J.D. Tant — Texas Preacher
I have just finished reading one of the most delightful books that I have ever read. It is entitled, J.D. Tant–Texas Preacher. I am sure that many of the brethren have read this book, and I would encourage more to read it. As a young gospel preacher, I found it particularly encouraging because in this biography we have an example of a man who confirmed in his life the very principles to which we have committed ourselves as gospel preachers. In this book, brother Tant stands as an everlasting example to preachers everywhere as to what a gospel preacher should be. Let us briefly look at how this man followed the Lord in his life. Then let us follow his example as he followed Christ.
J.D. Tant is an example of what a Gospel preacher should be in being honest. When J.D. Tant first started preaching, he was a Methodist preacher. One day, a “Campbellite” preacher came to town and Tant went to hear this man. He was convinced that Methodist doctrine was wrong and he became a Christian. He had been immersed with Methodist “baptism” and was told that if he was satisfied with his “baptism” then he would not have to be “baptized” again. A few years later, J.D. Tant came in contact with a man who taught that sectarian “baptism” was not New Testament baptism even if it was done in the form of immersion. J.D., being convinced that his “baptism” was valid, engaged this man in a debate. Tant “licked” his opponent. However, his opponent came back with new rebuttals. In the second debate, J.D. was forced to see the necessity of being immersed with the knowledge that immersion was for the remission of sins. Although the man with whom he debated did not baptize him, he sought out another gospel preacher and was scripturally baptized. Truly he is an example to the gospel preacher on being an honest man.
J.D. Tant is an example of what a Gospel preacher should be in preaching the gospel. He went everywhere he could to preach. When he first started preaching, he would simply go to people’s homes and preach to them right in their own houses. Soon, a church of Christ was established and he would go to another place to preach once more. In his day, they had what were called “protracted gospel meetings.” They would meet every day for seven hours a day for a period of three to four weeks. This is what they called a gospel meeting. (This embarrasses me when I think of the series of sermons we style “gospel meetings” today. It is no wonder that the church grew during that time, and it is no wonder that we are not growing today. The people wanted to hear gospel preaching and were willing to devote large amounts of time to hear and study the gospel message. Would to God that we get back to real gospel meetings instead of this Friday to Sunday nonsense!) Brother Tant was not ashamed to preach the gospel anywhere he could. If there was a church in the town, then he would go there and ask to use the building to preach a gospel meeting. If there was no church, then he would go to the “digressives” (Christian church) and ask to use their building to hold a gospel meeting. If there were only denominations, then he would go and ask to use one of their buildings to preach the gospel. If all three of these were not present, or did not allow him to use their building, then he would go to the courthouse and hold a gospel meeting there. He did not stop until he found a place to preach the gospel. When he left, he usually left a small congregation. Often times, he left a fairly large congregation with a meeting house which, more than likely, he helped build. At the end of his life he had baptized over 8000 people and had trained more than 100 gospel preachers. Truly he was a great example in preaching.
J.D. Tant was an example in contending “… earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). When he did preach in Christian church houses, he made is plain that he was opposed to the mechanical instrument of music and to the missionary society. When he preached to Methodists and Baptists, he made it plain that these people had to come out of Methodist and Baptist doctrine to be saved. Very often, the Methodists and/or Baptists would realize what was happening and challenge him for a debate. He was more than happy to comply with them stating that he would “affirm anything they would deny and deny anything they would affirm.” Often times he did not even worry about signing a proposition until he arrived at the debate location knowing that he was going to oppose error and defend the truth. Not only did he debate the denominations, but he also debated his own brethren in regards to the question of whether a person must know that they are being baptized for the remission of sins when they are baptized. He affirmed that a person must know this and was instrumental in convicting many brethren of this truth. He was also militant in his writing. He would not hesitate to write in the Firm Foundation, or the Gospel Advocate who, where, and what he had condemned through the power of the gospel. Toward the end of his life, many churches asked him to come and straighten out congregational problems that had arisen. He would not hesitate to mount the pulpit and call names of individuals and tell the sin in which they were involved. At the end of his articles, in which he would report these things, he would write, “Don’t forget, brethren, we are drifting.” Had he lived to see today, no doubt he would have written, “Brethren, we have drifted.” J.D. Tant was an example in contending earnestly for the faith.
There are many other things in which J.D. Tant is a good example for gospel preachers. He was an example in bravery, sincerity, charity, loyalty, sacrifice, humor, and many more wonderful Christian virtues. We would do well to buy this book; read it; learn from this man’s life, and follow him as he followed Christ.