The Puncher

The following is taken from the book "Twice-Born Men" by Harold Begbie. (1909 Fleming H. Revell Co.) It traces Gospel light coming to many hardened and desperate individuals in the slums of London thanks to the testimony of the Salvation Army. One chapter entitled "The Puncher" tells the story of a prize fighter.

"He says that while he stood drinking in the bar,
feeling no other emotion than annoyance at the
Salvationist's interference, suddenly he saw a
vision. The nature of this vision was not exalted.
In a flash he saw that his wife was murdered,
just as he had planned and desired; that he had
died game on the scaffold, just as he had deter-
mined; the thing was done; vengeance wreaked,
apotheosis attained — he had died game : he was
dead, and the world was done with. All this in a
flash of consciousness, and with it the despairing
knowledge that he was still not at rest. Some-
where in the universe, disembodied and appall-
ingly alone, his soul was unhappy. He knew
that he was dead; he knew that the world was
done with; but he was conscious, he was unhappy.

This was the vision. With it he saw the world
pointing at his son, and saying, " That's young
, whose father was hanged for murdering
his mother."

A wave of shame swept over him; he came out
of his vision with this sense of horror and shame
drenching his thought. For the first time in all
his life he was stunned by realization of his degra-
dation and infamy. He knew himself.

How the vision came may be easily explained
by subconscious mentation. He had long medi-
tated the crime of murdering his wife, he had long
brooded upon the glory of dying game; an explo-
sion of nervous energy presented him, even as it
presented Macbeth, with anticipatory realization
of his thought. In other words, we know all
about the mechanism of the piano; but, the musi-
cian at the keyboard? How did shame come to
this man utterly hardened and depraved? And
what, in the language of psychology, is shame?
How does grey matter become ashamed of itself?
How do the wires of the piano become aware of
the feelings of the sonata? Moreover, there is
this to be accounted for ; the immediate effect of
the vision.

That effect was " conversion," in other words,
a re-creation of the man's entire and several fields
of consciousness. And, he was drunk at the time.

Drunk as he was, he went straight out from the
public-house to the hall where the Salvation Army
was holding its meeting. His wife went with
him. He said to her, " I'm going to join the
Army." At the end of the meeting he rose from
his seat, went to the penitent's form, bowed him-
self there, and like the man in the parable cried
out that God would be merciful to him, a sinner.
His wife knelt at his side.

He says that it is impossible to describe his
sensations. The past dropped clear away from
him. An immense weight lifted from his brain.
He felt light as air. He felt clean. He felt
happy. All the ancient words used to symbolize
the spiritual experience of instant and complete
regeneration may be employed to describe his
feelings,' but they all fail to convey with satis-
faction to himself the immediate and delicious
joy which ravished his consciousness. He cannot
say what it was. All he knows is that there, at
the penitent form, he was dismantled of old hor-
ror and clothed afresh in newness and joy.

Whatever the effect upon himself, the effect
of this conversion on the neighbourhood was
amazing. The news of it spread to every foul
court and alley, to every beerhouse and gin-palace,
to every coster's barrow and street corner, to
every common lodging-house and cellar in all that
quarter of the town. There is no hero to these
people like a prize-fighter; let him come down,
as the Puncher had come down, to rags, prison,
and the lodging-house — still, trailing clouds of
glory does he come, and the rest worship their idol
even when he lies in the gutter.

When the Sunday came and this great hero
marched out of barracks with the band and the
banners and the lasses, there were thousands to
witness the sight — a dense mass of poverty-
stricken London, dazed into wonderment by a
prize-fighter's soul. " The Puncher's got reli-
gion ! " was the whispered amazement, and some
wondered whether he had got it bad enough to
last, or whether he would soon get over it and
be himself again. Little boys swelled the multi-
tude, gazing at the prize-fighter who had got re-

He had got it badly.

His home became comfortable and happy. He
appeared at all the meetings. No desire for to-
bacco or drink disturbed his peace or threatened
his holiness. The neighbourhood saw this great
fighter going every night to the Army Hall, and
marching every Sunday to the meetings in the
open air.

Then they saw something else.

The wonder of the Puncher is what Salvation-
ists call his " love for souls." This is a phrase
which means the intense and concentrated com-
passion for the unhappiness of others which visits
a man who has discovered the only means of ob-
taining happiness. The Puncher was not content
with the joy of having his own soul saved; he
wanted to save others."

Jeremiah 9:
23 This is what the LORD says:
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,

24 but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,"
declares the LORD.


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