When he was arrested he sent for me and told me why he was arrested. Now I knew he had not robbed any one while he was with me.
The day of his trial came on. Judge Crane was the judge—a good clean man. After the man had sworn that J—— was the man who robbed him I was asked to go on the stand and tell what I knew. I told him I was a missionary to the Bowery, and that J——, the man arrested, was not the man who did the robbing, for he was with me at the time the robbery took place.
Judge Crane asked my name. I told him and gave him a brief history of my past life. He was amazed. Then I spoke a few words to the jury. The case was then given to the jury, and after twenty minutes they came in with a verdict of not guilty.
My dear readers, suppose Reilly (Ranney), the crook of sixteen years before, had been on that witness-stand. The Judge would have asked my name and when I’d said, “Reilly, the crook,” they would have sent both of us off to prison for life. But the past has been blotted out through Jesus, and it was the word of the redeemed crook that set J—— free.
There are lots of cases I could write about where men are arrested and send for me. I go to the Tombs to see them, and as I go up the big stone steps where the visitors go in, the big barred gate opens, and the warden touches his hat and says, “How do you do, Mr. Ranney,” and I go in. There’s always a queer feeling comes over me when that gate is shut behind me. I realize that I am coming out in an hour or so, but there was a time when I was shoved through the old gate, and didn’t know when I would come out.
One night in Mariners’ Temple, on Chatham Square, I was leading a meeting for men; it was near closing time and the invitation had been given. There were three men at the front on their knees calling on God to help them.
I look back to that night as one I never can forget. One of the men who came up front had no coat; it had been stolen from him in some saloon while he was in a drunken sleep, so he told me. After prayer had been offered and we got on our feet we asked the men to give their testimony. In fact, I think it is a good thing for them to testify, as it helps them when they have declared themselves before the others. They each gave a short testimony in which they said that they intended to lead a better life, with God’s help.
The man without a coat said he had but himself to blame for his condition, and, if God would help him, he was going to be a better man.
I saw to it that the man had a lodging and something to eat, when out from the audience stepped a fine-looking man with a coat in his hand and told the man to put it on. I looked at the man in astonishment. He was about five-feet-ten, of fine appearance, a little in need of a shave and a little water, but the man sticking out of him all over.