This is the day that … Billy Bray was born in 1794, in Cornwall, UK.
His early life was one of drunkenness and mischief … but in 1823 the Spirit of God laid hold of him and Billy became a “man in a new world”.
He became an evangelist for the Bible Christians, a branch of English Methodism.
For 40 years he itinerated around Cornwall, “singing, shouting, preaching, praying” – and his sayings became legendary … “I used to be a mad man, but now I’m a glad man.” “I can’t help praising the Lord. As I go along the street and I lift up one foot it says ‘Glory!’, and I lift up the other and it says ‘Amen!’.”
Billy Bray once said, “When the Lord converted my soul He gave me power to pray with the men before we went to our different places to work in the mines. I used to pray, ‘Lord, if any of us must be killed today, let it be me; let not one of these men die. If I die today I shall go to heaven’.” It isn’t much wonder that he saw many of those miners converted.
Criticized for his untuneful singing voice, Billy replied: “My Father likes to hear the crow as well as the nightingale, for He made them both!”
And on his deathbed, on 25 May, 1868, he spoke to his doctor, “When I get up there, shall I give them your compliments, and tell them you will be coming too?”
Billy Bray was one of the most colourful characters in Church history. His biography, by F.W. Bourne, became a best seller – over 500,000 copies. And although he died over a century ago, “he remains a religious folk hero of the Methodist people of Cornwall” (The Glory Man, by C. Davey, page 8).
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond the Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.