Words That Men Live By
William A. (billy) Sunday (1914)
NEW YORK, N. Y., 1914 - The era of religious revivalists-energetic preachers exhorting their auditors to "hit the sawdust trail" and emotionally get religion-has probably reached its peak in the mission of Billy Sunday, former baseball star who now fills baseball parks with his earthy preaching "performances".
Prior to entering the active held of religious work (he now is an ordained minister and holds the degree of Doctor of Divinity), Billy Sunday played major league baseball for eight years in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. A notably fast base runner, he once was clocked at 14 seconds in circling a diamond. In 1891, he turned down a contract to play the following season for $3,500 and went to work as a junior secretary in the Y.M.C.A. at $83.33 a month.
Excerpts from an often-repeated Billy Sunday revival sermon follow:
The trouble with many men is that they have got just enough religion to make them miserable. If there is not joy in religion, you have got a leak in your religion. Some haven't religion enough to pay their debts. Would that I might have a hook and for every debt that you left unpaid I might jerk off a piece of clothing. If I did some of you fellows would have not anything on but a celluloid collar and a pair of socks.Some of you have not got religion enough to have family prayer. Some of you haven't got religion enough to take the beer bottles out of your cellar and throw them in the alley. You haven't got religion enough to tell the proprietor of the red light, "No, you can't rent my house after the first of June"; to tell the saloon-keeper, "You can't have my house when the lease runs out"; and I want to tell you that the man who rents his property to a saloon-keeper is as low-down as the saloon-keeper. The trouble with you is that you are so taken up with business, with politics, with making money, with your lodges, and each and everyone is so dependent on the other, that you are scared to death to come out and live clean-cut for God Almighty.
The matter with a lot of people is that our religion is not complete. Why, I am almost afraid to make some folks laugh for fear that I will be arrested for breaking a costly piece of antique bric-a-brac.
To see some people you would think that the essential of orthodox Christianity is to have a face so long you could eat oatmeal out of the end of a gas pipe. Sister, that is not religion; I want to tell you that the smiling, happy, sunny-faced religion will win more people to Jesus Christ than the miserable old, grim-faced kind will in 10 years.
I pity anyone who can't laugh. There must be something wrong with their religion or their lives. The devil can't laugh.
I have seen women come down the aisle by the thousands, men who drank whiskey enough to sink a ship. I see fallen women come to the front by scores and hundreds, and I have seen them go away cleansed by the power of God.
I saw a woman that for 27 years had been proprietor of a disorderly house, and I saw her come down the aisle, close her doors, turn the girls out of her house, to live for God. I saw enough converted in one town where there were four disorderly houses to close their doors; they were empty; the girls have all fled home to their mothers.
Out in Iowa a fellow came to me and spread a napkin on the platform -a napkin as big as a tablecloth. He said, "I want a lot of shavings and sawdust."
"I'll tell you: I want enough to make a sofa pillow. Right here is where I knelt down and was converted, and my wife and four children, and my neighbors. I would like to have enough to make a sofa pillow to have some- thing in the house to help me talk to God. I don't want to forget God, or that I was saved. Can you give me enough?"
I said: "Yes indeed, and if you want to make a mattress, all right, take it; and if you want enough of that tent to make a pair of breeches for all the boys, why take your scissors and cut it right out, if it will help you to keep your mind on God."
That is why I like to have people come down to the front and publicly acknowledge God. I like to have a man have a definite experience in religion - something to remember.Printable version