Stories that Talk: 5 ’til 8

He cast a long shadow—a preacher for 67 years, a theological professor for 60 years, a seminary president for 13 years. John R. Sampey’s influence touched multiple generations.

John was born in Alabama on his mother’s birthday, September 27, 1863. One of his earliest memories occurred short years later when, as a young child, he watched his mother being baptized. When she disappeared beneath the water, he cried out in alarm and never forgot the scene.

His own conversion occurred as a teenager.

As I lay on the trundle bed on the night of March 3, 1877, I could not go to sleep. We had just had family prayers, and Father was reading and Mother was knitting. My younger brother had fallen asleep beside me; but I was in distress over my sins. In my desperation I began to talk in a whisper: “Lord Jesus, I do not know what to do. I have prayed, but get no relief. I read the Bible, but my sins are a burden on my soul. … If I am lost, I will go down trusting You.” Then something happened. It seemed a great Presence filled the room and said to me almost in audible words: “My boy, I have been waiting for you to do what you have just done. You can count on Me to save you.” I looked up to the old family clock on the mantel, and it was five minutes to eight o’clock.

Sampey didn’t announce his conversion until July when he stepped forward in church, saying he now loved God and God’s people as never before. The minister turned to the congregation and said: “Hereby we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.”

That verse became Sampey’s theme verse, for it impressed on him the mark of a Christian. Its words guided him for years to come, contributing greatly to his patient spirit and his willingness to serve. It became personified in him, and none who knew him doubted that he had passed from death to life, for he did love the brethren.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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