sure even if I am to become a minister in my life. But at least I could go up there and give them my testimony; and would not that be better than if a church had nobody at all?

That effort, for five months the summer of 1927, proved to be just about the hardest thing I had ever tried to do! My sermons were largely the product of studying a word from a Bible Concordance (Strongs). They were such words as “faith” and “repentance”. The concordance had many references of such words. I would look them all up and put them down. Then my problem was to arrange them in a logical and meaningful pattern. Now having not then learned to speak from an outline, and fearful later of forgetting what was in my prepared message, I would commit to memory, word for word, the written sermon. In my mind I imagined a situation might come when the next word in line would be forgotten and this would cause me to forget the entire message! This would leave me entirely lost, ashamed, undone.

Later in the summer, that fear seemed to be very present in actual fulfillment, indeed. A period of illness came one week, and so time was lost preparing and memorizing the sermon for the Sunday following. The morning came, however fearful to face it, with an ill memorized sermon. I harnessed “Billy G.”, Elder Soley’s retired race horse, to the buggy. This task was new to a city-raised lad. Feeling very uncertain, I drove to Lower Economy where the smaller of the two churches had an early morning service. I laid my written sermon on the pulpit. It was the first time I had let one appear, but felt that while I’d be humiliated to do it, yet if memory failed, I might refer to the written paper. Well, in the opening part of the service, the usually calm morning found a sudden gust of wind come. Windows were open at each side of the platform, and the sudden blast just blew my sermon right out of the window. I was aghast. Do not recall how I did it, but somehow I got through that sermon.

Vivid is the recollection of my first sermon. It was the first I had ever preached in a church and was in the main Economy church. The edifice was a very large and impressive building. Battlements were atop the entrance tower. At an earlier period when the country was full of people, no doubt the church had a large congregation. They had had eminent pastors. But many, especially young people, left for other areas such as Boston for employment. When I arrived at the church, services were planned that Sunday in a smaller room in an annex at the rear of the large auditorium. It could be heated more easily. The winter’s cold was still felt in that north country. Men in charge asked me if I wished the large pulpit moved from the main auditorium to the small room. It was huge but I said, “Yes”. (It seemed to have large, protective flanges and in my state of mind it seemed to be a safer place to be for a novice like myself!).

Then news came which was unsettling. The organist could not come because of illness. This seemed disastrous. In those days I did not claim to be much a singer for my voice seemed to be quite flat and nasal to me. Nevertheless, the service was begun without an organ as I announced the first “congregational hymn”. To my great surprise I found myself singing a solo, and that without musical accompaniment. Then followed in order the other parts of the worship service and just before the sermon was the second congregational hymn. For this, one other voice, an alto, joined mine and thus it was a duet, really. Since that time I have thought it quite possible that the hymns I chose were unfamiliar to the congregation. I learned later that these descendants of Scottish ancestors were not people of pretense. They were a most kindly folk, but if some of them felt they were not singers, I suppose they did not try to sing, certainly if unfamiliar numbers. Then followed the moment of truth: the delivery of the sermon!

At this time I recall a particularly needed blessing and impression came to me. It was almost as if a voice was speaking to me and saying, “Now you are all right, just go ahead”. I gave out the text, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?”. It was the story of the two to Emmaus who met the Saviour on the morning of the resurrection. But they knew him not and heard him say these words and others which opened their eyes and their understanding, Luke 24:26ff. It may be that the comforting impression at the beginning of the sermon was part of my mother’s advice, repeated in my mind to me. I had once told her of my forebodings if I were ever called upon to preach. Her advice was to, “Just hide behind the cross.”

I did preach that morning in Economy. At the end of the sermon a fair and goodly number joined in the singing of the last hymn. At the Isaiah Morrison home for the noon meal, I felt anxious how the sermon was really received. A telephone rang and it was for me. The caller was a visitor who had been at the service, a native son now of middle age returning for a vacation to his home country. He asked me in his call to tell him the chapter and verse of the sermon text. It gave me instant elation and relief. At least one person in the congregation was interested enough to ask for the text. Since that time I have thought it quite likely he made that call in order to encourage a very young and inexperienced preacher. Folk told me later that summer that at that service they just knew it was the very first sermon I had ever preached. They were a gracious people. They called me the “little minister”. Though 5′ 10″ in height, I was slight and was indeed little in more way than one.

That summer I met some of the captains of ships in the earlier days of sail. A number of these ship-masters were still living and in Economy. Isaiah Morrison was one, where I boarded. He and others of the captains told me that I ought to meet Captain Bird Marsh! I imagine he had commanded one of the famed “clipper” ships. He was 90 years old and dean of them all. He and his kind were to soon pass from this world. I went to his home very soon. He met me at his gate, a little man with sky blue eyes and a sweet face. I said to him I had heard him well spoken of as a man of ability as a ship’s master. His answer was, “For fifty years I sailed the high seas. I never lost a ship; I never lost a man. I I had a Pilot!” As he spoke the last words he pointed to the heavens.

Some weeks later I made a second visit to the captain’s home. He invited me into his living room. In the course of the conversation he spoke of his experience at one time in a typhoon in the China Sea. In the fury of the storm he went “below” (like Paul long ago). He came on deck, above, after his prayers and saw a light at a course ahead of the ship. He added, “Now you may not believe me, Mr. Myers, but I was there! I just turned the ship into the path of that light and it brought me safely into my harbor.” I believed him.

Tears were moistening the eyes of the elderly Morrison’s and to my surprise as I was bidding them goodbye. I am sure now it was because of their Christian and mature kindliness and love in Christ for a somewhat shaky and scared lad with whom they bore patiently and cared for as an alien, and I must say I felt most unworthy for their gracious thought for me. Mature Christians they were and Mrs. Morrison then said, “They never forget their first love.” (I take it she meant that a young minister never forgets his first church). And I never have!

Preaching on the Plains, by David K. Myers, D.D. – Table of Contents

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2010 at 10:58 pm

One of the real joys and blessings at the PCA Historical Center earlier this year was donation of the autobiography of the Rev. David K. Myers, D.D., by his son, the Rev. David T. Myers.  The work is lengthy, 547 pages in all, and I don’t know that this is necessarily the best format in which to display the whole work, but for now I would like to begin posting at least the first several chapters.  One of the greatest values to come from reading a biography like this is the reminder of what it cost an earlier generation to stand for the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

Preaching on the Plains, by David K. Myers, D.D. (1983)
© PCA Historical Center, 2010.  All Rights Reserved.

CHAPTER INDEX

I.  First preaching; Nova Scotia
II.  Family Roots; conversion
III.  Early training; discipline by a faithful mother
IV.  Through High School; “Billy” Sunday revivals
V.  Wheaton College; spiritual effect in the 1920’s; Call to Christian service
VI.  Princeton Theological Seminary; mighty scholarship in men of faith;modernist-fundamentalist controversies; a godly Nova Scotia elder R. P. Soley
VII.  A student-pastor in Fairview, Montana, and Watford City, North Dakota;neophyte in the northern Plains; Lower Yellowstone Valley
VIII.  Other young men preaching: James L. Rohrbaugh, Henry Atkinson
IX.  Reverend E.E. Matteson, pastor-evangelist; his life and ministry
X.  Two more Princeton men: Samuel J. Allen, Chester Diehl; godly laymen and other ministers
XI.  Last year at Princeton; George S. Green Fellowship in Old Testament Literature; Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, defender of the Faith; Dr. J. Gresham Machen; Princeton controversy. Encounter on a Western train with a Biblical critic
XII.  Ordination in Miles City; my unexpected struggle in spiritual darkness
XIII.   New duties as a pastor; Young People’s Bible Camp. Elim Camp and Lower Yellowstone Bible Conference, and ‘Big Opening’; a clean sweep
XIV.  The ‘gift’ of the Evangelist; its use in revivals of the early 1930s. First meeting with E.E. Matteson; Watford City, North Dakota; Fairview, Montana
XV.  The Bannon-Haven murder case; Conversion of Charles Bannon; a lynching; Was Charles Bannon saved?
XVI.  Drought years; Frank B. Gigliotti, “the Injun Kid”; rodeos
XVII.  Overseas to Edinburgh; a short Thesis on Verbal Inspiration; full thesis assigned in the Ph.D. program; open air meetings; marriage
XVIII. Adventures; trips driving in the dry years. Former Texas trail herd man converted before dying; “Why Don’t We Get Rain?”; Grasshoppers
XIX.  A mighty revival with E.E. Matteson; six weeks of meetings in Beulah, North Dakota; First Convert in DVBS; a child’s dying testimony; preaching to children
XX.  Enlarged ministry, Lemmon, South Dakota, Lemmon Bible Presbyterian Church, organized November, 1936. Why Fundamentalists separated. Experiences in this.  Sam Allen, A.B. Dodd
XXI.  Growth in Lemmon field; Herb Sandren’s conversion; near tragedy on a strange road in snow; Children’s prayer answered
XXII.  Tabernacle built in Lemmon; Revivals; Reactions of ‘Plains’ people
XXIII.   Transportation for the preacher; horse and buggy; “Billie G.”; trains; autodriving; light plane; adventures
XXIV.  Driving in a blizzard; to Rapid City in the snow; Adventures in tithing
XXV.  Revivals traveling a winter with E.E. Matteson; singer, song leaderXXVI. Evangelism in a pastorate. Needed attributes for a pastor; duties for an evangelistic program. Growth in Lemmon. Use of the “Press”
XXVII.  Overseas again; open air work in a foreign city; conversion in Lemmon of the Even Evensons; Nichol Whitley
XXVIII.  Divisions from the Separated Movement; reasons for; Sam Allen’s last yearsXXIX. Life as an army chaplain
XXX.  More of Army Life
XXXI.  Faith Theological Seminary; Recent church history. Back to civilian pastoring. Last trip through northern Plains
XXXII.  Epilogue

CHAPTER INDEX

I. First preaching; Nova Scotia 1

II. Family Roots; conversion 9

III. Early training; discipline by a faithful mother 16

IV. Through High School; “Billy” Sunday revivals 21

V. Wheaton College; spiritual effect in the 1920’s; Call to Christian service 28

VI. Princeton Theological Seminary; mighty scholarship in men of faith;

modernist-fundamentalist controversies; a godly Nova Scotia elder

R. P. Soley 32

VII. A student-pastor in Fairview, Montana, and Watford City, North Dakota;

neophyte in the northern Plains; Lower Yellowstone Valley 39

VIII. Other young men preaching: James L. Rohrbaugh, Henry Atkinson 43

IX. Reverend E.E. Matteson, pastor-evangelist; his life and ministry 48

X. Two more Princeton men: Samuel J. Allen, Chester Diehl; godly laymen

and other ministers 56

XI. Last year at Princeton; George S. Green Fellowship in Old Testament

Literature; Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, defender of the Faith; Dr. J. Gresham

Machen; Princeton controversy. Encounter on a Western train with a

Biblical critic 70

XII. Ordination in Miles City; my unexpected struggle in spiritual darkness 86

XIII. New duties as a pastor; Young People’s Bible Camp. Elim Camp and Lower

Yellowstone Bible Conference, and ‘Big Opening’; a clean sweep 92

XIV. The ‘gift’ of the Evangelist; its use in revivals of the early 1930s. First

meeting with E.E. Matteson; Watford City, North Dakota; Fairview,

Montana 101

XV. The Bannon-Haven murder case; Conversion of Charles Bannon;

a lynching; Was Charles Bannon saved? 109

XVI. Drought years; Frank B. Gigliotti, “the Injun Kid”; rodeos 123

XVII. Overseas to Edinburgh; a short Thesis on Verbal Inspiration; full thesis

assigned in the Ph.D. program; open air meetings; marriage 133

XVIII. Adventures; trips driving in the dry years. Former Texas trail herd man

converted before dying; “Why Don’t We Get Rain?”; Grasshoppers 146

XIX. A mighty revival with E.E. Matteson; six weeks of meetings in Beulah,

North Dakota; First Convert in DVBS; a child’s dying testimony;

preaching to children 155

XX. Enlarged ministry, Lemmon, South Dakota, Lemmon Bible Presbyterian

Church, organized November, 1936. Why Fundamentalists separated.

Experiences in this. Sam Allen, A.B. Dodd 165

XXI. Growth in Lemmon field; Herb Sandren’s conversion; near tragedy on a

strange road in snow; Children’s prayer answered 177

XXII. Tabernacle built in Lemmon; Revivals; Reactions of ‘Plains’ people 182

XXIII. Transportation for the preacher; horse and buggy; “Billie G.”; trains;

autodriving; light plane; adventures 196

XXIV. Driving in a blizzard; to Rapid City in the snow; Adventures in tithing 215

XXV. Revivals traveling a winter with E.E. Matteson; singer, song leader 228

XXVI. Evangelism in a pastorate. Needed attributes for a pastor; duties for an

evangelistic program. Growth in Lemmon. Use of the “Press” 238

XXVII. Overseas again; open air work in a foreign city; conversion in Lemmon

of the Even Evensons; Nichol Whitley 246

XXVIII. Divisions from the Separated Movement; reasons for; Sam Allen’s last years 259

XXIX. Life as an army chaplain 276

XXX. More of Army Life 289

XXXI. Faith Theological Seminary; Recent church history. Back to civilian

pastoring. Last trip through northern Plains 308

XXXII. Epilogue 325