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MONTREAT, N.C. — The Rev. Billy Graham died Wednesday at age 99. He was the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history. Here are some quotations from the man who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism.


On hope

“The cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering, for he took upon himself in the person of Jesus Christ our sins and our suffering. And from the cross, God declares, ‘I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pains that you feel. But I love you.’ The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb that tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ has conquered evil and death and hell. Yes, there is hope.”

– at the National Cathedral after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks


On preaching

“I’m always afraid, afraid that I may give the wrong word to someone and that it might affect their eternal destiny. I worry every time I go to the platform that I’m unworthy to be there. I often wish that the platform would just open up and drop me through.”

– quoted in “Billy Graham Speaks” by Janet Lowe


On his 1934 conversion experience:

“When I came to Christ, I was head of the young people’s society. The clergyman thought that I was the finest Christian among the young people, but he didn’t know me very well. He didn’t know the hunger of my heart. He did not know the sins of my life. When I was 17 years of age I gave my life to Christ and he changed me.”

– preaching during the 1974 Lausanne evangelism congress


On a 1948 decision to avoid pitfalls of earlier evangelists:

“We determined to do all we could to avoid financial abuses and to downplay the offering and depend as much as possible on money raised by local committees in advance. … From that day on, I did not travel, meet or eat alone with a woman other than my wife. … We were determined to cooperate with all who would cooperate with us in the public proclamation of the Gospel and to avoid an anti-church or anti-clergy attitude.”

– in his autobiography, “Just As I Am”


On the arms race

“The nuclear arms race has already indirectly caused a hidden holocaust of unimaginable proportions in our world. Every day, millions upon millions of people live on the knife-edge of survival because of starvation, poverty and disease. At the same time, we are told the nations of the world are spending an estimated $600 billion per year on weapons. If even one-tenth of that amount were diverted to long-range development programs that would help the world’s poor and starving, millions of lives could be saved each year.”

– quoted in the biography “A Prophet with Honor” by William Martin


On regrets

“I have failed many times and I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more and I would spend more time with my family. … Becoming involved in strictly political issues or partisan politics inevitably dilutes the evangelist’s impact and compromises his message. It is a lesson I wish I had learned earlier.”

– in his autobiography “Just As I Am”