Chapter Eight

Returning to San Francisco, William looked up Reverend Case and found the Church of the Stranger was in a new and bigger building, centrally located on Howard Street. It had originated in 1851 in the old Happy Valley School House, the neighborhood where Bill had first made his home in California. About all that was left of Happy Valley now was the name of a bar in the Palace Hotel.

Bill felt a warmth when he entered the church, and did not feel like an intruder, as he had always thought he would inside an American church.

At the close of services, Reverend Case admonished, "Now I want you to greet the stranger in our doors, remembering the social life is next to the spiritual life and our members are children of one Father, our God. After the services we will have an informal meeting right here in the church so all can get acquainted."

"I want to shake hands with you," Bill told the Reverend Case when the services were over. "I'm William Mullen and here on recommendation of Dwight L. Moody."

"I'm glad to know you, young man," he said with true cordiality. "Are you from Chicago?"

"No, sir, San Francisco is my home. I have decided to study for the ministry and had a talk with Mr. Moody. He suggested that I call on you when in San Francisco since I go to no church regularly."

"We would be glad to put you on our probation list here and receive you in our church when you qualify." Reverend Case promised. "At any rate, we'll always be glad to have you worship with up."

"I noticed you didn't have many women in the congregation."

"About seventy-five percent of our audience are men."

He sized up Mullen's proportions, noticing his brawn. "This church is sort of a well-spring from which many other San Francisco churches have sprung," he explained. "We have started several missions in various parts of the town and after a while they have grown into churches. We're conducting meetings on the waterfront at the present time. Would you have any interest in helping us here?"

"I should smile!" Bill replied.

"The hoodlums prowl there with such depredations the huskiest policemen are chosen for duty here. As I looked at you, I was just thinking that Christian workers for this Mission should be chosen the same way. Yes, I think you would fit into our street preaching program."

"Count me in," Bill said. "Would you like me to join you tonight?"

Reverend Case nodded and continued explaining: "Our church does considerable relief work among the poor. We also have old-fashioned revivals every Sunday night in the church if you'd prefer that. We like to think every one of our members is a working members"

"I would enjoy your Mission," Bill concluded.

"I must warn you to be on your mettle, though. It is nothing for the hoodlums to try to bomb a meeting or use some means to break it up. You'll find the police will give a certain amount of protection, but expect anything to happen."

"I will."

"Could you say a few words, if you were asked to?"

"I'll try, Sir."

"It will be good experience."

Bill nodded. When Reverend Case called upon him to speak that night, there was something about his confident manner that made him irresistible to the hecklers who had filled the long bench at the front of the hall.

"Aw shet up!" some yelled back to the hecklers, for they wanted to hear the stories that took Bill's listeners around the world.

But the hecklers would not be stilled. Bill's very manner, unruffled as it was, was too much a challenge for the scoffer.

"I was reared a Roman Catholic," he told them. "And I learned many fine things from this training. Yes, I learned many things from them, but I didn't get the power to forgive sins. No, I didn't get that."

As the hecklers went on, William could feel his temper rising. The blood rose so hotly in his veins that he was compelled to remove his coat. He knew it would have a shocking effect on the more sedate ones of the church group, but he also knew he must or he would suffocate from this fury inside.

The heckling continued, gathering momentum in the face of the church worker's non-resistance. They kept closing in on him, and Bill removed his collar and tie, and carefully laid them on the pulpit stand, his talk growing more dramatic with each passing minute. He surprised himself at his flow of speech, at the endless verses that poured out of his mind, and rolled off of his tongue. Little had he dreamed it would be so easy to remember the Bible he had read with such an intensity in the weeks and months since turning to God.

"No, I never got the power to forgive sins," he repeated. "But I'll tell you one thing, I did receive the power to cast out devils." The twinkle in his eyes was pure mischief.

He removed his stiff cuffs, carefully rolling back the sleeves of his "boiled" shirt. It gave what he did great importance. Eyes became fastened on the procedure. Snickers filled his nostrils. His mouth curved upward. His manner was that of good humor.

"Yes, I learned to cast out devils from my good Catholic relatives in Ireland, and I'm going to show you how it's done."

"The hell you can," one of the hecklers closest to him shouted. He was the ring leader of the hoodlums.

"Well, when you get to Hell, you'll have plenty of time to think over how it's done," Mullen came laughing back.

With this the crowd roared, too. They were beginning to think over how it's done," Mullen came laughing back.

"Now I', going to show you this power," he said, and with the agility he so often displayed in tossing a wild horse, he leaped to the pulpit's edge, and picking up the leader by the collar of his coat and the seat of his pants, he tossed him up and over the crowd so that he cleared the tallest head by several inches and hurtled the heckler on the floor at the entrance to the building.

The crowd jeered and cheered and the meeting from that minute on was as orderly as Grace Cathedral.

"Well, that's what I call muscular Christianity," Reverend Case told him afterwards. "The police have been powerless to give us much help. They themselves always go in twos whenever they are on this beat, and you'll find them all carrying long knives, for the hoodlums are as rough here as any place in the world. But you don't seem to need their protection."

"Call on me anytime you can use me," Mullen said with deep satisfaction.

There was no doubt that that he had enjoyed his second sermon.

"I have a better place than this for you," Reverend Case calculated. "We sometimes hold meetings on the wharf. How would you like to try taming the street?"

"When is your next meeting?"

"Sunday," Case replied.

"I'll be there."

Reverend Case took the church group over to a little coffee house for rolls and hot chocolate, and as they sat and talked over the afternoon services, Case said, "Mullen, I don't know of anyone better qualified to become a street preacher than you. I was amazed to hear you quote Bible verse for verse. How did you do it?"

"I spend a great deal of time with the Book because I've many years to make up in learning."

"Did you ever stop to think," Case said, "Jesus' only recorded sermon was preached on a mountain? We also have reports of others preached on the seashore, on the decks of ships, and in the streets to prove Jesus, too, was an outdoor preacher."

"It's certainly something to think about," Bill agreed.

"There isn't room in all the churches of California to hold all the people who should be reached," Reverend Case sail.

"I know that, sir," Bill answered. "And I also know that often men feel unwanted in the church. They are kept out by their own poverty."

"Besides," Reverend Case sought to clinch Bill's interest, "you practice a muscular Christianity and that's why you are needed on the wharf. I'd like to see you do it regularly, will you?"

Bill was silent a moment as he studied the matter. "I'm afraid that is the trouble, Reverend. If I were any good as a preacher, I wouldn't have to resort to what you call 'muscular Christianity." What I had to say would hold their interest. Oh, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the fight tonight. I enjoyed it too much. Both times I got into a fight, didn't I? And both times that held the men - not what I said - not the Love of God. You've plenty of churches here, and your missions, and the Salvation Army, and they are all doing better work than I could ever do. I know where I belong."


"In all our Western States the cowboy never has had much opportunity to hear about the Love of God. He could travel a hundred miles on horseback if he wanted to, and still he wouldn't find one church to attend. Well, my congregation's going to be the cowboys of our western ranches. I am one of them. I speak their language and they will understand me. I can break horses as I go along and earn enough money to take care of my ministry so I won't be bound to preach the way someone else wants me to - to have others put words in my mouth. An' I guess if I just keep on learning the Book I won't need anything more than the education I have, although I still would like to go to school if I could find one that would take me in. The cowboy has never had any labor union to protect him, no welfare worker, no woman's club or child labor laws. He has managed to live happily on an eighteen-hour day and always thought it unmanly to complain. He's always known his place, revered womanhood, and yet there's no one today who worries one iota about his soul. He has always displayed the hardihood and the courage that comes with long familiarity with trouble and hardship. Indeed, he would make a good man in God's army. When he gets sick and lonely and not knowing what else to do, he wanders into town on a Saturday night and downs whiskey to drown his soul, and then there are thousands of folks willing to believe his courage is packed inside his Colt. I know where he can always find a source of strength that will give him the fearlessness he needs without revolvers or whiskey. And I'm going to make it my business to tell him about it."

The little band of religious workers sat there drinking in his every word, all there knew, here was a man who truly was drafted by God.

"Yes, Reverend Case, I thank you for this experience tonight. I know my place. It's on my horse's back. And that's going to be my pulpit, from now on, the hard ground, the pews of my church, and the open sky, God's tabernacle. I won't need any money because I can break horses by day and preach nights and Sundays. And when I'm through, please God, there won't be a cowboy in America who will not have had the opportunity to accept Christ's love and be blessed with the power of God's salvation."

Go to Chapter Nine

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