Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 36, PAGE 10-11

"David Lipscomb As I Knew Him"

John T. Lewis

On September 28, 1898 I entered the Nashville Bible School, then located on South Spruce Street, Nashville, Tennessee. That was the opening of the seventh session of the school, it was then that I saw Brother Lipscomb for the first time. His old horse and buggy hitched to a fence post on the old campus was a familiar sight every school day for the following five years. In 1903 the school was moved to the present location of the David Lipscomb College. The first year I was there I had two classes under him, one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament, the next four years I had only his Old Testament class. During those five years, he drove the five miles from his home every day, hot or cold, rain or shine, and if he was ever late or ever missed a class I do not remember it. Brother Lipscomb taught only the Bible in the school, and he taught only two classes a day, one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. This he did from the beginning of the school until the infirmities of old age forced him to relinquish his teaching. The end of his earthly pilgrimage came in 1917; but I do not know what year he had to give up his teaching. I finished my schooling there on May 24, 1906, and he was still teaching his classes with interest and vigor that he was the day I entered the school. During all those years of teaching he never received one penny for his services.

During those years Brother Daniel Sommer was going over the country teaching what he called "Bible readings" and charging so much per. In 1905 I was in Medford Ont., Canada, and while there I read a long article in the Octographic Review, from Daniel Sommer, Lambasting the Bible School. I wrote and asked him what he would advise a young man to do that had to work his way through school. If he would advise him to go to a school where, while getting his literary training, he could get his Bible free under teachers like David Lipscomb or, would he advise him to first get his literary education, then take Bible readings for so much per? He replied that David Lipscomb did not know as much about the Bible as some people thought he knew, that if I had read his article on "Horrible Revelations"; he was talking about David Lipscomb. Brother Lipscomb had written an article saying that the Great Commission gave Christians the right to teach the Bible anywhere. Brother Sommer said that was a "Horrible Revelation." We had quite a correspondence but never could get Brother Sommer to give me a clear cut answer to any questions. He would say answer privately and be careful. However, soon after our correspondence Brother Sommer was advertising his Bible readings free. So, whatever Brother Sommer may have thought of Brother Lipscomb's teaching, his example in teaching the Bible Free must have had its influence on Brother Sommer.

I have heard Brother Lipscomb say many times that he did not want a college, that it took money to run a college, he wanted a school where boys and girls, whose parents were not able to send them to college, could come and be taught the word of God daily to make better citizens out of them. His classes were always orderly, each student would read a verse then Brother Lipscomb would ask questions or comment on the same, and any student could ask a question; but the students could not discuss anything among themselves in his class.

Brother Lipscomb was an elder of the South College Street Church for many years. In teaching on the church's responsibility of caring for its needy, he said the College Street church once had an elderly Sister that was destitute, the church cared for her a while and then sent her off to the county farm or poor house. His comment was: "The church has never been what it was before," His idea was when ever a local congregation turns its responsibilities over to others, it loses its power. Dr. W.A. Bryan told me that he heard Brother Lipscomb preach on the blood of Christ, he said it was the greatest sermon he had ever heard, he went up to compliment Brother Lipscomb? He said Brother Lipscomb just sorter grunted, turned and walked off. That insulted the doctor's dignity; but that was Brother Lipscomb, he cared but little for the praise of men. Nobody ever heard or read of David Lipscomb telling about what he had done. I never heard Brother Lipscomb make a statement about anything he had ever done that even sounded like he was bragging about it, not even in a jocular vain. I heard Brother Lipscomb say that after the close of the Civil War, Bishop McFerrin, of the Northern Methodist Church, told him that he knew the Lord was on the side of the North because they whipped the South. Brother Lipscomb said he replied, "We get our comfort from Heb. 12:6, 'For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth'."

If any one had gone out shooting preachers he would have never shot Brother Lipscomb. Brother Lipscomb was not only a gospel preacher and mighty with the pen; but he was also a successful farmer, and he always looked more like a farmer than he did a preacher. When I was in school the Lipscomb debating society wanted to get his picture to hang in the hall. I went to talk to Sister Lipscomb about it, she said, "Brother Lewis, let me handle that; I think I can get Mr. Lipscomb to sit for the picture." She did, and when it was finished I went to town and got it, and carried it by to let Sister Lipscomb see it. She looked at it, and then said, "Brother Lewis it may be interesting to you to know that everything Mr. Lipscomb has on I made, except his shoes and suspenders." He said the padding in tailored clothes hurt his shoulders. That did not mean that he was slouchy in his dress, he was for comfort, and wore the same kind of clothes that his forefathers wore — home made, if not home spun. In many respects they lived as their forefathers lived. I was in Nashville after I left school and went out to see Brother and Sister Lipscomb, they would have me to stay for dinner. Sister Lipscomb had a small hand mill, she ground the wheat and made bread out of the whole wheat. Their idea was that the strength was taken out of bolted wheat or flour. That was their home life.

David Lipscomb stood as a giant oak in the wilderness when the wolves of digression were almost sweeping the church back into the swamps of denominationalism, from which the early pioneers had rescued it. J.B. Briney, in those days, cartooned Brother Lipscomb as an old woman, in a Mother Hubbard dress with broom, trying to sweep back the tide of the sea, and I suspect that Briney, deep down in his heart, knew that the old sister had turned the tide. I have heard Brother Lipscomb say that the smallest departure from God's word would open the flood gate to digression. He said that when preachers and elders got to calling meetings to discuss plans for carrying out the work of the church there was always the danger of some one suggesting an unscriptural plan. Any one that knows anything about the digressive movement, knows that every missionary society that has ever been organized, in the Restoration Movement, had its beginning that way.

In 1910 the church in Henderson, Tennessee called a meeting of the preachers and elders of that area to discuss plans for putting a preacher in that field. Their plan called for the congregations, in that area, to send their contributions to the Henderson church and the elders of that congregation would hire the preacher and put him in the field. The only responsibility that the contributing churches had in the matter was to send their contributions to the Henderson church. When Brother Lipscomb heard of the plan he wrote an article pointing out the danger and the unscripturalness of the plan. His article caused quite a furor among some brethren. In June of that year, on my way to Canada, I stopped off in Cincinnati, Ohio and spent the night with Brother Fred Rowe, editor of the Christian Leader. He was fuming about Brother Lipscomb's article. He said David Lipscomb went about with a chip on his shoulder, criticizing everything brethren wanted to do that was not started in Nashville. The Henderson plan miscarried; it was never put in operation.

Maybe Brother Lipscomb was wrong (?), the Henderson plan had been operating among the digressives for more than sixty years, at that time, and it would go over with a bang among the "loyal" brethren of today.

The last time I saw Brother Lipscomb his mind was almost a blank, he was sitting in his large arm chair with his Bible open in his lap. Sister Lipscomb talked before him about his going as though he was going off on a vacation. She said, "Brother Lewis, Mr. Lipscomb is just waiting for the end to come." She said, "I have already selected his Pallbearers." At this time I can only recall four that she named: John E. Dunn, John T. Lewis, S.H. Hall and H. Leo Boles. Her wishes were not carried out in this respect. Brother Lipscomb was dead and buried before I heard of his passing.

Brother Boles told me that when the end came, Sister Lipscomb came in, and kneeling by his bed said, "Lord receive his spirit." got up and went on out of the room. She knew that his suffering was over, and that her going would soon follow. Therefore, instead of weeping and wondering what would become of her, she was rejoicing in the "precious and exceeding great promises" of the God they had faithfully served together for so many years.