Saturday, March 17, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 18

Sam Jones Revival Begins in Fort Worth, March 22, 1890

The renowned revivalist Sam Jones arrived in Fort Worth on the morning of Saturday, March 22, 1890.  His fame had preceded him, and a newly constructed tabernacle was waiting for him.  He announced services for 10:30, 3:00, and 7:30.  As was the custom most of the Methodist churches announced that they would not hold Sunday services so that members could attend the revival. (Missouri Ave. and Mulkey Memorial were the exceptions that did hold services.

Samuel Porter Jones was born in Alabama in 1847 but moved with his family to Cartersville, Georgia, in 1855.  After Civil War service he studied law and was admitted to the Georgia bar.  Unfortunately his drinking ruined his legal career and he worked at various manual occupations.  In 1872 he promised his dying father that he would quit drinking.  A week after his father’s death, he joined the Methodist church.  His commitment to religion increased, and he was admitted to the North Georgia Conference of the MECS and began riding circuits.

Invitations from fellow preacher to preach revivals widened his circuit, and he was made an agent of the conference orphanage in Decatur.  In that job, he travelled raising funds at revivals.  The breakthrough revival that catapulted him into national fame occurred in Nashville in 1885.  His most famous convert was Tom Ryman whose riverboats carried not only commercial trade, but also barrooms and casinos.  After his conversion under Jones, Ryman built an auditorium for preachers.  That auditorium later became the home of the Grand Ole Opry.

The Nashville revivals led to even more invitations.  By his own estimate from September 1885 to September 1886 he preached 1,000 sermons to 3,000,000 persons.   His was a simple message “Quit Your Meanness.”  The emphasis was always on leading the good Christian life, and he avoided theological themes. 

A reporter from the Fort Worth Daily Gazette covered the opening session of the revival, and readers of the Sunday edition were treated to a transcription of the sermon.
The transcription of the sermon illustrates the revivalist’s emphasis on practical living rather than theology.  He often used images of rural life which related to the lives of his listeners. The Saturday morning sermon in Fort Worth captures one of those images.  Jones did not close his sermon with an altar call for penitent sinners.  He knew full well than he was violating standard revival practice by omitting the altar call.  His told the congregation not to worry.

I had better bring this sermon to a close, now. But I think some of you are saying “Why I never knew a revival meeting before where they didn’t ask the sinners to stand up and come forward.’  Never you mind about the sinners.  I will attend to them.  But I never kill my hogs until the water is hot. 


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