John Petit Brooks was born July 24, 1826, at Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Samuel S. Brooks, who then owned and published the Crisis, a Democratic newspaper published in support of Van Buren. His middle name is that of John H. Petit, with whom his father was associated in the newspaper business.
On June 18, 1846, Brooks enlisted as a Corporal and saw service in the Mexican War. He was mustered out at Casas Grandes, Mexico, on June 17, 1847.
In 1848 he resided in Canton, Illinois, where he owned and published his newspaper, the Canton Register. A year later, in 1849, he was converted to Christianity while walking the streets of Quincy, Illinois. M. L. Haney, who was the preacher-in-charge of the M. E. Church in that city, baptized him and received him into the church in full membership. At that time he was given a local preacher’s license. The following year, 1850, he was licensed in the Rock River Conference to preach.
In 1852, while residing in Monmouth, Illinois, he was married to Mary Ann Bray, of Lakena, Illinois. To this union were born four sons and a daughter.
For the next several years, Brooks was pastor of various M. E. churches in Illinois, including, Galesburg, Monmouth, Peoria, and Rock Island. It was while he was at the Peoria first church that he was sanctified wholly under the ministry of M. L. Haney. The year was 1869.
In 1862, while residing in Springfield, Illinois, Brooks had supernumerary status in the M. E. church. From January 12, 1863 to January 10, 1865, he was Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Illinois. He was the only Democrat elected to state-wide office.
From 1872 to 1884, he resided in Bloomington, Illinois, where, in 1873, he edited the Banner of Holiness. This was, as F. M. Sumter wrote in his memorial tribute to Brooks (The Church Herald, August 6, 1915), “the first paper in the world devoted to holiness that was published oftener than once a month.”
On November 26, 1877, Brooks read an essay at the Holiness Conference at Cincinnati, Ohio. The Conference, one of two that year, was under the auspices of the National Association for the Promotion of Holiness. The Proceedings reads:
“The order of the day was taken up, and Brother John P. Brooks, editor of the Banner of Holiness read an essay on the subject:
“‘WHAT ARE THE CHIEF HINDRANCES TO THE PROGRESS OF THE WORK OF SANCTIFICATION AMONG BELIEVERS?'”
In his opening remarks, he posed the question:
“A question that comes to us with an interest as amazing as momentous, is this-–why is it that holiness–-a doctrine so biblical and evangelical-–a form of gospel inculcation so vital and so fundamental to our Christian experience and life-–a divine truth that embodies so actually and savingly all that is essential and orthodox, both of doctrine and devotion, in our precious Christianity-–why is it that holiness is looked upon with disfavor and disesteem by those who are called Christians-–why is it that in its approach to peoples and Churches, it encounters checks and challenges, and is halted afar off until it can be questioned as to what it is and what it purposes, and at the end of all this withstanding, is often denied presence or place in the communities and Churches where it desires admission? However the question may be answered, the very fact to which the question alludes, stands sadly and surely symptomatic of a weakened and deteriorated Christianity.”
He proposed several reasons, all taken from what he called an objective view of the condition of the churches. They are, he said, “hindrances . . . external to holiness itself.” One hindrance is found in the pernicious influence of certain of the long-standing denominational creeds. Another hindrance is due to the apathy or opposition of some of the ministers in the church. A worldly-minded view of holiness is another hindrance: “Then there is set forth from some pulpits a certain diluted, attenuated, emasculated species of popularly-adapted holiness which carries with it no offence of the cross, and, for the same reason, no savor of salvation from sin. It is an easy, indulgent, accommodating, mammonized kind of religion, whose followers are given license, even though sanctified with the sanctification which such pulpits enjoin, to become the abettors of and partakers in a certain class of recreative and dissipative practices that are so much in vogue in popular and carnal Churches.”
What may be of particular interest to many who may read this article, Brooks argued vigorously that “rigid and extreme denominationalism,” that “the spirit of sectarianism,” was a particularly significant hindrance to holiness, that there was that about denominationalism that was strikingly inimical to both the doctrine and experience of holiness. This, he went on to say, could not be remedied by any purely institutional efforts at cooperation among the denominations. The only remedy was an inward, spiritual, one, namely, the experience of unity brought about by sanctification. His thought here antedates his later decision to leave the Methodist connection and to cast his lot with the “unity” people.
The Church of God (Holiness) owes its inception to the insistence upon the internal relation between entire sanctification and “the unity of all Christ’s people.” Thus, it may be proper to quote at some length from Brooks’ 1877 address.
“Another hindrance to the holiness work is found in the rigid and extreme denominationalism of our times. The Church becomes visible by becoming organic. It concretes itself in forms of polity. Each division of Christ’s Church becomes peculiar, and is made distinctive by its own characteristic tenets, usages, and name. These differing sects have grown and are growing so numerous as to be almost countless. . . . this spirit of denominationalism is more or less obstructive of our holiness work. In the nature of things, where co-existing organizations arise, aspiring to public influence and permanency of establishment, there must be rivalry. The conditions of their continuance, from a necessity that the very circumstance of co-existence involves, must be competitive. The sect, to survive, must not only live, but grow. And if it is to rise to a controlling rank and prestige, it must in its competitive relation to other living and growing sects, not only grow, but outgrow. With the spirit of rivalry that competitive struggle begets, there comes the danger of a lessened devotion, and in the end, a compromised spirituality. How these consequences ensue, I may not wait to explain. The thought I now aim at is this: The issue of these strictly rivalries is a rigid and extreme denominationalism.
“Perhaps this thought may be questioned, and the fact to which it alludes, denied. Especially in the light of the recent sectarian advances, agreements, co-operative unities and fraternizations in Christian work, it may be insisted that the denominations, as to their mutual relations, are not so averse or alienated . . . . But a close inquiry into the question of essential oneness of sentiment and feeling among the denominations would show how little of essential union has yet obtained, and how much has yet to be gained in order to demonstrate the real and vital oneness of the sects. Indeed, it could be easily shown that holiness only can, in any sense that is veritable and vital, unify the denominations, or rather, unify Christians. In point of fact, the ‘unity of the Spirit’ is the true Christian unity. The Holy Spirit is the procurer of unity among Christ’s people, and the holiness truth is the truth through which such unity is procured. ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth . . . that they all may be one.'”
Other “objective” hindrances are mentioned: the view that holiness is but a “Methodist” doctrine; the declined piety of the churches, the presence of a carnal spirit. The address concludes with a listing of hindrances internal to the holiness movement: “Imperfect teaching,” “Unthorough experiences,” “A form of holiness that is unaggressive and inert,” “Unedifying and misleading testimonies,” “A temptation to Church unaffiliation,” and “Excessive and extravagant experiences.”
The Proceedings indicate that following the address there were remarks made by “Brothers Inskip, McDonald, and Ricker.” One thinks of how nice it would be to find some time-warp in which one could listen in to the discussion. There is also the notice that Brooks was “to preach on Sabbath at 3 o’clock, P. M., in the absence of Brother J. A. Wood.”
There were, then, two critical events in Brooks’ life: his conversion and entire sanctification. There came, however, another crisis: one that tested, not his experiences of Grace, but his resolve and commitment regarding the doctrine of entire sanctification. He was brought to trial by the Central Illinois Conference of the M. E. Church. On March 29, 1880, a bill of thirteen charges against him was brought before the Central Illinois Conference by F. M. Chaffee, of Abingdon, Illinois, who signed himself as “A Member of the Central Ills. Conference.” Many of the charges were spurious and drummed-up. The real reason motivating the whole affair was the displeasure on the part of many in the church over Brooks’ stand on the doctrine of holiness.
Chaffee opened his Bill of Complaints:
“Abingdon, Ills. March 29th, A.D. 1880. I hereby prefer the following Bill of Complaints against Rev. John P. Brooks, a Supernumerary member of the Central Illinois Conference.”
Allegation no. 13 read: “Publishing through the Banner of Holiness, November 29th, 1879, an Editorial under the Caption ‘To be Preached.’ The said Editorial being a misrepresentation as to the Character of the Conference Action therein refered (sic) to, and also of the Illinois Conference as a body of Ministers, as to their faith in and relation to the doctrine of Holiness or entire Sanctification, as taught by the M. E. Church.”
It appears that the import of this allegation, as well as of certain others, was over the question as to whether or not the M. E. Church supported the doctrine of entire sanctification. Evidently Chaffee thought that it did and that Brooks was in error as to this question and had thus been unduly critical of the church.
In the article mentioned in the allegation, Brooks had written:
“We hardly know why the Illinois M. E. Conference, at its latest session, resolved that its ministers should preach holiness. It has hitherto been claimed, as a reason why holiness preachers–‘specialists’–should not preach holiness in the way they are doing, that all Methodist preachers preach holiness. ‘We all preach holiness.’
“We think a more fitting resolution for the Conference to enact, would have been to the end that all its preachers shall get holiness. Then, in that case, the other resolution would have been precluded. That is, it would have been rendered unnecessary. Because when ever a preacher gets holiness, he is sure to preach it. Such a preacher doesn’t need to be ‘resolved’ into the preaching of holiness. He will preach it anyhow. He will preach it. It will come out of him as spontaneously as sweetness comes out of a rose, or as water bubbles up from a living fountain.
“A mistake is made in presuming that a preacher will preach holiness because somebody ‘resolves’ he shall preach it. He will not. And he will not, simply because he cannot. He cannot preach holiness until he gets it. Whenever a conference can ‘resolve’ holiness into a man, then it can ‘resolve’ him into the preaching of holiness. Not before. You cannot get more out of a man than is in him. If holiness is in him, it will come out, without any conference resolutions to assist the deliverance. If holiness isn’t in him, no conference resolutions can evolve it.
“There is such a thing as preaching about holiness. That is done by many who know nothing, and care nothing for the experience. Perhaps that is what the Illinois Conference is undertaking to do. If so, there is a possibility of succeeding. The preachers of the Conference may, and will, no doubt, be influenced by the resolutions passed, to preach about holiness. Indeed, we have even heard of one who lately did. He preached against it! A Methodist preacher once took umbrage: because a good sister expressed a wish to hear a good holiness sermon preached. ‘Why, sister,’ said the preacher, ‘I preach holiness very often.’ Said the sister, ‘perhaps so, but no one has known it!’
“One way of ‘preaching holiness,’ is to criticize, and condemn, and proclaim censure, and fulminate abuse against those who profess it. Wonder if that is the manner of “preaching holiness” that was contemplated by the resolutions of the Illinois Conference! If so, the resolutions are an afterthought, ‘born out of due time.’ The preachers of the Conference, not a few, have anticipated that for a number of years. The practical question would be, with this view of the case before us–-‘How many, by such preaching, are led into the experience of holiness?’ And the answer to the practical question in point of fact would be–many, alas! are led out of it; but none ever are sanctified under such preaching of holiness.
“We venture the saying, that after all this showing of zeal for the preaching of holiness that is assumed in the passage of the resolutions under notice, a very large majority of the pastors belonging to the Conference would object to the delivery of a straight holiness sermon from their pulpits. Perhaps some of them would follow such a sermon, if by any chance it should find escapement therefrom, with an instant disclaimer. Possibly a neutralization of the objectionable doctrine would be attempted (as was attempted by a pastor of that Conference) by openly avowing Zinzendorfism, and proclaiming that heterodox doctrine orthodox; and by claiming, furthermore, that many ministers of the Conference are Zinzendorfians.
“It would be a happy day for the Illinois M. E. Conference, and for the whole Methodist church within its boundaries IF IT WOULD REQUIRE ITS PREACHERS, all of them, TO PREACH HOLINESS according to the Bible, and the standard authorities of the denomination. Such action, IF ENFORCED, until holiness should be so preached by all the preachers of the Conference, would be the redemption of the church, and the restoration to her pulpits of right doctrine. Whenever that shall be done, the special preaching of holiness–or the preaching of holiness by “specialists”–will cease. In that very year it will be at an end.”
The decision of the Court of Inquiry was:
“The Select members possess all the powers of the Conference over the matter referred, and are competent to determine the whole question of the guilt or innocence of the accused. The character of a member of the Conference should not pass because of a mere technicality in the form of bringing complaints when the evidence properly submitted involves facts which the Select members believe ought to affect the passage of his character.
“The Select members may therefore take such action as they may think is demanded by the evidence in the case.
“Resolved, 1st, That while we do not find the charge and specification sustained by the Evidence Submitted to us, yet we do find in said evidence sufficiently obnoxious matter, to justify a positive disapproval of the course pursued, and statements made by brother J. P. Brooks in the Editorials of the Banner of Holiness, submitted in Evidence in his Case.
“Resolved 2nd That Brother J. P. Brooks be and is hereby required to pledge himself in open Conference to desist from Publishing matter of the Character of Said Editorials and when Said Pledge is given, we Recommend that his Character Pass.”
The 13th ballot, which I have seen, reads: “Resolved, That the First Specification is not sustained by the Evidence. W. W. Underwood.”
Brooks gave a reasoned response, which concluded with the words: “I simply state what has been in all the past, and what will be in all the future, the guiding and governing principles and policy of the Banner of Holiness, viz.: to rightly represent everything and knowingly misrepresent nothing.” In other words, he avowed that he had been right all along in his judgment about the condition of the M. E. Church with respect to the doctrine and experience of holiness and that his accusers were themselves in error. He was not about to allow himself be “ploughed under.”
He continued his editorship of the Banner of Holiness, which soon became the oracle of the Western Holiness Association. The Western Holiness Convention met December 15-19, 1880, in Jacksonville, Illinois.
In 1885 he moved to College Mound, Missouri. That year he was the chairman of the committee that called the National (General) Holiness Assembly to meet in Chicago, May 20-26. Here he came into conflict with George Hughes, the chairman, over the latter’s refusal to allow a letter from B. A. Washburn, who was an advocate of the California Independent Holiness Church, to be read at the sessions of the Assembly. It appears that this experience was “the last straw.” For sometime after the Assembly, he formally left the M. E. Church and identified himself with the newly emerged Church of God, which was known then as “Independent Holiness People.” This may be called the fourth critical event in his intellectual and spiritual odyssey. At this time he became contributing editor of The Good Way. In March of 1887 he became the first editor of a periodical publication committed to the teaching of the One New Testament Church.
Brooks was involved in the “Anti-ordinance” question. As editor of The Good Way, he supported those who favored the ordinances. His conclusive refutation of the heresy was to wait until the publication of his book, The Divine Church. He was also an actor in the “Sovereignty/Supremacy” question that faced the Church before and after the two groups disassociated themselves. At first he subscribed to the idea of “Sovereignty,” but later, in 1900, became associated with the “Supremacy” group. He became editor of the new paper, The Church Herald.
In May of 1889, while editor of The Good Way, he stated his intention to write the book, The Divine Church. It was published in 1891 by Herald Publishing House, Printers and Binders, Columbia, Missouri. It may very well be his greatest achievement in his association with the Church of God. One thousand copies were printed.
A. C. Watkins conducted a class in the doctrine of the New Testament Church during both semesters of the 1940-41 academic year, my sophomore year as a student at The Kansas City College and Bible School. He wrote several ministers for copies of the book. They were given to the students at no cost. My copy, which I still have in my library, was given by R. T. Finnell, whose signiture is on the flyleaf. It bears the date, 1891.
Sometime that academic year, my assignment–-I believe with Oather Perkinson-–was to spend some time at Fort Scott, Kansas, perusing the old papers and write an article on some subject pertaining to the history of the Church. According to the bibliography in C. E. Cowen’s History, it was evidently called, “A Paper prepared for the Kansas City College and Bible School.” I gave the paper to Bro. Cowen when he was writing his M. A. Thesis. I do not now have the paper in my possession, and I cannot remember anything as to its subject or contents. But I do remember some things relative to that time. Bro. Watkins told me that, according to a conversation he had with Brooks, he, Brooks, had additional material, about one-third the amount used in the book, which he could have used but, for reasons of length, thought it unwise to include. I think, further, that the paper dealt to some extent with the “Supremacy/Sovereignty” question. Brother Watkins, as was his father, J. F. Watkins, was always with the “Supremacy” people. But, and this might seem strange to many, I recall discussing the question of church polity with Bro. Watkins, and he said that he was of the opinion that the “Sovereignty” principle was more in harmony with the New Testament than the “Supremacy” principle. Perhaps this view, and his tolerance, was a factor in his ability to work with the “Sovereignty” side, associated particularly with R. L. Kimbrough, in the work of union of the two groups in 1922. Perhaps this sort of ambivalence also characterized Brooks and entered into his reaction to the severance of the two groups. But I’m bordering on speculation: there are many things that we will never know.
In “Historical Sketch, No. 30,” A. M. Kiergan, who was an associate of Brooks when the latter was with the “Sovereignty” group, points out that the Independent Holiness People were but emulating the primitive Church polity and that they did not discover and use it for the first time in history. And in the next “Sketch” he refers to the church historian, Mosheim, who says that Robert Brown of England (16th Century) “endeavored to model the form of the church after the infant community that was founded by the apostles.” This means the sovereignty and independence of the local church. In his 1896 article, “Church Unity,” he stresses the same point. He refers to Lord King as a church historian. Brother Cowen notes this, but can find no information on King. This was the time before the Internet and the World Catalog.
Lord Peter King wrote a book entitled, Enquiry into the Constitution, Discipline, Unity & Worship of the Primitive Church. It is in two parts. It was published in 1691, London: Printed for Jonathan Robinson at the Golden Lion, and John Wyat at the Rose in St. Paul’s Cathedral. In this work, King argues for the sovereignty and independence of the local church in essentially the same terms as does Kiergan. King observes the distinction between the church universal and a particular church. In pt. I, ch. 1, sec. 1, he defines a particular church as “a Society of Christians, meeting together in one Place, under their proper Pastors, for the Performance of Religious Worship, and the Exercise of Christian Discipline.” He then says that, insofar as he can remember, the singular use of the term is used but once to refer to local churches, and this by Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (A.D. 195-258), “who mentions in the singular Number, the Church of God in Africa and Numidia.” He continues: “I do not remember, that ever I met with it in this sense, in any writings either of this, or the rest of the Fathers; but whenever they would speak of the Christians in any Kingdom or Province they always said in the Plural. The Churches; never in the singular, the Church of such a Kingdom or Province.” In ch. 7, sec. 1, entitled “Of the Independency of Churches,” he says, “. . . that all those judicial Acts were exerted in and by every single Parish, every particular Church having Power to exercise Discipline on her own Members, without the Concurrency of other Churches . . . .” Sec. 6, “By whose Authority Synods were convened,” states “That it must necessarily have been by their [particular churches] own, because in those Days there was no Christian Magistrate to order or determine those Affairs.”
Brooks carries out the same line of thought. He points out that there is no scriptural justification for a general episcopacy with governing authority over the churches. He writes, “As to the structural character of the Church there is absolute uniformity stamped upon its constitution. It is constitutionally and governmentally the same, wherever found. Each particular Church, whenever and wherever founded, is essentially like every other Church at whatever time or in whatever locality existing; so that the similitude of Christian Churches when viewed in their local character, each as constituting the One Church in that particular locality, is as the similitude of the whole when collectively viewed as constituting that One Church on earth. The sectarian idea of the Church is based upon the imagination that the Saviour has suggested in the New Testament the outline of the Church’s constitution, leaving it to men to supply the details of constitution and government according to their own vain and carnal fancy. Proceeding upon that idea, sect-makers have concocted their favorite systems of Church order and government; and episcopalism, patriarchism, presbyterianism, and congregationalism (with an almost countless ramification of organic policies) have been given to the world as representing the Church of Jesus Christ. The whole undertaking of Church-making on the part of men is to be condemned as unscriptural, mischievous, misleading. The Lord Jesus Christ in constituting his Church completed in every particular its organic structure, and that in so absolute and exhaustive a manner that nothing is left for men to do, so far as creating the Church is concerned. Each congregation of saved believers assembling together in the Saviour’s name, and worshipping him with sincerity and truth, and duly observing the ordinances he has commanded, is the Church in the place where it exists. Such a company of believers compose the Church, and in such Church are found all the accessories and appliances of a perfect government according to the sovereign grace and authority of him who created it, being furnished with all the canons, laws, usages, etc., that the body will ever need. Besides these, no human regulations of a governmental character are required; no human laws; no usages of men. All that such a body of Christians has to do is to accept, as already furnished, the perfect government ordained by Christ who has founded the Church and by which they are to subsist, and to conform their conduct to the requirements of that perfect government; and the Church is Divine. When divinely directed, it may and will be set in order, according to the requirements of the Church constitution under which it has been raised up” (The Divine Church, 107-08).
A few pages on, Brooks reinforces this argument by demonstrating that, while connoting different functions, the terms bishop, elder or presbyter, pastor, and teacher “apply to one and the same order” (120). “By the very etymology of the title,” he writes, “elder is the same as presbyter, the latter being the original Greek word of which the first is a definition. Bishop is equivalent to overseer, which word precisely defines it. The original word (episcopos) is composed of a Greek preposition and verb which means to overlook or oversee. Ecclesiastically the office of bishop or overseer is one of supervision or oversight, the words having the same import. Pastor is a title which in its derivation alludes to one who feeds; hence a shepherd” (110). He then delivers a final caveat, “. . . how greatly different is the bishop of the New Testament from the titled and flattered bishops that have been created by the sect system” (123).
The middle chapters of The Divine Church deal with the attributes of the Church: unity, spirituality, visibility, and catholicity. The earlier chapters consider the New Testament Church idea and the condition of the historical church subsequent to New Testament times. The latter chapters consider the subjects of order, polity, discipline, and the ordinances. The book closes with a scathing expose of and attack upon “the church of sect.” It carries out fully his earlier animadversions on “rigid and extreme denominationalism” and “the spirit of sectarianism,” which he evinced in his 1877 address to the Holiness Conference at Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Divine Church
This public domain work has been scanned and edited by J. Prescott Johnson. Our grateful thanks to him for his hard work and sharing this resource with us!
Brooks defines unity: “By the Church’s unity is meant its organic oneness, the idea applying to the Church in whatever view considered; whether it be the oneness that identifies and unifies the Church with its Head, the Lord Jesus; or the oneness that comes of the Church’s unification whereby all the members of the body are made one as between themselves, and as constituting but one body, just as the manifold members of the human body considered in their relation to each other are organically one body” (63).
In the last chapter of the book, “The Anti-holiness Character of the Church of Sect,” Brooks develops the thesis he had adumbrated in his 1877 essay, the relation between unity and holiness. Here is the fruition of his thought. “In the nature of things,” he states, “there can be no agreement between the spirit of holiness and the spirit of sect. They are as opposite in character as unity and disunity, concord and discord, or the pure spirituality of grace and the self-seeking carnality of nature. . . . Inherently the spirit of sect is an anti-holiness spirit; organically, sectarianism is an anti-holiness combine, armed with the purpose to discourage and oppose” (267-68).
The previous chapter, “The Church of Sect,” is the occasion in which he sets forth the positive relation between unity and holiness. Referring to Jesus’ high-priestly prayer for the sanctification of the disciples, Brooks writes with passion and eloquence: “Nearly nineteen centuries have passed since our Divine Saviour offered up, on the eve of his crucifixion, the memorable prayer recorded in the scripture: ‘Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also that shall believe on me through their word, that they all may be one: as thou, Father, art in me and I in them, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.’ . . . The prayer comprehends the unity-–not merely the union-–of all Christ’s followers. The unity was to be the oneness of all those who believe in him. . . . The unity of his disciples–of the Church which they compose–was to be the visible public effect of their saving faith in him; that unity, perceived by the world, was to be the means of convincing the world of the Divine character of the Saviour himself and of the Church that he founded” (262-63).
Again, in keeping with the thought that the relation between holiness and unity, which is the genius of the Church of God (Holiness), is not a novel or merely peripheral tenet, but instead the reaffirmation of the view of the Primitive Church, a brief notice of Lord King may be instructive. In ch. 1, sec. 3, he says that those who constitute the church “. . . were called eklektoi, the Elect, the Called and Sanctified by the Will of God.” In ch. 7, sec. 2, after discussing the independency of the churches, he writes, “But yet in another Sense it was dependent, as considered with other Churches, as part of the Church Universal. There is but one Church of Christ. A Particular Church was not the whole Church of Christ, but only a Part or Member of the Universal one; and as one Member the natural Body hath a regard to all the other Members thereof, so a particular Church, which was but one Member of the Universal, had relation and respect to the other Members thereof.” Ch. 9 considers more fully the question of unity. Negatively, it is not “Uniformity of Rites and Customs,” or “Unanimity of Consent to the Non-essential Points of Christianity.” Finally, in sec. 4 he gives his positive definition: “Then its . . . unity consisted in a Brotherly Correspondence with, and Affection toward each other, which they demonstrated by all outward Expressions of Love and Concord . . . . Now this Unity was broken, when Particular Churches clash’d with each other, when from being possess’d with Spirits of Meekness, Love and Charity, they were inflamed with Hatred, Rage and Fury against each other.”
The Divine Church closes with the prayer: “May the Lord guide all his people into the right, and keep them true to himself. Amen” (283).
Brooks continued his work in the cause of unity and holiness. In 1897 he resided in Fort Scott, Kansas, where he was the first of three to sign a “Declaration of Principles” governing the General Convention that convened at Fort Scott. He was elected to the Board of Holiness McGee College, at College Mound. He began to consider and work for the union of the two holiness groups. From 1900 to 1905 he was editor of The Church Herald, the “Supremacy” paper printed at Fort Scott. In 1901 he attended the General Holiness Assembly in Chicago. In the years that followed, he resided in various places and was occupied in various forms of Christian work. He began writing a book, Observations on the Kingdom, which was never published.
Brooks’ wife died March 22, 1903 and was buried at College Mound. Her last words, thrice repeated, were “Brighter and better.” The 1916 memorial issue of The Church Herald contains the piece that Brooks wrote in remembrance of her:
“‘Brighter And Better'”
“These beautiful, and in their connection, most significant words thrice repeated, were faintly breathed forth from the lips of my dying wife, who closed her eyes to earthly things on Sunday morning, March 22d, at 3:30 o’clock. ‘Brighter and better!’ ‘Brighter and better!’ ‘Brighter and better!’ Was it the first soul-vision of the heavenly glory that inspired the rapt exclamation? Praise God, that vision is fuller now–more beautiful now, ‘Brighter and better” now than when first opening upon the eyes of my beloved in the stillness and dimness of the death-chamber.
“My wife gained the crossing–the place of the crossing where the deathtide runs shallowest–-at thirty minutes after three o’clock, just anticipating the first clear, pure day-dawn of as lovely a March spring morning as ever heralded the Easter-coming. The passing of her life was as the passing of a gentle breath, and so indeed it was. As calm, as quiet, as gentle, as softly and sweetly as the infant sinks to sleep lullabied by angel whisperings, came her change. Sitting alone in her sick-room, keeping vigil, giving loved attention to her simple wants just at an hour when her only want seemed to be the want of nothing, I glanced at her pale, calm face, and turned again to my reading beside the lamp for say, a minute’s time; then another glance at the pale, calm face, and-–the chariot had come, and horses thereof, and my loved one was with me no more. So calmly, so quickly had she gone. But her beautiful words lingered, and their sweetness passed not from my spirit’s hearing, or scarce from the hearing of my ears-–‘Brighter and better!’ ‘Brighter and better!’ ‘Brighter and better!'”
The poem, written by W. B. Stevens is:
“Brighter and better! brighter and better! Brighter and better!” the enraptured soul cries, While it is crossing over the river Into the city where love never dies.
“Brighter and better! brighter and better! Brighter and better!” than earth’s brightest day Is the first vision of heaven’s glory, Just as the last scene of earth fades away.
“Brighter and better! brighter and better! Brighter and better!” the soul that is free Than when encumbered with its frail body, And the obstructions of mortality.
“Brighter and better! brighter and better! Brighter and better!” while cycles shall roll; As each new glory from the dear Father Bursts on the sight of the glorified soul.
At the time of his death, Brooks was living with his eldest son, John A. Brooks, at Dallas, Texas. Father Brooks, as he was called, died at 3 P.M., June 10, 1915. His funeral service was held at College Mound, Missouri, on Sunday, June 20, 1915. He is buried beside his wife in the College Mound cemetery.
In the memorial issue of The Church Herald, C. W. Sherman wrote:
“While recognized as a master in the pulpit, it has been generally mentioned that the greatest power lay in his pen. At one time he was nominated for the office of bishop in the Methodist connection, and if we mistake not, lacked just two votes of election. Such is the testimony to his power as a scholar and preacher, as well as his high standing as a man in the work.
“But as an editor and an essayist our dear and now sainted brother was said by some to have no superior.
“This pastor of apostolic faith and purity swept through the gates into glory washed in the blood of the Lamb. A spotless soul has soared away to the bosom of God. A more pure, conscientious and high minded man I never met. He was not only a theoretical believer in the doctrine of holiness, but in its fullness he enjoyed it in his soul. His faith was simple as that of a child. He was tormented with no doubts. He was an assured Christian. His soul was serenely triumphant. He heard the voice of the Lord. There was not a taint of spiritual pride in his heart. He walked with God.
“‘We friends among whom he went out and in, We knew his sympathy of word and deed; His thoughtful love and patience so akin To Christ’s pity for all souls that sin. We knew his high, true manhood, wholly freed From pride or malice, brave to fight and win.'”
Acknowledgments. I am indebted to the archivist at the Central Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Illinois, for permission and assistance in obtaining material of Brooks’ trial. My dear friend and former student, Charles E. Jones, has over the last few years been generous in sending me documents from his collection. I obtained the second part of Lord Peter King’s book from the Ohio Historical Society, and the first part, from the University of Chicago library.
— J. Prescott Johnson