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Open-Air Preaching: Introduction

By Edwin Hallock Byington


      Open-Air Preaching
      by Edwin Hallock Byington
      1892

      INTRODUCTION

      ABOUT two thousand years ago a noted person said, "The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." This witness was true, and has remained so from that day to this, for, in the race for success, they have kept ahead for two thousand years. If any one desires proof of this, it is at hand, an in the matter of reaching the people, is not far to seek. Note, for example, the outdoor political gatherings in all of our great cities; Large platforms are erected and popular speakers put on then reinforced by bands, banners, and electric lights, and all for the simple purpose of getting votes. Nowhere in all the world does the Church put forth such efforts to reach the people as do these political parties It is a liberal education for the young minister, fresh from the "cloistered halls" of the Seminary, to attend one of these meeting; and see how direct and forcible are the burning appeals for action that are shot forth. There is no uncertainty of sound at these gatherings. It would seem from the way in which the orators speak as if the destiny of humanity for a millennium hung on the votes the are to be cast at the coming election. If such blood-earnestness were shown in our sermons, we should have more definite result; Many political harangues are red-hot, while many sermons are ice-cold; hence the difference in the results.

      Note again the way in which the man who has not the means to rent a store goes out on the street and seeks his customers where he can find them. His oratory is at times of no mean order, and might well be copied in its practical methods by the graduate from the Seminary. Since men will not come to him, he goes to them, an what is more, he goes for them, and in many cases he gets them. Is there not in all this a lesson for the Church ? If the people will not come to us, why should we stand and grumble when we have the opportunity of going to them ? Is it not stupid to find fault with them when the fault lies at our own door?

      Now if this matter of outdoor preaching were a new or an unscriptural thing, we might well pause and think it over very carefully before trying it. But since it is " as old as the hills," and has abundant scriptural warrant, and the personal sanction of our Master, why under the sun should any one pause for a moment ? I fancy I see the Apostle Paul in a modern ministers' meeting, listening to a debate on this subject, and hearing the arguments for "caution" in this regard. When it came his turn to speak, what do you suppose would be the line of his remarks ? Think you he would say, "Well, brethren, I used to preach out of doors constantly, but after hearing this debate I have come to the conclusion that I made a great mistake, and if I had my work to do over again, I would not preach from the steps of the tower of Antonia, or from Mars' Hill." Perish the thought! I rather fancy he would utter some burning words about the lethargy of the modern Church in not taking advantage of every opportunity to make known the Gospel of the blessed Lord.

      This book shows that in modern times street-preaching has been abundantly used of God for the salvation of men. I myself have seen in front of the Albert Hall in Liverpool a Gospel wagon drive up at ten in the morning, and then from that time till ten at night there was incessant service going on, and relay after relay of workers took their turns at the grand work. The crowds were constantly changing, so that in the course of the day a very large number of people were reached by the message. I could not help admiring the pluck and the common-sense of that band of men and women who thus seized a place of common meeting of the populace, and gave them a chance to hear the truth at any time of the day.

      In London I have seen street-preaching time and again. In fact, near the Tower Hamlet's mission, on the broad sidewalk, I have seen two services going on at the same time, the one not more than two hundred feet from the other, and in one the Gospel was being proclaimed red-hot, while in the other equally red-hot atheism was being set forth. Men went from the one to the other, and yet all was done decently and in order. I was pleased to see that the Gospel preacher got and held a larger audience than the infidel.

      In New York this same method has been adopted with marked results. It makes us very little difference what the weather is. The people will stand and listen even if the thermometer is down to the freezing point, and the rain makes not much change in their attendance. Where the preaching is regular, there are always those who will come week after week, and if there are tenement houses near, they will throw up the windows and listen to the truth. We have also used the stereopticon in giving pictures of the life of Christ, and this is a very popular service. If held outside of the church, you can then at the close of the service get many to enter who could be gotten hold of in no other way.

      But what is the use of saying anything more on the subject when it is so fully discussed in this volume. All that is needed in an introduction is that the writer should commend that which is to be found in the volume, and say that he is in hearty accord with it. This I do with all my heart, and commend the practice to all who wish to obey their Master's injunctions, and "go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in," Mr. Byington has done a most needed work, and has done it well, and now only one thing remains, and that is for the readers of the book to carry out the practical suggestions that they will find in its pages. A. F. SCHAUFFLER

      AUTHOR'S NOTE

      I have written the following pages with a firm faith in the value of open-air preaching and a strong assurance that its more general adoption will aid the Church in solving some problems of modern life. If the book succeeds in giving an impulse to a wider and wiser use of open-air preaching, I shall feel repaid for my labors.

      I use the word preaching in the broad New Testament sense, meaning "any proclamation of Gospel truth, whether brief or protracted, with or without a text, by church officer or private member." The appeal is to laymen as well as ministers.

      I desire to express my appreciation of the assistance given me by the Open-Air Mission of London and by its efficient Secretary, Mr. Gawin Kirkham, of the encouragement and counsel of my former instructor, Professor Waldo S. Pratt of Hartford Theological Seminary, and especially of the sympathy and aid coming from my own home.

      EDWIN HALLOCK BYINGTON.
      Brooklyn, N. Y., April, 1892

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See Also:
   Open-Air Preaching: Introduction
   Open-Air Preaching: 1 - Open-Air Preaching in the Establishment of the Church
   Open-Air Preaching: 2 - Open-Air Preaching in the Extension of the Church
   Open-Air Preaching: 3 - In the Reformation of the Church
   Open-Air Preaching: 4 - In the Normal Life of the Church
   Open-Air Preaching: 5 - The More of It, the Better!
   Open-Air Preaching: 6 - As A Factor in City Evangelization
   Open-Air Preaching: 7 - Who Will Go For Us?
   Open-Air Preaching: 8 - The Best Methods

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