This account by American evangelist Billy Sunday brought me some tears of regret as I think about my own past indifference and of sorrow for the many souls who have waited in vain for someone to give the loving invitation, “Come.”
I was one time in a town in Nebraska and the people kept telling me about one man… I said, “Who is he?”
“John Champenoy. He is the miller.”
I said to Mr Preston, who was then a minister, “Have you been to see him?”
I asked another minister if he had been to see the fellow and he said no. I asked the United Presbyterian preacher (they have a college out there) and he said no, he hadn’t been to see him.
I said, “Well, I guess I’ll go around to see him.”
I found the fellow seated in a chair teetered back against the wall, smoking. I said, “Is this Mr. Champenoy?”
“Yes, sir, that’s my name.” He got up and took me by the hand.
I said, “ My name is Sunday; I’m down at the church preaching. A good many have been talking to me about you and I came down to see you and ask you to give your heart to God.”
He looked at me, walked to the cupboard, opened the door, took out a half-pint flask of whiskey and threw it out on a pile of stones.
He then turned around, took me by the hand and, as the tears rolled down his cheeks he said, “I have lived in this town nineteen years and you are the first man that has ever asked me to be a Christian.”
“They point their finger at me and call me an old drunkard. They don’t want my wife around with their wives because her husband is a drunkard. Their children won’t play with our babies. They go by my house to Sunday school and church, but they never ask us to go. They pass us by. I never go near the church…”
I said, “You don’t want to treat the church that way. God isn’t to blame, is He?”
“Christ isn’t to blame?”
“You wouldn’t think much of me if I would walk up and slap your wife because you kept a dog I didn’t like, would you? Then don’t slap God in the face because there are some hypocrites in the Church that you don’t like and who are treating you badly. God is all right. He never treated you badly. Come up and hear me preach, will you John?”
“Yes, I’ll come tonight.”
I said, “All right, the Lord bless you and I will pray for you.”
He came; the seats were all filled and they crowded him down the side aisle. I can see him now, standing there with his hat in his hand, leaning against the wall looking at me. He never took his eyes off me.
When I got through and give the invitation he never waited for them to let him out. He walked over the backs of the seats, took his stand for Jesus Christ, and in less than a week seventy-eight men followed him into the kingdom of God…
Men do care to talk about Jesus Christ and about their souls. “No man cares for my soul.” That’s what’s the trouble. They are anxious and waiting for someone to come.
Quote from “Billy” Sunday, The Man and His Message
Written by William T. Ellis and published by special agreement with Mr. Sunday
©1914 by L. T. Myers
(Note: I’ve condensed the account just a bit.)