"YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN"
~100 WELL - KNOWN
MEN IN ALL
RANKS OF LIFE
Founder of Barnardo's Homes
DR. T. J. BARNARDO, F.R.C.S., F.R.G.S., the
Orphans' Friend, whose "Homes" have received
more than 11,000 orphans. His conversion story is thus
related in his biography: "As an infant, young Barnardo
was baptised in St. Andrew's Church, Dublin, where his
father was an office-holder and his mother a member.
He attended Sunday School, too, in this church, and at
fifteen was confirmed by the Archbishop of Dublin. But
there is no evidence that these ministrations left any
abiding mark. Certain it is that the example of his godly
mother, with her Quaker traditions, he always revered;
but equally certain is it that the rite of Confirmation was
entered into without regard to its significance. He
accepted it in a formal manner, impelled by external
influence, not conviction; for, at this time, he was more
interested in Agnosticism than Christianity. Indeed, for
a year before confirmation, he had been airing his sceptical
views, and for nearly two years following, his chief idols
were Voltaire, Rousseau, and Paine. And whatever
inspiration these writers provided for "Radical" refor-
mers on the Continent, they developed in young Barnardo
only a cynical priggishness which made him sceptical of
all regenerative power. But this was soon to change.
At this time Ireland was in the grip of a revival which
caused thousands of twice-born men to enlist for service
in the Kingdom of God. This awakening began far North
in 1859, and the following year reached Belfast, where its
influence was profound. Then, proceeding South, a tidal
wave of spiritual power passed over Dublin. The Metro-
politan Hall, previously a circus building, was the centre
of operations; but auxiliary meetings were held in other
quarters. As enthusiasm spread, several members of the
Barnardo family, including two of Tom's elder brothers,
one of whom became a medical doctor and the other a
civil servant in India, accepted the Lord Jesus Christ.
But although these brothers told Tom of their newly found
joy, and pleaded with him to consecrate his life to Christ's
service, he still scoffed. Finally, however, he agreed to
attend the revival meetings and judge for himself.
Here he witnessed striking demonstrations of spiritual
power. But his masters had taught him subtle arguments
wherewith to explain away religious experience. Was not
all this emotional hysteria? The revival results were
psychological phenomena, and destined to no permanence.
Watch and see the newly proclaimed "saints" revert to
all their former sins. But though this stripling scoffed,
he was set thinking; and, awkward thought, his explana-
tions did not quite explain things to himself. Therefore,
much as he disliked the ordeal, he decided to go with his
brothers to some of the smaller meetings in private houses.
Attending one of these gatherings, in the home of William
Fry (father of Sir Wm. Fry), he was besought to surrender
his life to Christ. But apparently in vain. The cynical
attitude was still uppermost.
A letter, written years afterwards, to Mr. Fry, explains
the youth's conduct. Referring to this meeting, Barnardo
confessed: "I did not half like to go, but nevertheless I
went; and in that meeting Rocheford Hunt spoke to me,
and so did you. I behaved very badly. I was just as
cheeky as a young fellow could be, and I thought you
looked at me as if you would say, If I had that young
fellow alone for five minutes I would take down his
conceit. I'd give him a good hiding. But some-
how your words were very kind, and not at all in
harmony with what I thought your looks meant; that was
Barnardo's recollection is significant; this gathering in
William Fry's home was the beginning. From that day
a sense of doubt invaded his mind; he felt compelled to test
the efficacy of his Agnostic creed. Was his superior
attitude a sham? Were those at whom he smiled right,
and he was wrong? Regularly now he attended the meetings,
and gradually he learned that there was more reality in
the revival than he had permitted himself to believe.
Finally, some weeks after the experience in the Frys'
home, he heard a trenchant address by JOHN HAMBLETON,
the one-time tragedian. Conviction of error pierced his
soul. He knew now that he was wrong; he knew also that
peace and power could never be his until he found God.
But before the dawn of another day light broke. One of
Barnardo's brothers, referring to Hambleton's address,
says: "That was the turning point." Then, relating how
Tom, long after midnight, entered the bedroom of two of
his brothers "in great distress of soul," he continues,
"Many tears did he shed . . . for he was in great agony of
heart; so the three brothers knelt together and cried to
God . . . and He graciously heard, and light and joy and
peace there and then . . . filled his heart. We all rose from
our knees rejoicing and thanking God."
Such was the manner in which Thomas John Barnardo,
on May 26th, 1862, five weeks before his seventeenth
birthday, had revealed to him the Light of God. That
date marked for Barnardo a rebirth. From then on he,
as much as Wesl., Wilberforce, or Shaftesbury, was a
Christian to the bone.
According to the latest report of "Dr. Barnardo's
Homes," more than 13,000 destitute children have been
received, and though the founder is gone the work goes on.
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