Sketch On The Life Of
Robert W. Office
R.W. OFFICER was born in
August 18, 1845. He obeyed the gospel at the age of twenty-five, and was
baptized by Dr. Barris, at
Franklin County, Tenn. He was married to Miss Lota Venable, of
Winchester, Tenn., December 25, 1870, with whom he still lives happily.
His first effort to preach was the night he believed the gospel. At the
close of a sermon on the subject of the resurrection, he arose and said:
"I believe with all my heart that Jesus Christ is
the Son of God, and I want to be baptized." The preacher, being a
Methodist, produced a discipline, and he said: "That is the wrong book."
The preacher asked him to explain himself, and he referred to cases of
conversion in Acts of the Apostles as examples which he wished to
follow. He talked several minutes, and closed by saying: "I am in the
condition of mind the Ethiopian eunuch was in when Philip preached unto
him Jesus. I want to find a man who will be as kind to me as Philip was
to the eunuch. Can I find him here tonight?" Several preachers were
present, but no one responded. He then said: "Is there no convert here
to the gospel which Philip preached to the eunuch? Then I will have to
convert some one." From that night forward he labored to convert some
one to baptize him as Philip baptized the eunuch. He finally succeeded,
and Dr. Barris baptized him six months afterwards on the confession of
his faith in Jesus the Christ. The Liberty Baptist Association employed
him as their missionary, and each year for six years, during which time
he labored in that capacity, he was called upon—sometimes more than once
in a year—to answer the charge of heresy. He was a constant and careful
student of the Bible, an original and independent thinker, and a fluent
and vigorous speaker. He traveled extensively and labored continuously
doctrine publicly and from house to house in the mountain region of
He quoted scripture readily and copiously from all parts of the Bible,
and the people so far exaggerated his familiarity with the Holy
Scriptures as to think he could read the whole Bible from memory. The
tenacity with which he adhered to the Bible, and the vigor, and even
recklessness, with which he assailed everything in the way of religious
work or worship not found in the New Testament, attracted much
attention, drew large audiences, and caused no small stir in all
denominations wherever he went. He repudiated everything in the way of a
church, save the church of God, and his ideas about the church of God
were so far from the doctrines and practices of the various
denominations that few people seemed to understand exactly what he was
driving at. The prevailing idea was that he was trying to start a new
church, but he said he wanted no church, save the one that is in the New
Testament. Wherever he went, those who were disposed to have nothing in
religious work or worship but what the New Testament teaches rallied
around him enthusiastically, and those who held to the traditions and
doctrines of men in denominational institutions opposed him stoutly. His
work was disintegrating to all denominational institutions and
ecclesiastical organizations, and for that reason the whole machinery of
denominationalism was against him. Some of the Baptists opposed him and
tried to break him down, but others indorsed him and did all they could
to hold him up.
The principle to which he was committed soon ran
its course to its logical conclusion and consequence, causing him to
stand aloof from all denominational institutions and ecclesiastical
organizations, and to oppose them as a violation of the plain teaching
of the New Testament and a sin against God. Some Baptist churches and
many individual members from all denominations accepted the logic of the
situation and stood with him on this broad basis of undenominational,
New Testament Christianity.
This cut off all support he had received up to
that time from denominational organizations; but he went steadily on
with his work on the New Testament basis of individual effort, supported
by voluntary contributions from individual Christians, isolated
well-wishers, and independent congregations.
The field of his labor gradually widened into
Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas, and he finally undertook to
preach the gospel in the
Indian Territory. The best years of his life have been devoted to
that work. While preaching among the Indians he has been supported by
contributions from his old friends, acquaintances, and converts in the
States; sometimes strangers and churches from afar have assisted him;
editors have now and then appealed to their readers to help him; and, in
emergencies, he has labored with his own hands to supply his
necessities. In the limited space of this sketch nothing will be
attempted by way of description of his work in the
Indian Territory, save
a few things which illustrate his methods as a frontier and pioneer
PERILS AMONG ROBBERS.
When Officer went to the
settlements were few and far between, and in his journeys he often
camped alone. On one of his trips, after crossing the Canadian River, he
decided to camp by a spring. Accordingly, he turned his ponies on the
grass, ate his supper, hung one end of his hammock to a wheel of his
wagon and the other end of it to a tree, suspended his lantern from a
limb of the tree, and opened his Bible and began to read. Some one had
tacked a board on the tree to which one end of his hammock was hung,
bearing the inscription, "Look out for robbers," but, he had not noticed
Early in the night five rugged, ugly fellows
dashed up from the river on horseback, firing their revolvers as they
came. When they reached the place where he was swinging in his hammock
and reading the Bible by the light of his lantern suspended from a limb
of the tree above his head, one of them said: "Do you see that sign?"
He looked on the tree in the direction indicated
and for the first time read the sign. With ready tact he replied: "Yes,
I see it; that's all right. Hasn't a man a right to advertise his
business? I am running this ranch now; I got here first; so you may as
well shell out, boys."
One of them said: " Well, what, do you want? "
"I want to rob you of all your meanness and send
you on in the world to be good and do good. Light and come in.
The answer struck them favorably. They were cattle
men returning from a ride on the range, and "only meant to have some fun
by scaring a `greener,' " as they said. They spent the night with the
evangelist, and within a few weeks four of the five became Christians.
Rube married an Indian girl whom Officer and his
co-laborers had helped to a respectable position in Christian society.
Officer advised Rube to open a farm under the law which gives all
Indians and men who have Indian wives the right of homestead in the
Indian Territory. About two years later the evangelist went somewhat out of
his way, as he was passing through the country, to see how Rube and his
wife were getting on. He found a crossing of the creek in the woods,
and, guessing his way, he soon came to a footpath, in which he overtook
Rube's wife, with a young baby on one arm, and in the other hand a
bucket of water which she was carrying home from the creek, about half a
mile away. He got off of his pony, relieved her of her burden, and soon
they came to a log cabin, part dirt floor, open cracks between the logs,
poorly covered, and a part of a blanket for a door shutter. The wife
said she did not know where Rube was, but the evangelist suspected he
was spending his time somewhere in idleness, if not in some other kind
of sin. She begged him to stay all night, and said the wolves frightened
her when she had to stay alone with the baby in the cabin; but he went
on to an appointment, hoping to see Rube before he left the community.
Sure enough, one of the first men he saw at the meeting place was Rube.
After preaching, Rube, with four others, wanted to confess faith in
Christ and be baptized. The evangelist took the confession of the other
four and announced baptism as soon as they could get ready, but told
Rube he wanted to see him privately. They walked away from the crowd,
and the evangelist told Rube what he saw at his cabin, and said: "Rube,
if you want to be a Christian, you must build a better house for your
wife, dig a well in the yard, and provide home comforts for your family.
`If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own
house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.' (1 Tim.
5: 8.)" Rube went away from the meeting in a serious and religious state
of mind, but he was not baptized at that time.
Two years later the evangelist was at that same
place again to preach, and early Saturday morning he saw Rube drive up
in a wagon to the meeting, with his wife. When his wagon stopped, he
called the evangelist to him, and said: "Do you see that team and
harness? They are ours. Do you see this wagon? It is ours, too. I have
built a good house and dug a well."
"Yes," said his wife, "and he is good to me now."
Rube said : "I brought my clothes, and I want to
Rube was baptized into Christ, and to this day he
is firm in the faith and a good Christian. His conversion and consistent
Christian life is probably the best and most effective preaching that
has ever been done in that country.
IN PERILS OF WATERS
There is now but one living representative of the
Towacany tribe of Indians. He married two Wichita Indian women. One of
his wives is much older than the other. After his marriage he became a
chief among the
Wichita tribe of
Indians, and in earlier years he was a great warrior, but now he is a
strong advocate of peace among men. He is known as Towacany Tim, and he
has long been a strong personal friend of Evangelist Officer. The
evangelist has taught him the principles of Christianity, and under this
teaching he has been persuaded to regard the younger woman of his two
wives as his daughter, and to treat her as such. He insists that a man
should have but one wife, and that the older of the two women has the
best right to be regarded and treated as his wife. Once, when his camp
was near a river, he was expecting Evangelist Officer to visit him from
across the river. Recent rains had swollen the river, and Towacany Jim
left his camp and sat by the river in the rain all night, waiting and
watching for his evangelist friend to appear at the opposite bank of the
river with a lantern on his journey in the dark. He was not
disappointed; and when the evangelist arrived, Towacany Jim waded the
river up to his neck and insisted on carrying Officer over the stream on
his shoulders. He then led the evangelist's ponies across the stream,
and rejoiced in the pleasure of having the man of God in his camp home.
It is a well-known peculiarity of Indians to give
names to men and things! according to what they consider the dominant
characteristics of the men and things named. Selecting a name on this
principle, Towacany Jim calls Evangelist Officer
"White-man-not-afraid-of-thunder." This is rather a cumbersome name, but
it indicates the opinion the Indians have of him, for other Indians
indorse the judgment of Towacany Jim by using the name.
In the early years of his work in the
Indian Territory, when the country was sparsely settled, Officer held
camp meetings, which were largely attended by people, and especially by
Indians from long distances. At these camp meetings the Indian women did
much, if not all, the drudgery, while the Indian men took life easy and
enjoyed their religion, especially the good eating which was always
abundant. He rebuked the men sharply for their indolence and
worthlessness, and taught them the way of God more perfectly by precept
and example in the matter of Christian kindness and helpfulness toward
In those years it was a common thing for Indian
women to butcher beeves near the camp between services, while the men
lounged in idleness in the tents or under the trees in cool places by
springs or creeks. Slowly but surely the principles of Christianity have
worked a change for the better in the sluggish Indian nature, and now,
after the lapse of many years, the condition of women, as compared with
what it was then, is greatly improved in all the Indian tribes where the
gospel has been preached. Of course much yet remains to be done along
this line, but what has been done encourages the hope that the onward
march of Christian civilization will in a few more years exalt women to
their proper sphere in all the Indian tribes.
—F. D. SRYGLEY.
R.W. OFFICER was arraigned before the Baptist
Association which met with
Poplar Creek Church,
Limestone County, Ala., on the charge of heresy. Dr. J. R. Graves
examined him as to his "soundness of faith." On the points which will
probably be of most interest to readers of this book, the questions and
answers were as follows:
Dr. Graves: "Do you believe in the doctrine of
Officer: "Paul said: `Hold fast the form of sound
words.' (2 Tim. 1: 13.) Peter said; 'If any man speak, let him speak as
the oracles of God.' (1 Pet. 4:11.) Is there any such form of sound
words in the oracles of God as total depravity?"
depravity is a doctrine which Baptists believe the Bible teaches; and if
you don't believe the doctrine, you are unsound. What do you believe
Officer: "Am I to be examined by the Bible or by
what the Baptists believe?"
Graves: "By the
Officer: "Then, what does the Bible say about
Graves: "I am not here
to debate with you, but to examine you on your orthodoxy. You will,
therefore, please answer my questions."
Officer: "I am willing for you to examine me; but
how will you examine me by the Bible unless you take what the Bible
Graves: "Please answer
my question. Do you believe in total depravity?"
Officer: "Do you believe you have a case of total
depravity? I do not believe I have a case of it, and unless you avow it
for yourself, I am unwilling to apply the doctrine to you or any of the
rest of my brethren, if the Bible does not plainly teach it."
Graves: "It was a
mistake to ordain you to preach without examining you. The presbytery
which ordained you did wrong when they authorized you to preach Baptist
doctrine before you knew what Baptist doctrine is."
Officer: "This matter of Baptist doctrine came up
at my examination; but the presbytery did not ordain me to preach
Baptist doctrine. They ordained me to preach the gospel, and gave me the
Bible as the standard of faith and the end of controversy on all
questions. I am still willing to live and die by the Bible."
Graves: "That is
Baptistic; but you must not think that you could not be mistaken about
what the Bible teaches. You should respect the faith of your brethren.
We have our interpretation of the teaching of the Bible, and other
denominations have their interpretations of Bible doctrine. We have
kept, the faith pure, and the ordinances of the church, sacred, from the
days of Christ and the apostles. This cannot be successfully denied.
Jesus Christ said: `Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates
of hell shall not prevail against it.' (Matt. 16: 18.) Baptists stand
before the world today a demonstration of this truth. This honor has
been, is now, and ever will be to the Baptists until Jesus comes again.
Their blood and ashes always have been, are now, and always will be the
seed of the church. I have been informed that you make baptism a
condition of pardon; in other words, you teach water salvation. When is
the sinner pardoned?"
Officer: "Paul says the sinner is freed from sin
when he obeys from the heart the form of doctrine delivered him. (Rom.
`Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of
righteousness.' I take it that we rise from the waters of baptism to
`walk in newness of life.' (Rom. 6:1-5.) "
Graves: "But what will
you do with what Paul says in his letter to the Galatians: 'Ye are all
the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus?' (Gal. 3 : 26.)”
Officer: "I will do with that just what I have
done with the rest of that sentence—viz., believe it. It reads: `For as
many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.' (Gal.
Graves: "But what does
Officer: It means what it says."
Graves: “What do you
believe are the conditions of pardon or remission of sins?"
Officer: "I believe just what the Bible says on
Graves: "But what is
your interpretation of the Bible on that subject?"
Officer: "Suppose I have no interpretation of the
Bible on any subject."
Graves: "But you have;
all denominations have their interpretations of the Bible. We, as
Baptists, teach that repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus
Christ secure pardon. What do you think about it?"
Officer: "The Bible says: `Except a man be born of
water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
of God.' (John 3 : 5.) 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be
saved.' (Mark 16: 16.) To believers, Peter said: `Repent, and be
baptized . . . for the remission of sins.' (Acts 2: 38.)"
Graves: "We all
believe the Bible as strong as you do. Tell us what your interpretation
of the texts you have quoted is. This is what we want to get at."
Officer: "My interpretation is exactly what I have
quoted; in other words, I have no interpretation of it. I simply believe
it, just as it is written."
Graves: "Do we
understand you to say that all who are not baptized will go to hell, are
Officer: "I did not say so."
Graves: “But the
quotations you have made lead us to believe that is your opinion."
Officer: "I have only quoted the Scriptures."
Graves: "But do you or
do you not believe the unbaptized will all be lost in hell forever? Here
is Brother Phelps, a Methodist preacher, and his people; then here is
Brother DeMent, a Presbyterian preacher, with his church, many of whom
were never baptized, according to your idea of what baptism is. Do you
believe these pious unbaptized people will all go to hell? Answer `yes'
or `no.' "
Officer: "Yes or no."
Graves: "Which do you
say? Let us not have any foolishness about it. Do you believe the
unbaptized will all go to hell?"
Officer: "My faith is not in the direction of
hell. I am not well posted on that end of the road."
Graves: "The brethren
want to know where you stand."
Officer: "Faith, repentance, and baptism are
conditions which belong to time and look to the remission of the sins of
the past. Love that never fails is the eternal condition which looks to
the new life and everlasting salvation and happiness. (1 Cor. 13.)"
Graves: "Then you do
not believe that baptism is a condition in order to salvation?"
Officer: " 'He that believeth and is baptized
shall be saved,' looks to salvation from the sins of the past, doesn't
it? If it were salvation in heaven, all would rise from the waters of
baptism into heaven, and enjoy eternal life."
believe that when they are saved, they are eternally saved. You have
read the Bible to little profit, if you have not learned that. `He that
believeth on him is not condemned.' (John 3:18.) `He that heareth my
word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and
shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.'
(John 5:24.) And yet you say eternal life is not enjoyed in fact in this
life. What does `hath everlasting life mean, if believers are not saved
here in this life? "
Officer: "The believer has eternal life in
promise; but, on conditions, he may possess it in fact. What did Peter
mean when he said, `Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation
of your souls?' (1 Pet. 1:9.) This places salvation in heaven at the end
of faith and after death. `As he spake these words, many believed on
him.' (John 8:30.) If the doctrine you advocate is true, these persons
have passed from death unto life, and shall not come into condemnation;
but the next two verses read: `Then said Jesus to those Jews which
believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples
indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'
(John 8:31,32.) Here we have the conditions on which believers may
become disciples and be made free. These believers did not continue in
his word. To these same Jews who believed on him, Jesus said: `Ye are of
your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.' (John
8:44.) I therefore conclude that faith gives one power to become the son
of God; and if faith leads to loving, obedient continuance in the word
of the Lord, the believer becomes a disciple, and the end of such faith
is salvation, eternal life. The obedient believer shall have a
hundredfold in this world, `and in the world to come eternal life.'
(Mark 10: 30.)"
The Clerk of the Association: "We are shamefully
at variance, divided, and our ranks are full of discord, disagreement,
and strife in this Association."
A delegate: "Every Baptist church where Officer
has preached is broken up."
Officer: " 'The wisdom that is from above is first
pure, then peaceable.' (James 3:17.) Purify yourselves, and you will
have peace. Dr. Graves says the gates of hell cannot prevail against the
and you say I have prevailed against it. It seems from this that I beat
Dr. Graves: " Do you indorse Alexander Campbell?"
Officer: "I don't know Mr. Campbell; I never saw
him, and I don't know what he taught. I indorse no man, but I indorse
the truth from any man."
Graves: "You know what
the Campbellites teach. Do you indorse Campbellism?"
Officer: "What is Campbellism?"
Graves: "They teach
water salvation, deny the influence of the Spirit of God, and deny the
right of sinners to pray.”
Officer: "I don't indorse that, and I have never
taught it; therefore, I should not be called a Campbellite."
Graves: "I have been
told that you deny the doctrine of apostolic succession. Is this true?"
Officer: "I believe in the succession of facts,
commands, and promises; I care but little about a succession of folks."
Graves: "Do you
believe the Missionary Baptist Church is the church established by
Christ and the apostles?"
Officer: "No, Sir; I do not."
Graves: "Do you
believe the Campbellite Church is?"
Officer: "No, Sir."
Graves: "Then what
Officer: "The church of the Firstborn."
Graves: "What church
is the church of the Firstborn?"
Graves: "This does not
answer my question. Where will we find the church established by Christ
and the apostles?"
Officer: "In the New Testament."
Graves: "Do you mean
to say it is not on earth?"
Officer: "I don't think you understand me. If you
will permit, I will give you my conclusion about, the church."
Graves: "Then let us
have your ideas in brief; don't be too long."
Officer: "The word translated 'church' means
'called out.' The idea is that members of the church are called out from
the world to live according to the life and teaching of Christ. The
church was in prophecy and promise till we come to Acts
2:47; from that time forward it exists in fact. (Acts 5:11; 8:1;
14:23.) The Head of the church is Christ. (Eph. 1:22.) He is to the
church, his body, what your head is to your body, with its many members:
he thinks through and directs all the members. There is a
but where is the harmony of action suggested by this figure? We read of
the church of God (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 1:2; 10:32; 11:23; Gal. 1:13; 1
Tim. 3:5); we read of the church of the Firstborn (Heb. 12:23) and of
the churches of Christ (Rom.
16:16); but the
Church, in name, is unknown in the Bible. Our liberty of speech is
limited by the divine command: ‘Speak as the oracles of God' (1 Pet.
4:11); `Hold fast the form of sound words' (2 Tim.
1:13). For this reason
I do not speak of the
in an uncertain sound. The church is spoken of as the flock of God.
(Acts 20: 28.) The pasture on which the flock feeds is the Bible, given
by inspiration of God, which gives wisdom unto salvation, thoroughly
furnishes unto all good works, and looks to perfection. (2 Tim. 3:
15-17.) The foundation of the church is Christ. Paul says: 'Other
foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.' (1
Cor. 3:11.) I believe that, the Holy Spirit began to build upon that
Heaven-approved foundation fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead, at
Jerusalem, and that as men and women turn to the Lord and render loving
obedience to the Spirit's teaching, they are placed as lively stones in
that building. I believe the building has been going on from the first
Pentecost after Jesus rose from the dead down to this time. `Thus it is
written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the
dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be
preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.' (Luke
24:46,47.) Where was this work of building upon the only foundation to
begin? `Beginning at Jerusalem.' God's family has been added to by birth
from Pentecost on down to this good time.
God has but one family. As to the conditions of
entering into God's family, the commission, taken as a whole, authorizes
the conclusion that all who believe that Christ died for their sins, was
buried, and raised for their justification according to the Scriptures,
repent of their sins, and are baptized in the name of the Father, Son,
and Holy Ghost, shall be saved. (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16; Luke
24:46-48; John 20:30,31). Jesus said: `Except a man be born of water and
of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
kingdom of God.' (John
3:5.) Peter said to believers: `Repent, and be baptized . . . for the
remission of sins.' (Acts 2:38.) Ananias said to Saul, who had believed
and repented: `Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling
on the name of the Lord.' (Acts 22:16.) Paul said: 'Ye are all the
children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have
been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.' (Gal. 3:26,27.) The
blessing is in Christ to all nations, with faithful Abraham. (Gal. 3:8.)
We are chosen in Christ, accepted in Christ; redemption is in Christ,
the inheritance is in Christ, forgiveness of sins is in Christ. The fact
is, all spiritual blessings are in Christ. (Eph. 1.) Out of Christ there
is no spiritual blessing. Paul says: `According to his mercy he saved
us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.'
(Titus 3:5.) The system of regeneration has a washing belonging to it.
This washing is baptism, connected with the renewing of the Holy Spirit
of our God. Paul said: `Let us draw near with a true heart in full
assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience,
and our bodies washed with pure water.'(Heb. 10:22.) 'Ye have obeyed
from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then
made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.' (Rom.
6:17,18.) So we rise from the waters of baptism to walk in newness of
life. (Rom. 6:1-14.) Paul says Christ gave himself for the church: `That
he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.'
(Eph. 5:26.) The same cause produces the same effect, all things being
equal. The gospel of today is equal to the gospel of eighteen hundred
years ago; when faithfully preached, the effects are the same. The
gospel as preached, believed, and obeyed in New Testament times made
Christians, and nothing else."
A delegate: "When was the church organized?"
Officer: "The word 'organize' is not in the Bible.
If you or anybody else will find the Baptist organization in the Bible,
I will accept it."
Elder Pennington: "Do you believe in the final
perseverance of the saints?"
Officer: "I believe all saints should persevere in
all good things to the end."
Graves: "But do you
believe they will?"
Officer: "I believe I will. I will tell you what
others will do later on. I am not informed as to their decision now."
Elder Pennington: "Do you believe, after a man is
truly converted to God, he will ever fall away and be lost?"
Officer: "I am persuaded better things of all who
are truly converted to God; but to be so converted means very much more
than is often called conversion."
Graves: "Do you
believe the doctrine of once in grace, always in grace, as taught by the
Officer: "What Baptists?"
Officer: "They don't all teach alike on the
doctrine of once in grace, always in grace."
Graves: "You read the
Tennessee Baptist, don't you?"
Graves: "Do you
believe the doctrine as taught in that paper?"
Officer: "Peter says: 'Giving all diligence, add
to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge
temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and
to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. . .
. Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.' (2 Pet.
1:5-10.) Their calling and election was not sure, but was made sure on
these conditions. `If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.' (2 Pet.
1:10.) All this was written to saints."
Graves: "Do you
believe the doctrine of once in grace, always in grace?"
Officer: "Why not ask if I believe what the Bible
says about it? Paul said: 'There must be also heresies among you, that
they which are approved may be made manifest among you.' (1 Cor. 11:19.)
Approved of whom? Peter speaks of damnable heresies, `denying the Lord
that bought them.' (2 Pet. 2:1.) Am I guilty of this? Paul says: `Mark
them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which
ye have learned; and avoid them.' (Rom.
16:17.) Is not the
doctrine here referred to the teaching of the apostles? See if I am
sound in this doctrine; and if I am not, please help me to become sound.
You will find me an easy subject on this doctrine. I want nothing done
through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind I am willing to be taught
and to be of one mind with you in the Lord; but to be of one mind with
you in the Baptist Church is quite another thing. Paul said: 'A man that
is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject.' (Titus
3:10.) I am ready to be admonished, but I want the admonition from the
word of the Lord, and not from religious organizations and institutions
unknown in the Bible."
Graves: "I am
delighted to hear you say this. We hold to nothing but the Bible; this
is Baptist doctrine."
Officer: "Do I understand you to say Baptist
doctrine and the gospel are one and the same thing?"
Officer: "Can a man be saved who does not believe
Officer: "Can a man be saved who does not believe
the doctrine peculiar to the
Graves: "The Baptists
preach the gospel."
Officer: "Do they preach anything else? When the
gospel, and nothing else, is preached, believed, and obeyed, it makes
Christians, and nothing else."
Graves: "Baptists have
doctrine peculiar to themselves, by which they are distinguished from
Officer: "Why distinguish some of God's children
from others? Is there not danger in distinguishing ourselves from other
Graves: "You confound
things essential with things not essential. All orthodox churches are
agreed on things essential; the things about which we differ are not
essential to salvation."
Officer: "Then the disagreement is not over things
of vital importance."
not. Repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are
indispensable, and are conditions of salvation; in this all orthodox
churches are agreed. The disagreement is over the mode of baptism,
communion, church government, etc."
Officer: "Why not agree about those things, too?
Is not the New Testament the only authority on these subjects?"
differences are not of such vital importance as perhaps you think.
Salvation is not conditioned upon these things."
Officer: "Then the trouble is not over
Christianity, but churchianity?' "
Graves: "This is
partly true, perhaps."
Officer: "Is there not danger that 'churchianity'
will hinder Christianity? Paul says: 'If any man teach otherwise, and
consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud,
knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words,
whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse
disputings,' etc. (1 Tim. 6:3-5.) This is why I seek to avoid the
Graves: "You are not
willing, then, to submit to the majority in the church?"
Officer: "The majority has always been wrong on
Graves: "How, then,
will you settle such differences?"
Officer: "Jude (19) says the sensual will separate
themselves, `having not the Spirit.' John says: `They went out from us,
but they were not of us.' (1 John 2:19.)"
Graves: "Paul says:
'Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine
which ye have learned; and avoid them.' What will you do with that? "
Officer: "Obey it."
Graves: "How? "
Officer: "By taking God at his word-hearing,
believing, and doing as He directs."
Elder Pennington: "You don't seem to have any
standard of faith; we can't locate you; you seem to be out of harmony
with the whole religious world."
Officer: "What is the Bible for, if it is not the
standard of faith to every man?"
Elder Pennington: "You are inconsistent with
yourself and out of harmony with every church in the land. You seem to
believe a little of them all. I think you should, to be consistent, join
Officer: "I care but little about consistency with
myself; I want to be consistent with truth. I am ready today to
contradict what I said yesterday, if convinced that I was wrong
yesterday. As to harmony with the churches in the land, are they in
harmony with each other? As to joining them all, Paul says: 'He that is
joined unto the Lord is one spirit.' (1 Cor. 6:17.) This is the joining
I am most interested in. I believe all the churches have some truth, but
Christ Jesus is `the way, the truth, and the life.' (John 14:6.) I hold
in high regard the people called Baptists. I have no unkind feeling for
Dr. Graves; I respect his age and ability. He is not authority, however,
for me in things divine. I am not a conformist to the ways and thoughts
of men. The Bible says: `Let the wicked forsake his way, and the
unrighteous man his thoughts.' (Isa. 55:7.) This I am willing to do, and
I ask you to help me do it. All who do this are one with God in Christ,
in thoughts and ways. If all would do this, the Lord's prayer would be
answered and the world would believe the Father sent the Son. Paul says:
'Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that
ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you;
but that ye be perfectly joined. together in the same mind and in the
same judgment.' (1. Cor. 1:10.) For all to know nothing but Christ, and
him crucified, speak as the oracles of God, and hold fast the form of
sound words, a God-approved harmony would result, as effect follows
cause. I do not wish to hinder such blessed results, and I am persuaded
better things of you. I regard it a splendid bargain to forsake my way
and thoughts for the way and thoughts of God; but I am not ready yet to
exchange my thoughts and way for the thoughts and way of any other man
or men. In regard to endorsing Brother Graves, I say, once for all; I
indorse no man, but I indorse the truth in any man. I don't want to
break up Baptist churches; I simply want to build upon the one
foundation. However, I wish to say: If this counsel or this work be of
men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, it cannot be
overthrown. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own
master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holders up: for God is
able to make him stand.' (Rom.
Elder Wininger: "Have you not been keeping company
with the Campbellites more than with the Baptists?"
Officer: "I know but little about the people you
call Campbellites; they prefer to be called Christians. In this, I think
they are correct, if they follow after Christ's teaching. I have heard
they deny the Holy Spirit's influence, teach water salvation, deny the
doctrine of regeneration, and say sinners have no right to pray. On my
Winchester I was told that two of them were to preach at Decherd. I went
over and found Rice Sewell and a blind man named Smithson there. They
asked me to preach, and I did so, hoping to correct them and teach them
the way of God more perfectly. I dwelt on those things I had heard they
taught, and at the close of my talk they indorsed what I had said. I
learned from them that they had been misrepresented, and that they had
always believed what I taught that night."
Elder Wininger: "Did you believe them?"
Officer: "Certainly. I think any man can tell what
he believes better than others can tell it for him, and I pay but little
attention to what a man's religious opponents say about his religious
Elder Wininger: " Did you ever hear any of the
Officer: "I heard an old man named Sewell at
Elder Wininger: "How can you judge as to the
soundness of their doctrine, if you have never heard them?"
Officer: "I am not judging them; but I believe
what Smithson and young Sewell said about their teaching. I don't know
many of the people you call Campbellites."
Elder Wininger: "What do you call them?"
Elder Wininger: "But as a people?"
Officer: "By their names."
Elder Wininger: "You understand me. As a church,
what do you call them?"
Officer: "A church, of course."
Elder Wininger: "Do you call them Campbellites?"
Elder Wininger: " Do you indorse them?"
Officer: "No, sir."
Elder Pennington: "Did you not indorse Smithson
and young Sewell?"
Officer: "No, sir; they said they believed what I
preached that night, as I have told you."
Elder Pennington: "You said you had been told they
denied the right of sinners to pray. Don't you do that?"
Officer: "No, sir."
Elder Pennington: "Did you not say in Rogersville,
in the Baptist church, that a sinner had no right to pray?"
"No, I said the prayer the Lord taught his disciples to pray was not for
the sinner. Jesus said to sinners: Ye are of your father the devil.'
(John 8:44.) They have no right, therefore, to say, 'Our Father which
art in heaven.' Do you believe the father of the children of the devil
is in heaven? " R.W. OFFICER.
—Biographies And Sermons, F.D. Srygley, chapters 33,34, pages 309-337
Gospel Advocate Report
Gospel Advocate 1923, August ,30, page 840
"R.W. Officer, of Turkey, Texas, made us a very pleasant visit last week. Brother Officer had been to Tullahoma, Tenn., to visit relatives. Brother Officer is now seventy-eight years old, but is still hale and hearty. Brother Officer spent eighteen years of his life preaching to the Indians, who named him "What-Man-Not-Afraid-of-Thunder."
Another Sketch On The Work Of R.W. Officer
Directions To The
Grave Of R.W. Officer
From Amarillo: Robert W. Officer
is buried just outside of Turkey,
Texas in the Dreamland Cemetery. Turkey is located in the North
central region of Texas near the base of the panhandle. If traveling
between Amarillo and the Dallas-Fort Worth area one would be apt to
travel Hwy 287. At Memphis, head SW on Hwy 256. Hwy 70 will merge
with Hwy 256. Stay on Hwy. 70 when it turns southeast away from Hwy
256. Continue south on Hwy. 70 into Turkey. From Turkey go one mile
south on Hwy. 70 and turn left on Ranch Road 656. Follow the road
for 1.8 miles and the Dreamland Cemetery is on your right. The grave
is the twelfth row on the south side of the drive.
From Abilene: Travel north on Hwy 83
to Paducah. Go west on Hwy. 62 to Matador and go north on 70 toward
Turkey. Just before Turkey turn right on Ranch Road 656. Follow the road for
1.8 miles and the Dreamland Cemetery is on your right. The grave is
the twelfth row on the south side of the drive.
Acc. to 15ft.
N34° 22.410’ x WO100° 51.898’
Grave Faces West
View Larger Map
Just past distant Woodman of the World Monument & Iron fenced plot. Go left to the Officer Plot
Leon V. Officer
October 3, 1877
February 2, 1922
"Blessed Are The Dead
That Die In The Lord."
Son of R.W. & Alice G. Officer
Preacher of the Gospel
Mrs Alice Gist Officer
At rest until her
waking unto life
August 18, 1845
August 23, 1930
Note The Methodist Clergy Emblem. This Does Not Mean He Was A
Methodist Preacher, As
For Years He Taught Against Denominationalism. It Appears That The
Methodist Have Laid Some
Claim To Him, Though No Evidence Exists To Prove He Ever Became A
Note: Recent photographs show that the "United Methodist Clergy" Emblem Has Been Removed From R.W. Officer's Monument - 12.2012
The photos above were taken by Scott Harp, October 12, 2004. I was travelling with my good friend, Graham McDonald, a Scotsman, and preacher of the gospel. It was a 7000 mile trip to meet with supporters and seek to raise funds for his mission efforts. Unforgettable trip! Wonderful to visit the final resting places of many restoration preachers in Tennessee, Arkansas, Missiouri, Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, & Georgia.