Baedeker Preaches Across Europe

This is the day that … Frederick Wilhelm Baedeker was born in Germany, in 1823.

At the age of 25 we find him discharged from compulsory army training due to ill-health.

In 1851 he married, but, alas, his young bride died three months later.

Sick and distraught, Baedeker set sail on a French ship (which was nearly wrecked on the way) to Australia. He arrived “on crutches”.

Four years later a neighbour invited him to hear Lord Radstock, an evangelical Anglican, who was speaking at a series of meetings organised by the local Brethren assembly. He reluctantly consented to attend one meeting.

In Baedeker’s own words: “I went in a proud German infidel and came out a humble believing disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ambassadors for Christ, page 245).

His wife was also converted. For the next 40 years Baedeker preached the gospel across Europe … in Germany, Bohemia, Poland, Switzerland, Finland, and especially in Russia. Three times he crossed Siberia as far as the island of Sakhalin.

“Into every corner of Russia he penetrated with the gospel message. Permits were granted, through the influence of a Christian countess … which gave him access to all the prisons of Russia and Siberia …” (Chief Men Among the Brethren, page 145).

Thousands of Bibles and gospel portions, supplied by the British and Foreign Bible Society, were distributed.

But his ministry also took him into the homes of the aristocracy. Drawing-room meetings in palatial country homes would see him opening the Scriptures to “princesses, counts and barons”. Such meetings raised the opposition of the media and authors like Dostoevski and Tolstoy (Ambassadors for Christ, page 246).

“Forbidden by police to hold religious services in Riga, Baedeker obtained permission to lecture on ‘sin and salvation’!” (ibid, page 247).

Thousands packed into the hall night after night …

Despite this extensive missionary activity he lived most of his life in England, except when on evangelistic tours. He was a close friend of George Müller of Bristol and Lord Radstock, and was originally a member of the Plymouth Brethren (Open Brethren) but later worked as an independent. He worked with Radstock in the first St. Petersburg revival in 1874-1876.

During a two-day Brethren conference back in England, Dr Baedeker caught a chill and died soon after – 9 October, 1906 – at the age of 83.

To those who came to visit him during his last hours he would say: “I am going to see the King in His beauty” (Twelve Marvellous Men, page 20). And he surely did.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.