Liverpool City Revival
Liverpool City Revival - 1855
In 1851 a man by the name of John Hambleton arrived in Liverpool from America, having been away from the city of his birth for 17 years. He had lived a reckless life both in Australia and America, having run away from home when only 14 years of age, and escaping death on several occasions. Eventually, seeing the hand of God in his deliverance on so many occasions he decided to return to Liverpool to try and find his family. His mother, who had died during his time away was a godly woman and had prayed that God would one day both save him and bring him back to Liverpool and call him to become a Gospel preacher. Her prayer was answered when he came to Christ a few months after his return and almost immediately commenced preaching the Gospel. Finding a companion by the name of Edward Usher, a dockyard labourer, and a recent convert, they worked together effectively for a number of years. Lime Street Lamp became their general pulpit and over the next three years many were brought to Christ of which a number joined them in their outreach efforts. A powerful group of about a dozen labourers for the gospel was thus formed all with various talents and all helpful to one another.
A Liverpool solicitor by the name of Reginald Radcliffe, who was also effectively engaged in Christian work, invited this group to his house in Chatham Place, in Edge Hill, Liverpool. It had been laid on Mr Radcliffe’s mind to engage a new building called the Teutonic Hall in Lime Street, if he could get a company of working men to preach in it on Sundays from morning until night, without cessation. The brethren accepted the invitation and a week’s prayer was offered, night and day, for a mighty outpouring of God’s Spirit on that day. They were up night after night, other labourers joining in with them, and an extraordinary power of God rested upon the whole company, for many at Lime Street Lamp had already been brought to Christ, and numbers began to swell.
A remarkable dream
During the week of prayer one of John Hambleton’s sisters, Hannah, had a dream, as follows. Some parts of this are difficult to understand but the term, "running waters" flowing through the streets of Liverpool is clear enough. I have put in brackets John's interpretation of parts of the dream: -
When busy in a large house with other servants, all of a sudden they appeared to relinquish their several employments to inquire into the cause of running waters (streams of gospel grace) which had issued forth from the house, and soon filled the streets of Liverpool in every direction. The scene then began to change. The heavens were covered with a black cloud, which, passing over, exposed three skeletons of unclean beasts of different kinds which denoted war, famine, and death. This cloud having passed over, high mountains were seen and green fields down their slopes. Beautiful white clouds now came alternately from behind the mountains, bringing up from various parts, multitudes of animals (converts, who, during the many clouds of revival which have since passed over all parts of the world, have been leaping upon all mountains), mingling together happily in sport. A plainly dressed woman (the church) now stood on the high mountain with two preachers of the gospel (evangelists) in the dress of ancient Jews, one standing on either side, while the woman, with a shrill clear voice, described the joyous scene, repeating the passages from Isaiah, "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose," and "the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb." When the last animal had left the cloud, a majestic lion (the Lion of the Tribe of Judah), with two feet, stood on the top-stone of the highest mountain, in triumph and complacency, overlooking the whole. People had now assembled in crowds, every one eager to know the cause of all this, and a Jew stood alone looking up at the scene also, whilst Hannah, filled with a spirit of interpretation was eagerly expounding the meaning of it from the old prophets. Two gentlemen arm in arm now came past, and one asked the other the meaning of it, and the other answered "Oh, it is a revival of religion!" Now on her way home, as she thought, to tell this wonderful news about the coming millennium, her progress was impeded. A huge black beast (infidelity) lying in the road, set her with his eyes, and thrust his horns at her, his back rising higher and higher, while his two horns stuck in the bank of earth; Hannah lay between them crying out for the coming of the Lord Jesus; and unhurt she awoke.
A revival in Liverpool
On 22nd April 1855 the Teutonic Hall in Lime Street, was taken. The hall was to be open on Sundays from 10.00am until 9.30pm, without intermission. Each service was to continue for only half an hour, and include a short pointed address. All classes were welcome. There was no difficulty in getting speakers for the services, but would the people come? On the first Sunday the hall was opened they all went down in good time. When they entered the lower hall not a soul had come in. Jane Radcliffe testified that she shut her eyes and prayed that God would send the people in, fearing what fools they would appear before all the town of Liverpool if no one even came to hear, and much had been said in disparagement of the effort. In a few minutes, however, when she opened her eyes and though she had not heard them coming in, the hall was full. The workers went out to stations in the open air, not far from the hall. Jane Radcliffe related that John Hambleton (who had been given a special hymn for this work) was one of the most earnest and successful of this devoted band. By 11.00am God’s power began to take hold of the unsaved and by 12 noon it was expedient to remove anxious mourners groaning under conviction of sin, to an upper room. A band of singers from the Park-end had been led of the Lord to the Lamp with the special hymn for the occasion. The company marched up towards the hall singing:-
The blast of the trumpet, so loud and so shrill
Will shortly re-echo o’er ocean and hill
When the mighty, mighty, mighty trumpet sounds,
Come, come away
Oh, may we be ready to hail that glad day.
The blending chorus of voices sounded to a distance, bringing hundreds from all quarters. On entering the hall, the singers marched down the centre, towards the platform without any pre-arrangement. A meeting was already in progress and the person conducting the service inside ceased speaking, so as to allow the congregation to stand up and join in the hymn that the crowd coming from the open air was singing. Mr Radcliffe taking it as it came, leaped on the platform, called out half a dozen singers and drafted them off to a certain part of the town, then another half dozen to another place, and thus despatched singers to several locations, in order that they might march down from thence to their centre, the Lamp. Never was there a more glorious sight than when those bands came marching in, their voices pealing over the town in praises to God. Prostitutes and drunkards broken under the mighty power of God, were brought along with each company all of which, joining at Lime Street sang and filled the hall and streets. Jane Radcliffe observed, "never could those present forget the solemn effect of this. It was a scene never to be forgotten, as poor fallen women came from the dismal neighbourhood of Stanley Street, Sir Thomas Buildings, and Victoria Street, then a mass of tumble-down buildings, pig-sties, and haunts of vice. In they marched with shawls over their heads, dishevelled locks and burning cheeks, down which their tears were dropping." Preachers now began to address the people all around; souls were crying out all day, some springing into liberty. Rich and poor alike were brought under the power of the gospel, ladies in silk and satin dresses huddled up with poor ragged girls, men wearing gold chains and thieves down on their knees together, imploring pardon for their sins, until midnight.
These were the running waters that broke out in 1855, and they were still running many years later.
The above account is drawn mostly from my booklet on the life of John Hambleton. He continued his ministry for many years to come, seeing thousands come to Christ. Edward Usher eventually went to Manchester with his family, as did another of the team John Latham who both did great exploits for God in that city. Reginald Radcliffe, of whom I will also be writing a booklet on his life later on,¹ was also greatly used of God both in this country and abroad, and saw many thousands come to Christ, especially in a mighty outpouring of God’s Spirit in Aberdeen.