Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 23, 1967

Old Preachers Fade Away

Earl Kimbrough

Few people living today ever heard of M.W. Matthews. He, like thousand of gospel preachers in by gone days, apparently never did anything sufficiently worthy of causing his name to be inscribed in the chronicles of Restoration history. Nevertheless, he labored in the Lord's vineyard for more than half a century, no doubt establishing a number of churches and bringing many lost souls to Christ. He made his appearance upon the scenes of time, contributed his part to the cause of New Testament Christianity, and then, as age retired him from active duty, he slowly faded from view and was forgotten. However, he was permitted to view the landscape of time from the pinnacle of more than fourscore years before the last rays of the evening sun set in his life.

Matthews was one of the earliest gospel preachers in Northwest Alabama. He was a cousin to James E. Matthews, who also preached in that area of the state in the 1820's and 1830's, prior to his removal to Mississippi, and who is perhaps best remembered as the man who influenced Tolbert Fanning. Recalling his own association with Fanning, M.W. Matthews said, "I held his clothes while my cousin Jas. E. Matthews immersed him in Bluff Creek, Lauderdale County, Ala. Many pleasant meetings we held together, and many miles did we travel together to hold meetings." M.W. Matthews was baptized by John Mulkey in Franklin County, Alabama, and began preaching in the 1820's.

In 1888, he was living at Thornton, Texas. Perilous times were upon the church of the Lord. The "society" men were pressing hard for a more liberal interpretation of the Restoration plea, and men like David Lipscomb were waging a mildly successful battle against the onrushing tide of digression. Old Brother Matthew, then near eighty, was deeply disturbed at seeing so many brethren turn away from the sound teaching of men who had spent their lives advancing the cause of truth, expecting no reward save that which lay "beyond the cold river." He regarded the departures then going on under the name of "sanctified common sense," as "calculated to destroy our labors in the glorious cause of Christ." And he was right!

Matthews admired Lipscomb and the fight he was making to preserve primitive Christianity. Apparently desirous of encouraging the embattled editor, he was moved to write him, saying in part:

I realize that the churches in this country in the main are disposed to ignore the old pioneer preachers that wore copperas and jeans pants, tread down the grass and swam water courses for the love of truth. They are made to stand aside, and the young and stylish which their hair parted in the middle, who can sport a massive chain, charm and diamond ring on the finger are those who are fit to advocate the cause of Him, who, while the foxes had holes and the birds nests, had not where to lay his head.

The main purpose of his letter is expressed in words that should encourage every soldier of the cross today. He said:

The object of this note (as there are some left who will remember my name) is to say before I go hence on the word of God I stand and intend to die. "Where the Bible speaks I speak where the Bible is silent" (sic) Your position Bro. L. is right. May the Lord bless and lengthen your days to battle for His truth. (Gospel Advocate, Aug. 22, 1888, p. 541.)

It is sad to see men who once made a noble stand for the truth of God, turn away from that truth, or compromise its position, when the years have frosted their hair. But what a joy it is to see men, like M.W. Matthews, who never sheathed the sword of the Spirit while they lived, and who, as their lives faded from the earthly scenes, slipped away with its gleaming blade still in their hand.

-707 S. Appletree St., Dothan, Alabama