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What Then? A Convict's Conversion (KJV)

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  • Format: Folded Tract
  • Size: 3.5 inches x 5.5 inches
  • Pages: 6
  • Version: KJV
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The full text of this tract is shown below in the KJV version. (Do you want to print this tract in a different version than the one listed? Contact us and let us know what you're looking for—we may be able to create the alternate version for you at no charge.)

In a British penitentiary some time ago, a convict who had spent fifty years in confinement was soon to be released.

“Well, my man, you haven’t much longer to serve. What will you do when you leave here?” The speaker was a tall, broad-shouldered guard with a pleasant face and a winning, although somewhat authoritative manner.

A striking contrast was presented by the person addressed, for it would have been difficult to find a more unhappy face and repellant manner. The man was standing by the edge of the water, preparing the boat which was to take him and his fellow convicts to their daily work across the harbor.

The sea rippled in the early morning sun, rocking the boat to and fro. As the policeman stood and watched the hard set face of the man bending doggedly over his work, his heart was moved with tender pity and yearning. If this old man but knew the love of God how it would alter that hard, unyielding face! Perhaps something of his feeling found expression in his voice as he repeated his question, for the old convict looked up and gruffly asked, “What?”

“You are an old man now, and it isn’t every one who would employ you. What do you think of doing when you leave here?”

The old man straightened up, and his face took on, if possible, a more defiant look as he replied, “The first thing I’ll do when I leave here will be to murder a policeman.”

“Oh! the first thing you will do is murder a policeman?” The words were repeated slowly and questioningly.

“Yes,” replied the convict, “that will be my first work. He gave false evidence against me. That is, he told more than the truth, and he’ll pay for it with his life.”

“Well, after you have murdered the policeman, what then?”

“Then I shall be caught and locked up. You know I can’t get away with it.” He spoke recklessly with a bitter laugh.

“Yes, and after you are caught and locked up, what then?”

“Then I shall be sentenced.”

“And after you are sentenced, what then?”

“Then I shall be executed.”

“And after you are executed, what then?” There was no answer. The man’s thoughts apparently had not traveled beyond death. He was evidently startled.

“Have you a Bible in your cell?” asked the guard.

“Yes, and I’ve read it through hundreds of times to kill time.”

“Well, have you ever read, ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’?”

“No, that ain’t in my Bible.”

“Well, when you go back tonight, look at John 3:16 and you will find the words.”

The convict repeated the text, adding, “Yes, I’ll look. You are the only one that ever spoke kindly to me except once. I’ll look, but it ain’t in my book.” There was no time for more but the seed had been sown, and the guard prayed that it might take root.

The next day there was an indescribable change in the old man as he walked down to the water where the officer was anxiously looking for him.

“Well, my friend,” he said in his pleasant way, as the old man stepped into the boat, “did you read John 3:16 last night?”

“Aye! I read it,” he answered, “and I didn’t know it was there, although I’ve read it over and over. But do you mean to tell me,” he continued with great earnestness, “that it means me, a convict of fifty years?”

The heart of the guard burned within him as he replied, “Yes, oh! yes, it means you. It is God’s Word you know, and God always means what He says. You are one of the world, aren’t you? and God so loved the world.”

The old man stretched out his arms and said, “Sir, they might have burned off my finger joints, or burned my hands off and I wouldn’t have given in, but such love as this breaks my heart,” and he sank into the bottom of the boat and sobbed aloud. The officer stood silently by. His heart was filled with joy. He had asked God that this soul might be saved, but that it happened so quickly and powerfully was more than he had asked or expected.

Presently the old man looked up. “Oh! Sir,” he said, while the tears ran down his cheeks, “If you only knew my past life you wouldn’t be surprised that this wonderful love of God breaks my heart. I’ve never known love since my mother died. I was only five years old, and my father kicked me out of the house, telling me to go and get my own living. Since then I’ve knocked about the world and every man’s hand has been against me. Sometimes I begged, sometimes I stole. For fifty years I have been in and out of jail, never long at a time. Only one man in the world was ever kind to me and he was governor of a prison. But the time came when he was moved on, and since then I’ve not had a kind word spoken to me. Ten years ago I was charged with setting fire to a farm, but the policeman told much more than the truth about it and yesterday when you spoke to me I had murder in my heart. But oh! Sir, I will not murder the man now. God in His great love has stopped me.”

The guard was deeply moved. He gave him a number of Scripture verses, telling him where to find them in the Bible, and the old man scratched on the boat the chapters and verses to remember when he reached his cell. For several days the officer watched for him again, but he never came. Upon inquiring, he found that he had been discharged.

Dear reader, has this wonderful love of God reached your heart? You are not, perhaps, so deeply dyed in sin; indeed, you may be most exemplary in your conduct and even deeply religious, yet you are among the all of Romans 3:23: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” There is no exception. Nor are any excluded from the all of Romans 10:12,13, “For there is no difference … for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”

There are different degrees of guilt. Not all have gone to the same lengths of sin, but all are sinners, and therefore need the Saviour. Scripture says, “By Him all that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 13:39).

If you have never turned in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, turn to Him now! “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

—J.W.H. Nichols

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