In his book "I Was Born Again," published in 1946, Norman Wingert introduced this story as follows:

"Charles C. Waterman lives in Pasadena, California. In his jail work, his tract distribution, and his personal witnessing for Christ, he has made such an impression on his fellow townsmen that from the mayor down they unite in thanking him for the "unique service" which he is rendering his community. He is official chaplain for the Pasadena city prison and for several hospitals. Here is one man that puts God first."

Since I have been saved, it seems strange that more people do not come to themselves. I was born in Eugene, Indiana, in 1870, but when only eighteen years of age I left home to work for steam railroads. It was because I was not born again before leaving home although I was regarded as a moral young man who did not think of even using tobacco -- I soon fell into the ways of wicked men; profanity, gambling, drinking, tobacco. These habits began to fasten themselves upon me, but I argued with myself that I could quit them if I wanted to.

At the age of twenty-five I married, and lived pretty decently when my wife was around. But then whenever she would go for a little visit with her relatives or her mother, I was in for a time. I kept getting worse and worse, Both my mother and my sister never wrote me without speaking about my soul, but I went on with my crowd and with my habits.

After the Lord had given us two boys in our home, I began to talk about quitting tobacco and would say to my wife, "I am going to quit now, and the boys will never even know or remember that I used tobacco." I would stop for a few days and then use it on the sly. As soon as my wife would catch me at it, I would start in worse than ever, Satan had a chain around my neck and I could not get away. For twenty-five years he was my master. Every man who knew me knew I would go the limit in sin. At times I would get ashamed, especially when I thought of my fine family, and then would say, "Surely I will do better now!"

We moved to the state of Washington in 1902, and there my wife got a case of old-time religion. She laid aside her jewelry, worldly attire, secular music and every weight that would hinder her from running a victorious Christian race. I snorted, fumed, and acted worse than ever.

When he was eight years of age, my oldest boy took double pneumonia and was given up by both nurse and physician. I told my wife if she wanted to do anything she could have her way, for the boy was dying; his nails had already turned blue. And Mrs. Waterman said, "He can't die until the Lord lets him," So she went out and got two others who believed in prayer. I promised them that if God would heal the boy I would serve Him. God worked a miracle and raised up that child. But I went on in my sins.

A little later, a second son, a rosy-cheeked boy of two years, was stricken, and died. My heart was like a stone. I felt desolate and alone. I often wondered that Mrs. Waterman bore it so bravely, but I did not realize the difference between Grace and despair. I really had no hope of ever seeing this darling babe again. I told Mrs. Waterman I believed that if I could get away from the gang I was running with and move to a new place I could live differently. So we moved to California. But before we had been here a week I found my company -- the gang in Pasadena. I knew just where to buy whiskey, where the poker games were played, and where the haunts of vice were. When I was home with my wife and children I was planning how I could get down town to play pool or cards.

Often when she gathered the children for family prayer, I would sit upright and smoke and ridicule her prayers when she was through. But she would merely look at me and say, "You'll talk differently when you become a preacher."

The 31st of March, 1913, found me as sinful as a man could be. I had been gone from home for four days, drinking and doing almost everything a decent man should not do. About four o'clock in the afternoon of this day I was lying in a bed in a rooming house in Los Angeles, suffering a foretaste of the damned. I wanted to go home, but I was bound by the devil and could not. My heart, diseased from the use of whiskey and tobacco, was running away with me. (A few years before a specialist had told me I would drop dead of heart disease if I did not quit the use of tobacco.)

I thought my time had really come. I thought, "Here you are going straight to hell! A drunkard, a gambler, a liar, a fool-going to hell! A good Christian wife, a nice home and children, your wife's prayers, your mother's prayers, and with all the light you've got going to hell!" Then I saw a vision. I saw my baby boy who had died in Washington standing up in Heaven and looking right down at me, his eyes full of pity. And I saw my earthly home and little Faith coming out the door to meet me; it was a habit of hers to watch for her daddy's return.

But tonight, daddy was not coming home; he was dying. Every nerve in me was craving for more whiskey. I got out of bed, walked into another room, poured out a glass of whiskey, swallowed it at a gulp. As I did this, God opened up the hell of the Bible beneath my feet. I saw the dark smoke of their torment "that ascendeth forever," "where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched."

So terrible was the scene that I raised my hand toward heaven as high as I could possibly raise it and said, "I positively refuse to go to hell. I will not go." I had come to myself. I was sobered forever. God gave me power to take my hat and start home at once.

I phoned my wife to meet me down town as I had some news that wouldn't keep. She had decided that day that she would go to Los Angeles and walk about the streets to see if she could find me. But before starting she had gone into the closet to pray, and the Lord showed her to stay at home and leave me in His hands. "Then, Father, send the Holy Spirit to find him and bring him home," she prayed, and felt such assurance that she was heard that she went in and told the children, "Daddy will be home today."

When she heard the phone ring that morning, she said, "That's Daddy now," and started downtown to meet me as I requested. When we met, I told her the devil had overstepped himself and that I was through. I wanted her to get the most godly person she knew to come and unite with her for my salvation. I had heard her read the Bible often and knew it said, "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask in my name, it shall be done." I wanted it done if it took two people, or two thousand. Yes, I had come to myself!

First, I went down before my wife and confessed to the very bottom and asked her forgiveness. She forgave me. Then we decided to send for an old lady, Mrs. Headly, who had been in our home a great deal and knew of my long absence at this time. Unless someone came in and missed me, they never knew that I was gone. My wife told her troubles to no one except the Lord. Her mother lived within a block from us but did not know I was away.

We phoned the people with whom Mrs. Headly was stopping. They told us that she had gone elsewhere and that there was no phone where she had gone. So Mrs. Waterman and I got down to pray alone. It was not long afterward that the phone rang, and a woman wanted to know if everything was all right at our house. Mrs. Headly had made her walk four blocks to call us. Wife told her we wanted Mrs. Headly to come right down. Although she was old and half blind, this saint of God was there in a matter of minutes.

"Sister Headly," I said, "I'm trying to find the Lord." "I believe it, Brother Waterman, I believe it!" (She had always called me Brother Waterman, wicked as I was.) I got down and prayed, "Lord, I'll do anything you want me to do, and say anything you want me to say, and I'm going to serve You the rest of my life whether I ever get a blessing or not."

I got off my knees, told my wife I had not received any witness except that I had a great peace. She asked what other witness I wanted. Well, the peace and joy kept increasing until we had a regular jubilee until about two o'clock.

I was up, the first one, in the morning and took the Bible to my wife and said, "Show me the place in here about counting the cost." She turned to Luke 14:28: "For which of you intending to build a tower sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he hath sufficient to finish it."

I was determined to build a tower that would reach to heaven and I knew I must start the foundation right. So I sat down by the stove and counted the cost. I looked back over my life as you would look through a long telescope. God brought before me a lodge that I had belonged to for twenty-one years, I could not remember anything that I had seen or heard in it that would lead a soul to Christ or keep one out of hell, So I put all my papers in the stove.

I had a $3000.00 life insurance with another lodge which I belonged to for eighteen years. The devil said, "Go slow now, your family will starve, for you will die some of these times," but I would not give him a further hearing and put all those papers in the stove too. A third lodge went in just for extra good measure, I stripped for this race just as carefully as any one could who was running for his life. Every weight was laid aside, every bridge was fully burned behind me, I have never gone back to look in the ashes of the old stove for one of the old things. They are gone forever.

I started down to the car barns to see about my job, whether I had one or not, I said, "Mommie, I guess I'll have to live it and say nothing about it to the car men. They know me so very well." I had worked for the Pacific Electric for seven years and had been the "limit" with the boys. My wife only smiled, and said nothing; she gave me no advice. She says she knew God had hold of me and did not want to spoil a good job.

So, I started in weakness down the street. Remembering my prayer of the previous night, I looked up toward heaven and said, "Father, tell me what to say, and I'll say it." I met a neighbor of mine who was a church member and told her how God saved me. I went on down to the office and testified to all the boys, "God has saved me from sin." I did not say I had turned over a new leaf or made a new resolution, but, "I was converted last night." They looked at me, some with tears in their eyes, and said, "We believe it." I told the boss that I deserved to lose my job, but that I had salvation. He said, "Waterman, come to work in the morning; I have nothing against you."

I testified to every person I met the rest of that day, and I have kept it up ever since. I haven't had a conversation of any length with any person but that I told them I was a Christian. Some of the boys made fun of me. One even cursed me, but he apologized the next day and said he thought I was joking. Those I had gambled with gave me three weeks to last. They put a teddy bear in my chair till I would come back. The teddy bear still has the chair, as far as I know, and may keep it forever.

I have no more wanted to chew or smoke since God saved me than I have wanted to eat dirt or cut my own throat. For thirty three years and eight months, I have been a new creature in Christ. While I used to swear and talk vulgar language, I've never sworn once or said a word my daughter could not say. I've lived every day in the second verse of the first Psalm, "His delight is in the Lord." The Lord helped me to memorize fifty chapters while doing my ordinary work on the car. I am certain that I spoke to at least ten people a day for the first thirty days after my conversion. But in all that time I saw no one else saved. I got down on my knees the first day of the second month saying, "Lord, I am going to keep on fishing whether I land anything or not." Seven days later the Lord landed a whale for me.

Frank Strong, a great big motorman, got on my car. "I'm glad you have been converted," he said. "Frank," I replied, "if you are really glad, you would want it too." "Charlie, if I could get what you have I'd like to have it," he said. My answer to that was, "If you pay the price you can get it, and if you don't want it bad enough to pay the price, you can't get it, and might just as well leave it alone and go back home."

Tears came to his eyes, and a lump in his throat, and he said, "Charlie, I want it, tell me how." We agreed to meet as soon as I was through work. He was on the spot. In his mouth he had what seemed to me one of the biggest cigars I had ever seen. I said nothing to him about it. He just looked at me, took it out of his mouth, and threw it away. That was his last cigar.

I took him to our little tent where we were staying at a camp meeting. My wife and I and Sister Schell, now in Glory, prayed together, and Frank found God, stamped the rest of his cigars in the dirt, and praised God for salvation. After being a slave to tobacco since a child, and a very profane man, God delivered him so completely that he has been a flame of fire for God ever since.

In a short time he brought his wife, his children, and his aged parents to the Lord, and is still winning souls right along on his car. His godly life and testimony have been such an inspiration to me. God bless him!

Christ is my Healer, my Sanctifier, my Coming King, and Wonderful Savior! -- Charles C. Waterman

 

From: 2700-PLUS SERMON ILLUSTRATIONS By Duane V. Maxey

 

 

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