Joe S. Warlick: Pioneer Preacher

Joseph Sale Warlick was born twelve miles from St. Louis, Mo. (St. Louis County), November 1, 1866. He was the son of Newton Sanford and Mary Ann (Stafford) Warlick, Scotch, Irish, and German descent, with the former dominant in his nature.

He was constantly in school until he was grown. His parents, though poor, gave him every advantage they could, and his brothers and sisters cheerfully worked on the farm that he might prosecute his studies.

He began preaching the gospel in 1885 at the age of nineteen, and kept constantly at it until stopped by illness in December of 1939. He preached in nearly all of the Southern states, a number of the Northern states, and made one trip to Canada. He engaged in three hundred ninety – nine debates. He said: “The most important discussions were two with J. N. Hall (Baptist) and one with Jacob Ditzler (Methodist).”

Brother Warlick was married twice. His first wife was Miss Florence Campbell. To this union four children were born, Homer Elvy, Bernie C., and Byron, and daughter, Florence (Mrs. Harold R. Orr.) Florence died in 1896, and in 1901 he married his second wife, Miss Lucie Dabney, granddaughter of E. W. Dabney, who is remembered as one of the pioneer preachers of the gospel in Texas. Each of these Christian women assisted him much in his work for the Master.

He published for some time the Gospel Guide, was the author of many books and tracts, which have had a wide circulation and have been endorsed and used by many preachers.
He has been instrumental in leading a large number to the Christ, and “expects to meet many in the other world that have been taught the truth by him.”

On Thursday, January 2, 1941 at his home, 911 West Tenth Street, Dallas, Texas, at 1 P.M., Joseph Sale Warlick departed this life. Brother Warlick had been in ill-health since December 23, 1939; and although he had recovered to some extent, yet those who were closest to him knew that his days were numbered.

He was survived by a daughter (Mrs. H. R. Orr, Denver, Col.), two sons (Homer and B. C. Warlick, Dallas), two sisters (Mrs. Matt Albert, Elk City, Okla., and Mrs. Addie Barnhart, Houston, Texas), and one brother (Dennis Warlick, Elk City, Okla.).

Funeral services were conducted Sunday, January 5, in the auditorium of the Sunset Church, at 2 P.M. The building was packed with friends who came to pay a last tribute of respect to this old soldier of the cross. Leroy Garrett, a young preacher, read the Scripture; Price Billingsley, Fort Worth, Texas, prayed; Claude Kele, minister of the Hamilton-Lagow Church, where Brother Warlick held his membership, spoke about the life of the deceased; and J. L. Hines, minister of the Sunset Church, spoke upon the subject, “One Thing I Do,” taken from Phil. 3:1.” A male sextette sang. Two of the songs were composed by Brother Warlick.

He was buried in the Oak Cliff Cemetery on Monday morning at 10 o’clock. The following preachers were pallbearers: Frank Smith, Trinity Heights Church; Eugene S. Smith, evangelist; Horace Teddlie, Edgefield Church; Tillit S. Teddlie, Western Heights Church; Coleman Overby, Sears-Summit Church; and Joe Malone, Peak-Eastside Church.

The following is one of the songs used, which was composed by Brother Warlick:
The time has come when we must part,
We hope to meet again,
To sing our songs of joy and praise,
While we on earth remain.

But if no more while here we meet,
Let each resolve in heart
That he to that bright home shall come,
Where we shall never part.

‘Tis there we’ll meet with friends so dear
Who’ve passed beyond the sea;
We’ll safely dwell with Christ, our Lord,
And with him ever be.

For evermore we’ll sing his praise
On that bright, happy shore,
In one united voice of song,
And part no never more.

Among his last words were: “I am willing to go before the Judge of all the earth and answer for every act of every minute of my life.”

Joe Sale Warlick was indeed a great servant of the Lord. He held gospel meeting in almost all the states in the union and Canada. He engaged in 399 debates. He baptized thousands. He was always ready to help if there were problems. May the Lord bless the memory of this great man. For the last five years I have talked to him intimately. I found him to be kind, generous, merciful, but very positive about the things which he conceived to be the truth. He never spoke harshly to me about any of his enemies. He was one of my very best friends. He helped me much in my work, and in my fight against ungodliness in the city of Dallas he planted himself by my side.

To my mind there has not been a greater defenders of the truth since A. Campbell’s day. May God’s richest blessings be upon the family. (Selection from Gospel Broadcast, as appearing in the Gospel Advocate Vol. 83, No. 3, January 16, 1941, p. 61)

Joe S. Warlick was, undoubtedly, one of the most unusual of our preachers in the 20th Century. He was truly a man of the divine book and a champion of the Restoration.

On the large granite monument at the Joe S. Warlick grave location in the Oak Cliff Cemetery in Dallas are these words:

A Stalwart Soldier. . .

A Courageous Fighter. . .

A Staunch Friend. . .

A Tender and Loving Father. . .

These words express completely, not only a comprehensive description of a true servant of the Most High God, but reveal the high esteem that the entire brotherhood held for one of the most outstanding and resourceful gospel preachers and debaters since the days of divinely inspired men.

Joseph Sale Warlick was born November 1, 1866, twelve miles from St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to the two brothers, Jim and Dennis, there were also five sisters. His boyhood was spent in Missouri, Arkansas and in Texas near Fort Worth. However, the greater part of his adult life he lived in Dallas.

He obtained a better than average education. This was made possible by the unselfishness of his brothers and sisters who cheerfully worked on the farm that he might pursue his studies. His father was a farmer, and so his children learned early in life the meaning of hard work. His parents, though poor, gave him every advantage they could. His brother, Jim, worked on the farm in order that Joe might go to school. Joe himself called attention to the unselfish attitude of his brother, Jim, on the occasion of Jim’s funeral which was conducted in Oklahoma City, in December, 1937. Will M. Thompson, who conducted the funeral remembers:

“Joe Warlick was present and said to me, ‘Brother Will, when you have finished, if I can pull myself together, I want to say a few words.’ Thompson announced to the audience that brother Joe S. Warlick, a brother in the flesh of Jim, wanted to say a few words. The audience was in rapt silence as Joe S. stood beside the casket and paid a glowing tribute to his brother Jim. He said that whatever success he had attained in life he owed it to him. The Warlick family was a poor family, and their father had decided, since he was able to school only one of the boys, Jim being the older should be the one to go to school. At this time Jim said, “Father, I do not care for an education and Joe does. Let me stay on the farm and help you, and let brother Joe go to school.”

This, then, was the decision of the father, and Joe S. said this was the turning point of his life. Furthermore, he stated that, “I feel that I would be an ingrate not to tell this of my brother Jim.”

Through diligent personal study and devotion to the Bible, Joe became well acquainted with the scriptures and developed early the ability to teach effectively.

Along with his study of the Bible, he began to read other books as well. Joe himself said that “among my first reading after I began really to try to know something about the New Testament was a careful study of The Great Legacy, by S. R. Ezzell, and then I took up closely The Gospel Plan of Salvation, by T. W. Brents.” He came to know not only God’s Word extremely well, but the doctrines of men also, no matter what they might be.

Joe Warlick preached his first sermon in July, 1885. His parents had moved to Baylor County in north central West Texas near the small town of Seymour and settled in the Cache Creek community. There was a little band of Christians meeting at the Cache Creek schoolhouse and Joe began to preach for them. He was nineteen years old.

Joe preached in many meetings in Baylor County and conducted at least two debates there. Many people, both in the church and out of it, remember him well. He possessed an engaging personality. He liked everybody, and he liked to talk. He knew almost everyone in Seymour.

From the time he first began preaching, he was in constant demand by churches for gospel meetings or debates. He was regularly in preaching work for 54 years until stopped by illness in December of 1939. He preached in nearly all of the Southern states, a number of the Northern states and made one trip to Canada.

Warlick was married twice. His first wife was Miss Florence Campbell. To this union four children were born. His second wife was Miss Lucie Dabney, granddaughter of E. W. Dabney, who is remembered as one of the pioneer preachers of the gospel in Texas.

Writer And Editor
As a writer and editor, Joe Warlick was prolific. On March 1, 1903, Warlick was the founding editor of the Gospel Review. This was a high class monthly magazine that published the very best in writing from all over the brotherhood. Among those whose articles were featured were David Lipscomb, T. B. Larimore, G. Dallas Smith, A. Alsup, E. G. Sewell, W. P. Richardson and others. The Gospel Review had three men listed as editors: Joe S. Warlick, Jesse P. Sewell, and Robert H. Boll (the same Boll who later led the premillenial movement and edited Word And Work). Jesse P. Sewell was the managing editor. The Gospel Review lasted only a little over a year and then failed due to the high cost of production and lack of patronage.

Briefly, Warlick was an Associate Editor for The Leader And The Way from late 1904 into early 1905. The legendary James A. Harding was the most notable man connected with The Leader And The Way. In 1905, Warlick founded his most famous and long lasting paper, The Gospel Guide.It ceased publication on three different occasions. The first series of The Gospel Guide ran from March 1905 until February 1909. The second series ran from 1910 through 1913, and the third series ran from January 1916, until March 1929. In addition to editing these papers, he also wrote a number of articles for other papers.

Warlick And Debating
Joe S. Warlick was considered by most brethren to be a most capable defender of the faith. He engaged in 399 debates on the polemic platform and met all kinds of religious antagonists, including the champion Missionary Baptist debater, Ben Bogard. Warlick was very meticulous and thorough in his studies and preparation for his preaching and debating. When he had once made his study and prepared his notes, he would memorize them and would have no further need for them. He possessed a photographic memory and used no notes in his debating. In his debating he was never at a loss in any situation which might arise; no opponent ever caught him off guard or napping, or led him unawares into any trap or difficulty; he was ever the master of any situation in which he found himself.

W. B. Andrews, Dallas preacher, considered Warlick the greatest negative debater who ever spoke without direct inspiration. According to Andrews, Warlick did not answer an argument—he annihilated it. It was no uncommon thing for him to reconstruct an argument and make it stronger than his opponent had, then with most incisive wit reduce the argument to nothing with a few words. Andrews said, “There was no more brilliant American in his generation.”

One of the most remarkable and historic debates in which Warlick participated was with J. C. Clark, November, 1903, in Henderson, Tennessee, where the church had been taken over by the digressives who installed the instrument. J. C. Clark, of Christian Church fame, was campaigning in West Tennessee, literally bombarding the churches on the instrumental music issue, an innovation threat to all the churches of Christ west of the Tennessee River. Through the solicitation of two young professors who were notable in the effort to stay the tide of digression—A. G. Freed and N. B. Hardeman—Joe Warlick was brought from Texas to Henderson to debate Clark. This debate stopped the music movement and had it not been held then, the history of churches in West Tennessee would have been very different. This debate saved the church from being swept into the Christian Church movement.

In 1909, Warlick debated the Mormons in Hutchinson County in the Texas Panhandle near the present town of Spearman. During one session of the debate a humorous incident occurred which confirmed Warlick’s ability to use, with telling effect, appropriate wit against his opponent.

The following account of the incident was related to Noble Patterson by E. D. Sheets 40 years ago during a Gospel meeting in Texline, Texas, where Sheets was an elder.

“Our brethren had challenged the Mormons to a debate. The Mormons brought a Mr. Case from Salt Lake City to represent them. The members of the church secured Joe Warlick to represent them. People came from many miles. Some came in covered wagons and camped. Some came and stayed with others in their homes.”

“On this occasion, Mr. Case said: ‘My opponent reminds me of a kind of an animal. In fact, I cannot tell sometimes the way he acts, the difference between him and a monkey.” When Warlick got up to speak, he said, ‘Mr. Case come up here and stand beside me, so the people can see the difference between me and a monkey.’”

Mr. Case left the fourth day of the scheduled five day debate. Warlick stayed and held a meeting for several days and baptized several people including young E. D. Sheets.

Warlick’s Last Days
As the years drew on, Warlick began to slow down some in his heavy preaching schedule. On December 23, 1939, Warlick suffered a heart attack from which he never fully recovered, though he lived on another year. While family members and friends administered to his needs as best they could, it was obvious to all that his days were numbered. Among his last words were: “I am willing to go before the Judge of all the earth and answer for every act of every minute of my life.” The end came on January 2, 1941, at his home in Dallas.

His life was clean, his doctrine pure, and there was never heard the slightest suggestion of sin connected with him.

Eulogies came in from across the nation and many of these were reported in various brotherhood papers. One of the most noteworthy responses was made by the Baptist debater, Ben M. Bogard, who wrote in his paper, The Baptist Searchlight:

“There is within me a feeling of distinct loss today, for I have just received a telegram that my most valiant antagonist, with whom I had twenty-three debates, is dead. He and I had some hard contests, and we did not give an inch in our sharp contentions with each other; but our personal friendship grew with the years and we became as brothers in the flesh. We actually slept together while in one of our hardest-fought debates, and I shall never forget some fine help he was to me once when I stood in need of just what he could do. He could have easily have refused, but he graciously granted my request. No matter what it was, it was a friendly turn he gave that has never been forgotten. He has visited in my home, and I have been entertained by him. My reputation was safe in his hands” (Noble Patterson, 2001, Freed-Hardeman University Lectureship, pages 389-394).

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2 thoughts on “Joe S. Warlick: Pioneer Preacher

  1. Jerry: Thanks for publishing the article on the life of Joe S. Warlick. Brother Warlick undoubtedly was a great debater and gospel preacher. It would have been truly a blessing for us if some of his sermons and debates could have been preserved by audio recording. Both George W. DeHoff and Guy N. Woods told me at numerous times about the instances in their lives where they had a close personal association with this late brother in Christ. They both emphasized the blessing that he had been to them.

    1. He was one of a kind, Kent, and I wish I could have known him. he died 5 months and 5 days before I was born. His sister (who was known as “Ma Albert”) was always in worship when I was a little boy. I remember her as a fairly large woman who always wore a hat, as ladies did in those days, and always sat about 2 or 3 rows back from the front during worship. She is buried here.

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