He began to speak...

Harold St. John

He longed to preach the gospel to every creature and spent hours distributing tracts and visiting the slums. He said later, ‘When I was quite young I used to go down to the slums of London. I would go into a common lodging-house on a Sunday night dressed in a frock coat and a top hat, and I would stand there with a New Testament in my hand and preach and preach, and be very much surprised that the people did not listen to me. Then I discovered why they would not listen, and I got hold of the oldest suit I could borrow, and in that suit I placed the sum of 4d., and in the evening I went with the rag-tag and bobtail of the district to that lodging-house where 200-300 men were to sleep for the night. I sat where they sat, and the fleas that bit them bit me; and the same crawly things that crawled on them crawled on me. I spent some nights in that dreadful chamber silently listening to their needs and woes. Then, at six o’clock one morning, when they were getting their breakfast, I arose and began to speak to them, and now I found there was not the slightest difficulty in getting their attention. I had sat where they sat, generally for about nine wakeful hours, and I understood exactly how dirty they were, how the seas of life were buffeting them, and they were perfectly willing to listen to a man who had sat where they sat’. 

The greatest day in our history was when it pleased God to draw closer to us than He had ever done before. After 40 centuries of dwelling in cloud and thick darkness, it pleased God to come closer to us. But He didn’t send His Son to start preaching some code: when our Lord went into the business of redemption, for 30 years He never said a word of public ministry. For 30 years He sat where they sat and learned their thoughts and experi-ences. For 30 years He knew hunger, weariness, poverty, and the shadows and cares of that little home, and, when He had learned all these things, then He opened His mouth and began to speak. And the world has been listening ever since.

[Extracted from The Collected Writings of Harold St John, published by Gospel Tract Publications, Glasgow, Scotland].