Lord Shaftesbury Stands Up for the Abused

This is the day that …Anthony Ashley-Cooper died in 1885 at the age of 84.

Better known as Lord Shaftesbury, he has been described as “the outstanding Christian layman of the 19th century.”

He was born on 28 April 1801 at 24 Grosvenor Square, London, the oldest son of the sixth earl of Shaftesbury. With strong family connections and good academics at Oxford he was well set for a political career. He became Lord of the Admiralty in 1834, but he chose not to run for prominence in any party, in order to more effectively help people in need.

A committed Christian he was active in support of organizations which took the gospel and the Bible to ordinary people, such as the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Church Missionary Society, YMCA and the London City Mission.

His first social cause was the plight of lunatics who were treated most inhumanely. He stuck with that cause and changed the relevant legislation through his life.

His next cause was to limit the working day in mills to 10 hours per day. This was vehemently opposed but he eventually won out. He was a man of action and he strengthened his case on many issues by first-hand investigation of the conditions. He visited hospitals and met many who were maimed and deformed through their working conditions.

He then campaigned against women and children being used in mines. Children as young as four spent 12 hours a day on all fours, pulling carts in the dark. He freed women and any child under 13 years from working in mines.

Then he took on the cause of boys apprenticed to chimney sweeps. Then came education of the neglected poor, leading to the setting up of “ragged schools” through which 10,000 children were assisted in his lifetime.

Then he turned his attention to providing quality housing for underprivileged, creating model villages and establishing thousands of well-equipped homes that were affordable to the working class.

Always the aristocrat he was keen to promote evangelical endeavour where he found it. However he objected to the Salvation Army due to its equal treatment of women in leadership, to which he disagreed. He labelled William Booth as the “antichrist”.

It was he who led the fight against child labour … five year-olds ankle deep in water working pumps in rat-infested mines … children forced to climb and clean chimneys by unscrupulous masters … and the cruelty often inflicted upon small children who worked 12 or 14 hours a day in the mills.

He was chairman of the Ragged Schools Union for 39 years … he supported the newly formed British and Foreign Bible Society … and the Protestant Alliance … and the Church Missionary Society … and the Young Men’s Christian Association (which was Christian in those days!) And more!

On his deathbed he asked for Psalm 23 to be read to him each morning, and “frequently those present heard him murmur his favourite prayer, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus’.”

Don Prout recommends: If you can get hold of a copy of John Pollock’s biography of this great man called Shaftesbury, the Poor Man’s Earl, read it! Or Grace Irwin’s The Seventh Earl is equally fascinating. Or, I Stand Alone by Jenny Robertson.

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Dr Barnardo and the Children

This is the day that … Thomas John Barnardo was born in Dublin, Ireland, in the year 1845 … “and the doctor doubted whether or not the new baby would live”.

The little one survived only to become “desperately ill with diphtheria at the age of two. Doctors failed to detect a heartbeat … Funeral arrangements were made and the undertakers arrived; but as they came to lift the small boy into his coffin the movement caused his heart to give a slight flutter …” (Biography of Dr Barnardo, by N. Wymer, page 11).

We pass over his interesting childhood and come to his 17th year. On 26 May, 1862, he accompanied his two brothers – unwillingly – to hear the testimony of a “once dissolute actor” – and that night young Thomas came to know the Saviour.

He joined the Open Brethren … was baptised at a local Baptist chapel … and was led a step further in his spiritual pilgrimage by hearing Hudson Taylor speak.

He studied medicine at the London Hospital, engaged in street preaching and involved himself with helping the homeless waifs in the Stepney slums.

He commenced “The East End Juvenile Mission”, in a donkey shed, in 1870. By 1873 he had taken over larger premises … then “he built a village at Ilford to provide homes for girls.”

So the movement grew and grew.

By the time of his death – 19 September, 1905 – he had admitted 59,384 children to his Dr Barnardo homes, helped 20,000 to emigrate (to find employment), and materially assisted a further 250,000! (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 105).

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.

John Hunt to Fiji

This is the day that … John Hunt was born in England, in 1812, to illiterate and irreligious parents.

Converted at the age of 17 when he came into contact with the Methodists, he was soon preaching in their meetings. At the age of 23 he entered their “Theological Institution” for missionary training, and on 29 April, 1838, he and his new bride, Hannah, sailed for the South Seas.

Fiji! “Those hills which they viewed upon their arrival contained the ovens in which human beings were roasted for cannibal feasts. There … widows had been strangled to accompany the dead chiefs to their ‘Paradise’.”

“Cunning was the highest intelligence. War was their business. The religion of the Fijian required cannibalism” (They Knew Their God, Volume 4, page 61).

Thus it was John Hunt and his good wife, both in their mid-20’s, tackled the unwritten language of these people that they might tell them of the Saviour.

“I determine,” he wrote in his journal, “to make known nothing among the poor Fijians but Christ and Him crucified. Oh that my speech and my preaching may be with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (Biography of John Hunt, by G. Rowe, 1860, page 173).

The savage climate led to the death of their three children soon after birth. He wrote: “I have three now in Heaven. I thank God they are safe. I feel much my need of them now; but, oh, how awful the thought of their living to sin against my God and be lost!”

For 10 years John Hunt persevered. King Thakombau – “the butcher of his people” – was a fierce foe, and his wars and hostility toward the missionary seemed to make all success hopeless.

John’s translation of the New Testament in Fijian was completed in 1847 (though not published until 1854).

And God saw fit to pour out revival among these people. There was weeping and groaning “and a general calling upon God to have mercy” by many Fijians. Even Queen Viwa was converted.

John Hunt wrote: “One hundred converts the first week of the revival… The mats of the chapel were wet with the tears of the communicants of the table of the Lord…”

But a year later – 4 October, 1848 – John Hunt died, at the age of 36.

King Thakombau was baptised nine years later by a fellow missionary.

And the gospel continued to bring light and joy and peace to those who had lived in darkness.

“The mission to Fiji has been as remarkable for its success as any ever undertaken by the Christian world. At the jubilee of that mission there was not an avowed pagan left. Fifty years before there was not a single Christian in all Fiji” (Epoch Makers of Modern Missions, by A. McClean, page 171).

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.