The 89'er Land Run drew some unsavory characters. Criminals who wished to sneak into the Unassigned Territories ahead of time to get a headstart on obtaining the best land (the Sooners) would be challenged in their land claims by those fast-riding, law abiding citizens (the Boomers) who knew nobody could have beaten them in a race. The beginning of Oklahoma City is filled with colorful stories of people with questionable character fighting to position themselves as legitimate landholders in the real wild west.
No individual, though, had more questionable character in the early days of Oklahoma City than a tall, African-American woman named Martha Fleming. Martha, a native of Virginia, was one of the early Sooners. She promptly established a brothel immediately north of the Santa Fe Depot and her wickedly sinful influence spread throughout the east fringes of the new OKC, the area we now call Bricktown. She headquartered at corner of the north/south Front Street (now E.K. Gaylord) and the east/west Grand Street (now Sheridan), at what is of the main western entrances into Bricktown. "Old Zulu," as Martha came to be known, was arrested more than any other person in Oklahoma City during the sixteen years from the Land Run to statehood (1907). Her crimes included assualt and battery, robbery, prostitution, public drunkenness, and a great many more. She spent so many nights in jail, that Old Zulu eventually was sent by officials to Leavenworth Federal Prison in Kansas to finish serving her sentence. Oklahoma City's governing law enforcement at the time was the federal U.S. Marshalls service since Oklahoma was still a territory of the United States and not yet a state. Just before statehood, Old Zulu and others criminals from I.T., were pardoned by the Territorial Governor. She was released from federal prison in early 1907 and made her way back to Oklahoma City where she promptly picked up her trade as a madam in charge of a brothel.
But an amazing thing happened to "Old Zulu" on Friday night, November 15, 1907, the night before Oklahoma became a state. There was revival sweeping through what the locals called "dark-town," and dozens of people were had gathered and inside the once-notorious Blue Front Saloon Building, just across from where Old Zulu plied her trade. A banner hung across the broad windows of the saloon, whose blinds were now pulled tight, that read: "The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God." Old Zulu must have been struck by the words, for she entered the revival service, heard the gospel of Jesus Christ that night, and gave her life to Christ. It is obvious she believed on Christ's work at Calvary for the forgiveness of her sins and an eternal home in heaven because of what happened that night. Amateur historian Albert McRill, who himself once served as Oklahoma City's City Manager, writes of Old Zulu's conversion:
The night before statehood, "Old Zulu" wandered into the meeting and "found salvation." Her antics that night were said to surpass anything she had displayed during all her long walk with the devil. "Heben iz mah home," she bellowed, rolling over the floor of the old saloon. "Dis city am on de road tuh hell, and ah iz jez' stoppin' heah.'
McRill goes on in his book, And Satan Came Also to question Old Zulu's conversion. McRill falsely states Old Zulu was baptized in the "freezing" waters of the North Canadian the next day, November 16th, 1907--the day of Oklahoma statehood. In reality, Old Zulu and a number of others converted during the 1907 'OKC Awakening' were baptized in a "baptismal service" in the North Canadian River seven months later, July 4, 1908. Author Albert McRill (1880-1956), the former OKC attorney and leader in the Methodist Church, implies Zulu was not truly converted. Though she shut down the brothel, McRill writes of a confrontation Old Zulu had with OKC police years later, shortly before her death--the details for the reasons of this last arrest are not given by McRill. Nor was I able to find any information about it in the archives of The Daily Oklahoman. There has always been a question in the back of my mind as to why McRill would question Old Zulu's salvation.
The title of Albert McRill's very rare book where Old Zulu's conversion is given a chapter is And Satan Came Also. The title comes from Job 1:6 where the Bible states, "One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also with them" . Ironically, the reason the devil came before the Lord in Job 1:6 was to question Job's righteousness. "Is Job really yours?" asks Satan. "Take your protective hand off Job's possessions and he will curse you to your face." So, the reason "the devil came also" was to question the redemption of Job's soul.
In over four years of blogging about religious issues within evangelicalism as a whole, one of the common traits I see among Christians is the tendency to question the salvation of other people. I think there is biblical warrant for each of us to "examine ourselves" to see whether we be in the faith, but nowhere do I see that it is our duty to question the salvation of a fellow believer. In fact, I would propose that the origin of questioning another believer's salvation is devilish. I will give four reasons for this belief.
(1). Salvation of a sinner is solely and completely the work of Christ. The Puritans would often look "within" themselves for evidence of Christ's deliverance, but evangelicals have taken the works of the Puritans and twisted them--we look for evidence within others. Only God and I know my heart--you don't. Only God and you know your heart--I don't. Regeneration is a matter of the heart, but atonement is an objective work of Christ. Who am I to question the salvation and deliverance of a believing sinner, no matter how vile, by the work of Christ's atonement? He chooses to save sinners by His work on their behalf, and I cannot thwart or question His sovereign work. I will only question the evidence of His regeneration in my own heart.
(2). Jesus tells us that if a sinner simply says "I repent" (Luke 17:4), we are to trust the sinner's word and forgive. What's weird is that Jesus has just said that that particular sinner has already come against you seven times in a day and has sinned in the same manner against you seven times, but each time after the transgression he says "I repent." Most of us want "evidence" that the sinner repents. What does he do from then on? Is he living the kind of life that shows it? Jesus says we are to trust what the believing sinner "says"! That's grace. That's trusting Christ to accomplish His work in the sinner's life. Having the sinner prove it is a performance oriented religion. We Southern Baptists want peformances from others like ticket seekers on Broadway. Too bad. We miss the glory of grace.
(3). To question the conversion of a believing sinner is to question the ability of Christ. If we truly believe, like Jonah, that "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9), then we will not place our faith in what we see, but in what we cannot see--the Invisible, Eternal, Omnipotent, Sovereign One who redeems sinners by His grace and for His glory.
(4). If you object and say, "By their fruits they shall be known" (Matthew 7:16), I ask a simple question. What is that 'fruit'? Most evangelicals say, "Works!" What it is the believing sinner does confirms his salvation! The text, however, denies this conclusion. Jesus goes on to describe the Pharisees "who cast out demons and do many wonderful works." But Jesus says to these wonder workers "Depart from me, I never knew you" (Matthew 7:23). It seems to me "the fruit" is NOT what a person DOES, but who a person IS. A "believing" sinner never fully conquers sin, but trusts the One who died for Him and never hesitates to acknowledge his sin and his faith in Christ's work. In other words, the fruit is an inner work that no man can judge but God. This is why Jesus said in the beginning of Matthew 7--"Do not judge anyone" (v. 1). He is not speaking of a human judge in the courts of law, nor is He speaking of a wise person who makes judgments regarding his own behavior; Jesus is telling His disciples to refrain from JUDGING THE HEARTS OF OTHERS--particularly, whether or not Christ is at work in the lives of others. Take the word of a believing sinner at face value and trust Christ.
My commitment in 2010 is to not question the salvation of a sinner who believes on Christ. In my opinion, that kind of activity has devilish origins.
In his Grace,