A Life Enlistment
When a man, after starting to be a Christian, looks back, it is only a question of time until he goes back.—Billy Sunday.
PROFESSOR WILLIAM JAMES, the philosopher,
contended that there was a scientific value to the
stories of Christian conversions; that these properly belonged among the data of religion, to be weighed by the man of science. Harold Begbie's notable book, "TwiceBorn Men," was recognized by Professor James as a contribution to the science of religion; for it was simply a collection of the stories of men whose lives had been transformed by the gospel which the Salvation Army had carried to them. A whole library of such books as "Twice-Born Men" could be written concerning the converts of Billy Sunday. His converts not only "right-about-face" but they keep marching in the new direction. Their enlistment is for life.
This point is one of the most critical in the whole realm of the discussion of revivals. Times without number it has been charged that the converts of evangelists lose their religion as quickly as they got it. A perfectly fair question to ask concerning these Billy Sunday campaigns is, "Are they temporary attacks of religious hysteria, mere effervescent moods of spiritual exaltation, which are dissipated by the first contact with life's realities?"
Here is opportunity for the acid test. Billy Sunday has been conducting revival meetings long enough to enable an investigator to go back over his trail and trace his results. After years have passed, are there still evidences of the presence and work of the evangelist? To this only one answer can be made. The most skeptical and antagonistic person cannot fail to find hundreds and thousands of Billy Sunday converts in the churches of the towns where the envangelist has conducted meetings during the past twenty years.
Not all of the converts have held fast; we cannot forget that one of the Twelve was a complete renegade, and that the others were for a time weak in the faith. Alas, this condition is true of Christian converts, however made. The terrible record revealed in each year's church statistics, of members who are missing—entirely lost to the knowledge of the Church—is enough to restrain every pastor from making uncharitable remarks upon the recruits won by an evangelist. The fact to be stressed at this present moment is that Billy Sunday converts are to be found in all departments of church work, in the ministry itself, and on the foreign field.
One reason for the conservation of the results of the Sunday campaigns is that all the powers of the evangelist and his organization are exerted to lead those who have confessed Christ in the tabernacles to become members of the church of their choice, at the earliest possible date. Sunday says candidly that converts cannot expect to grow in grace and usefulness outside the organized Church of Christ. Thus it comes about that before a Sunday campaign closes, and for months afterwards, the church papers report wholesale accessions to the local congregations of all denominations. Three thousand new church members were added in a single Sunday in the city of Scranton.
What these campaigns mean in the way of rehabilitating individual churches is illustrated by what a Scranton pastor said to me toward the close of the Sunday campaign: "You know my church burned down a short time ago. We have been planning to rebuild. Now, however, we shall have to rebuild to twice the size of our old church, and we have enough new members already to make sure that our financial problem will be a simple one." In other words, the coming of the evangelist had turned into a triumph and a new starting point for this congregation what might have otherwise been a time of discouragement and temporary defeat.
For a moment the reader should take the viewpoint of the pastors who have been struggling along faithfully, year after year, at best getting but a few score of new members each year. Then Billy Sunday appears. The entire atmosphere and outlook of the church is transformed within a few days. Optimism reigns. Lax church members become Christian workers, and enthusiasm for the kingdom pervades the entire membership. The churches of the community find themselves bound together in a new solidarity of fellowship and service.
Then, to crown all, into the church membership come literally hundreds of men and women, mostly young, and all burning with the convert's ardent zeal to do service for the Master. Can anybody but a pastor conceive the thrill that must have come to the minister of a Wilkes-Barre church which added one thousand new members to its existing roll, as a result of the Billy Sunday campaign in that city?
Six months after the Sunday meetings in Scranton I visited Carbondale, a small town sixteen miles distant from Scranton, and talked with two of the resident pastors. There are four Protestant churches in Carbondale, which have already received a thousand new members within five months. All these converts are either the direct result of Billy Sunday's preaching, or else the converts of converts. Out of a Protestant population of nine thousand persons, the Carbondale churches have received one-ninth into their membership within six months. These bare figures do not express the greater total of Christian service and enthusiasm which permeates the community as an abiding legacy of the Billy Sunday campaign. These converts consider that they have been saved to serve.
Asked to fix a period after which he would expect a reaction from the Sunday meetings, a critic would probably say about one year. On this point we learn that when the evangelist visited the city of Scranton, which is within an hour's ride of Wilkes-Barre, he found that the influence of the meetings which he had held a year previously in WilkesBarre were perhaps the most potent single factor in preparing the people of Scranton for his coming. Night after night Wilkes-Barre sent delegations of scores and hundreds over to the Scranton Tabernacle. Investigators from afar who came to look into the Scranton meetings were advised to go to the neighboring city to ascertain what were the effects of the campaign after a year. The result was always convincing.
When the evangelist was in Pittsburgh, MeKeesport, where he had been six years before, sent many delegations to hear him and on one occasion fifteen hundred persons made the journey from MeKeesport to Pittsburgh to testify to the lasting benefits which their city had received from the evangelist's visit.
Usually some organization of the "trail-hitters" is effected after the evangelist's departure. These are bands for personal Christian work. The most remarkable of them all is reported from Wichita, Kansas, where the aftermath of the Sunday meetings has become so formidable as to suggest a new and general method of Christian service by laymen.
The Sunday converts organized themselves into "Gospel Teams," who announce that they are ready to go anywhere and conduct religious meetings, especially for men. They offer to pay their own expenses, although frequently the communities inviting them refuse to permit this. Sometimes these Gospel Teams travel by automobiles or street cars and sometimes they make long railway journeys.
The men have so multiplied themselves that there are now more than three hundred Gospel Teams in this work and they have formed "The National Federation of Gospel Teams" of which Claude Stanley of Wichita is president and West Goodwin of Cherryvale, Kansas, is secretary.
Up to date, the tremendous total of eleven thousand conversions is reported by these unsalaried, self-supporting gospel workers, who joyously acclaim Billy Sunday as their leader. They represent his teachings and his spirit in action.
The most celebrated of these gospel teams is "The Business Men's Team" of Wichita, an mterdenominational group. It comprises such men as Henry Allen, the editor of the Wichita Beacon and one of the foremost public men of the state; the president of the Inter-urban Railway; the president of the Kansas Mutual Bank, and other eminent business men. This team has visited eleven states in its work, all without a penny of cost to the Church, and with results exceeding those achieved by many great and expensive organizations.
The Billy Sunday converts not only stick but they multiply themselves and become effective servants of the Church and the kingdom.
Nobody is left to conjecture as to the sort of counsel that Mr. Sunday gives his converts. Every man, woman and child who "hits the trail" is handed a leaflet, telling him how to make a success of the Christian life.
A trumpet call to Christian service by every confessed disciple of Jesus Christ is sounded by the evangelist. The following is an appeal of this sort:
The twentieth century has witnessed two apparently contradictory facts: The decline of the Church and the growth of religious hunger in the masses. The world during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries passed through a period of questioning and doubts, during which everything in heaven and earth was put into a crucible and melted down into constituent elements. During that period many laymen and preachers lost their moorings.
The definite challenging note was lost out of the life of the ministry. The preacher today is oftentimes a human interrogation point, preaching to empty pews. The hurrying, busy crowd in the street is saying to the preacher and the Church, "When you have something definite to say about the issues of life, heaven, hell and salvation, we will listen; till then we have no time for you." I believe we are on the eve of a great national revival. The mission of the Church is to carry the gospel of Christ to the world.
I believe that lack of efficient personal work is one of the curses of the Church today. The people of the Church are like squirrels in a cage. Lots of activity, but accomplishing nothing. It doesn't require a Christian life to sell oyster soup or run a bazaar or a rummage sale.
Last year many churches reported no new members on confession of faith. Why these meager results with this tremendous expenditure of energy and money? Why are so few people coming into the kingdom? I will tell you what is the matter—there is not a definite effort put forth to persuade a definite person to receive a definite Saviour at a definite time, and that definite time is now.
I tell you the Church of the future must have personal work and prayer. The trouble with some churches is that they think the preacher is a sort of ecclesiastical locomotive, who will snort and puff and pull the whole bunch through to glory.
A politician will work harder to get a vote than the Church of God will work to have men brought to Christ. Watch some of the preachers go down the aisles. They drag along as if they had grindstones tied to their feet.
No political campaign is won by any stump speaker or any spell-binder on the platform. It is won by a man-to-man canvass.
The Value of Personal Work
The children of this generation are wiser than the children of light. You can learn something from the world about how to do things. Personal work is the simplest and most effective form of work we can engage in. Andrew wins Peter. Peter wins three thousand at Pentecost. A man went into a boot and shoe store and talked to the clerk about Jesus Christ. He won the clerk to Christ. Do you know who that young man was? It was Dwight L. Moody, and he went out and won multitudes to Christ. The name of the man who won him was Kimball, and Kimball will get as much reward as Moody. Kimball worked to win Moody and Moody worked and won the multitude. Andrew wins Peter and Peter wins three thousand at Pentecost. That is the way God works today. Charles G. Finney, after learning the name of any man or woman, would invariably ask: "Are you a Christian?" There isn't any one here who hasn't drag enough to win somebody to Christ.
Personal work is a difficult form of work; more difficult than preaching, singing, attending conventions, giving your goods to feed the poor. The devil will let you have an easy time until God asks you to do personal work. It is all right while you sing in the choir, but just as soon as you get out and work for God the devil will be on your back and you will see all the flimsy excuses you can offer for not working for the Lord. If you want to play into the hands of the devil begin to offer your excuses.
There are many people who want to win somebody for Jesus and they are waiting to be told how to do it. I believe there are hundreds and thousands of people who are willing to work and who know something must be done, but they are waiting for help; I mean men and women of ordinary ability. Many people are sick and tired and disgusted with just professing religion; they are tired of trotting to church and trotting home again. They sit in a pew and listen to a sermon; they are tired of that, not speaking to anybody and not engaging in personal work; they are getting tired of it and the church is dying because of it. A lot should wake up and go to the rescue and win souls for Jesus Christ.
I want to say to the deacons, stewards, vestrymen, prudential committees, that they should work, and the place to begin is at your own home. Sit down and write the names of five or ten friends, and many of them members of your own church, and two or three of those not members of any church; yet you mingle with these people in the club, in business, in your home in a friendly way. You meet them every week, some of them every day, and you never speak to them on the subject of religion; you never bring it to their attention at all; you should be up and doing something for God and God's truth. There are always opportunities for a Christian to work for God. There is always a chance to speak to some one about God. Where you find one that won't care, you'll find one thousand that will.
My Father's Business
Be out and out for God. Have a heart-to-heart talk with some people and win them to Christ. The first recorded words of Jesus are these: "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"
The trouble is we are too lackadaisical in religion, indifferent and dead and lifeless. That is the spirit of the committees today in the Church. I think the multitude in the Church will have to get converted themselves before they can lead any one else to Christ. It is my firm conviction, after many years of experience in the work, that half the people in the Church have never been converted, have never been born again. I take up a bottle of water, uncork it and take a drink. That is experimental. One sip of water can convince me more of its power to slake thirst than 40,000 books written on the subject. You know quinine is bitter because you have experimented; you know fire will burn because you have experimented; you know ice will freeze; it is cold; you have experimented.
A man must experience religion to know God. All you know of God is what you read in some book or what you heard somebody else talk about; you haven't lived so that you could learn first-handed, so most of your religion is second-handed. There is too much second-hand stuff in the Church. It is your privilege to know and to have salvation. Jesus said to Peter: "When you are converted strengthen your brethren." You are not in a position to help anybody else unless you have been helped yourself.
So many church members know nothing about the Bible. A preacher will take a text from the Bible and get as far from it as the East is from the West. A young preacher just out of the seminary said: "Must I confine myself in my preaching to the Bible?" Just like a shrimp who would say, '' Must I confine my roaming to the Atlantic Ocean?" Imagine a little minnow saying: "Must I confine myself to the Atlantic Ocean?" "Must I confine myself to the Bible?" Just as if his intellect would exhaust it in two or three sermons.
We have cut loose from the Bible, and any man who is living contrary to the Bible is a sinner, whether he feels like a sinner or not. Every man who is living contrary to the laws is a criminal, whether he feels like it or not. A man who breaks the law of God is a sinner, and is on the road to hell, whether he feels like it or like a saint. Jesus came into the world to reveal God to man, and man reveals him to man. The only revelation we have of Jesus is through the Bible. You have got to know Jesus to know God; that's how I get through there. There is no revelation for God to make of himself greater than he has made through Jesus Christ. It is not possible for the human intellect to have a greater conception of God. Every man needs Christ. Jesus is the Saviour that he needs and he has got to know the Bible to show what it is that makes Jesus the Saviour. He needs a Saviour and now is the time to accept the Saviour and be saved. That's what the Bible says. Whatever the Bible says, write "finish" after it and stop.
Feeding the Spiritual Life
Then you need the Holy Spirit. Without him you cannot do anything. The spirit of God works through clean hands. There are too many dirty hands, too many dirty people trying to preach a clean gospel. I have known men that have preached the truth and God has honored the truth, although their lives were not as they should be. But God honored the truth and not the people who preached the truth. But if they had been Christians themselves then God would have honored them more, because he would have honored them and the truth.
Prayer. Three-fourths of the church members have no family prayer. They let spiritual life starve. That is the reason the pews are full of driftwood; that is the reason that religion is but a mirage to many.
Pray God to give you power. Pray God to give you power to carry on his work after you have become converted. I don't preach a sermon that I don't pray God for help, and I never finish a sermon that I don't thank God that I have preached it. Then I say: "Lord, you take care of the seed I have sown in that sermon." I think the Church needs a baptism of good, pure "horse sense."
Pure hearts. If I have any iniquity in my heart the Lord will not come in. We need a wise head. We need horse sense in preaching. We need horse sense in what we do. I think God is constantly looking for a company of men and women that are constantly alive. There are too many dead ones. He needs men and women that are always at it, not only during the revival; we need to be full of faith; dead in earnest, never give up, a bulldog tenacity and stickto-it-iveness for the cause of God Almighty.
The Dignity of Personal Work
If it is beneath your dignity to do personal work then you are above your Master. If you are not willing to do what he did, then don't call him your Lord. The servant is not greater than the owner of the house. The chauffeur is not greater than the owner of the automobile. The servant on the railroad is not greater than the owners of the road. Certainly they are not greater than our Lord Jesus Christ.
It requires an effort to win souls to Christ. There is no harder work and none brings greater" results than winning souls.
You'll need courage. It is hard to do personal work and the devil will try to oppose you. You'll seek excuses to try to get out of it. Many people who attend the meetings regularly now will begin to stay at home when asked to do personal work. It will surprise you to see them lie to get out of doing personal work.
We need enthusiasm for God. If there is any place on God's earth that needs a baptism of enthusiasm, it is the church and the prayer-meetings. It is not popular in some communities and in some churches to be enthusiastic for God. You'll never accomplish anything without pure enthusiasm, and don't be afraid of being a religious enthusiast. Religion is too cold. Formality is choking it in the pews.
There is nothing accomplished in war, politics or religion, without enthusiasm. Admiral Decatur once gave this toast: "My country: May she always be right, but right or wrong, my country!" That's enthusiasm.
Perseverance is needed to conquer in this old life. Perseverance is contagious, not an epidemic. Religion is contagious. Roman soldiers shortened their swords and added to their kingdom. You shorten the distance between you and the sinner and you'll add to the kingdom of God. The trouble is you have been trying to reach them with a ten-foot pole. Drop your dignity and formality and walk up to them; take them by the hand. You are too dignified. You sit in your fine homes and see the town going to hell.
We need carefulness to win souls. The way to win souls is to be careful what you say. Study the disposition of the person with whom you talk.
We need tact. Personal work is the department of the church efficient to deal with the individual and not the masses. It is analogous to the sharpshooter in the army so dreaded by the opposing forces. The sharpshooter picks out the pivotal individual instead of shooting at the mass. The preacher shoots with a siege gun at long range. You can go to the individual and dispose of his difficulties. I shoot out there two or three hundred feet and you sit right beside people. If I were a physician and you were sick I'd not prescribe en masse, I'd go down and see you individually. I'd try to find out what was the matter and prescribe what you needed. All medicine is good for something, but not for everything.
We need sympathy. One of the noblest traits of the human character is sympathy. It levels mountains, warms the broken heart and melts the iceberg. Have sympathy with the sinner. Not with sin, but the fact that he is one. God hates sin and the devil. He will not compromise. Have sympathy with the girl who sins, but not with the sin that ruined her. Get down on the ground where the others are. You are away up there saved, but you must get down and help the sinner.
Five Classes of People
There are five classes of people and this classification will touch every man and woman, whether in Scranton, New York or London.
First, those who can not attend church, and you will always find some. Some are sick, shut in; some have to work in hotels and restaurants; the maids in your house have to get your meals, the railroad men have to go out, the furnaces must be kept going in the steel works.
Second, those who can attend and who do not attend church. There are millions of people that can and don't attend church. Some fellows never darken the church door until they die, and they carry their old carcass in to have a large funeral. It is no compliment to any man, and it is an insult to manhood, and disgrace to the individual, that he never darkens the church door. But he darkens the door of the grog shop any day.
Third, those who can and do attend church and who are not moved by the preaching. There are lots of people who come out of curiosity.
Fourth, those who can go to church and those who do go to church and are moved by the preaching and convicted but not converted. Every man that hears the truth is convicted. Talk to those men about Jesus Christ. Get them to take their stand for righteousness.
Fifth, those who can and do go to church and are convicted by the preaching and converted. They need strengthening. They are converted now, but they need the benefit of your experience. You say, "Where will I find these people to talk to them?" Where won't you find them? Where can you find a place where they are not? You will only find one place where they are not and that is in the cemetery. Right in your neighborhood, right in your block, how many are Christians? Is your husband a Christian? Are your children Christians? If they are, let them alone and get after somebody else's husband and children. Don't sit down and thank God that your husband and children are Christians. Suppose I were to say: "My family, my George, my Nell, my Paul, my Helen are Christians!" We are all Christians, let the rest of the world go to the devil. There is too much of that spirit in the Church today.
Go from house to house. Go to the people in your block, in your place of business. Have you said anything to the telephone girl when you called her up? You are quick enough to jump on her when she gives you the wrong number. Have you said anything to the delivery boy—to the butcher? Have you asked the milkman? Have you said anything to the newsboy who throws your paper on the doorstep at night? Have you called them up at the newspaper office? Have you said anything to the girl who waits on you at the store; to the servant who brings your dinner in at home; to the woman who scrubs your floors? Where will you find them?—where won't you find them?
The Privilege of Personal Work
Personal work is a great privilege. Not that God needs us, but that we need him. Jesus Christ worked. "I must do the works of Him that sent me." So must you. He didn't send me to work and you to loaf. Honor the God that gives you the privilege to do what he wants. Jesus worked.
Please God and see how it will delight your soul. If you'll win a soul you will have a blessing that the average church member knows nothing about. They are absolute strangers to the higher Christian life. We need an aroused church. An anxious church makes anxious sinners.
If all the Methodist preachers would each save a soul a month there would be 460,000 souls saved in a year. If all the Baptist preachers would each save a soul a month there would be 426,000 souls saved in a year. If all the other evangelical preachers would save a soul a month there would
be 1,425,000 souls saved a year. Over 7,000 Protestant churches recently "~*\ made report of no accessions on confession of faith. Christ said to preach the gospel to all the world and that means every creature in the world.
Listen to this: There are 13,000,000 young men in this country between the ages of sixteen and thirty years; 12,000,000 are not members of any church, Protestant or Catholic; 5,000,000 of them go to church occasionally; 7,000,000 never darken a church door from one year's end to another. They fill the saloons and the houses of ill fame, the haunts of vice and corruption, and yet most young men have been touched by some Sunday-school influences; but you don't win them for God and they go into the world never won for God.
I want to tell you if you want to solve the problem for the future get hold of the young men now. Get them for God now. Save your boys and girls. Save the young man and woman and you launch a life-boat.
At the Iroquois fire in Chicago six hundred people were burned to death. One young woman about seventeen years of age fought through the crowd, but her hair was singed from her head, her clothes were burned, her face blistered. She got on a street car to go to her home in Oak Park. She was wringing her hands and crying hysterically, and a woman said to her: "Why, you ought to be thankful you escaped with your life."
"I escaped—but I didn't save anybody; there are hundreds that died. To think that I escaped and didn't save anybody."
In Pennsylvania there was once a mine explosion, and the people were rushing there to help. Up came an old miner seventy or eighty years of age, tired, tottering and exhausted. He threw off his vest, his coat and hat and picked up a pick and shovel Some of them stopped him and said: "What is the matter? You are too old; let some of the younger ones do that. Stand back."
The old fellow said: "My God, I've got two boys down there 1"
So you see it seems to make all the difference when you've got some boy down there.
Who is wise? You say Andrew Carnegie, the millionaire, is wise, the mayor, the judge, the governor, the educator, the superintendent of schools, the principal of the high school, the people who don't worry or don't live for pleasure, the inventor. But what does the Lord say? The Lord says, "He who winneth souls is wise."