HOW A SLAVE GOT SAVED AND HOW OTHERS CAN TOO
Frederick Douglass was an ex slave who became one of America’s greatest social reformers, abolitionists, orators, writers, and statesmen. In my opinion, by virtue of character, contributions and accomplishments he counts among the truly great men who have ever lived. Certainly he ranks, along with Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver as foremost among black Americans living or dead. The following is an excerpt from the autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.
In his autobiography, Douglass’s wrote about how he came to be a Christian in 1830, and of the deep and profound changes that were brought about in his life by virtue of his personal experience of salvation. No clearer explanation of what being born again involves could be found than Frederick Douglass’s account of his own personal experience of salvation. Read the following and consider how your own experience of the new birth compares to Douglass’s:
“I was not more than thirteen years old, when in my loneliness and destitution I longed for some one to whom I could go, as to a father and protector. The preaching of a white Methodist minister, named Hanson, was the means of causing me to feel that in God I had such a friend. He thought that all men, great and small, bond and free, were sinners in the sight of God: that they were by nature rebels against His government; and that they must repent of their sins, and be reconciled to God through Christ. I cannot say that I had a very distinct notion of what was required of me, but one thing I did know well: I was wretched and had no means of making myself otherwise.
I consulted a good old colored man named Charles Lawson, and in tones of holy affection he told me to pray, and to "cast all my care upon God." This I sought to do; and though for weeks I was a poor, broken-hearted mourner, traveling through doubts and fears, I finally found my burden lightened, and my heart relieved. I loved all mankind, slaveholders not excepted, though I abhorred slavery more than ever. I saw the world in a new light, and my great concern was to have everybody converted. My desire to learn increased, and especially, did I want a thorough acquaintance with the contents of the Bible.
While thus religiously seeking knowledge, I became acquainted with a good old colored man named Lawson. This man not only prayed three times a day, but he prayed as he walked through the streets, at his work, on his dray–everywhere. His life was a life of prayer, and his words when he spoke to any one, were about a better world. Uncle Lawson lived near Master Hugh’s house, and becoming deeply attached to him, I went often with him to prayer-meeting and spent much of my leisure time on Sunday with him. The old man could read a little, and I was a great help to him in making out the hard words, for I was a better reader than he. I could teach him "the letter," but he could teach me "the spirit," and refreshing times we had together, in singing and praying.”
It is important for people to be warned that although men have come up with their own revisions, interpretations and versions, etc. of God’s Word, His Word has never changed (See Ps. 119:89; Matt. 5:18; 1 Pet. 1:23-25; Rev. 22:18, 19). Something else that remains unchanged is what is involved in a genuine experience of personal salvation. The spiritual condition of man that necessitates his salvation hasn’t changed (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12; 6:23); the possibility for men to be saved hasn’t changed (Isa. 1:18; Rom. 5:8; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9); the manner by which people may be saved hasn’t changed (Acts 20:21; Rom. 10:12,13); and the fact that, subsequent to one’s salvation, inward and outward changes are brought about that constitute proofs and evidences of the genuineness of their salvation hasn’t changed either (2 Cor. 5:17; Titus 2:11-15; Heb. 6:9). The fact that the Holy Spirit provides unmistakable and convincing inward assurance to every true believer hasn’t changed (Rom. 8:16). Neither, have the consequencesof leaving this life without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ changed (John 3:3,16-18; 1 John 5:11, 12; Rev. 20:11- 15).
These are times when there has never been more false teaching and confusion about how one becomes a genuine child of God and what a genuine experience of salvation produces in a person’s life. The circumstances surrounding the salvation experience of people throughout the ages have varied and do vary. There are numerous examples of this in the Bible and there have been numerous examples of this since Bible times. But the experience and the effects of salvation are essentially the same as that found in the personal testimony of Frederick Douglass.
Perhaps you are reading this with the knowledge that that you have not experienced the new birth. Here is good news: there is enough instruction in Frederick Douglass’s testimony to help you have that experience. Perhaps you are reading this with understanding that you have experienced nothing of what Frederick Douglass experienced; that your profession of salvation falls far short of what is described in the Bible. If so, here is a warning:
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven’’ (Matt. 7:21-23). God’s Word says, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves (2 Cor. 13:15). It would be a wise and spiritually wholesome thing for you to “examine” yourself now rather than run the risk of one day, after it is too late, hearing the words, “I never knew you: depart from me” (Matt. 7:23).