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Samuel Porter Jones, 1847-1906

Written by: Ruckman/ Unknown    Posted on: 03/17/2003

Category: Biographies

Source: CCN

Samuel Porter Jones 1847-1906 American evangelist. Sam Jones was born at Oak Bowery, Ala- bama, and reared at Cartersville, Georgia. He studied to be a lawyer, but drinking and gambling soon brought him to the brink of ruin. At his father's deathbed, he fell on his knees and repented of his sin and trusted Christ. He preached his first sermon one week later and was licensed to preach in the Methodist Church after only three months.         He served several pastorates but gained fame as a lecturer and evangelist. Soon he was conducting campaigns in some of America's largest cities. Wherever he preached, liq- uor stores closed, theaters and jails emptied, and cursing was reduced to whispers. His life was threatened on several occasions. But these did not deter his strong preaching. He died en route to an evangelistic meeting in Oklahoma. Much of the wit of Will Rogers is traceable to Sam Jones. Well over 500,000 people were converted to Christ as a result of his ministry.

ARTIST'S NOTE: Earth colors dominate the entire picture, as this is the outstanding thing about Sam Jones' ministry--it was down-to-earth. The homey wit and droll country stories in his messages were earthy and true to nature.

Ruckman '66

Samuel Porter Jones{SCT}
{BQT}    I went to the bar and begged for a glass of liquor. I got the glass and started to drink and looked into the mirror. I saw my hair matted, the filth and vomit on my clothes, one of my eyes totally closed, and my lips swollen. And I said, "Is that all that is left of the proud and brilliant lawyer, Sam Jones?" I smashed the glass on the floor and fell to my knees and cried, "Oh God! Oh God, have mercy!" The bartender ran to my side and thought I was dying...and I was. I said, "Just let me alone." I picked myself up and staggered to my cheap rooming house and said to the ladies running it, "Would you do me a favor?" They answered in the affirmative. I asked them to bring me a pot of black coffee. I went through three days and nights of hell, but when the morning came, something had happened to old Sam Jones. I went down to the clothing store and said, "I want you to give me a new suit. I got saved last night. Sam Jones is coming back." Not only did I get a suit, but shirts, ties, coat, everything I needed and as I left, the merchant stuck a $100 bill into my hand. I went to the barber for I had not had a shave in over a month. I asked for a bath, a shave, a haircut. I put on my new clothes, looking pale and weak. I left to go to my wife whom I had beaten till she was black and blue. She didn't even recognize her own husband. I said, "Honey, God has given you a new husband and the children a new daddy, and I wonder if you will forgive me and start all over again." She grabbed me in her arms and cried, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! I have been praying for this!" And I have been going round the country bragging about Jesus ever since.

{EQT}    Sam was twenty-four years old. A week later in the agony of keeping his vow, he walked down the aisle of the little country church where his grandfather, Samuel G. Jones, was preaching and said, "Grandfather, I take this step today. I give myself, my heart, and life, what is left of it, all to God and His cause." He felt an immediate call to the ministry. A week after his conversion, Sam preached his first sermon in his grandfather's pulpit. In November, 1872, he was licensed as an itinerant preacher for the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He was called "the Mountain Evangelist" in his early days, perhaps because he "put the fodder down low where the poor folks can reach it."     The North Georgia Conference assigned Jones to a rural circuit which had five churches scattered in four different counties. This was the Van Wert Circuit, one of the poorest in Georgia. He was soon being asked by nearby pastors to help them with their annual revivals. Because of his growing fame, he was shifted from one circuit to another. By 1880, he was spending only 50% of his time preaching in his own circuit. The other half of the time he was conducting revivals for other pastors in nearby towns.     In December, 1880, the Conference decided to free him from the restraints of pastoral responsibilities and made him the fund-raising agent for the Methodist Orphan Home in Decatur, Georgia. The orphanage had a debt of $20,000 and Jones was encouraged to go anywhere he felt he could raise money for the institution. Starting in small towns, he was soon in the big churches of the State. He preached and took offerings for the orphanage. Sam was also given permission to hold revival meetings for Methodist ministers and even help in "union meetings" if a Methodist church was among the denominations that sponsored him. His fame spread beyond his State. In 1883, he conducted a two- week series of meetings for the Methodist churches of Louisville, Kentucky, which received some attention from the secular press. At a meeting for men only in the local Masonic Temple, he delivered a blistering attack on such sins as profanity, Sabbath breaking, gambling, licentiousness and intemperance.     By 1884, Sam Jones, as an evangelist, was well established. It was this year he first attempted a large-scale, city-wide revival in Memphis, Tennessee. Thirteen pastors of five different denominations united to sponsor him. Jones estimated 1,000 decisions for Christ here including 400 public professions of faith and 100 joining the churches by the end of the meetings. Later, a crusade was held in Chattanooga, Tennessee with another 1,000 decisions for Christ. He was invited to Jackson and Knoxville, Tennessee; to Waco, Texas; and to T. DeWitt Talmage's tabernacle in Brooklyn in January, 1885. This crusade was a great success and now the largest cities of both the South and the North were seeking his services.     A campaign that really pushed Jones to the top of his profession, second only to Moody during these days, was the 1885 Nashville, Tennessee, meeting. In a city of 50,000, the ministerial association invited him to erect a tent for 5,000 and preach. People packed it three times a day for four weeks, while the evangelist berated them, amused them, and compelled them to come forward pledging their lives to Christ. The meeting opened in May and before it was over a month later, some claimed that 10,000 were converted. This was his largest crusade. He made such an impression that he was invited to address the State Legislature. He told the legislators about the evils of the liquor traffic and also offered them some suggestions on how to reform the prison system. Other 1885 crusades were: St. Joseph, Missouri (2,220 converts); Birmingham, Alabama (1,800 converts); St. Louis, Missouri (1,600 converts). In St. Louis, he came with an invitation from just one pastor, but others soon cooperated once he got there. There was a real revival. The St. Louis Globe carried his sermons, sometimes six columns of them!     In 1886, Sam Jones was in Cincinnati, Ohio (2,000 converts); Chicago, Illinois (1,500 to 3,000 converts). In Chicago, he was sponsored by the South Side ministerial association. A renovated skating rink seating 7,000 was used and the five-week meeting drew some 260,000 people. He also went to Baltimore, Maryland (1,200 to 2,500 converts) as well as Indianapolis, Toronto, St. Paul, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Omaha.     In 1887, he preached in Kansas City and Boston among many others. In 1889, his meetings included Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco, where 1,200 made decisions. The years 1890-91 saw meetings in Chattanooga, Little Rock, Wilmington, among others.     The Jones crusade in Memphis in 1892 had 2,500 conversions and this was also the year he gave up his connection with the North Georgia Orphanage in Decatur.     Although he passed the peak of his career by the middle of the 1890's, he continued to return year after year to certain cities. He conducted eighteen revival sin Nashville alone. Between visits to larger cities, he preached in almost every city with a population of over 10,000 in the South. In 1897, Sam went back to Boston at the request of the Methodist preachers with many Baptists cooperating also once he was there. Some 2,500 decisions for Christ were made.     The 1899 revival in Toledo, Ohio, was perhaps his most unique. The city had recently elected a mayor, a man who actually claimed to live and administer the law according to the Golden Rule. The name of the mayor was Sam Jones! (Actually, Samuel M. Jones.) The confrontation of Mayor Sam Jones, known as "Golden Rule Jones," against evangelist Sam Jones, became a full-fledged battle and one of the classic events of revival history. The crusade began on March 5, with the next mayoral election to be held April 3. At the opening session in the city Armory, the mayor, Samuel M. Jones, introduced the evangelist, Samuel P. Jones. The mayor, ignored by his party, the Republicans, decided to run as an independent. Although a moral man with good intentions, his "let everything be done with love" philosophy had kept open 700 saloons and 150 gambling dens. On March 12, at a meeting for 6,000 men, the evangelist let them have it, mayor and all! Headlines in the Republican Toledo Blade, read, "Evangelist's Hot Shot," "Jones batteries turned on municipal authorities; declares if the Devil were mayor, he would not change a thing!" In the Democratic Toledo Bee, the headlines said, "Sam P. Jones rips up Toledo's administration; he prefers rule of hate to rule of love that keeps saloons open." (The mayor was reelected later by a high majority.)     Sam Jones usually stayed three weeks in an area, sometimes five. Auditoriums were usually around 5,000 seating capacity with some 150,000 attending for the series. The choirs were around 400 and the ushers around 40. His income averaged around $30,000 per year (that was 100 years ago!). Much of it was given away to worthy causes.     He preached with such zeal that his health finally broke. For some years he rested from evangelistic preaching and turned his skill to lecturing, primarily against the liquor traffic. He spoke about the "moral issues" of the day and sought reform in corrupt cities. In some cities, especially in the South, he was able to persuade the citizens to outlaw saloons and drive out the other enemies of the Christian faith.     Eventually he resumed evangelistic preaching. It is said that when Sam preached, liquor stores closed, theaters and jails emptied, and cussing was reduced to whispers. His life was threatened on several occasions. His crude wit, coarse stories, and rural life drollery captured his hearers everywhere. Like Billy Sunday, his eccentricities of speech, his unconventional ways and manner probably contributed to his popularity. Jones spent every summer after 1885 touring Chautaugua circuits. Much of the wit of Will Rogers is traceable to Sam Jones. This wit is illustrated by some of the following stories:     One time a committee complained that they brought him to town to preach to sinners but that he ended up preaching at them! He said, "Never mind, I will get to the sinners. I never scald hogs until the water is hot."     Once, when asked why he didn't attack the Catholics, he replied, "When I get through with the Methodists, it's bedtime."     In one revival, the pastors, feeling Jones shouldn't be so negative in his preaching, gathered for a prayer meeting one afternoon to pray for him. Jones, driving by the tabernacle, was overjoyed to see a group of ministers conducting a prayer meeting, so he slipped in to join them. He heard their prayers about him..."Help him to have more tact, change his mannerisms," etc. Then it was his turn to pray:

{BQT}    Lord, I hope you won't listen to a one of these preachers. They don't preach against sin. They don't visit from door to door. They don't weep over sinners, and they don't win souls. And they want You to change me until I'm just like them. O Lord, help these preachers to have enough sense to realize that if You were to answer their prayers, I would be just as worthless and no-account as they are. I'd be too lazy to work too. I'd be afraid to fight sin and too cold to cry over sinners and too indifferent to win souls. Please God, don't make me like any of these fellers.

{EQT}His prayer continued and a great sweeping revival was seen.     In another town, a saloon keeper approached Jones when he was walking down a street and asked if it was true that Jones hated liquor, etc. He held up a ten dollar bill and taunted the evangelist..."I bet you'd like to have that! I make my money selling whiskey." He was totally surprised when Jones grabbed the ten and said, "Yes, I'll take it! The Devil has had it long enough."     In Sigourney, Iowa, three saloons were licensed for $300 each, or $900 in all. The town was only 2,000 in population, so in his speech, Sam declared the liquor dealers might as well walk up to the people and ask, "If you will let us damn this town, we will give you 40 cents apiece." He asked how much a 200-pound hog would bring. He was told $12. "So," replied the evangelist, "hogs $12 apiece and people 40 cents apiece. Say, brother, don't you wish you were a hog? For the pitiful sum of 40 cents each, you turn your boys over to be debauched, the hearts of mothers are crushed, and the town ruined...all for 40 cents! This is cheap; but I suppose that is all you are worth, eh?"     To a tightwad Christian who complained about being asked to contribute to the church, after being saved out of alcoholism, he lashed out. "Well, you paid the Devil $250 a year for the privilege of plowing with a steer on rented land, and now you don't want to give God, who saved you, five dollars a year for the privilege of plowing with horses on your own plantation. You're a rascal from the crown of your head to the sole of your foot!"     Jones made absolutely nothing of education, would not tolerate stiffness or formality, was definitely informal, was blunt and uncouth in his preaching, direct and child-like in his praying.     His crude mannerisms would include, "I wouldn't wipe my feet on" someone. He made much use of a phrase like, "put the hay down low enough so that both the jackass and the giraffe can get to it."..."Many a fellow is praying for rain with his tub bottom up,"..."It tickles me to see an old sinner come in and pull out an old, dwarfed member of the church, lay his down and measure by him, and say, `Look here, boys. I'm as long, as broad, and as good as this man'."     An eyewitness to a Jones revival might put him in his proper perspective. Tom Watson tells about a revival in Thomson, Georgia:

{BQT}How he did peel the amen corner. How he did smash their solemn self-conceit, their profound self-satisfaction, their peaceful co-partnership with the Almighty, their placid conviction that they were trustees of the New Jerusalem. After awhile with solemn, irresistible force he called on these brethren to rise in public, confess their shortcomings, and kneel for Divine grace. And they knelt. With groans, and sobs, and tears, these old bellwethers of the flock fell on their knees and cried aloud in their distress. Then what? He turned his guns on us sinners. He abused us fore and aft. He gave us grape and canister and all the rest. He abused us and ridiculed us, he stormed at us and laughed at us, he called us flop-eared hounds, beer kegs, and whiskey soaks. He plainly said that we were all hypocrites and liars, and he intimated somewhat broadly, that most of us would steal. After the meetings the community settled back to business, but it has never been the same community since. Gambling has disappeared, loud profanity on the streets was heard no more, and the bar-rooms were run out of the country.

{EQT}    D.L. Moody once attended a service to hear Sam preach. After hearing him, he wrote him a letter:

{BQT}God has put into your hands the sledge hammer with which to shatter the formalism of the Church and batter down the strongholds of sin, and He is helping you mightily to use it. God bless you.

{EQT}    A year before his death, Jones was called to the speaker's platform in Atlanta by President Theodore Roosevelt, who said to him, "Sam, you have been doing as a private citizen, what I have tried to do as a public servant."     Musicians who traveled with Sam Jones included E.O. Excell, who composed many hymns, and Walter Holcomb, who led singing for him and later married his daughter.     Death came suddenly. Coming home on a train from a campaign in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and planning to celebrate his fifty- ninth birthday back in Cartersville, he dropped dead. Earlier that morning he complained about not feeling well, drank a glass of water and toppled over. This was near Perry, Arkansas, twelve miles from Little Rock. His funeral in Atlanta, Georgia, was a state affair.     Books that came out after his death were Famous Stories of Sam P. Jones (1908), Popular Lectures of Sam P. Jones (1909), Sam Jones Revival Sermons (1912) and Lightning Flashes and Thunderbolts (1912). His own works included Sermons and Sayings (1883), Music Hall Series (1886), Quit Your Meanness (1886), Sam Jones' Own Book (1887), St. Louis Series (1890) and Thunderbolts (1895).

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