John Wanamaker

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Hungry for Souls

John WanamakerThe average shopper, at least on the east coast, knows all about Wanamaker department stores. What they may not know is that the name behind the department store was a committed Christian, and a God-fearing Presbyterian at that.

John Wanamaker was gifted in making American business possess a soul. He was first in offering workers at his department stores such benefits as pensions, life insurance, and vacations. He wasn’t shy either about venturing out into big projects. When he bought an old abandoned rail depot, he invited other merchants to come in with him. When they refused to venture into that new idea, he opened his own stores there and created the first successful department store in America. But his interest in how to do business paled beside the Lord’s business.

Devoting the Lord’s day to the Lord’s work, he said once, “If you once have the joy and sweet pleasure of bringing one soul to Christ, you will be hungry to get another.”  And so he had a spiritual hunger to bring every one of his pupils in his Sunday School class, for example,  to the feet of the Savior.  On March 12, 1888, he personally wrote letters to each member of his class about their souls and where they would be spending eternity. The gist of each letter was, “If you are not saved my dear friend — flee to the merciful Savior, as you would fly, into this warm room tonight out of the cold streets and the drifting snow. — If you are saved — humbly trusting in what Jesus did when his love failed not on the Cross — think of others not saved — NOT SAVED — going to the eternal darkness — your near friend, your relative — and do something!”

John Wanamaker knew, as a soul-winner, that he never was alone in this spreading of the gospel. As he said, “when you have faith enough and love enough to start out in the effort to bring a soul to the Savior — God the Holy Ghost joins in your effort, for God . . . works with even the poorest instrument that engages in His work.”

Words to Live By: Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:26 that “not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential, not many were of noble birth (into being called of God.” (NIV)  But as some have pointed out, Paul didn’t say “not any” were called.  Some influential individuals have been  called to do God’s work, and we praise God that these ones used their God-given talents to successfully do God’s work in extraordinary ways. Regardless, none should boast in their own selves, but rather in God. And John Wanamaker did that.

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Sharing  Faith by Word and Deed

John WanamakerEveryone has heard of the name John Wanamaker, especially those in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That is where this retail giant began his department stores at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.  But everyone may not know that John Wanamaker was a devout Presbyterian who shared his wealth and his Christian faith by word and deed.

Born on this day July 11, 1838, he began to work as an errand boy and shopkeeper’s helper.  At age 18, he became a Christian and began to attend Sunday School and church.  His congregation was Bethany Presbyterian church in Philadelphia.  In fact, at twenty-five, he was ordained as a ruling elder in the church.

He had some ideas which were unorthodox in the retail marketing field.  Using four principles, which were honesty, a fixed price for goods, a money back guarantee, and happy contented employees, he thought (and thought rightly) that customers would come. Workers were given free medical care, free education, recreational facilities, pensions, and profit-sharing plans. No wonder that unions could not get a foothold in his stores.

As his businesses grew with more and more stores in more than one city, he began to give large portions of his wealth to religious and moral causes.  The Young Man’s Christian Association and the Sunday School movement were among those receiving large support. He said once “I cannot too greatly emphasize the importance and value of Bible study — more important than ever before in these days of uncertainties, when men and women are apt to decide questions from the standpoint of expediency rather than the eternal principles laid down by God Himself.”

Words to Live By: 
When you consider that last sentence, about Bible study, we might think this was some recent quote, rather than something from the late 1800′s.  But a faith and life lived in the light of God’s Word–the Bible–makes everything relevant to every age.  Bible study still has its place in every believer’s life walk.  Buy a faithful Bible study, like the Reformation Study Bible, and get a good biblical commentary, like Matthew Henry’s, and (oh yes) a notebook to record the things that God impresses upon your heart and mind through His Word, then follow everything up with prayers of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplications (A.C.T.S), and you will be able to decide questions from the standpoint of God’s will for your life.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Sharing  Faith by Word and Deed

Everyone has heard of the name John Wanamaker, especially those in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That is where this retail giant began his department stores at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.  But everyone may not know that John Wanamaker was a devout Presbyterian who shared his wealth and his Christian faith by word and deed.

Born on this day July 11, 1838, he began to work as an errand boy and shopkeeper’s helper.  At age 18, he became a Christian and began to attend Sunday School and church.  His congregation was Bethany Presbyterian church in Philadelphia.  In fact, at twenty-five, he was ordained as a ruling elder in the church.

He had some ideas which were unorthodox in the retail marketing field.  Using four principles, which were honesty, a fixed price for goods, a money back guarantee, and happy contented employees, he thought (and thought rightly) that customers would come. Workers were given free medical care, free education, recreational facilities, pensions, and profit-sharing plans. No wonder that unions could not get a foothold in his stores.

As his businesses grew with more and more stores in more than one city, he began to give large portions of his wealth to religious and moral causes.  The Young Man’s Christian Association and the Sunday School movement were among those receiving large support. He said once “I cannot too greatly emphasize the important and value of Bible study — more important than ever before in these days of uncertainties, when men and women are apt to decide questions from the standpoint of expediency rather than the eternal principles laid down by God Himself.

Words to Live By: 
When you consider the last sentence about Bible study, we might think that he had made it in the current year in which we find ourselves instead of back in the late 1800’s.  But a faith and life lived in the light of God’s Word the Bible makes everything relevant to every age.  Bible study still has its place in every believer’s life walk.  Buy a faithful Bible study, like the Reformation Study Bible, with a good biblical commentary, like Matthew Henry, and (oh yes) a notebook to record what the Spirit reveals to you through His Word, follow everything up with prayers of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplications (A.C.T.S), and you will be able to decide questions from the standpoint of God Himself.

Through the Scriptures:  Isaiah 13 – 15

Through the Standards: The manner of sanctifying the Lord’s Day according to the Catechisms

WLC 117 — “How is the sabbath or the Lord’s day to be sanctified?
A.  The sabbath or Lord’s Day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.”

WSC 60 “How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
A.  The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:    

Hungry for Souls

The average shopper  knows all about Wanamaker department stores.  What they may not know is that the name behind the department store was a committed Christian, and a Christian Presbyterian at that.

John Wanamaker was gifted in making American business possess a soul.  He was first in offering workers at his department stores such benefits as pensions, life insurance, and vacations.  He wasn’t shy either about venturing out into big projects.  When he bought an old abandoned rail depot, he invited other merchants to come in with him. When they refused to venture into that new idea, he opened his own stores there and created the first successful department store in America. But his interest in how to do business paled beside the Lord’s business.

Devoting the Lord’s day to the Lord’s work, he said once, “If you once have the joy and sweet pleasure of bringing one soul to Christ, you will be hungry to get another.”  And so he had a spiritual hunger to bring every one of his pupils in his Sunday School class, for example,  to the feet of the Savior.  On March 12, 1888, he personally wrote letters to each member of his class about their souls and where they would be spending eternity.  The gist of each letter was, “If you are not saved my dear friend — flee to the merciful Savior, as you would fly, into this warm room tonight out of the cold streets and the drifting snow.  — If you are saved — humbly trusting in what Jesus did when his love failed not on the Cross — think of others not saved — NOT SAVED — going to the eternal darkness — your near friend, your relative — and do something!”

John Wanamaker knew, as a soul-winner, that he never was alone in this spreading of the gospel.  As he said, “when you have faith enough and love enough to start out in the effort to bring a soul to the Savior — God the Holy Ghost joins in your effort, for God . . . works with even the poorest instrument that engages in His work.”

Words to Live By: Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:26 that “not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential, not many were of noble birth (into being called of God.” (NIV)  But as some have pointed out, Paul didn’t say “not any” were called.  Some influential individuals have been  called to do God’s work, and we praise God that these ones used their God-given talents to successfully do God’s work in extraordinary ways. Regardless, none should boast in their own selves, but rather in God.  And John Wanamaker did that.

Through the Scriptures: Joshua 4 – 6

Through the Standards: The Redeemer is called both Jesus and Christ

WLC 41 — “Why was our Mediator called Jesus?
A. Our Mediator was called Jesus, because he saves his people from their sins.”

WLC 42 “Why was our Mediator called Christ?
A. Our Mediator was called Christ, because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure, and so set apart, and fully furnished with all authority and ability, to execute the offices of prophet, priest, and king of his church, in the estate of his humiliation and exaltation.”

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