Miracles of regeneration

Conversion stories told by F. H. Wrintmore

 

 

Jesus saves! Jesus saves to the uttermost. Jesus came into a world of sorrow and sin to seek and to save lost sinners. This is the glorious good news of God’s salvation as it is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. This is the true good news that is never outdated or, indeed, overpowered by satanic cunning and influence. Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world. Salvation is a positive, personal experience. It is offered to all mankind regardless of race or colour, or creed. Whosoever will may drink from God’s fountain of grace.

The years in which I was in a responsible position in the London City Mission gave me access to personal records kept by all City missionaries, where I read wonderful stories of conversion. Some of the records are so remarkable, so miraculous as to challenge their credibility. It has also been my duty to meet many of these converts, to hear their stories and their glowing testimonies.

One of the most wonderful experiences in life is to witness the transition of a soul from death to life. Nothing could be more exhilarating. Nothing could testify more powerfully to the validity of the Christian gospel. As, therefore, I share these stories with you, I pray that your own faith in God and the power of His gospel may be strengthened; that your zeal for service and winning souls may be quickened.

I think of a man to whom I was introduced in London’s West End by a missionary who laboured among newsvendors and other men and women who earned their living on the streets of the metropolis. When first the missionary had spoken to him about Christ he was rude and frankly advised the missionary not to waste his time or his gospel tracts on him. The persistence of the missionary tried his patience and after a long period, his resistance to the gospel was breaking down. He became ill and was taken into hospital where he was visited by the missionary who took into him gifts of fruit and sweets and who read to him from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Then, the man told me, a remarkable thing happened: on two successive days, two ladies visiting his ward left him with a lavender bag, each bearing the same text, Isaiah 53:6. Then the missionary followed them and handed him a tract with the title, Isaiah Fifty-three. ‘And, sir, since my parents named me Isaiah I knew that God was after my soul. That day, the day when your missionary followed so closely on the heels of the lavender-bag ladies, I found salvation through faith in Christ’.

He had been lifted from the depths. He had held highly paid professional jobs, but lost everything through gambling and vice. He had tasted the terrible tyranny of sin.

But the man who told me his story had been saved. His whole life radiated the glory of his Saviour. He was a living witness in the streets of west London to the power of the living Word.

One day a young missionary conducted me around his miserable district – an area of verminous, over-crowded slums – and introduced me to several ‘ordinary’ poor people into whose lives and homes grace had brought light, love and glorious liberty. I well recall an elderly woman whose face shone with radiant happiness. She had lived a hard life, always deprived of the comforts of a nice home, without enough food to eat and never being rich enough to buy new shoes or clothing.

The missionary found her one day sitting amid her few possessions weeping and desperately sad. She was losing her room and had nowhere to go. Then she told me now the missionary found her a room, removed all her furniture himself on a coster’s barrow; but better far: ‘He led me to Jesus, sir, and my life is so happy and I am now helping him in the Mission Hall. Oh, it is so lovely to know that Jesus is my Saviour’.

That woman in her new spiritual liberation became a shining witness for Jesus in that squalid area: and when war came to many homes bringing death and despair, she became, to many sad ones, God’s messenger of comfort.

That neighbourhood was one of the darkest places in London; but in home after home I heard stories of charm, of beauty and of divine intervention.

There was the house at the end of C. Street: a dull, drab-looking house; a house which should not have been used for human habitation. Inside, however, I was surprised to see clean walls and newly placed wallpaper. The doors were newly painted also and new floor coverings provided warmth and comfort.

‘Your missionary was our painter and decorator’ the grateful tenants told me: ‘When he found us we were filthy because the landlord would have no repairs done, and we had no money to pay for decorations. But God sent us a good missionary and you can see the result of his workmanship. But more, sir, he told us that Jesus could give us new hearts just like He had given to us a new home and we believed. We are both saved and ever so happy’.

Now who could argue against such a testimony from two living witnesses of full salvation? Their transformed lives, their renewed confidence in God’s abiding faithfulness, their resplendent happiness, were for me, the vindication of the certainty of their spiritual rebirth.

Conversion is such a glorious experience, and most of us do not make enough noise about it. We should indeed, make a joyful noise unto the Lord; or aspire as near as possible to the yearning of Charles Wesley who, on the first anniversary of his own conversion wrote:

 

O for a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemer’s praise:

The glories of my God and King,

The Triumphs of His grace!

 

Redeemer! God! King! So he had to continue:

 

My gracious Master and my God,

Assist me to proclaim,

To spread through all the earth abroad

The honours of Thy Name.

 

Wesley knew the deep, deep joy of a personal experience of Full Salvation.

In that part of east London known as the tidal basin we had a Mission Hall which was built on the site of a public house – a public house which had been used as a Mission Hall and named ‘The Little Wonder’. This house became for many a Bethel: the place of their repentance and regeneration.

I recall visiting there with a missionary whose own story was wonderful. He and his family had been led into salvation by a dedicated City missionary.

He introduced me to Mary – we will call her Mary – a woman whose life was wrapped in tragedy, sorrow, deceit, deliberate sin and much else. She lived with a man for twenty years pretending to be his wife. She bore him three sons: then she discovered that he was a bigamist. He went to prison.

During this period the poor mother begged for food and coal for her family. The missionary assisted her with regular generosity.

But life became so involved, she became a prostitute. She went deeper and deeper into sin. When the man with whom she had lived came out from prison she married him for the sake of her sons; but she would not live with him again. The shadows of sin engulfed her and in a moment of tremendous trial, she called on the missionary – whom she had almost forgotten – and asked for help. He was willing to listen and to respond to her pleading, but first, she must be challenged by her need of a Saviour.

‘I’m much too wicked …. Jesus could not save me …’

At length she surrendered her life to the mercy of Christ and was reconciled to God. Slowly her life was changed and daily she witnessed to her astonished and bewildered neighbours.

We could understand their criticism of her, for they had seen the ‘other bad woman’. Grace, however, prevailed. Through her influence and example two of her sons became Christians. Through the years, her testimony was a powerful witness to the greatness of God’s saving grace; to the strength of God’s salvation.

A missionary with many years of experience in one of the toughest parts of London has recorded for us a most remarkable story of a drunkard: a man who so frightened his wife that she was always afraid of what he might to do her when he returned from the public house night after night, and invariably arrived home drunk and ‘raving mad’. He found ways of raising money. He so sponged from one woman who had received a considerable legacy that she committed suicide. Two homes which had been brought together mostly by his long-suffering wife’s efforts, were sold for his drink money. The missionary’s warnings to him were scorned. He laughed uproariously when the missionary invited him to attend a gospel service. ‘Not me’, he would say. ‘Never me’.

He was, however, by the mysterious workings of God, drawn into a service and heard an address on the words: ‘If any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of His….’. The shaft of light from God’s word shot into his soul. He sought forgiveness in a plea to the missionary for help and guidance. The Lord Jesus reached down to the drunkard’s deepest need and he became a new man – a new creation – in Christ Jesus.

The missionary writes: ‘I wish I could describe the greatness of the change that has come over him. He is certainly a new creature and that home which was for so long shadowed by his sin is now a place where prayer is made regularly to God, and where the Scriptures are searched and pondered. I can only wonder at the greatness of God’s mercy’.

But there are sorrows as well as joys in our work. Many homes that we visit are so clouded with sorrow that we also become sad. There must be an involvement in the problems and sorrows of our people. Sympathy and personal involvement are essential attributes of personal evangelism. The man in the ministry who is not willing to share such involvement will dismally fail to win a response from those to whom he preaches. He will certainly not win them for Christ’s Kingdom.

There was the elderly, deformed woman who lived alone in a poorly furnished room. Indeed, her poverty had to be seen to be understood. She had no relatives and the only visitor she would receive was the City missionary. He was a friend beyond a brother. He did almost everything for her and she always listened silently to his reading from the Bible and said ‘Amen’ to his prayers.

Making his usual call one day, there was no response. He returned the next day: again no response. Then he sought help from neighbours, who, after consultation, assisted in breaking the lock on her door and made their way to her room. Her dead body lay on the floor. She had died alone. The missionary writes:

‘I was glad to know that this poor, friendless and deformed woman had, through my consistent visitation and friendship, found the joy of salvation and knew the consolations of the Divine Presence’.

This dear soul loved the missionary – who had a good singing voice – to sing to her:

 

What a Friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear.

 

One Friday evening many years ago, while we were holding our usual meeting in Hyde Park at Speakers’ Corner, a missionary was telling us about the miracle of his own conversion, when he was abruptly interrupted – not an unusual event in those days. The interrupter said: ‘Sir, God worked a miracle in my life too: he not only changed my life – He changed beer into boots’.

He proceeded to explain that before his conversion all his money was spent on beer at the expense of his family who never knew the joy of buying and wearing new boots and shoes. But since his life was changed, now all the family could wear new boots and shoes! God had changed beer into boots!

On one of London’s pavements a missionary found a woman literally buried beneath a bundle of rags and it was when most people were in their beds. ‘Quite frankly’ he reports, ‘I saw only a bundle of rags moving! Then I discovered a homeless woman. Beside her I saw a tin can, a piece of bread and bundles of newspapers for extra warmth should the night air penetrate her rags.

‘Can I help you to find a bed?’ I asked.

‘Sir, if you have money to spare then I would prefer to buy food: I can find a bed almost anywhere – outside!’

She sat up and in the dim light I could see her pained face and signs of premature age. Her life was all tragedy and twilight.

‘She accepted my gift of money, my gospel booklet and permitted me to say a prayer for her. Then I had to leave her with the God of all mercy and grace into whose Everlasting Arms I had committed her. I never saw her again’.

So much Christian work seems to end in sowing the good seed of the gospel. Few of us reap the full harvest of our sowing. We may know, however, that God’s word cannot entirely fail. We must sow in faith and having followed up our sowing with prayerful and faithful service, leave results with the Holy Spirit.

I have often read the epitaph to John Newton which he himself prepared. It reads: ‘John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine; a servant of slaves in Africa was by the rich mercy of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Preserved, Restored, Pardoned, and Appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy’. He was, of course, the author of one of our choicest hymns, ‘How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear’.

John Newton loved Jesus to whom he referred frequently as ‘my crucified Saviour’.

‘How long does it take to lead a sinner to Christ?’ is a question we are frequently asked. It varies. We have seen souls saved in the twinkling of an eye. But before me is a missionary’s report of a family which he has visited for thirty-eight years. Thirty-eight years! What infinite patience that missionary has shown! The wife has recently responded and has been converted. At times last year the husband appeared to be yielding, but he has resumed his old obstinate self.

‘Two Christian men who have ministered to him for years have now given him up’, says our missionary, ‘and, frankly, there have been moments when I shared their feelings. Now, for the sake of his Christian wife and her confidence in my ministry, I must persist in patience!’

Another worker records the story of a man whom he visited faithfully, without any sign of success, for eleven years. His patience was rewarded.

The man concerned had a personal problem – a wife who was an alcoholic. She was always getting into debt and selling almost everything in the home to buy her drinks. Frequently he said: ‘How do you imagine that I could live the Christian life with such a cloud overhanging my home, I could not face the challenge’.

The missionary’s sympathy and personal involvement with the troubled man at last paid off. One day the man greeted his missionary with these sweet words: ‘I am taking God into my life from today’. Glad words indeed, and they made the missionary’s heart to leap for joy. ‘Why, I have been repaid a thousand times for all my visits to you’.

Fellowship and prayer sustained the new convert and he was enabled to meet his domestic challenge with a new faith and an undefeatable courage.

There are occasions when the personal evangelist must resort to frank and straight talking and this is precisely the method used by a missionary when three workmen, who were loading a lorry with iron railings, challenged him by saying: ‘All religion is bunk’.

The men were full of scorn and bitterness and expressed strongly their hatred of all churches and parsons. ‘We don’t want your religion!’ they shouted. The missionary responded: ‘Men, let me tell you that the Bible says: “It is appointed unto men once to die and after that, the judgment”. So you beware’.

The men drove away laughing. They had certainly put the missionary in his place! He’d learn!

Some hours later one of the men was knocking on the missionary’s door. ‘Why have you come?’ he was asked.

‘Well, sir, on our way across London we had an accident: one of my mates was killed and the other is dangerously ill and I’ve been thinking about what you said to us about death and judgment….’

Some weeks later the injured workman made his visit to the missionary, first to apologise and then to ask for his prayers. The story ends as all good stories must end: both men became new men in Christ Jesus.

Wonderful, wonderful Jesus! Do you now believe that Jesus saves? That He is able to save to the uttermost the most repulsive of repentant sinners? Such faith is the faith of the New Testament: the faith proclaimed by our Lord and by the apostles.

 

From: F.H. Wrintmore, God Changing Men: forty years of miracles in the London City Mission, Lakeland Blundell House, London, 1972,  pages 36-43

 

 

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