James Stewart (Early 1900's)
No one told me I ought to go out and win souls. Do you know why? BECAUSE THE FIRST INSTINCT OF A NEW-BORN SOUL IS TO WIN ANOTHER FOR JESUS. And I started to witness for God right on my doorstep. I had left school before my fifteenth birthday in order to help bear the responsibility of our large family life since my mother was by that time a widow. Having devoted my entire thoughts to soccer, thinking that this was to be my life profession, the only work I could get was as delivery boy in a grocery store. This work, thus, presented my first mission field. Then I knocked on a door I was nervous and I stuttered and spluttered as I gave my witness.
"Friend", I simply said, "I am a message boy (for delivery boys are called "message boys" in Scotland), and you know my job is to come and bring provisions to your home. But I am also a message boy for God and I have come to ask you to make provision for eternity. PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD!"
It was a simple message from a simple young convert, but God blessed it to the awakening of some souls.
THE NEWS SPREAD THAT THE FOOTBALL FANATIC HAD GOT CONVERTED.
I was invited to go and speak to the different Sunday Schools and to tell the children of the miracle of regeneration. I read in the Word of God that I had to begin at my Jerusalem (Acts. 1:8). 1 knew that that meant right at my own doorstep, right in my own neighborhood. So I went from door to door among the neighbors with my gospel tracts, telling them of my new experience. I visited over a thousand homes in this face-to-face contact ministry. I shall never forget witnessing to a whole Jewish family around their fireplace. They were wealthy people. I had witnessed to the father, a very good orthodox Jew, concerning Christ the Messiah. He was so stirred that he invited me one evening to come and speak to his entire family - his children and grandchildren.
My next step was open-air preaching.
You may ask, "How could you start right off preaching at the age of fourteen?"
I would answer, "That is quite easy. MY HEART WAS FULL OF CHRIST AND I HAD TO TELL EVERYBODY ABOUT HIM IN THE WHOLE CITY OF GLASGOW."
"But", you ask, "how did you know your Bible?"
That was never a problem for me because the Holy Spirit used the verses and the passages of Scripture which I had stored up in my memory as a little child. Besides my family training, too, sometimes a godly Presbyterian minister would visit us and read to us from the Shorter Catechism. I went to Sunday school in the Presbyterian church where the Sunday school teacher lived to bring Christ to the children and the children to Christ. I also attended the Open Brethren Sunday school in Cathcart where no choruses were allowed to be sung unless they were Scriptural. The idea was that hymns and choruses were to impart Scriptural knowledge to the children. Besides this, the children were not taught merely such stories as Jonah and the Whale, David and Goliath, and Daniel in the lion's den. We were taught the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation.
And even among children these earnest teachers did not separate the gospel message from the Christian life. Ours was no Sunday school for amusement or entertainment. It was serious business. So thorough was the work of our Superintendent and teachers that our Sunday school was more like a Bible Training Institute! The Sunday schools were held in the afternoon. The teachers had a prayer meeting before and after the school. They also had a prayer meeting during the week where they brought before each other and God every child in the school.
We had also one hour each day in the public schools where the Word of God was read and explained. This was a great part of my godly Scottish heritage. How tragic it is in many so-called civilized Christian lands that did make a mess of things, he told me, "Why, you're no use. God never intended for you to preach. It would be better for you to keep your mouth shut".
Some older saints encouraged me in my attempts to minister the Word. Others discouraged me, saying that IT WAS NOT PROPER FOR A BOY OF FOURTEEN AND FIFTEEN YEARS OF AGE TO EXPOUND THE SCRIPTURE TO OLDER BELIEVERS IN A CHRISTIAN MEETING. I was often rebuked because I was so noisy indoors as well as out. Some said it would be better for me to stay quiet for a few years until I would be more mature and then I could step out and witness. Some told me bluntly that I should keep quiet altogether. Well, that was impossible for me because the Lord Jesus Christ was everything to me. He had redeemed me from sin. He had saved me from a life of emptiness; a life of just living for myself. He had brought satisfaction to my soul.
I HAD TO TELL! I WANTED EVERYONE TO KNOW MY WONDERFUL SAVIOR WHO HAD DONE SO MUCH FOR ME.
I had been preaching for about a month or so on the streets all by myself when I was invited to speak at quite a large open-air meeting. Quite a number of fine open-air preachers took part. When my time came, I preached about the Philippian jailor from Acts 16. But somehow I got all nervous and mixed up; I stuttered and stammered and made a complete fool of myself. I left that meeting thoroughly angry. I started to talk to myself: "Jimmy", I said, "You made such a fool of yourself that you should keep your mouth shut hereafter. God never meant you to preach. He just meant you to give out Gospel tracts."
And for a whole week I told the Lord I was not going to preach again. But you know I was miserable. Secretly, deep down in my heart, I was humiliated. Maybe this disturbance came because I had been so used to the applause of the football people. Every night I was out with my gospel texts giving out my tracts, but I would not open my mouth. I couldn't pray. Heaven was brass. Finally, at the end of the week I asked, "Lord, what is it?"
Then God answered, "You said you would never open your mouth again", I replied, "No, I was never meant to be a preacher. I can't. Just let me give out my tracts."
My trouble was that I bad to memorize the messages. I couldn't read from notes before a crowd in the open-air or I would soon lose my crowd. And so my mind just went blank because of nervousness. But I cried, "Oh God, if you will just give me another chance I will proclaim Thy Word."