I was one of the great drifting, floating population going down the road every year, without a change of clothes to my name. I was a miserable young man, defeated at every turn of the road.
When I came to Portland, Oregon, I wasn’t looking for God. I knew nothing of God’s people; I wasn’t going to church or standing and listening to street meetings. I wouldn’t turn my little finger over in an effort to find God, but in His goodness, God sought after me when I was lost.
I was in this city only four nights when I was arrested. As I sat behind an old saloon stove, with my head in my hands, I pondered over a misspent life and wondered how it was all going to end. Then, handcuffed together with a lot of other boys, I was taken to the old Linnton rock pile. There is where I spent Christmas of 1910.
Brought up among the coal miners and steel workers in Pennsylvania, I began to run with the rough home crowd. I boasted that I could drink, smoke, play poker all night, and when I got tired I would settle down and be a man. But, I realized that the things I said I could handle were handling me. At twenty-one years of age, I was a defeated soul, bound with sinful habits and appetites. Resolutions failed so I thought, “I’ll go out west and grow up with the country, and start all over again.” From the old ‘rock pile’ I came to Portland a second time, classed as a vagabond, without a penny in my pocket.
As I knelt there I realized I had come into contact with a people who knew their God.
My mother had heard that I was somewhere around Portland, so she sent word to some people that we had known back East, and they began to pray that God would bring me to a meeting and save my soul. One day when I knocked on the door of a little home in the south end of the city, a woman said, “We have been looking for you.” I didn’t know there was anyone within 3,000 miles who cared for me.
That night they held a cottage prayer meeting and I knelt in respect to these people. As I knelt there I realized I had come into contact with a people who knew their God. I tried to pray, but my lips were sealed. I believed there was a God but it took more than that. A little man praying beside me sensed the condition of my heart, and he began to pray, “O God, wake him up!” And God did awaken my soul out of its awful slumber that very night. The tears began to flow, and as I cried, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” I offered Him the only thing I had, a broken and contrite heart. He accepted it, rolled the old burden of sin away, and wrought a tremendous transformation in my heart and life.
The next day I could write back home and tell my folks what great things the Lord had done for me. What jail bars, resolutions, and new environments had failed to do for me, Jesus did. He gave me power to live a real Christian life. I praise God for His goodness and mercies.
Today, I feel as one who is on probation, one to whom God has extended another prescribed time in which to make good. After having tasted the goodness of God and His love and the fellowship of His saints, I turned again to the weak and beggarly elements of this world. For over nine years I hardened my heart and stiffened my neck and avoided meeting any of God’s people. For God to contend with that kind of a rebel for the salvation of his immortal soul—is God’s wondrous grace!
On Armistice Day, 1932, when I least expected it, God’s arresting hand dealt a terrible blow, yet a merciful one. I never could tell of the awful fear and terror that a few moments, face to face with eternity without God, can bring. An explosion of gasoline occurred in a basement with only one steep exit, and I was on fire from head to foot. How I got out of that flame-choked stairway is a miracle! The prayer, “God help me!” was heard, my screams brought help, and that awful feeling that I was going to die like a rat in a trap was dispelled. Help came and willing hands beat my flaming clothes. I was rushed to the hospital, and there for four or five days I was as one kept in an anteroom, waiting for—I little knew what. I still remained in that awful spiritual coma of not realizing my opportunity and responsibility to God. Another man, who occupied the same room and who was able to walk around a while at night, would put a cigarette in my parched swollen lips, and I would take a drag or two and thank him. But my wife, also a backslider, suffered terribly over the sight of my smoking after a return from the very brink of Hell. She pointed out that perhaps God had permitted this to bring me to my senses; and should I turn a deaf ear, I might never get out of that bed alive.
God had wrought a spiritual and physical miracle in that hospital that night.
One day a minister of the Apostolic Faith church came to my bedside. His very presence lent hope, and I began to pray in my heart. I knew that God had spared me for the purpose of again being saved, yet there was something that was too awful to face. It was restitution! One evening my wife pleaded with me to give up to God. I said, “There are too many things to make right! I can never face all those years of backsliding and things I have done.” She promised that anything she could forgive, she would forgive and she would do anything that would make it possible for me to be saved. Right there, God gave me grace to make confessions that would have wrecked a hundred homes.
The next time the minister visited, I could whisper through those parched lips, “I believe God has spoken peace to my soul.” From then on, every day brought a deeper joy. One night the whole picture of the mercy of God burst vividly before me—the Hell I had escaped, the peace and the fellowship with God’s saints I had gained, and the forgiveness my wife had offered; I just lay there with tears streaming down my cheeks, and I praised God. God had wrought a spiritual and physical miracle in that hospital that night, and for many years since then I have been happy serving Him.
Arthur Benedict was blind for many years and his face bore the scars of that awful gasoline fire. He lived in Los Angeles, and many times when he got up to testify, he would sing and would quote Romans 8:35-39.