Louis Thompson Talbot Leaves Booze for the Pulpit

This is the day that Louis Thompson Talbot was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1889.

His father, an assistant manager for Tooth’s Brewery, had married Bessie on the very day she had arrived from England. In the early 1900s Louis’ older brother, Jim, was converted at a gospel meeting in Redfern, New South Wales. The preacher was Loyal L. Wirt, who had served as a missionary in Alaska, and was the father of Sherwood E. Wirt, who later became editor of Billy Graham’s Decision magazine.

Jim felt the call to Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, and the clash with his liquor-selling father was awful.

With the help of his mother’s prayers, Louis, now in his manhood and still unsaved, became restless, dissatisfied, disillusioned with the liquor business. He dreamed of America and a new life. His brother Jim was to be a preacher: “Why couldn’t there be two preachers in the family?” So “Louie” followed his brother Jim to Moody Bible Institute, ready for a fresh adventure.

Louis had some form of a conversion experience when Wilbur Chapman preached in Sydney Town Hall in 1909. The following year he travelled to the USA. He was far along in his studies at Moody when, under the preaching of John Harper of London, he was genuinely converted.

In the years that followed, Louis Talbot became a well-known name in the evangelical world. He went from pastorate to pastorate in the United States and Canada until he received a call to the great Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, the very church the mighty R.A. Torrey had founded. Dr. Talbot was also president of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). He had met and married Audrey Hogue while pastoring a Congregational church in Paris, Texas.

The story of Dr. Louis Talbot’s activities in Los Angeles is impressive. He came to a church of 1,200 discouraged members and left it with 3,500 and the future bright. He came to a debt of over a million dollars and left the church free from debt and with thousands of dollars raised on new promotional enterprises. He extended the missionary program to where literally hundreds of American missionaries and native workers circle the globe, supported by this great church. There were 300 students in the Bible Institute when he arrived but there were more than a thousand when he finished. His ministry over the air was phenomenal.

Billy Graham wrote in the Foreword to Talbot’s biography, “Dr Louis Talbot was one of the spiritual giants of this generation. As pastor, Bible teacher, author and educator he influenced not only me but thousands of theological students and pastors. His faithfulness to the infallibility of the Scriptures and the gospel has been an inspiration to me for many years” (For This I Was Born, by C. Talbot).

A Talbot quote which sums up his evangelical conviction says, “Whether or not one believes in its reality, the resurrection of Christ is of vital consequence to every person on earth. It is the “touchstone of destiny” for all mankind.”

After many years as president of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Louis Talbot died on 22 January, 1976.

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.