Although only a boy of seven, I realized that I was a sinner, and not fit for heaven as I was. I did not understand what this new birth might be, but I certainly realized that it meant some profound spiritual change in me which would give me entrance into heaven.
Three years passed. When I was ten years old, four evangelists came to our Church for an evangelistic campaign – during which both my brothers Herb and Dave were saved. The last day of the two-week series, two of these men came up to our house to see me, doubtless hoping to see the third and last of the family won to Christ. We sat down in the living room, and they said, “Vernon, do you want to be saved?” I said I did. Then they opened the Bible at John 3:16 and asked: “Do you believe that?” When I answered in the affirmative, they said, “Then you are saved!” So I was baptized with my two brothers and received into Church fellowship, sang in the choir, took part in all the activities of the Church, was considered a good Christian and even slated for the mission field! Yet I often had misgivings! Something seemed to be missing! One Sunday afternoon my Sunday School teacher spoke about Christ on the Cross. I was mystified. We walked home together afterward and I queried,”Miss Mason, what does all this mean about Christ on the Cross?” Her answer was, “Oh, it will come, Vernon, it will come!” She missed a golden opportunity to really show me the way of salvation!
So another 5 years passed. Then the “Brethren,” so called, had a conference in Barrie in the Town Hall. Old Auntie Jennie Farquharson, my grandfather’s sister, begged me to go to it. We all knew her and thought she was slightly “cracked!” or “religious crazy!” She never went to shows, danced, or played cards. What fun did she get out of life? Anyway, I went. The first meeting was the Breaking of Bread – or Communion service. I had attended and participated at many in our Church. But this was different, somehow. They sat in a circle around the table on which were the bread and wine. One after another would rise to give thanks (I could hear nothing, as I was quite deaf at that time). But, I was watching from the back, especially my old Aunt. She was sitting in a position not facing me, so I saw only her profile. Soon I saw the big tears begin to course down her wrinkled cheeks. Obviously it meant something to her that it had never meant to me! She was moved to the depths of her soul by the remembrance of Christ on the Cross, I guess! The thought rushed into my head… “You’re nothing but a fraud! She’s the real thing!” Here was a real Christian… I was only a dead professor! So I gave up my profession from that day forward. When anyone asked me, “Vernon, are you saved?” I would answer, “No, I’m not!” Of course I knew what that meant; it meant that if I died as I was I would go to hell! Not a pleasant prospect!
For the next nine years I went on … not saved! Yet wanting to be! I got quite mixed up with the world, especially the movies. I could literally spend the whole day watching the same show over and over again. My supreme ambition was to become a Hollywood star!
Then in the fall of 1937 I started going to Pape Avenue Gospel Hall in Toronto. Soon after, in January, they started a special gospel series (one of the preachers later became my father-in-law). I was under deep conviction of sin right from the start of those meetings, and felt that it was going to be now or never!
At the beginning of the third week, Lester Wilson preached on “My Spirit shall not always strive with man” (Gen 6: 3). I knew He had been striving with me for nine long years, and now I realized His warning voice. He was not going to always strive! I was terrified. I went home, got down on my knees and cried out to God: “Oh, God, don’t take Your Holy Spirit from me … I want to be saved!” The week that followed was one of hopelessness. I couldn’t work and could scarcely eat or sleep. My brother, Dave, was a Christian and he understood (we were in business together at that time). They had all been praying for me for years. Then the following Sunday night Mr. Wilson preached on the Coming of the Lord. That finished me! Going home on the streetcar I sobbed like a baby – a proud young man of 24! I didn’t care who saw me or what they thought! I was LOST! I never slept all night. It was a night of hopeless horror and terror! I lost pounds of weight, indeed, literally, was nearly crazy! The next morning I went to see Mr. Wilson. I spent an hour or so with him. What I most remember of that interview was this: He said, “Markle, If you were to read in your morning paper that Germany had declared war against Britain, would you believe it?” (this was February, 1938, and the war started in 1939). I said I would. He replied, “Well, you know that newspapers may make mistakes – but yet you would believe them. But God makes no mistakes, and the Bible is His Word, and all He wants you to do is believe the message of the gospel with the same faith with which you believe your morning news!” I went home on that.
Shortly afterward, about 9 a.m., seated at the dining room table of our home at 201 Wolverleigh Blvd., I saw for the first time in my life that Jesus died for me! It was MY SINS He bore and for which he suffered, and, consequently, God was satisfied. So I said out loud, “If God is satisfied, then so am I!” That was the moment I was saved … born again, converted. But what was the verse God used to show me this great truth? It was 2 Corinthians 5:19; “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” So God had imputed all my guilt to Christ as He hung upon the Cross, had punished Him in my place, and I go free! Wonderful!
For about three weeks after this I just walked in the clouds. My joy and relief were absolutely beyond description! And all this was 66 years ago! What has it been like all these years? The peace and joy have continued unabated. I KNOW that I’m saved; that when I die my soul will go right to Heaven! And though I have never seen Him, I have grown to love my Savior beyond any one else. The spotless Victim of Calvary’s Cross is my Savior, my Lord, and my God! I worship Him!