Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 17, 1961
NUMBER 15, PAGE 4,12a

C. R. Nichol Is Dead


With mixed emotions we received last month the report of the death of brother C. R. Nichol — surely one of the greatest debaters and preachers of his generation. We were happy that a great and noble soldier was granted release from his sufferings; we were saddened at the passing from the earthly scene of one who had stood so mightily against the forces of error. Within one year of each other two of the greatest champions of truth of our century have crossed over — W. Curtis Porter preceded C. R. Nichol in death by one year, both of them passing over the river the first week in July.

Brother Nichol did his greatest work in defense of the truth against the errors of denominationalism. For the most part he remained aloof from "brotherhood" controversies, even though his convictions on these matters were well known. Perhaps the two biggest "internal problems" in which his convictions compelled him to speak out were premillennialism and the present controversy over Herald of Truth and the orphan homes. He collaborated with R. L. Whiteside in reviewing the works of R. H. Boll on premillennialism; and stated that he could no more defend the modern "orphanage" than he could the Missionary Society.

This writer will never forget that scene in the City Auditorium at Abilene, Texas, in the early days of December, 1955, when E. R. Harper and Yater Tant were debating the scripturalness of the Herald of Truth organization. Seated at brother Harper's table, assisting him in his efforts, were a group of extremely self-confident younger men (James Walter Nichols, Thomas B. Warren, Robert Gorden Clements, and perhaps others) — men who were highly gifted and successful as promoters and propagandists, but whose knowledge of the Scriptures was so elementary that it is doubtful that any one of them (or perhaps all of them combined) could have named the books of the Bible without help. Opposed to this array of juvenile talent, and helping this writer in his efforts, were the two men who were universally recognized as perhaps the two greatest debaters then living, the genial and humble W. Curtis Porter and that veteran of countless battles with error, the venerable C. R. Nichol.

As brother Harper wrestled with the awkward and (to him, at least) totally unfamiliar and novel Warren-Deaver argument on "component parts-constituent elements-total situation" monstrosity, trying to make sense of the jumble, the aged Nichol snorted under his breath. Nichol had to leave before the debate was completed, and almost the last thing I said to him was, "Brother Nichol, you have been over this ground. What is your judgment as to what the next few years may hold?"

The aged warrior replied in a voice charged with deep emotion, and almost in tears, "Brother Tant, there is going to be a cleavage. The church is going to divide. We have right here tonight a Missionary Society; and they are not going to back down!"

That he saw clearly what was happening is beyond question. When others were confused and deceived by the very noise of the promoters, Nichol realized what was coming. He had been through it all before, when the Christian Church split off from the faithful disciples and "promoted" their evangelistic association. His presence along with that of W. Curtis Porter on the platform in Abilene opposing the Herald of Truth spoke volumes as to the difference between the defenders and the opposers of this twentieth-century Society. On the one side assisting Harper, callow and arrogant youth, puffed up with monumental conceit; on the other Curtis Porter and C. R. Nichol assisting this writer. It was a picture fraught with ominous portents for the future to those of discernment. It accurately foreshadowed the things to come — an inevitable split between the youthful "promoters" in the church and the men whose lives were dedicated to upholding a "Thus saith the Lord."

Brother Nichol's book is closed. The record has now been written. That untold thousands heard the ancient story of the cross from his lips, and were persuaded to obedience by him is known to us all. For more than sixty years his name has been a sort of "household word" among those who were contending for the ancient order. His death will come as an especially deep sorrow to the editor's aged mother, Mrs. J. D. Tant, now in her ninetieth year. She was a young school teacher in north Texas when she first came in contact with the "boy preacher" Nichol, some four or five years her junior. She went with him to many of his appointments, tactfully offering suggestions as to his grammar and the presentation of his lessons. It was a help for which Nichol was deeply grateful, and often through the years that followed he was a welcome visitor in the Tant home. He and "Miss Nannie" (she was never "sister Tant" to him) would spend many happy hours reminiscing of those early years.

That brother Nichol had his faults even his closest friends would not deny — an undue portion of self-respect perhaps being the most obvious. This tended to make him impatient at times. He was also subjected to criticism from many of his friends for failing to take a more vigorous part in fighting the present apostasy. His convictions were well known, but his failure to speak out those convictions often and loud in opposition to the Herald of Truth and the institutional benevolence societies gave the proponents of those destructive heresies an advantage they should not have enjoyed — the silence of his mighty pen and partial loss of his great influence.

But in the hour of death let charity cover those weaknesses, and let us all remember him for the prince that he was. With dauntless courage and an unfailing confidence in the word of God he lived out his allotted span, and even went well above that four-score which some achieve "by reason of strength." Nothing that can be now said will either add to or detract from the finished scroll. Beneath the warm sun and bright stars of Texas his body sleeps in the final rest, awaiting only that last great call when "the dead in Christ shall rise first." All who love the Lord will take renewed courage from his long life of devotion to the truth.