Sunday, August 05, 2007

J. F. McLendon to B. L. Vaughn

The following letter was written from John Franklin McLendon to Benjamin Lewis Vaughn. Elder McLendon was pastor of Smyrna Baptist Church, of which Vaughn was a member, and Vaughn was living away from the community in the city of Jacksonville, Texas (Cherokee Co.) attending college where he would get a degree to become a school teacher. Elder McLendon's envelope has a monogram which gives his address as Cushing, Texas (in Nacogdoches Co.) and a salesman for "Stewart's Iron Fence." The letterhead on his letter lists him as an agent for "The Stewart Iron Works of Cincinnati, Ohio" and also an agent for "Robson, Stewart and Jenkins Monumental Works, Shreveport, La." He was evidently selling tombstones and iron fences to go around them. The letterhead gives McLendon's address as Laneville, Texas (Rusk Co.). I would guess it more likely that he was living around Laneville in 1909, as he was pastoring at least two churches in that area. He was also moderator of the Mt. Zion Baptist Association at this time, and a former president of the East Texas Musical Convention.

Vaughn had evidently asked for McLendon's advice in the matter of preaching. To me it seems that Elder McLendon's advice concerning licensing by the church would have been a little unusual for that day, but I don't know that for certain. Whatever Ben Vaughn thought of the advice, the Smyrna Baptist Church liberated him to preach on September 17, 1910, about a year after the letter from Elder McLendon. McLendon served as pastor of Smyrna Church from October 1904 till August 1910.


Mr. B. L. Vaughn Jacksonville Tex

My Dear Bro.

I have your favor of recent date and have noted its contents.

You say there are more calls for preaching than can be filled, and that when such is the case that you have a strong desire to go. Now my brother my advise (sic) to you would be for you to say here am I send me. You need not wait for any action of your church, but just go right along and tell the people that you are not a preacher, but, that you are there to help them all you can, and just fire in and give them the best you have got in your shop, and if they call it preaching that will be all right. If you will take this course it will relieve you of any embarisment (sic), as you will go without making any pretentions. If you should make a failure once in a while it will not be near so humiliating as it would be if you has a licens (sic) from the church, for in that case the people would expect something more perhaps than you could give them, while on the other hand if you go out as a lay brother, with a burning desire to tell the old story of Jesus and his love, I believe you would have greater liberty. I am sure to say the least of it, you could preach just as well as if you were liberated by the church.

Then again there is not a sylable (sic) of authority in the New Testament, that I have ever found, for licensing a man to preach. If I had my life to live over with my present views, I had rather start out as I have advised you. There is no law among Baptist to prevent any brother from preaching, if he can, and want to preach. And if he proves to be gifted as a preacher, it won't be long till the people will call on his church to set him apart to the full work. I would advise you to avail yourself of the first, and every opportunity to excersise (sic) your gifts, and don't hestitate for a single moment because your church hasn't taken any action.

These are my honest views on this matter, but if you think you would be better satisfied for the church to take action, I will bring it before the next conference.

If you wish you may show this letter to Brother Newburn and get his critisism (sic). Maybe he will endorse my views. If my advise (sic) is worth anything, it will be cheerfully given.

Yours in Christ,
J. F. McLendon