"Speech—Seasoned with Salt **
I want to preach the gospel so plainly that men can come from the factories and not have to bring along a dictionary.—Billy Sunday.
SUNDAY is not a shepherd, but a soldier; not a husbandman of a vineyard, but a quarryman. The r61e he fills more nearly approximates that of the Baptist, or one of the Old Testament prophets, than any other Bible character. The word of the Lord that has come to him is not "Comfort ye! comfort ye!" but "Arouse ye! arouse ye!" and "Repent! repent!"
Evangelist Sunday's mission is not conventional, nor may it be judged by conventional standards. He is not a pastor; probably he would be a failure in the pastorate. Neither would any sensible person expect pastors to resemble Billy Sunday; for that, too, would be a calamity.
Taking a reasonable view of the case, what do we find? Here is a man whose clear work it is to attract the attention of the heedless to the claims of the gospel, to awaken a somnolent Church, and to call men to repentance. To do this a man must be sensational, just as John the Baptist was sensational—not to mention that Greater One who drew the multitudes by his wonderful works and by his unconventional speech.
In the time of Jesus, as now, religion had become embalmed in petrified phrases. The forms of religious speech were set. But Christ's talk was not different from everyday speech. The language of spirituality, which once represented great living verities, had become so conventionalized that it slipped easily into cant and "shop talk." It is a fact which we scarcely like to admit that myriads of persons who attend church regularly do not expect really to understand what the preacher is talking about. They admire his "zeal" or "unction," but as for understanding him as clearly and definitely as they understand a neighbor talking over the back fence—that is not to be thought of.
When God called this man whom the common people should hear gladly, he took him straight out of the walks of common life with no other vocabulary than that of ordinary "folks." We Americans use the most vivid language of any people. Our words are alive, new ones being born every hour. "Slang" we call these word pictures, and bar them from polite speech until the crowbar of custom has jimmied a way for them into the dictionary. And the most productive slang factory of our time is the realm of sports in which Sunday was trained.
So he talks religion as he talked base ball. His words smack of the street corners, the shop, the athletic field, the crowd of men. That this speech is loose, extravagant and undignified may be freely granted: but it is understandable. Any kind of a fair play that will get the runners to the home plate is good base ball; and any speech that will puncture the shell of human nature's complacency and indifference to religion is good preaching. Neither John the Baptist nor Jesus was dignified, and highly correct Pharisees despised them as vulgarians; "but the common people heard him gladly." With such examples before him on one side, and a Church waterlogged with dignity on the other, Sunday has "gone the limit" in popularized speech.
Perhaps he is not as polite as is professionally proper for a preacher. He seems to have recovered some of the prophet's lost art of denunciation. He dares call sin by its proper name. He excoriates the hypocrite. He cares not for feelings of the unfaithful preacher or of the doubleliving church member. As for the devil and all his lieutenants, Sunday has for them a sizzling, blistering vocabulary that helps men to loathe sin and all its advocates. His uncompromising attitude is shown by this gem, culled from one of his sermons:
"They say to me, 'Bill, you rub the fur the wrong way.' I don't; let the cats turn 'round."
Again, "It isn't a good thing to have synonyms for sin. Adultery is adultery, even though you call it affinity."
Again, "Paul said he would rather speak five words that were understood than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. That hits me. I want people to know what I mean, and that's why I try to get down where they live. What do I care if some puff-eyed, dainty little dibblydibbly preacher goes tibbly-tibbling around because I use plain Anglo-Saxon words."
Two important points are to be considered in connection with Sunday's vigorous vocabulary; the first is that what he says does not sound as bad as it seems in cold type. Often he is incorrectly reported. The constant contention of his friends is that he should be heard before being criticized. The volume of testimony of all the men who have heard him—preachers, professors and purists—is that his addresses which seem shocking when reported are not shocking when heard.
On the public square in Scranton a great sign was displayed by the local committee:
DON'T JUDGE BILLY SUNDAY UNTIL YOU
HAVE HEARD HIM YOURSELF.
NO REPORT, VERBAL OR PRINTED, CAN
DO HIM PERFECT JUSTICE.
One Scranton business man put it this way: "Type is cold; his sermons are hot."
Sunday speaks with his eyes, with his gestures and with every muscle of his body; and all this must be taken into account in weighing his words. Assuredly his message in its totality does not shock anybody. That is why preachers sit through his arraignment of a deficient church and ministry and applaud him. They find in his severest utterances a substantial volume of undoubted truth.
The second point is that the most vigorous speech is used earliest in an evangelistic campaign. That is one way of stirring up the Church, and of attracting attention to the meetings. Sunday goads Christians to an interest. Apparently he purposely speaks to arouse resentment, if no other form of interest is awakened in his hearers. The latter part of a Sunday campaign is singularly free from his denunciations, from his invective and from his slang. There is a clear method in his procedure, which is always followed in about the same course.
Sunday would be the last man to expect everybody to approve all that he says, either in form or in substance. I don't; and I know no other thinking observer of his meetings who does. No more do I expect him to approve all that is said in this book. Nevertheless, there remains the unanswerable rejoinder to all criticism of Evangelist Sunday's utterances and message: he "delivers the goods." He does arouse communities to an interest in religion as no other preacher of our generation. He helps people "get right with God." His campaigns promote righteousness, diminish wickedness and strengthen the Church.
As samples of the pungent sort of speech with which Sunday's discourses are flavored I have selected these shakings from his salt-celler:
Live so that when the final summons comes you will leave something more behind you than an epitaph on a tombstone or an obituary in a newspaper.
You can find anything in the average church today, from a humming bird to a turkey buzzard.
The Lord is not compelled to use theologians. He can take snakes, sticks or anything else, and use them for the advancement of his cause.
The Lord may have to pile a coffin on your back before he can get you to bend it.
Don't throw your ticket away when the train goes into a tunnel. It will come out the other side.
The safest pilot is not the fellow that wears the biggest hat, but the man who knows the channels.
If a man goes to hell he ought to be there, or he wouldn't be there.
I am preaching for the age in which I live. I am just recasting my vocabulary to suit the people of my age instead of Joshua's age.
The Church gives the people what they need; the theater gives then^what they want.
Death-bed repentance is burning the candle of life in the service of the devil, and then blowing the smoke into the face of God.
Your reputation is what people say about you. Your character is what God and your wife know about you.
When your heart is breaking you don't want the dancing master or saloon-keeper. No, you want the preacher.
Don't you know that every bad man in a community strengthens the devil's mortgage?
Pilate washed his hands. If he had washed his old black heart he would have been all right.
It takes a big man to see other people succeed without raising a howl.
It's everybody's business how you live.
Bring your repentance down to a spot-cash basis.
I believe that cards and dancing are doing more to dam the spiritual life ef the Church than the grog-shops—though you can't accuse me of being a friend of that stinking, dirty, rotten, hell-soaked business.
If you took no more care of yourself physically than spiritually, you'd be just as dried up physically as you are spiritually.
We place too much reliance upon preaching and upon singing, and too little on the living of those who sit in the pews.
The carpet in front of the mirrors of some of you people is worn threadbare, while at the side of your bed where you should kneel in prayer it is as good as the day you put it down.
Some persons think they have to look like a hedgehog to be pious.
Look into the preaching Jesus did and you will find it was aimed straight at the big sinners on the front seats.
If you live wrong you can't die right.
"You are weighed in the balance"—but not by Bradstreet's or Dun's—you are weighed in God's balance.
A revival gives the Church a little digitalis instead of an opiate.
It isn't the sawdust trail that brings you to Christ, it's the Christ that is in the trail, the Christ that is in your public confession of sins.
Some sermons instead of being a bugle call for service, are nothing more than showers of spiritual cocaine.
Theology bears the same relation to Christianity that botany does to flowers.
Morality isn't the light; it is only the polish on the candlestick.
Some homes need a hickory switch a good deal more than they do a piano.
Churches don't need new members half so much as they need the old bunch made over.
God's work is too often side-tracked, while social, business and domestic arrangements are thundering through on the main line.
A lot of people, from the way they live, make you think they've got a ticket to heaven on a Pullman parlor car and have ordered the porter to wake 'em up when they get there. But they'll get side-tracked almost before they've started.
I believe that a long step toward public morality will have been taken when sins are called by their right names.
The bars of the Church are so low that any old hog with two or three suits of clothes and a bank roll can crawl through.
You will not have power until there is nothing questionable in your life.
You can't measure manhood with a tape line around the biceps.
The social life is the reflex of the home life.
There are some so-called Christian homes today with books on the shelves of the library that have no more business there than a rattler crawling about on the floor, or poison within the child's reach.
Home is the place we love best and grumble the most.
I don't believe there are devils enough in hell to pull a boy out of the arms of a godly mother.
To train a boy in the way he should go you must go that way yourself.
The man who lives for himself alone will be the sole mourner at his own funeral.
Don't try to cover up the cussedness of your life, but get fixed up.
Wrong company soon makes everything else wrong. An angel would never be able to get back to heaven again if he came down here for a week and put in his time going with company that some church members would consider good.
The devil often grinds the axe with which God hews.
I wish the Church were as afraid of imperfection as it is of perfection.
Whisky is all right in its place—but its place is in hell.
A pup barks more than an old dog.
Character needs no epitaph. You can bury the man, but character will beat the hearse back from the graveyard and it will travel up and down the streets while you are under the sod. It will bless or blight long after your name is forgotten.
Some people pray like a jack-rabbit eating cabbage.
If you put a polecat in the parlor you know which will change first—the polecat or the parlor?
A church is not dropped down on a street corner to decorate the corner and be the property of a certain denomination.
Many preachers are like a physician—strong on diagnosis, but weak on therapeutics.
Your religion is in your will, not in your handkerchief.
It won't save your soul if your wife is a Christian. You have got to be something more than a brother-in-law to the Church.
If every black cloud had a cyclone in it, the world would have been blown into tooth-picks long ago.
No man has any business to be in a bad business.
When you quit living like the devil I will quit preaching that way.
You can't raise the standard of women's morals by raising their pay envelope. It lies deeper than that.
The seventh commandment is not: "Thou shalt not commit affinity."
A saloon-keeper and a good mother don't pull on the same rope.
The presumptive husband should be able to show more than the price of a marriage license.
Put the kicking straps on the old Adam, feed the angel in you, and starve the devil.
When a baby is born, what do you do with it? Put it in a refrigerator? That's a good place for a dead chicken, and cold meat, but a poor place for babies. Then don't put these Dew converts, 'babes in Christ,' into refrigerator churches.
Nobody can read the Bible thoughtfully, and not be impressed with the way it upholds the manhood of man. More chapters in the Bible are devoted to portraying the manhood of Caleb than to the creation of the world.
Home is on a level with the women; the town is on a level with the homes.
You will find lots of things in Shapespeare which are not fit for reading in a mixed audience and call that literature. When you hear some truths here in the tabernacle you will call it vulgar. It makes all the difference in the world whether Bill Shakespeare or Bill Sunday said it.
The more oyster soup it takes to run a church, the faster it runs to the devil.
The reason you don't like the Bible, you old sinner, is because it knows all about you.
Bob Ingersoll <• & Saloon-keeper And A Good Mother wasn't the first to find Don't Pull On The Same Rope" out that Moses made
mistakes. God knew about it long before Ingersoll was born.
All that God has ever done to save this old world, has been done through men and women of flesh and blood like ourselves.
Nearly everybody is stuck up about something. Some people are even proud that they aren't proud.
The average young man is more careful of his company than the average girl.
Going to church doesn't make a man a Christian, any more than going to a garage makes him an automobile.
If we people were able to have panes of glass over our hearts, some of us would want stained glass, wouldn't we?
To see some people, you would think that the essential orthodox Christianity is to have a face so long they could eat oatmeal out of the end of a gas pipe.
God likes a little humor, as is evidenced by the fact that he made the monkey, the parrot—and some of you people.
Wouldn't this city be a great place to live in if some people would die, get converted, or move away?
The normal way to get rid of drunkards is to quit raising drunkards—to put the business that makes drunkards out of business.
You can't shine for God on Sunday, and then be a London fog on Monday.
I don't believe that God wants any man to be a hermit. Jesus Christ did not wear a hair shirt and sleep upon a bed of spikes. He went among the people and preached the Gospel.
If you only believe things that you can understand you must be an awful ignoramus.
There is more power in a mother's hand than in a king's scepter.
I have no doubt that there are men looking into my face tonight who will have "1914" carved on their tombstones.
If God had no more interest in this world than some of you church members have in Johnstown, this city would have been in hell long ago.
I hate to see a man roll up to church in a limousine and then drop a quarter in the collection plate.
Give your face to God and he will put his shine on it.
No fountain under the sun can hold enough to satisfy an immortal spirit.
Jesus Christ came among the common people. Abraham Lincoln said that God must have loved the common people: he made so many of them.
Yank some of the groans out of your prayers, and shove in some shouts.
The Bible says forgive your debtors; the world says "sue them for their dough."
The race will appear as far above us as we are above the harem when godly girls marry godly men.
It is impossible for a saloon-keeper to enjoy a good redhot prayer-meeting.
I'm no spiritual masseur or osteopath. I'm a surgeon, and I cut deep.
A prudent man won't swallow a potato bug, and then take Paris green to kill it.
If you want milk and honey on your bread, you'll have to go into the land where there are giants.
There is nothing in the world of art like the songs mother used to sing.
God pays a good mother. Mothers, get your names on God's payroll.
The man who can drive a hog and keep his religion will stand without hitching.
The right preaching of the Gospel will never hurt anything good.
If you would have your children turn out well, don't turn your home into a lunch counter and lodging house.
Man was a fool in the Garden of Eden, and he has taken a good many new degrees since.
The backslider likes the preaching that wouldn't hit the side of a house, while the real disciple is delighted when the truth brings him to his knees.
There would be more power in the prayers of some folks if they would put more white money in the collection basket.
What have you given the world it never possessed before you came?
Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.