William Patteson Nicholson the Rough Evangelist

William Patteson Nicholson was born on April 3, 1876, in Ulster, Northern Ireland, to a godly mother and an evangelistic Presbyterian preacher. William was named after the minister of his home church, William Patteson, who faithfully preached at Trinity, Bangor for fifty years, including ministry to the Nicholson family.

At the age of 16 Nicholson followed his father’s earlier profession and became a merchant seaman on his father’s cargo ship.  He traversed the globe and was, on one occasion, shipwrecked.  Many of these days “before the mast” became anecdotes in his sermons years later.

Back home in Bangor, as he sat at the breakfast table, at about 8.30 a.m. on 22 May, 1899, God met him.  His spiritual condition bore in upon him and he realised that it was “Christ or Hell.  I came to Jesus as I was,” he writes, “guilty, worn and sad, and accepted Him as my personal Saviour.  All my guilt and gloom vanished like the early dew and the morning cloud … I was born of God.  Hallelujah!”  (The Evangelist, by W P Nicholson, page 12).

‘W P’ became one of Christendom’s most unique evangelists.  After some training at Glasgow Bible Training Institute, and joining the Chapman-Alexander evangelistic team, he was ordained as an evangelist by the Carlisle Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church at the age of 38 years, although, as one writer has it, “he began to weep and sing and rejoice like any old-fashioned Free Methodist!”

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Sometimes unconventional in his pulpit style, he nevertheless preached the old-time gospel with a powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit. He was at times referred to as the ‘tornado’ of the pulpit. He travelled the world 10 times, including a visit to Australia, sharing the Upwey Convention platform with Dr Graham Scroggie, during Christmas/New Year 1934-35.  “That man,” said Dr Scroggie, “is filled with vulgarity and the Holy Spirit, and how a man can be filled with both at the same time I don’t know.”

“Neither do I,” adds A Lindsay Glegg.  “‘W.P.’ shocked many with his rough tongue, but it was no use trying to change him.  My wife and I did our best with, I’m afraid, no success, but still the people came and many were converted.”   Lindsay Glegg remembers the time ‘W P’ stayed in his home for 10 days.  “He was up at 6 a.m., but rarely appeared before noon; he spent hours wrestling with God in prayer.  My wife would take up his breakfast and leave it outside his bedroom door, but it was rarely taken in” (Four Score … and More, by AL Glegg, page 40).  On one occasion, “unconsciously, agonizing in prayer, he ripped the sheets into shreds”!  (page 41).

Truly a remarkable evangelist!  Ian Paisley has penned a 30-page booklet concerning this “unpredictable man.”  He tells of a drunk who disturbed a meeting where ‘W P’ was preaching.  The evangelist left the pulpit, grabbed the fellow by the scruff of the neck, and pitched him out the church door.  A woman criticised his action:  “Mr Nicholson, the Saviour would not have done that.”  “No,” said Nicholson, “He would have cast the devil out of the man.  I cannot do that, Madam, so I did the second best thing.  I cast the devil out – and the man as well…” (Nicholson, by I. Paisley, pages 24-25).

Just one quote from ‘W P’ himself, from his book On Towards the Goal, a series of messages given at the Bangor Easter Convention, 1925: “I do not know anyone in the world that I know better than the Lord.  I do not know my wife or mother the way I know the Lord.  I do not know the best friends I ever had the way I know the Lord.  We walk together, my Lord and I, because we are in fellowship, and there is nothing I have but is His.  All my sins were made His one day, and all my joys are His now.  Glory to God, we laugh together …” (pages 24-25).

He wasn’t exaggerating.

Most wonderful of all, Nicholson was an effective evangelist. His messages cut to the heart and changed the lives of those who heard him. He often preached to meetings for ‘men only’, where he would challenge the hearts of men. In the Belfast shipyard they had to erect a special shed to house stolen tools which converted workers returned as revival swept through the country. They called it the ‘Nicholson Shed’ as testimony to the power of the gospel and the power of God through Nicholson’s ministry.

Edwin Orr recorded of the 1921 Ulster Revival and Nicholson’s ministry that “‘Nicholson’s missions were the evangelistic focus of the movement: 12,409 people were counselled in the inquiry rooms; many churches gained additions, some a hundred, some double; … prayer meetings, Bible classes and missionary meetings all increased in strength. … Ministerial candidates doubled”.

W P Nicholson died in 1962.

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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

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Rodney Gipsy Smith Evangelist

Rodney “Gipsy” Smith was born in a gypsy tent near Epping Forest, England, on March 31, 1860. Rodney’s dad, Cornelius, made a living by playing violin in the taverns and was converted through a prison chaplain on one of his numerous imprisonments for failure to pay fines. Rodney’s mother died from smallpox when he was young and Rodney was “born again” through the encouragement of his father, in a Primitive Methodist Chapel in Cambridge on 17 November, 1876.

Rodney’s mother confessed Christ on her deathbed and all six children went into Christian service.

Having been born to a gipsy lifestyle, young Rodney had no proper education. Rodney carried a Bible and Dictionaries with him and when people mocked he reassured himself with the knowledge that one day he would be able to read them. At the age of 17 “this unschooled, unlettered gipsy became an evangelist under the auspices of William Booth’s Christian Mission of London, which became the Salvation Army” (25 June, 1877).

On December 17, 1879 he married Annie E. Pennock, one of his converts from Whitby. He had also led his younger sister to confess Christ.

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For five years he served the Salvation Army “on street corners and in mission halls”.  His evangelistic gift was evident to all who heard him.  But on 31 July, 1882, after he was about to move on from a successful mission in Hanley (“I preached every Sunday to crowds of 7,000 to 8,000 people and every night of the week we had the place crowded” (Autobiography, page 131), the congregation presented him with a watch inscribed:  “A memento of esteem and in recognition of his valuable services …” General Bramwell Booth demanded that the watch be returned!  He “did not approve of such presentations” (page 133).  “So ended my connection with the Salvation Army” (page 139).

Defying his superiors, “Gipsy” Smith launched out on an itinerant evangelistic ministry, which took him to Sweden, Scotland, America, South Africa, France and Australia (in 1894 and again in 1926).  Certainly thousands responded to his preaching and singing of the old-time gospel.

On 2 June, 1938, he aroused some criticism by marrying Mary Alice Shaw.  After all, he was a 78-year-old widower … and it was her 27th birthday!  His services were always informal … “I’ll be stiff enough when I’m in my coffin!” he once quipped.

On 4 August, 1947, at the age of 87, after 70 years of world-embracing evangelism and en route to America, three hours out of New York, “Gipsy” Smith died on the Queen Mary, stricken by a heart attack. Some say this was his 45th crossing of the Atlantic.

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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

Winfred Scott Weeden Surrenders All

Winfred Scott Weeden was born in Middleport, Ohio, on March 29, 1847.

Early in life he showed musical ability, later teaching singing in schools, and as song leader and soloist in churches.  Various Christian organisations also used his talents in their conventions.

His friend, Judson Van de Venter, launched into full-time evangelistic work, preaching throughout the United States as well as England and Scotland.  Winfield Scott Weeden became his associate and soloist.

Billy Graham, in Crusade Hymn Stories, tells of Rev. J. Van de Venter, “who influenced my early preaching”.

Together, the evangelist and the soloist united in giving the church one of the great Gospel songs:

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.

The words were penned by Rev. Van de Venter, the music by Winfield Weeden. 

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They also collaborated on:……….

Sunlight, Sunlight, in my soul today,
Sunlight, Sunlight, all along the way;
Since the Saviour found me, took away my sin,
I have had the sunlight of His love within.

Weeden’s published works include The Peacemaker (1894), Songs of the Peacemaker (1895) and Songs of Sov­er­eign Grace, (1897).

Winfield Weeden died at Bisby Lake in New York State on 31 July, 1908.  The words, “I surrender all”, are engraved upon his tombstone.

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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

Frederick Brotherton Meyer Preacher and Writer

Frederick Brotherton Meyer died on March 28, 1929, at the age of 82.   This well-known preacher ministered worldwide, although his pulpit was in London.

Meyer was born in London on April 8, 1847 and became a Baptist pastor and English evangelist

While pastoring at Priory Street Baptist Church in York in 1872 Meyer met American evangelist Dwight L Moody, whom he befriended and promoted to other churches in England.

In 1895 Meyer took the pulpit at Christ Church in Lambeth. Within two years he grew the congregation from 100 to over 2,000 regularly attending. After fifteen years in that pulpit he began to travel and preach at conferences and evangelistic services.

Evangelistic tours took him to South Africa and Asia and he visited the USA and Canada several times.

From 1904-1905 he served as president of the National Federation of Free Churches.

He crusaded for temperance work, for homeless children, and other social problems.  He was president of the World Sunday-School Unions, president of Christian Endeavour, and founder of a missionary training college. He is credited with closing nearly 500 brothels and he worked to rehabilitate former prisoners.

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Many a time he spoke at Keswick conventions.  In 1923 he visited Australia (met in Melbourne by Dr F W Boreham), where he preached to crowded meetings.

Alexander Gammie describes him as “a lightweight evangelist”- no pulpit thumping, no raised voice, no wild gestures, no dancing around the platform – but he quietly, yet powerfully “held aloft a winsome Saviour.  Everything was intimate, tender and appealing.”

Through his 77 books, F B Meyer led a multitude of believers into a closer walk with the Lord.  Whilst no great pulpit orator, his saintly life gave power to the message.

The day prior to his death he said:  “I ought to be in Heaven now.  I have settled all my affairs and there is nothing to wait for.  I can’t understand it.”  And thus he departed to be with Christ, which is far better.

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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

Henry Drummond and The Greatest Thing

Henry Drummond died, on March 11, 1897. Professor Henry Drummond was no friend of Biblical Fundamentalism.

Drummond was born in Scotland in 1851 and became a man of varied talents. He was at various times an evangelist, lecturer in natural science, ordained minister, Professor of Theology, explorer, geologist and author. He did not receive an academic degree, yet he ascended to academic posts.

His 1883 book, “Natural Law in the Spiritual World”, sold 70,000 copies in its first five years and made his name famous. After surveying southern and central Africa for the African Lakes Company he produced another popular text, “Tropical Africa”. And his work, “The Ascent of Man” was also widely read. That book helped promote the evolutionary cause as it argued for the survival of the fittest, a thesis previously maintained by Professor John Fiske.

In 1890 Drummond travelled to Australia and in 1893 he was in Chicago, USA.

Drummond was a gifted evangelist who assisted Dwight L Moody’s revival campaigns for two years.

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In Moody‘s early Northfield Bible Conferences he invited Drummond to speak.  “But later he refused to have him back!  Moody was not ashamed to take a stand for theological truth.  Drummond was one of the most effective public speakers of the era, and to cancel him from the Northfield program took genuine courage” (History of Fundamentalism, by E. Dollar, page 80).

Although coming from a godly Presbyterian home and trained “in an evangelical family”, and despite the fact that he was tremendously impressed by Moody and Sankey, he became a leading Liberal theologian, Professor in the Free Church of Scotland, and an ardent defender of the evolutionary hypothesis.

R.E. Day, in his excellent biography of Moody, Bush Aglow, says that “Drummond was one of the vanguard of men, amiable, attractive, to whom no-one could deny the name Christian, who nevertheless helped write ‘Ichabod‘ over 20th century Zion” (page 207). Drummond was particularly influential over the thinking of younger men who looked up to him.

Why, then, did Donald Prout include him in his Christian history notes?  Because in 1874 Drummond wrote a small book that has become a classic in Christian literature – The Greatest Thing in the World, a study of I Corinthians 13.

“So long as time shall last, The Greatest Thing in the World will be a high peak on the skyline of devotional literature” (ibid, page 209). That book sold 12 million copies, dwarfing the success of all his other works put together.

When Drummond died due to poor health at the age of 46, on 11 March, 1897, Moody “cried like a child.  ‘He was the most Christ-like man I ever met.  I never saw a fault in him,’ he said over and over through his sobs” (Moody without Sankey, by J. Pollock, page 258).

(It is to be noted that the Henry Drummond of this article is not to be confused with Henry Drummond (1780-1860), who was founder of the Catholic Apostolic, or Irvingite, Church).

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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