Tag Archive | Church History

Winning the World and Losing Your Children – Sunday Style

Last night I read about Billy Sunday, the baseball player turned evangelist of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. All I knew about Billy Sunday before was that supposedly he was a great evangelist that conducted campaigns similar to the Billy Graham crusades of recent history.

Now this post is not concerning Sunday’s theology, preaching method or his political activities. There are many that can discuss those topics better than I can. But this is about Billy Sunday’s family, his wife Nell and their children.

Billy Sunday left professional baseball to become a traveling evangelist shortly after he married Nell (Helen Thompson Sunday). It took him a couple of years to become famous as an evangelist but because of his having played for the Chicago White Stockings his name was common and attracted many just to see the famous baseball player. What started out as two or three evangelistic campaigns per year soon turned into by his peak nearly continuous campaigns. Here is a year as an example:

January-February, 1921
February 17, 1921
March 6-May 1, 1921
May-June, 1921
June-July, 1921
September-October, 1921
November-December, 1921

Although some were one day engagements, which the records of many are lost, many lasted for a month or more, several even lasted five, six or up to eight weeks at a time. While it is bad enough for a husband and father to be gone for so much time from his family, when the mother is gone also that adds to the problems.

After 1907, the year she had her last baby, Nell decided to manage and travel full time with her husband on his crusades. She left the children home with the live-in Nanny. While Billy Sunday’s campaigns grew and made more money with his wife’s complete management of them, the children suffered for it.

In 1908, Nell and Billy agreed that she would travel with him, leaving the three younger children in the care of a nanny. Nell managed the campaign organization, energized the Sunday publicity machine, and hovered over the collection plates. Her formidable manner “struck terror to the hearts” of those who tried to take advantage of her husband, and “tact was not her greatest virtue.” Nevertheless, her loyalty and sincerity made her Billy’s mainstay. Nell acted as a buffer between Sunday and the outside world, making it possible for him to concentrate on his preaching. It is doubtful that he could have become the sensational attraction that he in fact became without her assistance. Helen Thompson Sunday

Helen Edith Sunday Haines, born in 1890, was the only child that was really raised by Nell Sunday. She died of disease and Pneumonia in 1932.

George Marquis Sunday was born in 1892, William Ashley Sunday, Jr. in 1901, and Paul Thompson Sunday in 1907. These three sons were the source of untold grief and despair for their parents. They were drunkards, while their parents fought for Prohibition. They lived wild, riotous lives and embarrassed their parents. All three died before the age of 40 in tragic violent deaths. The oldest son committed suicide after being arrested for drunkenness and auto theft, one died while driving home drunk from a party, and the other crashed an airplane.

That isn’t all, the three sons had a total of nine marriages between them. Nell Sunday was blackmailed and forced to pay large sums of money to the ex-wives in order to keep them silent about their sons infidelities.

The boys’ ex-wives remained a continuing dilemma for the Sundays. Some blackmailed the evangelist to keep quiet about their children’s infidelities. Others used gentler techniques to extract money, and Nell often provided friendly advice to the women when she responded with financial assistance. Helen Thompson Sunday

See although Nell Sunday claimed to be a Christian and worked hard to win others to the gospel she ignored God’s own commands for her family. She managed her husband’s career and made him a thriving success, while her area of responsibility, her family, suffered.

Titus 2:3-5
3 They are to teach what is good,
4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,
5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled

Mrs. Sunday was an early proponent of women working and not being confined to the home.

She supported women’s work during the war, and in one column she gloried that “at last, the doors of the Doll House have been opened and women have been invited to come into the great world outside. The rest is in their own hands.” Helen Thompson Sunday


It doesn’t matter what you are doing, even serving the Lord, if you are disobedient to His Word you have sinned. It doesn’t matter what you have sacrificed for the cause of spreading God’s Word, God desires obedience.

1 Samuel 15:22 Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, … ESV


Church Music in the Days of The Puritians

During their day, Puritans would play musical instruments in their homes but never in the church. It just wasn’t done that way. The psalm book that they sang from did not have musical notes or notations but the tune was chosen by the presenter and then the congregation followed. Or at least was supposed to. But with no written music to follow and no musical instruments the singing over the years denigrated into cacophony. Congregations did not even sing the same “tune” the same way.

Judge Sewell according to his diary complained that twice the congregation was started on one tune and quickly charged right into a totally different tune. He soon gave up his job as presenter.

“. . . the Tunes that are already in use in our Churches; which, when they first came out of the Hands of the Composers of them, were sung according to the Rules of the Scale of Musick, . . . are now miserably tortured, and twisted, and quavered, in some Churches, into a horrid Medly of confused and disorderly Noises. . . .Our Tunes are, for the want of a Standard to appeal to in all our Singing, left to the Mercy of every unskilful Throat to chop and alter, twist and change, according to their infinitely divers and no less odd Humours and Fancies. That this is most true, I appeal to the Experiences of those who have happened to be present in many of our Congregations, who will grant me, that there are no two Churches that sing alike. Yea, I have my self heard (for Instance) Oxford Tune sung in three Churches (which I purposely forbear to mention) with as much difference as there can possibly between York and Oxford, and any two other different Tunes. … For much time is taken up in shaking out [the] Turns and Quavers; and besides, no two Men in the Congregation quaver alike, or together; which sounds in the Ears of a good Judge, like Five Hundred different Tunes roared out at the same time, whose perpetual interferings with one another, perplexed Jars, and unmeasured Periods, would make a Man wonder at the false Pleasure, which they conceive in that which good Judges of Musick and Sounds, cannot bear to hear.”

Grounds and Rules 1721, Thomas Walters

Or how about this quote:

“… sad to hear what whining, toling, yelling or shreaking there is in our country congregations.” Master Mace

And another controversy over music and singing.

So villanous had church-singing at last become that the clergymen arose in a body and demanded better performances; while a desperate and disgusted party was also formed which was opposed to all singing. Still another band of old fogies was strong in force who wished to cling to the same way of singing that they were accustomed to; and they gave many objections to the new-fangled idea of singing by note, the chief item on the list being the everlasting objection of all such old fossils, that “the old way was good enough for our fathers,” &c. They also asserted that “the names of the notes were blasphemous;” that it was “popish;” that it was a contrivance to get money; that it would bring musical instruments into the churches; and that “no one could learn the tunes any way.”

Sabbath In Puritan New England by Alice Morse Earle

Here is some more information about Edwards:

And the duty of singing praises to God, seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned, why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music, but only, that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections.

Jonathon Edwards Religious Affections (WJE Online Vol. 2)

Edwards lived at the time when Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was dominating the world of music. Though the two were separated by an ocean, one was a Congregationalist and the other a Lutheran, and it is probable that Edwards never actually heard any of Bach’s music, Edwards shared a similar vision with the great composer. Bach, as the composer par excellence at the time, used harmony and counterpoint to direct one’s attention to a higher reality. Edwards likened the harmony of music to the proportionality of beautiful physical features on a woman, as musical harmony symbolized future heavenly harmonious relationships. Music, as well, was to him the most perfect means of communication. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Edwards often enjoyed singing with his wife Sarah. As a result of this love of music, Edwards set about to reform congregational singing. Strict Calvinism (and correspondingly high Biblicism) led many to believe, as Calvin did, that the only appropriate songs to sing in church were those found in the Bible, translated literally from the Hebrew or Greek. Thus, the Psalms (usually unaccompanied by instruments) was the only form of musical worship allowed in New England churches. By Edwards’ time, this had become pure cacophony, especially in contrast to the music epitomized by Bach. People like Cotton Mather, Isaac Watts, and Edwards’ grandfather Solomon Stoddard brought in the “new music,” including hymns, into the churches. Thus it was that Edwards was able to enjoy the advent of this new musical revolution, the style of which he dearly loved.


The quote from Master Mace seems that we have come full circle back to where we started centuries ago.

“… sad to hear what whining, toling, yelling or shreaking there is in our country congregations.”

Does that not describe many of our contemporary worship services where the noise of the instruments and the screaming of lyrics obscur any possible value in the words?


Dr. George Ella to be in Gadsden, Alabama

Dr. George Ella will be speaking in Gadsden for the 2009 Gadsden Conference on the English Bible on Friday and Saturday, July 17 and 18, 2009.

He will also be speaking in several area churches during the two weeks he will be in the Southeastern part of the USA.

Dr. Ella has written Biographical works on:

William Cowper,
William Huntington,
James Hervey,
John Gill,
Augustus Montague Toplady,
Andrew Fuller,
Henry Bullinger,
Isaac McCoy

Dr. Ella has also published shorter works on over ninety Christian leaders.

He has written several theological books also.

Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, OK, has had him write their church history and has hosted Dr. Ella several times.

Some samples of Dr. Ella’s work available online include:

Hugh Latimer

Martin Bucer – several other topics can be found from this link.

The Dumbing Down of Doctrine

Biographia Evangelica – is Dr. Ella’s own site with a multitude of online articles.

I have to admit that I had never heard of Dr. George Ella before the Gadsden Conference on the English Bible planning was being done. The story about how a small town like Gadsden ended up with Dr. Ella coming to speak is rather interesting.

Somehow Dr. Ella’s email address was in one of the pastor’s Outlook address book so when the first information about the Conference was emailed out to everyone in the address book Dr. Ella received one. Through a few emails back and forth it was found out that Dr. Ella had distant relatives who had lived in the Southeastern USA.

When Dr. Ella expressed a slight interest in visiting Alabama arraignments were made to gather enough money for flying him to Alabama for speaking at the conference and several local churches. What started out as involving a handful of people has since become a much larger undertaking involving several churches, church associations, the Gadsden Public Library, Gadsden State Community College, Gadsden Museum of Art, and the Gadsden Cultural Arts Center.

The other locations for Dr. Ella’s speaking schedule can be found through this link. They include the Gadsden Public Library, several Primitive Baptist Churches, a Southern Baptist Church and a Reformed Baptist Church in addition to the Gadsden Conference on the English Bible.


Sacred Harp Singing – Losing Its Heart

This weekend we attended the National Sacred Harp Convention in the Birmingham, Alabama area. I enjoyed getting to hear the style singing that I grew up listening to. Although I found I was seriously out of practice. I could not sing as fast as they did.

The National Convention draws some of the best Sacred Harp singers from around the world.

There were around a dozen singers from the UK, lots from Canada, one lady was from Holland, and many from all over the USA. Singers drove or flew from Oregon, Montana, New York, and California. There was one lady that has flown from England for ten years for this conference.

We didn’t see anyone we really knew this year. Most of the older individuals aren’t able to travel any longer or else they have passed away. We saw several that we are familiar with but really don’t know, many that are part of promoting Sacred Harp Singing nationally. And of course there was the eclectic older individual man that is a regular each year. You never know what to expect from him. I guess you would call him a modern day hippy. The day we saw him he wore shorts, a printed shirt, black knee high socks, and some kind of rolled beret hat. The day before he was proudly wearing a NO WAR shirt.

That was a symptom of a larger problem which I have noticed for years but never so much as this year. What is the problem? The fact that although in some ways Sacred Harp Singing is thriving and being introduced to more and more younger generations, it has lost its heart.

What do I mean about losing its heart?

The National Convention has become a singing for the sake of singing and promoting Sacred Harp singing. But the real reason for singing is lost, just like Christmas today has no evidence of the purpose intended. The heart of Sacred Harp singing is worshiping our Lord, singing praise to His name and His wonderful provisions for us. But that was missing. Now granted there were those there that were singing to praise and worship the Lord, particularly the older individuals. But many, many were there to sing a style of music and they had never caught the reason for the singing.

Sacred Harp singing was a method of learning to sing notes and carry tunes in order that hymn singing in worship services might be beautiful praise to the Lord. It was developed at a time when reading music was not known by the general population and tunes were sung differently in different churches just from memory.

Within a generation or two, the Puritans forgot many of their psalm tunes, and the pace of singing slowed. Lining out, a practice in which a clerk or precentor sang or read a line followed by the people’s singing of that line, gradually became more popular. This call-response pattern and the slowed tempo encouraged individuals to improvise their own variations on the psalm tunes ever more loudly in an increasingly cacophonous sea of sound. Ministers like Thomas Walter found this “singing by rote” intolerable and began in the second and third decades of the eighteenth century to argue for a return to “regular singing.” By 1800 the practice of “lining out” had died in New England and moved South, more of its own accord than by argument, but concern for “regular singing” helped to create singing schools.

Dictionary of Christianity in America

So villanous had church-singing at last become that the clergymen arose in a body and demanded better performances; while a desperate and disgusted party was also formed which was opposed to all singing. Still another band of old fogies was strong in force who wished to cling to the same way of singing that they were accustomed to; and they gave many objections to the new-fangled idea of singing by note, the chief item on the list being the everlasting objection of all such old fossils, that “the old way was good enough for our fathers,” &c. They also asserted that “the names of the notes were blasphemous;” that it was “popish;” that it was a contrivance to get money; that it would bring musical instruments into the churches; and that “no one could learn the tunes any way.”

Sabbath In Puritan New England by Alice Morse Earle

So Sacred Harp singing developed as a way to teach the hymns and tunes to the congregations in order that the hymn singing could be done “decently and in order”.

If you visit a small Sacred Harp singing in a church there is often praying and testimonies given during the singing. Even the songs attest to the Lord’s Grace and faithfulness to us worthless sinners. Although the singings may be doing the right things and saying the right words, they are becoming lacking in the truly important things – worshiping the Lord with all the heart and spirit.


History of the Indestructible Book

History of the Indestructible Book
2009 Gadsden Conference on the English Bible

Friday and Saturday, July 17 and 18, 2009.

There is no cost to attend this conference.
(But please pre-register so adequate seating can be arranged.)

Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts
501 Broad Street
Gadsden, Alabama 35901

Speakers are from Reformed Churches, Primitive Baptist Churches, Southern Baptist Churches and Presbyterian Churches.

Friday, July 17 Printable Brochure

12:00 PM Registration Opens
12:30 PM Welcome and Introduction / Historical Translation Challenges ~ Michael Rogers
1:30 PM Why the History of the Bible is Important ~ Matthew Carpenter
2:30 PM The English Bible before 1611 ~ Lyn Caudle
3:30 PM Break
4:00 PM The 1611 King James Bible ~ Anthony Copeland
5:00 PM Dinner Break (on your own)
7:00 PM John Wycliffe – Star of the Reformation ~ Dr. George Ella
8:00 PM Question and Answer Session
8:30 PM Dismiss

Saturday, July 18 Printable Brochure

8:00 AM Registration Opens
8:30 AM The English Bible after 1611 ~ Ricky Tillis
9:30 AM John Albert Bengel – Father of Modern Biblical Scholarship ~ Dr. George Ella
11:00 AM Museum Exhibit Grand Opening
12:00 PM Lunch Break (on your own)
1:00 PM Viewing of Exhibits / Ink and Blood
2:30 PM Special Session – Children and Youth with Dr. Ella ~ Dr. George Ella
3:00 PM Modern Translation Challenges: A Case Study ~ Bob Hamilton
4:00 PM Canonization of the Scriptures ~ Steve Cowan
5:30 PM Diner Break (on your own)
7:00 PM William Tyndale – Heir of God through Christ’s Deservings ~ Dr. George Ella
8:00 PM Question and Answer Session
8:30 PM Dismiss

This Conference is a joint effort by several church denominations, The City of Gadsden and Gadsden State Community College.


Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts
Gadsden Museum of Art
Gadsden State Community College
Gadsden Public Library
Ink and Blood – Dead Sea Scrolls to Gutenberg
Chattanooga Primitive Baptist Church
Dominion Baptist Church
Etowah Baptist Association
Fellowship Baptist Church (Cleveland, AL)
Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church (McDonough, GA)
Gadsden Primitive Baptist Church
Grace Fellowship Community Church
Harvest Fellowship Community Church
Heritage Primitive Baptist Church
Immanuel Baptist Church (no website link)


Louis Bourgeois – Old 100th Tune Writer

Here is another history lesson on the music wars in the church, of the 1500’s style. This poor man, Louis Bourgeois, gave us the tune to the Old 100th but was essentially run out of town because he dared change the tunes to some familiar Psalms.

Technically though the tune we call the Old 100th was actually written by Bourgeois for Psalm 134. It wasn’t until “All People That on Earth Do Dwell,” taken from Psalm 100, was written by William Kethe that the tune became known as the Old 100th.

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His folk, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.

O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God Whom Heaven and earth adore,
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.

Later that same tune was used for the song, “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow,” which we often call it “The Doxology”. It was written by Thomas Ken.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

As commonly as we know this tune, writing music tunes wasn’t so easy back in the 1500’s. You actually had to have a license to write a tune!

“Louis Bourgeois is the one most responsible for the tunes in the Genevan Psalter, the source for the hymns of both the Reformed Church in England and the Pilgrims in America. In the original versions by Bourgeois, the music is monophonic, in accordance with the dictates of John Calvin, who disapproved not only of counterpoint but of any multiple parts; Bourgeois though did also provide four-part harmonizations, but they were reserved for singing and playing at home. Many of the four-part settings are syllabic and chordal, a style which has survived in many Protestant church services to the present day.

Of the tunes in the Genevan Psalter, some are reminiscent of secular chansons, others are directly borrowed from the Strasbourg Psalter; The remainder were composed by successively Guillaume Franc, Louis Bourgeois and Pierre Davantès. By far the most famous of Bourgeois’ compositions is the tune known as the Old 100th.Unfortunately, he fell foul of local musical authorities and was sent to prison on December 3, 1551 for changing the tunes for some well-known psalms “without a license.” He was released on the personal intervention of John Calvin, but the controversy continued: those who had already learned the tunes had no desire to learn new versions, and the town council ordered the burning of Bourgeois’s instructions to the singers, claiming they were confusing. Shortly after this incident, Bourgeois left Geneva never to return: … “ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loys_Bourgeois