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Morrill, Gulian Lansing

Posted by MarthaCrossSargent 
Morrill, Gulian Lansing
March 15, 2007 06:38PM
1844-1943" by Wendell H. Rone. Probably published in 1944 by
Messenger Job Printing Co., Inc., Owensboro, Kentucky, pp. 339-341.
Used by permission. [Daviess]

GULIAN LANSING MORRILL, D.D.: The life of this man is unique and
strange. It is a plain example of a misused brilliant intellect.
Bro. Morrill was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1853, the son of a
Veteran of the Grand Army of the Republic and long-time pastor of
the Fifth Baptist Church of Newark, N.J. T. T. Morrill, D.D, his
father, also served as Chaplain of the twenty-sixth Regiment of the
New Jersey Volunteers. The subject of our sketch was educated at St.
Louis High School and graduated from Shurtleff College, Alton,
Illinois, in 1877. He studied piano under Professor H. Lawitzky,and
organ under Dr. E. M. Bowman, and became an accomplished musician.
He received the Bachelor of Divinity Degree from the Baptist
Theological Seminary in Chicago in 1881 and continued to study
post-gradate [sic] work in Hebrew and Philosophy under Dr. William
R. Harper and Dr. G. W. Northup at the same institution. He was
licensed to preach by the Upper Ulton [sic] Baptist Church of Alton,
Illinois, in 1880, and was ordained by the Anamosa Baptist Church,
Anamosa, Iowa, in 1882.
He came from a ministerial family; besides his father, three of
his brothers, two sister's husbands, his wife's father, and his
mother's brother were also ministers. He stammered so, until he was
grown, that up to and through his high school course his recitations
were conducted in writing. He made this an excuse for not entering
the ministry and devoted himself to music, practicing five hours each
day. But, losing his brother by drowning, he surrendered music for
the ministry and within a year took the prize for oratory. Herein
lies the secret of his brilliance. Words flowed from his mouth in
the beauty of a rippling stream. We have read a book published in
1910 containing many of his addresses and sermons and can say that
for oratory and brilliance it is unsurpassed. This book contains
some three or four of his outstanding messages preached while pastor
of the First Baptist Church in Owensboro, Ky. After his ordination
he served the Anamosa Church for three years and then accepted a call
to the Calvary Baptist Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota. From here
he went to the Calvary Baptist Church of Denver, Colorado. He became
pastor of the First Baptist Church of Owensboro, Ky., in 1897 and
remained until 1900. After leaving the Kentucky pastorate he returned
to Minneapolis and served the Temple Baptist Church as pastor for a
short time. While in this Association he preached the annual sermon
in 1899.
Upon his return to Minneapolis we see too keen an example
of his erratic spirit. Feeling that there was a work for people who
never entered church he began work in what was called a "church
theater." He spoke there in the morning and in another auditorium at
night as the theater was used for theatrical performances. He also
had an orchestra, moving pictures and singers from Vaudeville houses.
His Bible rested on a large ebony cross surmounted with a crown, and
his desk was draped with a large American Flag. Flowers ornamented
the stage in profusion. He had no Church organization or committees
and paid no attention to the Ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's
Supper. His congregations were made up of disaffected Jews,
Catholics, Baptists, Protestants, and what-have-you. Anything that
could be done as a stunt to secure a crowd was used. He even played
Santa Claus on Christmas. Once each year he held an Actor's Church
Alliance service, where the whole program was furnished by visiting
players from the local theaters. Church services were announced in
the amusement columns of the newspapers and large pictures of the
pastor could be seen in hotels, foyers of theaters, stores and railway
offices, inviting people to the services.
He had a list of lectures on art, music, and the around-the-world
countries that he visited, which were frequently delivered at
Chautauquas [sic] or under Lyceum Bureau auspices. His public work
included marriages before public crowds, of people in theaters, or
lions dens, electric towers, moving autos, trains and boats. He
attended all the theaters and operas when he had time. As a result
he was called the "sporting people's pastor." Sensational topics
frequently were discussed.
Near the close of his life he preached his own funeral sermon in
a phonograph, making records of the selections he gave at the funeral
of his father, mother and brother. He also played the organ for his
funeral. One of these recordings was played at his funeral.
His twin brothers used to travel the country in Tuxedo suits and
as one would pronounce the benediction the other would finish it up
with the "Amen." They also put on stunts to attract the crowds.
We give all the above to show what he failed to become with all
his brilliance and oratory which could have been used in such an
advantageous way for the glory of God. Because of such pretentious
displays he was denied admittance into the self respecting churches.
This is indeed a sad commentary on the life of a man who "might have
been" a power unequaled for God.
He died sometime after the year 1910, as to the exact date we
have found no rcord [sic].
Let all good ministers of Jesus Christ take heed and avoid the
sensational and erratic spirit manifested by this brother. It is
enough to "make the angels weep" to see this man's abilities wasted
in such frivolous activities which dishonored Christ more than they
honored Him. "Lord, help thy ministers to be sound in doctrine, in
character, and in practice."

Morrill Lawitzky Bowman Harper Northup

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