Baptist History Homepage

Life Story of Dr. J. Frank Norris
p. 5
Foreward

     “We Question Whether Any Book Outside the Bible Was Ever Published So Full of Inspiration and Suggestion and Explicit Direction to Sunday School Workers as This Latest Book by Dr. Norris.” – The Gospel Witness.

      The Editor of The Gospel Witness, Dr. T. T. Shields, Is Known for His Conservatism. All the More Valuable, Therefore, Is His Testimony.

January 13,1938       THE GOSPEL WITNESS       343-7.

      “INSIDE HISTORY OF FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, FORT WORTH, AND TEMPLE BAPTIST CHURCH, DETROIT – LIFE STORY OF DR. J. FRANK NORRIS”

      This is the title of a new book of three hundred and thirty pages, by Dr. Norris, generously illustrated with cuts of his great buildings in Fort Worth and Detroit. On the title cover are these words:

      “During the three years of the joint pastorate of Fort Worth and Detroit there were received the total number of new members, 6,193. There was raised in cash for all purposes, $421,333.62. There were printed 6,376,500 copies of the Fundamentalist. The present combined membership is over 15,000. There were over 18,000 in attendance in special Bible School. The Pastor travelled 119,000 miles.”

      If subscribed for at once, the amazing price of this book is only 60c, and everyone who gets it will receive, as book value, at least $5.00 worth for one tenth that amount. Its value as an epitomized biography of a great preacher, and the condensed record of the unprecedented achievement of the same great preacher in the leadership of two great churches fifteen hundred miles apart, cannot possibly be estimated. We remember to have read a statement by Dr. A. T. Pearson, about Spurgeon, to the effect, that after the Lord had made C. H. Spurgeon, He broke the mould. There is only one J. Frank Norris. So far as we have been able to observe, in many respects he is unlike any other man we have ever known.

      Some years ago a southern friend remarked to us that when the Lord made Norris, He found that He had run out of the element of fear, so He made him without fear. It reminded us of a certain man who used to attend Jarvis St. prayer meetings, a very precise man, who was biblically well-informed. For a good while he attended the meetings, and delivered himself of fifteen or twenty minute prayers, until we could endure it no longer. But his prayers were very thoroughly prepared in advance, and were extraordinary essays, evidently prepared to exhibit the prayer-essayist’s ability. He was very fond of recounting the wonders of nature, and we recall a sentence from one of his prayers to this effect: “We thank Thee, O Lord, for the percolating power of a sunbeam.” On another occasion he had evidently been delving into Job, and his prayer was largely a dissertation on leviathan; and we recall that he reminded the Lord that leviathan was “the only creature whom Thou hast made without fear.” It may have been quite fortunate for us that that particular gentleman was unacquainted with Dr. J. Frank Norris, for he would have had to make an exception in his case, and include him with leviathan – and then the usual twenty-minute prayer must have been extended for an hour or so.

      Dr. Norris is a fearless man in more ways than one. We have known men who seemed to have any amount of moral courage, who were physical cowards; and we have known men abundantly endowed with physical courage, who were moral cowards. But Dr. Norris is afraid of nothing, either in the physical or moral realms. Who but Dr. Norris would have dared even to attempt what, by the blessing of God, he has achieved in Detroit? Even the most daring of other men would have been afraid to try.

      It was this Editor’s privilege and honour years ago to enjoy the warm personal friendship of the late Russell H. Conwell, in many respects, in his day, the world’s greatest lecturer. We never heard Dr. Conwell lecture without feeling at the end that nothing was impossible. We have the same feeling when we read this record of the achievements of Dr. Norris. It gives us a feeling that there is no enemy physical or moral that may not be defeated and utterly routed; nor any task in our Lord’s service which may not be accomplished.

      Dr. Norris has been subject to trials that were no easier to endure than those of Job, but he has triumphed over them all. In Fort Worth, twice his great church was reduced to ashes – each time to rise from the ashes greater than ever. Some people in this northern part of the Continent would be inclined to say, “Yes, of course; but that was in Fort Worth. And Dr. Norris is a Baptist, and Baptists grow in the Southern states almost without cultivation. Notwithstanding their orthodoxy, they seem to be rather indigenous to the soil.” It is a fact that Baptists are perhaps the largest body of Christians in the South, and we think it is probably true that Baptist churches do multiply more rapidly in the South than in the North - that is, of course, under the ministry of ordinary men. But that explanation of the First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, will no longer hold.

      For what about Detroit? Can anyone find a more difficult city on the American Continent in which to do Christian work than Detroit? It may not be more difficult than Chicago or New York, but certainly the difficulties are at least as great. And yet in the short space of three years the Temple Baptist Church of Detroit has outgrown all its buildings, and like Abraham, has dwelt “in tabernacles, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.” The story of these marvelous achievements must prove an inspiration and tonic to the faith of every true believer; and what is equally important, it will provide a spur to the Christian effort of all who read it.

      Could we afford it, we would place a copy of this book in the hands of every minister of every denomination on this Continent. It should prove equally valuable to deacons and elders, and church officers of every name and rank in all churches; and we question whether any book outside the Bible was ever published so full of inspiration and suggestion and explicit direction to Sunday School workers as this latest book by Dr. Norris.

      To Jarvis St. Members Particularly

      We are particularly anxious that it should have a large circulation in Jarvis Street Church. It costs only 50c – three hundred and thirty pages. We should like to see a copy of this book in every family in the entire church, and particularly we desire to see a copy in the hands of every one of our Sunday School teachers and officers. We suggest that all Jarvis Street members and friends in Toronto, who are interested, send in their order at once to the Jarvis St. Church Office, and we will order these books in bulk, and they can later be obtained at the Office. We attach herewith an order form, which you need only fill in and put in an envelope with 50c, and either hand in at the Office or put on the plate on Sunday. Friends outside of Toronto will please order direct from Temple Baptist Church, 14th and Marquette Sts., Detroit, Mich.

      The book, we understand, will later be priced at 75c or $1.00 – and it ought to be; but to introduce it, the price is set at 50c. And at this price, he must have the money with the order. So please fill out the order form below with your name and address, put it with the money in an envelope, seal it so that the silver cannot escape, and bring to the Church Office or put it on the collection plate.

      In closing this article we should like to give this testimony. This Pastor has had many helpers during the course of his ministry, but the visit of Dr. Norris to Jarvis Street in 1924 – ten months and more abiding spiritual results than we have ever had from the visit of any minister.


p. 9
“The Young Dog That Was Jumped on by Seven Other Dogs”

      Regarding the Texas fight, Dr. W. B. Riley published the following story:

      “I had a fine bird dog but he wouldn’t fight. It was not his nature and every time a neighbor’s dog would come over into his yard he would run under the house. One day I was in a car going down a steep incline and there rushed out a whole pack – seven vicious dogs, each one bigger than mine, and I feared they would tear him to pieces. Before I could stop my car and get out, they had all pounced on him, but he had backed up in a corner for protection and was snapping each one with his teeth and making the blood come, and soon they all backed away from him. From that time on, he was a new dog and every time another dog would come over or start a fight, my dog only had to show his sharp teeth and there was no further trouble.

      “So it has been in this Texas. Baptist fight with Frank. They all jumped on him and thought they would tear him limb from limb, but they have been cut all to pieces.”


p. 10
BOARD OF TRADE RAISES ELEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS TO “PROSECUTE” J. FRANK NORRIS

      Perhaps not in the history of the whole world did ever a group of business men meet together and raise eleven thousand dollars, or any amount, to employ Pinkerton and Burns detectives, two of the most powerful detective agencies in America, and to hire special prosecutors; and all because a church building worth only thirty thousand dollars had been destroyed by fire. Soon the hotels had a carload of operatives from these detective agencies. The chief of the Pinkerton squad was a Mr. A. J. Ritchie, and he was brought from New York to Fort Worth, and he made the following report, after a full investigation:

“It is the most colossal frameup that I ever saw to shield the guilty, and punish the innocent. In the bitter prejudices prevailing, it is impossible for any man to obtain a fair trial.”
      But the trial was held and vindication was quick, sweeping and overwhelming. The most interesting thing about that meeting of the Board of Trade is that the leaders who instigated the conspiracy met with swift judgment.

      And there was such odium attached to the name of the Board of Trade, that it went out of business, and the new, progressive citizenship of Fort Worth, the Gateway of the West, formed the present aggressive Chamber of Commerce, composed of upstand­ing, forward, patriotic citizens.

      There is just twenty-five years difference between the conspiracy of the old Board of Trade that raised eleven thousand dollars to destroy a preacher, and the letter from the present Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce on the opposite page, appointing the same preacher and his wife as “ambassadors of good will of our city in your contemplated tour around the world.”


p. 26
Another Chapter on the “Inside History of the Two Churches”

      Statement of Mr. M. H. Wolfe on Texas Baptist Controversy

      Mr. M. H. Wolfe, chairman of the board of deacons of the First Baptist Church, Dallas, for nearly twenty years, and who read the annual report of the church the first Sunday in each year, was the right-hand man of Dr. George W. Truett, paid his way across the Atlantic, and supported him loyally and abundantly.

      Mr. Wolfe was on every important denominational board for twenty years.

      He was President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas for three years. He was regarded during those days as the great­est layman among Southern Baptists.

      On the night before the convention in 1921 in Dallas there was a midnight caucus held on what to do with “J. Frank Norris’ remains?”

      That was seventeen years ago.

      The occasion of the caucus was brought about because of my exposure of evolution in Baylor University. At that time G. Samuel Dow was the head professor of Sociology, in Baylor, and on page 210 of his book, “Introduction to Sociology,” published by Baylor University and approved by Baylor University and ap­proved by the President of the University, Professor Dow wrote with his own hand:

      “As to his body we have very little exact knowledge, for the skeletons left by him are fragmentary, seldom amounting to more than one or two bones. But from these, by the use of our imagination, we have come to the conclusion that he was a squat, ugly, somewhat stooped, powerful being, half human and half animal, who sought refuge from the wild beasts first in the trees and later in caves, and that he was about half way between the anthropoid ape and modern man.”

      The Sanhedrin in order to cover up exposure of this anthropoid ape in Baylor University, proceeded to “hang Norris.”

      Dr. George W. Truett led the procession to the gallows and in his speech he said, “We will dehorn him right now and that will end it.”

      Many of the pastors protested and several laymen, making the plea that they should clean out evolution in Baylor University and let Norris alone.

      But Pope Alexander VI was never more enraged against Savonarola, when he first hanged him and then burned him on the streets of Florence, than was the “Holy Father” that night in 1921.

      Mr. M. H. Wolfe, a great layman in the caucus following, arose and said:

“You are doing the most fateful thing - committing the greatest tragedy and blunder in the history of Texas Baptists. If Frank Norris should come to us and say, ‘Gentlemen, I want you to put me out of the convention and hang me, carry out the scheme that you have determined upon, your scheme for my promotion is a thousand times better than any scheme I could devise for a greater hearing’.”
      Mr. Wolfe and his pastor, Dr. Truett, broke over this controversy and Mr. Wolfe moved his membership, on account of it, from the First Baptist Church to the Gaston Avenue Baptist Church.

      In view of the later connections of Dr. Truett with the Federal Council of Churches and his connection with the Modernistic World Baptist Alliance, it is not difficult to look back seventeen years and understand his ill-fated course.

      No wonder boards, institutions, schools and hospitals went bankrupt in Texas and spiritual dearth swept through the South.

      On the bankrupt condition brought about by the Texas Baptist machine and Southern Baptists covering up modernism, there is just off the press a pamphlet by Dr. J. E. Dillard, Executive Secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention, which tells the whole sad story:

      The Controversy on Evolution and Ecclesiasticism Among Southern Baptists Cost Many Millions of Dollars

      In a tract just sent out by Dr. J. E. Dillard, entitled, “The Facts Boiled Down,” we now have the official admission of what many knew was taking place, in the day of the red hot controversy over evolution and ecclesiasticism among Southern Baptists.

      In part, this tract sent out by the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, says:

      “Southern Baptist leaders made a careful survey of the needs of our fields and institutions, State and Southwide, and found that it would require $75,000,000 and many hundreds of workers to carry on and enlarge the work as it needed to be done. (This was in 1919.)

      “Southern Baptists subscribed $92,000,000 for this work to be paid over a period of five years; and 15,000 of our young people offered themselves for special Christian service.

      “The Southern Baptist work of missions, education and benevolence was enlarged, new stations were opened, new buildings were erected, new missionaries were sent out, and marvelous spiritual results were obtained.

      “Southern Baptists paid the money the first year, as much or more than was expected. It was thought that we could count upon at least $15,000,000 a year for five years. So obligations were as­sumed to be cared for out of anticipated receipts year after year. But something unexpected happened:

      “Dark Days

      “The second year receipts for this enlarged work fell down; we hoped it would be better the next year. But it wasn’t any better the third year, and we had to slow up and borrow money.

      “The fourth year and the fifth were worse still; we could not curtail the work fast enough; we had to borrow more money and issue bonds, still hoping for better times.

      “But things didn’t improve. Only about $58,000,000 of the $92,000,000 subscribed was actually paid. Churches felt compelled to put on building programs, and as a result contributions to denominational causes continued to fall off. Then we met with all kinds of financial difficulties.

      “We cut expenses to the bone; we stopped sending out new missionaries; we did not send back the missionaries who were home on furlough; we closed schools and hospitals and every institution possible without permanently injuring the work. And yet we could not see daylight. Southwide agencies were $6,221,000 in debt.

      “Midnight

      “Surely there was never a great denomination in greater financial distress. All our agencies were suffering for funds; all our institutions were in debt; we had no money for re-enforcements; all our fields were undermanned; all our property was in need of repairs; we couldn’t meet our financial obligations and could hardly pay interest upon our debts. Our morale was well-nigh broken, our workers discouraged, our creditors calling our loans and threatening legal proceedings to throw us into bankruptcy.”

      The above official admission and confession just released to the public is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Dr. W. B. Riley when he was fighting the machine. He published in his magazine, “The Pilot” in 1926, of his own free will and choice the following indict­ment of the Texas Baptist Machine, in its eight nights’ attack on Dr. J. Frank Norris over the radio:

“The procedure can be explained, however, on the same ground that is going to render desperate leaders in the Northern Baptist Convention in the near future. The Texas machine is going to pieces; the whole Southern machine is badly crippled; and when men’s vested interests are touched, they lose equanimity and often behave foolishly. We predict that the comparative good nature of the Northern modernists among Baptists will not last much longer.”
      (But the fact that the dear old man has gone over to the machine recently does not change, “What I have written I have written.”)

      But a greater storm is coming. The exposure of Dawsonism, Fosdickism, Darwinism and Agnosticism, by Dr. J. B. Cranfill in the Western Recorder, has produced consternation in the councils of the Sanhedrin, and Orthodox Southern Baptists are on the war­path as never before.

      Dawson Joins the Communistic Ranks.

      The “Daily Worker,” published in New York is the official voice of Moscow – in its official issue of February 25th, there is a long list of Communists on the committee published, and in the list of one hundred or more, Robert Morse Lovett, Lee Simonson, Frederick L. Schuman, Evans Clark, Quincy Wright, Paul H. Douglas, Upton Sinclair, John Dewey, Arthur Garfield Hays, William H. Kilpatrick, Mazwell S. Stewart, Leroy E. Bowman, Oswald Garrison Villard, Rev. William B. Spofford, Jerome Davis, Ben Gould. There appears also,

      “Rev. Joseph M. Dawson, First Baptist Church, Texas.”

      Therefore the Texas Baptist machine have on their hands the finished fruit of modernism – J. M. Dawson’s endorsement of Fosdickism, Darwinianism, Agnosticism, and now February 25, 1938, his endorsement of communism – and this in the First Baptist Church at Waco, the church of Baylor University,

      “The King’s Heart Is in the Hand of the Lord, as the Rivers of Water: He Turneth it Whithersoever He Will” – Prov. 21:1

      Talk about God raising up Cyrus, Darius, and rulers to befriend his own elect – there is a 20th century chapter on this same benevolent Providence, dealing with the First Baptist Church.

      During the dark days when the First Baptist Church was bankrupt and worse than bankrupt – its enemies told the truth – the then mayor of Fort Worth, the one who sent D. E. Chipps to the office of the pastor to assassinate him, and who admitted under oath that he sent him for this purpose, and also in the same testimony admitted that he spent fifty thousand dollars for special prosecution – this mayor went to the holders of the mortgage of the First Baptist Church and wanted to buy it. It is now the General American Insurance Company of St. Louis, but practically the same high class personnel. The church was behind with both principle and interest and the mortgagee would have been thoroughly justifiable in selling the mortgage, but this insurance company said to those that would “do the young child hurt,”

      “We will not sell you the mortgage even though the church is behind with both principle and interest. We put our money on that preacher and church and we will let it stay there.” (Here is one insurance company with a soul. And one of the Baptist denominational leaders of Texas was in with the mayor to put over this scheme. His part was to get the radio).

      The church reduced its indebtedness to ninety thousand dollars and now the Insurance Company has accepted a lease on part of the property held by the church, and reduced the rate of interest to 4%, and the lease over a period of years will amortize the loan – pay it off! Ten thousand Hallelujahs!

      The deal is equivalent to the church writing a check for the entire amount.

      Therefore the First Baptist Church has a whole block of fine property with a small exception, right in the heart of the city of Fort Worth; and starting twenty-five years ago with nothing and less than nothing and with a hand full of very poor people, only about 300; but today has a half million dollars worth of the best located church property right in the heart of the city – in the business section. The annual budget of the church for 1938 went fourteen thousand dollars higher than any previous year. There is but one explanation – BUT GOD!

      Clarence M. Keen, Benton Street Baptist Church, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, Says:

The opposition of brethren, the criticisms of men, the antagonism of the world, the persecution of evil workers, and the enmity of the Devil seems not to deter him in the least. To this champion of the faith, stumbling blocks are but stepping stones to bigger and better things for Christ and His Church.
      In his latest book “The Inside History of First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, and Temple Baptist Church, Detroit,” which is largely an autobiography, is to be found a story of interest and inspiration, wonder and amazement such as I have never read before. Of all the books in my library, there is not another like it. The author there, in his unique way, relates for us many of his wonderful experiences. In my judgment, no story like it has been enacted since the days of the apostles. I write to commend this book to all men everywhere.

      As you read you realize in a new way that the Lord God of Elijah still lives and is active in the world today. This book in a most vivid manner shows the intensified activities of both God and the Devil in the present generation.

      No Gospel preacher, Sunday School teacher, Church officer, or Christian layman should consider his reading up to date until he has read the “Inside History” of these churches as given by their present pastor. I desire to recommend most heartily this book from the heart and hand of this champion of the faith, warrior for Christ, world-wide Gospel preacher, successful pastor, and my esteemed friend, Dr. J. Frank Norris.

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In Progress

[Printed in 1938]