One of the men of the Baptist denomination who cheerfully testifies to this and who has devoted nearly half a century to educational and religious work is Rev. Isaac Vinton Bryant, D.D., pastor of the First Baptist Church of Huntington.
Dr. Bryant is a native of Ohio, having been born in Lawrence County, Ohio, on December 1, 1856. His father William Bryant was also a preacher and was the son of John Bryant of Rockingham County, Va. Dr. Bryant's mother was, before her marriage Miss Martha Craddick, daughter of Lewis and Winnie Craddick of Culpeper County, Va. Young Bryant pursued his elementary studies in the local public school, which was followed by the normal course at the Institute at Ironton, Ohio. It was during his school days when about fifteen years of age that he was converted and joined the Macedonia Baptist church. Almost immediately he felt to preach the Gospel, but tried to smother the impulse with other activities, including school teaching which he began at seventeen. There was no escape, however, and finally, almost desperately, with broken health he yielded, determined to be found "obedient to the heavenly vision" at the end, which he felt was fast approaching. Accordingly he was licensed to preach by the home church in 1877 and preached his first sermon the first Sunday in February of that year. Two years later he was ordained to the full work of the ministry and accepted the call of the Thessalonica Baptist Church at Cattleburg, Ky., where he preached for two years. That was more than forty years ago--years of fruitful ministry and faithful service on many fields. His next pastorate was the Tried Stone Baptist Church at Ironton, Ohio, which he served one year. From there he went to Gallipolis, Ohio, where he spent four prosperous years. He was then called to the First Baptist Church of Charleston, W. Va., where he enjoyed a successful pastorate of three years, paying all debts, improving the property and leaving money in the treasury. In 1888 he began his first pastorate at the First Baptist Church at Huntington, which lasted three years. Huntington was at that time a very different city from what it is now and the First Church was also very different. In 1891 he went to the pastorate of the Walker Memorial Baptist Church at Washington and while there took the Medical Course at Howard University, with no thought of practicing medicine but for the science of the course. While still serving the Washington Church he accepted the call of the Shiloh Church at Cleveland, but resigned after one year there. His next work took him to Athens, Ohio, which he served one year, preaching at the Gloucester Baptist Church at the same time, giving two Sundays a month to each. Then came the call to return to Gallipolis, and he preached there for six years, resigning to go to Montgomery and Eagle where he preached for three years. In 1906, he was recalled to the First Church at Huntington. For sixteen years he has gone in and out before this congregation which has enjoyed its greatest period of prosperity under his administration. The house of worship has been completed and the membership built up in numbers and in power.
No record of Dr. Bryant's work would be complete without some mention of his work as an educator. When seventeen he began teaching at Guyandotte, where he taught for three years. When he went to Cattlesburg as pastor he taught there also. He taught at Lagrange Furnace and at Burlington where he had gone to school as a boy. He taught near Charleston one term and while in Washington, D. C., was principal of Grimes Academy one year, and president the next.
This fact should also be noted, that while Dr. Bryant did not take any regular classical course at college he is a man of liberal education. It may be said he has been a student all his life. Through correspondence courses and extensive reading he has made himself master of a good style and is effective both as a speaker and writer. He is the author of several books, i.e., A Reply to Robt. G. Ingersol, "Is dancing a sin?", "The True Sabbath," and "The Imminence and Necessity of a General Reformation in the Protestant Church." Besides, he has contributed sermons, speeches, and valuable articles to many of the leading papers of the country.
Dr. Bryant has been married twice. His first marriage was on November 2, 1876 to Miss Lucretia Ferguson of Proctorville, Ohio. She passed to her reward in 1878. Again on November 15, 1883, he married Miss Sarah Bell Long, also of Ohio. Four children came to bless this union. They are Ethel N. (now Mrs. Anderson), Edith D., Herman V. and Clinton L. Bryant. Four grandchildren, Bular and Noka Anderson, daughters of Ethel, and Herman, Jr., and Paul, sons of Herman Vinton.
In politics he is a Republican and has long been in demand for campaign work. For many years he has been regarded as the most forcible campaign speaker of the country, he delivered the closing speech of the campaign last year in the Kanawha County court house in Charleston, which was said to be the greatest speech ever delivered in Kanawha County. He also delivered his annual address in the First Baptist Church of Charleston last February, as president of the State Ministers Association, before a large audience, among which was governor Morgan, who pronounced it the greatest speech he ever listened to. He is constantly being called upon to preach and lecture before large audiences, generally the white people, who regard him as one of the greatest preachers of the age. He often draws crowds of white people to hear him over 1,000 strong. Among the secret orders he belongs to the Odd Fellows.
No man stands higher in the denomination. He is a member of the Executive Board of the State Convention, President of the State Promotion Board and President of the State Minister's Association.
He believes that the first and most urgent need of the race is a well rounded Christian education, with all that it implies, the next is the ownership of property. From a life time of study and observation he has reached three definite conclusions: 1--Intelligence will never be dictated to by ignorance. 2--Wealth will never take orders from poverty. 3--Vice and immorality cannot ultimately triumph over virtue. He teaches his people these things, nay, what is better, he lives these things before his people.
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