One of the most notoriously bad characters that ever lived in New York was Orville Gardner. He was the trainer of prize-fighters and companion of all sorts of hard characters. His reputation was so thoroughly bad that he was called “Awful Gardner.”
He had a little boy, whom he dearly loved, and this boy died. A short time after his boy’s death, he was standing at the bar in a New York saloon, surrounded by a number of his boon companions. The night was sweltering, and he stepped outside the saloon to get a little fresh air. As he stood out there and looked up between the high buildings at the sky above his head, a bright star was shining down upon him, and as he stood looking at the star, he said to himself, “I wonder where my little boy is tonight?” Then the thought came to him quick as a flash, “Wherever he is, you will never see him again unless you change your life.”
Touched by the Spirit of God, he hurried from the saloon to the room where he knew his godly mother was. He went in and asked his mother to pray for him. She did pray for him, and she led him to Christ.
He went home to where he kept a jug of whiskey. He did not dare to keep it and did not know what to do with it. Finally he took it down to the river, got into a boat and rowed over to an island. He set the liquor on a rock and knelt down, and as he afterwards said, “Fought that jug of whiskey for a long time,” and God gave him perfect deliverance.
But what should he do with the jug? He did not dare break it, lest the fumes set him wild. He did not dare leave it, lest someone else get it. Finally he dug a hole in the ground with his heel and buried it. He left the island a free man.
He became a mighty preacher of the gospel. It was through listening to him preach that Jerry McAuley (a convict turned preacher and founder of the McAuley Water Street Mission) was set to thinking, and that thinking afterwards led to his conversion.