Saved by a Mistake

by Glenn Conjurske

Great doors often turn on small hinges. The most insignificant events often alter the courses of lives and of nations. Even the salvation of a soul, in the wise and benign providence of God, has sometimes issued from a mere mistake. In an article entitled “English Memories of Moody and Sankey, by William Luff, I find the following:

“Converted through a Mistake

“My second example, whom I well remember, was of a very different class. He used to say, ‘I was converted through a mistake.’

“John Giles was one of the most desperate characters to be met in a life time. About a year after his marriage he turned adrift his wife, whom he had solemnly sworn to love, honor, and cherish until death; and smashed the home just as his first little one was born. She returned to him after a few weeks, but was in constant danger of her life, and while up to the age of thirty her hair was raven black, it all at once, in a very few weeks, became nearly white. This was caused by the temper of her desperate husband when under the influence of drink. More than once he had a razor under his pillow, watching for his wife to sleep, that he might cut her throat.

“This went on for sixteen years, until the unhappy family had increased to eight. In a frenzy of drunkenness, John contemplated ending his troubles by attempting to poison himself; but the doctor was fetched in time, and prevented this by the rich mercy of God. So ignorant was John, that he knew nothing of a judgment to come, and thought therefore that this would end all the strife. Three times he took poison, and three times God mercifully spared his life.

“Captivated by the Songs

“At length he determined to slay his wife with a razor, but she guessed his intentions and sat up all night. This occurred on six successive nights, the woman not daring to sleep. He then determined to accomplish his purpose on the seventh, whether she slept or not. God was ahead of purpose, however, and somebody invited him to hear a lot of singing which was going on at some meetings under the leadership of Moody and Sankey. In his half-drunken condition he was captivated by the songs, and when the speaker who spoke with a ‘Yankee’ twang in his voice announced an ‘inquiry meeting,’ John mistook the words for a ‘choir meeting,’ and so went into the room behind. He soon realized something strange, and contemplated getting out. Moody, however, came in at that moment and, spotting his man, ordered all doors to be closed. John said,

“’Now I saw I was in a mouse-trap.”’Moody came and put his hand on his shoulder, asking him if he wanted to be saved.

“John, who had never had the slightest desire to be good, had never prayed, or read the Bible, answered,

“’I want to be a better man.”’Moody quoted these words to him: “What saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart . . . That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved’ (Rom. 10:8, 9).

“He said, ‘Now, pray.” ”I don’t know how.””Ask God for what you want.””All right, I will.’

Giles kneeled and said these words: ‘O God, if You can make me a better man, do it now,’ then got up and went home.

“A Kiss Mistaken for a Razor

“The first impulse on reaching home was to put his arms round his wife and give her a kiss—-the first for years—-and to tell her that God had saved him. She, poor soul, thought it was another attempt on her life, and fled from him in terror. To clinch matters, John got down on his knees by the kitchen table, shut his eyes and said again,

“’O God, if you can save a wretch like me, do it now.”’Before the evening was out Mrs. Giles was convinced, and the happy home begun which lasted for thirty years.

“John Giles could not be sure about how he was to confess the Lord Jesus, but, to make sure of it, he got up at four o’clock, and with a pot of white paint put on the green flower boxes on the window sills the words,

“’The Lord is my Shepherd,’ with the result that everybody going into the railway works at seven o’clock had to rub their eyes to make sure it was not a dream.”

The conversion of Paul Rader was also brought about by a mistake, or rather by two mistakes—-first by a telegraph operator’s mistake in a letter of Rader to his wife, and by his consequent mistaken understanding of her reply.

Paul Rader had imbibed modernistic views at college, and become a modernistic preacher, but says, “Before long, doubt and modernism brought sin in its wake and I found myself absolutely careless and practically wicked. I felt the sting of hypocrisy and knew that the only honest thing for me to do, living the lie I was living and believing what I was believing, was to quit the ministry.” He did so, and engaged in business, in which he was very successful. He says further, “After quite a stretch of this success, I attended a very important directors’ meeting, where their enthusiasm had overflowed—-business looked big: it seemed as if nothing could stop a small fortune from being mine!

“As was my custom, I telegraphed my wife a long night letter of the latest developments, this good news of big business. She was visiting together with our two little girls in Tacoma, Washington, with her mother. She, with her feminine intuition, knew and felt deeply my inner unhappiness, the spiritual darkness in which I walked, the doubts that beset me, the sins that bound me. . . . She had heard all my arguments, and, though she had no answer to life to help me, yet my love for her, my desire to make her supremely happy, gave to any words from her about my way of life a very deep place in my heart. Her opinions about my being a preacher and quitting, about my Jonah experience as I went ‘elsewhere,’ she kept to herself. I feared lest her respect for me and love of me, because of my many experiences and experiments, might be changed, and I would lose what I most prized.

“So the momentous telegram, which shook me up, was from her. It was a three short-word answer to the long night wire I had sent her regarding our good fortune. The last sentence of mine was: ‘We are fixed for life,’ and back came her cutting challenge, three stabbing words, ‘fixed for what?’ There I stood trembling, desperate with this challenge! Was she disgusted with me? Was I losing her love? What could money do if I had lost my way to real living? What was real living?

“Again the awful soul-conflict was on me, as it had been when I entered college, and faced the flooding doubts in our modern river of mental revolution. God was at work using this telegram to give me a life challenge. ‘Fixed for what?’ What was life all about? How could I answer?

“Well, I could not stand there on the sidewalk for long, trembling in the gaze of the passing throng. A voice within me was calling now, calling, crying out for God, if God were real. I ran to the Subway and out at Times Square. I was soon in my room on 44th Street, where I kept some supplies, my trunk and books. I lived at the Astor Hotel across the street. My little room was in the spot where since has been built ‘the Little Theatre, off Times Square.’ Into it I let myself with haste, and stood there wondering why I had come to this spot to solve these problems. Little did I know then that when the telegraph company handed my telegram to my wife, they had changed the last word to ‘LIKE,’ instead of ‘LIFE’; so that the wire read, ‘We are fixed for like.’ My wife had simply wired back ‘Fixed for what?’ because my wire was not understandable! Oh, how very thankful I am that I did not know at that time about the mix-up of these two words. Had I known it then, this Life Challenge might never have come to me, just as it did, arising out of a telegraphist’s error!”

Thus far Paul Rader. I quote no further from him, as there is an atmosphere of lightness in his writing which is distasteful to me, and not very compatible with the nature of Olde Paths & Ancient Landmarks. The weakness of the instrument, however, detracts nothing from the wonderful providence of God which awakened and converted him by the mistake of a telegraph operator. Suffice it to say, he spent three days alone in his room, alone with his Bible and the God of his youth, and walked out a redeemed man. He immediately gave up his business prospects to his associates, and set out on foot for the west coast, preaching the gospel as he went.

Glenn Conjurske