William Ashley Sunday (November 19, 1862 – November 6, 1935) was an American outfielder in baseball’s National League and widely considered the most influential American evangelist during the first two decades of the 20th century. Converting to evangelical Christianity in the 1880s, Sunday left baseball for the Christian ministry. He gradually developed his skills as a pulpit evangelist in the Midwest and then, during the early 20th century, he became the nation’s most famous evangelist with his colloquial sermons and frenetic delivery. Sunday held widely reported campaigns in America’s largest cities, and he attracted the largest crowds of any evangelist before the advent of electronic sound systems. He was often accused of being too harsh of which he never apologized for stating that “the absolute truth can be harsh.”
The Gospel According to Billy Sunday
What does converted mean? It means completely changed. Converted is not synonymous with reformed. Reforms are from without-conversion from within. Conversion is a complete surrender to Jesus. It’s a willingness to do what he wants you to do. Unless you have made a complete surrender and are doing his will it will avail you nothing if you’ve reformed a thousand times and have your name on fifty church records.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, in your heart and confess him with your mouth and you will be saved. (Romans 10:9). God is good. The plan of salvation is presented to you in two parts. Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. Many of you here probably do Believe. Why don’t you confess? Now own up. The truth is that you have a yellow streak. Own up, business men, and business women, and all of you others. Isn’t it so? Haven’t you got a little saffron? Brave old Elijah ran like a scared deer when he heard old Jezebel had said she would have his head, and he beat it. And he ran to Beersheba and lay down under a juniper tree and cried to the Lord to let him die. The Lord answered his prayer, but not in the way he expected. If he had let him die he would have died with nothing but the wind moaning through the trees as his funeral dirge. But the Lord had something better for Elijah. He had a chariot of fire and it swooped down and carried him into glory without his ever seeing death.
So he says he has something better for you–salvation if he can get you to see it. You’ve kept your church membership locked up. You’ve smiled at a smutty story. When God and the Church were scoffed at you never peeped, and when asked to stand up here you’ve sneaked out the back way and beat it. You’re afraid and God despises a coward–a mutt. You cannot be converted by thinking so and sitting still.
Maybe you’re a drunkard, an adulterer, a prostitute, a liar; won’t admit you are lost; are proud. Maybe you’re even proud you’re not proud, and Jesus has a time of it.
Jesus said: “Come to me,” not to the Church; to me, not to a creed; to me, not to a preacher; to me, not to an evangelist; to me, not to a priest; to me, not to a pope; “Come to me and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Faith in Jesus Christ saves you, not faith in the Church.
You can join church, pay your share of the preacher’s salary, attend the services, teach Sunday school, return thanks and do everything that would apparently stamp you as a Christian–even pray–but you won’t ever be a Christian until you do what God tells you to do.
That’s the road, and that’s the only one mapped out for you and for me. God treats all alike. He doesn’t furnish one plan for the banker and another for the janitor who sweeps out the bank. He has the same plan for one that he has for another. It’s the law–you may not approve of it, but that doesn’t make any difference.