John Robert Collier1/3/1850 (Monroe County, MS) - 1/1/1923 (Dry Prong, LA)_AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Written by J.R. Collier)_Circa 1920 I was born in Monroe County, Mississippi, January 3, 1850. My father, W.A. Collier, was a native of Georgia and a son of Bob Collier. My mother's maiden name was Cornelia Girldine Nicholson. She was born, raised, and was married in Mississippi and was a daughter of John Nicholson. John Nicholson was a deacon of Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1840. My father, W.A. Collier, was by occupation a millwright and farmer. He went to the War Between the States in 1861 and died at Atlanta, Georgia, the 13th night of December 1864. I was brought up on rented farms and went to school very little. Most of my lessons were learned by pineknot light after a hard day's work. So my education is very limited. My mother's education was limited; so I had but little help. Since I was the oldest of six children, I struggled hard in time of the war to care for mother and the children. However, in my burdened condition I tried to be jovial, as I was of that turn. I was always trying to look for a brighter time to come. I grew into a frolic line of pass time and enjoyed my fiddling and dancing much for a time. But through the influence of some Armenian preachers, at about the age of 17, I decided to try to obtain favor with God. They said that many blessings would be mine for my obedience to Him in this world and the world to come. I felt the need of much in this world having so little to enjoy life with. So I bowed eight days and nights at their mourners' bench, their wooden God, not knowing then that Christ had said, "Without me ye can do nothing" . Also that God was "who works all things after the council of His own will" does not bring salvation to His people that way. I feel sure now I obtained all that any poor alien sinner can by his hard won strength and by the help of such a crew. For they only got some of us to crying by emphasizing that we should make such valiant soldiers for Christ as our fathers who had fallen in the late war. I loved my father and my feelings were aroused over his loss. I still believed I could do something to get religion and be saved in heaven. However, this religion soon molded and soured and I cast it away and went on with my folly. In December 1872, while engaged with a partner on the floor and violin in hand, playing and dancing at the same time, full of glee, something happened. We had just finished one of our figures and were standing back playing with gladness when a deep current of thought was sent through my poor, foolish heart, expressing to me the feeling "you are a sinner before God in the light of foolishness and sin". It affected me so I stopped playing and was left in wonder and amazement. The first thing I thought was to hide from the crowd and began to thump the strings as if my fiddle was out of tune, not knowing what else to do. But in a moment, to try to conceal my condemned condition, I let the treble down to a flat note and played "The Lost Child", not thinking so much about being lost and condemned, but the tune suited my feelings. But I couldn't play my bad feelings, and I wanted to get away from the party for the first time in my life. Oh, what a horror of condemnation I felt before a just and holy God. I left there as soon as I well could, and all my sins and transgressions rose like a mountain against me. So I could not see how the just God could save me in that condition, yet I could but try to beg Him to have mercy on me a poor condemned sinner. I thought He might if I would reform and do better. So I resolved to try, thinking I could appease the wrath and indignation of a sin-avenging God. I went to a meeting and read my mother's Bible and it condemned me. And all I could do or have done for me did not remove my guilt before the just and loving God. So my agony and anguish of soul grew to such a burden and point of despair that no human tongue can describe it. Oh, I would be glad at times to change my very being with any brute or reptile of this world.I saw that if justice was dealt out to me Hell was my doom. But, instead, I fell to hope in September 1874, one bright sunny day (but dark and gloomy for me) I started (as it seemed for the last time) from the house to the thicket near by to pour out my last trial of complaint to God for help, which if I did not get, I would die. I got to the yard gate, not knowing when I got there, but when I came to myself I was leaning on the gatepost, and my attention was drawn by the same current or power to look upward to the sky. I saw a little white cloud and Jesus revealed in the midst as my Savior, and I was blessed to see and know it was Jesus, my Savior. Oh, how amazingly happy I was! I opened the gate and walked to the road, to and fro, and singing “Amazing Grace how sweet the Sound" and for the first time in my life enjoying the real assurance of those great words, "I once was lost but now I’m found, ‘twas blind but now I see". Then after a few moments my thoughts centered on my dear mother, whose feelings I had often mistreated about the sovereign work of God's never failing grace in the salvation of His people, and I desired to tell her what a glorious Savior I had been blessed to see as mine. I did not have more than 20 steps to go before I reached the door. Something seemed to say, "Say nothing about it, you may be mistaken". It did not take the deep felt glory of that fact from me, but I said nothing to her about it then. She told me later she knew I was relieved of my burden. Indeed I was, and thought I would see no more trouble, for all was glorious within, feeling a sweet glow of love in my heart to God for His matchless mercy and goodness to poor condemned me. I could see for the first time in my life how it was that God could save poor condemned sinners through Christ without the help or aid of men. Men could remain just and that it was of "Him that we were in Christ Jesus, who of God was made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption." Oh! How I rejoiced in the pure work of God's grace in my needy soul. I thought that then all should remain quiet and happy within me. But "go tell what glorious things thou hast seen" would arise in mind and an earnest desire in my heart to impart the same to others, which made me tremble and shudder, for I was unlearned, and pled my ignorance and weakness to God as a reason to be excused. But, oh, dear ones, He impressed His scriptural truth on my poor mind that His grace was sufficient for me. But I moved from place to place trying to avoid the impression. Oh! How rebellious and imprudent I did act trying to shun the duty to follow Him and declare His salvation to His poor cast down children. Finally I decided if I would join the church and tell the dear brethren and sisters of the glorious dealings of the Lord with me, it would relieve my troubled mind. So I told my wife, (who belonged to the missionaries but was a lover of salvation by grace) my mind. She said she was just waiting for me, for she felt sure the Old Baptists were her people and she wanted to live with them if they could receive her. So that encouraged me very much and to know that she could so willingly go with me. So we were received into the fellowship of the Revelee Church in Logan County, Arkansas, Saturday, before the 2nd Sunday in June 1882. Elder J.T. Blanchard baptized us both the next day. I was greatly relieved of my burden! For a while I went about talking of the glorious plan of God's salvation. But my burden soon returned again, and I moved to the Choctaw Nation. But behold the Lord was there! And old Brother Brown and I would go 26 miles back into the state to meet in service at Harpersville, Arkansas. I remembered promising the Lord the next time I was there I would speak a word to His name's honor. However, I broke my vow. While returning back, riding a very clear footed mare, and talking to Brother Brown about how I felt, all of her feet flew from under her at once. Down she came in the clear road and I just did escape getting mashed to death! I felt it was for my disobedience, for she had never stumbled before. I quaked and trembled at the impression of mind and promised the Lord bless me to return to the meeting again I would try to speak if I died in the attempt. So next time Brother Little was showing the beauty and completeness of the building of Solomon's Temple and asked what would have been the result if he had lacked a few pieces or had some left. And while he paused I spoke out from my seat and said, "He would have showed himself an incomplete builder". When he closed he tried to get me to say more, but I felt relieved some and desisted. Later when Elders J.B. Little and Bayes had closed a meeting in my house one night in the Nation I spoke out in praise of God's never failing goodness and glorious plan of salvation for about 15 minutes. When I thought of myself, I told the brethren, if they would excuse my ignorance, I would sit down. They tried to encourage me to say on, but I desisted. Oh, how frail and weak I had been all my life. So that fall my two brothers and brother-in-law were moving back to Texas, and I went too - hoping to get where I could keep quiet.I made no crop in Cherokee County, Oklahoma, and that fall we moved to Nacogdoches County, Texas. The next July, wife and I cast our lot with Bulah Church, Speaking a little of the goodness of God to the children of men, which had followed me all the days of my life. So next meeting the pastor, Brother Blackman, tried to get me in the stand with him but could not. So when he closed he urged me to relieve my mind. Said I would feel better. So I arose and talked 10 or 15 minutes. So the next meeting the brethren had something to do they said in liberating a gift, and when I said it fell on me I arose and begged them to not do that, that I had all the liberty I needed. I had always seen the church allow a brother a few words when he felt to say them. But they went on. The next spring, Mt. Olive Church called for my ordination. I begged them to put it off until fall I might get Elder J.T. Blanchard, Uncle Tom Britton, (as we called him) and E.J. Smith and talk with them, and if they honestly believed I should submit, I would do so. But Brother Blanchard lived in Mississippi and could not be with us.So in December, 1890, Elders Thomas Britton, W.S. Blackman and his son, S. Blackman, by the authority of Bulah Church set me apart to the full work of the ministry of the Gospel of Christ. Since then I have served from two to four churches yearly and enjoyed their fellowship and encouragement, and they proved they enjoyed my weak efforts to preach and comfort them. So I pressed on, working out me a little farm often riding until 10 o'clock Sunday night so I could be at home Monday morning to go to work. I baptized many into the fellowship of the church, assisted in organizing several churches and in ordaining several ministers and deacons also officiated in a number of marriages, but never kept any record of these things. I moved along in unity and fellowship, though meeting some heavy trials in opposing disorder. I have always opposed our members belonging to secret societies and affiliating with other so-called religious societies and have tried to encourage God's dear children to be satisfied with the plain teachings of God's Word and to walk in the footprints of their Savior. And I have enjoyed their advice and encouragement to me all along these years. In 1912 the "wholeman change" doctrine was brought in, which divided the Baptists in places. I was opposed to this doctrine and this together with some extreme minds. One the adultery question brought to me some sore trials. For four years wife and I lived out of the church. However, the Lord let me live long enough to see it demonstrated that we were unjustly put out and we were restored to the dear old church. I have tried to bear all these sorrows and trials with patience. My race will soon he run. The Lord has been good to me and I am willing to yet trust Him. I am satisfied to die on the principles that I have to contend in doctrine and order. It is alright to die and be with Jesus. I don't care for any show at my burial, but
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