How Dr. James M. Gray Found Christ
I was a member of a Christian household, and brought up in a Christian family—nominally so, at least.
My life as a boy was moral and obedient, and I regularly attended church. At fourteen years of age, when I knew “the creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the ten commandments” I was “confirmed in the most holy faith” by a Bishop of my church; and was taught in my Catechism that I had then become “a child of God, a member of Christ, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven.” But this I do not now believe, nor have I believed it since I was converted.
That happy event took place about seven or eight years after my confirmation. I had passed my majority, and already had my face turned toward the Christian ministry, not as a Divine calling, but a human profession, before I really knew Jesus Christ, or was saved. And I cannot but believe that had I died during the intervening period, moral youth that I was, and Church member besides, I should have died in my sins.
My conversion was like this: I was reading a book—did space permit, I should like to describe the exceeding unlikely circumstances that I should have been reading that book at such a time, but it was part of the mysterious and unmerited favour of God to me. The author was Rev. William Arnot, of Edinburgh, and the title, “Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth.” It was a series of brief homilies upon the Book of Proverbs, addressed to young men. For my Bible I did not care, but this book had a strong attraction for me.
On a memorable night, in the quiet of my own room, after an exciting evening among worldly people, my eye fell on this sentence: “Every soul not already won to Jesus is already lost.”
It was an arrow of conviction to my soul. Quicker than I can express it, an overwhelming sense of my lost and hopeless condition fell upon me. I knew that I was not won to Jesus, and yet I knew that I ought to be. There was nothing in my life, professedly Christian and outwardly clean as it was, to indicate that I belonged to Him, or that He possessed or controlled me. Hell seemed open to receive me, and my soul was hanging over the abyss. I was condemned, and realized the justness of the condemnation. I had absolutely no plea, but mercy.
Daily had I said my “prayers” since childhood, but that night, like Saul of Tarsus, I prayed. The prayer of the publican came to me, the prayer the blessed Saviour placed upon my lips: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” I am not ashamed to say that in agony I uttered it with my face upon the floor.
And God heard it. He always hears that prayer. He put the everlasting arm under me that night. He lifted me out of the miry clay, and planted me upon a rock, and established my goings. He put a new song in my mouth, which I have been singing ever since, even Salvation unto my God.
Logically, as the result of this experience, I believe souls are saved only by the regenerating grace of God, and that salvation comes to them when penitently they cast themselves on the Divine mercy as exemplified in the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe, too, that men know when they are saved. Not that they are able always to give the date or the attending circumstances, but that in one way or another it will be manifest that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Neither morality nor human righteousness can produce this; a profession of Christianity does not produce it; the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper do not produce it; church membership does not produce it; acts of kindness and benevolence do not produce it. Nothing but the reception of a new nature through faith in Christ produces it. And this is a miracle of Divine grace. But miracle as it is, God works it in the life of every man when he receives Jesus Christ as his Saviour, and through Him obtains authority to become a son of God (John 1:12).
I spoke of my experience as teaching this, but it is the Word of God that teaches it, and my experience simply bears witness to its truth.