King's Business - 1914-06



personal force of this man, his intense sincerity, his unexampled vitality, his penetrating mental power—above all, his flaming faith in his message and in supernatural guidance of his work. Another error, we think, is the wide­ spread belief that his manner of speech, his slang, is a weakness—that he suc­ ceeds in spite of it. Our own judg­ ment is that it is one o f his most effec­ tive devices. He is a student, he knows literature, and is at home among persons of cul­ ture. But in his work he uses deliber­ ately the language which 90 per cent of the people understand, and which 75 per cent of them use in their daily life. The clergymen who are offended bv it, on the contrary, use in the pulpit a language which not 50 per cent of the people understand and not 20 per Cent habitually use. They employ a techni­ cal or professional verbiage which is as unfamiliar to the mass as Sunday’s' phrases are intelligible. We believe that his success is due largely to the fact that he uses terms which carry his message deep into the minds and hearts of his hearers, and drive it home with unforgettable em­ phasis. His language is rugged, some­ times startling; but it conveys his ideas in terms that burn into the common understanding. It is axiomatic that slang eventually

enriches a language, and this may ap­ ply even to the language of the pulpit. This much, at least, we know: Words powerful enough to change the lives of men and women, words which leave such an impress that you can follow the trail of Billy Sunday across the country by the landmarks of brighter homes, sunnier hearts and better lives —these words can do no harm to the great truth they aim to tell. In most pulpits, we admit, slang would be as futile as it would be offen­ sive. Yet in success of this preacher who talks in the everyday language of the multitude might suggest to the pur­ veyors of polished and erudite phrases that perhaps their results are meager, because their message is obscure. After comparing, then, the phenome­ nal work of this man with the earnest labor of countless churches, backed by wealth, influence and organized effort; after marveling to see him tearing up ancient evils by the roots and remak­ ing the religious map of his time, none of the popular explanations of his pow­ er seems to satisfy. One grant? his skill, his efficiency, his energy, his utter absorption—and then one is ready to admit that there must be something else back of it all, and that his own theory, maintained with a sublime faith, is the most con­ vincing.

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