Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings
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The Conversion of a Cockfighter

The story of an Irish cockfighter who ran into Charles Graham in Co. Fermanagh, Ireland, in 1801.

On their return to Brookborough, Mr. Graham's party met a man who appears to bear all the marks of Terence M'Gowan-familiarly called Terry M'Gowan-the famous cockfighter, who lived near Maguiresbridge. His conversion was on this wise. He came to the town with a game-cock to enter that Sunday in 'the ring.' On his turning the corner of the street, with the cock under his long swallow-tailed coat, two men on horseback, with 'black caps,' presented themselves to him. He was astonished, but more so when he heard them describe, in his own sweet-toned Irish language, the solemnities of 'the day for which all other days were made;' together with the fearful doom of the wicked for ever, as also the joy of the righteous at God's right hand, and then urging all to an immediate surrender to Christ. Poor Terry was indeed terrified, and actually thought the day of judgment was just at hand. He also thought it was high time for him to begin to pray, and involuntarily put both hands together, and lifted them up towards heaven, and no doubt with streaming eyes. Of course the game-cock fled, perhaps to fall into better hands, but this was a matter of perfect indifference with Terence. He prayed, and wept, and cried aloud again and again to God for mercy, for Christ's sake; and while pleading thus, the Lord, in compassion, spoke peace to his bewildered and alarmed conscience. Then and there he could now sing, as with buoyant heart and step he bounded home to tell his wife and children the strange victory he obtained, not at the cock-pit, but the one described, in the language of Charles Wesley:-

'My God is reconciled, His pardoning voice I hear,
He owns me for His child,
I can no longer fear;
With confidence I now draw nigh;
And Father, Abba, Father, cry.'

Of course his terrified wife and children did not know what to make of it, and thought he was deranged. He had all of them on their knees at once, to return thanks to God for the deliverance obtained. His wife, supposing him insane, sent one of her children to a neighbour's house, to beseech them to send immediately for the priest, for that 'Terry had come home from the market out of his mind.'

The priest was not long coming, and inquired of Terry 'what was the matter?'

'Never better in my life,' said Terry.

'Nonsense,' said the priest; 'did you hear the black caps?'

'I did,' said Terry, 'thank God.'

'So I thought,' said the priest; 'those fellows would set the world mad. Will you now mind your business, Terry, and go to your duty on next Sabbath?'

'I will,' said Terry, 'if your reverence does one thing for me.'

'What is that, Terry?' said the priest

'It is to come with me to Maguiresbridge, in order to get the Lord to undo what He did for me there to-day.'

'What did He do for you there?' said the priest.

'He said to me there,' said Terry-'Terry M'Gowan, "your sins, which are many, are all forgiven you."'

'I give you up as a lost case,' said the priest.

From that forth Terry was allowed to go on his way rejoicing- 'waxing stronger and stronger.' He began to hold prayer meetings round the country, and became a 'burning and a shining light'-at least in his own plain way, for many years. He was made exceedingly useful in his day, and has long since passed away 'triumphant to the skies.' I went out of my way to see his daughter some years ago, in the County Fermanagh, and found her aged and afflicted, but very happy in God. It is most likely that all the family have landed safely ere this in 'the palace of angels and God.' It is said that his Roman Catholic neighbours made a hard struggle to secure for him a visit from a priest before he died, and when he was very feeble; but they were baffled, and when the Church of England [Church of Ireland] clergyman came, he would not allow him to use a form of prayer in the celebration of the Lord's Supper at his dying bed, lest it might have the slightest semblance of changing the elements; he required him to pray twice extempore, and then prayed himself, as he said he 'wanted a clearer manifestation of God's countenance!' The power of God descended, and His glory filled the place. It is said that the Episcopal minister had cause to bless God for that day. Thus the Lord put honour on His servant in death as well as in life, proving that 'precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.' We are here reminded of the motto on Latimer's crown, 'win and wear;' and of Terry M'Gowan we would record one in his own loved tongue, 'Thrid she agus boohee,' that is, 'he fought and conquered.'

An Extract from "Charles Graham, The Apostle of Kerry," by W. G. Campbell and recently republished by Tentmaker Publications.


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