Lord Radstock Slowly Becomes a Revivalist

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

Billy Sunday Moves a Nation

William Ashley (Billy) Sunday was born on November 19, in Iowa, USA, 1862.

He never saw his father. Billy, as he is better known, was born four months after his father had marched away to fight in the Civil War – never to return to see this third child. Billy lived with him mum, in a Soldier’s Orphans Home and with his grandfather during his growing years, then went through diverse jobs including fireman, janitor and undertaker’s assistant, before getting the chance to go to high school.

By 1880 baseball had become the passion of his life and in 1883 he left his amateur team to play with the Chicago White Stockings. Sunday gained nationwide recognition for his baseball prowess, becoming the first player to run the bases in 14 seconds. He also set records for stealing bases.

In 1886 he stopped to listen to a gospel band on a street corner and he then followed them to the Pacific Garden Mission on Van Buren Street. At that meeting he knelt to accept Christ.

In the years shortly following his conversion he married Helen Amelia Thompson, worked with the YMCA and gave public talks about Christian living while touring with his baseball team. His career advanced and he played with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also attended Northwestern University for a time, coaching the baseball team in return for his tuition.

Sunday turned down a $400 per month baseball salary (the average worker made $480 per year) for a $84 per month ministry position. Ball teams later offered $500- $2000 per month. Later in life he was offered $1,000,000 to be in the movies, but declined them all in order to continue the evangelistic ministry.

After working for some years with the YMCA and then as assistant to evangelist Wilbur Chapman, Billy Sunday launched out into an itinerant evangelistic ministry (1896-1935).

Thousands crammed into specially built ‘tabernacles’ with sawdust-lined aisles to hear the explosive preaching of this new revivalist.

“By the end of his career he had preached to 100 million souls, of whom a million had walked the ‘sawdust trail’ – that is, had responded to his invitation for them to accept Christ as Saviour (Christianity Today, June, 1991, page 36).

“His magnetic personality, blended with sensational speech and theatrical gestures, kept audiences spellbound!” says the Dictionary of Religious Biography, page 443.

His anti-booze sermon caused “scores of towns and counties” to go dry. Hotels went out of business. His acrobatic preaching meant “he had to change his sweat-soaked suit after each meeting”.

His song-leader, Homer Rodeheaver, wrote that when Billy preached his sermon “The Devil’s Boomerang” – “until he tempered it down a little … two to 10 men fainted every time I heard him preach it!” (Twenty Years with Billy Sunday, page 32).

Sunday contributed much to the Prohibition of alcoholic beverages, through his powerful anti-booze preaching, especially his famous “Get on the Water Wagon” sermon. In later life he devoted much energy in defending the Prohibition amendment from repeal. A battle which he and the temperance movement lost.

It has been pointed out that he was one of the most outstanding preachers of history, yet he has left virtually no legacy. John Wesley was also a great preacher, yet his legacy survives today. The difference between the men is that Wesley built systems which others could employ, while Sunday built only on his own temporary presence and talent. There is a lesson in there for all who wish to make a difference.

Sunday passed away after a heart attack in 1935 at age 73. Helen began an active ministry of her own following his death and continued touching lives for another 22 years.

Not without his faults and plagued by errant sons, nevertheless Billy Sunday stood tall among the giants of evangelism.

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.

Lyman Beecher Heads West to Train Evangelists

This is the day that … Lyman Beecher was born in Connecticut, in 1775.

He has been described as “the father of more brains than any other man in America”, a reference to his 13 children.  These included the famous preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, and the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe.  As a matter of fact, “all his sons were well known as preachers” (Concise Universal Biography, page 222).

But Rev. Lyman Beecher was a giant among giants himself. He was educated at Yale in the days when it was barely above a secondary school in its facilities. The students were of dubious character at times.

Beecher was appalled by the example of his peers, but found his ideal in Timothy Dwight, the new President of Yale. It was Dwight who stirred Yale into a religious fervor that led to many revivals in the next twenty-five years. Lyman graduated in 1797 and spent the next year in Yale Divinity School under the tutelage of Dwight as his mentor.

Ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in 1797, he pastored three large churches (Litchfield, Connecticut; Boston; and Cincinatti), was well known as a revivalist, an educator and a social reformer.  He brought revival but also controversy. His preaching on temperance was just one of the themes that offended his parishioners at times.

He was one of the founders of the American Bible Society and President of Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinatti.

Initially he opposed Charles Finney’s new revival techniques and theology, but a few years later he admitted his worth and even invited Finney to hold meetings in Boston.  Lyman Beecher found himself in ‘hot water’ with his Presbyterian brethren who had little time for the famous revivalist.  After all, Finney taught “man was able to repent in response to God’s grace” (Dictionary of American Biography, page 38).

As a result Beecher was actually tried for heresy … but acquitted.

He was already one of America’s best known preachers by the age of 50, when he moved to Boston, seeking better payment for his skills and status.

His next move, to Cincinatti, was motivated by his concern to sure up protestant preaching where the Catholics and Unitarians had already made inroads. His years there were controversial. He used his Presidency of Lane Theological Seminary to train ministers to win the West for Protestantism.

An inveterate opponent of Roman Catholicism and Unitarianism, it is said that one of his fiery sermons apparently helped incite a mob “that resulted in the burning of a convent”.

During those years he was charged with acts of heresy, slander and hypocrisy by opposing religious factions. He resigned from Lane in 1850 and went to live with his son, Henry Ward Beecher, in Brooklyn, where he died on 10 January, 1863, after a long and stormy ministry.

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.

Ira David Sankey Singing Revivalist

This is the day that … Ira David Sankey was born in Pennsylvania, in 1840. His father was a prominent man, a state senator, banker and editor. He was under appointment by Abraham Lincoln to collect internal revenue.

Young David displayed a fondness for music and developed an excellent singing voice.

In his early years he attended the Methodist Episcopal Church, became Sunday-School superintendent, led the YMCA and led the choir.

During the Civil War he was one of the first to enlist with the Union Army.

Three years later, on 9 September, 1863, Sankey married a member of his choir, Fanny Edwards. “She has been a blessing and a helpmate to me throughout my life and in all my work,” he wrote in his autobiography (page 17).

Sankey was in constant demand as a singer for all kinds of religious gatherings.

In 1870 he met D.L. Moody at a 6.00 a.m. YMCA prayer meeting, and after hearing him sing, Moody challenged him to become his partner in an evangelistic ministry. Before long Sankey was leading the singing and contributing some gospel solos at Moody’s meetings in Chicago.

Sankey and Moody travelled to the UK in June 1873, and there Sankey’s singing gave him an international reputation. His wonderful compass of voice, clear enunciation and evident sincerity made a deep impression throughout Great Britain, so much so that before he returned to America the names of “Moody and Sankey” had become household words throughout Europe. (wholesomewords.org)

Many converts testified to the impact made by Sankey’s singing as well as the preaching of the evangelist.

Sankey’s Hymn Book is reputed to have sold 80 million copies in the first 50 years (1873-1923).

Among the well-known tunes Sankey composed are those to which we sing these words: There were ninety and nine…; Simply trusting every day…; Encamped along the hills of light…; The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide…; Under His wings…; Oh! Safe to the Rock that is higher than I…

On 13 August, 1908, Sankey joined the Heavenly choir.

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.

Howell Harris Preaching in the Rain

This is the day that … Howell Harris died, in 1773, “loyal to the last to the church whose sacraments he had been denied. His funeral was attended by 20,000 people.”

He was born in Wales on 23 January 1714, and early in life he decided to become a Church of England clergyman.

By the age of 17 he was “playing cards and drinking, dice-playing and gossiping,” and by his own confession, living “like a hypocrite.”

But on Palm Sunday, 1735, the vicar of the church he attended said: “If you are not fit to come to the Lord’s Table, you are not fit to come to church, not fit to live, not fit to die.” Thus began his pilgrimage to the Father’s House, and on 25 May of that same year he was able to rejoice in the knowledge of sins forgiven.

Although he became a member of the Established Church, he was never an ordained clergyman, and the more he sought the friendship of his non-Anglican brethren the more his church parted company with him.

He is remembered as the founder of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church, and a remarkable revivalist. Thousands gathered to hear his open-air preaching. “Two thousand people once stood two hours in drenching rain unable to tear themselves away from the spell of Harris’ eloquence.”

It was he who influenced George Whitefield to take his pulpit to the fields.

At times he was subjected to the fury of mobs – especially at Bala in 1741. At Caerleon the angry crowd attacked, and Harris’ fellow preacher was blinded in one eye.

Arnold Dallimore describes him as “the greatest Welshman of that day and, indeed, as among the greatest men that Wales ever produced” (Biography of G. Whitefield, Volume 1, page 246).

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.