Hugh’s News & Views (Great Gospel Preachers . . . Pt. 4)

GREAT GOSPEL PREACHERS OF THE PAST

(Part 4: Gus Nichols and Guy N. Woods)

GUS NICHOLS (1892-1975). Bunion Augustus (Gus) Nichols was born on January 12, 1892 in Walker County, AL. He was baptized into Christ at the age of 17 by C. A. Wheeler, and was the first of his kin to leave denominationalism and become a simple New Testament Christian. On November 30, 1913, he married Matilda Brown, and they became the parents of eight children—four boys and four girls. Three of the boys became gospel preachers (with the other son also doing some preaching), and three of the girls married gospel preachers. In time, brother Nichols converted a number of his relatives from denominationalism, with four of his brothers becoming gospel preachers and more than 20 preachers eventually coming from his family (including in-laws). Early in his life Gus Nichols farmed and worked as a coal miner. He later attended the old Alabama Christian College in Berry, AL. After serving as minister of churches in Cordova, AL and Millport, AL, in 1932 he moved to Jasper, AL in Walker County (the place of his birth) to serve the 5th Avenue (later the 6th Avenue church, after the construction of a new building). Here he remained for the next 43 years until his death in 1975. During most of his years in Jasper, brother Nichols conducted two daily 30 minute radio programs (one seven days a week, the other six days a week). He founded and served as editor of Truth in Love, a religious periodical published in Jasper. For over 30 years he was a staff writer for the Gospel Advocate, serving as the query editor for 15 of those years. For 42 years during the winter months he conducted a Friday night training program for men aspiring to become gospel preachers, or those who wanted to improve their knowledge and skills as preachers. For over 40 years he was a regular lecturer at the annual Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectureship, where I first had the privilege of hearing him. He conducted numerous debates with the leading exponents of religious error, with many of those debates being published. He preached in gospel meetings all across the country, published several volumes of sermon outlines, and at least two volumes of full-length sermons—Speaking the Truth in Love and Volume # 9 of the “Great Preachers of Today” series published by J. D. Thomas in the 1960s. I consider his sermon on “The Great Love of God” (John 3:16) to be a true classic. He also published a book consisting of a series of lectures on the Holy Spirit that he delivered in Dallas, TX in 1967. All of the published works of Gus Nichols are worth reading and digesting! He was a genuine Bible scholar in the true sense of the word, regularly spending four to five hours every day in the study of the Bible. He also was a man of great piety, prayer, and devotion. Under his preaching, some 12,000 people were baptized into Christ. He served on the Boards of Alabama Christian College (now Faulkner University, where the library is named in his honor) in Montgomery, AL and of Childhaven Children’s Home in Cullman, AL. He was honored with many awards in appreciation of his extensive service to the cause of Christ, including two honorary doctor of law degrees—one from Magic Valley Christian College in Idaho and one from Oklahoma Christian College in Oklahoma City. Brother Nichols passed from this life on November 16, 1975. His body lay in state at the 6th Avenue church in Jasper, AL until the day of the funeral, Wednesday, November 19. The funeral was conducted by B. C. Goodpasture, W. A. Black, and William E. Woodson. He is buried in Walker Memory Gardens in Jasper.

Guy N. Woods (1908-1993). Guy N. Woods was born on September 26, 1908 in Vardeman, MS where his father worked as a logger and saw miller, but the family soon returned to the family home and farm in Holladay, TN where young Guy grew to manhood. He was baptized on August 24, 1926 by J. W. Grant, and a month later preached his first sermon at his home church in Holladay. Brother Woods was educated at Freed-Hardeman College and later obtained a law degree, but never engaged in the practice of law. For a few years he served as the minister for churches in Memphis, TN; Tompkinsville, KY; Post, TX; Kirkland, TX; Wellington, TX; and Lubbock, TX. Each of these ministries was relatively short, lasting anywhere from one to six years, not at all unusual in those days. Beginning in 1945 and for the rest of his life, he engaged in evangelistic work, preaching in 40-50 gospel meetings every year all across the nation. He usually had 150-200 meetings scheduled in advance. In December 1943, he was added as a staff writer to the Gospel Advocate. When H. Leo Boles died in 1946, brother Woods was asked to write the Adult Quarterly (a weekly Bible study guide published by the Gospel Advocate) and continued to do so for the next 30 years. Through this publication brother Woods provided insightful comments and observations on the entire Bible. He would take a folding card table and portable typewriter with him in his automobile as he traveled across the country preaching in meetings. In his motel room or in the home in which he was staying he would set up the card table and typewriter and write the lessons for the quarterly as he preached nightly (and often daily) in gospel meetings. For many years brother Woods conducted the daily Open Forum at the annual Freed-Hardeman College Bible Lectureship in Henderson, TN. Via this venue, he dealt with a wide variety of Bible questions, issues, and controversies within the religious world and the church. Later, two volumes of Questions and Answers Open Forum were published. Brother Woods represented the Lord’s church in hundreds of debates against denominationalists of many hues and stripes, as well as against a number of hobbyists among the brethren. He met five different Baptist preachers and debaters (including D. N. Jackson and A. U. Nunnery) in a total of 14 debates. He met L. J. Crosswell, a materialist, in six debates. In Preachers of Today – Vol. V, brother Woods reported that he had engaged in more religious debates than any man then living, in or out of the church. In 1977, following the 38 year tenure of B. C. Goodpasture as editor of the Gospel Advocate, Ira North was appointed as editor and Guy N. Woods as associate editor. In 1981, when brother North resigned to return to his full-time preaching ministry with the Madison (TN) Church of Christ brother Woods became editor of the Advocate and served in that capacity for the next three and one-half years. According to Harrell Davidson, author of Over the Vast Horizon, the biography of Guy N. Woods, during the co-editorship and editorship of Woods, the Gospel Advocate reached an all-time high subscription base of 40,000 (p. 175). Advertising in the Advocate, which was under Woods’ direction, also reached an all-time high. In addition to the two volumes of Questions and Answers Open Forum, brother Woods wrote commentaries on the Gospel of John; the letter of James; and the epistles of 1st and 2nd Peter, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, and Jude. He authored a book on How to Read the Greek New Testament and another on the Biblical Background to the Troubled Middle East. He published at least two volumes of sermons. Two of my all-time favorite Guy N. Woods sermons are “Tests of Faith” and “Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler,” both of which I had the privilege of hearing him deliver in person and both of which I have endeavored to preach at various times over the years. Brother Woods was precise and concise in his preaching, a master in the economy of words, seldom preaching for more than 25 minutes. He could say more in those few minutes than many preachers attempt to say in 40 minutes or more! Brother Woods passed from this life on December 8, 1993 at the age of 85. At his request only a short funeral service was held. Neil Anderson, owner and publisher of the Gospel Advocate, spoke briefly, Richard England gave a short eulogy, and Alan Highers led a closing prayer at the graveside. He is buried in his hometown of Holladay, TN. He was a Bible scholar of the highest rank and in the truest sense of the word. Alan Highers, who succeeded brother Woods as moderator of the Open Forum, wrote of him: “The name of Guy N. Woods will take its place in future generations along side those of McGarvey, Hardeman, Brewer, and others, whose contributions to the Cause of Christ have endured long after the principals themselves have ‘crossed over the river to rest in the shade of the trees’ ” (The Spiritual Sword, January 1994).

Hugh Fulford

January 8, 2019

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