He That Winneth Souls is Wise
by Billy Sunday (1862-1935)
"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.
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."
Soul Winning is Difficult Work
Now, it is a difficult form of work. It is more difficult than preaching; it is more difficult than attending conventions; more difficult than giving goods to the poor. (When you do give goods to the poor, don't wait until the moths have eaten holes in them. And when you give them away, don't cut off all the buttons and braid. Poor folks like them as well as you do. It is no act of charity when you have taken off all you want, then turned the rest over to somebody else. No, no! Then angles never record an act like that.) You will never see it when you get to Heaven if you have an easy time. Oh, you can pin on a badge, usher people to their seats, pass the collection plate, be an elder or a deacon or a steward; you can go to church, sing in the choir, be a member of a Home or Foreign Missionary Society -- the Devil will even let you attend Bible conferences -- but the minute you begin to do personal work, to try to get somebody to take a stand for Christ, all the devils in Hell will be on your back, for they know that is a challenge to the Devil and to his forces. And I hope that the work of leading people to Christ by personal effort will always be hard. I have no sympathy for folks who are looking for something easy!
I preached out in Salida, Colorado, a few years ago. The city lies 8,5000 feet on one of the spurs of the Rocky Mountains. There was a woman there who sang in the choir. I used to drive them out when they went to speak to somebody about Jesus Christ. One day she came to me and said, "Mr. Sunday, will you speak to my husband about being a Christian?"
I said, "Have you spoken to him?"
She said, "No."
I said, "No madam, I will not."
She said, "Why?"
I said, "God wants you to go and you are trying to sidestep and get me to do it."
I said, "You go speak to him and if you can't win him for Christ, come and tell me, then I will go."
"Well," she said, "you would have a greater influence with him than I have."
"How long have you been married?" I asked."Five years." I said, "I have been in this town three weeks and it is a compliment for you to say that to me. You have cooked for him and sewed on buttons for him for five years."
Finally one night, she said, "Isn't it hot?" I said to her, "You like to sing in the choir, don't you?" She said, "I love to do that." "You don't like to do personal work?" I asked. "Then your idea of serving God is to pick out the things you would like to do, and the things that you don't like to do you let somebody else do; then you let it go at that." I said, "Then you will forget every blessing that ever came to you."
One night I drove her off the platform; later I saw her coming down the aisle. Her husband sat on the front seat. She slipped her arm around his neck and whispered something in his ear. He nodded his head and down the aisle he came. He turned to her and said, "Bess, I've been waiting for weeks for you to ask me that."
I was out in Colorado Springs not very long ago and she came up to Denver. I said, "How do you do, Mrs. C." "How do you do?" I said, "Where's Charlie?" "He went to heaven two years ago, but he prayed and lived consistently until the hour that God called him."
out and do something! "He isn't my boy." That same spirit of letting people
go to the Devil because they don't eat at your table and because you are
not married to them -- there is too much of that today in the world."He
that winneth souls is wise."
God Blesses Personal Effort
A mother in a home had a magnificent character. To my knowledge there had never been a stranger enter that home for years that she hadn't talked to him about Jesus Christ. She was bemoaning the fact that she couldn't do anything or wasn't doing anything for the Lord, yet she was doing more practical Christian work, consistently every day, than the entire membership of that church of five hundred people. She was doing more!
So it the personal effort that God will honor and that God will bless. And listen! There are fifteen million young men in this country between the ages of sixteen and thirty five. Fourteen million of them are not members of any church, Catholic or Protestant. Seven million of them attend church regularly. Nine million of them never darken a church door from one year's end to another.
After the Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago where six hundred people burned to death, a girl about seventeen years of age fought her way through the great torrents of blood and crushed and charred and baked flesh. Her hair was singed, her eyebrows were burned off, her face and hands were blistered, her clothing was hanging in charred rags. As she got on the street car to go home she was moaning and sighing. She would wring her hands and say "O, God! O, God!" A lady next to her said, "Well, you ought to be thankful that you got out alive." She said, "I am, but I didn't help anybody else out! It was all I could do to get out." What she was moaning about was the fact that others had to die because she didn't help them. Yet she was sitting by people who had not thought of others -- letting them go to Hell.
Oh, he that winneth souls is wise! Is wise! You would feel different, perhaps, if it were some of your own, but remember, if it is not your flesh and blood it is somebody else's.
Out in Pennsylvania they had a mine cave-in. The alarm was sounded and men came and volunteered. With pick and shovel they worked, trying to dig quickly to the men lest they die. Up tottered an old man seventy-five years old. He threw off his cap, coat and vest, spit on his hands, and picking up the pick, he picked and picked. Then he got the shovel and he shoveled until the sweat rolled down his cheeks. He stood tottering, about ready to fall. Some of the younger men said to him, "Grandpa, get away and let us young fellows do this."
He said, "Great God, boys! I've got three sons down in there! I must do something!" And if it isn't your boy, it is somebody else's. If it isn't your girl, it is somebody else's.
That is the trouble with the world today. We don't care a rap what becomes of others so long as we go through the world. Now you may soon go; you may die and they may die; and you may live and they may die, but no matter whether you go first or last, you have to meet at the judgment. That is settled! You have to do that.
A casket containing the body of a beautiful seventeen year old girl with the dew of youth on her brow, was being borne from the church to the graveyard. The girl's friends stood around the grave. As they lowered the coffin, a Sunday school teacher who stood there shrieked and screamed and wrung her hands in grief. After the carriage was driven away and after things had been cleared up, the minister went to see this girl. He said, "I noticed your hysteric grief at the grave. Was she a Christian?" The Sunday school teacher said, "I noticed her growing careless with her companions and going into questionable places." Then the girl said to the minister, "I was sure you'd speak to her, for you know more about those things." He said, "No, I didn't speak to her. I intended to but," he said, "I didn't. I was sure you would. She was a girl and you were a girl and you better understood one another. Let's go and see her mother."
The minister and the Sunday school teacher went and talked with the girl's mother. She said, "Yes, I noticed it. I used to plead with her, but she would get mad at me, thinking I was interfering with her company. I hope you spoke to her." Neither of them had, and she had gone to wait at the judgment bar, to witness against the three -- her mother, the preacher, and the Sunday school teacher, for they said nothing. "He that winneth souls is wise!" He is wise!
So there must be a confession of sin. The sin of neglect --confess that; and the sin of unforgiveness, the sin of indifference. David said, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." Oh, you get the light of Jesus in your heart! Jesus Christ is able, my friend, to reveal Himself to the agnostic, materialist, like He did to Balaam until he knew Jesus Christ. Oh, He can flash the deity of Jesus Christ into the brain of the son of an orthodox Unitarian of New England, as He did the son of Edward Everett Hale. He is able to knock the scales from the credulous worshipers of Mary Baker Glover Eddy until you will find that matter is existent and not an illusion of the mortal mind.
God Did Through the Testimony of an Fourteen Year Old Boy
A boy, fourteen years of age, who sat on the end of the seat, raised his hand. He said, "If there is a mother here who wants us to pray for her child, or children, lift your hand." The boy lifted his hand. He said, "If there is a businessman here who has interests that concern his partner, lift your hand." Up went the boy's hand. He made the appeal governing both sexes. He said to himself, "This child's a monstrosity." He said, "I have made an appeal covering both sexes and all ages. To every appeal he has lifted his hand." He went back to the hotel. Sitting in his chair he heard a rap at the door. "Come in!" In walked one of the deacons, stroking his long bird-tail whiskers.
"How do you do, Deacon?"
He said, "We ain't having much of a meeting."
"Never saw anything worse."
"I thought I'd come up and tell you about that little boy who's down to the church," the deacon said. "What do you mean?" Dr. Broughton asked. "Well, everytime you make an appeal, he lifts his hand. He's just making a fool of you."
"Forget it. He's making a fool of you and all the rest of the fools who profess to be Christians." The deacon said, "Well, I thought I'd come and tell you so you could tell him to stay away." Dr. Broughton said, "I'll give that boy ten dollars a day to come. He's the only evidence of life I've seen in the city. If you think I'm going to turn the hose on him, you've got another guess coming."
"Well," the deacon said, "I thought I'd tell you." Stroking his whiskers, he went out. Dr. Broughton went on to preach and make similar appeals. The only one who would respond was that boy. Up would go his hand. Another day he heard a knock. "Come in!" In came this old deacon. He said,"Do you know that boy?"
"Certainly I know him; he's the only one I do know." He said, "You ain't having much of a revival." He said, "No, you need an undertaker in this town instead of an evangelist. You are the deadest crowd that I have ever seen. And if God or anybody else had told me that there was such a dead, indifferent membership on earth, I wouldn't have believed it."
"Well," the deacon said, "do you know that boy ain't overly bright?" "He's got you backed off the boards. He's got sense enough to make a response," replied Dr. Broughton. "Well," he said, "I thought I'd tell you." The preacher said, "You don't need to tell me." The pastor came to Dr. Broughton and said, "Doctor, before I was sure that you were coming to preach on Sunday morning for a brother minister in another city who is away and I'd like to have you preach for me on Sunday morning." He said, "Very well." On Saturday night he heard a rap at the door. "Come in!" In came this old deacon, stroking his whiskers. "Howdy, Doc." "How do you do, Deacon?" He said, "The domine asked (they always call the preacher the domine) -- the domine asked you to preach on Sunday morning, didn't he?" "Yes." He said, "Now, don't you ask for converts because there ain't any."
"Deacon, look me in the face, if you can, and answer me this: You knew that if I did, there would be one or some and you don't want that one, or some, to join the church." He squirmed uncomfortably. "Well", he said, "you can do as you please." He said, "I'd do that without your consent. I'll preach if I feel God and the Spirit; if I don't, I won't. I won't do it because you told me to do it, or not to do it. Neither would I do it if you asked me to or if you asked me not to." Sunday morning he walked out and preached. When he got through he said, "If there is anybody here who wants to be a Christian, wants to join the church, come down and take me by the hand." Pretty soon there was a shuffling and down the aisle came that boy. Dr. Broughton took him by the hand and said, "Sit down, sonny." He asked the usual questions. The child gave answers and Dr. Broughton repeated the answers. He said to the audience, "You have all heard the questions I have asked and the answers given, for I have repeated both. All who are in favor of giving this boy the right hand of fellowship and receiving him in full membership, say 'aye'". Two farmers voted aye and the rest of them kept quiet. Dr. Broughton said, "The ayes have it." He got the kid up on the platform and baptized him.
The boy went bounding home. He lived with his grandfather since his mother was dead. His grandfather was an invalid, and the richest man in that section of Georgia. For nearly sixty years he had never been known to darken a church door. He was a leader of the infidels; he denounced religion because of unbelief, and blatantly spewed out the theories and doctrines of infidelity. The boy bounded in, put his arms around the old man's neck and said, "Grandpa, they took me into the church, and Dr. Broughton baptized me, and if you will come up there, they will take you in, too." He said, "Go away, son, don't bother me. Grandpa don't care about it." He pushed the boy off, but back in again he came. He kept begging his grandpa to go, but he said, "Don't bother your grandpa; go on away." He said, "Grandpa, I'll tell you what they will ask you, and I'll tell you what to say. Come on and go." My friend preached to men only on Sunday afternoon. They saw this boy come into the church leading his old grandfather, who was hobbling on the crutches of decrepitude as he came down the aisle. He sat down and listened.
When my friend got through the grandfather arose and said, "Dr. Broughton, may I speak a few words?" He stood trembling on his cane. "I have cussed and damned God all my life. This is the first time I have crossed a church threshold for over sixty years. My little grandson -- and you know he ain't overly bright; his ma's gone and he lives with me and his grandma -- he came home and said you took him into the church and told me if I'd come you'd take me in. Dr. Broughton, if you think God will reach down and take an old reprobate like me, who has cussed Him all my days, and I've never, never prayed -- if you think the Lord will take me in the sunset of life and kiss away the stains of guilt, I'd like to come."
Dr. Broughton said, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
The old man came hobbling down and said, "I have wandered far away from God, but now I'm coming home."
He was baptized and received into the church. Listen! They went home. The next day, the little boy went bounding downtown into a saloon kept by his father. He said, "O papa, grandpa and me have joined the church and if you'll come up, they will take you in. I will tell you what they will ask you and I'll tell you what to say." He said, "Go out of here, my son; this is no place for you." Say, if a dirty, stinking saloon is no place for my boy, it's no place for me. If it's good for me, it's good for him, and if it's bad for him, it's bad for me. To Hell with the saloon!
He said to him, "Go on out of here, son. Go on out of here. This is no place for a boy." "Pa, come on. They will take you in."
Listen! The next Sunday that man walked down the aisle, told the story of what his little boy had done, and he said "If you think that God can save a saloon-keeper, I'd like to be a Christian."
He joined the church, then he said, "Come down tomorrow morning and we will break the bottles of whiskey and champagne and beer." They brought them into the street and they did. They turned it into the sewer as the people stood singing. He said, "I feel that my mission is to the saloon-keepers of that part of the country."
He started out and by personal effort, with drunkards and saloon-keepers, started a tidal wave of religion. And the first county that went dry in Georgia was that county. The state was put dry by the legislative enactment, and they never had a saloon in that county from that day till this. It all started with that little boy.
got as much sense as the boy, haven't you? Go do likewise; that is my message.
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com
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