Lord Radstock died in Paris on December 8, 1913 at the age of 80, amid plans to visit friends in Russia.
Lord Radstock was born Granville Augustus William Waldegrave on 10 April, 1833, the only son of his parents, one of England’s aristocratic families. Raised in the church he was not outstanding in his commitment. His religious upbringing was in an atmosphere morally pure, but intellectually narrow. He wanted only enough religion as was sufficient, and not enough to spoil his human interests.
Conversion came during his time as an army officer at the Crimea. He arrived as the war ended but was struck down with fever and given up to die. But God had plans for this young man, and back in England, at the age of 23, this third Baron Radstock (as he became) threw himself into Christian work.
It was not his faith in Christ that first motivated him, but the challenge of a barrister who asked what he was doing for Christ. He became a reluctant servant of the Lord, reading to the sick. When people found faith through his endeavours he found a new zest for mission.
One key testimony was that of a half-caste from Manilla whose face was being eaten by cancer. The man could speak no English and Radstock read to him in a Spanish Bible, choosing evangelistic verses, including Ephesians 2:4-9 and John 3:16. This continued for several weeks, during which time the hospital staff advised that the man’s ugly temperament had softened. A Spanish speaker visited and confirmed that the man had found rest in Christ.
Incidents such as this led Radstock to embrace a Revivalist conviction and to preach to London’s poor in Rotten Row and the rough parts of town and to the provision of accommodation for women and emigrants. He also saw clear answers to prayer and when he prayed for the sick dramatic cures and transformed lives were commonplace.
He married the beautiful Susan when he was 25. Dr. Livingstone admired Susan greatly and said of her, ” I have seen Lady Radstock, she is as good as she is beautiful.”
Highly gifted, Radstock excelled in all his endeavours and he applied what he observed. While in America he noted the effectiveness of endlessly repeating key messages in advertising, and he decided to employ that approach in his preaching of the gospel.
Radstock was engaged in the revivalism of the mid 1800’s and regularly engaged in prayer for healing, after being challenged by Jesuits about the evangelical church’s neglect of James 5:15. An incurably insane woman was completely healed. An incurably bed-ridden woman was totally healed. A woman with crippling rheumatism had instant release in her hands and joints.
However Radstock’s stand for healing was to cost him dearly when he declined medical attention for his much loved elder daughter, who then died. This was a painful trial of his faith but he resolved that it was better to trust the Lord, though God take everything from him.
In 1874 he was in St Petersburg, Russia, ministering in fashionable drawing rooms to counts and countesses, dukes and duchesses. Fluent in French he led a revival among the French-speaking aristocrats there, even though his English counterparts were cold to his ministry. Some of the gentry referred to Radstock as a “madman” for his life of Christian devotion.
Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, caricatured Lord Radstock in Anna Karenina, under the name “Sir John”.
With the rise of evangelicalism the Russian Orthodox Church protested to Tsar Alexander II, and Radstock was forced to leave in 1878. He returned to England via India.
Back in England he continued preaching (it is said Princess Mary, who later became Queen, attended some of his meetings).
In spite of his wealth he dressed simply to avoid wordly acclaim, lived in modest apartments to preserve ministry funds, gave up shooting because it distracted from Christ’s work and went hungry so he had more to give to Christ. One associate said of Lord Radstock, “He certainly practised what he preached more than any one I can remember. I used to observe how, no doubt in order to give more
away, they parted at that time with jewels, china and carriage one after another.”
At one time his old horse was due to be disposed of. However Radstock wanted to preserve his funds for supporting such missionaries as Hudson Taylor in China, so he decided to pray that God would restore the old horse’s youth. This was done and the steed was described subsequently as “Lord Radstock’s splendid mount”.
Radstock travelled extensively during his life. He visited America, Russia, Holland, Paris, Scandinavia and more. He travelled to India seven times between 1880 and 1910 and organised a major undertaking for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, where English professionals gave a copy of the Bible to an Indian counterpart – lawyer to lawyer, headmaster to headmaster and so on. It was a huge and successful project.
After his death the British Weekly put it well: “He was never better pleased than when he was expounding the Epistle to the Romans, which he interpreted precisely as Luther interpreted it…”
This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com