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The Passing of B. H. Carroll
By J. B. Cranfill. *
      THE greatest Baptist in the world is dead. On Wednesday morning, November 11, 1914, on Seminary Hill at Fort Worth, the spirit of the most majestic man the Baptists of the world have known in this generation swept into the gates eternal. A backward glance at the mountain peaks in Christian history in which the heroes of the cross since Paul have loomed immortal in the world's great life, will disclose no man of more colossal stature than that of B.H. Carroll. John Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed; Savonarola, the man of kingly presence and silver tongue; Martin Luther, the heroic leader of the Reformation; John Milton, who soared to empyrean heights and companied with angels; John Bunyan, the immortal dreamer of Bedford jail, whose works will abide till the last syllable of recorded time; John Knox, who never feared the face of man; John Wesley, whose tenderest commentary upon his converts was that they died well; William Carey, who breathed upon the valley of theological dry bones and reclothed them with evangelistic flesh and blood; Charles Spurgeon, whose pulsing heart and matchless tongue compassed the world; Christmas Evans, who pulled the cords on earth that rang the bells in heaven; Whitfield, on whose thrilling words whole continents hung in breathless awe -- these were all towering oaks in the forests of time. But in gentleness of heart, breadth of intellect, eloquence of utterance, depth of learning, knowledge of the Word of God, leadership among the hosts of Zion, singleness of purpose, purity of life, strength of conviction, fidelity to God's Word, and sweep of intellectual power, none of these excelled the immortal B. H. Carroll, whose kingly life was given wholly, self-sacrificingly and without reserve, to the Lone Star State.

     When current history shall have become archives and when the stately figure of B. H. Carroll shall outline itself against the background of time, the world will then know that in our own day, touching elbows with us, preaching to us, writing for us, sacrificing for us, laboring with us, and giving of his time, energies, zeal, strength, power, pathos and leadership to us, none loomed larger in the life of the great Christian world than the man whose name shall forever be enshrined in the hearts of loyal Texas and Southern Baptists.

     His personal presence was one of sublime grandeur and impressiveness. In stature he towered above his fellows like Saul. No one could look upon his prophetic face without speedily discerning that he was a leader and a seer. Upon one occasion when he was traveling through Texas he walked through the Pullman to find a seat. An intelligent traveling man looked up as he passed through and was filled with reverential awe, as for the first time his eyes rested

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upon this great, good man. Later he approached Dr. Carroll and asked this question:

     "Where is your brother?"

     All innocent of the profound impression he had made on this stranger, Dr. Carroll replied:

     "Do you mean my brother Jimmie? He is now at Lampasas."

     "No!" thundered the man, "I mean where is your brother Aaron?"

     It would be difficult to determine which of his remarkable elements of greatness towered above the other. It is related of him that on the first day he went to school, having learned to read at home, he was given a First Reader. At noon he brought the book back to his teacher, having memorized every word of it. In comprehensiveness, in strength, in power, in incisiveness and in retentiveness of memory, his intellect was superior to that of any man I have ever known. It is a fact known to me that after he had preached a sermon on the Lord's Day, he could reproduce it the following day, word for word, without even the loss of a punctuation point. If one should say that the greatest element in his wonderful life was that of mental strength and acumen, he could not go far astray. The immediate results of this remarkable endowment were that his fund of intimate and technical knowledge of everything in the world surpassed that of any man it has ever been mine to know. As a historian, he had swept the entire gamut of human history and achievements. There was scarcely a single item in the history of the world or of men that was not absolutely familiar to him. This was not true only of ecclesiastical history; it was equally true of profane history. Not only is that true, but he was absolutely and perfectly familiar with the geography, topography and people of every country on the globe. In one of the last conversations I ever held with him, he gave me in detail a critical description of every battlefield of Europe and dwelt particularly upon the countries and scenes of carnage of the present European war.

     He was equally learned in literature. No book that ever came from the press that was of more than local interest escaped his notice. Not only was this true, but he could recite almost verbatim chapters from books that he had read thirty years ago and never opened since. He read an average of 1,000 pages a day for more than fifty years, and he remembered with remarkable accuracy everything he ever read.

     He was one of the most thorough students of the Bible the world has known, and at his death, its greatest interpreter. His knowledge of the Scriptures was miraculously marvelous. He loved God's Book with quenchless love. There

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was not a word in the Bible that he had not critically studied. He brought to bear upon the sacred pages his vast learning in every other line of research and added to this was his heart's intuition which leaped far out and beyond the sweep of his ponderous intellect. Years ago when I was printing a sermon of his every week in "The Baptist Standard," a plain, humble country preacher from far-off Georgia wrote to me these words: "Dr. B. H. Carroll can dig deeper into the mine of God's truth and climb higher to reveal it than any man that ever lived." I believe this statement cannot be improved upon. In a manner that cannot be set down in words he approached his interpretation of the Scriptures, and when he had made an exegesis of any passage in God's Word, everything had been uttered upon the subject that could be said.

     Withal he was a marvelous preacher. I have heard the masterful orators of our time. When he was in the height of the golden glory of his mature years I listened to the oversweeping eloquence of Henry Ward Beecher. Many times I heard George C. Lorimer, John A. Broadus, J. B. Hawthorne, Frances E. Willard, Luther Benson, John B. Finch, Sam Jones and William E. Hatcher. In later years I have been swept into heights celestial by A. C. Dixon, George W. Truett and John McNeil; have heard Woodrow Wilson, W. J. Bryan and Henry Grady. B. H. Carroll was surpassed by none of these. For twelve years he was my pastor and I heard him under every possible condition. Before he was my pastor I would journey fifty miles from Gatesville to Waco to hear him preach on Sunday. In those early days of my acquaintanceship with him I heard him preach a sermon on the legal proof that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Never forever shall I forget the dramatic climax of that masterful deliverance. After he had protrayed the tragic scenes of that long night when Jesus lingered in Gethsemane, when He was arrested, when He was carried before Caiaphas, when He was dragged to Pilate's judgment hall, when He bore His cross up the rugged steeps of Calvary, when at last He died for our sins and was buried in Joseph's new tomb -- I say, after all of this had been marshaled before our wondering eyes and after Jesus had risen from the dead, the colossal preacher raised himself to his giant height and said: "Standing by this open grave where the body of Jesus lay, I challenge the onlooking world to answer this question: If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, what became of His body?"

     B. H. Carroll was a peerless statesman. His knowledge of the principles of our government was as accurate and thorough as that of any publicist of our day. With the history of the United States at his tongue's end and with a critical knowledge of every step in the unfolding of the nation's life, he was the best equipped man in the realm of statesmanship it has ever been mine to know. Full well do I remember the great part he took in the campaign for constitutional prohibition in 1887. It was largely through his strong leadership that the floodtide of Texas prohibition sentiment was reached. During the years

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preceding I was editor of "The Gatesville Advance," the leading prohibition paper of the State. It was in 1885 that the opening gun for prohibition in Texas was fired that swept over McLennan, Dr. Carroll's home county. When the constitutional amendment was submitted by the Legislature in the early days of 1887, it was fitting that B.H. Carroll was chosen chairman of the compaign committee and thus clothed upon with the official leadership of the forces of righteousness in Texas. There were giants in those days. History was made. Dr. Carroll's debate with the leaders of the Anti-prohibition forces, among them United States senators, congressmen and politicians, made an epoch in the history of Texas progress and advancement. Not a man of the opposition could stand before him. With tongue and pen he mowed them down, as the underbrush yields to the breath of the cyclone. By the returns, prohibition lost that year, but by the onward progress of a commonwealth, the great battle was won.

     B. H. Carroll was marvelous as a teacher. When I moved from Gatesville to Waco during the last days of 1886, I at once entered his Bible class. That was the only theological seminary I ever attended. There has never been a greater one since then. After my twelve years under his ministry and my other years in his Bible class, I can say of a truth that beauties and riches untold were mine through his clear conception and accurate interpretation of the Word of God. Once in his Bible class a dear, sweet Christian woman controverted one of his statements concerning the reading of a verse of Scripture, saying, "Dr. Carroll, it doesn't read that way in my Bible." With that merry twinkle in his eyes, so familiar to the friends he loved, he said, "My sister, there is a difference between your Bible and my Bible." Somewhat shocked, the woman turned her face full upon him and asked: "In what way is your Bible different from my Bible?" Then he answered, "My Bible is studied more than your Bible." Doubtless that same word would be true of you or me. Never have I known a teacher of God's Word who so thoroughly mastered every detail of the sacred Text.

     B. H. Carroll was able as a writer. He was possessed of a commanding style and gave to his words a convincing force and power that was in every way remarkable. Those who have studied his literary productions can never forget the wonderful simplicity and force of his written words. He always used the right word at the right time and in the right place, and when he had discussed a given subject there was nothing more to say. Everything he did in literature was thoroughly done. No point was left untouched. He was absolutely fair in controversy, always stating the side of the opposition more strongly than the opponent could state it himself, and in each case demolishing the opponent's argument. He told me once that it had been his purpose early in life to write a great novel, but that more important matters had consumed his time and filled

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his life. He was to tell me of the plot, but somehow, never did. I am sure it would have been almost unmatched in literary annals.

     B. H. Carroll was a great scholar. His scholarship was thorough, comprehensive and accurate. Nothing in the realm of letters ever escaped him. He understood the Greek most thoroughly and had at his command such of the other languages as were needed for the purposes of his great life work. He was one of the most liberal-hearted men that ever lived. His contributions to Christ's cause were not circumscribed by any tithing limitations. True, he believed profoundly in tithing, but he believed in more than tithing. Time and again he gave down to blood, and through his long life he gave far more than double a tithe. Oftentimes he gave all he had, except the reservation of the home he had provided for his wife and children. Re-enforced by his own great generosity, he was a wonderful money-raiser. A man who could withstand the power and pathos of his appeal for Christ's cause had a heart of adamant. Over and again, his great church at Waco released him from pastoral duties and allowed him to go far afield in the interest of some great Baptist enterprise. He never returned empty-handed. He swept the field to its remotest horizon, and I have no doubt that the aggregate of all the money he raised for the Baptist cause in Texas would run into millions.

     Above everything, B. H. Carroll was a heroic Christian. Not only did he belong to the type of Pauline believers in God, but he was withal as simple and gentle and as loving as a little child. He had an unwavering faith in his Master. At every crisis in his great career he leaned with unyielding faith upon the Divine arm. This was perhaps his greatest characteristic. He believed profoundly in the all-conquering grace and power of God. It could be said of him as it was said of Abraham that he was the friend of God. He did Christ's will, and thus accomplishing the will of the Master, he gripped things divine with an allconquering confidence.

     He was a true and faithful friend. When he passed on to be with God, I had known him and loved him for almost thirty-two years. During all this time, covering almost the life of a generation of men, he and I walked and worked together, and my life was entwined with his as tenderly and truly in my mature years as my boy life was entwined with the life of my sainted father. Never was there a shadow in our friendship, and of all the men I have ever known, he was at all times and under all circumstances, the gentlest, kindest, tenderest, most sympathetic and most indulgent friend. He never believed that his friend could go far wrong, and when anon misfortunes or sorrows came to them; or indeed, when they went astray, he would take them to his great, tender, gentle heart, just as Jesus did, and kiss away their tears with the fragrance of his love.

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     He was no fair weather friend. He cleaved more closely to the friend in sorrow than he did to the friend in prosperity. When I first knew him, no hearse had ever been driven up to our door. During the passing of the friendly years, our baby boy, two and a half years old, whom we had named for him, was called away. It was our first great sorrow, and looking back across the wide expanse of vanished years, I can see now the very sentences of the sweet and tender letter he wrote to us when our baby had gone home. Then my mother went, and afterwards my father, and when another great sorrow came, so sad that I will not dare dwell upon it here -- this dear man of God, this faithful friend, this David, wrote to the Jonathan, who, through the years had so loved and honored him, a letter that an angel might covet the privilege of having penned. Oh, the greatest friend, the most patient friend, the most indulgent friend, the most forgiving friend, the most faithful friend I ever had, passed out of the earthly life when B. H. Carroll died. I have in my possession now a letter, which was one of the last he ever penned with his own hand. In that he said to me: "You have been the very best friend I ever had." Now that noble face is to be seen on earth no more, I who am left bear this testimony to the memory of the man who never relaxed, who never wavered, who never doubted me in all the years -- the long years -- of our intimate friendship and companionship.

     Time would fail me to dwell at length upon the home and family life of this dear man. I knew it intimately and it is no wonder that the very last words he ever spoke while yet on earth were addressed to his gentle, kind, faithful and loving wife. She was in his room during his last conscious moments. She said to him, calling him by an endearing name that I must not write down here, "Do you know me?" His gentle eyes opened for the last conscious moment in life upon the sweet face of his wife as he said, "Know you, Hallie? To me you are the sweetest thing in all the world." With that, he lapsed into that unconsciousness from which he awoke in heaven. The crowning work of B. H. Carroll's life, the work to which he gave all of the unmatched gifts and graces that were his, was the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which he founded after he was sixty years old. It was given to me at the funeral exercises in the Seminary chapel at Fort Worth to say some words of appreciation of this dear man. In that holy presence, I said: "It is given to few men to have their funeral sermon preached in their monument, but to-day we gather around the silent form of B. H. Carroll in his own monument. This monument is the great building, which, through his leadership, was erected here on Seminary Hill and dedicated to the education of young ministers. This is his monument and will be his monument through all the years to come. He would scorn to be commemorated by a marble mausoleum upon which simply would be carved his name, his birth and his death, but if he could be with us to-day, he would rejoice that we are here,

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gathered around his bier in the monument that his own heart conceived and his own great hand erected. This outgrowth of his heart and brain and life, the crowning miracle of his marvelous career, will outlast the stars. It will be here when the stars are falling, when the earth shall melt with fervent heat and the heavens are rolled together as a scroll." He was withal a man of leonine orthodoxy. A little while before he died, he said to his associate, Rev. L. R. Scarborough, "I believe that orthodoxy is to make its last stand on Seminary Hill." He believed in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, and that its author was God's Holy Spirit. Never for a moment did he quibble or equivocate concerning the authenticity of God's Word. His wish that the coming generation of Baptist ministers would go out saturated with the conviction that the Bible was God's Book and not in any way to be trifled with, led to the establishment of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was his crowning work, and if my spiritual vision is not at fault, it was the most far-reaching enterprise ever projected by Texas Baptists. On the first Sunday in February, 1892, B. H. Carroll delivered a memorial address in Nashville, Tenn., on the death of Charles H. Spurgeon. It was one of the masterpieces of his life. Now that the author of this address has gone, I paraphrase therefrom his glowing words, which I believe may be as truly applied to B. H. Carroll as they applied to Charles H. Spurgeon. They are as follows:
     "Napoleon's return from Elba -- LaFayette's visit to America -- Washington's and Jackson's tours through the States - were all thrilling pageants, but it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive the glory of B. H. Carroll's return to the bosom of his God, and his welcome beyond the stars. At the depot of death God's chariot met him as a kingly guest, and a convoy of angels escorted him home. Cherubim hovered over him and Seraphim flamed before him. The bended heavens stooped to meet him.

     "'Lift up your heads, O ye gates -- and be lifted up ye everlasting doors' -- and let the child of glory come in."

     B. H. Carroll never found time in his rich and fruitful life to become active in lodges or outside organizations of any kind. He gave the strength of his years to the church of Jesus Christ and the Christian ministry. Nothing served to swerve him a hair's breadth from his mission as a minister of Jesus Christ. I close this tribute to his memory with a quotation from his sermon to preachers, delivered at the session of the Baptist General Convention, which met in Belton in 1892. This sermon, preached from the text,
"I magnify my office," concluded as follows: "I magnify my office, O my God, as I get nearer home. I can say more truthfully every year, 'I thank God that He put me in this office;' I thank Him

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that He would not let me have any other; that He shut me up to this glorious work; and when I get home among the blessed on the bank of the everlasting deliverance and look back toward time and all of its clouds and sorrows, and pains, and privations, I expect to stand up and shout for joy that down here in the fog and mists, down here in the dust and struggle, God let me be a preacher. I magnify my office in life; I magnify it in death; I magnify it in heaven; I magnify it, whether poor, or rich, whether sick or well, whether strong or weak, anywhere, everywhere, among all people, in any crowd. Lord God, I am glad that I am a preacher, that I am a preacher of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ."



* This was written by J. B. Cranfill and was published in "The Baptist Standard," November 19, 1914.

[From J. M. Carroll, A History of Texas Baptists, Comprising a Detailed Account of Their Activities, Their Progress and Their Achievements, Edited by J. B. Cranfill, 1923, pp. 912-919. - Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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