Chapter 10 - Evangelistic Work in England, Ireland and Scotland

Table of Contents

The Discouraging Outlook - Sunderland - Revival Fire Kindled at Newcastle - Edinburgh - The Work in Scotland Continued - The Evangelists go to Ireland - The Return to England - Various Meetings - The London Revival.

When Mr. Moody arrived at Liverpool, June 27, 1873, he set foot upon English soil for the third time. His former trips had been brief; now he had come with a determination "to win ten thousand souls for Christ." The first word received on landing 'was disappointing. He learned that the two friends who had invited him to England, the Rev. Mr. Pennefather, rector of the Mildmay Park Church, in London, and Mr. Cuthbert Bainbridge, an eminent Wesleyan layman, had recently died. A third invitation had been given by Mr. George Bennett, Secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association in York.


Mr. Moody telegraphed to Mr. Bennett announcing his arrival and readiness to begin work, but the reply stated that there was so little religious warmth in York that it would take at least a month to get ready for the meetings. Mr. Moody, however, was not afraid of the prevalent spiritual frost. He telegraphed to his friend, "I will be in York to-night," and at 10 o'clock in the evening arrived in that city, unheralded and unknown.

The outlook was not encouraging, but Mr. Moody sent for Mr. Sankey, who had gone from Liverpool to Manchester, and the meetings began at once. Only eight persons attended the first meeting. The other meetings on this first Sunday betrayed a somewhat wider interest, but during the following week the congregations were very small indeed. The second week was marked by some improvement, and before the month was over, in spite of the coldness manifested by the ministers of the place, the work had made a considerable impression. The inquiry meetings were an innovation in English services, but they grew in favour and became more and more an important instrument of spiritual success. The number of converts at York was in the neighbourhood of two hundred. The work closed with an all-day meeting, beginning with an hour for conversation and prayer and continued with an hour for praise, a promise meeting, a witness meeting, a Bible lecture by Mr. Moody, and finally a communion service. The meetings were chiefly held in chapels, the evangelist preferring not to go to public halls for fear of seeming to neglect the regularly established forms of worship.


After attending some of Mr. Moody's meetings at York, the Rev. Arthur Rees, a liberal Baptist clergyman of Sunderland, invited the American evangelists to come and help him in his work. Accordingly Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey began meetings in Mr. Rees' chapel, Sunday, July 27th. Here, as at York, coldness had to be dealt with, and moreover the evangelists had been heralded from the scene of their first labours by criticism rather than by praise. Still from the first large congregations attended the meetings, although there is little doubt that the early motive of attendance was curiosity.

Gradually the people of Sunderland awoke. In order to avoid the appearance of sectarianism, Mr. Moody had the meetings removed to the Victoria Hall, though overflow meetings were generally conducted in various chapels.

Even after the power of the Spirit took hold of the people of Sunderland, ministerial criticism of the evangelists' course increased, but Mr. Moody was not without friends. None of the attacks troubled him so long as the Holy Spirit was manifested in the meetings and people were being converted. At the close of the month the results were not what lie had hoped for, but it is interesting to note that long after the evangelists had left, and when news of the great work of God through them in Scotland came back to Sunderland, the city was stirred profoundly, and moved to genuine revival power.


By invitation of the Rev. David Lowe, Mr. Moody went from Sunderland to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, spending a few days in Jarrow on the way. He was greeted at Newcastle by Mr. Thomas Bainbridge, a brother of one of the friends who had invited him to England.

At Newcastle the fire was kindled which was to mightily move Great Britain. Ministerial opposition was overcome, five of the principal chapels of the town being offered for the services. Mr. Moody accepted the use of the Rye Hill Baptist Chapel, a large edifice, and within a fortnight crowds were turned away for want of room. All the neighbouring towns and villages felt the spiritual impulse, and in response to requests hundreds of meetings were held outside the city by multiplying assistants of the evangelist.

Mr. Moody, in order to prevent the exclusion of the unconverted by the crowds of Christians who attended the meetings, now began to divide his congregations into classes, giving tickets of admission to the various services. Meetings for merchants were held in the Assembly Hall; meetings for mechanics were held at the Tyne Theatre, and in each instance the size of the crowds usually necessitated three or four overflow meetings.

The name and residence of every inquirer was made a matter of record, and in order that assistants in the inquiry room should be more fitted to the purpose, tickets were issued to clergymen and other men of practical experience in Christian work, that they might help in the great work of leading souls to Christ. At first most of the conversions were among the educated classes, but afterward the work became more general. The noon prayer meetings which had been commenced previous to the arrival of Mr. Moody, by way of preparation had grown to remarkable proportions, while Mr. Moody's afternoon Bible readings drew even from the ranks of busy merchants and professional men. Two whole-day meetings or conferences were held. During the last week of the meetings, the Jubilee Singers began their connection with the work.

As a result of this month's work, hundreds of converts were received into the churches, and the whole North of England was aroused. Scores of Christian workers were sent out to carry the good tidings to the remoter districts, and the stimulus to the various churches proved unprecedented. Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey now moved toward Scotland, holding on the way brief, though successful, series of meetings in a number of small cities.


To understand the influence of the labours of Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey in Scotland, it is important to know something of the rise and progress of her Christian character. This takes us back to the Reformation, to the Christian organisation of John Knox. In all subsequent struggles Scotland realised that the work of the Reformers had had much to do in fostering the zeal and spiritual independence for which her people were ever distinguished. Down to the close of the last century the light of the Reformation shone clearly, but an eclipse came, and it was not until the appearance of the brothers James and Robert Haldane that the sun again burst forth. These men, with Mr. Simeon, an evangelical clergyman of Cambridge, were Scotland's first great evangelists. In ten years they established more than one hundred independent churches, providing also for the training of ministers. The next era was the disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843. This, strangely enough, proved to be the beginning of Christian union, for non-conformist brethren offered to the ministers who had given up their livings and entered the Free Church of Scotland the use of their churches for half of every Sunday. Thenceforward there was one body in Christian work.

Mr. Moody's meetings commenced late in November in the Free Church Assembly Hall. From the first no place in Edinburgh could contain the crowds. Three or four of the largest halls and churches were constantly in use, and even then it was necessary to come to the place of meeting an hour or two before the appointed time in order to be sure of admittance. The converts were numbered by thousands. The awakening among the nominal church members could hardly be described. As an example of the thoroughness of the work it is stated that at one meeting, composed of sixty-six young men, sixty were converted before they left the place.

The watch-night meeting, which closed the year 1873, was perhaps the most remarkable service that had ever been held in Edinburgh. For five full hours a great audience, many of them obliged to stand, praised God and gave their testimony to the work of His saving grace in them. The Christian Conference on January 4th was attended by about 150 ministers; such a meeting had never been seen in Edinburgh before. The farewell meeting was held in the fields on the slope of Arthur's Seat, there being no building which could accommodate the multitudes who wished to join in the last service of their brethren from America. As a result of the work in Edinburgh fully 3,000 persons were received into the churches.


From Edinburgh Mr. Moody went to Dundee, January 21st, and for several weeks the visitations with which the Holy Spirit had blessed other cities came to this old stronghold of Scottish faith.

The meetings began at Glasgow on February 8th. Three thousand Sunday-school teachers surrounded the evangelists in the City Hall at the first meeting. An hour before the time for the services such a crowd had assembled that four large churches in the neighbourhood were filled by the overflow. Mr. Moody had been in Glasgow in 1872, when he had attracted no attention; now from the start the revival work exhibited a power almost unparalleled. The Glasgow noon prayer meeting had been commenced during the week of prayer for Scotland, which was held in Edinburgh a month before the evangelists went to Glasgow. This preparation was not in vain.

At first, church-going people were affected. Then the hand of God touched the great masses of the population who were without the fold. Meetings were held in the streets and squares of the city; fathers and mothers met to pray for the conversion of their children; children's meetings were also held. The great conference of Christian workers at the Kibble Crystal Palace in the Botanic Gardens, April 16, renewed the vigour of all departments of home missionary work in Scotland.

The last meetings were the greatest of all. Going to the evening service the carriage of Mr. Moody was almost blocked by the dense throngs which surrounded the Crystal Palace, and, seeing the multitudes, the evangelist determined to preach from the carriage, as there were more without the building than within. Those inside the palace, learning of the change of program, immediately joined the throng outside, and the service which followed was one of wonderful effect. At the close of the discourse, Mr. Moody invited inquirers to meet him at the palace, and this great audience hall was filled. Large numbers gave themselves to Christ. It was at Glasgow that Henry Drummond was drawn to this great evangelistic movement.

While in Glasgow the evangelists made several brief excursions to neighbouring cities.


About the middle of May, Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey, after a three days' visit to Edinburgh, went northward through Scotland, stopping in Perth, Montrose, Aberdeen, Inverness, and in some other towns. To the very end of Scotland, to John'-o'-Groat's house, the evangelists went, meeting crowds of people at every shopping place, and holding service after service, generally in the open air. At Aberdeen 12,000 to 20,000 people attended the outdoor services; at Inverness the meetings were held at the time of the annual wool fair, and many were reached who had been spending their lives beyond the reach of the churches. On returning from the north, farewell meetings were held in some of the places where the evangelists had laboured.


Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey had received invitations from many different quarters, and they now decided prayerfully that the greatest opportunity before them lay in Ireland. Accordingly they bade good-bye to Scotland, and on September 6th, held the first meeting in Belfast, at Dougal Square Chapel. The second meeting was held in a larger church, while the evening meeting was adjourned to a still larger place of worship, with seating capacity for about two thousand persons, which was only about one-quarter of those who tried to gain admission. In fact, in Ireland the attendance upon the meetings was but a repetition of the crowded following which had sought to come under the spell of the American workers in Scotland. On Monday a noon prayer meeting was commenced, and that, too, had to be adjourned to a larger building. It became necessary here, as in Scotland, to divide the audiences, so that men's meetings, women's meetings etc., etc., were held. There were several great open air meetings. On one occasion two hundred young men gave themselves to Christ.

The evangelists had been invited to Londonderry by a committee of the Young Men's Christian Association, and there they went for four days, beginning October 11th, holding a number of notable meetings and returning to Belfast on the 15th, to hold their farewell services there. The final inquiry meeting at Belfast was attended by about 2,400 persons, admitted by ticket; 2,150 converts' tickets were given before the close of the evening service.


The difficulty of finding a place large enough for the meetings had led Mr. Moody to name to the brethren at Dublin, as a condition of his coming, the engagement of the Exhibition Palace. This condition was met; the Palace was engaged, and on October 24th, Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey arrived in the Irish capital.

There were in Dublin only about 40,000 Protestants, out of a population of 250,000, but the denominational line was frequently crossed by the work of the evangelists. Indeed, so deep was the encroachment of the revival upon the Roman Catholic population, that Cardinal Cullen felt himself called upon to interdict the attendance of his flock upon the Protestant meetings. In spite of this, many Roman Catholics were converted. Mr. Moody was unable to see why the line between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism should be observed in his work any more than the lines between different Protestant denominations. The fact that a man had a soul to save was a sufficient call to enlist his energies.

At Dublin, the Bible readings were, perhaps, valued more than any other of the services. One unique meeting was held for the soldiers of the garrison of Curragh, who attended in large numbers and were won by the stories and the earnest logic of the speaker. An organised society of Atheists tried their hand at opposing Mr. Moody by introducing their members into the inquiry meetings, but the scheme was discovered, and the intruders were not allowed to enter into debate or useless conversation.

The thoroughness with which the hearts of the Irish people were touched was evidenced by their liberality in providing funds to meet the expenses of the meetings. 1,500 were required, and 5,000 or 6,000 of the leading citizens of Dublin were invited by circular to contribute. There were only two instances of personal solicitation, but the money came in so rapidly that it was difficult to keep track of it. Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey did not work for pay; they took whatever the Committees on Finance in the various cities where they were conducting services regarded as a suitable renumeration, - this in spite of the inevitable criticism made by opponents of the movement that the evangelists were "in the business for the money they could get out of it".

Dublin was merely the centre of the revival interest. All over Ireland the spell was so powerful that the mere announcement in a village that some man who had been to the Dublin services would tell what he had seen there, was sufficient to draw a great crowd. The meetings closed on November 29th, after a conference of three days, which was attended by about 800 ministers. The meeting for converts on the second day of the conference called together about 2,000 persons. When their labors ended, Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey went once more to England, this time not unheralded.

In Ireland, as in Scotland, the spirit which they had aroused continued to manifest itself in many increasing results.


The first meetings of the new campaign in England, were held at Manchester. Within a week it was said, "Manchester is now on fire." The services here were not marked so much by that joyful spirit which had characterised the evangelism of Scotland and Ireland, as by a solemn earnestness, and the influence of the meetings proper was extended in a great many practical ways throughout the city and its environs.

An important result in Manchester was the impulse given by Mr. Moody to the Young Men's Christian Association movement. He held one meeting after which a large collection was given toward a new building for the Association, and this sum proved the nucleus of more than 30,000 which was ultimately raised for the purpose. Nearly 500 names were added to the roll of active members of the Association.


Meetings were held in Sheffield, beginning on the night of December 31, 1874. It was not easy to arouse the unimpressible metal workers of Sheffield, and at first considerable disappointment was felt in the results of the services, but it was not long before the power of the evangelists' message became manifest.

Leaving Sheffield thoroughly awakened, Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey went to Birmingham where their meetings began on January 17th, in the Town Hall with its seating capacity for 5,000 persons. In the evening the services were held in Bingley Hall, a great enclosed area which was customarily engaged for the annual cattle show. In spite of its accommodations for 10,000 or 12,000 persons, the immense building was thronged every evening, an hour before the time of service. The conference with which the Birmingham meetings closed was attended by ministers from all parts of Great Britain. After the departure of the "brethren from America", the work of grace continued just as it had in every city which they had visited.


Mr. Moody came to Liverpool as an old friend. As the city contained no hall large enough for his purposes, an immense temporary structure, called the Victoria Hall, had been erected. It held about 10,000 persons, and the expense of building it was met by voluntary contributions, no direct solicitation being made. This was the first hall erected during the campaign especially for revival services At the first meeting two-thirds of the congregation were young men. The noon prayer meeting was sometimes attended by 5,000 Or 6,000 persons. Eighteen services were held each week in the Victoria Hall, and the Gospel was also carried into the streets and byways, and missionary services were held in warerooms and in stables, as well as in the open.

It was during one of the Liverpool meetings, that Mr. Moody gave a remarkable exhibition of his organising abilities. A great meeting was being held and the theme for discussion was, "How to reach the masses". One the speakers expressed the opinion the chief want of the masses in Liverpool was the institution of cheap houses of refreshment of counteract the saloons. When he had finished, Mr. Moody asked him to continue speaking for ten minutes longer, and no sooner was this time up when Mr. Moody sprang to his feet and announced that a company had been formed to carry out the objects the speaker had advocated; that various gentlemen had taken 1,000 shares of 1 each, and the subscription list would be open until the end of the meeting. The capital was gathered before adjournment, and the company was soon floated, being known as the "The British Workmen Company, Limited". It has not only worked a revolution in Liverpool, but has paid a handsome dividend as well.

During the month at Liverpool, the number of persons converted, or awakened, ran into the thousands. The inquiry rooms were invariably crowded.


"If I come to London," Mr. Moody had said, "you will need to raise 5,000 for expenses of halls, advertising, etc." "We have 10,000 already," was the reply. This shows the spirit in which the efforts of Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey in the Metropolis of the world were anticipated. The work of preparation had been carried on by able committees. Preliminary daily prayer meetings were crowded.

It was decided to attack the city in the four quarters. The meetings began in the north and were held in the great Agricultural Hall. The congregations in this immense structure averaged during the first week about 18,000 persons, but it was impossible to make so large a number hear the preaching, and the size was reduced, by means of temporary partitions, to the capacity of about 14,000, and even then it was constantly overcrowded. The inquiry meetings were held in St. Mary's Hall, but so great was the curious crowd, which blocked the adjacent streets, that it was found advisable to remove these meetings to one of the galleries of the Agricultural Hall itself.

The services were managed by a committee, with the assistance of seventy or eighty ushers. Interest increased weekly. Sometimes 400 or 500 persons at one time would be conversing in the inquirers galleries about the salvation of their souls. As in other places, the work began with the better classes, and was afterward extended to the slums.

The campaign in the East End, which began five weeks after the meetings in the North End, centred in Bow Road Hall, built especially for the services, and designed to hold an audience of 10,000 persons. Overflow meetings were held in a large tent near the building.

In the West End the services were held in the Royal Opera House, where many thousands thronged the three or four different meetings which were held each day. For several weeks Mr. Moody divided his attention between the Opera House and the Bow Road Hall.

It was at this time that the controversy arose regarding the meetings at Eton. The patrons of the famous college which is situated in that little town, did not wish their sons subjected to irregular religious influence, and the matter was even taken up by the House of Lords. The evangelists had been invited by a large majority of the students in the college, but pressure in high quarters made it inadvisable to accept the invitation in its full intent. A meeting was held in the private grounds of a gentleman at Eton, and there Mr. Moody preached to about two hundred of the college boys, and two or three times as many citizens of the town.

In conducting the meetings in South London, a new hail, erected for them near Camberwell Green, was occupied by the evangelists. This structure seated about 8,000 persons. Here the chief interest centred in the inquiry room, where the spirit was as earnest and as deep as it had been in the other quarters of the city. When Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey discontinued services in one of the four quarters of the city, the meetings were continued by others, and the fire which God had permitted the two evangelists to kindle was not suffered to die out. The final service was held July 12th, the evangelists having conducted 285 meetings in London, and having addressed fully 2,500,000 persons. Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey hastily withdrew at the conclusion of this last service, rather than face the ordeal of parting with so many dear friends. This was ever Mr. Moody's custom.

The last meeting in England was held in Liverpool, and on October 6th, attended by many loving prayers, Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey set sail toward the West, arriving in New York eight days later.


Lecky, the historian, calmly and dispassionately asserts that the evangelistic labors of John Wesley and his co-workers, by lifting the moral tone of the common people, saved England from a revolution. Mr. Moody may not have served as an instrument for the accomplishment of so deep an economic purpose, but it is certain that the regenerating springs of spiritual life, which God used him to draw from the rock of indifference, refreshed and revived a people fast tending to religious numbness. And nothing is so dangerous as this apathetic numbness; it has done more to hinder the progress of salvation than all the active forces of the devil put together.

I am not prepared to deny that many who were awakened or converted during Mr. Moody's labours in Great Britain went back to their former walks soon after the immediate presence of the evangelists ceased to be felt; nor will I deny that much of the work inspired by his efforts crystallised into conventional and narrow forms; but I believe from the bottom of my heart that the movement blessed Britain as she had not before been blessed for one hundred years, and I know that tens of thousands of persons became better men and women for the effect of Mr. Moody's words upon them. Through this man God led men to read their Bibles, to live honestly, to rid themselves of besetting sins, and to place their faith in Christ as a personal Saviour.

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