Vol. 2 - No. 7
A Letter From J. D. Tant
by F. B. Srygley
(Publisher's note: This article was taken from The Gospel Advocate dated November 10, 1938. The J. D. Tant in the heading is not the J. D. (David) Tant who writes for Vanguard magazine, but his grandfather and the father of Yater Tant. Brother Tant was quite a character as were many of these old-time preachers such as the author of the article. They wrote humorously in many instances, but usually had something good to say. Read this one and enjoy it and get any lesson you find therein.)
I had occasion to write to brother Tant some time ago in order to get a word direct from him as to his present condition. I received a very prompt reply, but for the life of me I could not read it. Of course, this was to be expected by me. I thought that since he was sick he would get sister Tant to answer it. But this could hardly be expected, since he makes capital of his handwriting. I got him to ask his wife to write one thing some time back. I had mildly criticized him in the Gospel Advocate. This was while he lived near here. It hurt brother Tant some, I guess; but it was only a guess, for brother Tant does not show his feelings very much when he feels injured. This is a fine trait of character.
Brother Tant came into the office soon after this little criticism appeared in the Advocate and asked me if I would publish anything he might write in reply, and I told him no, that I could not agree to that. He never said a word. Then I explained why I would not agree to it by saying that I could not read his writing, but that if his wife would write it for him I would publish it. He agreed to do it, and the matter was settled all right.
I met brother Tant the first time in Terrell, Texas, in 1896. The church in Terrell had gone to the Yankees, so to speak, and a few brethren had moved there from Tennessee. Several from near Nashville had moved there and some of those thought they would invite me to use the house that they had helped to build; but no, not on your life! I preached around Terrell for two or three weeks, and spent a week in Terrell visiting, but there was nothing doing. I found that those who had to stifle their consciences in order to go digressive were the very ones who did not want to hear the truth. It hurt what conscience they had left. Brother Tant came over to Terrell, and he comforted me very much in my losing fight for the truth. I went back to Terrell soon after this, and the brethren had rented a hall, and a start was made to build up a body of Christians, which succeeded. Since that time I have been a true friend to brother Tant.
I got two of the best teachers in the city schools here to read and translate his letter. I quote from his letter: "I have been down now six weeks, and get awful lonesome staying in the house. If I were able to afford it, I would be in the Hardeman meeting and meet for the last time many of you old-timers before you go to Detroit to walk the wire, for I am one-legged now and cannot walk it; but I was in the middle of the plank when these brethren walked off. And when they make up their minds to come back to where they left me, I will gladly welcome them."
One of these teachers said: "Poor brother Tant! He was no doubt trying to write this in bed, and no one can write lying down." I corrected her by saying: "This is about like all his letters, and he surely does not go to bed every time he tries to write." Brother Tant says that he is "one-legged." Poor fellow! But good often comes out of evil. He will have to stop kicking now, unless he goes to bed to kick as he does to write; for as a man only has two legs, he cannot stand on the good leg while he kicks; and since he has to use his only leg to stand on, how can he kick?
Again I quote from the letter: "While working in the ditch to irrigate six weeks ago, I fell, and later the fall caused my entire left leg to become useless. The doctor said that there was no hope, but now he thinks I will be able to walk again in another month. I still have much fight in me; and as almost all churches in Texas are under college control, they regard me as a back number." I hope brother Tant will borrow no trouble over the fact that he and most all other old men are indeed back numbers, but there is often good in back numbers. Businessmen sometimes make a mistake by turning off men who are better prepared for work than the younger ones they hire in their places. In some respects old men are prepared better to preach than younger men who are thought to be better prepared for leadership in the church. But they say that the young men can lead the young people better than the older men, and the result is that we have a young people's church instead of a church controlled by the elders.
Naturally older men have a better knowledge of the Scriptures, as they have had time and opportunity to learn more. They have lost the graceful movement of the body, and with some this is a great asset lost. There ought to be room in the vineyard of the Lord for the young and the old. There should be no rivalry between the old and the young in their work. There is room in the kingdom for all to work. It would be nice for God's children to grow old gracefully.
Brother Tant was out of his place digging a ditch. A young Mexican could have done more work in a ditch in two hours than Tant could have done in a week. Let us keep in our place, but his place is not in a ditch. Old men for counsel and young men for digging ditches. In this letter brother Tant feelingly referred to the fact that many years ago he counted fifty-eight preachers who were present with him at a debate in Texas. Now he says that they are all gone, and "I am left to fight the battles alone." No, he is not alone. There are yet many who have never bowed the knee to Baal. The church will never be destroyed, for Daniel said it would be an everlasting kingdom! If the time should ever come that no congregation existed on the earth, the word of God, which is the seed, would still be here, and it would produce Christians, which make up the body of Christ, the church. There is a place for old men in the church, and I trust that there is a place for many in the New Jerusalem.