Of Whom the World was Not Worth: Sam Gilmore

Track of a Track-Distributor

Sam, like many, had the privilege of being raised in a Christian home. His parents’ priority was that their two boys would be saved in their youth. Unfortunately, Sam finished school and moved out into work life without being saved. They continued to pray for him.
Sam heard the clear gospel preached in the assembly by many of the stalwart gospeler’s of the 1920’s and early 30’s. One Sunday evening, in 1932, when walking in Philadelphia, he ventured into a meeting being conducted by a well-known radio preacher. Following that meeting, God’s sovereign grace reached Sam. In God’s kindness, Sam was saved at age 23, began to pursue an interest in the assembly, and grew in the things of God.

With his ability, Sam eventually became the private secretary for a coal company president. This was a good job, especially in the days of the depression. He had a Chrysler Phaeton Touring convertible which he took to Bible conferences. World War II brought the draft into the military. Sam was now over thirty and had formed convictions from the Word of God relative to taking up arms and engaging in war. His desire was not to go against the Scripture and, with no other alternative at that time, Sam was sent to prison in the state of Connecticut. This was a difficult experience and left Sam in poor health when he was released at the end of the war.

Coming out of prison, Sam had very few options for employment. He did obtain menial employment in the Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital founded in America by Ben Franklin. Believing that the Lord opened the way for this work, Sam never left that employment. His work in the supply area of the hospital took him to various parts of the facility. He contacted a number of people with the gospel by this means.

His exercise was to reach out to people with gospel tracts. Sam found a Christian printer who printed tracts for him. By living in a rooming house and eating at the hospital or the Horn and Hardart automat, Sam made time in the evenings to distribute tracts on the streets of Philadelphia. His “stand” for decades was at 13th and Market Streets, the terminus of the Reading rail line, where masses of people came and went.

Every bit of his salary not required for lodging and food went into tracts. He bought them unfolded to save money. Whenever Sam went to meeting or other places he always took a large bag of tracts to fold. He was meticulous about the content and the quality of his tracts. The title was important to get the attention of the passerby. One of his favorite titles was, “Is This World All that Is Worth Living For?” Sam ordered his tracts in one hundred thousand lots. The printer actually made space in his building for Sam’s tracts so that he could come in and get them as needed.
Besides the thousands of tracts that Sam passed out in Philadelphia weekly, he would go to New York City on Saturday to Times Square. He distributed as many as ten thousand on a Saturday in New York. He always had a smile and wore his hat which he would tip if someone stopped to chat with him. For many years, he did not take vacations. He bought his clothes in a second hand store, all with the thought of being able to have more tracts printed.

In my early Christian years, his exercise stirred my interest in tract distribution. During the late 1940’s while attending night school in Philadelphia, I went early after work and before class with 1000 tracts and stood in the concourse of City Hall where many passed by. Sam had suggested that this was a good place for mass distribution. The experience helped give me boldness to distribute gospel tracts.

Sam lived a simple life, fully devoted to the spread of the gospel in tract form. He was a steady attendee of all the assembly meetings and especially appreciated a good series of gospel meetings. It was only in later years that Sam decided to take in a few conferences at a distant point. Newfoundland and Labrador became a repeated destination for conferences because he enjoyed the fellowship of the saints and the simple ministry of His Word. With little to live on, he continued to use all he had for the Lord. He did not acquire any of the things so many of us take for granted as part of life.

My wife Elizabeth and I went to visit him one evening in the room where he stayed in an older hotel. He had been sick with a heart problem. He told us about a well-known men’s store where he used to buy his clothes in the 1930’s and then proceeded to show us his suit with that store’s label – only this suit was bought in the thrift store, used. We wanted to pass on a little fellowship because we knew, that despite being retired, he continued to have an interest in tract distribution. He would not let us leave the gift with him. He said, “The Lord has been good and I have ample.” Some who knew him may remember that he once gave a word of ministry on the words of Esau to Jacob, “I have enough, my brother” (Gen 33:9). He lived what he spoke.

On June 4, 1979, Sam Gilmore was called home at age 70. He left no estate and wanted only to be buried without a funeral. His longtime friend and brother in Christ, Charles Strom, was responsible to arrange for Sam’s burial; we attended a simple graveside service with a number of the Lord’s people there to remember the passing of a witness for Him. The world made no note of his passing but many in the world lost the opportunity that receiving a gospel tract would have given them as they passed along the busy streets of Philadelphia. Eternity alone will reveal the value of those opportunities given and the results in souls that responded. In a day of self-gratification, too many know little of what it means to give ourselves for His service, menial as it may seem.

We might ask ourselves the question, what am I doing to spread the gospel and how committed am I to it? (Romans 12:1-2).