I am speaking to you from a prison cell. I do not know what is in the future for me, but, thank God, now I know who holds the future and I can safely trust my all to Him. Though I am in prison, spiritually I am free. For “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36).
I was born March 26, 1922. My mother died when I was quite young and a few years later my father passed away, leaving us children to be scattered out among the relatives. My twin sister and I had hoped to be kept together, but even this was not allowed, and eventually friction developed between us. For the next several years I lived with my grandmother, and even though she made me go to church and Sunday School I was finding many opportunities to indulge in sin. I left there when I was only sixteen years old, having built up a complex, and feeling that no one wanted me anyhow.
For quite sometime I could be found in beer joints consuming alcohol with regularity, a practice which eventually led me to cheating, stealing, assault, infidelity and killing. I became a regular con man and drunkard. I don't believe there was anyone worse.
For about four years I was on and off ships; at this time I learned to smoke the weed and also continued in my drinking and gambling. My final trip to sea was on the 24th of February 1945. That's when I signed off ship and committed my first major crime. I got twenty years for manslaughter. After doing fourteen years in a Mississippi prison I was released, but still the same person, serving the same master (the devil). So the result was, I found myself back in the same kind of life. (Romans 6:16 says, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”) Yes, the devil was my master and he was driving me hard.
I was out only three months, then I got into more trouble. But just before this charge I was invited to attend a church in Mississippi and drove about forty-five miles to attend. I enjoyed it, but while there the pastor came and tried to get me to turn my life over to the Lord. Something seemed to tell me I could not have good times anymore if I did. I know now that the things I thought were good times were not. They were only used by the devil to try to destroy me. Oh, I wish that I had said, “yes,” that night; then today I would be someplace working instead of here in this prison cell. But I didn't realize that when I answered the good pastor, “Not tonight, let's wait a little while,” that I was saying “no” to God. Little did I realize the evil clutches of the enemy upon me, and the sorrows soon to come to me for rejecting God.
Well, I felt funny all the way home; I didn't know just what was the matter with me, and never realized until much later - just before the trial. When I got to Mobile that night I stopped and got a few drinks. Well, six days later I found myself in jail again with the same charge.
My sisters and some preachers talked to me and urged me to tell the truth, which I did, and received this sentence. They urged me to pray and trust God. Ben Shaw came to pray for me in jail and he also talked to me about Jesus Christ. I was about half convinced then. Being much pressed in mind and carrying a heavy load, I decided to fully trust the Lord and began to read the Bible and to pray.
It seemed then that much of the load was lifted from me, in spite of my sentence. I found in the Word, (John 3:16), that whosoever believeth could receive this free gift of eternal life. I noticed the absence of restrictions as to race, color or anything - just whosoever believes. No requirements of intellect, social or economic standing was mentioned. I noticed that God said it was free to all. Well, that included me for sure. Praise God!
Then next I read about the Philippian jailor asking Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” and Paul instructed him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, (Acts 16:31). And also Acts 3:19 told me to repent, and Luke 13:3 said except you repent you shall all perish. I knew the meaning of repentance. I had a deep sorrow for all the sins I had committed. I regretted deeply having grieved the Lord so much for so long. I asked His forgiveness and mercy with a humble heart (Psalm 34:18; Psalm 51:17).
He has promised never to turn anyone away who comes to Him, and I know He didn't turn me away. I am a new creature now in Christ Jesus, a child of the King. I have repented and have been baptized according to the Scriptures. I have a peace that passes all understanding and my life is His to live through me as He wishes. I have changed masters, even as Paul was one day changed from Saul, the persecutor of Christians, to Paul, the great Apostle.
I know from experience the devil can never give a person real happiness. He caused me to waste years of my life seeking a “good time.” The pleasures of sin are only for a season, afterward the wage is death. But the gift of God brings real satisfaction and eternal life.
The question is, what have I accomplished by faithfully serving the devil these past years? It has cost me everything and brought me nothing but grief, sorrow and heartache too great to bear alone. If I could have seen this earlier, how different I would have lived those years but I was blinded by sin and the devil, even as you are if you are living in sin today. I can speak for both sides now and, believe me; a person living in sin is subject to almost anything. I am glad I changed masters.
My prayer is that every sinner reading this will listen and turn from the devil before it is too late. Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the devil and it matters not what the past may have been. Perhaps you too have lived in the depths of sin or perhaps you are a very good moral person and a fine citizen, but if you have not repented and believed the Gospel and received Christ as your own personal Savior you are lost. For there is only one way to be saved; Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6).
I urge you, don't wait as I did. Today if you hear His voice don't harden your heart.
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.”