MATHIAS “TICE” ELKINS
By Bruce Daugherty
According to the Bible, the dead are still speaking – Hebrews 11:4. Mathias “Tice” Elkins did the majority of his preaching 60 - 100 years ago, but his story has much to say about sacrifice and perseverance for the cause of Christ, if one is willing to listen.
Tice Elkins was born in a log cabin in Lincoln County, West Virginia on April 21, 1878. He was raised in a devout Baptist family. Despite limited schooling that ended in the 5th grade, Elkins could recite the entire New Testament by the age of 14. He followed his father and an older brother in farming and preaching in Baptist congregations near his home. However, he soon ran into trouble and was accused before the local Baptist association of preaching “Campbellism.” Elkins had no idea what that doctrine was, but he was convinced that “baptism because of remission” was contrary to Acts 2:38. Elkins defended himself, saying that he preached exactly what he found in the Bible. He was warned to cease preaching under threat of being expelled from the association.
A couple of years later, while facing mounting controversy, Elkins obtained four books by Ashley S. Johnson and became convinced of the one body of the Church taught in the New Testament. He did not know of a single New Testament congregation within 100 miles of his home. He said, “A hundred miles in West Virginia in those days was equal to two thousand miles now.” Two months after having read Johnson’s books, he attended a revival 50 miles from his home. He walked the entire distance. At that meeting he renounced all denominationalism, and declared that he was going to obey the gospel of Christ and encouraged others to do the same.
Elkin’s joy was not shared by his family and neighbors when he returned home. His father was outraged, his mother grieved. His brother disowned him, and even his wife thought he had made a great mistake. The days became ones of “extreme misery” for Elkins, as he said, “When I saw my own flesh and blood shut their doors when they saw me coming; when my neighbors would stop talking and turn their backs on me when I approached . . .”
But Elkins persevered in proclaiming the gospel of Christ. He worked in factories and mills; on the railroad or in coal mines by day, and read his Bible long past midnight. He walked to most preaching appointments, sometimes through deep snow. In a meeting at Ferrellsburg, West Virginia he baptized 85 people in broken ice. At another meeting in Huntington, West Virginia he baptized 104 people. Looking back at his life in 1942, he wrote: “Today there are many churches of Christ scattered over the territory where I suffered worse than death for the gospel of my Lord, but that Baptist association is no more.”
Exposure to cold and heat broke Elkin’s health. He developed tuberculosis and was forced to move to a drier climate. In 1913, he located at Childress, Texas and saw his health improve. He returned to West Virginia in 1926 but once again his tuberculosis flared and he resigned himself to permanent settlement in Alamagordo, New Mexico.
Though mainly self -instructed and of fragile health, Elkins experienced an extensive and successful ministry. He held protracted meetings in 23 states over his ministry of more than 50 years. He baptized more than 10,000 people including his wife, father, and brother who had opposed his conversion. Elkins contributed articles to the Christian Leader, Firm Foundation, Gospel Advocate, and the Gospel Light. He authored several books and published numerous booklets and tracts. He held five debates, in one of which his opponent publicly admitted defeat, vowing never to teach again.
Tice Elkins died on March 17, 1967 and was buried in New Mexico. He lived the truth that “when father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” – Psalm 27:10.
“Biographical Sketch” in The Soul of Man. Cincinnati: F.L. Rowe Publisher, 1926.
“Autobiography” in The Sounding of the Seven Trumpets. Austin, TX: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1942.