Those who were closely acquainted with the work of Elder W. W. Simpson, who passed off the stage of action some twenty-eight years ago, will doubtless concede that he was, during the period of his ministry, one of the most successful soul winners in the history of our organized work. Because of close association with him during the later years of his life, I have often been asked concerning the secrets of his success. The symposium of experience of successful workers now in active service, published in the August number of the Ministry, prompts me to submit certain personal impressions, written some twenty-nine years ago, concerning the evident secrets of success of this truly great evangelist.
Elder Simpson was a man of great force as a gospel minister. He had a pleasing personality, and a clear voice, which, while powerful, was not at all trying on the nerves of his hearers. He might have been truly called a "smiling preacher," but he became appropriately serious when his subject demanded seriousness. He studiously avoided giving offense to his audience, and always took his listeners into his confidence, rather than seeming to dictate their beliefs.
He was unusually skillful in preparing his advertising matter, constantly using special illustrations of his own design. It would be difficult to surpass the attractiveness of the announcements for his meetings for each succeeding night. This gift was a strong factor in the maintenance of a large and regular attendance throughout an entire series of meetings. He made the audience feel that they must not miss the next service, lest they suffer a great loss.
His first service in a series was nearly always on the subject of the millennium. For this meeting he would hire a popular hall, and then announce the second service to be held in a large canvas pavilion. He made the first night so interesting that a large proportion of his audience followed him to his tent, and held remarkably steady in size until the close of the effort. Elder Simpson had a large number of unique charts, and was clever and rapid in the use of blackboard and chalk to illustrate points in his discourses. He was tactful in getting large offerings, thus meeting the expenses of his meetings, except the salaries of the workers. By nature he was genial and friendly, a man of deep sympathy; his personality was a distinct asset in his work.
I have yet to mention three qualities which contributed largely to his success in winning souls. From the very beginning of each series of meetings, he made it a rule to give the people credit for recognizing a right principle when it was presented to them, and frequently gave them opportunity to express themselves by vote on the clear principles of the plan of salvation. The practice carried a large percentage of the people along to the point of taking their stand on the right side when the testing truths of the message were presented.
A second characteristic was that when the time came to present such testing questions as the change of the Sabbath and the man of sin, or other subjects which might give offense, he would spend perhaps five minutes telling the people that he had a great principle of truth and a solemn warning against error to present to them, but he greatly dreaded to present them lest the feelings of some would be wounded, but that he wanted all to know the truth and to obey it for their own souls' sake. He was successful in causing the people to believe that he took no pleasure in cutting across their preconceived habits or beliefs, but was under deep conviction to impart to them such truth as would, if accepted and obeyed, mean their eternal welfare. When it was evident that the people desired him to feel free to present the message that was upon his heart, then in a kindly spirit he would proceed with the testing truths of the threefold message.
The third quality was a really marvelous gift in preaching "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." The Saviour Himself said, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me," and so honored the message of His servant.
Such were the outstanding characteristics of this truly successful preacher.