Larimore and Tant
by F. Yater Tant
Gospel Guardian, September 22, 1955
In the 1890s the beloved T. B. Larimore held a six-month meeting at Sherman, Texas, and baptized something like 250 people. His prestige there and his influence were almost comparable to Paul's in Galatia at the time the Galatians "would have plucked out their eyes" and give them to the apostle.
Some months after the great Larimore meeting, the digressives moved into Sherman and literally swept the church off its feet. Of the people Larimore had baptized, something over 200 joined the digressive church. The loyal brethren, trying desperately to stem the tide sent for J. D. Tant and worked up a debate between J. D. Tant and a leading digressive preacher of the day (we believe it was A. D. Rogers, but would have to check the records on that before saying for certain.) The debate attracted wide attention. Tant stayed in Sherman for nearly a month; he told this writer (his son) that he made more than 500 personal calls during the time he was there, talking with those who had gone astray, pleading with them to return to the truth, pointing out the error of digression. He made as many as six or eight calls on some families, staying in some places until three o'clock in the morning, reading the Bible, teaching, and praying with them.
When the time came that he had to leave all except about thirty of the 200 or more who went to the digressives had returned to the truth. Tant wrote Larimore that so great was the affection in which he was held in Sherman that it was his (Tant's) judgment that one simple statement from Larimore to the effect that he believed instrumental music in Christian worship to be sinful would be sufficient to cause the total number of those still in digression to return to the church.
Brother Larimore replied that he had wept much over the divisions which were developing among his brethren, that he knew there were godly men and women on both sides of these questions, and that he had made up his mind "not to take sides" with either the one group or the other. He did not write the statement Tant had asked for.
Long before his death, however, Larimore realized that it was impossible to be "neutral" in a fight between truth and error. He did make the statement Tant had asked, and many, many others pleading with his brethren to remain true to the Book. He repented of his long years of indecision and "neutrality" and wrote Tant that he deeply regretted his unwillingness to declare himself during the Sherman crisis. He had made a grievous mistake, and he wished it were possible to repair the damage his silence had done.
We find a few good brethren over the country now who are attempting to walk the same tight wire of neutrality between truth and error on the present issues before the church. One preaching brother declared he was going to "stay in the middle of the road" on current questions; another thinks it best not to use men in the congregation where he preaches if they have been "prominent on either side" of the current controversies; still another declares that he "is neither for nor against" such cooperative arrangements as Herald of Truth and institutional orphan homes and church support of colleges.
It all has a familiar ring. There were many such men in the days when the digression developed sixty to seventy-five years ago. They were determined to stay "neutral." They preached for churches that had the organ and for churches that did not have it. Most of them finally went with the digressives. A few, a very, very few, followed Larimore's course and publicly renounced the errors of the Christian Church.
When the truth of God's word is at stake there is neither time nor place for "neutrality." If centralized evangelistic cooperatives are permissible, then brethren ought to push vigorously for them, promote as many as possible, and perhaps finally develop one fine eldership which could take the "oversight" of all the foreign mission work of all the churches in all the world. This was the frankly avowed desire of one of Broadway's (Lubbock) missionaries who stated such to this writer some four years ago. Suppose these cooperatives are not "according to the pattern" as set forth in the New Testament. In that case, the gospel preacher who will not oppose them is either ignorant of God's word, or else is too cowardly to oppose that which is popularly received. In either event, he ought to take stock of himself, and "set in order the things that are lacking."
(Incidentally, the Sherman brethren paid Tant $40.00 for his work with them and promised to send him $60.00 more "when we pick the cotton this fall." In the mid-1930s Tant wrote them a letter, telling them he did not want to press them unduly, but something like forty years had gone by, and he was wondering if they had picked their cotton yet. If they had, he was sort of hard-pressed and could use the money!)