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37 AND 38 PARK Row

ComucMT, 1885,


DURING the summer preceding his death Jerry McAuley
was planning for the preparation of a somewhat extensive
account of God's dealings with and through him. He pur-
posed waiting only for cooler weather before commencing
his task. But his death intervened ere the work had even
been begun. We have thus been deprived of many of the
records of the richest displays of God's grace in both the
Water Street and the Cremorne Missions. But enough have
been printed in the following pages to arouse the deepest
interest of Christian hearts. These records serve to show that,
in the dispensation of grace and graces, God is no respecter of
persons. As in nature the most resplendent gems are found
among the most uninviting surroundings, so grace gathers
out of the horrible pit and the miry clay many a bright
gem for the Saviour's diadem. And God works through
lowly instrumentalities. In this respect his choice is often
contrary to human judgment. Jerry was a very unpromis-
ing sinner to begin with, but God in His grace saved him.
After his conversion he seemed by no means a promising saint,
and ministers and others engaged in mission work did not
encourage him to believe that he was called to labor in that
direction. But God had called him none the less, and owned
and blessed him beyond all human conception or computa-

iv Preface.

tion. It is indeed true that we have this treasure in
earthen vessels, that the glory may be the Lord's.

It is fitting that acknowledgments be made here of indebt-
edness to those friends who have helped to produce this
volume. The first three chapters are taken from the little
work "Transformed," edited by Mrs. Helen E. Brown.
Three of the later chapters are devoted to personal recollec-
tions of the worker and his work, by A. S. Hatch, Esq. There
are no more interesting chapters in the book than these, and
they greatly enhance its value. That gentleman has placed
us under further obligations by the care and patience with
which he has read every line of this volume, revising where
necessary a task which his long and intimate acquaintance
with Jerry enabled him to do better than anyone else could
have done it. To the Rev. S. Irenaeus Prime, D.D., thanks
are due for the " Introduction." His reminiscences of Jerry,
couched in such tender and touching- language, will serve to
awaken at the start a deep interest in the records which

My own part of the work has been a very modest one.
Collecting such material as already existed, and which best
served to present Jerry the outcast, Jerry the transformed,
Jerry the successful worker for souls, the matter has been
prepared for the printer without any attempt to give the
facts in any setting of- beautiful language. The labor has
been a simple but very pleasant one. To have helped in any
way to publish the story of grace as it triumphed in and
through Jerry McAuley is an honor greatly esteemed, and for
which the heart feels sincerely grateful to God. It is in-
deed to be wished that He may be glorified in the record as
He was in its subject.

May Christians who read these pages be encouraged to

Preface. v

work for the salvation of the most outcast of their fellow-
beings ! May many of those who are as yet unsaved be
led by these records to seek Jerry McAuley's Saviour, the
Lord Jesus Christ. Of that blessed Redeemer it is written
in God's Book, the Bible, " He is able also to save them to
the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever
liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. vii. 25). His
own words are : "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are
heavy laden, and I will give you rest " (Matt. xi. 28).



WITH gratitude to God record is here made that the first
edition of this work has been abundantly owned and blessed
of Him. The second and still larger edition is sent out with
prayers as fervent and hopes as ardent as those which ac-
companied the first. May every copy carry a blessing!


















XV. RECOLLECTIONS Continued. 162








RETURNING home after my summer recess in 1884, I had
not been in my house five minutes when a gentleman called
to ask me to conduct the funeral of Jerry McAuley.

" Is he dead ?" I asked in a burst of mingled surprise and
sorrow. Before going away I had seen and heard the mani-
fest signs of consumption, and it was not wonderful that
such a life as he led in the days of his wickedness should
make him an easy prey to disease. He did not live but half
his days, though grace did come to the everlasting life of
his soul.


But it made me very sad. I did not know that this
strange man had such a place in my heart that now he was
dead I should feel as if the city and the world and I had
lost a friend. Jerry is dead ! Well, what was he to me that
I must grieve that I shall see his face no more? He came
often to see me, and said little when he was there, but
seemed to love to sit near me, and look up with a tearful
eye and a pensive face, and a heart, I doubt not, full of sweet
hope and holy love. We never talked of the old, old times
when he was a thief and a robber, when he was a drunkard

viii Introduction.

and blasphemer, when he was a convict in prison, and
afterwards an outcast and an outlaw. It is not in my
memory that a word ever passed between us about those
terrible days and nights of sin and shame, when he won dis-
tinction among the criminal classes as one of the worst of
men, a dangerous character, unfit to be at large as unfit to
live as he was unprepared to die. It has always been a mar-
vel to me that men professing to be reformed from loath-
some habits should revel in the recital of their past sins, as
if they were heroes who had come out of a great battle, and
were now victors to be crowned and counted worthy of
honor. Jerry McAuley was not so. He kept in mind the
pit from which he was dug, but the memory of it filled him
with penitence and pain. He would speak of it when the
fact of his rescue would help a perishing brother to struggle
for deliverance; but he loved rather when with me to speak
of the life that he now lived " yet not I, but Christ liveth
in me: I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me,
and gave himself for me." Delivered from the powers of
darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son,
this poor sinner, clothed and in his right mind, had put
away the old man with his lusts, and now a new man in
Christ Jesus was striving to walk humbly and softly before
God. He never seemed confident that he might not be de-
livered again into the hand of Satan, to be buffeted for a
season; but he sought sustaining grace and found, it day by
day, till the convicted sinner was transformed into a re-
deemed soul by the Spirit of God and the victory of the

The next day was the Sabbath. The funeral was to be
in the afternoon. As the hour approached and indeed all
the day my thoughts had been dwelling on the fact that

Introduction. ix

New York has no consciousness of the loss it has met : the
city knows not that one of the most useful men in it, one
of its most remarkable, wonderful men, is to be buried to-
day. Very few know or care about Jerry McAuley ; we are
going to the Broadway Tabernacle to talk of what he was
and what he has done, to a little congregation that will
gather there : if it were Dr. Taylor, the beloved and honored
pastor, the house would be crowded and the mourners would
go about the streets ; but poor Jerry he is dead, and who
will be there to weep with us over his remains? Ah, how
little did I know the place that he filled in the heart of this
vast city! I was to conduct the funeral, and went early to
complete the arrangements. As I turned down from the
Fifth Avenue through Thirty-fourth Street, I saw a vast mul-
titude standing in the sunshine, filling the streets and the
square in front of the Tabernacle. Astonished at the spec-
tacle, and wondering they did not go and take seats in the
church, I soon found that the house was packed with peo-
ple so that it was impossible for me to get within the door.
Proclamation was made that the clergy who were to officiate
were on the outside, and a passage was made for them to
enter in. What could be more impressive and expressive
of the estimate set upon the man and his work! There is
no other Christian worker in the city who would have called
out these uncounted thousands in a last tribute of love and
honor of his memory. And then eloquent lips spoke of him
and the great good done by him in fields of labor uninvit-
ing, and often repelling those who care for the souls of the
perishing among us. It was said that there is no one pastor
in New York who is doing the work of this humble man
no pastor who will leave a wider vacancy when he falls on
the high places in his field of duty.

x Introduction.

To read the story of his life and work is not like the
romance born of a lively fancy, for it is far more strange,
unreal, incredible, than the novel of the period. It involves
the supernatural. It has to do directly with the powers of
the world to come. Reading it, still more going into one of
the meetings where lost men and women come to be saved,
brings one at once into the midst of agencies that imply
for their power and success the immediate, direct, personal
presence and working influence of the Holy Spirit. If this
work is not of God, it is nothing ; worse than nothing it is
an awful farce. To me it is a divine reality. It was no
fanaticism that in the days of the apostles led men to cry
out " What must I do to be saved ;" and when I have sat in the
midst of publicans and harlots, convicts and thieves, drunk-
ards and other vile and wretched human beings down so
low in misery and shame that no human arm is long enough
to reach them or strong enough to raise and save them ;
when I have heard them in broken accents, amid sobs and
tears, tell what the grace of God has done for them, how it
had brought husbands and wives together in peace and
comfort, with happy children around them, after liquor and
crime and gaunt want had broken up the household ; when
I have heard scores and scores of such testimonies ascribing
all their salvation to Him who loved them and died for
them, lost and ruined by sin the tears have run down
like rivers of waters from mine eyes, and I have prayed that
hundreds and thousands of preachers of righteousness like
Jerry McAuley might be taken from prison to go in the
name of Jesus to seek and to save them that are lost.

It is a good thing to write and print and spread the life
of such a man as the hero of this volume. It may kindle
the flame in many other hearts. Christians in other walks

Introduction. xi

of life than he trod may be stirred to better living. And
(may God in infinite mercy grant it !) some poor, sinning
soul, some wretched and sinking soul, some poor sinner,
almost as bad as Jerry was, may read it in his extremity,
and cry out with this ransomed prisoner, " Lord save me, I








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" Our young life had dark beginning,

Helpless and alone we lay ;
Knowing only sin and sorrow,

Till the Saviour passed that way."

THE following autobiographical sketch of Jerry McAuley
and the beginning of his Christian work was written in
1875, mainly from Jerry's dictation, and was widely circu-
lated and read at the time, under the title of " Transformed ;
or, The History of a River Thief." With a careful revision,
and with some additional facts relating to the early part of
Jerry's redeemed life and the origin of the Mission in
Water Street, supplied in their proper connection by a
loving hand, it is here reproduced as the most fitting
introduction to the present volume.

I do not attempt this record of my life from any feeling
of vain-glory, or any craving for notoriety. Neither is it
because I have had a remarkable history. I have been a
great sinner, and have found Jesus a great Saviour ; and this
is why I would tell my story, that others may be led to

IO Disadvantages in Youth.

adore and seek the blessed Friend who saved, and has thus
far kept me by his grace.

I was born in Ireland. Our family was broken up by sin,
for my father was a counterfeiter, and left home to escape
the law, before I knew him. I was placed at a very early
age in the family of my grandmother, who was a devout
Romanist. My first recollections of her are of her counting
her beads, and kissing the floor for penance. I would take
the opportunity while she was prostrated upon her face, to
throw things at her head, in my mischievous play, and when
she rose from her knees, it was to curse and swear at me.
At such times I can distinctly remember thinking, though
I could not have formed the thought into words, "What
sort of religion is this that requires such foolish worship,
and allows such sinful ways?" I can trace my infidelity to
Rome to just these incidents.

I was never taught or sent to school, but left to have my
own way; to roam about in idleness, doing mischief con-
tinually, and suffering from the cruel and harsh treatment
of those who had the care of me.

At the age of thirteen I was sent to this country, to the
care of a married sister in New York City. Here I ran
errands in the family, and assisted my brother-in-law in his
business, and soon, by the practice of little tricks, became
well used to dishonesty, and was as great a rogue as one of
my years could be. After a while I felt I could live by
my own wits, and left my sister's home to take care of
myself. I took board in a family in Water Street, where
were two young men with whom I associated myself in
business. I earned what I could, and stole the rest, to
supply my daily wants.

We had a boat, by means of which we boarded vessels

Sent to State Prison. 1 1

in the night, stealing whatever we could lay our hands on.
Here I began my career as a river-thief. In the daytime
we went up into the city and sold our ill-gotten goods,
and with the proceeds dressed up, and then spent our time,
as long as our money lasted, in the vile dens of Water
Street, practising all sorts of wickedness. Here I learned
to be a prize-fighter, and by degrees, rapid degrees, rose
through all the grades of vice and crime, till I became a
terror and nuisance in the Fourth Ward.

I was only nineteen years of age when I was arrested for
highway robbery a child in years, but a man in sin. I
knew nothing of the criminal act which was charged to
my account ; but the rumsellers and inhabitants of the
Fourth Ward hated me for all my evil ways, and were glad
to get rid of me. So they swore the robbery on me, and
I couldn't help myself. I had no friends, no advocate at
court (it is a bad thing, sinners, not to have an advocate
at court), and without any just cause I was sentenced to
fifteen years in State prison. I burned with vengeance;
but what could I do ? I was handcuffed, and sent in the
cars to Sing-Sing.

That ride was the saddest hour of my life. I looked
back on my whole past course, on all my hardships, my
misery and sins, and gladly would I have thrown myself
out before the advancing train, and ended my life. It was
not sorrow for sin that possessed me, but a heavy weight
seemed to press me down when I thought of the punish-
ment I had got to suffer for my wrong-doings, and an
indignant, revengeful feeling for the injustice of my
sentence. Fifteen years of hard labor in a prison to look
forward to, and all for a crime I was as innocent of as the
babe unborn. I knew I had done enough to condemn me,

1 2 Resolves on Obedience.

if it were known ; but others, as bad as I, were at liberty,
and I was suffering the penalty for one who was at that
hour roaming at will, glorying in his lucky escape from
punishment, and caring nothing for the unhappy dog who
was bearing it in his stead. How my heart swelled with
rage, and then sank like lead, as I thought of my helpless-
ness in the hands of the law, without a friend in the world.

I concluded, however, before I reached the end of that
short journey, that my best way was to be obedient to
prison rules, do the best I could under the circumstances,
and trust that somebody would be raised up to help me.

When I arrived at the prison I shall never forget it
the first thing that attracted my attention was the sentence
over the door: " The way of transgressors is hard." Though
I could not read very well, I managed to spell that out. It
was a familiar sentence, which I had heard a great many
times. All thieves and wicked people know it well, and
they know, too, that it is out of the Bible. It is a well-
worn proverb in all the haunts of vice, and one confirmed
by daily experience. And how strange it is that, knowing
so well that the way is hard, the transgressors will still go
in it.

But God was more merciful to me than man. His pure
eyes had seen all my sin, and yet he pitied and loved me,
and stretched out his hand to save me. And his wonderful
way of doing it was to shut me up in a cell within those
heavy stone walls. There's many a one beside me who
will have cause to thank God for ever and ever that he
was shut up in a prison.

I was put to the carpet-weaving business, and for two
years not a word could be said against me. All the keepers
and guards spoke well of me. I minded my work, and was

Life in Prison. 13

quiet and orderly. I used to say my prayer the Lord's
Prayer every day, from a feeling that it was right to say it,
and that in some way or other it would do me good. I
tried to learn to read and write, and improved vry much,
more especially in reading. Then I got cheap novels and
read, to pass away the time. I read many and many of
them. It was all the recreation I had, and diverted my mind
from my dreary surroundings. I was supplied with them
constantly, and, in consequence, my head was filled with
low and wicked thoughts. I took a fancy, from some of
the remarkable stories I read, that I might by some good
fortune by and by effect my escape from the prison, and then
my heart would fill up with murderous intentions toward
the man who put me in.

After this I was sick, and suffered a good deal for two or
three years, and became at times uneasy and intractable.
Then I had to suffer severe punishment ; but punishment
never did me a particle of good, it only made me harder
and harder.

I had been in the prison four or five years, when, one Sun-
day morning, I went with the rest to service in the chapel.
I was moody and miserable. As I took my seat, I raised my
eyes carelessly to the platform, and who should I see there
beside the chaplain but a man named Orville Gardner, who
had been for years a confederate in sin. " Awful Gardner"
was the name by which I had always known him. Since
my imprisonment he had been converted, and was filled
with desire to come to the prison, that he might tell the
glad story to the prisoners. I had not heard he was com-
ing, and could not have been more surprised if an angel
had come down from heaven. I knew him at the first
glance, although he was so greatly changed from his old

14 A Memorable Service.

rough dress and appearance. After the first look I began
to question in my mind if it was he after all, and thought I
must be mistaken ; but the moment he spoke I was sure,
and my attention was held fast.

He said he did not feel that he belonged on the platform,
where the ministers of God and good men stood to preach
the gospel to the prisoners ; he was not worthy of such a
place. So he came down and stood on the floor in front of
the desk, that he might be among the men. He told them
it was only a little while since he had taken off the stripes
which they were then wearing ; and while he was talking
his tears fairly rained down out of his eyes. Then he knelt
down and prayed, and sobbed and cried, till I do not believe
there was a dry eye in the whole crowd. Tears filled my
eyes, and I raised my hand slowly to wipe them off, for I
was ashamed to have my companions or the guards see me
weep ; but how I wished I was alone, or that it was dark,
that I might give way to my feelings unobserved. I knew
this man was no hypocrite. We had been associated in
many a dark deed and sinful pleasure. I had heard oaths
and curses, vile and angry words from his mouth, and I
knew he could not talk as he did then unless some great,
wonderful change had come to him. I devoured every word
that fell from his lips, though I could not understand half
I heard. One sentence, however, impressed me deeply,
which he said was a verse from the Bible. The Bible !
I knew there was such a book, that people pretended
it was a message from God ; but I had never cared for it,
or read a word in it. But now God's time had come, and
he was going to show me the treasures that were hid in that
precious book.

I went back to my cell. How dreary is Sunday in prison !

Reading the Bible. 1 5

After the morning service in the chapel, the prisoners are
marched back to their cells, taking their plate of dinner with
them as they pass the dining-hall, and the rest of the day is
spent in solitude. Oh, those long, dismal hours ! I had
generally contrived to have a novel on hand, but that day
I had none. What I had heard was ringing in my ears, and
the thought possessed me to find the verse which had so
struck me. Every prison-cell is supplied with a Bible ; but,
alas ! few of them are used. Mine I had never touched
since the day I entered my narrow apartment, and laid it
away in the ventilator. I took it down, beat the dust from
it, and opened it. But where to turn to find the words I
wanted I knew not. There was nothing to do but to begin
at the beginning, and read till I came to them. On and on
I read. How interested I grew ! It seemed better than
any novel I had ever read, and I could scarcely leave it to
go to sleep. I become so fascinated, that from that day on
it was my greatest delight. I was glad when I was released
from work, that I might get hold of my Bible ; and night
after night, when daylight was gone, I stood up by my
grated door to read by the dim light which came from the
corridor. I had supposed it to be a dry, dead thing a
book only fit for priests and saints, but now, whenever I
could get a chance to communicate with my mates in the
workshop, I told them that it was a " splendid thing, that

I never found that verse. I had forgotten it in my new
interest in the book. But I found a good many verses that
made me stop and think. At last I came to first Timothy,
fourth chapter, which begins in this way : " Now the Spirit
speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall de-
part from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and

1 6 Some Strange Discoveries.

doctrines of devils ; speaking lies in hypocrisy ; having
their conscience seared with a hot iron ; forbidding to
marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God
hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them
which believe and know the truth." I threw down the
book, and kicked it about my cell. " The vile heretics," I
cried ; " there's their lies. I always heard the old book was

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Online LibraryR. M. (Rober M.) OffordJerry McAuley : his life and work → online text (page 1 of 16)