Meeting of The Independent Baptist Fellowships of Georgia
April 2, 2007
This meeting honored the life of Dr. Harold B. Sightler
Mikado Baptist Church, Macon, GA
Moderator Dr. Raymond Hancock
Thank you Dr.
Hancock, and thank you all, for allowing me to say a few
words. Most people have an image of my Daddy that is
different from what he really was. My Daddy was the son
of a Packard automobile mechanic and a schoolteacher.
The family was not wealthy and would be seen as
hardworking, plain living, ordinary folks. They were
always present at church, often walking a mile to
attend. His entire life from 1941 when the Bright Spot
Hour was begun was preaching the gospel of grace, in his
churches, in revivals, and on the radio. He lived to
preach and preached to live. He would preach anywhere he
was invited, love offerings only, no matter how small
the church, and most of his meetings were in small rural
Baptist churches. He eschewed hobbies, golf, hunting,
fishing, because he only wanted to preach. He did not
From his parents, especially his mother, he was given a heritage of very strict probity, correct behaviour. He was not allowed to play marbles for keeps, match for a coca-cola, or take part in a raffle. To him bingo was gambling as much as dice. He saw to it that his brothers kept to the same rules, and they testify that he often seemed more like a father to them than a brother.
He never even thought of leaving his family roots. These consisted of a love not only of preachers like Cyclone Mack, R. G. Lee, Joe Parsons, J. Harold Smith., Oliver Greene, Buck Huntley, and B. B. Caldwell but also singing by Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, the Carter Family, Gid Tanner, and Gene Autry, whose records were collected and often played by my grandparents at home on an old hand cranked victrola. I remember that on the way to church at Pelham we always listened on the car radio to the broadcast by John Lair of the Sunday Mornin’ Gatherin’ from Renfro Valley Kentucky. In other words he loved fine behavior but not necessarily the fine arts. Plain living was his ideal. Once when the church bus took a trip to a camp meeting in Pontotoc, MS Billy Kelly and Joe Arthur played the fiddle and the guitar on the way. One song was “Turkey in the Straw.” Some folks on the bus murmured because it was an old time country song. When the church got to the meeting Daddy, as a gentle but sufficient reprimand to those who complained, called Billy and Joe to the platform and directed them to play, Turkey in the Straw, in church.
It should be said here, and this is only my opinion, that the so called cultural emphasis of some of our large fundamental universities is not a part of Baptist heritage or of fundamentalism. Cultural emphasis has also been singularly unsuccessful in holding back Calvinism, contemporary worship, and worldliness among us.
He remained a friend to poor, uneducated folks from the wrong side of the tracks, and never even thought about social climbing. Driving home at night after a revival he would seek out truck stops and witness to the folks there rather than go to fine restaurants. I do not remember that he ever ate a meal in a gourmet restaurant. His bedtime snacks were sardines or peanut butter and saltines.
He had uncommon wisdom, discernment, and common sense. He was a man of few words who listened much more than he spoke. He also had a genuine sense of humor and loved to laugh, especially at Gildersleeve and Fibber McGee. One example of his wisdom, which also was a good warning to me, I heard when I entered Furman in 1955: “Son, your professors put their pants on one leg at a time like everybody else.” He respected his elders, was kind and diplomatic, but never a politician. He was never apologetic about his convictions, especially about old time religion. Daddy never looked at himself as a leader of fundamentalism.
He was uncommonly frugal, both of money and of time. When he and his youngest brother, Carey, traveled to Dalton, Georgia in 1940 to buy his first tent they spent the night in a filling station parking lot to save the cost of a motel. When he passed away in 1995 Tabernacle Baptist Church still had rotary phones and only one office computer, again to save money and prevent unnecessary calling by the staff. He answered letters by writing his replies by hand on the back of those letters to save assistance and time and paper. We cannot write a full biography because we do not have that correspondence. He spent most Sunday afternoons recording Bright Spot Hour programs, redeeming the time, no naps on Sunday afternoon. He gave all his love offerings to the Bright Spot Hour and to Tabernacle Baptist Church.
He believed that revival is God ordained and that Holy Ghost conviction of sinners, brought about by the prayer of Christians, is necessary for salvation. The revival at Pelham Baptist Church in 1946 that preceded his founding of Tabernacle Baptist Church came after at least six months of daily praying by Daddy and the church members in the church, no socializing, no planning, just prayer. His hermeneutic was literal and dispensational from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21.
He loved the old hymns and gospel songs that were related to his family heritage and often said you couldn’t have a camp meeting without camp meeting music. By this he meant the old southern gospel songs of the 1930’s and 40’s, long before the advent of contemporary trends. He and Odell Good founded the Greer Baptist Camp Meeting in 1947 in an old hand made brush arbor at Pelham. Dr. Percy Ray encouraged them and helped when the meeting was moved to Greer in 1949.
From the beginning he was a Baptist with big B and believed that Baptists began during New Testament times and have never ceased to exist at any time in history. They may not always have called themselves Baptist but were so in practice, theology, and organization. Remember that the word anabaptist, rebaptizer, a name which Baptists have always rejected, dates at least as far back as the emperor Honorius in 413 AD. He believed the Baptists were closest to New Testament church practices. He did not believe they were ever a part of the church of Rome or any of its daughter churches. He believed that the local visible church, and Baptists have always seen themselves as local and visible, is God’s instrument for spreading the gospel. In 1992 he preached a sermon at the Southwide in which he detailed the history of the old time Separate Baptists in the South before the American Revolution. Several of the slides you will note show a church bus trip to Baptist historical sites in our region made in 1991
Daddy majored in Greek at Furman University, graduating in 1946, but he never once used an alternative meaning of a Greek word to correct the KJV. He did explain that baptize was a transliteration of a Greek word but did not say that it should have been translated immerse. He had to study from a copy of the corrupt Westcott Hort Greek text in college. But he remained devoted to the King James Version as scripture to the end. In 1943 he wrote a term paper for his second semester freshman English class, titled Early Bible Translations. He here made the point that the Vatican and Sinai manuscripts did not have the last 12 verses of Mark but that a space was left for them so that the scribes who copied these manuscripts knew of these last 12 verses but were perhaps instructed to omit them, thus doing damage to the text and wasting valuable vellum.
Daddy’s mother was his most loyal radio supporter. I have here in my hand three pamphlets which Daddy’s last living brother, Carey, last year found among her effects and gave to me. I had not known she had them. They date from around 1952. She had ordered two of them from the Bright Spot Hour. One is The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible by Dr. Carl McIntyre. It was offered when the Bright Spot Hour was on only 10 stations and strongly condemns the RSV, which had translated Isaiah 7:14 as young woman rather than virgin. Another is The Truth About The New Bible, by Rev. Dick Cimino. It was a 45 page pamphlet which gave a more detailed listing of the problems of this version. And the RSV is generally very close to the NASV and NIV of our day.
Mr. Cimino came to the United States as a child from Sicily in the 1920’s, to Ellis Island. He had polio and was on crutches. He was raised a Catholic but got saved, graduated from Bible College in Binghamton, New York, and came to be song leader for the great evangelist J. Harold Smith. Daddy found about about his book through Dr. Smith. His wife and daughter in law are still publishing his books and tracts at Wonderful Word Publishers in Harlingen, TX, most in Spanish. The address is P. O. Box 2583, Harlingen, TX 78551, phone 956-425-2010
The third pamphlet was obtained from Dr. Oliver B. Greene and was called The RSV Alongside the King James. It dealt more fully with New Testament changes than either of the others. It is an unfortunate mistake on the part of conservatives that real opposition to the RSV was not begun until after 1952 when the entire version went on the market, showing the liberal higher critical boldness of the National Council of Churches trying to deny the doctrine of the virgin birth.
Actually the New Testament of the RSV was first published in 1946. That New Testament, according to written testimony sent to me by a man who was a student in those days, was sold in the bookstore of Bob Jones University in Greenville from as early as 1949 until at least 1952, and only 11 years later in 1963 the Lockman Foundation brought out the NASV and Bob Jones University professors helped with that. They were unmoved by the opposition of McIntyre, Cimino, Oliver Greene, my Daddy, Maze Jackson, J. Harold Smith, and many others. Both the NASV and the RSV omitted I John 5:7, the last 12 verses of Mark, Acts 8:37, and changed I Timothy 3:16 to obscure the fact the Lord Jesus was God manifest in the flesh. They both included thousands of other significant changes in the New Testament and should be, along with the NIV and all other modern translations, rejected by all believers. Informed opposition to changing the scriptures has been present for a very long time, at least for 200 years, and is not a modern phenomenon.
May I read to you the inscription from the Shubal Stearns Monument at Sandy Creek Baptist Church. Sandy Creek was organized in 1755 by Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall, who with their families came down a mountain trail in the wilds of the Blue Ridge Mountains, traveling here alone and without protection from Connecticut. They are the source from which we have sprung, and now we also have separated from the sad trends in Baptist fellowships which have become so clear to us since Daddy passed away. He anticipated the problems. Please show again on the screen the picture of Daddy at the Stearns marker.
“It (that is Sandy Creek Baptist Church) is a mother church, nay a grandmother, and great grandmother. All the Separate Baptists sprang hence, not only eastward towards the sea, but westward towards the great river Mississippi, but northward to Virginia and southward to South Carolina and Georgia. The Word went forth from this Sion, and great was the company of them who published it, in so much that her converts were as drops of morning dew.”
Let me recommend two websites to you. First www.sightlerpublications.com my website, with articles on Baptist History, the KJV, music, the New Age movement, and evolution. Second www.thebrightspothour.org. Dr. Ben Carper, my sister’s oldest boy, my nephew, is still carrying on the program and is a full time evangelist. Have a look at these sites and try to hear Dr. Carper.
How many of you have heard of Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall? (about 10 hands shown in a crowd of perhaps 200). Daniel Marshall, brother in law of Shubal Stearns, established Kiokee at Appling, GA and Horn’s Creek at Edgefield, SC in the 1760’s. There is a great new book on Baptist History in this country, America in Crimson Red, by James Beller of Arnold, MO. It would be worth your while to read it. Thank you very much.
James H. Sightler, M.D.