What About This Man Sunday?*
T r u s t w o r t h y statistics in form us that from Tuesday to Sunday, last week, inclusive, the Rev. Billy Sunday addressed twelve meetings in Scranton, with a total at tendance of 109.200, and brought 2057 persons down the “ sawdust trail” to repentance. Twelve times in six days he swayed a great audience, throwing his whole soul into those smashing denunciations of evil and those pas sionate appeals which so move his hearers. By Sunday night he was ready for his weekly day of rest, and he spent it after the following manner: Taking a night train to Philadelphia, he was ready at 10:30 Monday morn ing for an hour’s conference with leading clergymen and laymen. At noon he spoke before 3000 students; at 3 o’clock he preached to an audi ence of equal size; at night he ad dressed a crowd of 4000, and, by an impromptu appeal at the close, drew nearly 700 voting men to the front as converts. When he was through shak ing hands with this throng he was wet from exertion and tottering with ex haustion. That night he spent in a sleeping car again. On Tuesday he was back on the job in Scranton, preached twice to rapt thousands, and by the sheer force of his commanding appeal im pelled 235 to come forward and take his hand in token of their purpose to lead a new life. Such feats of energy and endurance alone would entitle this man to fame as a marvel of physical prowess; but they are overshadowed by his other accomplishments. While here he was a guest of the University of Pennsylvania. The au diences he faced were not, as they so often are, his partisans. Many were indifferent, many merely curious, many outwardly complaisant, but inwardly
antagonistic. There were those whose sensibilities had been shocked by ac counts o f his blunt vernacular; and there -were coldly intellectual critics, whose scrutiny was utterly without sympathy. Yet in this chill atmosphere and out of these unfavorable elements he es tablished command over each audience and, as a climax, without preparation, won to his cause the largest single group of converts, perhaps, in his .career. These, too, were o f the class most difficult to reach under such cir cumstances. They were young men, with all. of youth’s carelessness and fear of ridicule, and they were under the eyes of their college associates. Yet at his word their reserve went out like the ice in a spring freshet, and they crowded forward eagerly to de clare their faith with him. The estimate of Sunday held by those who witnessed the University meetings is quite different from that held generally before he had had the test. While he was addressing one of those audiences the Rev. Russell H. Conwell was damning him with faint praise to a gathering of clergymen. He deplored the fact that evangelist« should use slang, and “ they should,” he added, “ wear clean shirts and clean collars when possible.” The good doctor, of course, was in nocent of malice, but his remark shows what a distorted impression of Sunday is abroad. The truth is that he dresses with such careful taste that he might be accused of fastidiousness. His linen is invariably immaculate—until it wilts under his strenuous platform exertions —and it is his common practice to change his clothing completely three times a day. These personal details, however, are unimportant. Billy Sunday has been here; he has done what he has done; the question is, How does he achieve
•The North American, Philadelphia.
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