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Foundation Of The Y.M.C.A.

( Originally Published 1902 )

ABOUT sixty years ago, a young man went from Somersetshire to London, to learn the dry-goods business. He entered as a clerk in the store of George Hitchcock, one of the leading business houses of the great capital. This young man was intelligent, industrious, honest and polite, he was firm in his religious faith, and exceedingly aggressive in evangelical labor. There were a hundred other clerks in the store, and chiefly through his personal instrumentality, a majority of them were brought into saving faith and into the Christian Church. He organized a prayer-meeting in an upper room of the store. The religious fire that started in this place spread to other houses in the same line of business.

The energetic young man who was leader in the movement, invited some clerks from the other dry-goods firms of the city to join him in a general religious meeting. And in the upstairs room where he had held his first meetings, he organized " A Society for Improving the Spiritual Condition of Young Men Engaged in the Dry-goods and other Trades." That young man was George Williams, and that society of London dry-goods clerks became the first Young Men's Christian Association of the world. And now, in fifty-eight years, it has grown until its buildings and associations have been established in every civilized country, and almost every great city, and in many heathen lands ; and its members are numbered by the hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands, while its influence for good has been too great for numbers to express. That young clerk had not the remotest idea of what would be the result of his labor all he wanted to do, and all he tried to do, was to save the souls of his fellow-clerks, and in his attempts to do so, "he builded wiser than he knew," becoming the founder of one of the most efficient religious instrumentalities of our time. The dry-goods clerk was promoted step by step until he became himself the head of one of the leading business houses in London, and now, in wealth and honor, he enjoys a title and place amongst the nobility of Great Britain. Unlike many men who decrease in grace as they increase in wealth and fame, the advancement of Sir George Williams, in religious growth and energy, has kept pace with his promotion and success as a merchant; with his counsel, his labors, and his gifts he has befriended every good enterprise, and to this day has maintained the most lively interest in the Association.

The privilege is allowed to but few to found such an organization as the Young Men's Christian Association, but the humblest young man, who does duty next to him, and who strives to bring some soul to Christ is doing a work, the greatness of which no language can describe, and though no notice may be taken of him, and no title of nobility may be bestowed upon him, in the cycles of eternity his work will grow into magnitudes which no numbers can compute, and no imagination conceive.

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