J. B. Gambrell
J. B. Gambrell (AD 1841-1921) was a pastor, editor, seminary professor, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Born in South Carolina, he ministered in Georgia, Mississippi and Texas. A veteran of the Civil War, he was a scout for General Robert E. Lee and fought at Gettysburg. During the war he married Mary T. Corbell; they eventually had nine children. He was president of Mercer University. Gambrell was editor of the Mississippi Baptist Record and the Texas Baptist Standard and taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX. James Bruton Gambrell was elected SBC president in 1917.
While a student at East Texas Baptist University, I had the honor of serving as president of the J. B. Gambrell Society, their ministerial organization.
Following is an article written by J. B. Gambrell.
Up Fool Hill
Fool Hill lies just where the undulating lowlands of boyhood rise sharply up to the highlands of manhood. It is climbed only by big boys and the big boy is an institution in this world. He is, indeed, a series of personalities in one extraordinary combination. The only certain thing about him is his uncertainty. Like a spit-devil, he is loaded, and will go off with a spark, but just which way he will go is an unknown and an unknowable thing. But the chances are that he will go zigzag, and whichever way he does go you can trace him by the sparks.
When you notice the boy feeling of his upper lip, and a suspicion of something slightly darker than the skin appears, you may begin then to look sharp. The boy has come to the foot of fool hill, and he will begin very soon to climb. The great problem is to get him up the hill in good repair. That done, you have blessed the world with a man.
Big boys are nearly certain to have the big-head. This is no bad sign. It is an inward sense of power, without the wisdom of discipline. Our boy entering the fool age is a caution. His voice is now fine and splitting, now coarse and grating. He begins a sentence coarse and ends fine, or fine and ends coarse. He is rank and sets digging to the world. All his judgments are pronounced and final. There is nothing he cannot decide instanter. He knows instantly and by intuition who is the greatest lawyer in the whole country, if he is a reading boy, or the best doctor. He can tell you who will be the next governor or anything else politicians are so anxious to know. He is authority on prize-fights, or cards, or anything else he knows nothing about. And when he pronounces on anything he has spoken. The governor is “Dick” somebody, and the supreme judge is “Tom.” And, by the way, he often differs with these and other dignitaries. He sings in unearthly strains, with tendencies to the pathetic and the savage all in a breath.
With the big boy there is nothing medium. He uses adjectives freely and always in the superlative. He sees things in strong colors, for he is in the flood of passion. Fight! Yes, fight anything and on the shortest notice. He ought to fight to prove himself, so he feels. About this time his mind undergoes some radical changes. he wonders at the dullness and contrariness of his parents. It is a constant worry to him that he can’t manage his father without a world of trouble, and he wonders what is the matter with “the old man” anyhow. Churches and Sunday schools are too dull for him, and the preacher is just nowhere. He can give him any number of pointers on theology and preaching.
Rushing on and into everything like mad, he stops short and bewails the coldness of his unfriendly world. Now he has more “dear friends” than he can shake a stick at; now he feels that he has not a friend in the world. He wants sympathy, while he tries the patience of everybody who has anything to do with him.
Such is the boy in the fool age. The great question is, what to do with him. He is climbing “fool hill” now, and the road is bad. Father, mother and friends are all anxious and sometimes vexed. Homes are deprived of all their peace by this great double-action marplot. But the question will not down. What shall we do with him? If he is turned loose now, he will be a wild engine on the track smashing things. If he is not handled wisely there will be a catastrophe. The ever-recurring question is: What shall be done with the big boy climbing fool hill? Often the impulse is to let the fool go. But that will not do. He is now like a green apple - sour, puckerish and unwholesome; but, like the apple, if we can save him, he will ripen into something good. We must save him. Saints and angels, help us to save this this human ship in the storm, freighted with father’s, mother’s, sister’s, brother’s love, and with the infinite wealth of an immortal nature! We must save him for himself, his loved ones and his country.
The chances for saving him will depend mainly on what has been done for him before he struck fool hill. If, from infancy, he has been taught to revere sacred things, if he has been taught subjection to authority, if his mind has been stored with scripture texts, with noble poems, and recollections of the pure, the sweet, the good, you have in him the saving elements. We must never forget that in the final analysis every person saves or loses himself, no matter what influences help or hinder. A well-taught boy may climb this dubious hill without a bobble, but if the new life gains the temporary lead the chances are that the enduring good elements will reassert themselves and become paramount. Hence the transcendent importance of ballasting this ship betimes, before the storm sets in. Noble ambitions early planted and carefully nurtured are of great importance. During this period of trial, great wisdom and tact are needed. There must be a gradual lengthening of the ropes. If you tie this mustang up too tight he will break the rope, and maybe break his neck. It often happens that more can be done by indirection than otherwise. Some good woman, other than the boy’s mother, may be a savior to him.
He feels his great importance, and you must recognize him. It is just here that the churches have failed and the saloons have succeeded. Show this embryonic governor that you recognize his parts and call on him for service. The harder the service the better he will like it. Get in with him, and do not be too critical, but pass his imperfections by. He will be nearly everything, but never mind; he only sees things large and sees them double and mixed, being now partly boy and partly man, and seeing with two sets of eyes.
You are fighting the devil for a soul, and you can’t afford to be impatient, or give way to anger, when your fool boy takes an extra flounce. When he gets on a bad bent, give line, as the fisherman does when there is a hundred-pound tarpon at the other end of the line, but not too much. And remember all the while that time and heaven are on your side. With age comes discretion. Once up fool hill the road stretches away ever smoother and better to the pearly gates.
Our big boy is among us. His folly breaks into dudishness. He is an unturned cake, but likely there is good substance in him. He is worth cooking. If you see him on the street, take him by the hand and say a good word to him. His mother will be glad of it. Look him up and ask him to your house. Reach after his heart, for he has one. Two worlds are interested in that young fool, and underneath his folly there lies sleeping, maybe, a great preacher, teacher or other dignitary of the commonwealth.
-J. B. Gambrell, Parable And Precept, compiled by E. C. Routh, Fleming H. Revell Company; 1917. By the way, I purchased this book at the ETBC (now ETBU) Book Fair, 10-23-1977.
* Marplot - someone who interferes with a project or the plans of others.
-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, April 13, AD 2016.
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