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Old Gunslingers Die Hard

Staff Member
'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Matthew 15:8

The notorious gunslinger John Wesley Hardin was pardoned on this day in 1894. After spending the previous fifteen years in jail for murder, he got on the right side of the law after his release, becoming an attorney. His past came back to haunt him, however, and an ugly exchange over a man’s wife, coupled with Hardin’s violent reputation, heavy drinking and gambling, ended with him being shot in the back in an El Paso saloon.

Hardin had behaved himself in prison, even becoming a Sunday school leader. It sounds like the kind of thing God does, getting a hold of a man at his lowest point and changing his heart. But foxhole conversions carry an inherent risk: when the moment of desperation is past, will a man continue to seek and follow Christ, or will he fall back into old, sinful habits?

Whichever it was with Hardin, what seems clear is that there was enough of his old ways about him that his enemies couldn’t see the evidence of a changed heart.

In that sense, it didn’t matter whether or not he was in an actual jail cell; John Wesley Hardin was imprisoned by his own pride and vices. He may have ended up on the right side of man’s law, but he lost the battle of the Spirit versus the flesh (Galatians 5:16-18).