“Incredible”: autobiography of John Nelson Parr — Contents
AN INCREDIBLE CONVERSION
“Special”, “Special”, “Special”. This was one of the street cries of the Victorian days, and it was being shouted by the newspaper boys as they ran, very fleet of foot, through the streets. The first to reach a district would be the first to sell his papers and he reaped, what to him, in those days, was a rich reward. Ordinary papers were sold for one half-penny, but specials were double the price and sold for one penny. One of those boys who was fleet of foot was John Nelson Parr. Specials were published when important national events had taken place, such as, a declaration of war, a Royal death, the results of Parliamentary and Municipal elections, and other similar events of national importance.
Drink impoverished my home and in order to help my mother, I became a newspaper boy. I was the eldest of a family of five and I delivered newspapers before going to school and evening papers after coming from school, and also sold specials when they were published.
I was educated at Ross Place Council School, Ardwick, Manchester, and after reaching the highest class passed a scholarship examination, but owing to the unsatisfactory conditions prevailing at home could not avail myself of the higher education provided by the scholarship and started work at the age of thirteen.
My first job was at a textile engineers and I started work at 6 a.m. We were awakened in the morning at 5 a.m. by the old-fashioned “Knocker Up”. This was usually a woman or a man using a long pole with a few strands of wire fastened at the top of the pole and this was vibrated on to the window. The “Knocker Up” would not stop rattling at the window until you got out of bed and looked through the window. We worked from 6 a.m. until we stopped for breakfast at 8 a.m. and stopped for lunch at noon and finished for the day at 5.30 p.m. and we finished work at noon on Saturdays. I hated the job and after some time left textile engineering. It was a great day when I took home my first week’s wages. The amount was 5/- and I worked a 53-hour week to earn this magnificent amount.
From that time I became very irresponsible and from the age of fourteen to about seventeen I had nine different jobs. Perhaps one thing which contributed to this phase of my life was the fact that I discontinued going to Sunday School. I was compelled to go to Sunday School at an early age and do not regret this; but the superintendent expelled me at the age of thirteen for gross misconduct. I was confirmed in the Church of England at the age of twelve.
Although I was continually in trouble at Sunday School for misbehaviour, the word of God must have entered my mind, for many times after my conversion, at the age of seventeen, I would suddenly think of scriptures which I had never read except during those days when I attended Sunday School.
It was a very providential event in my life when my parents moved from Ardwick, Manchester, to Bradford (Manchester). The hand of God was undoubtedly behind this move for it became the turning point in my life. Someone invited me to join a very prosperous organisation — it was the Crossley Lads’ Club and it was under the patronage of Sir William Crossley, one of the founders of Messrs. Crossley Brothers Ltd., the famous gas, oil and diesel engine works. The Lads’ Club had about twelve bible classes, held every Sunday, and one of the conditions of membership was that all members must attend a Bible Class. I did not mind this as the club ran four football clubs and I was very keen on playing football, having played for Ross Place School and was very nearly chosen for the English Schools’ Boys’ Team.
I entered into many of the club’s activities, including football, cricket, swimming and cross-country running. One year I remember winning the batting and bowling prizes. At that time I was studying Greek and Latin very hard for an entrance examination into a Theological College and my prizes were a text book on Greek and one on Latin.
It was when running with the Harriers I met a young man who was used by the Lord to bring me to Christ. This young man was the Lancashire and Cheshire Cross Country Running Champion and I admired him very much. He was a Christian and a splendid character. Many times when we were running together he would ask me to go with him to a Young People’s Meeting which was associated with the Crossley Lads’ Club. The Meeting was held every Tuesday night in Crossley Hall and, at last, in order to keep him quiet, I consented to go. The Speaker was the Rev. A. E. Dearden. I do not know what his subject was and he did not give an invitation for any to decide for Christ but I remember while he was speaking something said to me, “That is what you need”, so after he had finished speaking I went up to him and said, “Can I give my life to Jesus Christ?” He said, “Yes, come this way”. He took me into the vestry and prayed for me. I cannot remember him showing me any scriptures — he may have done this — and I do not know if I prayed, but I do know from that night my whole life was revolutionised and transformed.
Agnostics, atheists and infidels may argue until they are blue in the face about the bible and the existence of God, but ten thousand atheists could not convince me that the Risen Son of God, Jesus Christ, did not that night in April 1904, come into my heart and revolutionise my whole life. I was instantaneously transformed, my whole nature was changed, my heart was filled with joy and rapture and I remember walking through the streets feeling I was walking on air. I knew nothing of being born again but now I know that I was born again that night. We sometimes sing “I came to Jesus weary, worn and sad”, but I did not feel weary, worn and sad, in fact I was enjoying my life of sport to the full but that night Jesus Christ gave me eternal life and life which has satisfied me for nearly seventy years.
I was 17½ years of age when The Lord Jesus came into my heart and life. The Rev. A. E. Dearden was the Minister of Crossley Hall, Whitworth Street, Openshaw, Manchester. As I walked up and down Whitworth Street, the joy of salvation filling my heart, the same voice said to me, “Go and tell your father”. So off I went and told my father I had given my life to Jesus Christ. Subsequent events showed that he thought I had gone mad.
I commenced attending all the services at Crossley Hall, which was connected with the Crossley Lads’ Club, and their Sunday night congregation was usually about 600. After a few weeks the Rev. Dearden put me into Christian Service. Every Sunday morning, at 9 a.m., I went with others distributing Gospel tracts from house to house and also talking to the people about the Gospel and inviting them to Crossley Hall. Mr. Dearden was a splendid organiser and a great soul winner. We had weekly open air meetings and also cottage meetings in various districts. I was just turned seventeen when the Lord saved me in April, 1904 and after a few months I was speaking in the open air and also at cottage meetings.
How well I remember my first attempt to speak in public. It was in the open air and I had decided to memorise my address and speak without notes. We had an open air pulpit on wheels. When I ascended the steps of the pulpit and looked at the people my heart failed me and so did my memory. I forgot everything, just said a few words and then descended the pulpit steps feeling a hopeless failure. The other workers encouraged me and ultimately it was a great joy to preach the Gospel at open air meetings and cottage meetings nearly every week.
My first answer to prayer was very wonderful and greatly increased my faith in God. Shortly after I was saved I heard an address on Psalm 15, and the speaker emphasised verse five, “He that putteth not out his money to usury”. I was in charge of a money lender’s branch office and the firm charged a very high rate of interest on the money loaned to clients. As a Christian, after hearing that address, I felt I should obtain another situation. I did not mention this to anyone but commenced to pray. One night the secretary of Crossley Lads’ Club asked me if I was looking for a job. I told him I was very anxious to change my job and that night he gave me a letter and told me to take it to Messrs. Crossley Brothers Ltd. and I started working for the firm as a junior clerk and that was the beginning of a marvellous cycle of events in my life.
I continued playing football and cricket for about one year after I gave my life to Jesus Christ but as I grew in grace my desire for the work of God and Spiritual things became very intense and the Lord showed me I could use the time given to sport for seeking the unsaved, so I said Goodbye to the sports arena. The Lord was very gracious to me and led me step by step into a life of full consecration and separation. My love for the Bible became intense and often I read many chapters every day.
Chapter 2: Incredible Stops
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