Billy Sunday

The whole series for the seven weeks campaign is fed to the newspapers The copy is in a day or two ahead of publication with a time limit for unloosing the proof sheets These copyrighted reprints of Mr Sunday's sermons are not the sermons which he preaches They purport to be and so far as multitudes of newspaper readers are concerned they are such reports But really the copyrighted reports are not the sermons spoken in the tabernacle They follow the same line of thought Often they are verbatim reports of what is spoken on the platform But any newspaper reporter at the tabernacle will tell you that the spoken and the copyrighted sermons are two quite distinct things I can testify to this In the copyrighted report of Mr Sunday's famous sermon on Amusements as he furnished the proof for publication in the newspapers there was a paragraph in which he squarely and without qualification stated that in his opinion the way to deal with the social evil is by segregating all the women in one district under police supervision Along with this opinion was a sneer for those reformers who lacked horse sense in such matters.1

One fine clean newspaper writer of middle age told me that he heard Mr Sunday preach his sermon on amusements to a tabernacle full of young people He told me also that he went to a close friend of Mr Sunday and told him that he would not preach that sermon to the boys and girls of Syracuse for all the money and all the honor life could bring to him And yet there are hundreds and thousands here who insist that these raw vulgar nasty suggestions are just what our boys and girls need.2

But if you do not hit the trail then watch out for the fire works for they are sure to follow And if you are sensitive you would better go home at this point For in a moment will come flashing the concentrated scorn and sarcasm of that shout "Well go to hell if you want to."3

One man said to me the other day The worst thing that has ever happened to religion in Syracuse is the organization of the Billy Sunday Business Men's Club They don t mean it They won t keep it up There will be a big slump there some day And then every critic of religion in the city will sneer.4

One thing is clear from my own experience with trail hitters Many of them do not associate their new departure with a future devoted to any church or any Christian fellowship The wave hit them and swept them along As its impact dies they return to their normal state Others and hundreds of them have been swept over the barriers and are now being feted and feasted in the churches like the returned prodigal Special meetings receptions fellowship services all the social machinery of the churches have been set in motion to carry them along into the life of the church Let us hope it will succeed But here is a fact from my own notebook At the end of two weeks seventeen trail hitters gave the Universalist Church as their preference Eight of these were boys and girls from our Sunday school most of them quite young They were among the hundreds who hit the trail when the tabernacle was crowded with children for a special service The other nine were adults None of them was known to me Some years ago after the series of meetings under Mr Chapman I had sent to me forty six cards I got on my wheel and faithfully hunted those forty six The net result of that hunt was just one church member This time a different plan was tried I wrote each of the nine congratulating them all on the stand they had taken and the decision they had made They were invited to come to our church make themselves known to me and make their church home with us That was over a month ago Not one of the nine has replied to my letter Not one has appeared at church services Not a letter has come back undelivered On each envelope was my return address After this experience with the nine and watching the feverish efforts being made to hold the trail hitters I wonder how it will all come out5

Mr Sunday's sermon on the sex question was raw and disgusting He also heard the famous sermons on amusements and on booze These are Mr Sunday's three specialties In them he goes the limit My friend says that all in all they were the ugliest nastiest most disgusting addresses he ever listened to from a religious platform or from a preacher of religion He saw people carried out who had fainted under that awful definition of sensuality and depravity.6

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