I want to write about the subject “They taught Me How to Die.” I thank God that death holds no fear for me. I’ll be quite frank with you, suffering does, having a stroke does, having a heart attack does, but death itself doesn’t. These men taught me that.
I’ve been preaching a long time. I’ve seen more people die than any preacher alive. I’ve had more funerals probably than any preacher that ever lived. I recall that I called over to St. James Hospital one day. A fellow was dying and he asked for a Baptist preacher. He called the nurse and said, “I want a Baptist preacher.” Well, she called me. I went over to St. James Hospital. He was under an oxygen tent. I got under the tent with him and told him how to be saved. He was lost. The nurse said, “He will be dead in five minutes. You’ll have to hurry.”
I told him how to be saved. He prayed that sinner’s prayer and he got saved. I said, “Sir, quickly, you are dying. You know that?”
“Yes, I know that.”
“You’ve got to know for sure now. Are you trusting Jesus and Him alone?”
“Okay. You know you are dying?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Okay, now where are you going to go when you die?”
He said, “Kentucky.”
I’ve seen a lot of folks die. We had a lady in our church named Mrs. Fredley. Mrs. Fredley cackled in church. She was up in years, real old, I mean so old that she shouldn’t have even been out in public. I think she was 72. She always cackled and always on the top side. I was called at 2:00 in the morning. I want to stop and say this. Why do you Baptists always die at 2:00 in the morning? Don’t you understand, we preachers need our sleep too? You preachers know what I’m talking about. Anybody ever die at noon? Not on your cotton-picking life. They all die at midnight or 2:00 in the morning. Have mercy! So, I rushed over to the hospital, as I’ve done so many times through the years. Mrs. Fredley was over in Gary in the hospital. She was dying and they said that she wouldn’t make the night. I was beside her and I talked to her. All of a sudden she coughed. She coughed up, I promise you, a cup of blood. I don’t know why I said this, I said, “Mrs. Fredley, is that blood?”
She said, “Don’t look like tobacco juice to me.” Then she went to Heaven.
I’ll tell you about the man whose name is here on this pulpit, “In Memory of Leonard Tudor.” Leonard Tudor was a deacon in our church. He was dying at St. Margaret Hospital. I went up there, of course, at 2:00 in the morning like everyone else does. I went up to the hospital to watch him die and be with him. In fact, the nurse said, “Mr. Tudor, you are a very sick man. You might not make it through the night. Would you like me to call your preacher?”
My deacon said, “Well ma’am, I am a priest.”
“Oh,” she said, “I didn’t know that you are a holy father.”
He said, “No, I am not a holy father, but I know the Holy Father.” He said, “Now, if you want to call my pastor and let him rejoice with me while I go to Heaven, that’s okay.”
I walked in. He said to his wife before he died. “Now, I want you to know something. I’m going to Heaven. I’ll be watching you. Now, if you get any other guy, I’ll know it and I’ll make it rain or snow wherever you are. I’ll send a storm, a tornado or earthquake. You watch it.” My folks have more fun dying than you have at church.
I want to talk to you for a few minutes about how these men taught me how to die. As I said already, I preached the funeral sermon for Dr. John R. Rice. I preached the funeral sermon for Dr. Lester Roloff. I preached the funeral sermon for Dr. Ford Porter. I brought the main sermon for Dr. Curtis Hutson. I preached the funeral sermon of Dr. Ray Hart. I preached the funeral sermon for Grace, the oldest daughter of Dr. John R. Rice. I was one of the few speakers at the funeral of Dr. Bill Rice. I’ve been around these fellows when they were out and out. I did not see any of them when they actually died, but I’ve been around them in their last moments and I want to tell you what I know about the way they died.
I was preaching in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Dr. G. B. Vick and I were sharing the pulpit. He was about the age then I am now.. Dr. Vick was not what you would call a great pulpiteer He was a great man, a man of real stature. I mean, he could run a corporation with no problem. He was just a great man, but not a great pulpiteer. That night he was great! He preached on Heaven. I had never heard Dr. Vick preach like that. I was sitting back in the back. He preached first. I preached last. I had never heard Dr. Vick preach like that. That is the greatest sermon on Heaven that I’ve ever heard.” He thanked me. What I didn’t know was that was the last sermon he would ever preach before he went to Heaven. The next Monday I got a call while I was in Rock Springs, Wyoming. The call came from Springfield, Missouri. They said “Dr. Vick has passed away and gone to Heaven. He died at his desk in his office.” Later I participated in his funeral.
We had Dr. Bill preach for the commencement of Hyles-Anderson College. We were waiting upstairs to come down to the service. Dr. Bill Rice wasn’t himself. He was always happy, on the topside, cutting up. He used to say, “By the way, neighbor,” but that particular night, he wasn’t himself. He was quiet. I thought something was wrong.
It wasn’t long after that, I was preaching in the mountains of Colorado. It was summertime. It was hot as all get out. 95 degrees or so. I had taken two changes of underclothing, two pair of socks and two shirts and a couple of summer suits. What I didn’t know was that the meeting was outside! It was up 9,000 feet on a mountaintop. I got up there, and I had on one of the summer suits, and I almost froze to death! I’ve never been so cold in my life. The meeting was under a tent, with the flap shut. It was so cold that people brought their sleeping bas and were lying in their sleeping bags, listening to me preach. It was terrible. I almost froze to death. That’s where I became so active. I ran across the platform. I froze to death. They didn’t tell me it was going to be 9,000 feet. They they announced that they were going to have a service the next morning, a sunrise service. “I thought, “Boy, I’ll tell you what! I’ll get them tomorrow morning. I’ll be ready! So, I put on both pairs of shorts, both t-shirts, both pairs of socks, both pairs of pants, both shirts, a sweater that I borrowed. I went out beside the mountain to preach. I was snug as a bug in a rug. Man, I felt great! I was preaching along, and the sun was facing me.
See, what I didn’t remember was that when you have low humidity, when the sun comes up, it gets hot. That sun was coming up facing me, and I got hot! I mean I was about to die. I took the overcoat off. I took my hat off. I took my suit coat off. I took the sweater off. This all happened over a period of about 15 minutes. I was dying. I was so hot. I had to get rid of one of those pair of pants. I had to! My legs were dying. So, I stopped and looked out at the audience. (They didn’t know that I had on two pairs of pants.) I said, “Folks, you are about to see something you ain’t never seen before.”
I reached down and unzipped my pants and the crowd in unison went “Ohhhhh!” Then they saw that I had on a second pair and they all together went “Whehhhhh!” Anybody else hot in here beside me?
Anyway, when I finished preaching that first night when it was so cold and I went back to my room, somebody stopped me on the way and said, “There’s a call for you.” There wasn’t a telephone within miles. We were way out in the mountains, and I had to drive a long ways to an outdoor telephone booth. It must have been a 20-minute drive. I was driven there and I returned the call. It was Dr. Pete Rice. He said, “Dr. Hyles, Dad just had a massive stroke.” He said, “I felt like you would want to know.” Dr. Pete Rice had gone to a great effort to call me and let me know about it.
Dr. Bill Rice and I were very, very close. Dr. Bill did have a massive stroke. He came to Hammond on a regular basis because one of our members is a doctor that Dr. Bill thought would help him. He attended our church every Wednesday night. One Wednesday night he came by the office. He barely could walk as he came by the office. He jabbered because he couldn’t talk plainly and he couldn’t pick the right words. He said, “I’m a Frigidaire.” He meant Pentecostal but he said Frigidaire. He knew he had used the wrong word, but he couldn’t think of the right word so he was a Frigidaire. Personally, I would rather be a Frigidaire than a Pentecostal.
Anyway, he came by and told me “Good-bye.” As he left, he squeezed my hand as best he could and tears rolled down his cheeks. That was just a few days before he took a nap in his home and then beside the bed he said, “It is finished,” and went to Heaven.
Dr. Ford Porter was up in years and not in good health. I went down to Indianapolis, Indiana, to preach somewhere else and Dr. Porter wanted to see me. He had a driver drive us out to a big piece of ground out there beside the freeway. I knew that he wasn’t going to live long. He was bad sick, but he told me the plans he had. He said, “we are moving our church out here. The vestibule of the auditorium is going to be right there. The gymnasium of our little college is going to be over here, and we will have a classroom building over here.” Within a few hours, Dr. Porter was sick until death.
Dr. Charles Weigle lived to be almost 100. In fact, he wanted to live to be 100. Every time Dr. Roberson would go see him, he would want to pray for him. Dr. Weigle said, “Pray that I will live to be 100.” He lived to about 96 years old, I believe.
I was down in Chattanooga preaching and I went to see Dr. Weigle in the hospital. We always cut up about living to be 100. Dr. Weigle said, “I want to go home, Brother Hyles.” Now, I thought he meant, “I want to go back to my house.” He didn’t mean that.
I said, “Dr. Weigle, I think you had better stay in the hospital.”
He said, “I want to go home.” Then he pointed up and he said, “I want to go Home!”
Dr. Roberson came to see him. (This is the story that was told to me.) He said, “Dr. Roberson, pray that I’ll go home.” Dr. Roberson didn’t want to do it because he loved Dr. Weigle so much, but finally he was persuaded to pray that he would go Home. Shortly after the prayer, Dr. Weigle went home to Heaven!
Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., became ill and as I mentioned before, he called for Becky, my daughter, and me to come to see him. We flew down. They didn’t have the big new hospital then. They had a small hospital. This was years ago there on the campus. Dr. Jones had a room where he lived there at that clinic. We went in the room, and he was alone. Becky and I went into the room. On the coffee table was a package of assorted flavored Lifesavers that he had gotten for Becky. Becky was now, I think 17 or 18 years old. We talked, I guess, for an hour or two. Dr. Bob said, “Brother Jack, will you kneel here at my knees?” I knelt at his knees and Dr. Bob placed his hands on my head. If I listed the five most spiritual moments of my life, that would be in the top five. I heard as I knelt there the tramping of the feet of soldiers that Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. had trained through the years. I thought of all the people who soon would greet him in Heaven when he entered the Holy City that he had sent before him.
He put his hand on my head and he said, “Dear God, if I can, I would like to impart something to this young man,” I guess for ten minutes Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. placed his hands on my head and prayed for me, and then we left. He said as we walked out, “Brother Jack, I won’t see you again here.” He didn’t.
Dr. R. G. Lee had preached here. I met him outside of the door of the choir, and I gave him his love offering check. He opened it.
I gave R. G. Lee, his check for one sermon- $3,000. Would anybody like to preach here next week? I’ll pay you what you’re worth. Would anybody still like to preach here next week? This was years ago. Three thousand dollars then would be six or eight thousand dollars now. He looked at that check, held it up and big old tears began to stream down his cheeks as Dr. Lee said, “Dr. Hyles, in all my preaching, sometimes two-week revivals, sometimes four-week revivals, all across America and around the world, this is the biggest love offering I’ve ever received from anybody.” Then he said, “This is my last time to come here. I won’t come again.”
I thought he was angry. I thought that I had offended him. I said, Dr. Lee, explain that.”
He said, “I’m near the end. That’s the last sermon I’ll preach ever in your church.” That’s the last time I saw Dr. R. G. Lee alive.
Brother Roloff had a theme song on his radio broadcast; it started off with “They came and they were blest. He gave the weary rest.” That was his theme song all through the years on the Family Altar Broadcast. It started off as a one-station broadcast on the station KWBU in Corpus Christi, Texas. Every year, all through the years, one little theme song, “They came and they were blest. He gave the weary rest. He made the blinded eyes to see. He fed the hungry soul and made the wounded whole by the waters of blue Galilee.” There was nobody like Lester Roloff.
Dr. Rice used to say, “It’s wonderful God made one. It’s wonderful God made only one.” Thank God I got to know that “only one.”
This is funny. I’m not a spooky person. I’ve never received a word of knowledge. I don’t need it. I’ve got a Book of knowledge right here. I’ve never cast out any demons (I’ve cast out dozens of deacons but never cast out any demons.) I was close to Dr. Curtis Hutson, never like Dr. Rice and I were because when Dr. Hutson took over The Sword, Dr. Rice had been ill for about four years, and of course, not traveling any more. I was scheduled three years ahead of time. Dr. Hutson would try to get me to come preach with him, but I couldn’t do it because I was scheduled. We were together some but not a whole lot, though I did know him and had confidence in him. He preached at Pastor’s School many times. This is sort of spooky. I was in Eprata, Pennsylvania, preaching with Dr. Curtis Hutson. Now God has never spoken to me out loud, but that morning, I was sure something was going to happen to Lestor Roloff. Dr. Hutson and I preached together and I went back to my room and the phone rang. I got a call about 4:00 in the afternoon. It was Rose O’Brien from our staff. She said, “Brother Hyles, this is Rose.”
I said these words, “It’s Brother Roloff, isn’t it?”
She said, “Yes sir. Did someone tell you?”
I said, “Yes. This morning Someone told me.”
She said, “Well, he wasn’t killed at that time.”
I said, “Never mind.” Brother Roloff went to Heaven that day.
The time that I spent with Dr. John Rice in Wadsworth, Ohio, and the last sermon he preached, he didn’t recognize me. I said, “Dr. Rice, how are you?”
He said, “Who are you?”
Finally as I left, he said, “Good-bye, son.”
That afternoon, Dr. Rice said, “Dr. Hyles, let’s plan to have conferences once each month for a whole year.” Dr. Rice and I sat down that afternoon and planned a whole year’s conferences.
I walked from his room that night and went back to my room. I got on my knees and I said, “Dear God, I’m not a preacher boy anymore. When Dr. Rice passed away, I was no longer a preacher boy.
Dr. Walter Wilson passed away, but before he did, I had lunch with him one day. Dr. Wilson was terminally ill. He knew it. As I left his house, he said, “Dr. Hyles, I want to show you something.” He turned over to Song of Solomon 2:6. Dr. Wilson showed this to me. It says, “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.” It is talking about the bride and groom here. He said, “Dr. Hyles, look at chapter 8, verse 3.” I turned over to chapter 8 and verse 3. It says almost the same thing but the opposite. It says “His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.” Then in chapter 8, verse 3, is says ‘…..it should be….” Something had happened.” Then he looked up to me and said, “Dr. Hyles, I’ll soon be in his arms.” In a few days, he was gone.
Let me tell you how my pastor died. My pastor J. C. Sizemore, married Mrs. Hyles and me. He ordained me, advised me to preach and taught me more Bible than any man who ever lived. When he was up in years, he was senile and though he had pastored me in Dallas, his home was in Amarillo, Texas. I was in that area preaching. I hadn’t seen him in many years and I made a point to go see my pastor. His son was pastoring there and I went to the house and found out that my pastor, the aged man, was down at the church with his son. I went down to the church. He was in the office there. Brother Sizemore saw me and recognized me. This is so sweet to me. We chatted for a while and he told me he was proud of me. Then he said, “Son, I’ve got to go use the washroom.” He left the office and was gone quite a while.
His son said, “I’m worried about Dad.” So we went looking for him. My pastor couldn’t find the washroom. He was looking. Remember, that church had been there for years. He couldn’t find the washroom. I saw him go from door to door, opening a department door and a Sunday School classroom door, looking in to see if the washroom was there. He couldn’t find the washroom.
A little while later, I saw him out in the parking lot with his Bible open talking to a teenage boy, telling him how to be saved. I walked up and I said, “Pastor, you’re winning souls still.”
He looked at me and spoke the last words he ever said to me. “I don’t know the way to the washroom, but I still know the way to Heaven.”