Billy Bray (1794-1868), the fiery English Methodist preacher, spent the first 10 years of his adult life far away from God. A miner by trade, he was a drunkard and lived a riotous life. After narrowly escaping death in a mining accident in 1823, he began to think about eternal matters. After reading John Bunyan’s Visions of Heaven and Hell, he accepted Christ as his Lord, left behind his destructive ways, and became active in a Methodist church.
Billy Bray was an earnest young convert. He aimed to tell everyone he met about the gospel and how God changed his life. He soon became an evangelist and was known for his spontaneous outbursts of singing and dancing during his sermons. Few preachers of his era could equal his reputation for genuine joy and thanksgiving to God.
It was quite fitting, then, that the Pentecostal Evangel would publish an article about Bray for Thanksgiving in 1957. The article’s author, Raymond L. Cox (a noted educator with the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel), used Bray’s testimony to illustrate why Christians should praise the Lord:
“Someone asked, ‘Billy Bray, why do you praise the Lord so much?’ The Cornish coal miner who had turned preacher eyed his questioner incredulously. Bray was astonished that such an inquiry should escape the lips of a Christian brother. ‘I bless the Lord constantly,’ he replied, ‘because my whole life is brightened by praising God.’ ‘But why must you do it aloud?’ queried the man. Billy answered, ‘I can’t help praising Him aloud. As I walk down the street. I lift up one foot, and it seems to say, ‘Glory!’ Then I lift up the other, and it seems to say, ‘Amen!’ And they keep on like that all the time I walk.’”
Cox recounted that Bray brought “his cheerful Christianity into the most desperate and dismal places.” He comforted those who were suffering and dying and spoke words of faith into situations that seemed hopeless. “The former Cornish coal miner was indeed a chronic praiser,” according to Cox. “The bells of blessing chimed constantly in the steeple of his soul. And often, although his voice was far from beautiful according to concert standards, Bray would be found going his way singing some hymn joyously and heartily.”
Billy Bray started life in a non-descript family of miners in England, but he ended life as a down-to-earth preacher who is remembered for bringing a joyful gospel message to countless thousands. The catalyst for his life-change was a near-death experience, which caused him to reassess his life priorities. He accepted Christ and spent the rest of his life cultivating a thankful heart that overflowed with praise.
Why should Christians praise the Lord? Cox suggested that the answer to this question is illustrated in the life of Billy Bray: “Praising God for our blessings extends them, Praising God for our troubles will end them.”
Read the article, “Why Praise the Lord?” by Raymond L. Cox, on pages 4 and 5 of the Nov. 24, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “Elijah in a Cave,” by Ruth Stewart
• “A Lesson in Thanksgiving,” by Robert W. Cummings
• “The Greatest Gift,” by David W. Plank
And many more!