“Incredible”: autobiography of John Nelson Parr — Contents
Chapter One: An Incredible Conversion
The Bible says “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord”. It has also been said “The stops of a good man are ordered by the Lord”, and some of the greatest deliverances in my life have been when the Lord stopped me taking certain paths. The first stop was about 1907 and I would be about twenty years of age. Sir William Crossley asked the Rev. Dearden to choose two young men who he thought would be suitable for the Ministry and he would pay expenses for them to go through a Theological Seminary. One of the young men was a friend of mine and I was also chosen. It was essential we should pass an examination in Greek and Latin to qualify for entrance into the College. At that time I would get up about 6 a.m., run about one mile to an open air swimming pool, have a short swim, summer and winter, then run back home and study Greek, Latin and the Bible, before going to work. I had no difficulty in passing the examination and took a first in Greek and a second in Latin and was all set for the Theological Seminary.
I had been attending some meetings at the Manchester Holiness Church, Star Hall, Manchester, and the Evangelist, The Rev. John Thomas, took a great interest in me. He heard I was going to Theological College and one night he had a private talk with me and warned me about going to the college. He told me about one young man who, he said. “Was just as zealous and consecrated as you are and also had a great passion for souls”. He continued: “I never thought anything could alter him but he came out of the Theological College a higher critic” (that is what they called modernists in those days). Mr. Thomas also informed me the young man in question had lost all his zeal and passion for lost souls. I took his advice and cancelled my application for admission to the college. This was a most terrific decision and my action created a terrible situation and the Minister, Sir William Crossley, and all concerned were very bitterly disappointed, seeing I had done so well at the entrance examination.
Looking back now after nearly sixty years’ Christian experience I consider that was one of the most wonderful Divine stops in my life. My friend entered the Theological College and after he had been there about twelve months I paid him a visit and to my horror discovered he was rapidly becoming a higher critic. He told me the first five books of Moses were mostly Jewish mythology and we had no proof they were written by Moses. The last I heard of him he was the Minister of a very tiny Chapel in a very tiny village.
My soul magnifies the Lord for this great deliverance and I rejoice to see that even then, when I was only about twenty years of age, He who could see the future had Bethshan Tabernacle in mind, when He preserved me from becoming a higher critic or a modernist. If the Lord had not given me grace to accept the advice of Rev. John Thomas, there would have been no Bethshan Tabernacle, and thousands who have been saved would have been lost; scores of consecrated workers who are Pastors, Missionaries and Evangelists would not be in the work of God and I would never have had the joy of preaching for over fifteen years, the glorious Gospel of Christ, to millions over the radio all over the world. A billion praises to the Lord Jesus for this magnificent stop.
I left Crossley Hall and went with my young lady (Miss Laura France) to Star Hall, Ancoats, Manchester. The young lady ultimately became my wife and for over forty-five years we laboured together in the Gospel of Christ. No preacher could have wished for a more devoted and consecrated partner in life. Her devotion and loyalty as we walked the paths of service and sacrifice baffle description. I can only use the words found in 2 Kings 4:8: “a great woman”.
Star Hall was a Holiness Church. The two ladies in charge of this church were Miss Crossley and Miss Hatch. They were two of the finest Christian ladies I have ever met in any part of the world. The Evangelist at the Star Hall was the Rev. John Thomas and he was a very wonderful Gospel preacher and a great soul winner. At Star Hall I met some very fine consecrated young men who were on fire for winning lost souls. We were holding open air meetings two or three times every week and every Saturday we went to the great Manchester football grounds carrying banners, bearing Gospel texts, distributing Gospel tracts and holding an open air meeting when thousands were coming out of the ground at the close of the match. We often had banana skins and other objects thrown at us but we also had the blessing of God upon our witness. We also held an open air meeting right in the centre of Manchester, every Saturday night. During those days I was learning how to win souls and how to preach the Gospel. I was also very busy studying, what was considered by many Christian leaders, the best Bible correspondence course in the country at that time. Looking back I can see how the Lord was giving me marvellous practical training and invaluable experience for my future ministry.
I shall never forget the first Saturday I walked out of the front door of my home with a Gospel banner over my shoulder. It was not the type which can be rolled up. It was a piece of board fastened on the end of a long pole and the texts on the banner were “Be sure your sin will find you out”, and on the other side “Jesus saves from sin”. It was a great test of obedience and, although I was very nervous, the Lord gave me the victory.
One Monday morning a director of Messrs. Crossley Brothers Ltd. sent for me. I was only a junior clerk and wondered what was going to happen. As soon as I entered the huge private office, he said “Did I see you at the football match on Saturday, Parr?” I replied “Yes Sir.” Then he said “Is there any sin in going to a football match?” This question opened up the way for a very interesting conversation and gave me the opportunity of giving him my testimony. He asked me if I intended going into the Ministry. At that time I was thinking of going to Tibet as a Missionary and I told him that was my desire. He told me he would be delighted to help me financially if I was ultimately accepted. The meetings at Star Hall were very wonderful and especially the great Easter convention. Cubicles were fixed up in the basement of Star Hall and some of us stayed on the premises to really have four days with God. It was my privilege to hear some wonderful preachers, including J. G. Govan (founder of the “Faith Mission”). I remember one of his addresses having a terrific effect upon my life of consecration and abandoned dedication to the work of Christ. The ministry of Thomas Cook of Cliff College, Dr. Kunz, Dr. Stalker, Dr. Caradine all of U.S.A. and many others had a terrific impact on my Christian life. About this time I went on several occasions to the Great Keswick Conventions in the Lake District and had the joy of hearing Dr. Campbell Morgan, Rev. J. H. Jowett, Rev. Gregory Mantle, Rev. Graham Scroggie and others. The ministry of these great preachers was used by the Lord to prepare me for my future ministry.
The more consecrated I became the more devoted I was to the work of the Lord and the work of winning souls for Christ. This life of full surrender and consecration increased the antagonism of my father. One night he became very wild and I had to leave home for some days in order to avoid something serious happening. About this time I celebrated my twenty-first birthday and owing to his furious antagonism, I had no birthday party and no presents so I bought myself a watch and asked the Lord to give me one soul as a birthday present. I considered winning one soul for Christ would be the greatest birthday present anyone could receive. There was a Gospel Meeting that night at Star Hall and I went round the streets about half an hour before the meeting was due to start, looking for my birthday present. I spotted a young man standing under a street lamp and I invited him to come to the Meeting with me. He gladly came. We sat together and while the Evangelist was preaching I was praying that the Lord would save that young man. To my great joy he was the first to raise his hand, when the invitation was given, and then he went out to the old fashioned altar. His name was Tommy Morrow. To me that was the greatest birthday present I have ever received. The last time I heard about Tommy Morrow, he was preaching the Gospel to the backwoodsmen in the Canadian forests.
About this time I had a great burden for Tibet and was definitely sure the Lord had called me to preach the Gospel in that country. My application was rejected by two Missionary Societies, however, I was so sure the Lord had called me to Tibet; I decided to obtain a position as Secretary, learn the language and then enter Tibet and preach the Gospel to those who had never heard the Good News. I managed to obtain a position as Secretary in a Missionary rest home in Darjeeling. Everything was arranged except the time of my sailing from England, when suddenly, without any explanation, the door was shut. This was a grievous disappointment but it has turned out to be the second marvellous Divine stop in my Christian life. If I had stubbornly pushed the door open and insisted on going to Tibet, there would never have been a Bethshan Tabernacle and thousands of souls would not have been brought to the Saviour through my Ministry at Bethshan and over the radio. How wonderful are the ways and plans of the Lord and often they are beyond our understanding. For years I could not understand why the door into Tibet had been so amazingly closed. This incident shows that, often, as the heavens are higher than the earth so are the ways of the Lord higher than our ways. This supernatural stop would be about 1908 and I would be about twenty-two years of age.
My first experience of working among boys and girls was given to me while I was a member of Star Hall. It would be about 1907 when a Manchester City Missionary asked me to help him. He was in charge of a Mission in one of the slum districts of Manchester. I went every week to help him keep about one hundred tough boys and girls in order. The experience gained in the Manchester Ancoats district working among boys and girls became very useful in later years. It was also my joy to speak at an open air meeting held in that district every week. The open air meeting was held in the quadrangle of some flats known as Jersey Street Dwellings. The district had a very infamous reputation and the police always went on patrol in twos. When I was speaking one night a man stripped to the waist came out of one of the flats, looked over the balcony and fuming with madness, shouted at me in violent language and then shook his fist at me and gave vent to all kinds of oaths. He looked like a prize fighter. He disappeared and then suddenly appeared round the corner of the quadrangle, ran at me as I stood preaching in the centre of the square, raised his fist to hit me but immediately after glaring at me turned round and ran away. To me this was a marvellous Divine deliverance.
I was saved from sin in April 1904 but it would be about 1908 when I first heard about the second coming of Christ. I had never, to my knowledge, ever heard a sermon on this subject, but one day an old man asked me “Did I know that Jesus Christ was coming again”. I said “No”. I remembered going to his home and he showed me the scriptures teaching the second coming of Jesus Christ; from that moment this important subject has thrilled me. I have read nearly all the books written by famous writers on this subject, and also studied very much the teaching of the Word of God on this very thrilling theme and now over sixty years after my first introduction to that glorious subject I am still captivated by the thought that Jesus may come again at any moment. I am not looking for the Lord Jesus coining in flaming fire with his mighty angels taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the Gospel… but I am looking for the Lord “Himself”, our glorious Bridegroom coming for the redeemed Church, His glorious bride. I am not looking for the man of sin but for the Man of Calvary, the Glorified Son of Man. I am not looking for the great tribulation but for the Great Translation. I am not looking for the King to come and set up His kingdom on earth but I am looking for the Lord Jesus Christ to come from heaven to take us up to heaven to receive our rewards.
Chapter 3: Incredible Search for Power
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