"A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ"
I'd rather undertake to save ten drunkards than one old financial Shylock—it would be easier.—Billy Sunday.
SYMPATHETIC observers comment in distressed tones upon the physical exhaustion of Sunday after every one of his addresses. He speaks with such intensity and vigor that he is completely spent by every effort. To one who does not know that he has worked at this terrific pace for near a score of years it seems as if the evangelist is on the verge of a complete collapse. He certainly seems to speak "as a dying man to dying men." The uttermost ounce of his energy is offered up to each audience. Billy Sunday is an unsparing worker.
For a month or six weeks of every year he gives himself to rest. The remainder of the year he is under a strain more intense than that of a great political campaign. Even his Monday rest day, which is supposed to be devoted to recuperation, is oftener than not given to holding special meetings in some other city than the one wherein he is campaigning. Speaking twice or oftener every day, to audiences averaging many thousands, is a tax upon one's nerve force and vitality beyond all computation. In addition to this, Sunday has his administrative work, with its many perplexities and grave responsibilities.
Withal, the evangelist, like every other man preeminent in his calling, suffers a great loneliness; he has few intimates who can lead his mind apart from his work. What says Kipling, in his "Song of Diego Valdez," the lord high admiral of Spain, who pined in vain for the comradeship of his old companions, but who, in the aloneness of eminence, mourned his solitary state?
"They sold Diego Valdez
To bondage of great deeda."
The computable aggregate of Sunday's work is almost unbelievable. His associates say that his converts number about three hundred thousand persons. That is a greater total than the whole membership of the entire Christian Church, decades after the resurrection of our Lord. Imagine a city of a quarter of a million inhabitants, every one of whom was a zealous disciple of Jesus Christ. What a procession these "trail-hitters" would make could they all be gathered into one great campaign parade!
Of course these converts are not all trophies of Billy Sunday's preaching power. He has not won them alone. He has merely stood in the forefront, as the agent of the Church, with vast co-operative forces behind him. Nevertheless, he has been the occasion and the instrument for this huge accomplishment in the Church's conquest.
When it comes to counting up the aggregate size of Sunday's audiences, one is tempted not to believe his own figures, for the total runs up into the millions, and even the tens of millions. Probably no living man has spoken to so great numbers of human beings as Billy Sunday.
More eloquent than any comment upon the magnitude and number of his meetings is the following summary of his campaigns gathered from various sources. Sunday himself does not keep records of his work. His motto seems to be, "Forgetting those things which are behind."
In 1904-5 Billy Sunday visited various cities of Illinois, where conversions ranged in numbers from 650 to 1,800; in Iowa, where conversions ranged from 400 to 1,000; and in a few other towns. In 1905-6 numerous campaigns in Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota produced converts ranging from 550 to 2,400, the highest number being reached in Burlington, Iowa. In 1906-7 the converts numbered over 12,000, with a maximum of 3,000 in Kewanee, Illinois. In 1907-8 campaigns in Illinois and Iowa, and one in Sharon, Pennsylvania, reported over 24,000 converts in all, with a maximum of 6,700 in Decatur, Illinois. In 1908-9 the total number of converts reached over 18,000, with 5,300 in Spokane, Washington, and 4,700 in Springfield, Illinois. In 1908-9 campaigns in various cities reported a total of 35,000 converts, with 6,600 in Newcastle, Pennsylvania, 5,900 in Youngstown, Ohio, and 5,000 in Danville, Illinois. In 1911-12 campaigns in cities of Ohio, in Erie, Pennsylvania, and in Wichita, Kansas, reported a total of 36,000 converts, with 7,600 in Toledo, and 6,800 in Springfield. In 1912-13 campaigns in other Ohio and Pennsylvania cities and in Fargo, North Dakota; South Bend, Indiana; and Wheeling, West Virginia, brought 81,000 converts, with a minimum in Fargo of 4,000, and a maximum of 18,000 in Columbus.
The following table gives statistics for some of the cities in which campaigns have resulted in more than five thousand conversions:
Wilkes-Barre's 16,000 conversions bore an extraordinary relation to the population of the city, which is but 67,105.
Prior to the Sunday campaign in Steubenville, Ohio, September and October, 1913 (where the converts numbered 8,000), the town had gone "wet" by 1,400 majority; after the meetings it went "dry" by 300 majority.
Johnstown, Pennsylvania, with a campaign held November and December, 1913, reported 12,000 conversions, and a Billy Sunday Anti-saloon League of 10,000 men. The fame of the Pittsburgh campaign, January and February, 1914, is in all the churches; 27,000 converts were reported.
Mrs. Sunday is my authority for these and the following details of recent meetings:
The Scranton campaign (March and April, 1914) was unusual in several respects. It not only reported 18,000 converts, but it also held the greatest industrial parade, under distinctively Christian auspices, that the country has ever seen.
During 1914 the evangelist also worked in Huntington, W. Va.; in Colorado Springs, in Denver, and in Des Moines, all successful meetings.
Concerning the Philadelphia meetings, during the first quarter of 1915, it is difficult to speak with moderation, for they, above anything else this generation has known, have made the Gospel a vital national issue.
As a physical feat, the preaching of an average of two sermons a day, each an hour long and to fifteen thousand persons, for seventy-eight days, is probably without parallel in the history of public speaking. Sunday literally was the dominant theme of the city's conversation and interest.
From one service twenty thousand persons were turned away, unable to gain admission. The requests for delegation reservations in a single day totaled 129,000 persons.
Eleven hundred cases, mostly of fainting, were treated in the Tabernacle hospital; five thousand babies were cared for in the nursery.
The demand for Bibles was so great that one newspaper sold an average of five hundred Bibles a day during the campaign. Fifty thousand men were added to the Bible classes of Philadelphia.
In reading such a compilation as the foregoing, it is to be remembered that in all things that affect spiritual values the only true record is that which is kept in another world.
SUNDAY'S "CONSECRATION" SERMON
"I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
The armies of God are never made up of drafted men and women, ordered into service whether willing or not. God never owned a slave. God doesn't want you to do anything that you can't do without protest. This is not a call to hard duty, but an invitation to the enjoyment of a privilege. It is not a call to hired labor to take the hoe and go into the field, but the appeal of a loving father to his children to partake of all he has to give.
If there is nothing in you that will respond to God's appeal when you think of his mercies, I don't think much of you. The impelling motive of my text is gratitude, not fear. It looks to Calvary, not to Sinai. We are being entreated, not threatened. That's the amazing thing to me. To think that God would .entreat us—would stand to entreat us! He is giving me a chance to show I love him.
If you are not ready to offer it in gratitude, God doesn't want you to serve him through fear, but because you realize his love for you, and appreciate and respond to it.
A business man who loves his wife will never be too busy to do something for her, never too busy to stop sometimes to think of how good she has been and what she has done for him. If men would only think of the things God has done for them there would be less card-playing, less thought of dinners and of concerts and other diversions of the world. God wants us to sit down and think over his goodness to us. The man who doesn't isn't worth a nickel a punch. Has God done anything for us as a nation, has he done anything for us as individuals, that commands our gratitude?
Astronomers have counted three hundred and eighty million stars, and they have barely commenced. Why, you might as well try to count those countless stars as to try to count God's mercies. You might as well try to count the drops of water in the sea or the grains of sand upon the shore. If we only think, we shall say with David: "According to Thy tender mercies."
An old lady said one morning that she would try to count all God's mercies for that one day, but at noon she was becoming confused, and at three o'clock she threw up her hands and said: "They come three times too fast for me to count."
Just think of the things we have to be thankful for! A visitor to an insane asylum was walking through the grounds and as he passed one of the buildings he heard a voice from a barred window high up in the wall and it said: "Stranger, did you ever thank God for your reason?" He had never thought of that before, but he says that he has thought of it every day since. Did you ever think that thousands of people who were just as good as you are, are beating their heads against the walls of padded cells? Did you ever think what a blessed thing it is that you are sane and you go about among men and follow your daily duties, and go home to be greeted by your wife and have your children climb about you?
Did you ever thank God for your eyes? Did you ever thank him that you can see the sunrise and the sunset and can see the flowers and the trees and look upon the storm? Did you ever thank God that you have two good eyes while so many others less fortunate than you must grope their way in blindness to the coffin?
Did you ever thank God for hearing? That you can hear music and the voices of friends and dear ones? That you can leave your home and business, and come here and hear the songs and the preaching of the word of God? Did you ever think what it would mean to be deaf?
Did you ever thank God for the blessing of taste? Some people can't tell whether they are eating sawdust and shavings or strawberries and ice cream. Think of the good things we enjoy! Others have tastes so vicious that they find it almost impossible to eat. God might have made our food taste like quinine.
Did you ever thank God that you can sleep? If not, you ought to be kept awake for a month. Think of the thousands who suffer from pain or insomnia so that they can sleep only under opiates. Did you ever wake up in the morning and thank God that you have had a good night's rest? If you haven't, God ought to keep you awake for a week, then you'd know you've had reason to be thankful.
Did you ever thank God for the doctors and nurses and hospitals? For the surgeon who comes with scalpel to save your life or relieve your sufferings? If it had not been for them you'd be under the grass. For the nurse who watches over you that you may be restored to health?
Did you ever thank God for the bread you eat, while so many others are hungry? Did you ever thank him for the enemy that has been baffled, for the lie against you that has failed?
Out in Elgin, Illinois, I was taken driving by a friend, and he said that he wanted me to go with him to see a man. He took me to see a man who was lying in bed, with arms most pitifully wasted by suffering. The poor fellow said he had been in bed for thirty-two years, but he wasn't worrying about that. He said he was so sorry for the well people who didn't know Jesus, I went out thanking God that I could walk. If your hearts are not made of stone or adamant they will melt with gratitude when you think of the many mercies, the tender mercies, of God.
The Living Sacrifice
"Brethren"—that's what God calls his true followers. No speaking from the loft. If there's any lesson we need to learn it is that of being "brethren."
Sinners are not called "brethren" in the Bible. God commands sinners. They are in rebellion. He entreats Christians. When Lincoln called for volunteers he addressed men as "citizens of the United States," not as foreigners.
The man who is appreciative of God's mercies will not have much mercy on himself. Don't stand up and say: "I'll do what Jesus bids me to do, and go where he bids me to go," then go to bed. Present your bodies—not mine—not those of your wives; you must present your own. Present your bodies; not your neighbor's; not your children's; it is their duty to do that. Do you trust God enough to let him do what he wants to do?
Henry Varley said to Moody, when that great American was in England, that God is waiting to show this world what one man could do for him. Moody said: "Varley, by the grace of God I'll be that man"; and God took hold of Moody and shook the world with him. God would shake the world with us today if only we would present our bodies as a living sacrifice to him, as Moody did. Are you willing to present yourself? I am tired of a church of five hundred or seven hundred members without power enough to bring one soul to Christ.
At the opening of the Civil War many a man was willing that the country should be saved by able-bodied male relatives of his wife, who made themselves bullet-men, but he didn't go himself. God isn't asking for other men's bodies. He's asking for yours. If you would all give to God what rightfully belongs to him, I tell you he would create a commotion on earth and in hell. If God had the feet of some of you he would point your toes in different ways from those you have been going for many years. If he had your feet he would never head you into a booze joint. If he had your feet he would never send you into a ball-room. If he had the feet of some of you he would make you weai out shoe leather lugging back what you've taken that doesn't belong to you. If God had your feet he would take you to prayer-meeting. I'm afraid the preacher would have nervous prostration, for he hasn't seen some of you there in years. If God had your feet you'd find it harder to follow the devil. Some of you preachers have your children going to dancing school and I hear some of you go to dances. He would make your daily walk conform to the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount.
Some people work only with their mouths. God wants that part that's on the ground. Some soldiers sit around and smell the coffee and watch the bacon frying.
If God had your hands he would make you let go a lot of things you hold on to with a death-like grip. If you don't let go of some of the things you hold so tightly they will drag you down to hell. He would have you let go some of the things you pay taxes on, but don't own, and he would make you let go of money to pay taxes on some that you do own. Some people are so busy muck-raking that they will lose a crown of glory hereafter. If God had your hands, how many countless tears you would wash away. A friend of mine bought a typewriter, and when he tried to use it his fingers seemed to be all sticks, but now he can write fortyfive words a minute. Let God have your hands and he will make them do things that would make the angels wonder and applaud.
A Glass of Champagne
A young man went down to Thomasville, Alabama, and while there was invited to a dress ball—or rather an undress ball, if what I have read about such affairs properly describes the uniforms. A young lady—a young lady with eyes like the dove and with beautiful tresses—came up to him and said to the young man, "Won't you pledge a glass of champagne with me?"
The young man thanked her, but said: "No, I don't drink."
"Not with me?" she said, and smiled; and he repeated his answer, "No."
Then she said: "If I had thought you would refuse me I would not have asked you and exposed myself to the embarrassment of a refusal. I did not suppose you would think me bold for speaking to you in this way, and I thought you might be lonely."
A little later she came back to him and repeated her invitation. Again he said: "No."
Others came up and laughed. He took it and hesitated. She smiled at him and he gave in and drank the champagne, then drank another glass and another, until he was flushed with it. Then he danced.
At two o'clock the next morning a man with a linen duster over his other clothes walked back upon the railroadstation platform, waiting for a train for the North; and as he walked he would exclaim, "Oh God!" and would pull a pint flask from his pocket and drink. "My God," he would say, "what will mother say?" Four months later in his home in Vermont, with his weeping parents by him and with four strong men to hold him down, he died of delirium tremens.
The Epworth League's motto is: "Look up, lift up." But you'll never lift much up unless God has hold of your hands. Unless he has, you will never put your hands deep in your pocket, up to the elbows, and bring them up full of money for his cause. A man who was about to be baptized took out his watch and laid it aside; then he took out his knife and bank-book and laid them aside.
"Better give me your pocket-book to put aside for you," said the minister.
"No," said the man, "I want it to be baptized, too."
There's no such thing as a bargain-counter religion. Pure and undefiled religion will do more when God has something besides pennies to work with. God doesn't run any excursions to heaven. You must pay the full fare. Your religion is worth just what it cost you. If you get religion and then lie down and go to sleep, your joints will get stiff as Rip Van Winkle's did, and you'll never win the religious marathon.
Denying One's Self
A man said to his wife that he had heard the preacher say that religion is worth just what it costs, and that he had determined to give more for religion and to deny himself as well. "What will you give up?" she asked. He said that he would give up coffee—for he dearly loved coffee—used to drink several cups at every meal, the very best. She said that she would give up something, too—that she would give up tea. Then their daughter said she would give up some of her little pleasures, and the father turned to his son Tom, who was shoveling mashed potatoes, covered with chicken gravy, into his mouth. He said, "I'll give up salt mackerel. I never did like the stuff, anyway."
There are too many salt-mackerel people like that in the pews of our churches today. They will take something that they don't like, and that nobody else will have, and give it to the Lord. That isn't enough for God. He wants the best we have.
God wants your body with blood in it. Cain's altar was bigger than Abel's, but it had nothing valuable on it, while Abel's had real blood. God rejected Cain's and accepted Abel's. God turns down the man who merely lives a moral life and does not accept the religion of Jesus Christ. You must come with Jesus' blood. How thankful you are depends on how much you are willing to sacrifice.
I don't believe that the most honored angel in heaven has such a chance as we have. Angels can't suffer. They can't make sacrifices. They can claim that they love God, but we can prove it.
What would you think of a soldier if when he was ordered "Present arms," he would answer, "Tomorrow"; if he would say, "When the man next to me does"; if he would say, "When I get a new uniform"? "Present"—that means now. It is in the present tense. God wants us to make a present of our bodies to him—because we love him.
A little girl showed a man some presents she had received and he asked her, "How long may you keep them?"
"How long?" she answered. "Why, they were given to me. They are mine!"
Many a man gives his boy a colt or a calf, then when it has grown to a horse or a cow he sells it and pockets the money. Some of you fellows need to do a little thinking along that line. When we give our bodies, they ought to be His for keeps.
Thinking for God
If when you make a present you do not mean to give it outright, you are not honest. "Will a man rob God?" You bet he will—a heap quicker than he will rob any one else.
Your body, that takes the head as well as hands. God wants brains as well as bones and muscles. We ought to do our best thinking for God. God is in the greatest business there is, and he wants the best help he can get. Some of you old deacons and elders make me sick. If you used such methods in business as you do in the work of the Church the sheriff's sale flag would soon be hanging outside your door. I don't ask any of you business men to curtail any of your business activities, but I do ask that you give more of your energy to the things of religion. You want to use good business methods in religion. The Republicans and the Democrats and the Socialists use good business methods in politics. The farmer who hasn't any sense is still plowing with a forked stick. The farmer who has sense uses a modern plow. Use common sense.
Bishop Taylor promised God that he would do as much hard thinking and planning for him as he would do for another man for money. He did it. So did Wesley and Whitefield and Savonarola, and look what they did for God! If there is any better way of doing God's business than there was one hundred years ago, for God's sake do it! He's entitled to the best there is. This thing of just ringing the church bell to get people to come in is about played out. In business, if they have a machine that is out of date and doesn't produce good results, it goes onto the scrap heap. If a man can produce a machine that can enlarge the product or better it, that machine is adopted at once. But in religion we have the same old flint-lock guns, smooth-bore; the same old dips and tallow candles; the same old stage coaches over corduroy roads; and if a protest is made some of you will roll your eyes as if you had on a hair shirt, and say: "Surely this is not the Lord's set time for work." I tell you any time is God's time. Now is God's time. It was God's time to teach us about electricity long before Franklin discovered it, but nobody had sense enough to learn.
It was God's time to give us the electric light long before Edison invented it, but nobody had sense enough to understand it. It was God's set time to give us the steam engine long before Watts watched the kettle boil and saw it puff the lid off, but nobody had sense enough to grasp the idea.
If God Almighty only had possession of your mouths, he'd stop your lying. If he had your mouths he'd stop your knocking. If he had your mouths, he'd stop your misrepresentations. If he had your mouths, he'd stop your swearing. If he had your mouths, he'd stop your back-biting. If he had your mouths, he'd stop your slanders. There would be no criticizing, no white lies, no black lies, no social lies, no talking behind backs.
If God had your mouths, so much money wouldn't go up in tobacco smoke or out in tobacco spit. If God had your mouths, there would be no thousands of dollars a year spent for whisky, beer and wine. You wouldn't give so much to the devil and you would give more to the Church. Many of you church pillars wouldn't be so noisy in politics and so quiet in religion. So many of you fellows wouldn't yell like Comanche Indians at a ratification meeting and sit like a bump on a log in prayer-meeting.
If God had our eyes he'd bring the millennium. His eyes run to and fro through the world seeking for men to serve him; and if he had our eyes, how our eyes would run to and fro looking for ways to help bring men to Christ. How hard it would be for sinners to get away. We would be looking for drunkards, and the prostitutes and down-and-outs, to lift and save them. How many sorrowful hearts we would find and soothe, how many griefs we would alleviate! Great God! How little you are doing. Don't you feel ashamed? Aren't you looking for a knot-hole to crawl through? If God had our eyes how many would stop looking at a lot of things that make us proud and unclean and selfish and critical and unchristian
What God Asks
God wants you to give your body. Are you afraid to give it to him? Are you afraid of the doctor when you are sick? Your body—that thing that sits out there in the seat, that thing that sits up there in the choir and sings, that thing that sits there and writes editorials, that body which can show Jesus Christ to fallen sons of Adam better than any angel—that's what God wants. God wants you to bring it to him and say: "Take it, God, it's yours." If he had your body, dissipation, overeating and undersleeping would stop, for the body is holy ground. We dare not abuse it.
A friend of mine paid $10,000 for a horse. He put him in a stable and there the animal had care-takers attending him day and night, who rubbed him down, and watched his feet to take care that they should not be injured, and put mosquito netting on the windows, and cooled him with electric fans, and sprinkled his oats and his hay. They wanted to keep him in shape, for he was worth $10,000 and they wanted him for the race-track. Give your body to God, and the devil will be welcome to anything he can find.
God wants your body as a living sacrifice, not a dead one. There are too many dead ones. A time was when God was satisfied with a dead sacrifice. Under old Jewish law a dead sheep would do. He wants my body now when I'm alive and not when I am dead and the undertaker is waiting to carry it out to the cemetery. The day of that dispensation is past, and now he wants you, a living sacrifice, a real sacrifice. A traveling man who wants to make his wife a present, and sits up all night in the train instead of taking a berth for three dollars and uses the three dollars to buy a present for his wife, makes a real sacrifice for her. There never was a victory without sacrifice. Socrates advanced the doctrine of immortality and died with a cup of poisoned hemlock. Jesus Christ paid with a crown of thorns. Abraham Lincoln paid with a bullet in his body. If you mean to give yourself as a sacrifice to God, get out and work for him. Ask men to come to him.
"A holy sacrifice." Some men shy at that word "holy" like a horse at an automobile. Holy vessels were set apart for use in the worship of God. To be holy is to be set apart for God's use—that's all. To be holy isn't to be long-faced and never smile.
"Acceptable unto the Lord." If that were true then this old desert would blossom like Eden. If that were taken as our watchword, what a stampede of short yardsticks, shrunken measures, light weights, adulterated foods, etc., there would be! What a stopping of the hitting up of booze! There would be no more living in sin and keeping somebody on the side, no more of you old deacons coming down the aisles stroking your whiskers and renting your buildings for houses of ill fame, and newspapers would stop carrying ads for tthisky and beer.
"No More Op You Old Deacons Coming Down The Aisles Stroking Your Whiskers"
"Your reasonable service." God never asks anything unreasonable. He is never exacting. He only asks rights when he asks you to forsake sin. A man must be an idiot if he does not see that man is unreasonable when unrighteous. God never made a law to govern you that you wouldn't have made if you had known as much as God knows. You don't know that much and never can, so the only sensible thing to do is to obey God's laws. Faith never asks explanation.
God asks some things that are hard, but never any that are unreasonable. I beseech you, brethren. It was hard for Abraham to take his son up on the mountain and prepare to offer him up as a sacrifice to God, but God had a reason. Abraham understands tonight, and Abraham is satisfied. It was hard for Joseph to be torn from his own people and to be sold into Egypt and to be lied about by that miserable woman, torn from his mother and father, but God had a reason. Joseph knows tonight, and Joseph is satisfied. It was hard for Moses to lead the Jews from Egypt, following the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night and make that crossing of the Red Sea, only to have God call him up to Mount Pisgah and show him the Promised Land and say: "Moses, you can't go in." It was hard, but God had a reason. Moses understands tonight, and Moses is satisfied. It was hard for Job to lose his children and all that he possessed and to be afflicted with boils, and to be so miserable that only his wife remained with him. But God had a reason. Job understands tonight, and Job is satisfied.
It was a hard thing God asked of Saul of Tarsus—to bear witness to him at Rome and Ephesus, to face those jeering heathen, to suffer imprisonment and be beaten with forty stripes save one, and finally to put his head on the block and have it severed by the order of old Nero, but God had a reason. Paul understands tonight, and Paul is satisfied. It was a hard thing God asked of Jesus—to leave the songs of the angels and the presence of the redeemed and glorified and come down to earth and be bor n amid the malodors of a stable, and be forced to flee from post to post, and dispute with the learned doctors in the temple at twelve years of age and confute them, and to still the storm and tie troubled waters, and to say to the blind, "Be whole," and finally to be betrayed by one of his own followers and to be murdered through a conspiracy of Jews and Gentiles; but now he sits on the throne with the Father, awaiting the time to judge the world. Jesus understands and Jesus is satisfied.
It was a hard thing for me when God told me to leave home and go out into the world to preach the gospel and be villified and libeled and have my life threatened and be denounced, but when my time comes, when I have preached my last sermon, and I can go home to God and the Lamb, he'll say, "Bill, this was the reason." I'll know what it all meant, and I'll say "I'm satisfied, God, I'm satisfied."