- Parent Category: History
- Category: Personal Stories
- Published on Thursday, 26 October 2006 16:19
Walter Gustafson - Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Even though my parents were unsaved, my mother brought me up strictly so that I didn't take the Lord's name in vain. At 17, I became sincerely religious, joined the neighborhood "church" and attended services regularly. Later, I taught a Sunday School Class. I didn't smoke, drink or dance. After graduation from high school, I preached a high standard of morals to all with whom I worked: first painters, then carpenters and finally, the men at the Boston Gear Works. Although the men knew that I was sincere, they kidded me a great deal. This helped me to realize I needed something myself, but I didn't know what it was. I considered becoming a minister, but I thought, "I'm not sure that I'm right with God. Wouldn't it be terrible to preach to others if I wasn't even right with God myself!"
In reading through the Gospel, I was startled one day by reading the Lord's words in Luke 5:32,
"I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
I had thought, up until that moment, that Christ had come for people, like myself, who were trying to live a good life. I did not know of Romans 3:10,
"There is none righteous, no, not one."
But even so, I could not rest on being righteous, because I knew I had sinned. Yet, I was prepared to take my place as a sinner. I'm thankful that God brought me to that place.
One Lord's Day when the minister was away on vacation, some young people from the Providence Bible Institute, 40 miles away, were responsible for the meetings of the day. One young man favorably impressed me. In giving his testimony, he said he was a Sunday School teacher before he was saved. He was the first person I ever heard say that he was saved. Being a Sunday School teacher myself I thought "Maybe he has something that I don't have." He surely did, for he had Christ as his own personal Savior and I only had a religion without Christ. While he was speaking, I asked myself, "Why is it that I have been trying so hard and I don't have any love, nor joy, nor peace in my heart like he does?"
After they had left, I decided that I wanted to get what that young man had above all else. So I wrote to the Providence Bible Institute hoping to go there for that purpose. I was unsuccessful, because they wanted me to be already saved. I still longed to get what that young man had, but I didn't know where I could get it. Then I thought "If God had salvation, He would mean it for anyone who desired it, not just preachers. Surely, there must be someplace where a person could get God's salvation without being a preacher."
Shortly afterwards, I was transferred at the Boston Gear Works to another building. As usual, I began preaching right away. One man asked Mr. Thomas Harvey of the assembly that met at Cliff Street, Boston, "Did you hear about the young religious fellow that has come over here to work?" Without asking me if I was saved, Mr. Harvey invited me to come with him in his car to the Gospel Hall, 12 miles away. I had never heard of a Gospel Hall, but if there was any possibility that it was what I was looking for, I wanted to go. I'm thankful to God that it was.
The late Mr. Hugh Thorpe preached the gospel that night from the Bible story of Nicodemus in John chapter 3. Like Nicodemus, I was moral and religious, but I had never been born again. Near the end of the meeting he said, "Don't wait until you're better or you may never come at all." Those were strange words to me, for I had been trying to make myself better for many months. I heard enough that night so that I desired to come again.
At the second gospel meeting, both Mr. James Stevenson and Mr. Joseph Kerr preached on leporsy as a type of sin. One verse they quoted that especially pierced my conscience was Isaiah 64"6,
"But we are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;"
I couldn't adequately describe in words how miserable I felt. After many months of trying to fit myself for the presence of God, I found out that in spite of all my effort, in spite of all my Sunday School work and in spite of all my preaching, I was only a guilty sinner in the sight of God with the loathsome disease of sin. But I'm thankful to God that they both preached that way for I don't believe that I would have gotten saved the next Lord's Day if they had not. I'm convinced that no one ever gets to know Christ as their own Savior who doesn't first find out, at least in some measure, their true condition before God.
The next Lord's Day I spent with the Harveys. After dinner, Mr. Harvey and his son, James, took me for a walk. In spite of all the convictions by the Holy Spirit, I still kept up a religous conversation. But when we got to a quiet section of the city, Mr. Harvey turned to me and asked,
"Was there ever a time in your life that you saw that you were a guilty sinner and received Christ as your own personal Savior?"
I hesitated and then said, "No, there never has been."
That ended my religious conversation. From then on, I was on the receiving end. By the time we got back to the house, I was feeling just as miserable as the Sunday night before. Waiting in the living room to go to the prayer meeting, I asked myself for the last time,
"What's the difference between me and these people? They are trying to live a good life and so am I."
As soon as I had asked the question, the Spirit of God brought home to me forcefully,
"These people have accepted God's way of salvation and you are trying to work your way to Heaven."
I fully realized then that I was lost, but did not know hot to get saved.
At the prayer meeting, it cheered me to hear on brother after another get up and ask God to save "sinners", for I knew now that word included me. It made me all the more anxious to get saved. I listened intently at the gospel meeting following. Mr. Fred Squire preached from Luke 19:41-44. The last hymn he gave out was:
"Is there a heart that is waiting,
Longing for pardon today?
Hear the glad message proclaiming,
Jesus is passing this way."
I thought, "If there is any possibility that I can be saved tonight, I want to be more than anything else in the world."
I went directly to Mr. Squire after the meeting and told him so. We sat down and he read some good gospel verses to me. One I remember especially, Isaiah 53:6,
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way;"
He stopped right there and asked me if that was me. I thought back of how I went my own way as a boy and then reformed to go another way, but it still wasn't God's way. So I answered,
"Yes, that's me."
He read the rest of the verse,
"...and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
Then Mr. Squire suggested that we pray. While on my knees I felt a horror of desperation thinking,
"In a moment or two we will be up off our knees and I'm not saved."
Just then, Mr. Squire was praying that God would reveal to me Christ on the cross taking my place. I was instantly saved because I realized for the first time in my life that when Christ died on the cross, God laid on Him all my sins. I was crying for joy to know that at last I had found peace with God, not through any works of my own, but simply accepting Christ as my own personal Savior. A little old lady, Miss Mulqueen, who is now in Heaven, led the few still there in singing a hymn I had never heard before:
"Happy day! Happy day!
When Jesus wash'd my sins away."
Thus, November 2, 1941, became the happy day for me, 5 days after I was 20 years of age and the happiest days of my life have been since that day.