The Reverend Jefferson Davis Tant, duly ordained in the Methodist ministry, became a circuit-rider in North Texas in the year 1880. His work as a Methodist minister was destined to be a short one. In 1881, he moved to Buda, Texas, where in August of that year, he heard W. H. D. Carrington, a minister of the Church of Christ, preach the gospel. He liked what he learned. In those days, the church was often referred to as “Campbellites.” The meeting ran from two weeks to a month. Tant decided to go back and hear what the “Campbellite” preacher had to say further. Carrington took the Bible, read the passages and explained them clearly, especially the verses that told what one must do to be a Christian or to be saved.
On August 14, 1881, Tant came forward in Carrington’s meeting and gave the preacher his hand. He was openly weeping as he did so, weeping from fear and from gratitude.
J.D. Tant preached all over the nation [abandoning the term reverend]. Gospel preachers were few and far between. He was in great demand, ordinarily receiving more than 200 invitations per year for gospel meetings and debates. His record was 269 invitations in a single year. Obviously, he could not hold more than 20 or 25 of these, since most of them were of two weeks’ duration.
The following account is from the book about his life; “TEXAS PREACHER.”
J.D. Tant’s last debate with Ben M. Bogard (his eighth) was in the Lone Star community about eight miles east of Greenwood, Arkansas, in the fall of 1937.
The proposition being discussed was that baptism of a penitent believer is (or in order to) the remission of past sins. In one of Bogard’s speeches of denial he took up his entire thirty minutes trying to prove that there are two figures (pictures) contemplated in 1Peter 3:21. Insisting that Noah and his family were saved by faith, and then pictured their salvation in the water of the flood, he declared that we are first saved by faith, and then picture that salvation by baptism. He dwelt at length on the fact that one could not have a picture of a thing or a person without first having the substance of the thing or person. He told of having a picture of his mother, and how highly he prized the picture; but he could not have had the picture unless he had first had the mother! His Baptist brethren seemed elated with this argument and felt that it was unanswerable.
Tant got to his feet and replied, “My good friends, remember that baptism is just a ‘picture’. Ben Bogard says it is, and since Ben seems to be the big ‘It’ among Baptists, that makes it so. Now, Ben, says baptism is a ‘picture’. That does not help Baptist doctrine at all; for it was Jesus Christ himself who said in Mark 16:16, ‘He that believeth and gets his picture taken shall be saved’.
And when those wicked people on Pentecost asked Peter and the rest of the apostles what they had to do, Peter replied, ‘Repent ye, and get your picture taken, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.’
And when Ananias came to Saul of Tarsus there in Damascus, he said unto him as recorded in Acts 22:16, ‘And now why tarriest thou? Arise and get your picture taken, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord’.
So, you can see, Ben, you, too, will have to get your picture taken or you can never be saved!”
There was a roar of laughter from the audience, and Bogard was obviously discomfited as his bit of sophistry was thus handed back to him.