Up to this time he had said nothing to me about God. Finally he opened up and asked my name. I told him Dave Ranney, but I had a few others to use in a pinch. And I told him the truth; kindness had won.
He said, “Dave, why are you leading such a life? Don’t you know you were cut out for a far better one?” I was no fool; I knew all about that. I had learned it in Sunday-school, and how often mother had told me the same thing. I knew I was put into the world to get the best, and glorify God; and I was getting the worst, and it was all my own fault. Here I was. I felt that no one wanted anything to do with me, no one would trust me, because I was a jail-bird. But I have found out since there are people that are willing to help a man if they see he is on the level.
“Why,” I said, “a man that has no backing has no show in ’little old New York.’ You even have to have a pull to get a job shoveling snow, and then you have to buy your own shovel! What does any one care? The politicians have all they want and are only looking for more graft. They need you just twice a year to register and vote. I know I’m crooked, and it’s my own fault, I admit, but who’s going to give me a chance? Oh, for a chance!”
The young fellow listened, then said, “Dave, there’s One that will help.”
I did not catch on to his meaning, but said I was glad and thanked him for what he had done. I thought he meant himself. “Not I,” he said; “I mean God. Why don’t you give Him a chance? Talk about men giving you a chance—why, God is waiting for a chance to help you!”
Just then my old friend the Devil came in; he always does when he thinks he is going to lose a convert; and he said in his own fine way, “Oh, what rot! Why didn’t God help you before this? Don’t bother about it; you have a nice suit; get out of this place and sell the duds and have a good time. I’ll help you. I’ll be your friend.” He’s sly, but I put him behind me that time.
It was easy enough for this man to talk about God giving me a chance, but he didn’t know me—a hard, wicked sinner, who if half the crimes I had committed were known I’d be put in prison for life. Would God help such a one? I knew I was clean and had a good suit of clothes on, but, oh! how I wished God would give me another chance! But I felt as if He had no use for me.
The man put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I want to be your friend; will you let me?” I said I’d be proud of such a friend. “Now, Dave,” he said, “there’s One better than I who will stick to you closer than a brother; will you let Him be your friend?” I said I would, though I doubted if He wanted any part of me, but I was going to make a try; and the young man and myself knelt down in the Tabernacle, corner of Broome Street and Centre Market Place, on the 16th of September, 1892, and I asked God to have mercy on me, cut the drink out of my life, and make a man of me, if such