Brownlow North and the Conversion of an Octogenarian
This is the testimony of how the Lord worked in the life of an eighty-year-old man who departed this life in August 1969.
R.H.K. would have been the first to acknowledge what the Lord himself had done for him since he knew it was something he could never have done for himself.A number of Scriptures describe his experience, but John summarises it best: “He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”From physical birth this man was spiritually dead, but did not know it. Born in 1884 of Methodist parents, he attended the Methodist Church throughout his life. At the age of fourteen at a chapel ‘mission’ he made a ‘decision’ to follow Christ; but sadly, though he was mentally sincere in making it, there was no change in his heart and so he had not become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Yet he lived a morally ‘honest’ life, and did not drink, smoke, dance, gamble, go to the cinema or cheat his fellow men.In his twenties he ‘took office’ in the local Methodist church and became a steward and a trustee. He read the Bible regularly and was familiar with much of its contents. Married at the age of twenty-four, he lost his first wife through cancer ten years later, but married again.By his seventieth year he realised that he had reached the ‘allotted span’ and began to wonder why he was being spared. At the same time the Bible became more meaningful to him, as did certain Christian books, especially the “Life of Frances Ridley Havergal,” Merle d’Aubigne’s “History of the Reformation in England (Banner of Truth)” and Brownlow North’s “Rich Man and Lazarus (Banner of Truth).” In the latter, references to the rich man’s torments and cry for water to cool his burning tongue particularly affected him, as we shall hear later. [See Luke 16.24]As the weeks passed he began to have an uneasy conscience and a sense of being unprepared for what lay beyond this life. A sense of sinfulness developed into a definite conviction of sin and awareness that he was not ready to face God. His previous morally upright life sank away under the realisation that in the sight of God he was a sinner by nature, in thought, word and deed.Towards the close of 1964 this sense of sin grew so intense that he felt just like Christian in “Pilgrim ‘s Progress (Banner of Truth),” bearing a load too heavy for him, but which had to be borne. His daughter, who had been a Christian for twenty years and who was caring for him, tried to remind him of God’s promises, such as “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9); “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7); and “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6.37) She explained to him that God is faithful, and that if He did not keep His promises He would not be God; but also that the promises have to be believed, appropriated and acted on; and that saving faith is the gift of God.But Satan was not willing to release his captive easily. He kept whispering in his ear: “You are far too great a sinner ever to be forgiven. God will never forgive you.” And so a terrible spiritual battle raged in the old man’s heart, from November 1964 till March 1965. What a state he was in! Indescribable! How true these words became in his case: “Not what these hands have done can save this guilty soul; not what I feel or do can give me peace with God.” During these distressing months, although he felt on three occasions that God was smiling on him, it was as if the heavens were brass and there was no-one there to hear or answer his cries.Just at this crucial time the Holy Spirit brought home with great power the passage where the rich man, now in hell, cried out to Abraham to send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue! He thought: “If only ONE DROP of water was so important to the rich man in torments, how terrible must my torture be, and I am heading for hell!”But God, who is always Master of the situation, did not leave him in this dreadful state. Early in the morning of March 25, 1965, the Lord appeared to him and said: “What wilt thou have me to do?” The burdened man replied: “Lord, that ALL my sin may be taken away.” The Lord replied: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” (Acts 16:31)Notice: the Lord did not say: “What are you so worried about? You have lived a good life.” Neither did He gloss over the old man’s sin. But in a note of tender compassion He simply said: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Here was a definite statement, a definite promise, not a ‘maybe’ or a ‘can be.’ Truly, “he that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24) “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.” (Eph 2:4-5)Two or three days passed and the eighty-year-old kept repeating the words: “It is only a matter of believing”, till assurance came to him that he had passed from death to life and that none could pluck him out of the Saviour’s hand. How he praised the Lord for His great salvation! He often said: “I can’t praise Him enough for all He has done for me!” The dark shadow that had hung over his face completely disappeared, to be replaced by a radiance that did not fade.This radiance was not all that showed the change of heart he had undergone. From then on he was eager to talk about the Lord and hear anything about Him from other Christians. He was never without his Bible, which he read as long as his strength allowed. He read it because it delighted his heart and was food for his soul. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matt 5:6) What a transformation had taken place -from death to life!Graciously the Lord spared him for a further five years, during which he sought to witness to his family and show them the way of salvation. All this time he was a complete invalid, with arthritis, a weak heart and an incurable disease, yet not one word of complaint escaped his lips. When the pain was very severe his only comment was: “It is nothing compared with what my Saviour suffered for me.”Towards the end of his earthly journey he became so weak that he could hardly speak at all, except to praise God, then smile. As he neared the valley of the shadow of death his daughter offered him the comfort of a human hand, but his lack of response showed that his hand was already being held by the One who had caused him to pass from death to life. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psa. 116:15) This dear godly man was my earthly father.Miss M.A. KingdonTaken with permission from the Peace & Truth, the magazine of the Sovereign Grace Union, 5 Rosier Crescent, Swanwick DE55 1RS
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