OTHERS WHO HAVE IMPACTED OUR CITY

In this final chapter I would like to look at the lives of some others who made a spiritual impact on the city of Liverpool in one way or other, during this period.

Bishop John Charles Ryle

J C Ryle was born in Macclesfield in 1816, and was educated at Eton College, and Oxford, obtaining a first class degree. He had set his mind on a career in politics but God gave him a clear call to enter the ministry, which he did and his first parish was in Fawley, in Hampshire. Many years later in the year 1880 he was the vicar of Stradbroke in Suffolk, where he had been for the previous 19 years. He was 65 years of age, and was of an age when most people are thinking of retirement. He had, by this time achieved the reputation as being the best known evangelical leader in the Church of England, being both a popular preacher and author, and one also who had been active in the 1859 revival in Suffolk. One day he received a telegram from Disraeliís secretary to go to London the next day but did not say why. When he saw Disraeli he was amazed to find that he was offering him the newly created bishopric of Liverpool, which he immediately accepted. Disraeli had lost the election and as outgoing Prime Minister he had the power to appoint the new bishop. He had discovered that the High Church Anglicans had supported Gladstone, so in order to seek revenge on them he sought to appoint the most outstanding evangelical of the day. The appointment was one of dismay to the high churchmen, but the cause of much rejoicing to the evangelicals both in Liverpool and nationally. J C Ryle was an outstanding bishop for Liverpool for nearly 20 years, and during this time constantly strove to secure well-trained evangelical preachers for his new diocese. He also continued to preach widely and wrote between 200-300 tracts as well as several books. He was a great supporter of the Moody/Sankey crusades in the 1870ís and 1880ís, and took part in the 1883 Liverpool Mission. When he died his close friend Canon Richard Hobson preached a funeral sermon in which he paid the following tribute: -

He was great through the abounding grace of God. He was great in stature; great in mental power; great in spirituality; great as a preacher and expositor of Godís most holy Word; great in hospitality; great in winning souls to God; great as a writer of Gospel tracts; great as an author of works which will long live; great as a bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Protestant Church of England of which he was a noble defender; great as the first Bishop of Liverpool. I am bold to say that perhaps few men in the nineteenth century did so much for God, for truth, for righteousness, among the English speaking race and in the world as our late Bishop.

He died in the year 1900 and was buried at All Saintsí Church in Childwall.

Bishop Francis James Chavasse DD

F J Chavasse was born in 1846, and educated at Wadham College, Oxford. Wadham College had at that time been greatly affected by the ministry of Hay Aitken who entered the university after his amazing evangelistic tour of Scotland during the 1859 Revival. When Chavasse entered the College he quickly came under the influence of the work of God there and his spiritual experience there undoubtedly shaped his life for future ministry. In later years F J Chavasse founded St Peters College in Oxford, and in 1900 he was nominated by Lord Salisbury to succeed J C Ryle as the second Bishop of Liverpool. He was most certainly a worthy successor to J C Ryle, continuing the strong evangelical tradition that had been established there. He was best remembered as the effective founder of the Liverpool Cathedral, said to be the largest in the UK. He had wanted a cathedral that would match the greatness of Liverpool. The idea first came up in 1885 when an Act of Parliament had previously authorised the building of a Cathedral, which was to be located near St Georgeís Hall, but this was rejected by the people of Liverpool. Sixteen years later Bishop Chavasse persuaded the people of Liverpool to embark upon the building of the cathedral without delay. Five sites were selected for the new cathedral Ė Commutation Row, Monument Place, Abercromby Square, St Georgeís Dock, and St James Mount. Some people had wanted the site of St Peters Church, in Church Street, but this was dismissed as too cramped. St James Mount was eventually chosen, and this was where it was built.

Bishop Chavasse was the bishop during the First World War and he excelled in pastoral care during this difficult time, particularly as he lost two of his sons in the conflict. He served as the bishop for 23 years. He had a distinguished family. All four of his sons served in the army during the war in non-combatant roles. One of them was killed in action, two of them received the military cross, the other one, Noel, received a double VC, the only person to do so in that war, but eventually dying of wounds received. Christopher followed his father into the ministry and eventually became Bishop of Rochester. Two of his daughters achieved fame in 1986 as the UKís oldest twins at 100 years of age.

A memorial church, Christ Church, was subsequently built in Norris Green. He was buried in the foundersí plot in the Cathedral.   

Rev Hugh Stowell Brown

In the second half of the 19th Century Hugh Stowell Brown was a household name in Liverpool, but today he is virtually unknown. His brother Thomas Edward Brown is better known as a poet, at least his name appears in my encyclopaedia. He was born in the Isle of Man, his father being the minister of St Matthewís Chapel in Douglas. He came to Liverpool when he was 16 years of age, and was engaged in secular employment for a number of years until he felt that God was calling him to preach. The death of his father, however, took him back to the Isle of Man for some time, and during this time he did some preaching in Douglas. One day he received an invitation to preach at Myrtle Street Baptist Church in Liverpool (opposite the Philharmonic Hall) which he accepted. After a few weeks he was invited to become the pastor on a 3-month trial. At the age of 23 years, with no experience in pastoral work and little in preaching, he took on the role of permanent minister there. It then had 239 members but by the time he retired this had risen to 849 members. He was an immensely popular speaker both in his church where people crowded to listen to his robust and energetic teaching, as well as in public lectures that he used to give in the Concert Hall in Lord Nelson Street, where crowds of up to 4,000 people used to regularly go and hear him speak. He was especially popular with the many Americans who used to stream through Liverpool every year and the deacons of the church would sometimes struggle to accommodate up to 200-300 strangers turning up in an already crowded chapel. He was very active in the Baptist Church, being a member of the Baptist Missionary Society, as well as being appointed president of the Baptist Union in 1878. He also took a very keen interest in the sailors of the port of Liverpool and was chairman of the Liverpool Seamanís Friend Society. He was also involved in a number of good causes, and there was no movement for the benefit of the people of Liverpool in which he was not actively involved. His death in 1886 fell with a heavy blow on Liverpool and he was much lamented, so much so that no less than 10,000 people attended his funeral. Spurgeon, who was a long time friend of Brown, was also devastated. In a sermon after his death, he said, "The grief is to us who are left behind. What a gap is left where stood Hugh Stowell Brown! Who is to fill it? A statue was raised to him in 1889 in the churchyard of Myrtle Street Baptist Church, and this was later moved to Princes Road/Avenue in 1954. The now empty pedestal stands close to the Princes Park Gates, the statue having been moved because of its frail condition. Stowell Street, opposite the Philharmonic Hall was named after him.

Canon Hay Aitken

Just as the apostle Paul described himself as a Pharisee of Pharisees, Canon Hay Aitken could be described as an evangelist of evangelists. His father was Robert Aitken of Pendeen, Cornwall, and his uncle was Hay Macdowell Grant, Laird of Arndilly, both of whom were greatly used in revival ministry.

Hay Aitken was born in Liverpool in 1841, whilst his father was minister of Zion Chapel in Waterloo Road. As a young boy his family moved to Cornwall and he was raised in a revivalistic atmosphere during his fatherís ministry there. As a young man he joined his uncle, Hay Macdowall Grant in an evangelistic tour of the north of Scotland, where God moved powerfully during the 1859 revival there. When he finished his studies in Oxford he travelled around the country preaching the gospel and saw great results.

When he was 29 years of age he returned to Liverpool and became the Vicar of Christ Church in Great Homer Street, Everton, where he continued for five years. Great blessing was enjoyed under his ministry there, so much so that it was necessary to erect a mission-hall seating 800 people and a school accommodating an equal number of children. He played an important part in the visit of Moody/Sankey to Liverpool in 1875, but Moody realising that he had a ministry of national importance encouraged him to relinquish his parochial duties and fully devote himself to the ministry of evangelism. This he did and in 1876 he founded the Aitken Memorial Mission Fund (named after his father) later known as the Church Parochial Mission Society, which travelled around the country holding evangelistic missions. The fire of revival never left him and wherever he and his team went, remarkable results were achieved. He visited Liverpool on a number of occasions, but what was probably his most powerful mission in Merseyside was held in the Wirral in 1879. During the Mission, ĎThe Birkenhead & Cheshire Advertiserí on 5th April 1879 brought its readerís attention to the fact that a religious awakening was taking place among the people. Then on 12th April 1879 it gave the following report: -

The eight-day mission came to a close on Monday evening last, although the services were continued for a few days longer at Christ Church, Claughton, Tranmere, and St James. The movement has been a decided success. The services have been largely attended every night. The poorest of the people, and those seldom seen in church, came in great numbers, and much religious earnestness has been manifested on all sides. At a menís meeting held on Saturday evening in the large Drill Hall in Priory Street, there were about present 1,500 who stood for an hour and a half listening to an earnest and eloquent address by the Rev Hay Aitken. Young men who have been specially addressed in several of the churches have attended in hundreds.

Over the next 40 years the Society conducted around 1000 missions throughout the country and saw around 100,000 people brought to Christ.

Alexander Balfour

Alexander Balfour was born in 1824 in Fife, Scotland. Upon leaving school he worked in the family business until 1844, when due to the onset of financial problems he moved to Liverpool in search of employment. He settled in Birkenhead and lived in Grange Lane, where he came under the influence of Rev James Towers, who ran a Sabbath School there. Though he was already converted, he was brought into a much closer walk with God through his ministry. He later became a member of Canning Street Presbyterian Church, under the ministry of Rev Joseph R Welsh. In 1851, with the help of two friends he set up the firm of Williamson & Company, to trade with Chile, with Balfour running the Liverpool end of the operation, while his partners drummed up business in Chile. The company prospered greatly and over the forthcoming years of his life he used his wealth to support a number of Christian ministries, and many other worthy causes in Liverpool, and beyond. At the outset of his business life he established a principle of tithing a percentage of the Companyís profits for religious and benevolent purposes. He lived by the counsel of Paul in which he stated "as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10). On one occasion when his business became very prosperous he was unable to sleep over it, saying to himself that they must find new outlets for that with which God had so abundantly blessed them. The number of people and good causes, which benefited from him, are far too many to mention. Two of those who were greatly blessed have already been mentioned in this booklet, i.e. Rev William Garrett, and Canon Hay Aitken. William Garrett testified that it was through the influence of Balfour that he was able to stay in Liverpool and supervise the magnificent work of the Methodist Mission. On numerous occasions he supported and encouraged him in his ministry, and on one occasion when he had had a breakdown he took him into his own residence in Mount Alyn, near Chester, and watched over him for many weeks. This kindness caused Garrett to realise the importance of such ministry and shortly afterward he established a House of Rest in Colwyn Bay, for the benefit of ministers and their families needing rest. Canon Hay Aitken also benefited on a number of occasions from Balfourís benevolence, who took a keen interest in his remarkable evangelistic labours. For 15 years he was chairman of the YMCA in Liverpool, and the acquisition of the premises in Brownlow Hill was largely through his efforts and support. The young people of Liverpool occupied a special place in his heart. He was quoted as once saying, "Get the young men of Liverpool imbued with Christian principle and adequately taught and trained and the Liverpool of the future with be a new Liverpool. He was also the joint founder of the Seamanís Orphanage, Seamanís Institute and a Sailorís Home. As already mentioned he took a very active part in the visit of Moody/Sankey and the acquisition of Victoria Hall, and he was the chairman of the committee, which in 1883 secured their second visit.

Although Liverpool was not the place of his birth, he had a passion and zeal for his adopted city, which I think would shame most of us. I will conclude with a quotation from a sermon given after his death by Rev R H Lundie, who wrote the biography of his life.

Liverpool that great community for which he so greatly pleaded daily till the day when he lay down to die Ė Liverpool was graven on his heart, like Jerusalem on the heart of the exiled Jews. To succeed to elevate, to bless Liverpool was the consuming passion of his life.

Within St Johnís Gardens (behind St Georgeís Hall) there are six monuments of the cityís leading citizens and social reformers. One of these is Alexander Balfour. He died in 1886 aged 61 years, and was buried in Rossett. A special train was laid on for those in Liverpool who wished to attend his funeral.

 

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