by Billy Sunday
“He that winneth souls is wise.” — Proverbs 11:30
There are vast multitudes in this enlightened land of ours who are in open rebellion against God. “We will not have this man, Jesus Christ, to reign over us,” is the heartless cry that winds its flight from office, shop, store, factory, home, college, and the busy mart of trade. Lots of people are willing, my friends, to accept whatever they want from the Bible. They would like to codify it; they would like to sit down and eliminate that which isn’t pleasant to them to receive and which they don’t like to adjust their lives to, and insert something they would like. You take it as it is given, and if you don’t, you will go to Hell. God almighty won’t adjust His principles to suit the opinions of anybody. The Lord has made His revelation known to the world, and it is up to you and not to the Lord. He has done all He ever will or can do to save this world. He has given sunshine and rain and ground; it is up to you to plant the seed, to plow it or starve to death. God has done His part; He will do no more.
Church and Business Fail Because They Have No Definite Aim
They say they will give us the Sermon on the Mount, or the Decalogue, minus the things that they don’t like. They say, “We have no king but self”; and the only law that multitudes of people recognize is the law of their own desires and ambitions. They do the thing because they personally want to do it, and they do not give a rap what influence it has upon their character of what influence their conduct has upon others who are looking to them for an example. All the law they know is the law of their own desire. That’s all!
“And so our Lord is now rejected; And by the world disowned. By the many still neglected, But by the few enthroned.”
That is true of the denominations that are represented in these meetings, too. Out in a western state four years ago a report was made that during that year (there were 300 churches of that denomination in that state and they spent $300,000 for current expenses) they held 46,000 meetings and during the year there were just 87 men and women converted and joined those churches on confession of faith. I suppose that is this safe and sane evangelism that I hear so much about. It wouldn’t take the world long to get into Hell if that is all there is to it! In Chicago just a few years ago the church made a report. There was an average of five who joined each church on confession of faith — some more, some less — but it averaged five for a year. And the last year 7,5000 churches of all denominations made reports and not one accession that year on confession of faith. All right, look at it! Just face the conditions and you will see why probably I talk in a way that grates on your nerves, but you will realize that I am only telling you the truth.
Now, what is lacking? Why these meager results? Why the expenditure of so much energy and time and money? It is because there is not a definite effort put forth to persuade a definite person to accept a definite Saviour at a definite time — and that time is NOW. That is the whole thing in a nutshell, boiled down to one sentence. That is why we are not making headway.
But wait! This element of failure is not simply confined to the church. Ninety-nine per cent of the businessmen fail. A banker told me in Chicago that forty years ago there were one hundred business houses, any one of whose paper would have passed without protest, and today only four of those houses were named. The rest of them have been ruined, gone into bankruptcy, gone out of business. There were four of them after forty years and they all passed without protest at any bank.
Only about three men out of a thousand succeed. Seventy five percent of the lawyers who graduate from law school fail to make good. Sixty five percent of the physicians fail to make good. The failure of these three classes is due largely to the lack of definite, systematic work. No political battle is won on the stump. It is not the spellbinders from the rear end of a special train who turn the vote. Sometimes a bleary-eyed, bloated-faced, bull-necked, whiskey-soaked, tinhorn politician will win more votes than the most silver-tongued spellbinder who ever spouted the principles from the rear end of a special train.
Now to give you an illustration. New York State used to be the pivot state in the presidential election. It isn’t anymore. They don’t care how New York goes anymore. But it used to be “As goes New York.” Everybody knows that the State of New York is Republican. Everybody knows that the city of New York is Democratic. In the State the Republican party figures that it must have about 125,000 or 150,000 majority to overcome the Democratic majority in New York. So when Ben Harrison and Grover Cleveland ran for President in 1888, they went to work. They took the city, divided it, and subdivided it until they got it down into blocks. They had a man over every section and every subdivision, and they had the leading businessmen of the city in those places.
Those men used to meet every day. They used to pound this into them: “You are not responsible for who is elected; you are not responsible for who goes to Washington, Harrison or Cleveland. You are not responsible who carries this state, this city; but you are responsible to know every man in your block and to know how he votes, and if he votes.” They kept pounding that one thing into the men — “Know the block! Know the block!”
They watched the town, and when the votes were counted, Ben Harrison went to Washington instead of Grover Cleveland. That was the way they put it over.
Now that is what Jesus Christ said. In other words, men will work harder to win in business and politics than the church will in religion. I am disgusted with them all! You think you can just open your church door and ring a church bell and people will come. That has been going on long enough. The church has got to wake up and do something.
You simply think that because the calendar announces that it is the Lord’s day that that is all you have to do, and that if you put on a little better dress and look a little more pious that that is serving the Lord, and you go to the Devil six days in the week.
I know of a varnish company in this country that pays a man ten thousand dollars a year to look nice. He is a good dresser; he is a good mixer. He has a smile that doesn’t come off. He never tries to sell varnish, but he paves the way for the fellow who comes from the firm to sell the varnish to the big railroads and the big institutions that buy it. All he does is just sort of win their friendship and make it easy for the guy who does sell the varnish. They pay him ten thousand a year just for that.
That is the way people do in order to succeed in business. What is the church doing to win people for Christ? I bet alot of you don’t know whether or not people right around in your neighborhood are Christians. We never do anything; no wonder the world is going to the Devil.
Soul Winning, the Most Effective Work in the World
Another thing; it is the simplest and most effective work in the world. Andrew wins Peter; Peter turns around and wins three thousand at Pentecost.
Years ago a man went into a shoe store in Boston and found a young fellow selling shoes and boots. He talked to him about Jesus Christ and won him for Christ. The name of that little boy was Dwight L. Moody. Do you know the name of the man who won Moody for Christ? I don’t suppose there are five people in this audience who do. His name was Kimball. God used Kimball to win Moody, but He used Moody to win the multitude.
Andrew didn’t have sense enough to win the multitude, but Peter did. That is the way God works! Oh, I get so sick of people being dead! You have sat around so long you have mildewed.
The Earl of Shaftsbury, who gave sixty-five years of his life working among the costermongers, the fallen, the submerged and mudsills of London, was won to Jesus Christ by a servant girl in his home. He was wavering, going down the line with the gang of young bloods when his father died. This servant girl, a godly girl, said “You inherit all the honor and all the wealth that goes along with the name of Shaftsbury, but are you going to a premature grave because of the way you are going, the life you are living, and bring disgrace upon your father’s memory and your mother’s?” The Earl of Shaftsbury, when he was eighteen years old, fell on his knees and gave his heart to Jesus Christ. When he died, his funeral was the greatest ever held in England except when a king or queen had died.
See what she did? She won him to the Lord and then the Lord took him and used him to win the multitudes. Charles G. Finney, after learning the name of a man or a woman, invariably asked, “Are you a Christian?”
The Soul-Winning Work of John Vassar
John Vassar was one of the greatest personal workers of the nineteenth century. He never preached a sermon but that he did personal work. He was a wonder. One time he was going to help a preacher in a town. This preacher met Vassar at the Depot. Walking down to the hotel they went past a blacksmith shop. He said to Vassar, “There’s a blacksmith in there. He’s got a great drag with his crowd but he never comes to church. If we could only win him, then he would win scores in his class.” Vassar asked, “Have you talked to him?” “Oh, we are afraid. He will cuss any preacher who comes near him.” He said, “Wait a minute until I take my turn.” Vassar went in. The man was shoeing a mule — that isn’t a good time to talk religion to a man, take it from me! But Vassar had good sense and waited until the fellow was through and had disarmed his prejudice. In fifteen minutes he had him on his knees weeping like a child. He went up to the hotel where he was to be entertained . He registered, then strolled around, looking for somebody to speak to. He went into a little reception room and there sat a finely dressed lady. He walked up to her and said, “Lady, are you a Christian?” She said, “Yes, I am.” “I beg your pardon,” he said, “I didn’t mean that kind. I mean, have you been born again?”
“Oh,” she said, “we’ve gotten over that here in Boston.” “Well,” he said, “lady, you’ve gotten over Jesus Christ in Boston, too. You’ve gotten over God.” He talked with her until her prejudice was disarmed and tears trickled down her cheeks; then he said, “May I pray for you?” She said, “I wish you would. God knows I need it, although I’m a member of the church.”
He prayed. She wept and he slipped out. Her husband came in and noticed that her eyes were red. He said, “Has anybody insulted you?” She said, “The queerest little man was here a little while ago and he talked so nice to me about Jesus.” He said, “If I had been here I would have told him to go along and mind his business.” She said, “I wish you had been here. You would have thought he was minding his business. His business was a mission for his King, to bring people to Jesus Christ.”
Vassar distributed tracts in the army. He worked with the American Bible Society. When the chaplain died, they wanted Vassar to take the place of the chaplain. He wasn’t ordained and the government law does not allow anybody to be a chaplain who hasn’t been ordained. He came up to Poughkeepsie and they were examining him. One fellow with cinders all over his back, said, “Mr. Vassar, your duty now is to distribute tracts. Your salary is three hundred dollars a year, and you wish to be ordained?”
“Does that mean an increase of salary?”
“Yes, sir, fifteen hundred dollars a year.”
Then he said, “The increase of salary has allured you and brought you here for us to ordain.”
Vassar said, “Stop where you are! I don’t want it; I won’t take it if you give it to me”, and he wouldn’t. He went back to distributing tracts for three hundred dollars a year, to do something for Jesus Christ. He was a wonder. God did marvelous things through him.
“Are you lonesome?” a man asked a lighthouse keeper. “Are you lonesome out on this lonesome spot?” He said, “I was before I saved four men from drowning…Is that a boat out there?” He was always on the lookout for other boats that he might save men from a watery grave.
Get somebody else for Jesus Christ and you will get a new vision of life, a new vision of what it means. It is something besides going to church and keeping warm a little spot seventeen inches square for a half hour and listening to a sermonette. You had better squirm around in your seat and stoop down! You had better duck!
“He that winneth souls is wise.” Some people think it is beneath their dignity. Then you live on a higher plane than your Master, for He went about doing good wherever he was in the world.
A lady said to a friend of mine, “Do you think that my blindness will hinder me?” My friend answered, “It is a misfortune, but I don’t know. I have the opinion it will be a help to you, because people will come up to you to express their sympathy for your lack of sight and that will give you the opportunity to speak of Jesus.”
“Oh,” she said, “I don’t mean in an effort like that, but to stand on the platform.” She thought the only way to serve God was to get in the spotlight, not to be doing something with the people whom she might shake hands with day by day in her home.
A man was thinking of entering evangelistic work. He came to my friend, Dr. Chapman, and said, “I am thinking of entering evangelistic work.”
“That’s good.” Dr. Chapman said.
“I think I will begin out in Colorado — Denver and Colorado Springs, and out in Pasadena, California. My relatives are there.”
My friend said, “Have you any brothers or sisters?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Are they Christians?”
“Well,” he said, “I don’t know. When we set up the estate four years ago my brother and I had a quarrel over it and we haven’t spoken since.”
“And your sister?”
“My sister took my brother’s views of the proposition and she hasn’t spoken to me since. I haven’t been in her home.”
Dr. Chapman said, “What do you intend to do?”
He said, “Evangelistic work.”
Dr. Chapman said, “The Bible says, ‘First be reconciled to thy brother.’ If you start out the way you are, failure is written all over you. ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me,’ the Bible tells me, so there is no use trying to bother your head about God for He won’t listen to you. That’s as sure as you live.”
by Billy Sunday