Thomas Wesley Brents
Thomas Wesley Brents was born on February 10, 1823 in Marshall County, Tennessee. His parents were Thomas Brents and Jane McWhorther. He was born in a wilderness home with a dirt floor.He was self-educated, having had few opportunities for schooling as a child. In his early life in Marshall County he was a blacksmith by trade.
When he grew to manhood, his mind was inclined to the practice of law, but his attention was turned to that of medicine. He entered the medical college at Nashville, Tennessee, and remained for a while, and then attended the Macon Medical College, at Macon, Georga, graduating from that college with distinctive honors. After his graduation he was asked to become one of the instructors of his Alma Mater. He accepted and filled the Chair of Anatomy and Surgery in the Macon Medical College for a number of years just preceding the Civil War.
After leaving the medical college as an instructor, he practiced medicine and surgery for a number of years. He preached the gospel as he had opportunity. He had a great desire to preach. He loved that work. But he soon saw that he could not practice medicine and preach the gospel at the same time with that degree of success that he desired; so, believing it to be his duty to preach the gospel, he gave up a lucrative practice of medicine and dedicated his life to preaching the gospel.
However, he always had some other work than preaching. During the Civil War and immediately after it he was engaged in the mercantile business at Shelbyville, Tennessee. Later he had a farm in southeastern Marshall County.
In 1878 he was elected president of Burritt College, at Spencer, Tennessee.
This college was founded in 1849. Under its original charter the teachers were required to accept stock in the college as a part of their salaries. This continued until the teachers owned the buildings. John Powell, who was president of the college, sold his stock, which was very large, to Elijah Denton. Elijah Denton employed W. D. Carnes as president in 1872, and he continued as president of the college until 1878.
During this time Dr. Brents had moved to Spencer. He conceived the idea of enlarging the college and making it a college in which the Bible should be taught by men of the brotherhood. Elijah Denton deeded Dr. Brents one-half of his interest in the college, and Dr. Brents was made president of the college in 1878.
He continued as president of the college four years, or until 1882. In the meantime he raised money and erected new college buildings. The college prospered under his fostering care. He was a diligent and untiring student and prosecuted his duties with vigor and zeal. He taught anatomy, physiology, and botany while serving as president of the college. He found time to study the Bible and teach it to a large number of his students.
In 1874 he published his first book, "The Gospel Plan of Salvation." The American Christian Review, in speaking of this book, said that Dr. Brents "has, with a masterful hand, met, traced out, and explained the greatest difficulty, and, with the utmost patience and in the most laborious manner, cleared away the perplexities and confusion that have kept thousands out of the kingdom of God."
Dr. Brents was a great debater. Among the denominational preachers whom he met in debate were Timothy Frogge, J. B. Moody, Jacob Ditzler, and Dr. Herod. He met Jacob Ditzler seven times in debate. Mr. Ditzler was the giant defender of Methodism; Dr. Herod was the able defender of the Primitive Baptist theories. A. M. Growden said of him: "I unhesitatingly pronounce him the most invincible logician, the greatest Scriptural reasoner, and the most merciless debater I ever heard. He was absolutely without mercy toward error, but not so toward men; a man of charity toward human weakness and frailty, but woe be to the man who stood before him to champion an unscriptural position!"
His last book, "Gospel Sermons," was published in 1891. This book contains many of his strongest sermons and is a most readable and instructive book.
Dr. Brents never located with any church as its regular preacher. He visited many churches and instructed them in the work and worship of the Lord. He wrote many articles for the papers and did what he could to keep the truths of the Bible before the people with clearness and power.
His last days were spent with his son at Lewisburg, Tennessee. He died there on June 29, 1905.
Excerpts from "Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers" by H. Leo Boles, Gospel Advocate Company, 1932.