The bulk of my congregation were burglars, highway robbers, and poor unhappy prostitutes!

(John Newton)

"But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life!" 1 Timothy 1:16

You would have liked to have been with me last Wednesday, when I preached at the prison. The bulk of my congregation were burglars, highway robbers, and poor unhappy prostitutes — such as infest the streets of this city, sunk in sin, and lost to shame. I had a hundred or more of these criminals before me.

I preached from 1 Timothy 1:15, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst!" and began with telling them my own story. This gained their attention more than I expected. I spoke to them nearly an hour and a half. I shed many tears myself, and saw some of them shed tears likewise.

Ah! Had you seen their present condition, and could you hear the history of some of them, it would make you sing, "O to grace, how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be!"

By nature, they were no worse than the most upright and moral people; and there was doubtless a time when many of them little thought what they would live to do and suffer.

I might have been, like them, in chains — and one of them have come to preach to me, had the Lord so pleased!

In my days of folly and vanity, I was a chief sinner indeed — a vile blasphemer, and profligate to an extreme! But it has pleased Him to set me forth as a pattern of His mercy to other chief sinners — that none may despair when they see me!

"By the grace of God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10

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You may be interested in reading John Newton's fascinating Autobiography, "Through Many Dangers!"