Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 2, 1950

A Farewell Talk

F. G. Allen

(Editor's note: Some preachers and some churches seem to have trouble in determining exactly how long a preacher ought to stay in one place, laboring with a congregation. The longest service with one congregation in modern times that we know anything about was the forty-five years and two weeks that Bro. M. C. Kurfees preached for Haldeman Avenue church in Louisville, Kentucky. Many preachers move every year. Some churches have the rule that they will not keep a preacher more than three years, regardless of how well the work is going. All such arbitrary rules are, we think, rather too stupid for intelligent men to accept. Apropos of this matter, we thought the introductory remarks of F. G. Allen in his farewell to the Mt. Byrd congregation might be interesting. This sermon was delivered to a "large and deeply interested audience on the last Lord's day in October, 1885." We give here only the introduction to the sermon, as that is all that is personal, and on the point we mention.)

Brethren, I have desired, before it is too late, and the golden opportunity is forever past, to make you this farewell talk.

Sixteen years ago last August, I came among you and spake to you in the name of the Master for the first time. The first of October following, I began my regular work for you as a preacher of the gospel of Christ,. The record shows that soon after this, when the church list was corrected by the exclusion of all who could not be found and reclaimed, the number of members was two hundred and forty. It also shows that since then, at different times and in different ways, the number added has been about four hundred. In consequence of death, removals, exclusions, and the building up of two other churches, the membership has been so reduced as to range from three hundred to three hundred and seventy-five.

Many of you remember the great crisis through which we passed during the first year. It was the most serious trouble through which the church has ever passed. Indeed it was the only very serious trouble the church has ever had in its history of more than half a century. This threatened the life of the church. The deep anxiety that the brethren felt can never be described. The days and nights of anxious care and labor on the part of some of us, can never be appreciated by those who have not passed through a like crisis in a church in which they felt that all its interests, dearer than life itself, hung suspended as by a hair. But through the good providence of God and the faithfulness of the brethren involved, it was happily adjusted. The dark and threatening cloud rolled away, the sun of peace and harmony beamed again upon us, and its brightness was never more obscured.

I am now enabled to say some things that it gives me deep pleasure to say. During these sixteen years the church never opposed any measure that I advocated. Nor was it ever divided in regard to such measures. A singular unanimity characterized you during the whole time. It is an honor to you, and worthy of all commendation.

During those years there was never a vote cast against me as your preacher. If any one desired a change, he did not make it manifest. This is also very commendable. In too many churches at least a small minority will soon desire a change, and continue to agitate the question till they get it. As a rule, those hardest to please are of the least value to the church. You have not been hard to please. You have not been exacting. For this I commend you.

Another thing which gives me pleasure to testify to in your behalf, is that during these many long years, covering more than two-thirds of my life as a preacher, not one of this large congregation ever spoke to me an unkind word. How many you have spoken about me, I know not. I only know that you never thus spoke to me. And this, as far as I now remember, is true of the entire community, regardless of church relations. This is certainly to be appreciated. This universal kindness has much to do with making life pleasant, regardless of its other misfortunes. And this manifestation of appreciation has much to do with developing the resources of man.

Still another thing to be more highly appreciated perhaps than those mentioned, I now state with feelings of profound gratitude. During three years of those sixteen, I was unable to preach. During two of the years, I preached a few times. One year I was in the house but once. But you continued to sustain me, as if I were at work. This you did till circumstances enabled me to protest, and decline your further generosity. This is more than can be said of all churches. How strikingly does it contrast with those churches that dock their preacher's salary if compelled by sickness to miss even one appointment. I thank God that I never wasted time on any such a soulless church. While these happy relations are forever passed, and another shall go in and out before you, and I shall be engaged exclusively in other work while the Lord permits me to stay among you, which can not be long, I should be lost to every feeling of gratitude did I not treasure up in my heart a fond remembrance of these manifestations of your kindness. To spend among you my few remaining days, and have my frail body laid away to rest with yours till we all arise in the likeness of our Lord, I desire as the consummation of our long and happy relationship in Christ.