I had good parents but ours was not a God-fearing home.
I was sent to Sunday school at a little Wesleyan chapel in Abercarn but it made little impression on me.
I started work at fifteen. There was little choice in those days, it was either the mines or the tinplate works. I went to the tinplate works under my father, who was the manager. He was very strict and showed me no favours, but he brought me up to believe in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay and to respect our masters.
No apparent reason
I worked there until the Second World War broke out, when I moved to a new factory, Alcan Industries at Rogerstone in Gwent. The work was done in three shifts – A, B and C. I worked on A Shift for about eighteen months, but was then moved to C Shift to take charge of a new rolling mill.
I could see no reason for being placed on another shift, but looking back I realise that this heralded a change in my life. Travelling to work by bus I met a man named Clarence Collins. I sat with him regularly and soon learned that he was a deacon in Hope Baptist Church at Crosskeys in Gwent.
Our conversation was general except on a Monday, when he would comment on the excellent preaching of Bill Davies, then minister at Hope Baptist.
Clarence liked him best in the Bible class on Tuesday night and invited me to attend. I promised I would, but did not. However, he was a kind and patient man, and eventually one Tuesday evening in the wartime black-out, I turned up and sat with my friend.
My opinion of myself was not too bad. I was a good husband and father – hardworking, conscientious and honest. I owed no man anything, and would harm no one. And so I listened with a self-satisfied attitude.
What God has done
How well I remember Mr Davies speaking on Romans 1:16: ‘For [the gospel] is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek’.
Here was something I thought a man must earn. But my friend explained that while ‘religion’ emphasises what one must do, New Testament Christianity emphasises what God has done in Christ. Man is a hell-deserving sinner and nothing we do will ever merit eternal salvation.
I continued to attend the Bible class each week, and Mr Davies brought this great truth home to my heart. I realised that the foundation on which I had been building was just sinking sand.
By this time I had begun to attend the Sunday services. There were times when it seemed the preacher was speaking only to me, but afterwards I realised it was the Holy Spirit of God bringing the truth home to me – that I was a sinner, that my soul was dark and empty through the fall of our first parents, and that only God could restore the light and life that had been lost.
I spoke to Mr Davies himself and he explained that outside of God’s mercy in Christ we are lost and without hope. In the words of the hymn, I must come to Christ ‘just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me’. My only hope was that Jesus died for my sins and rose again from the grave.
Mr Davies showed me these words in Romans 10:9-10: ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved’.
And so one evening in May 1951, I was given grace to receive the Lord Jesus as my own Saviour, knowing that ‘my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness’. I was baptised a few weeks later. Great blessing followed, in the home, in the church, and especially in the place where I worked.