Billy Sunday Moves a Nation

William Ashley (Billy) Sunday was born on November 19, in Iowa, USA, 1862.

He never saw his father. Billy, as he is better known, was born four months after his father had marched away to fight in the Civil War – never to return to see this third child. Billy lived with him mum, in a Soldier’s Orphans Home and with his grandfather during his growing years, then went through diverse jobs including fireman, janitor and undertaker’s assistant, before getting the chance to go to high school.

By 1880 baseball had become the passion of his life and in 1883 he left his amateur team to play with the Chicago White Stockings. Sunday gained nationwide recognition for his baseball prowess, becoming the first player to run the bases in 14 seconds. He also set records for stealing bases.

In 1886 he stopped to listen to a gospel band on a street corner and he then followed them to the Pacific Garden Mission on Van Buren Street. At that meeting he knelt to accept Christ.

In the years shortly following his conversion he married Helen Amelia Thompson, worked with the YMCA and gave public talks about Christian living while touring with his baseball team. His career advanced and he played with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also attended Northwestern University for a time, coaching the baseball team in return for his tuition.

Sunday turned down a $400 per month baseball salary (the average worker made $480 per year) for a $84 per month ministry position. Ball teams later offered $500- $2000 per month. Later in life he was offered $1,000,000 to be in the movies, but declined them all in order to continue the evangelistic ministry.

After working for some years with the YMCA and then as assistant to evangelist Wilbur Chapman, Billy Sunday launched out into an itinerant evangelistic ministry (1896-1935).

Thousands crammed into specially built ‘tabernacles’ with sawdust-lined aisles to hear the explosive preaching of this new revivalist.

“By the end of his career he had preached to 100 million souls, of whom a million had walked the ‘sawdust trail’ – that is, had responded to his invitation for them to accept Christ as Saviour (Christianity Today, June, 1991, page 36).

“His magnetic personality, blended with sensational speech and theatrical gestures, kept audiences spellbound!” says the Dictionary of Religious Biography, page 443.

His anti-booze sermon caused “scores of towns and counties” to go dry. Hotels went out of business. His acrobatic preaching meant “he had to change his sweat-soaked suit after each meeting”.

His song-leader, Homer Rodeheaver, wrote that when Billy preached his sermon “The Devil’s Boomerang” – “until he tempered it down a little … two to 10 men fainted every time I heard him preach it!” (Twenty Years with Billy Sunday, page 32).

Sunday contributed much to the Prohibition of alcoholic beverages, through his powerful anti-booze preaching, especially his famous “Get on the Water Wagon” sermon. In later life he devoted much energy in defending the Prohibition amendment from repeal. A battle which he and the temperance movement lost.

It has been pointed out that he was one of the most outstanding preachers of history, yet he has left virtually no legacy. John Wesley was also a great preacher, yet his legacy survives today. The difference between the men is that Wesley built systems which others could employ, while Sunday built only on his own temporary presence and talent. There is a lesson in there for all who wish to make a difference.

Sunday passed away after a heart attack in 1935 at age 73. Helen began an active ministry of her own following his death and continued touching lives for another 22 years.

Not without his faults and plagued by errant sons, nevertheless Billy Sunday stood tall among the giants of evangelism.

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 Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Thomas Chatterton Hammond Keeps Sydney Anglicans Evangelical

Thomas Chatterton Hammond died on November 16, 1961.

This man who was later to shore up evangelicalism on the other side of the world, was born on 20 February 1877 at Cork, County Cork, Ireland, youngest son of a farmer. Following his education at Cork Model School Thomas became a railway clerk at the age of 13.

He was involved with the YMCA, a very evangelical movement in those days, and received Christ. He was then led into full-time street preaching and mission work. This “evangelist, apologist and theological educator” cut his evangelistic teeth as an open-air preacher on the streets of Cork. The “boy Hammond”, as he was called, soon aroused the ire of Roman Catholic passers-by.

This was followed by two years of training, two years of itinerant evangelism, and then, in 1900, he entered Trinity College, Dublin. He became a rector of the Church of Ireland in 1905.

On 23 January 1906 Hammond married Margaret McNay, whose family had been closer to him than his own. He was an effective pastor, but also engaged in broader issues. He became a prolific pamphleteer and he had few equals as a public speaker, with “pungent and well-ordered eloquence”. As clerical superintendent of the Irish Church Missions from 1919 he controlled a large staff engaged in educational, welfare and evangelistic work. He wrote Authority in the Church (1921), a study of Anglican episcopacy and in 1926 he toured Canada and Australia, defending the Book of Common Prayer from threatened revision.

He became involved in the work of Inter Varsity Fellowship and “from this connection came an invitation to write an introductory hand-book of doctrine. In Understanding be Men was the result, an outstanding best-seller.

He was nearly 60 years of age when appointed Principal of Moore College in Sydney, Australia. He found the college understaffed and under-resourced, so he threw himself into building it up. Through his position there he greatly bolstered the evangelical emphasis that the Sydney Anglican Diocese became famous for.

One of his disappointments was that his more populist book, “In Understanding Be Men” became a standard text and was popular with the laity, while his more mature works—Perfect Freedom (London, 1938), a study in Christian ethics, Reasoning Faith (London, 1943), on Christian apologetics, and The New Creation (London, 1953), on the theology of regeneration—did not command similar support.

His weekly “Principles of Protestantism” radio broadcast opposed the teachings of Roman Catholicism and impacted many. And “T.C.” Hammond was ever ready to debate his opponents, finding the colonial situation much tamer than the tough environment in which he had grown up.

“T.C”, as he was affectionately know, retired from Moore College at the age of 75, and at the age of 84 he heard the Saviour’s “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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 Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

George Williams Births the YMCA

This is the day that … George Williams was born in Somerset, England, in 1821.

He was the youngest of the eight sons of Amos & Elisabeth Williams, of Ashway Farm.

His farming days came to an end when he drove a horse and cart laden with hay into a ditch, overturning the lot, himself included. Father and brothers decided young George should move to the city and earn a living there.

In doing so he was part of the massive 19th century shift from rural life to the dominance of the burgeoning English cities.

“I entered Bridgewater,” wrote George at a later date, “a careless, thoughtless, godless, swearing young fellow.” But his employer, Mr Holmes, a draper, was a Christian. And it was expected that all his employees attend the non-conformist chapel each Sunday morning.

Thus it was, at the age of 16, he was saved. “I cannot describe to you,” he writes, “the joy and peace that flowed into my soul when I first saw that the Lord Jesus had died for my sins and that they were all forgiven.”

From that moment on, Williams’ motto became: ‘It is not how little but how much we can do for others’. This led him to both evangelical and social enterprises.

Concerned with the many young fellows similarly employed, but with no interest in the things of Christ, George gathered 10 believers around him in his bedroom – 6 June, 1844 – and formed an association “for the promotion of the spiritual welfare of young men engaged in the drapery and other trades.”

The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was brought to birth. In its early days the evangelical witness was foremost. Regular activities included Bible classes, Gospel meetings, street meetings and devotions before most activity programs.

He also became active in improving conditions for the 150,000 London shop assistants in 1841 whose lives were still little removed from that of a slave. They were kept in the unhealthy atmosphere of the shop from six or seven o’clock in the morning until ten or eleven o’clock at night. The early-closing movement owes much of its success to the support Williams gave and also to the example he later set as an employer.

As a successful businessman he gave away the greater portion of his income to assist those in need. “What is my duty in business?” he asked. Then answered, “To be righteous. To do right things between man and man. To buy honestly. Not to deceive or falsely represent or colour.”

Sir George Williams (he was knighted in 1894) never ceased to preach the gospel. His very last words, which he spoke while at the 1905 World YMCA Jubilee, were: “…if you wish to have a happy, useful, and profitable life, give your hearts to God while you are young.” He was then carried to his room and died.

George Williams was 84 when he died and he was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

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 Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Lord Shaftesbury Stands Up for the Abused

This is the day that …Anthony Ashley-Cooper died in 1885 at the age of 84.

Better known as Lord Shaftesbury, he has been described as “the outstanding Christian layman of the 19th century.”

He was born on 28 April 1801 at 24 Grosvenor Square, London, the oldest son of the sixth earl of Shaftesbury. With strong family connections and good academics at Oxford he was well set for a political career. He became Lord of the Admiralty in 1834, but he chose not to run for prominence in any party, in order to more effectively help people in need.

A committed Christian he was active in support of organizations which took the gospel and the Bible to ordinary people, such as the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Church Missionary Society, YMCA and the London City Mission.

His first social cause was the plight of lunatics who were treated most inhumanely. He stuck with that cause and changed the relevant legislation through his life.

His next cause was to limit the working day in mills to 10 hours per day. This was vehemently opposed but he eventually won out. He was a man of action and he strengthened his case on many issues by first-hand investigation of the conditions. He visited hospitals and met many who were maimed and deformed through their working conditions.

He then campaigned against women and children being used in mines. Children as young as four spent 12 hours a day on all fours, pulling carts in the dark. He freed women and any child under 13 years from working in mines.

Then he took on the cause of boys apprenticed to chimney sweeps. Then came education of the neglected poor, leading to the setting up of “ragged schools” through which 10,000 children were assisted in his lifetime.

Then he turned his attention to providing quality housing for underprivileged, creating model villages and establishing thousands of well-equipped homes that were affordable to the working class.

Always the aristocrat he was keen to promote evangelical endeavour where he found it. However he objected to the Salvation Army due to its equal treatment of women in leadership, to which he disagreed. He labelled William Booth as the “antichrist”.

It was he who led the fight against child labour … five year-olds ankle deep in water working pumps in rat-infested mines … children forced to climb and clean chimneys by unscrupulous masters … and the cruelty often inflicted upon small children who worked 12 or 14 hours a day in the mills.

He was chairman of the Ragged Schools Union for 39 years … he supported the newly formed British and Foreign Bible Society … and the Protestant Alliance … and the Church Missionary Society … and the Young Men’s Christian Association (which was Christian in those days!) And more!

On his deathbed he asked for Psalm 23 to be read to him each morning, and “frequently those present heard him murmur his favourite prayer, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus’.”

Don Prout recommends: If you can get hold of a copy of John Pollock’s biography of this great man called Shaftesbury, the Poor Man’s Earl, read it! Or Grace Irwin’s The Seventh Earl is equally fascinating. Or, I Stand Alone by Jenny Robertson.

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 Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Ira David Sankey Singing Revivalist

This is the day that … Ira David Sankey was born in Pennsylvania, in 1840. His father was a prominent man, a state senator, banker and editor. He was under appointment by Abraham Lincoln to collect internal revenue.

Young David displayed a fondness for music and developed an excellent singing voice.

In his early years he attended the Methodist Episcopal Church, became Sunday-School superintendent, led the YMCA and led the choir.

During the Civil War he was one of the first to enlist with the Union Army.

Three years later, on 9 September, 1863, Sankey married a member of his choir, Fanny Edwards. “She has been a blessing and a helpmate to me throughout my life and in all my work,” he wrote in his autobiography (page 17).

Sankey was in constant demand as a singer for all kinds of religious gatherings.

In 1870 he met D.L. Moody at a 6.00 a.m. YMCA prayer meeting, and after hearing him sing, Moody challenged him to become his partner in an evangelistic ministry. Before long Sankey was leading the singing and contributing some gospel solos at Moody’s meetings in Chicago.

Sankey and Moody travelled to the UK in June 1873, and there Sankey’s singing gave him an international reputation. His wonderful compass of voice, clear enunciation and evident sincerity made a deep impression throughout Great Britain, so much so that before he returned to America the names of “Moody and Sankey” had become household words throughout Europe. (wholesomewords.org)

Many converts testified to the impact made by Sankey’s singing as well as the preaching of the evangelist.

Sankey’s Hymn Book is reputed to have sold 80 million copies in the first 50 years (1873-1923).

Among the well-known tunes Sankey composed are those to which we sing these words: There were ninety and nine…; Simply trusting every day…; Encamped along the hills of light…; The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide…; Under His wings…; Oh! Safe to the Rock that is higher than I…

On 13 August, 1908, Sankey joined the Heavenly choir.

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 Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.