Heaven Can Wait
Methodist William Taylor was the best-known evangelist in early California. Author of Seven Years’ Street Preaching in San Francisco, he eschewed offers to speak indoors, preferring to deliver his message from a platform of overturned crates within earshot of bars and brothels. His audiences were often less than receptive, as he noted in his 1858 volume California Life Illustrated:
I preached to a large assembly of miners one Sunday afternoon in the streets of Placerville, a flourishing mining city of 6,000 inhabitants. In front of my goods-box pulpit stood a stage-coach, which was crowded to its utmost capacity with as many of my auditors [hearers] as were fortunate enough to secure so good a seat. I endeavored to show the multitude before me their unfitness for heaven in their unregenerated state, their utter want of sympathy with God, or adaptation to the immunities of heaven.
To illustrate the truth of my position, I said, “If God should dispatch a rail-car train to the city of Placerville this afternoon to convey passengers direct to heaven, the conductor might whistle till the setting of the sun and not get one passenger. Heaven has no attractions for you. It is a place to which you don’t want to go. Why, if the flaming steeds of Elijah’s chariot of fire were hitched on to that stage-coach, and the driver cracked his whip for the heavenly country, every fellow in it would jump out.”
And in a moment the coach was cleared, every man in it leaped for the street in an apparent fright, from the apprehension that, perhaps, Elijah’s horses might be hitched to the stage, and they taken off to glory, a place to which they did not wish to go.
The Oakland Museum of California provides a virtual gold rush exhibit at:
By William Taylor
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #66 in 2000]
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Many non- and semi-Christian groups also laid claim to the West, but none more successfully than the Mormons.Elesha Coffman
The West That Wasn’t Won
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