The Old Time Religion

Acts

The Old Time Religion

October 13th, 1996 @ 7:30 PM

Acts 8:8

And there was great joy in that city.
Related Topics: History, Religion, True Religion, 1996, Acts
Print Sermon

Related Topics

History, Religion, True Religion, 1996, Acts

Downloadable Media
  
Play Audio

Show References:
ON OFF

THE OLD TIME RELIGION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 8:8

10-13-96     7:30 p.m.

 

 

We welcome the multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio.  This is the pastor emeritus bringing the message.  It is a leaf out of my own life.  I have been a pastor for over seventy years, and along that pilgrim way there are so many things that have happened that have impressed my heart.  And out of a multitude of them, I bring a sermon entitled The Old Time Religion.

The background text is in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts.  And starting at verse [5], the Scriptures say, that, "Philip the evangelist went down to Samaria, and preached the gospel unto them.  And with one accord the multitude gave heed to those things that Philip preached, and a great multitude was saved."  Then the text, verse 8:  "And there was great rejoicing in that city," the old time religion.

I have lived at the first, the old religion; and I have now experienced the new.  So in between I have seen so many things come to pass.  The old religion was full of feeling, and tears, and response, and rejoicing; and the new religion, it seems to me, is mostly characterized by repressiveness and unresponsiveness, and just observations.  So we are going to look at the old time religion.

First, the church;  I cannot remember any church back yonder, eighty years ago, when I was a youngster of about six or seven, I cannot remember a church that did not have in it an old fashioned potbellied stove.  And east of the Mississippi, they built the fire out of wood; and west of the Mississippi, out here, the fire was made out of coal.  And the men, almost without exception, attended the service chewing a tobacco cud.  Well as time went on and they sat there, they would have drowned in the ambeer were it not some way they could dispose of that overflowing in their mouths and in their throats.  So they would go over to the stove and lift the lid, and nearly put out the fire.

In one of the affluent churches of that day, they installed spittoons.  And the young preacher called, took them out.  And one of the favorite men went to the preacher, and said, "I miss those spittoons."  And the preacher replied, "That’s the reason we took them out:  because you missed them."

All of the churches that I knew back yonder eighty some odd years ago had conferences on Saturday afternoon.  Once a month they had a church conference.  And at that convocation, all of the business of the church was done.  And of course, in every church – this church is so large you don’t realize it – but in a small church there has always been somebody who is agin’ everything, and his presence is very much felt and known.  So at this conference, a fellow got up and said, "I make a motion that we place a chandelier in the church."  And this guy who is always "agin’ it," stood up and said, "Not so.  Not so.  For three reasons: one, we don’t have the money to buy it; number two, we ain’t got nobody to play it; and number three, what we need here in this church is more light."

And at another church conference, one of the brethren stood up and said, "I make a motion we build a fence around the cemetery."  And this guy always agin’ it, stood up, and said, "We don’t need a fence around the cemetery.  Do you know anybody on the outside that wants in?  Do you know anybody on the inside that can get out?  I am opposed to building a fence around the cemetery," the old time religion, the church.

The old time religion, the revival; my first pastorate at Pulltight didn’t have a church house, but they had a tabernacle.  And on Friday before the fourth Sunday in July, always the annual revival began; and the people came from the ends of the earth.  The crops were laid by, there was nothing else of interest – this is before the radio, before the television, before these Sunday football and baseball games – and everybody attended the revival.  And that’s the way I began.  I began in those tabernacles. I began in those brush arbors; I began wherever there was a place where the people could congregate – the old time revival.

Before I came to Dallas, I held a revival meeting in a county seat church.  And the power of the Lord came upon it, and in the invitation on that last Sunday there came two young men and sat down there at the front pew.  And when the invitation was over, the pastor had the people be seated in order for him to present the new converts.  And as he stood up thus to welcome them, down the aisle came one of the finest looking women you ever saw.  I learned later she was the wife of one of the leading citizens of that part of the world, and dressed beautifully.  She came down the aisle and went over there where those two boys were seated.  She put her hands upon the elder of the two, and said, "Today, I prayed for one of my boys to be converted."  Then she placed her hands on the head of the other lad, and said, "But God has been better to me than my prayers:  God has given me both of my boys."  And then from one side of that church house to the other, and up and down the aisles, she lifted her arms in praise, and clapped her hands in rejoicing, saying, "Praise God!  He has given me both of my boys!"

Dear me!  You just can’t describe the feeling of a congregation in the presence of a rejoicing like that; the old time religion.

I was converted in a revival meeting when I was ten years old.  I gave my life to be a preacher in a revival meeting when I was ten years old.  When I came to Dallas fifty-two years ago – you won’t believe this – we had our revival meetings twice a year, and they lasted a full month.  Seven nights out of every week we met in this auditorium, and we filled it, we jammed it, in a revival meeting. The whole church responded.  Those were glorious days.

We don’t have revival anymore.  And the last time we attempted to have one, we had as our evangelist, one of the most famous preachers and pastors in America; and we had two converts.  We haven’t tried it any since.  But oh! the old time church in those revival meetings, it seemed to me that the whole world got religion.

The old time religion – the services:  they were filled with feeling, and emotion, and response.  When I was converted, I couldn’t see the preacher for crying.  And the following Wednesday night, they had a prayer service in which those who had found the Lord in the revival gave their testimony.  So I stood up to give my testimony:  said about two or three or four words, and broke down crying.  I looked at my mother, who was seated there by my side, to find encouragement to keep on, and she was crying.  So I sat down crying.  And on the other end of the pew was an old, old time Baptist retired preacher, he stood up and pointed toward me and said, "Young man, that was a fine beginning.  That was a fine beginning."  I’ve thought of that a thousand times a thousand times.  Beginning back there, so many years ago, and still praising the Lord and blessing the Lord.

So somebody invited me back yonder when I was a youth to go to an annual associational meeting of the Green River Baptist Church in central Kentucky.  The association was made up of sixty-four quarter-time churches.  A quarter-time church – all the churches were quarter-time in that association – a quarter-time church is one that had preaching once a month.  So a pastor would be pastor of four quarter-time churches; and he’d preach this Sunday, this Sunday, and this Sunday.  That’s the way I began:  with quarter-time churches.  Well, when they held their associational annual meeting, there was no church house that would begin to hold the throngs of those people out there in the hill country of Kentucky; there was no room for them to be seated.  So what they did, they went to a grove and they cut down some of the trees, logs, and split the logs and then set them up.  And that’s the way they provided for the throngs to come and to be seated in that annual associational revival meeting.

So there I sat in the middle of it, just enjoying those Kentucky hillbillies as they were conducting the things that belong to the kingdom of God.  Well, did you know, right in the middle of one of those sermons, right in the middle of it, right in the middle of it, there was a man seated right down there, one, one away from me, and he stood up and began to sing; just right in the middle of that fellow’s sermon?  First time I ever heard the song, and I remember it as vividly now as I did then.  He sang:

My heavenly home is bright and fair,

And I feel like travelling on

No harm or death can enter there,

And I feel like travelling on.

 

Yes, I feel like travelling on,

I feel like travelling on;

My heavenly home is bright and fair,

And I feel like travelling on.

 

Oh, the Lord has been so good to me,

I feel like travelling on.

Until those mansions I can see,

I feel like travelling on

[Author Unknown]

 

And did you know, by that time this fellow over here stood up, and this one stood up, and they stood up, and finally the whole throng was standing up, crying, and shaking hands with one another.  And that’s what I was doing; I was crying, too – and shaking hands with all of those sweet Christians all around, "I feel like travelling on."  That’s the old time religion.

And our services today are so different.  Right here in this church where you are seated, Dr. Truett was preaching one day, and while he was preaching in the service, there stood up a sainted old woman, right back there; and she stood up and began to praise the Lord, and to shout, and to magnify the name of the Lord, "God be praised for His goodness to us!"  Well, when she did that, one of the deacons in the church rushed over there to her, and was guiding her outside, escorting her outside.  And Dr. Truett, of course, was watching it.  And when it happened, he raised his hand, and said, "There, there, good deacon, leave her alone, leave her alone.  She’s just happy in the Lord," the old time religion.

Well, upon a day, one of these fellows that grew up in one of those old time churches visited a church in the city.  And he sat down, and while he was listening, the preacher up there said something good.  And he said, "Amen!"  And the preacher forgot his sermon.  After a while, he recovered himself, and started his sermon again; said something good about Jesus, and that old visitor said, "Praise the Lord!"  And the preacher absolutely forgot everything, and quit.  So the usher went over there to him, and tapped him on the shoulder, and said, "Shut up.  Don’t you see that you’re bothering our preacher?"  And the visitor said, "Yea, yes, yea, but I was just praising the Lord."  And the usher said, "Well, you can’t praise the Lord in this church."  And he replied, "But sir, I got religion."  And the usher said, "Well, you didn’t get it here.  Shut up!"  The old time religion.

So the old time preacher, the one before you were born, the old time preacher;  one of the men, when I was over there on that side of the Mississippi, said to me, "I want to take you to an annual meeting."  And he took me way out into the country, the Lord alone knows where; and those hills and valleys were full of Afro-Americans, of colored people, of Negroes.  And when I tried to attend their meeting, I couldn’t get near the church house:  it was jammed with people; and there was a throng all the way around it.  But I was determined I was going to hear and see the goings-on.  So I began moving, and working my way, and working my way, and working my way, and finally I got to the window; and I put my elbows on the window sill, and propped up my face, and looked, and listened.  I can’t describe it.

When I finally got there, up at the pulpit was a tall, tall Negro preacher.  He was gray, gray-headed, and he had a long black coat starting at the collar here and going clear down to his shoe tops.  It was a hot August day, but he was dressed in that long, black coat.  And, oh my, how he was magnifying and preaching the wonderful grace of the Lord Jesus!  Then right in the middle of his sermon, right in the middle of it, he stopped, and made a sweeping gesture of his hand, and said, "Where was the Lord a’fore the world was made?  Hmm?  Where was He?"  And all that bunch out there in front of him said, "Hmm, preacher, we don’t know.  Where was He?"  So he turned around to all the preachers in the association that were up there in the pulpit, and repeated it:  "Where was the Lord a’fore the world was made?"  And they all shook their heads, and said, "Preacher, hmm, we don’t know.  Where was He?"  And he looked over at that window where I was propped up in the sill, and said, "White boy, where was the Lord a’fore the world was made?"  "Oh!" I said to myself, "I don’t know"; I had no idea of it.  Then he went back up there to the pulpit and made a great sweep of his hand, and said, "Where was the Lord a’fore the world was made?  The Lord was in His glory!"  And all those people out there said, "Amen, preacher, that’s right.  The Lord was in His glory."

He turned around and repeated it to the preachers, "Where was the Lord a’fore the world was made?"  And they said, "That’s right, preacher, He was in His glory."  And then he looked over at that window and looked at me, and repeated, "Where was the Lord a’fore the world was made?"  And I said to myself, "That beats anything I ever had thought!  I did not know I was stupid like that.  Why didn’t I be able to reply, ‘The Lord was in His glory’?"  Can you imagine services that are conducted with just the liberty, and the freedom, and the feeling of those wonderful people who lived back there in the days of the old time religion?

And that leads me to the day of salvation and conversion:  the old time religion when we were saved.  I grew up in a little town in the Panhandle that one time years and years ago was a line camp for the XIT Ranch.  XIT – whether it’s true or not, that’s the way I was told as a boy – meant "Ten in Texas", XIT.  And what had happened was the state of Texas took ten full counties up there in the northwestern part of the state, and gave it to a company in England to build the capitol building that you see now in Austin.  And that vast ranch that covered ten full counties was kept vibrant and alive by those cowboys.  And a camp that belonged to those young fellows was there where I grew up.

In my father’s shop, those old cowmen – now I’m talking about seventy-five or eighty years ago – in my father’s shop, those old time cowmen would come and sit, and they would talk by the hour of things that happened on the XIT Ranch, where they then worked.  Now when you go to a picture show or look at a television, why, you will see portrayed in drama, some of the stories of the West.  But you will never hear a story about the Lord, as those old time cowmen would speak in my father’s shop.  I don’t understand that.  And here is one of those stories I heard from an old cowman about the Lord, about the Bible.

In a line camp, chuck wagon, Jake the cook, the cowboys, out on the ranch herding up those cattle, there came back to the camp a young fellow, tall young cowboy; he came back for a fresh mount.  So he went to the corral, picked him out a chosen horse, roped it, bridled it, saddled it, got on it, and rode out to go back to his work on the ranch.  But the horse that he had chosen was not broken.  And it began to buck, and to sun-step, and to sidestep, and to pitch.  You never threw an old time cowpoke, never in the world; but sometimes a boy would fall when it wasn’t his fault, and it was thus that day.  As that pony began to pitch and to sidestep, it lost its balance and fell over backward on that lad.  And the horse got up and scampered away:  but the boy was crushed internally, bleeding in his mouth, and couldn’t arise.

Jake, the cook in the camp, watched it all.  He ran over to the lad, and lovingly picked him up, and brought him back to the camp, and laid him on the cot.  But what could a cook do with a boy that was crushed internally and bleeding at his mouth?  And as the lad’s life ebbed away, he turned to the cook, and said, "Jake, you know that big black Book that the bossman is always reading to us?  Jake, see if you can find that Book, and bring it to me."  So Jake the cook went to the chuck wagon, dug around the things that belonged to the bossman, found the Bible, and brought it to the dying lad.  And the boy said, "Jake, you know that verse he’s always reading to us, John 3:16?  Jake, see if you can find it."  So Jake took the Book, and pored through its pages, and came to John; when he got to John, to chapter 3, down the verses to number 16.  And the boy said, "Jake, read to me that verse."  And Jake the cook read to him, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life."  And the lad said to Jake, "Now Jake, I want you to put that Book on my chest, just so.  And, Jake, I want you to take my finger, and put it on that verse, John 3:16.  And when the boss comes in the evening, you tell him that I died with my finger on John 3:16."

One glad smile of pleasure

O’er the cowboy’s face was spread;

One dark, convulsive shadow,

And the tall young lad was dead.

Far from his home and family,

They laid him down to rest,

With his saddle for a pillow

And that Bible on his breast.

[Author and Work Unknown]

 

The old time religion.

Give me that old time religion,

Give me that old time religion,

Give me that old time religion,

It’s good enough for me.

 

It will do when I am dying,

It will do when I am dying,

It will do when I am dying,

It’s good enough for me.

 

It will take us all to heaven,

It will take us all to heaven,

It will take us all to heaven,

It’s good enough for me.

 

Give me that old time religion,

Give me that old time religion,

Give me that old time religion,

It’s good enough for me.

 

Now son, this time I want you to play the organ, and I want you to do something else:  we’re going to sing, "Makes me love everybody, it’s good enough for me"; and while we sing that stanza of it, "Makes me love everybody," I want you to stand up, I want you to stand up, I want you to shake hands with somebody while we sing.  It’s the old time religion.  All right, stand up.

Makes me love everybody,

Makes me love everybody,

Makes me love everybody,

It’s good enough for me.

 

It’s the old time religion,

It’s the old time religion,

It’s the old time religion,

It’s good enough for me.

 

It was good for my mother,

It was good for my mother,

It was good for my mother,

And it’s good enough for me.

 

It will take us all to heaven,

It will take us all to heaven,

It will take us all to heaven,

It’s good enough for me.

["Old Time Religion"; Author Unknown]

 

Amen!  Bless His name!  Bless His name!  Bless His name!

Now, sweet people, when I was converted, when I gave my heart to the Lord, they were singing the song:

There is a fountain filled with blood,

Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;

And sinners plunged beneath the flood,

Lose all their guilty stains.

["There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood"; William Cowper]

 

That’s the song they were singing when I was converted, and I thought tonight in the appeal of invitation that we would sing that old time song, "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood."  And you, you want to come up here and lead it, Freddy?  And preacher, you come and stand there.

Somebody you tonight, to give your heart to Jesus, as I did as a little boy, or somebody you to put your life in the fellowship of our dear and precious church, or to avow some answer to a call of the Spirit in your heart, while we sing this old time song you come and speak to one of these godly men.  All right, while we sing it.

THE OLD-TIME RELIGION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 8:8

10-13-96

 

I.              Introduction

1.    Lived between old shouting, mourning, weeping and beginning of new sophisticated but the old is most remembered

2.    Pot bellied stove

3.    Heartfelt with many tears

II.            Religion of the Book

III.           Religion of the blood, Hebrews 9:22, redemption

IV.          Religion of the blessed hope