I was born in Knutsford, Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1913. I was just five years old when my mother died in the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic. My father ensured trusted relatives cared for his four children. I have sweet memories of my grandmother reading Bible stories to me. Even though I was very young, I recall her telling me about ‘two roads.’ She made a deep impression on my young mind as she told me of the broad road that led to darkness and destruction. Years later, I learned the two roads and two eternal destinies were taught by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7.
My oldest sister was 14, I was 12 and my younger sister was 10 when my father bought a little farm in Shamrock, PEI on the County Line Road. He wanted to bring his little family back together again. My youngest sibling remained with the relatives he had been with since infancy – a decision we all later regretted. Even though we were in our new little home, we still had no mother.
As a boy, there was a cloud of loneliness hanging over my young life, which only an orphan understands. I learned to play the violin in my early teens. My fiddling brought me into company with men much older than myself who influenced me in the ways of sin. At a very early age, I proved the emptiness of the pleasures of sin, which some practice for a lifetime.
One night coming home from a dance I said to my sister:
“Eva, if this is all there is to live for, I feel like taking my own life.”
What a poor, unhappy wretch man is who only lives for what he can get out of this life.
At 18, Revival Meetings came to our community. I thought this would be the answer to the emptiness inside. Each night the preacher challenged us to dedicate our life to Christ. Knowing my dear mother was in heaven, I thought responding to the preacher’s challenge might help me get there. The last night the preacher pleaded with the audience to ‘take their stand’ for Christ. Along with 12 others, we took our stand. People patted me on the back: “Albert we are proud of you for the stand you have taken.” I replied: “I’m proud too.” I left there that night with a determination to change my ways and live the ‘converted’ life.
It was a noble resolve but that’s all it was. The Lord Jesus compared it to an unclean spirit going out and the house swept and garnished but still empty! No indwelling Holy Spirit; no knowledge of sins forgiven; in short – no New Birth which alone can change a man. Emptiness is what I experienced.
National health authorities insist that children be inoculated against certain infectious diseases thus immunizing them against the real diseases when they come along. In the spiritual realm Satan, the ‘god of this world’ did this with me. (2 Corinthians 4:4) The Bible says the Devil is a deceiver. (Revelation 12:9) Oh, how many people he has deceived in this way. People thinking they have the real thing. Some people settle down to live a good moral life – but for me, I drifted back to the old sins with a new zest. I missed them as a child misses his toys. Stung once by the shallowness of religion, I didn’t want anything more to do with it. I reinstated myself with the old crowd working hard to prove how tough I was.
The next time a Gospel preacher offered me a Gospel paper, I refused. With a defiant tone, I said: “I’m not interested in religion. I have to work for a living! I don’t have time to read.”
The Bible Impresses Me
In November 1933, Christian preachers rented a nearby schoolhouse for Gospel meetings on Friday evenings. These men were different. On our way to the Friday night dances, we would go and listen for the hour. Mr. Russell Harris would speak directly from the Bible and give chapter and verse for every statement he made. He always quoted Ephesians 2:8-9
“For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”
He would emphasize the last eight words.
I had been taught that no one could be saved until the Judgment Day when our good deeds would be weighed against our bad ones and only then could we know for sure. But Mr. Harris showed us from the Bible that this was man’s thinking only. He gave us chapter and verse in the Bible to prove otherwise. Later at the dance, we would make jokes about the preaching but it was only a front. The message was getting home to us.
God Was Speaking to My Heart
In June 1934 a Gospel tent was erected in our community. Herb Harris and Albert Joyce were the preachers. They had my ear from the first night. I knew what they were preaching was right. I really wanted to be saved but not right then – later on.
I skipped a Thursday evening Gospel meeting to attend a Lodge Night and a dance I was obligated to attend. My feet dragged heavily over the floor and I left early. The greatest question that can occupy the heart of man was crying for an answer. The clear preaching of the Word of God was doing its work in my soul.
We were not asked to take ‘our stand’ or to ‘dedicate’ our lives to Christ. We were told from the Bible that we were condemned already by God and if we died in that condition we would be in Hell. We understood from the Bible that we must be ‘born again’ or we would never enter heaven. We heard from the Word of God that we were lost and in need of being saved and that we must trust the finished work of Christ if we were going to be saved. The options were: ‘turn or burn.’
This is Serious Business
The next day I met Mr. Harris on the road. He slammed on the brakes and backed up and said: “We missed you last night, Albert.” “Yes,” I said, “I had to go away.” He said: “You had to go away!” My eyes fell before his gaze and he said to me: “Albert, do you want to go to Hell? “No, Mr. Harris”, I said, “I don’t want to go to Hell.” His response?
“Well Albert, that is where you are going! The Devil has outwitted millions and you will be no exception. If you don’t make one mighty effort to get God’s salvation, you are going to be in Hell as sure as you are sitting on that old farm wagon.”
I knew in my soul that he was speaking the truth. Mr. Harris then asked: “Will you promise me you will come to the meeting tonight with your mind made up that you will not leave until you are saved?” Then he passed me a little booklet: “Safety, Certainty, and Enjoyment.” I promised him I would. Making the promise did not save me but it brought me face to face with this greatest of all questions that had to be settled NOW.
Counting the Cost
Before starting the two mile walk to the Tent that night, I had counted the cost. I was willing to turn from my sin and leave the crowd I was traveling with. I was determined to get the matter settled that night. How I was going to be saved, I did not know. I thought if they asked me to come to the front or to stand up I knew how to do that. But they said there was ‘nothing’ to do – that all was finished on the Cross when Jesus died. All we could do is ‘believe’ on the Lord Jesus Christ and we would be saved.
The preacher spoke that night on the ‘two roads’. The Broadway leads to Hell and the narrow way leads to Heaven. There is no middle path. I thought of what my grandmother had told me and the vivid picture she had painted in my mind. I asked myself if I had ever gotten off that broad road? I thought of the time I took ‘my stand’. That was no good.
“If the judgment and wrath of God will not move you, will the outstretched arms of a bleeding dying Saviour have any appeal? Let us pray.”
Oh, that awful moment! The meeting has ended and I am not saved. I can’t get saved. I am lost. I will just have to go to Hell. At that darkest of moments, it just seemed as if God was saying to me: “I knew that 1900 years ago and that is why I gave my Son.”
‘Oh,’ I thought – ‘I don’t have to go to Hell. Jesus died for me on the Cross.’ I always believed He died, but never until that moment did I believe He died for me. Before the preacher said ‘Amen,’ I was saved through simple faith in that finished work.
My best friend, Russell Cairns was known as ‘the King of the Bootleggers.’ When he heard that I had been saved he said: “If Albert Ramsay needed to be saved, I need it too.’ The first night Russell attended the tent meetings, he brought along his moonshine thinking that ‘where there is a crowd there will be business.’ Shortly after that, he trusted Christ in his own bedroom while reading:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
The local fiddler was saved. And now the King of the Bootleggers was saved.
Friend, that was 59 years ago June 22, 1993. Friend if you have never come to Him as a lost sinner and trusted His finished work on the Cross, why not do so now? “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” 1Timothy 1:15
Albert Ramsay went home (Heaven) to be with Christ later in 1993. Ten years later his friend, Russell Cairns joined him in Heaven. Both men lived many years to prove the reality of their faith in Christ. Their lives were transformed. The fiddler became a preacher. The bootlegger became a man of the Scriptures and a faithful elder in a local church.