In the horse and buggy days of long ago, there lived in the Cumberland mountains of Kentucky an 81 year old backwoods but literate man named Jeb. “Wise ole Jeb,” as he came to be known, because of sound counsel he shared with many, had been saved in mid-life but had never been baptized in water. One Sunday noon, after the congregation had been dismissed in the little red schoolhouse, an itinerant preacher named Hezekiah Jones urged Jeb to submit to baptism “as a testimonial to the world,” to show that he was “all out fer Jesus.” During a moment of uncertainty, Jeb decided to go along with Jones “fer the sake of peace.” That afternoon, like Philip and the Eunuch, the two went down into the waters of a near-by lake. Joyful members of the congregation crowded the shore.
From the moment of his conversion, Jeb had depended on the Bible to show him everything he should do in matters of spiritual importance. He loved the Word and read it daily, paying close attention to everything it said. And he memorized Scripture – lots of it. One of Jeb’s favorite verses was Heb. 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” A quiet but passionate desire to please the Lord in everything had slowly taken hold of him.
One day, 1 Thess. 5:21 got his attention. “It jes seemed ter jump right off the page,” he later explained. He read it over and over: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” Suddenly it dawned on him - he needn’t take anyone’s word for anything when it came to the Bible. “Jes” think,” he mused, “I can prove everything fer m’self!” The thought of it charged him with an excitement he hadn’t known for years.
Later, at a county-wide brush-arbor meeting, Jeb arrived in time to hear the featured speaker, an imposing giant of a man name Shannon O’Hare. There was a time when O’Hare merited the unsavory reputation of being the meanest, fightinest, hardest-drinking man in town – until the Lord got his attention. One day, alone in his room, as a little child might do, he knelt by his bed and there received Christ as Saviour and Lord. It wasn’t long ‘ere the town people heard about it and smiled. It was, indeed, a glad day.
O’Hare announced his text as 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Never would Jeb forget how the man electrified his audience with what seemed like the voice of
God Himself. He would not have been surprised if fire had shot out of heaven and consumed the pulpit.
Pounding it and shaking his Bible aloft, the fiery orator repeatedly quoted his text: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect [mature] thoroughly furnished [instructed] unto all good works.”
As he drew his message to a close, Shannon’s voice became soft and gentle-like, but insistent. “Good neighbors, he said, “Jes you remember one thing: if’n it ain’t in the Bible fer believers for this here day of grace, like Paul writ, it ain’t for you, and don’t you never fergit it. And if’n you don’t fergit, you never will accept no counterfeits – you hear me?!” He waited. Silence. Folks were thinking. “I say,” he boomed, do you hear me?! Bedlam broke loose. “Amen, brother,” the crowd roared back! “Amen, we hear you!” Satisfied, the big man smiled, closed his Bible, and sat down.
Testimonies followed, some solemn and tearful, others filled with the joy of heaven, but all spoke of the goodness and grace of God. Many were the expressions of gratitude for the cross-work of Christ in dying for our sins, His glorious resurrection, and the awesome wonder of being “born again,” all because they had simply and sincerely believed the record of God’s Son. 1 John 5:10-13.
After meeting, barbeque with all the trimming, followed by ice-cream and cake, and then games for the younger set, while a number of men and their womenfolk gathered around O’Hare to ask Bible questions. Jeb never forgot that wonderful brush-arbor meeting of long ago.
Now as he and preacher Jones stepped into the waters, Shannon’s message came back in force. He recalled O’Hare’s warning: “If’n it ain’t in the Bible fer believers for this here day of grace, like Paul writ, it ain’t fer you!”
That settles it, thought Jeb. If’n water baptism is a good work fer today, it’ll be telling us in the Book how to do it, specially where Paul writ.
“Hold on, Parson, said Jeb. “Afor’ we go any further, I gotta ask some questions.” Surprised by this ceremonial irregularity, Jones stepped back in momentary alarm. Jeb continued. “Preacher,, sinc’n yer a Baptist, I ‘spect you’ll
be amersing me in this here lake instead of pouring water on me. If’n so, what verse proves that that’s the way to do it? And if’n you do amerse me, will it be once’t, twice’t, three times. I need Scripture, brother Jones, so’s I know I’m doin’ the right thing.”
Stunned by what he perceived as unmitigated brashness, Hezekiah Jones opened his mouth to object, but Jeb kept right on: “And, brother Jones, if’n you’re goin’ to be amersing me, will it be forward or backwards? You once’t told us, yerself, that you believe 2 Timothy 3:17 - that the Bible instructs us to every good work; so I ‘spect if it’s a good work you’ll give Scripture for whatever you’re goin’ to be doin’.”
The man of the cloth raised his hand in exasperated protest but Jeb ignored him. “A couple more things afor’ we get started, preacher: would you ‘splain what this here baptism is fer? What’ll it do fer me?
“Will it make me a better Christian?
Will it help me win souls better?
Will it make it easier fer me to show the good “fruit of the Spirit?”
Will it help me better understan’ the Bible?
Will it make my faith stronger?
Will it better my fellowship with my Maker and spiritual kinfolk?”
Jeb’s voice now rang out loud and clear across the quiet waters. “An’, preacher, sinc’n we got only a few folks here, how’s it gonna’ be a testimonial to the world, like you said? Aint nobody here but us. I thought you onc’t told us that love would prove we was His disciples. (Jn.13:35) Tell me honest, preacher; I gotta right to know.”
The folks on the bank sucked in their collective breath, shaking their heads in disbelief. This couldn’t be happening – talking back to a preacher like that…Besides, those questions! They looked at each other, then at the preacher – and smiled. No doubt about it, Parson Jones would handle this!
But Parson Jones, to put it mildly, had problems of his own. He was in a state of profound shock!
To forestall calamity, Hezakiah called for a Bible. With hands visibly shaking, he opened its sacred pages to give him time to think and to, hopefully,
find something, anything, that would answer Jeb’s questions. The people leaned in to catch his unforgettable words of wisdom. Slowly, desperately, with beads of perspiration breaking out on his reddened face, the parson thumbed page after page. Nothing. He felt like a man drowning. Then his mind when blank.
The simple logic and forcefulness of the old man’s questions had left him speechless. Too proud to admit he was stumped, he suddenly remembered aloud that Jeb was not qualified for baptism. He would explain later. Time to close. Composing himself as best he could, though feeling “dead-empty” on the inside, Jones mechanically recited a “benediction,” thereby dismissing the crowd and aborting the baptism.
A slow smile spread over Jeb’s face as he turned to go his way, satisfied that he had pleased the Lord. The congregation, in awkward confusion, returned to their homes to think about it.
As for preacher Jones, that evening, under cover of darkness, he saddled his mount and stole out of town – still pained by the turn of events. But the pain slowly subsided as he followed the road. Addressing his long-eared companion, for lack of a larger audience, Jones vented his feelings: “Well, Matilda, you got to admit that water baptism ain’t the end of the world. “Sides, I cain’t think of no bigger waste of time than to make a fuss over such childish, hog-stupid questions as Jeb spewed out.
“What in tarnation got into that ornery, pig-headed, consternating fool, anyway?” Miltilda answered by pausing in her gait, dramatically throwing back her head and belting out a long, lonesome, sorrow-filled bray. Exactly my sentiments,” said Jones, snapping the reigns, “Giddy-up, ol’ faithful!! The pain had passed!
Submitted by Bob
Submitted by Bob Thompson
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