He was a wife beater and a drunkard who mocked the mercy of God. ‘He was the wildest, most daring and reckless of all men. On one occasion his blasphemy was so fearful that his comrades declared his oaths must come from hell, for they smelled of sulphur’.
He was rowdy and animated with a wit that would enliven any party. Yet he would turn that which most would regard as sacred into objects of ridicule. Even his companions warned that, some day, he would have to give an account to the One who would be his judge.
His name was Billy Bray, a miner born in Cornwall in 1794. His father died when he was young, and he was brought up by a devout Methodist grandfather. Unfortunately, his grandfather’s faith had a negative effect on his life and was probably the source of his familiarity with the gospels, which he treated with derision. But he knew about hell.
To Billy there seemed no other destination. ‘His soul was stained with viler sins than any other. His conscience tormented him by day, and dreams terrified him by night.’ Until one day someone placed into his hands Bunyan’s ‘Visions of Heaven and Hell.’
An arrow pierced his soul. He was gripped with fear. Was he to be doomed for ever for his vile lifestyle? He knew he must pray for mercy, but ‘the devil had such a hold on him’ that he was ashamed to even fall upon his knees. He went to bed a troubled, broken man.
In the early hours God took hold of him. He jumped out of bed and prayed well into the morning. He couldn’t stop, fearful that his day of grace might pass him by. Tears ran down his face as he cried out to the Lord for mercy.
The change that took place was remarkable. His heavy burden was lifted from his shoulders. For the first time in his life he was free, free from fear of hell and eternal damnation. The grace of God surrounded him like an aura. He remained on his knees and prayed fervently all day.
He became one of the best-known preachers in the country, and led many hundreds to Christ. His sermons were often punctuated by spontaneous outbursts of singing and dancing. “If they were to put me in a barrel” he would say, “I would shout glory through the bunghole!”
Jesus said, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’ (Revelation 3:20). The door can only be opened from the inside. A friend gave Billy the key and he opened the door. His life was transformed. We all know one who needs the key to release them from shackles of condemnation and into life abundant. We have that key in the name of Jesus Christ. Shall we give it to someone today? (Quotations taken from ‘Billy Bray, The King’s Son’ by F W Bourne)
Prayer: Father help me to see those in need through Your eyes. Give me compassion for the lost and help me to bring them hope in Your name. I thank You for all You’ve done for me, and pray that, as the cross is revealed, eyes would be opened to see Your light shining through the darkness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.