“The Law of the Lord is perfect,” says Psalm 19:7. “It gives us new life”—and sometimes in unexpected ways.

One of the most powerful personal evangelists of the nineteenth century was “Uncle” John Vassar, who grew up in his family’s brewery in Poughkeepsie, New York. Following his conversion to Christ, he abandoned beer-making for soul-winning, and on May 15, 1850 he was commissioned as an agent for the American Tract Society of New York. Vassar took off across the country, never resting in his mission of selling Christian literature and asking everyone he met about their relationship with Christ.

On one occasion, traveling in the West, he visited the home of a praying wife whose husband was an infidel. She begged for a Bible, and Vassar gave her one and went his way. He had no sooner left when the husband, coming home, saw the book and was enraged. Seizing the Bible with one hand and the ax with the other, he hurried to the woodpile where he placed it on the chopping block and hacked it crosswise in two. Returning to the house, he threw half of the destroyed Bible at his wife, saying, “As you claim a part of all the property around here, there is your share of this.”

The other half he tossed into his tool shed.

Months later on a wet winter’s day, the man, wanting to get away from his Christian wife, retreated to his shed. The time passed slowly, and in boredom he looked around for something to read. Thumbing through the mutilated Bible, his attention was caught by the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. He became absorbed in the parable only to discover that its ending belonged to his wife’s section. He crept into the house and secretly searched for the bottom half of the book, but was unable to find where his wife had hidden it.

Finally he broke down, asked her for it, and read the story again and again. In the process he came to the heavenly Father like a penitent prodigal returning home.

The son said, “Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son.” But his father said to the servants, “Hurry and bring the best clothes and put them on him. … This son of mine was dead, but has now come back to life. He was lost and has now been found.” And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:21,22,24)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). May 15.

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