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June 1908 Heart to Heart Talk

The time for open air work has come. Are you ready for it? The Bible you love is an open air book. The great revival under Ezra began in the open air, as from his pulpit of wood he read the Scriptures and expounded their meaning. The angels gave a snatch of heaven’s music and announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in the open air. Christ preached His greatest sermon in the open air and proclaimed the gospel to the woman by Jacob’s well in the open air. Most of His miracles and teaching took place in the open air. His disciples were chosen in the open air. The Apostle Paul was converted in the open air, and no wonder that he became all through his life an open-air preacher, proclaiming from Mars Hill Jesus and the resurrection, and pressing into the market places where the people thronged. Jesus was crucified in the open air, and from the top of Olivet He ascended in the open air. In like manner He shall return with the glory of His Father and the angels in the open air.

Since Bible times the work of soul-winning has continued in the open air. The first mention of church houses is found in the writings of Tertullian at the end of the second century. Justin Martyr was converted by the testimony of an old man preaching in the open air. Raymond Lull, the Spanish nobleman who went as a missionary to Africa, preached with the tongue of flame in the open air. Augustine preached to King Ethelbert, of England, in the open air. Wycliffe’s poor priests carried on their ministry almost exclusively in the open air. Peter of Bruys would not preach under a roof. Arnold of Brescia stood among the people in the open air and preached until he was thrown into a dungeon from when he went to a martyr’s glory. Peter Waldo and the “Poor Men of Lyons” were open-air preachers. In 1382 there was presented to the Parliament of England by the clergy a complaint against street preaching. John Huss, driven from his pulpit, began the Bohemian reformation in the open air. Luther preached in the open air at Zwickau to twenty-five thousand people. At Goslar a student from Wittenberg gathered the people under a lime tree and expounded to them the Scriptures, founding thus a society known as “Limetree Brethren.” John Livingston’s great sermon, which resulted in the conversion of five hundred Scotchmen, was delivered during a storm in the open air. Spurgeon says that he preached on the rain and dew, while it was raining, to thousands of people who stood and drank in the words like the thirsty grass. Mr. Kirkham, of England, says that he has frequently preached on the snow in a double sense, standing upon in at talking about it.

The preaching of Whitefield at Kingswood colliery is familiar to every student of the great Methodist revival. It is well known that John Wesley was refused his father’s pulpit at Epworth. John Taylor stood at the door of the church and announced that Mr. Wesley would preach at six o’clock that evening in the churchyard. Wesley, standing on his father’s tomb, preached from the text, “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” He said afterwards: “I am well assured that I did far more good to my Lincolnshire parishioners by preaching three days on my father’s tomb than I did by preaching three years in his pulpit.” I, for one, rejoice that the Established Church drove Whitefield and Wesley to the fields. The religion of that day needed just such an airing. A short time before his death, Mr. Wesley preached at Winchelsea, when he was eighty-seven years of age, in the open air under an ash tree, afterwards known as “Wesley’s Tree.”

Saint Mary’s Church in Whitechapel, London, has a pulpit built in the corner on the outside, from which the preacher reaches more people than he can induce to come within. The open air mission, known as Carrubber’s Close, in Edinburgh, has resulted in the conversion of thousands. Persons on sick beds have heard through open windows the gospel which led them to look up and trust in God. The pastor of the Somerstown Church, in London, declares that two-thirds of his one thousand members were converted in the streets. One of the presbyteries of Great Britain requires that all its ministers shall preach several times during the year in the open air. Bishop Aldhelm, of the seventh century, finding that he could not draw the people to his church, took his harp, and, standing on the corner, played sweetly enough to draw the crowd, and then preached to them the sweeter messages of grace. If his spirit should seize the pastors of our city churches and send them out in pleasant weather to their front doorsteps or to an adjacent lot, they might increase their audiences ten-fold.

It is evident that the Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost as a rushing, mighty wind would lead us into the open air with the message of salvation for lost sinners. Yield to His drawing and let your voice be heard this summer in song and testimony in the open air.

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