It is always a pleasure to relate my conversion to God. Events in life can be of little or great consequence, but conversion tops the list as the greatest event in life’s history, unforgettable in time and in eternity.
My background was a privileged one. My parents chief concern and burden was to see their family saved for eternity. They viewed life from the eternal perspective. Early recollections of the family altar, the prayers, Sunday School and gospel meetings are vivid in my memory. These are the foundation of family life.
From life’s choices great issues emanate; the spiritual is most important. My initial choice, I record with regret, was one of wrong actions, friends and places. Self-will marked my early days as I became immersed in the pleasures of sin, but God was merciful. Grace preserved me when I was out of the way; grace put me in the way; grace keeps me on the way, and it is grace ALL the way. I reflect with appreciation on the kindness and prayers of the Lord’s people, especially my parents, and, in particular, my mother.
While thoughts of the Lord’s coming, of death and of eternity engaged my mind from time to time, they were like a passing cloud. In 1951, I was convicted but not converted. But late in December, 1956, as I stood alone in a room before the cold, still form of my grandmother lying in her coffin with an open Bible beside her, all frivolities were gone. Conscience’s voice, in an almost audible manner, sounded in my mind: “If it were your body in that coffin, where would your soul be?” From then until January 27th, 1957, serious thoughts flooded my soul. My sins and eternal destiny were never too far from my mind. On that Sunday morning, sitting with my companions playing my last game of poker, I rose from the table and said, “I’ll not be back.” My dear friend Billy Foster (now in eternity) offered me money to stay, but my decision was final. I shall not forget the anxiety that filled my heart that morning. My one deep, longing desire was to know my sins forgiven.
I went for a walk that evening. With heavy heart I cried to God to save me. What alarmed me most was meeting God in my sins. I literally wept and trembled. I recalled scripture after scripture, but all was dark. I heard singing as I approached a small portable hall in the village of Cloughfern. I stood under the window and listened. They were singing: “Sing it o’er and o’er again, Christ receiveth sinful men.”
Two brethren were preaching to a few souls in that hall. One brother had said to the other, “Open the windows, there might be someone passing.” I was that someone, thank God! The words of that hymn gave me a little ray of hope, but my problem was, “0 how can I know that I am saved?” One hour later in my despair I cried out, “Lord, I am in the dark, and I can see no way out.” At that moment it dawned upon my guilty soul, that Christ had died for my sins that I might never be in hell. Blessed truth! Matthew 11:28 came to mind: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I came! I have rest! John 6:27 also came to mind: “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”
I shall not forget when I entered our home that night and asked my brother for a Bible. I didn’t have one. He kindly and without hesitation placed his Bible in my hands. Oh, how I held it with appreciation! I bowed my knees and thanked God for giving Jesus to die for me. I opened the Bible and my eyes focused on seven words “but now being made free from sin” (Rorn 6:22). Oh, that said it all! Feelings cannot adequately express the joy. Burden lifted! Christ my Savior! Heaven for eternity! When I related my story to my mother, she embraced me, and said with tears, “0 the prodigal has come home” (Luke 15:10).
Forty-two years have gone by since that memorable day, and for over thirty-five years I have been preaching the gospel of the grace of God. My faithful wife has been one hundred percent in the work with me. We serve a great God. May this conversion give a little encouragement to those who yearn over wayward sons and daughters. Continue to pray! God is still on His Throne!