GOD & TEXAS: "Fighting Parson" Potter
“All you old rummers and whiskey guzzlers and card sharpers come out and mend your ways, or you’ll all go to hell, sure as you were born!” These were the words of town criers who proclaimed that Parson A. J. Potter was preaching at the local saloon across the river from Fort Concho.
By 1880, Texas was a haven for gamblers, drunkards, and blasphemers. In many communities, saloons flourished before churches were built. Most settlement-dwellers kept their daughters at home when the rowdy cow-punchers had finished their drives and headed to town for merriment.
But there was a traveling preacher who captured that moment to present the Gospel of Christ to the dusty cowboys. Andrew Jackson Potter was himself a reformed desperado. Potter's father had served under General Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 and named Andrew after him. But Potter's parents died young, and left A.J. an orphan at age 10.
With no guidance, Potter became a horse race jockey, and learned to curse, gamble, and guzzle alcohol with that shady crowd. By the age of 16, A.J. was a muleskinner on wagon trains during the Mexican War and ventured west in the gold rush to California. When A.J. was 26, he had become unhappy with his life and was looking for something better.
The answers came in the summer of 1856 when A.J. attended an outdoor camp-meeting near Bastrop. During an altar call, A.J. accepted Christ as Savior. When he got home, he told his wife Emily “I’m going to try to live right.” And he did! He learned to read and write, and began studying the Bible from cover to cover. Soon, he felt the call to preach wherever an opportunity opened. And that included saloons!
His amazing story of being set free from the bondage of addictions is long and amazing. A.J. Potter became known as the “Fighting Parson” because he would often preach with a Bible in one hand and a pistol in the other. Thugs respected him. Townspeople loved him. And the Devil feared his anointed sermons.
When A.J. preached, the whole Bible was his text. Few could argue with his knowledge of the sacred book. A favorite passage was 2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV - "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
A. J. was known to say: “Old Bible, thou wilt survive infidelity, outlive criticism, and stand as an imperishable rampart-immortal, indestructible!” Once when Potter was asked to define Christianity he said, “The religion of Jesus Christ bears no sword but the sword of the Spirit, the word of God; it carries no torch but the light of truth; its conquests correspond with its pretensions (claims); its fruits are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith." Amen!
May more of us preachers be like the “Fighting Parson.”
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