Gypsy Smith (1860-1947)
His Life and Work
|Chapter 8. The Dawning Of The Light|
But, although I was a mischievous
boy, I was not a really bad boy. I knew in my heart what religion meant. I had
seen it in the new lives of my father, sisters, and brother. I had seen the
wonderful change in the gipsy home - the transformation that had taken place
there. I had seen the transformation-scene if I had not felt it, and in my heart
there was a deep longing for the strange experiences which I knew to be my father's.
I remember well a visit that my father paid to Bedford about this time. I shall
never forget my thoughts and feelings while I listened to the people as they
spoke of John Bunyan. They took us to see the church where he used to preach,
and showed us his monument. During our stay in the town, I spent some portion
of every day near the monument. I had heard the people say he had been a tinker
and a great sinner, but had been converted, and that through his goodness he
became great. And oh! I how looked up as he stood on that pedestal, and longed
to be good like him. And I wondered if I should always live in the "waggon"
and spend a life of uselessness. I walked to the village where John Bunyan was
born, and went into the house he had lived in. I stood and wept and longed to
find the same Jesus Christ that had made Bunyan what he was. I never lost sight
in my mind's eye of the bright visions that visited me while I was in Bedford.
I had got it into my mind that religion was a thing which first took hold of the head of the house, and then stepped down in the order of ages. My heart was heavy because I felt that I was standing in the way of my sister Tilly, who was younger than I. I remember one evening sitting on the trunk of an old tree not far from my father's tent and waggon. Around the fallen trunk grass had grown about as tall as myself. I had gone there to think, because I was under the deepest conviction and had an earnest longing to love the Saviour and to be a good lad. I thought of my mother in heaven, and I thought of the beautiful life my father, brother, and sisters were living, and I said to myself, "Rodney, are you going to wander about as a gipsy boy and a gipsy man without hope, or will you be a Christian and have some definite object to live for?" Everything was still, and I could almost hear the beating of my heart. For answer to my question, I found myself startling myself by my own voice "By the grace of God, I will be a Christian and I will meet my mother in heaven!" My decision was made. I believe I was as much accepted by the Lord Jesus that day as I am how, for with all my heart I had decided to live for Him. My choice was made for ever, and had I at once confessed Christ, I believe that the witness of the Spirit would have been mine, the witness which gives one the assurance of acceptance. I knew I had said "I will" to God. I made the mistake of not declaring my decision publicly, and I believe that thousands do likewise. The devil tells them to keep it quiet. This is a cunning device by which he shuts hundreds out of the light and joy of God's salvation.
Still I was not satisfied. A few days afterwards I wandered one evening into a little Primitive Methodist Chapel in Fitzroy Street, Cambridge, where I heard a sermon by the Rev. George Warner. Oddly enough, I cannot remember a word of what Mr. Warner said, but I made up my mind in that service that if there was a chance I would publicly give myself to Christ. After the sermon a prayer meeting was held, and Mr. Warner invited all those who desired to give themselves to the Lord to come forward and kneel at the communion-rail. I was the first to go forward. I do not know whether anybody else was there or not. I think not. While I prayed the congregation sang –
"I can but perish if I go,And –
I am resolved to try,
For if I stay away I know
I must for ever die."
"I do believe, I will believe,Soon there was a dear old man beside me, an old man with great flowing locks, who put his arm round me and began to pray with me and for me. I did not know his name. I do not know it even now. I told him that I had given myself to Jesus for time and eternity - to be His boy for ever. He said –
That Jesus died for me,
That on the cross He shed His blood
From sin to set me free."
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