His early life and conversion
John Hambleton was born in Toxteth Park, Liverpool in 1820. He does not mention his father but his mother was a very godly woman who taught him the scriptures from an early age. Unfortunately as a youngster he got into bad company and was drawn into a sinful life through his association with them. At the age of 14 he ran away from home, emigrated to Australia, and entered the theatrical profession. He went to Geelong and commenced work managing a small company of theatricals. One night by the door of a public house he, along with a number of actors engaged in foolish conversation. One young man whose father had been an atheist began to mock the Bible, and said that the Book of God was a lie. This caused Hambleton to remember the times when he sat on his motherís knee reading chapter after chapter of the Bible. He simply made the comment to the young man that "it is a mystery beyond manís comprehension." But the young manís words entered his heart causing a great commotion within it. Walking alone at night he reflected on creation and how it all came into being and began to reflect on the days of his childhood, the Sunday School and his companions, and a desire to investigate the pages of the Book. He came to the conclusion that there was a Supreme Ruler of all things and with that conclusion went to bed. During the night, however, he had a vision of heaven and hell, and he screamed with horror and woke up with fright, with his bed wet with perspiration. This seems to have left a deep impression on him, but no more.
When the news of the discovery of gold in California reached him he left Australia crossing the Pacific to America. Over the following years he travelled around North America as an actor, theatrical manager, adventurer and gold digger. He was again attracted to the worst of company, mixing with murderers and robbers, although in his heart he believed every doctrine of the Christian faith, though he had not accepted Godís offer of salvation. During this time he faced death on a number of occasions with American pistols being loaded for his life in one place, Mexican bayonets pointed at his breast in another, and at one time being delivered when lying under a tree, a spot of earth having been marked out for his grave. On another occasion he had lain down to die in a journey through a desert and on another he was delivered from drowning when long weeds entwined his body in water, so that he couldnít swim. Not surprisingly he recognised the hand of God in all these escapes from death, and in his bedroom in San Francisco one day he decided to go home to Liverpool and "be religious."
On 1st April 1851 he arrived back at Liverpool after an absence of 17 years. He went in search of his family and found two of his sisters, his godly mother having died some years previously. Before her departure she had asked one of her daughters to take a sheet of paper and write upon it a declaration that God would save her son John and bring him back to Liverpool, that he might become a Gospel preacher. The welcome greeting of his sisters, however, had not been long over when their company and teaching, so opposite to the reckless life he had lived, became irksome to him and he came under heavy conviction. Finding a brother living in Hull he went to live with him in order to get away from them. He tried to be merry with his new friends but he couldnít find rest for his troubled soul, so he left them and made his way to the Worldís Great Fair, being held in London on 1st May 1851. On the morning of that day as the multitudes of people from the nations of the world made their way to the fair he stood in the midst of Hyde Park, burdened with the weight of sin, unaware of the crowds, groaning for that peace which the world couldnít give him. Hurrying from the scene of pleasure to walk alone, street after street was passed until he stopped at a bookshop and bought a Bible and began to read through it. Still under terrible conviction of sin he decided that he must return again to Liverpool.
Having arrived back in Liverpool, his troubled soul kept him wondering day and night in fields, lanes, and streets, going to prayer meetings where he cried aloud for sorrow, but could find no comfort. It was impressed upon him that some of his theatrical books and dresses that he had brought home with him should have been destroyed, but they had been sold by his brotherís wife and sister. Immediately, leaving a meeting in breathless haste and running about a mile, he pleaded with them to take him to the place of sale. The purchasers, however, would not sell them back to him, despite offering double the price they had paid, so he dropped down on his knees and cried aloud to God that they would give them back to him, this attracting a large crowd to the door. The people were startled, trembling under the power of his presence, and they restored them at once. The things were burned and a temporary peace was brought to his conscience. After this he engaged in conversation with a cousin who knew something of salvation and his cousin asked him if he knew what the unpardonable sin was. This brought him back into a state of distress, causing him to be awake all night in prayer and reading of the Bible, which he had bought in London. When morning came he was clutching his Bible, saying that if his soul went down to hell, it would be with the book at this breast crying for mercy. Eventually light began to dawn upon him and God ministered to him when he went into a church called St Judes where the minister spoke on the scripture in Colossians 3:3 i.e. "for your life is hid with Christ in God: when Christ who is your life shall appear then shall you also appear with Him glory." His description of a soul quickened by the power of Godís Spirit showed what he had already passed through, a death unto sin and a new life in righteousness. God met him at that meeting, and his life was transformed from that moment on.