I was born in Troon in Ayrshire, but my parents moved to Ayr when I was still a baby. We lived in the part of Ayr known as Wallacetown, but to the local people better known as the “Four Corners” and “Spion Cap”. This took King Street and George Street and unemployment and poverty were rife in the district where I lived and grew up.
My parents and two sisters, five of us, lived in one room. Until I was 16years of age, the five of us slept in one double bed. We had no gas or electricity, and my mother cooked our meals on the coal fire. Often on a windy day, the soot would fall down the chimney into the frying pan. Our source of light at night was a paraffin lamp. We had to carry our drinking water into the house in a pail, filled from a tap outside.
My father was unemployed for a long time, and I remember coming home from school to find no food in the house. We lived in a building along with four other families, twenty-seven human beings in four houses. Then as now, people could always find money for drink, and as there was a public house next door to us drunk people were always to be seen.
My mother used to go to the Gospel Halls - there was a few of them near to us then - and on a Sunday she would send us to the Sunday school. I was not a very regular attender, and, unknown to my mother, I would miss some meetings. But I would never miss the parties and treats at Christmas!
When I was seventeen years of age, I had my first taste of beer. I didn’t like it very much, but I liked the feeling it gave me. I smoked cigarettes too. All my pals did the same for it made us feel like men, and after all, that was what real “he-men” did, didn’t they? We saw them on the screen at the local “bug-hut” (the cinema). As the years rolled by, drink became part of my life. Everything I did, every decision I made, every action I took was to fit in with my drinking. I only worked to get money for drink. I never ever gave my mother an unopened pay packet. I first took my share and then gave her what was left. I don’t know how she managed to run the home. Hundreds of times I would come home stupified with drink, roaring and shouting, and demanding something to eat.
What was my mother like? She was like thousands of mothers, with ‘no-good’ drinking sons and was grey haired before her time. She worried about me and tried to advise me to stop drinking, or at least, cut it down. She hated drink. If there were not enough food to go around, which was often, she would do without herself. I watched her many times as she emptied the contents of her purse, her poor old face lined with worry and say, “I don’t know how I’m going to manage through this week Tommy”. “We’ll manage somehow”, I replied as I thought of the pound notes I had in my inside pocket. After all, it was Saturday afternoon, and tonight was my night for a big booze-up. “No she’s not getting my drink money”.
Yes, it was only Saturday and the pittance she got from me was used up. Yet she would not ask me for more money.
What was she like? When I staggered home that night, drunk, aggressive and foul-mouthed, why did she not throw me out of the house? How could she put up with the horrible mess when I was sick on the floor? I had spent pounds on drink, and she had a few coppers in her purse! How could she suffer this child of the devil? What about the night that I came home with my face covered in blood. This was after a drunken brawl and she never said a word. Also there was a time I went to prison for theft. Why did she let me back in the house? How can I describe to anyone what my mother was like?
I would buy my clothes on ‘tick’ so that I would have enough money for drink. I liked a bet on the horses, but would make sure that I always had enough money left for drink! I can only remember once losing all my money at the races, and it was a Saturday. Now a Saturday is the “best” night of the week for the drinker. He must be among the hurly burly of the public house, so, with cunning, I managed to get the price of a pint. That got me into the pub, and after that it was easy to get more drink. I vowed never to be as stupid as to lose all my money again.
So my bondage was complete for I was a slave of the devil. I knew nothing of God and cared less. I was an atheist and would argue with anyone who seemed even the slightest bit religious. I would tell everyone that religion was holding back the progress of mankind, and that the sooner the whole world was atheistic the better. Man’s destiny lay in his own creative intelligence. Look how man had progressed in the last 100 years, the working class had never been so well off. “We’ve never had it so good”, a leading politician told us. We are better fed, better dressed, towards Utopia, but we must get rid of these Capitalists, for they are exploiting the masses. The Russians had the right idea. These stories about concentration camps, and secret police, were just Capitalistic propaganda. These were all my views.
There was only one thing, which bothered me. Why was there so much evil in the world? Why were men so cruel to each other? Despite all the social reform and material progress, why were violence, murder, robbery, sex crimes, and even anarchy on the increase? Ach well! I suppose it would sort itself out, that is, if we didn’t blow ourselves up with the atom bomb. As for me, I’ll have another drink.
In November 1964, I started work on the railway. Since I had left school at 14, I had worked at many jobs. I had lost a lot of them because of my drinking, but most of them were casual labouring jobs. I decided to turn over a new leaf. I would stop the drinking, or perhaps I would cut it down a bit, and drink less. The railway was a good steady job, and I would have to be very careful while working there.
Well, I did not stop drinking. I did not even cut it down a bit. In fact, because I was getting a steady wage packet every week, I drank more.
I worked for about nine years on the railway, and got many wage increases. Consequently, with much more money in my pocket, there was no stopping me. I lived only for drink. I got my pay on a Friday, and after paying for my accommodation, I would hurry to the nearest bar. Up until this time I used to meet with a few friends, men I had known most of my life. As the years passed, (oh how quickly they passed), I would see them less and less. I preferred to drink alone.
I was firmly in the grip of Satan now, and was a willing slave in his mad realm. I would lurch from one pub to another, and buy drinks for most of the scroungers in town who were lying in wait for me. By closing time I was in a terrible condition. Alcohol is one of Satan’s greatest weapons for the enslavement of mankind. The effect of alcohol on the brain is similar to that of ether or chloroform; it acts as an anaesthetic.
The part of the brain affected and the extent to which the central nervous system is disorganised depend upon the concentration of alcohol in the blood reaching the brain. Intoxication is revealed, therefore, in impaired activity of the organs of the body controlled by the brain. Thus the speech of a drunken person becomes slurred, not because of the amount of alcohol in the tongue itself, but in that part of the brain which controls the movement of the tongue. One ounce of whiskey, or a 12 ounce bottle of beer, yields 0.02% of alcohol in the blood. When a person goes out for a time of drinking, there are six stages he goes through -
At first he feels on top of the world: takes offence easily.
Equilibrium is disturbed: speech slurred: sleepiness.
Needs help to undress
He is flat out
And 0.60% or 0.70% alcohol in the blood causes death.
I worked in the Parcels office in the railway station. My job was to check out and sheet the parcels when they came off the trains, and make them ready for delivery in the town. It was here that I met the man who was to point me to Christ.
One day I overheard two men speaking about this man, whose name was Bill Philips. I heard one say, “He’s one of the Brethren”, as if that explained everything. Such was my ignorance of the things of God at that time, that I thought that the Brethren must be some kind of Masonic clique. When I discovered later he was a Christian. I decided to approach him and ask him some questions. Although I professed to be an atheist, and would say so to anyone who happened to talk about religion, in my own mind there were doubts. So I would ask him all the usual things the unbelieving person asks, and would do my best to prove him wrong.
About this time I was taking the DT’s (Delirium Tremens). The term is used to describe the effect on the human body caused by heavy drinking.
Here is a description of the blind shambles and darkness in which I was living at that time. After a weekend of steady drinking, I sometimes was not fit for work on Monday, so I would rise from my bed, make my way to the nearest bar, and there I would order a drink. The hair of the dog that bit you, a drinker will tell you. I would then telephone my boss from the bar and tell him that I would not be coming to work that day because of illness. I would then continue drinking for the rest of the day. Needless to say, by night time I was in a sorry state. The result of this madness was that I was really ill the next day. Did I stay in bed to try and recover? No I did not. I rose and did exactly what I had done the day before.
This could go on for anything up to ten days. I had also lost the taste for food. Sometimes I could not wait for the public bars to open at 11 o’clock in the morning. Whenever I woke in the morning I had to have a drink, and so at 8.30 a.m. I would buy my beer and whiskey at the licensed grocer.
At this point in my life I would wake up from a horrible nightmare. I had been tormented by vivid dreams in which I had seen demons and dark menacing creatures, from which I could not escape. I would awake suddenly with a cry, and there I would lie, trembling in every limb and with the sweat pouring from my body. As I could not fall asleep again, I would rise, trembling, and struggle into my clothes. Although it was very early in the morning, 3.00 a.m. sometimes, I would go outside and aimlessly walk the streets. I would walk without direction or purpose, and after about an hour I would return home, feeling weak and ill. I would go back to bed, but I could not sleep. I tossed and turned, cursing myself for not having a drink in the house. I would sometimes rise and make myself a cup of tea, but I could not eat anything. At this time my mother was living, and she and my sister watched all this. When they tried to speak to me I would snarl at them to shut up.
As I reeled along the “broad way that leadeth to destruction” the years quickly sped past. But I had this feeling of guilt that what I was doing was all wrong. Sometimes I would think, “I’ll have to stop all this. I’ll have to turn over a new leaf.” I never thought of asking God for help. I was doubtful if he existed at all. Once I stopped drinking for five months, I was putting some money into the bank for the first time in my life.
At holiday time I drew out a free pass to travel on the railway. I intended to go to London and whilst I was there I would visit some friends in Hounslow. I left Ayr railway station early in the morning, and had to change trains at Glasgow. When I arrived at Central Station, there was a long line of people waiting for the 11.00 a.m. train to London. It seemed to me that I would not get a seat on that train, so rather than stand all the way to London I decided to wait and catch the next one.
As it would be some time before the next train left, I decided to go for a cup of tea. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall” (1Corinthians 10:12). I fell all right, right back into the waiting arms of the devil. I did not get the next train, or the next train, no I got the last one that night. I was helped on by a smiling porter. “Been enjoying yourself tonight sir?” he said. Oh the curse! Why is the drunk looked on as a comic figure by most people? Believe me he is anything but funny. There is usually aggressive violence just lurking beneath the surface in the re-nosed drunk. It just needs a spark to make it explode. I once saw a man knocked to the floor in a pub, and kicked about the head by four men until his face was a mass of cuts and bruises. What for? Just for singing the wrong party song in the wrong company.
I remember nothing of that train journey until we pulled into Euston Station. As I looked out onto the platform I could see men and women hurrying to get through the gate. No doubt they would be going to their places of work. My head was splitting and the inside of my mouth was like sandpaper. I must get a drink! Ten minutes later I was knocking back a large whiskey.
“Beer is best,” said the big boarding on top of a building. I was walking towards Piccadilly Circus and was ready for anything. “There is no doubt that for a hangover the best thing is another drink,” said Satan, “it makes you feel better.”
As I turned into Soho a man said to me, “Would you like me to show you London, sir?” and for the next 4 or 5 hours I went with him on a mad whirl of pubs and clubs. Most of what I did I cannot remember. These blanks in my memory were now becoming more frequent, and afterwards when I was sober I used to worry about this, because I had no idea where I had been or what I had done.
When I came to, I found myself sitting on a bench in Euston Station. When I had pulled myself together, I thought about my visit to Hounslow. I couldn’t go there now! How could I go and see decent people in the mess I was in? I enquired about the trains, and when I knew there was one leaving right away for Glasgow, I decided to go back home. So much for my holiday - home after one day and all my money gone.
I got into the train and sat huddled in a corner of the compartment. The door slid open and two men entered and sat down beside me. I glanced at them as one man opened up a small attaché case which he had placed on his knees. I saw that it contained four bottles of whiskey. (“Yet man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upwards” Job 5:7). One of them told me that they were seamen and were going to Glasgow on leave after being a month at sea. “Have a drink pal!” And I was offered a bottle of whiskey. So the three of us really hit those bottles all the way home. Oh the agony! So I was back to square one, minus. (“For without me ye can do nothing” John 15:5). The person who is addicted to drink or drugs, will always manage to obtain supplies. I once knew a man, who after a lifetime of drinking, became a social outcast. He was unemployable, but always managed to get money for drink, and would drink the vilest of concoctions; Meths, Metal polish, etc. Some men pilfer from the perfume counter of big stores. I once sold my watch for the price of two pints of beer.
I was absolutely dead to spiritual matters. I was dead in trespasses and sins. When I thought about death at all, I would explain it away by saying vaguely, “When you are dead, you’re dead, and that’s the end of it. Death was just like a dreamless sleep - you ceased to exist.” When Bill Philips would speak of things concerning God and His eternal plan for mankind through Christ His Son, I used to laugh at him. Although I liked him and enjoyed speaking to him, I could not see how these things could be. Unknown to me, however, he was sowing the seed of the Gospel. Now at this time I was worried, so much so that I thought about going to the doctor to ask his help. I must be sensible about this, I kept putting this off, and making excuses, partly because I wasn’t sure I really wanted to stop.
One time after one of my lengthy booze-ups, fearing for my job on the railway, I had always managed up until this time to satisfy my boss with some excuse for my absenteeism. I went to the doctor for a line, and blurted out the truth of my problem. I told him that I was drinking heavily, and was worried that I might become an alcoholic. Could he help me? He looked at me and said, You’re not married Tom are you? If you were,” he continued, “you would not have a drink problem, because you would never have any money.” He gave a little laugh and said, “Never mind, take this letter up to the hospital.” He wrote something on a sheet of paper, and put it in an envelope. He wrote a name on the envelope, and said, “Give it to this doctor, he’s a specialist on alcoholism.”
On the day appointed I arrived at the hospital, and was shown into the specialist’s room. When I told him about myself, he looked across his desk and said, “By what you have told me it won’t be long before you are an alcoholic, and I must tell you right away that there is no known cure for alcoholism, there are no drugs or medicines which will cure it.” He paused and looked down at his desk. “Maybe in the future… The only thing I can advise is Alcoholics Anonymous.”
Bill Philips said to me one day, “ The only cure is Jesus Christ.” I had come into the bothy with a bottle of whiskey in my pocket. All the station staff knew I was a drunkard. One of the porters will tell you one day I came out of the parcels office, cursing and swearing, clutching a bottle. Sometimes when I would come into the bothy at tea break, Bill would be sitting by himself and I would sit down beside him. One day he told me of a man he had been visiting. I knew this man myself, he was a barber and a heavy drinker. The man was dying. Bill said he had told him of the urgency of accepting Christ as his Saviour now. The man stubbornly refused to take Bill seriously, and kept rejecting Christ, until his eyes closed in death. “And in Hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:23), the Word says.
I was on one of my binges, and had been drinking continually for about a week. That morning I had been to the licensed grocer, and then made my way into the Ramsay Gardens near the famous “Auld Brig” in the town of Ayr. There were two’ down and outs’ sitting on a bench out of sight of the people passing by. I went over and sat beside them. I went there often, for it was a favourite place in which to have a drink, and you couldn’t be seen. One of the down and outs was drinking from a bottle of cheap wine, while the other one tried to start up a conversation with me. He then asked me for money, and I gave him a few shillings. I opened up a can of beer, and took a long drink. I had eaten nothing for days. I felt sick and spewed the beer back up.
The one who had been drinking the wine whispered to me, “You shouldn’t have given that one money, he’s only a scrounger.” Although it was a cold morning I was sweating. The one to whom I had given money got up and hurried away. I forced myself to drink more beer, then looked at the wine drinker. He looked about 60 years old, of thin build, and he wore an old raincoat which was filthy. I noticed that his hands were black with dirt. He drank again from his bottle, which was wrapped up in a newspaper. He told me that he had walked from Maybole that morning. He asked me if I was working. “I’ve got a job,” I said, “but I haven’t been at it for a few days.” “Man you are off your head,” he said. “You tell me you have a job and won’t go to it? You’ll get your books, then where will you be?” After a while he rose and went away.
I drank the rest of my beer and threw the empty can into the river. I watched it as it floated down to the sea. It travelled under the bridge, filled with water and then sank. Yes - where will I be? I felt ill. I sat with my eyes shut for a long time. Oh somebody help me! I got up from the bench and went home. That evening I phoned the Samaritans!
Alcoholics Anonymous are a company of people who meet to discuss their problem. They all have one thing in common. It is that they have admitted to themselves that they are slaves to drink, and that they want more than anything else in the world to stop it. They admit to themselves that a power greater than themselves was dominating their lives, and ruining them. This power was alcohol. They had now come to believe that a power greater than themselves can save them. Each member had his or her own interpretation and conception of God and religion.
When I opened the door to the two men who came in answer to my ‘phone call, I was intoxicated. I invited then in and offered them a drink. Yes! I offered them a drink. Incredible as it may seem, that is what I did. “Ye are of your father the devil” John 8:44). How true are the words of Scripture!
Here were two men who had come to offer their help and they were alcoholics themselves. One drink would have been fatal to them. One of them smiled and said, “we’ll come back when you are sober.” Oh the remorse that night! I lay all night in bed cursing myself for the mess I had made of my life. I could not sleep so I got up from my bed and went outside. Dawn was breaking as I walked aimlessly along the deserted streets. What was to become of me? Was I losing my mind? As I arrived back home I realised that I had walked around the block three times. I was going nowhere - only to Hell. As I opened the door I consoled myself that, for this night anyway, I had escaped from the nightmares.
The next night when the two men called I was ready to go with them to Alcoholics Anonymous. I didn’t have a drink all that day, I had shaved and bathed and had put on my best suit. Although I was a drunkard, I tried to keep myself looking respectable.
We arrived at the meeting, and I was invited to sit at the back. As I listened someone gave me a cup of tea. I looked around and saw that we were in a large room, in the centre of which was a big table. Around this were seated about twenty men and women who were smoking and drinking tea. They were talking casually about their drinking problem. My first impression was their relaxed attitude, and they seemed to me to be very happy. This was in sharp contrast to the miserable life I was living, and I thought, “ Oh boy, here is the answer. Now I’ll be able to find happiness.” A man at the table turned to me and said, “ Would you like to say something?” I felt very embarrassed as everyone turned and looked at me. I mumbled that I couldn’t think of anything to say. When the meeting finished at about 10.15 pm, the pubs would be closed by then. I promised to come back the next night.
When I arrived the next night, I saw that it was a bigger meeting, and more formal. As we sat in rows, about forty of us, we smoked and chatted one to the other until two men and a woman came into the room and sat down at the big table facing us. The chatter died down as the meeting was opened, and the woman was first to speak. She was middle-aged and of slight build. As she chain smoked she told us of how drink had almost ruined her life. It was a fearful story she had to tell. Once she had left her two children in the house as she went to buy food for them, and she didn’t return for two weeks. Another time she was beaten up by a man. She ended by telling us that “Somebody up there likes me!” She hadn’t touched drink for 4 years. One after another the two men told similar stories. One had drunk himself out of several shops.
At one point in the meeting, a man got up and said he had a complaint to make. He told us how during the day the desire for a drink had come upon him, and he had been unable to contact any other alcoholics. He had ‘phoned several times without success. The craving for a drink grew worse throughout the day until it became unbearable, and so he set out for the nearest pub. He was being drawn like a piece of steel to a magnet. He was powerless. He seemed to be blaming us, he had cried for help and no one answered. He was angry. He said, “As I approached the public bar (by this time it was 6 o’clock at night), I saw a man lying on the pavement. He was ‘blind’ drunk, and several youths were kicking him. I turned about and fled, and that is why I am at this meeting tonight.”
When the meeting was over we all thanked the speakers and recited the Alcoholics’ Prayer.
I felt very happy that night as I made my way home. The drunks were tumbling out of the pubs, and, thanks to A.A. I was not among them. I had turned over a new leaf, and would keep it that way. I had a good steady job on the railway and meant to keep it. A man came staggering toward me, then he turned and walked into the wall. Another was bent over backwards as his friends tried to get him home. They were drunk also. As I approached the bus stop, the scene was chaotic. Men and woman, all drunk, most had ‘carry - outs’. There was the babble of voices as they argued with each other. Some were singing, tuneless, drunken voices. One woman cursed everyone who passed by. Three more men arrived. One went into the bus shelter and was sick.
A bus came around the corner and everyone moved over to the edge of the kerb, but the bus didn’t stop as it was already full. I saw the conductress looking at me. No doubt she was glad that she didn’t have to take any more passengers, for she had her hands full as it was. On Saturday night between 10 and 11 o’clock , the bus crews are subjected to abuse, and sometimes violence by the drunks who struggle to get aboard the bus at all costs. These are the people who live in the big housing schemes. Since 5 o’clock most of them have been crowding the bars in towns, pouring drink down their throats in an effort to beat the clock. When the bell rings for “Time Gentlemen”, there is a mad scramble to buy more drink.
These people are in complete bandage to the devil. They are totally enslaved by him. They are unable to escape from his power. They are so blind that they will tell you, if you were to ask them, that they are enjoying themselves. The devil has done his work so well. Jesus Christ says, “ I am the light of the world, he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). “That was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). “And this is the condemation that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
The devil calls the tune, and the drunkard dances. In the insane world of the heavy drinker, the veneer of respectability, which is seen outwardly when he is sober, is stripped away, and he is revealed as he really is, a poor sinner in need of a Saviour. All the evil and wickedness which lies just under the surface is manifested when he is drunk.
My thoughts went back to that night, twenty years ago, when I had staggered into a café in a drunken state. Sitting at a table were four men who were also drunk. I stopped to speak to one of them. I knew him. Something struck me in the face. To this day I do not know who or what had hit him. But what for? I didn’t know. I remember vaguely that the waitress helped me to try and stop the flow of blood.
There was then the time when my mate and I followed a man outside and I beat him up for taking too long a time, so we thought, at the fruit machine. Later I got 60 days in jail for stealing a car. We had been drinking wine since opening time and we left the bar in a wild condition. We were ready for anything! We decided to go after girls. How do you impress the girls big men? With a car of course! But we didn’t have one! No problem! There’s a long line of them, but they were all locked. No problem! Look for a large stone and smash the window. We had a number of stolen keys and one of these was bound to fit the ignition! I remember once again when I came out of jail how I vowed that I would turn over a new leaf. Well, I was alright now for I was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous!
The next meeting was Friday. I was feeling good now that I didn’t drink. I was eating better and saving money again, so when Friday came round I set out determined and eager to keep going. I arrived a little early for the meeting and went for a walk up the High Street. I saw a bar, stopped and went in. I bought drink and a packet of cigarettes. The devil rubbed his hands in glee. As I came out of the bar I thought, “One drink wont harm me!” The meeting should be just starting now, so I’ll go and join them!” As I came near I could see the lights through the windows. They must have begun. I don’t like going in late. I’m not going in now! I’ll go to the next meeting. I didn’t stop, I just kept walking until I came to a bar. Well, what else can you do after work all wee? There’s nothing wrong in taking a pint! A man has got to have some enjoyment!…
For the next two years I drank steadily. I did not go back to the A.A., but I managed to keep my job on the railway - only just. I was still getting the D.T.’s and was still promising to turn over a new leaf, especially after a binge. About this time I was having pains in my stomach, and thought it might be an ulcer. I had Xrays taken, but they showed nothing was wrong. It was the drink of course, and so I continued along the way that “leadeth to destruction”.
In December, 1972, my mother died. She had not been well for quite a while. I felt that nothing mattered now. She was the only one who cared about me and now she was gone. I regretted the way I treated her, and wished that I could put the clock back and start all over again, but I could not. I became more dependent on my old friend ’John Barleycorn’.
I was now entering into the period of time in which I was to be confronted with a choice - “Choose you this day whom you will serve”. In the past I had served Satan and self, now, Jesus Christ was to sat to me, “Follow Me”. There is a hymn which says -
“At the cross, at the cross,
Where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day”.
It was at this time the cross appeared on my bedroom wall, and God through His Spirit said, “Come”.
On the railways they had a rota system to decide when the staff should take their annual summer holidays, and so in the year 1973 I got the month of August. I decided that year to take advantage of the free travel and go abroad. On the 13th August I set off for Germany with a group of railwaymen. On the Continent there are no licensing hours, and needless to say I drank all the time I was there. A week later I arrived back home, and once again I vowed never to touch a drop of drink again.
Now I must tell of the events of the few remaining days of my holiday and of how on Sunday 26th August, 1973, I made the most important decision that any man or woman, boy or girl, can ever make. I accepted Jesus Christ as my own personal Saviour.
Bill Philips was on the platform when my train pulled into the station. “Did you enjoy your holiday”, he asked. “Yes! Great”, I replied. But I did not feel great. In fact I felt terrible, and my suitcase seemed to weigh a ton. "I’ll need to take you to a gospel meeting”, he called after me. Yes, I thought, the only meeting I’ll be going to is a race meeting. I had not been to a gospel meeting since I was a school boy. I had only been into church three times in my life, and one of the times was when I was in prison. Even then I only went to escape the boredom of being alone in my cell.
That night I dreamed of unspeakable horrors. I was being chased by demons, and my feet were as heavy as lead. As they were nearly upon me I woke up screaming. As I lay there in the dark, trembling, my eyes fixed on the wall opposite, I saw the cross. I had seen it before, but I took it to be the street lamp outside my window shining through the curtains which were partly open. To prove my point I reached up (the window was above the headboard), and pulled the curtains wide open. I expected to see the cross widen out into a blaze of light, but no, it remained, clearly defined on the opposite wall.
During these six days I was teetotal, I didn’t touch one drink. I knew that if I did I would not be fit for work on Monday. Besides, I was nearly broke. The next night was the same, a nightmare. I was sitting on a stool, and speaking to my sister and her husband, when suddenly, in a flash, one of my legs burst into flame. I watched in horror as the flames leapt from one trouser leg, and my shoe and sock crumpled into red hot ash, I saw all this in detail. Oh the agony. It was vivid. My brother-in-law tried to extinguish the flames, but as soon as he did so it exploded into fire again. I could see the hairs on my leg burning fiercely, but my leg wasn’t being consumed.
Lots of men and women today deny the existence of Hell, but I am not one of them. The Bible speaks of Hell, and the Bible is God’s Word, and God cannot lie. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks of Hell, you can read it for yourself in Luke Ch.16, and Jesus Christ cannot lie. The dream I had that night showed me plainly that I was heading straight to Hell.
One night, as I lay in bed looking at the cross on the wall, I thought about Jesus Christ, of how He had hung on the cross. It might have been terrible for Him, the suffering, the shame and the agony. Bill Philips had told me that the Bible says He hung there for me. As I lay there thinking of the mess I had made of my life, I said, “Who am I to say there is no God?”
At this time my younger sister was living at home, and she must have been concerned about me. I tried to keep out of her way, and sometimes when she did try to speak to me, I would go into my room out of her way. I think she preferred this, because I was bad-tempered and ready to start an argument.
At this time I tried to avoid meeting people. If I saw somebody that I knew in the street I would cross over to the other side to avoid speaking to them. Of course the result of this was that I did not have a friend in the world.
Although I did not know it then. I was under deep conviction. God was giving me one last chance to come to Him, to accept His salvation freely offered by His Son, through His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary.
Once again I awoke with a cry and it was about 2 o’clock in the morning; I was trembling in every limb, with sweat pouring from my body. Suddenly the words of Bill Philips came to me, “Read your Bible, read your Bible”.
I got out of bed, and began a frantic search for the Bible. I knew there was one in the house and I decided I must find it. It was in the sideboard, away at the back, under some blankets. As I handled it, it felt strange in my hands. I took it through to the bedroom with me , and got into bed. As I looked at it I thought, “Where will I read?” I knew nothing about the Bible. I had read many books in my life, and as you always start a book, any book, at the beginning, so I opened the Bible at Genesis and read through the first chapter. As I was reading I began to relax, and had a feeling of warmth inside. I even began to feel a little bit happy. After reading I fell into a dreamless sleep until morning.
I spent the next day watching television mostly and when I did go out I made sure that I avoided people. I felt ill, and my stomach was troubling me so I ate nothing. My nerves were jangling and my mind was in a turmoil. I could not think clearly and I thought about ending it all. Neither the doctors nor Alcoholics Anonymous could help me, and life was pointless anyway. I had terrible fits of depression, and in the clear light of day God had no place in my thoughts. I realise now that Satan was at work then. I had forgotten the peace of mind I had got from reading the bible. I had forgotten the nights I had spent looking at the cross on the wall. When I went to bed that night I vowed to stop all this nonsense about God, all this hous-pocus. I must face realities and I decided I would re-organise my life myself. I would work hard on the railway and start a hobby. If a person was determined, and tried really hard, he would really succeed. I needed no-one and I would show them! After all, I had stopped drinking, hadn’t I?
I was out walking the streets aimlessly next morning at 3o’clock, for I had been awakened by horrible nightmares, but after a while I went home. I climbed back into bed, and pulled the bedclothes over my head to ensure that I did not see the cross on the wall. I was frightened, just plain frightened of what was to become of me. I thought of God, but He would be angry with me. Remembering the Bible lying on the bedside table, I sat up and looked at it. I could feel the room filled with His presence. I picked up the Bible and was no longer frightened. I felt a thrill surging through me as I gazed at it. As I thumbed through its pages it fell open at the book of Jonah. There were two communion cards from the Church of Scotland belonging to my mother lying between the pages of the first chapter of Jonah. They had probably been ther for many years. I read of how Jonah had tried to flee from the Lord, and how the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow him. “Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord of his God out of the fish’s belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction, unto the Lord, and He heard me; out of the belly of Hell cried I, and Thou heardest my voice” (Jonah 2:1-2). The next day being Sunday, I would go and see Bill Philips and ask him to take me to a Gospel meeting.
“He’s not in”, said Bill Philip’s wife, as she opened the door to me. “Well, will you tell him I called. I want to see him about something”, I said. I had felt hopeful as I approached Bill’s house, but now I felt disappointed as I walked away.
What a mess I had made of my life! I hoped that God would forgive me, for I had been so wicked. As I walked in the High Street, the town clock struck 11o’clock. People were making their way to church. I kept on walking, wondering how to spend the day. I felt lost. For many years Sunday was for me a day for drinking and getting drunk for there was nothing else to do. Sunday was a dead day and most of the men I knew did the same. Such debauchery helped to liven the day up a bit since it was a bore.
Two men I knew passed by on their way to the club. The devil said to me, “Stop all this nonsense and go with them for a drink”. I felt sick. Sometimes if I had no money, I would lie in bed all day on a Sunday. Well you can’t do much without money can you?
As I crossed the street, I came to a church where two elders were standing at the door. I wanted to go in, but the thought flashed into my mine, “They are a clannish lot, these church folk. They would never welcome me”. Opinions formed some years ago. Dour - faced men in dark suits, with the “toffee - nosed” women, they would never accept me. As I passed the door the two elders looked directly at me. No I couldn’t. I hurried by, but I wished that I could have gone in.
About 9.30 p.m. that evening, Bill Philips came to my house. He listened as I told him everything that had happened over the last fortnight. I was near to tears when I asked him, “What have I got to do to be saved? Tell me Bill because I am lost”. I felt the terrible burden of son crushing me because of all the years of wickedness. “Lets get on our knees”, said Bill. And so it was that I gave my heart to Jesus. When we got to our feet again, Bill looked at me, and started to cry.
A magistrate said the other day when sentencing two youths, “The lowering of moral standards and principles in this country has sunk to a new low”. In most circle today it is considered old-fashioned to be honest. To lots of people dishonesty is a way of life. The more crooked you are, the better you get on. Some people say, “God helps them that help ‘themselves’ “, that is, helping themselves to something which does not belong to them. Social workers have a colossal task on their hands, as the numbers of law-breakers, young and old, increase day by day. Despite advanced social welfare, new housing, better living conditions, better education, all-round better health and more money, it is obvious that, from the richest to the poorest classes of people in this country, there is a decline in morals and principles. Anything goes these days.
“Do gooders” watch helplessly as the powers of darkness overwhelm us. Jesus said, “Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). The Jews of whom we read in John’s Gospel, believed that God was their Father, but Jesus tells them that they belong to the devil even though they were religious men! “He was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44). “I am the way, the truth and the life” says the Lord Jesus in (John 14:6).
In our world today you are just a face in the crowd. The personal touch has gone out of life, and you are just a number fed into a computer. To the faceless people that control our lives, we are just another statistic. People who know absolutely nothing about us make decisions and rules which affect our lives from cradle to grave. I work for a very large company, world-wide, therefore on a human angle it is impossible for the top men to know or even care about Tommy Perry, neither am I expecting to do so.
The point I am trying to make is, that only God can know His creature individually, for only He is, and only He can be, omnipresent, i.e. everywhere at the same time. If a child becomes very sick the parents will call in a doctor because they know that the doctor knows better than themselves or a neighbour, what is likely to be wrong and how to cure it. They have faith in him.
Now God is telling us through His Word, the Bible, what is wrong with our lives. We are sick, sin-sick, and God does not use fancy words or long-winded medical terms to describe our sickness, He just call it SIN, and everyone of us has got this sickness. We were born with it. Now the Bible tells us that God’s cure for sin is Jesus Christ. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1Timothy 1:15). We read in Genesis that when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden God in His infinite wisdom turned them out. This left a void in man’s life, and he had been trying to fill this void down through the centuries. But being a natural rebel, he never tries to fill this unhappiness. He replaces the living God with material pleasures and self - gratification which do not last. Consequently he is always discontented and is forever seeking. Jesus says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33).
Dear reader, to God you are a person, you are an individual. He cares about you. He is concerned about what is happening to you. He knows all about you. He cares so much about you that He sent His Son to die for you. You must recognise His Son, Jesus Christ. God will not listen to you if you do not. This is of vital importance to you. Listen to God’s Word, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).
If you are expecting to get to Heaven by good works, then read Ephesians 2:8-9. If you say, “Well, I’m not too bad, I’m a lot better than others I could name”, or if you go to church regularly, or even if you read your Bible every day, which is highly commendable, but you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, well as a child of the devil you are on your way to Hell. “Neither is there salvation in any other for there is none other Name under Heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved"”(Acts 4:12). You see God mad us for himself, and we can only function properly when we have communion with Him. With this communion non existent through sin we are lost? We do not know what will happen tomorrow, or even today. "Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation"”(2Corinthians 6:2).
I said cheerio to Bill Philips and told him I would see him at work tomorrow, as it was the end of my summer holidays. Little did I know then that I was to be finished with the railway.
I went to bed at about 11o’clock that night, and lay thinking over the events of the past fortnight. I thought of the future and wondered what God had in store for me. I could not understand why God, the creator of Heaven and earth, should bother with me, but I was glad that He did. My overall feeling was of contentment, something I had not known before. But although I was tired, try as I might, I just could not sleep. Suddenly a thought flashed into my mind, a voice within me said, “What about those things you stole from the railway?” That was it. That was why I could not sleep. God had been waiting to see what I would do about this, and I had forgotten all about it. I did not even think it was important. Such was my way of life at that time that these articles that I had stolen I considered them as mine now. They belonged to me. Without the slightest feeling of guilt. I would use these articles as if I had every right to own them. I did not even think that belonged to someone else.
In my job in the Parcels Office, it had been easy to steal, too easy. Mail Order Companies sending goods to their customers would arrive every day in the van loads. I was responsible for checking these and loading them into the vans for delivery to shops and houses. On the outside most of the parcels and cartons was description of the goods inside. This made it easy for me to decide what to steal without opening any of them. Sometimes it was a photograph of contents, a radio, a food mixer, a record player, etc. All these things were now in my possession and probably later I would have sold them for drink.
Now here I was, a new creature in Christ. How could I live for Him now? How could I possibly profess to be a Christian, knowing that I was a thief? What will I do? I will bury the lot in the backyard. I’ll dig a deep hole while it is still dark and nobody will ever know! No! Someone is bound to see me! First thing in the morning I will take them down to the sea and throw them in. No, that won’t do! Oh how I now regret ever having stolen the stuff. I wish I had never seen any of it. I wanted to put the whole business out of my mind, go to sleep, forgetting all the unpleasantness of it. But I just could not. I lay on my back and looked at the cross on the wall. It transmitted a kind of silent serenity which had a soothing effect on me, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). At dawn, just before I fell asleep I knew what I had to do!
In the morning I would return everything I had stolen.
It was Monday morning, and instead of going to work I spent the time sorting out everything I had stolen. I made a pile on the floor, and went through everything calmly and methodically - this is mine - this is not mine. When I had finished in the house I went out into the garden shed and did the same. I packed everything into a suitcase and carrier bag, got the bus to the railway station, and went straight to the Area Manager’s office. I knocked at the door and he called out, “Can you wait a minute please?” I laid the case and the carrier bag on the corridor floor and sat on a seat.
As I sat there it seemed to me that I was only a spectator, that I was watching somebody else doing these things. It seemed as if these events were taking place outside my control. I would never have had the courage to face the Area Manager, but I knew that God had taken over my life. I felt so calm. As a smoker I would have lit a cigarette, but I did not feel the need of one. I could hear the Are Manager speaking to someone.
After a while the door opened, and a man whom I knew as a subordinate, came out. When he saw me he said, “Hello Tom”. I thought he was going to ask me why I was not at work, but with a glance at the suitcase and carrier bag he went away. The Area Manager asked me to come in, and invited me to sit down. “Well, what can I do for you?” he asked. I laid the suitcase on his desk, opened it, and said, “These are the things which I stole from the railway, and I am returning them because God wants me to.”
The Area Manager was at a loss for words. He looked at the open suitcase, then at me. “You say you stole these things and have now brought them back here. Why?” “Because God wants me to. I got saved last night.” He looked at me for a long time, then said, “I have never had to deal with this kind of thing before.” He touched the lid of the case, and looked at me quizzically. “It’s my own case,” I said. He gave a little smile then said in an official voice, “Please wait outside a minute.”
As I sat outside his office, I could hear him talking to someone on the phone. I felt very clam and at peace. It was good to have God in my life. I knew I had nothing to fear. What a difference! Whatever happened now as consequence of my old life, my life of self-will and rebellion against God, was not important. I would certainly lose my job, and maybe go to prison, but I had Jesus Christ, and that was all that mattered to me. As I thought of Him a great surge of joy filled my soul. I was very happy.
The Area Manager opened the door. He looked very worried. “You realise that I must ‘phone the police of course’, he said grimly.
The police arrived about an hour later, and asked a lot of questions, one being “Who was in it with me?” They then took me to the police station where they held me for about three hours and asked me more questions. I was then charged with theft from the railway whilst in their employ, photographed, fingerprinted and then released.
The existence of evil powers is very evident in this world of ours today. It seems almost as if Satan and the powers of darkness are winning the battle for men’s souls. The very fact that men and women today deny the existence of the devil as just a myth, seems to support the truths contained in the Bible. “The god of this world (Satan) hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2Corinthians 4:4).
The very name of Christ brings a mocking grin to men and women’s faces. From the youngest to the eldest in every section of the community, male and female, the Name of Jesus Christ only passes their lips in blasphemy. But the young child that swears is sometimes only repeating what he hears on television. Sin is progressive, it never gets better, it only gets worse, and man has no cure for it. Man calls sin permissiveness, God calls permissiveness sin. Man has no cure for permissiveness, but God has a cure for sin, His Son Jesus Christ.
The factory where I worked employed about 1,000 workers, yet I have only ever met one born-again Christian. Among other places, a factory is a place where you can see man in his sinful state. In a factory he is not restricted by social niceties. Anything goes. Obscene actions, gestures, cruel horseplay and filth pouring from lips. This is sinful man in his swaggering arrogance. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it"”(Jeremiah 17:9). Someone has said, “Satan seems to be winning all the battles , but he is not winning the war. Well I would like to say here and now, that he is not winning all the battles either.
On Sunday night, 26th August, 1973, around 9.30 p.m. I took Jesus Christ as my own personal Saviour. Two days later Satan nearly had me back..
On Monday night 27th August, I had a desire to go a Gospel Meeting. It was about 40 years since I was there, so Bill Philips took me along to Glenburn’s Bethany Hall. It was an open air meeting and I felt good as I stood there amongst other Christians as they sang, and preached God’s wonderful message of salvation.
I will now relate what I did the very next morning when I awoke. I dressed and opened the drawer where my bank book was. I saw that I still had a few pounds, and I counted some loose change which I had in my pocket. I’ve got enough to get well and truly drunk today, I thought, then after that it won’t matter what happens. I will live on the dole. The less money I have the less I will drink. Note that I was fully aware that drink was my downfall, but maybe I’ll go to London and start a new life. I’ll have to pull myself together. Me, a Christian? I must be going off my head - it’s the drink!
When Satan goes to work on a person, even pure common sense goes overboard. But what about the agonies of remorse which I would suffer, and which I had suffered many times before? This you may say should have been enough to stop me. Well, I never thought about that even for a second. Even the reflex which stops a child from putting it’s hand back in the fire after he has been burned was now missing.
As I look back to that period in my life, I can see three things which were likely to happen:
I would never have seen London, that’s for sure.
I would have seen the inside of a prison.
I would have very likely been dead today.
I didn’t get drunk that day or the next. In fact, I have not touched a drop of drink since, thanks to God. I stopped the smoking and gambling as well. Being a Christian is a great life, for Christ liberates a person from the bonds of sin. That person is really free, free from the ravages of sin. If you are a slave of Satan turn to Christ today, for only He can forgive you. If you know nothing of drink or smoking, or drug taking, thank God for that, but God’s Word says that you are a sinner, “For all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23). You need Christ too just as I did. Turn to Him today. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).
A young man who had just been to a Gospel meeting for the first time said to me, “It seems to me that the only ones who get saved are the drunkards, gamblers, and human driftwood. Ordinary people like myself, who can take a pint of beer and leave it, never get saved. You yourself, on your own admission, turned to Christ as a last resort” God’s answer to him, and the millions like him is, “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23), so that makes him no better than I was. Indeed it places him in my category, a sinner in need of a Saviour. In Luke Ch.18, Jesus tells a parable to “certain men which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (verse 9) . Two men went up into the temple to pray. One, a Pharisee said, “God I thank Thee that I am not as other men are… I thank Thee that I am not like this publican”. (verse13). “And the publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast saying God be merciful to me a sinner” (verse14). “I tell you this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other”.
You dear reader need Jesus Christ if you are going to escape God’s wrath. This is a serious matter. God’s Word says, “He that believeth on the Son (of God) hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3).
At the same meeting that this young man was at, a young woman who had given her heart to the Saviour was baptised. She was a school teacher. The apostle Paul, a deeply religious man, said, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1Timothy 1:15).
How did I overcome Satan that day? I did not. I am just a poor weak sinner. Jesus Christ did it for me. “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
One of my workmates asked me, “How do you pass your time? You were a man that liked to enjoy yourself. What do you do for excitement?” He Looked at me with pity when I said, “I read my Bible, and pray”. How could I ever explain to him the joy I get from reading the Scriptures, like the time when I was reading the Sermon on the Mount. “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven, for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil, and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). The margin reference made me turn to Psalm 65:12,13 and I read, “They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness and the little hills rejoice on every side - the pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys also are covered with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing”. As soon as I had read these last two verses my whole being surged with sheer joy. I felt as light as air. I wanted to run outside and tell everyone how happy I was. And that with only a few verses. “What do I do for excitement?” the man asked, whew… I’ve got more than money could ever buy.
“That whosoever ye shall as of the Father in My Name He may give it you” (John 15:16)
Here is how I put the above verse into practise. One day when I had been out of work for about six weeks, I was waiting to go to court. I thought I would try and get a job at the local engineering works. I did not think I would have much of a chance because of my past record and my age. I had been to the labour exchange, but they had nothing for me. The gate-man at the works gave me an application form to fill and when I had completed it, I waited with about seven or eight men, all looking for work. Most of them were younger than I, so any little hope that I had sank!
When my turn came to be interviewed, I was asked by the employment manager to come into his office. He was a youngish, stout man, and after he had shut the door, he told me to sit down. The interview lasted about ten minutes, then he arose and told me to take a seat outside. While I waited out there, I prayed to God to help me get this job. A few minutes later the office door opened. The employment manager said to me, “Come in, you’ve got a job. When can you start?”
Have you ever seen a gospel text sign posted by the wayside, or have been handed a gospel leaflet in the street, or heard a group of Christians preaching the message of salvation? If you have never seen or heard any of these things before, and have never heard, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), that is no longer so. If you would like to know more of how you too can be saved, I would be glad to help. Remember, Jesus said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Remember, you must come by way of the cross, there is no other way.
My sign post was that little cross on my bedroom wall. I discovered later that it was the street lamp outside shining through the other windows. God had kept it before me until its wonderful light had penetrated my dark and sinful heart. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Dear reader, if you are still an unbeliever, why don’t you come out of the darkness, into His marvellous light? Your life will be enriched here on earth, and you will secure for yourself a place in Heaven for all eternity. The Bible says man’s life here on earth is threescore years and ten, and what then?
When I look back over my life, the first thing that strikes me is the speed at which the years passed. Things which seemed to have taken place the other day, actually happened years ago. Is it really 36 years since with my parents and two sisters, as a lad of 16, we first came to live in this house in James Brown Avenue? My sisters were still at school, and my father and mother were in their early 40’s. Have 47 years passed since, holding onto my father’s hand I toddled to school for the first time? All my old school teachers, probably now dead and gone, acted out their little part in God’s scheme of things, and then moved out into eternity. I can see my old class mates, there we were getting into all kinds of mischief at playtime, with short trousers, torn jerseys, moments of joy, then tears. I still meet some of them, middle aged men now, tight-lipped, and grey haired. There is one a foreman where I work. He is married, with a grown - up family, and is a grandfather.
The march of time, seconds ticking away, each one bringing us nearer to that day when we will no longer have any use for all the things we treasure here on earth, but when we must leave all our worldly possessions, and the ones we love. “For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).
And so, the six months soon passed, and I once again stood before the sheriff. I was prepared for anything, but I was hoping for the best. If I went to prison I would preach the gospel to my fellow-prisoners. We could have Bible readings, because the authorities supply each one with a Bible. But of course I did not want to go to prison.
The sheriff was a stern looking man. I was told to stand up, and he glanced across at me as he was handed some papers. He read through the papers, then asked my legal aid lawyer, “Is he working?” “Yes”, he replied, “He has been working since October.” The sheriff looked across at me again, then laying down the papers he paused for a few minutes, then said, “I have decided at this time to let you go Perry. If you come before me again I won’t be so lenient. You are admonished.”
As I left the building, I breathed thanksgiving and praise to God for His goodness to me, and for caring so much for me, as to send His Son to the cross at Calvary to die in my place. My criminal record will always be kept on file by the police authorities, but with God I got a better deal, because He says, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).
If you are not 100% sure that you are going to Heaven when you die, enter in at the the door:
John 10:9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.