History of the Restoration Movement


Robert Wallace Officer
1845-1930


Sketch On The Life Of Robert W. Office 

          R.W. OFFICER was born in Murray County, Ga., August 18, 1845. He obeyed the gospel at the age of twenty-five, and was baptized by Dr. Barris, at Salem, 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 in word and doctrine publicly and from house to house in the mountain region of North Alabama. 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 Tennessee, 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 evangelist.

PERILS AMONG ROBBERS.

          When Officer went to the Indian Territory, 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 it.

          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'S CONVERSION

          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 be baptized."

          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.

INDIAN CAMP MEETINGS.

          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 the women.

          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.

 

Chapter XXXIV.

HERESY TRIAL.

          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 total depravity?"

          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?"

          Graves: "Total 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 about it?"

          Officer: "Am I to be examined by the Bible or by what the Baptists believe?"

          Graves: "By the Bible."

          Officer: "Then, what does the Bible say about total depravity?”

          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 says?"

          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. 6:17,18.) `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. 3: 27.)"

          Graves: "But what does that mean?"

          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 that subject."

          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 kingdom 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 eternally lost?"

          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."

          Graves: "Baptists 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 Baptist Church, and you say I have prevailed against it. It seems from this that I beat hell."

          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 church is?"

          Officer: "The church of the Firstborn."

          Graves: "What church is the church of the Firstborn?"

          Officer: "The church of God."

          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; 11:26; 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 Baptist Church, 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 Missionary Baptist 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 church of God 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 Baptists?"

          Officer: "What Baptists?"

          Graves: "The Missionary 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?"

          Officer: "Yes."

          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?"

          Graves: "Yes."

          Officer: "Can a man be saved who does not believe the gospel?"

          Graves: "No."

          Officer: "Can a man be saved who does not believe the doctrine peculiar to the Baptist Church?"

          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 other Christians."

          Officer: "Why distinguish some of God's children from others? Is there not danger in distinguishing ourselves from other Christians?"

          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."

          Graves: "Certainly 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?"

          Graves: "The 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 unimportant things."

          Graves: "You are not willing, then, to submit to the majority in the church?"

          Officer: "The majority has always been wrong on moral questions."

          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 them all."

          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. 14:4.)"

          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 visit to 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 faith."

          Elder Wininger: " Did you ever hear any of the Campbellites preach?"

          Officer: "I heard an old man named Sewell at Tullahoma years ago."

          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?"

          Officer: "Brethren."

          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?"

          Officer: "Sometimes."

          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?"

          Officer: "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

Transcribed:
"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.

GPS Coordinates
Acc. to 15ft.
N34° 22.410’ x WO100° 51.898’
D.d. 34.373482,-100.86664
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
eternal.


R.W. Officer
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 Methodist.

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.

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Copyright © 2016, Scott Harp. All rights reserved.