One Sunday afternoon Billy was strolling about in the south end of the business district of Chicago, with half a dozen baseball friends. The New York Giants were in the city at the time, and several of them were in the party.
At the corner of State and Van Buren streets was an empty lot, which is now occupied by the Siegel & Cooper Department Store. Here a company of men and women workers from the Pacific Garden Mission were holding an outdoor meeting.
Sunday and his friends stopped to listen. The meeting soon took hold of their attention, and they sat down on the curb and heard the service through. Sunday confesses that the singing of the old gospel songs—the same his mother had sung in the little log cabin home back in Iowa—caught at his heart strings and set them vibrating in sympathy with memories of childhood days. A new spirit welled up within him, and created dissatisfaction with the life he was living.
When the outdoor meeting was over, a young man named Harry Monroe, now superintendent of the Mission, seeing that Sunday had been touched, went to him and invited him to attend the meeting at the Mission, two blocks away.
"You'll enjoy it," he said. "You'll hear some things that will interest you. Won't you come?"
Sunday accepted the invitation and went. The usual services were held in the Mission. There was singing and praying, and earnest and heartfelt testimonies from those who had found deliverance from many kinds of sin. Then some one gave a short gospel talk, that, though brief, was right to the point. The usual invitation to accept Christ was given, for no meeting has ever been held in that Mission without this being done, and there has never been a service when some one did not respond.
Sunday listened eagerly and closely to everything that was said, and though his heart was deeply stirred, he did not respond to the invitation, or in any way further commit himself; though when he left the Mission it was with the resolve that he would return again.
Several nights later he was once more in the Mission, and went again some four or five nights in succession. Then one night when he needed help as badly as did the man at the pool of Bethesda, a voice that was like a breath from heaven aroused him, and he looked up into the face of Mrs. Clark, wife of the saintly Col. Clark, founder of the Mission. She well understood his case, for she had helped hundreds like him into the kingdom.
She talked to him like a mother, and with a wisdom given to her from above led him to where he could see the light streaming from the cross. Little by little she brought him to see clearly that eternal life is God's free gift, and being such, it must be received as a gift, through childlike faith in the finished work of Christ. And then, when the good woman had given him a few promises, upon which she assured him it would be safe to plant his feet, he made the great decision that every one must make for himself, and took Jesus Christ as his all-sufficient Saviour, promised compliance with all that God's law required of him, and then soon—very soon his burden was gone. He knew that his name had been written in the Book of Life, and the peace that passeth understanding came into his heart.
From The Real Billy Sunday... by Elijah P. Brown. New York: Fleming H. Revell, ©1914.
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