Saved by Grace: Personal Testimony of an Artist
by William Raws
“Here, take this!” “Here, take it, quick!”
These excited sentences from a man who pushed his way through the crowd of workers and beneficiaries in the hall of the Philadelphia Sunday Breakfast Association one Sunday morning drew my attention at the close of a service, and as I stepped toward him, he handed me a razor. As I slipped it into my hip pocket, I asked: “Why are you so anxious to get rid of it?”
“I meant to use it on a man tonight,” he answered hoarsely. “I meant to kill him. I only came in here to pass away the time until near midnight when I intended to go after my man.”
Then he told me that as he sat there he had heard my testimony how that God had redeemed me from a drunken, dissipated, wild, reckless and sinful life; and he said to himself: “If God can save that man perhaps He can save me.”
There he was stopped that night from possibly becoming a murderer.
I determined then that I would grasp every opportunity to tell of how God “brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song inmy mouth, even praise unto our God.”
I was born of good Christian parents. Father made considerable money in Australia where I was born, and my early recollections are of a comfortable, happy home in the country.
Later we moved to one of the cities in the North of England. I became a Sunday school teacher, librarian of the school and a member of the church – but was not truly born again.
I spent five years in a Manchester warehouse and studied nights at the Royal Institution of Arts, and subsequently with one of the best portrait painters in that part of the country. At the age of twenty-one I married. Up to that time I did not know the taste of liquor. Unfortunately my wife did, although a woman of splendid qualities in other respects; and this proved to be the rock upon which we made shipwreck of our lives. We owned considerable property, had money in the bank, a well-furnished home, etc., when I first gave way to the curse of strong drink. Oh the misery, the heartaches, the wretched experiences and the ruin of the next ten years! I shudder when I think of it even now.
I would not, even if I had the space, tell all of the dreadful life of sin I lived, only just enough to show some other poor erring brothers or sisters that they may take heart and, trusting solely in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, be saved. We lost some money through a bank failure and then went into business.T his we neglected for drink and failed.
We mortgaged property, spent the money, sold that property, spent that money, mortgaged other property with the same results – until every house we owned (fourteen in all) had gone. I was almost always under the influence of drink. At times I would work a little but for several years did absolutely nothing but drink. For months at a time we would never miss a morning but the servant would bring the silver waiter to the bedroom door, and on it would be the milk and Jamaica rum, coffee and the brandy decanter.
Imagine how a day started in such a fashion would end. One night, coming in from the club, the nurse and my wife were about to take our little three-year-old sick child to bed. I said: “Here, let me take her. Papa will take his darling to bed tonight,” and taking her and the pillow in my arms, I retraced my unsteady steps to the hall, and when about half-way up the stairs I fell full length upon my dying child. A few days later I stood at her graveside, still under the influence of liquor, and saw the beautiful white ermine, silver-mounted casket lowered into the grave.
Some might say, “That man was a brute. He had no affection.” But, my friend, I want to say that I loved my child with all the strength of my heart. The demon of drink was in possession of me, but I had as much affection for my dead darling as I did only a few weeks ago when I stood sober, in full possession of all my faculties, at the graveside
of our dear little eleven-year-old girl, Dottie, as we laid her to rest under the pines at Keswick Colony.
Time would fail to tell of the black past. There is no poetry in a drunkard’s life; scheming and planning, broken promises, debts, rum, bankruptcy, a broken home, visits to the pawn shops to raise money,
two-thirds of which went to the rum seller, and one-third for food and family. At last I was induced by my relatives to leave England and come to America thinking that perhaps complete change of surroundings would enable me to stop drinking.
I was drunk on the Thursday night when I promised. I sailed on the Saturday following. Oh the misery of the farewell to wife and children, to mother, father and other relatives! Any Hell? Ask the drunkard. He can tell you. For two years after my arrival here I lived an up and down life, oftener down than up.
Then news came of mother’s death and later of my wife’s. I was broken-hearted but knew not where to find rest or comfort until one day,
fairly dying from the effects of rum, unable even to keep hot rum brandy on my stomach, I staggered penniless to my room and fell against an old arm chair. (I still use it on our platform.) Although under the influence of drink, a poor dying drunkard, a swearing, lustful, sinful man, I cried unto God.
He heard my cry and saved me. Jesus Christ “was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” For days and nights thereafter I could neither eat nor sleep. I was on the verge of delirium tremens. I had had them before. But peace came at last and victory through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
That was twenty-one years ago, and praise God I can now look back and say that during all that time He has kept me, and tonight I can honestly declare that I have no more desire to drink, or for tobacco, or to swear or gamble than when a little child I knelt at mother’s knee. To Him and Him only do I give the glory!
He has been my Shepherd and has guided and kept me and supplied my every need. Tonight I can sing,
“I love Him, I love Him, because He first loved me,
And purchased my salvation on Calvary’s tree.”
I know from experience that His promises are sure, and He will supply our every need for spirit, soul and body.
About two years before I was redeemed, a cousin of mine in Germantown told us at breakfast that she had dreamed of my being in the pulpit of St. Stephen’s M.E. Church preaching, and it was so ridiculous to our minds that we all laughed at it. I was living such a sinful life at the time that shortly afterward my uncle had to turn me out of the house.
But praise be to God, I have appeared since, not only in that church, but in almost every church in Germantown to tell the story of God’s power to save and keep saved.
My children were brought over to me. I married my present wife, and after spending some time at my profession God filled me with the Holy Spirit and called us into mission work in which He has wonderfully blessed us.
He gave us the saloon in which I used to drink and carouse so much for a mission hall, and it is now widely known as “The Whosoever Gospel Mission and Rescue Home.”
But the crowning effort of our lives was the purchase of 880 acres of land
in the Pines near Whiting, NJ, and the founding of Keswick Colony of Mercy.
Here, amid healthful and beautiful surroundings, many a drunkard has found
Christ and redemption and is now a happy Christian.
Praise God for His mercy and love and His power to redeem from all the power of sin.
On September 18, 1910, at the age of only 52, the life of William Raws literally burned out for God and for lost men. The Keswick Colony of Mercy is truly a faith work which had its humble beginning in 1897 with $1.87 in capital. The ministry has been God’s instrument in reaching multitudes of men from all walks of life and all parts of the country, showing them that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only perfect answer to the need of the addicted individual. Although the Colony has been expanded and improved through the years, there has been no change from the original vision and the faith principle upon which it operates. Men are not charged for their stay and the Colony ministry is supported entirely by voluntary contributions.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are
passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17)
The reality of this verse is demonstrated in the lives of so many who have come to the Colony of Mercy. And it can be the reality of your life
* Are you in Christ?
* Do you know Him as personal Lord and Saviour?
* Do you know, without a shred of doubt, that you will one day be in Heaven with Him?
God’s Word tells us in John 3:16 He loved the world – you and me – so much
that “he gave his only begotton Son, that whosoever believeth in him should
not perish, but have everlasting life.” You can have assurance of that
everlasting life today.