The Second Moody/Sankey Crusade

Hengler's Circus in West Derby Road, Liverpool

The return of Moody/Sankey to Liverpool some eight years later did not attract anywhere near the amount of publicity from either the secular or the Christian press that the earlier crusade had done. One of the reasons for the lesser coverage of the secular press was, I think, due to the fact that Victoria Hall was in the city centre, and probably just around the corner from the newspaper offices, whereas the 1883 mission was held in West Derby Road, in Everton. The lesser coverage of the ‘Signs of our Times’, however, is not at all clear, since this paper was established to cover the Moody/Sankey missions. However that is not to say that the second crusade was far less successful, because that was not at all the case. In fact what had been originally planned for two weeks, was extended for a further week because of God’s blessing on the mission, as we will see later.

Hengler’s Circus

The largest building available for the 1883 mission was the Hengler’s Circus, which was then located in West Derby Road, Everton (previously located in Newington, and Dale Street, prior to that). The seating capacity of the circus was around 5,000 which was somewhat smaller than Victoria Hall, and like that hall proved to be inadequate for the large crowds that attended the meetings, with other nearby halls required for overflow meetings. In order to maximise the seating capacity the platform for the preacher and the singer had been made very small so that no sitting room would be lost, and the 230-member choir was placed behind the platform. A large room behind the main building used during the circus season for the stabling of the horses was used for an inquiry room.

The Mission commences

Prior to the mission commencing on Sunday 1st April 1883, a prayer meeting was held in the circus on the Saturday evening, presided by Alexander Balfour the chairman of the committee. Mr Balfour in opening the mission said that it would not be possible to provide adequately for all the crowds who were stirred to come and hear the Gospel. The desire to obtain tickets was extraordinary, unprecedented, and far beyond their power to meet, and the consequence was that many must be disappointed. Provision had been made for overflow meetings, but if that failed to meet the demands of the people he desired it to be understood that the committee had striven to do their very best. He said that it was a matter of thanksgiving to the committee that the previous mission had born such fruit. The great movement for establishing cocoa-houses was initiated at a meeting held immediately before Mr Moody departed for America. That special feature of the temperance movement first began in Liverpool at that time had largely developed throughout the country, and it would remain long after they had mouldered in the dust. It was the hope of the committee that the forthcoming mission would be more successful than the last. He desired them to have large expectations and large faith, and then no person could tell what the results would be. Instead of sin and instead of drunkenness in the streets, let them ask that "the streets should run down with righteousness as a river."

The format of the Sunday services was identical to that of the previous crusade. At the 8.00am service for Christian workers Mr Moody said that if there was to be a work done in Liverpool they must all be interested in it. He believed the world would never be reached until they awoke to the fact that all had got something to do. They had waited long enough for the men with the ten and the five talents, and the time had come when those who had only one talent must use it. When a man put off doing anything for the Lord until he could do something great, his real object was not to raise a monument to the Lord, but for himself. The second meeting at 11.00am for non-churchgoers was soon packed, as expected, and the overflow meeting was held at the Liverpool College Hall, in Shaw Street, taken by Rev Cleworth, and conducted by Mr Sankey (after he had finished in the tent). An appeal brought over 100 persons into the inquiry room. The 3.00pm meeting for women only was packed within a few minutes of the opening of the doors, and the overflow meeting was again held in the College Hall. That too soon became packed so an adjacent chapel had to be opened. Hundreds of women responded to the appeal in this service. A similar scene followed at the men’s meeting at 7.30pm. Mr Moody said that he had never seen a work begin so well as did the mission on Sunday, and he commented on the wonderful spirit amongst the people.

Liverpool stirred to its depth

Following the meeting on Monday evening "The Daily Courier" reported as follows –"whatever term – ‘revival’ or any other – may be applied to the interest manifested on Sunday and again yesterday by the crowds who sought to hear these American evangelists, there is no doubt that the religious community, both passive and active, has been stirred to its depth by their return to Liverpool." One evident sign of a renewed interest in the mission was the large gathering of people for the noon prayer meeting on Monday. The meeting had been held daily during the previous few years in the Common Hall in Hackin’s Hey, but in anticipation of what turned out to be the case, the committee took the City Hall in Eberle Street for the duration of the mission. The hall was in fact packed to capacity, mainly with women. Rev Cleworth presiding at this meeting strongly urged the Christians to go out and seek the lost and careless and bring them to the meetings, and proceeded to give them a hint that they might be guilty of great selfishness in those services by appropriating places which might be filled by those who needed to hear the glad tidings. The evening service followed the usual pattern of the circus filling up straight away, and the overflow meetings being held in Emmanuel Church, in West Derby Road, and the Brunswick Chapel in Moss Street. Mr Moody did not keep the audience waiting but began the service soon after it was filled. Large numbers again responded to the appeal as with all the services.

On Tuesday afternoon a series of Bible Lectures were commenced in the circus, and even this was packed, mainly with women, and an overflow meeting had to be arranged in the Emmanuel Church. At the evening service Mr Moody said that his work eight years ago among the men of Liverpool had been most successful, and that he was hungering to be amongst them again. He said that a good friend of his Professor Drummond had called on him that morning and that they had arranged that meetings for men should be held at 8.30pm every evening in the Wesleyan Chapel. These services taken by Professor Drummond were very well attended, and there were numbers of inquirers. On the Saturday of the first week, which was a rest day for the evangelists, the circus was used for the purpose of holding a Gospel temperance meeting under the chairmanship of Mr Balfour. A similar meeting was held the following Saturday, which was addressed by Rev Charles Garrett. The week after that Canon Richard Hobson addressed the meeting.

A great harvest

The meetings for the second week continued as with the first week with huge crowds attending and overflow meetings required, and at each meeting many responded to the appeal. Bishop Ryle and his wife were present in one of the meetings during which he was asked to pray. As with the first crusade in 1875 records were not kept of the number of conversions at the mission, but it is clear that many thousands were brought to Christ during the mission. In a letter sent to a Dr Spurgeon on 13th April he wrote apologising for not being able to attend a conference he was invited to, saying to him that God was giving them such great success there that they had determined to continue the work through the following week. In The Liverpool Courier dated 17th April, an article on the mission commenced – "Though the present is the third week of the mission in Liverpool there are no signs of decreasing energy or interest on the part either of the American evangelists or the enormous gatherings of people who attend their services. On the contrary, judging by last night’s meeting at Hengler’s Circus, it would seem that both are on the increase, for the spacious building might have been filled twice over." Extra prayer meetings were held in Byrom Hall both at 5.00am and 5.00pm. A special meeting for young women was also held in the College Hall, Shaw Street.

The mission concluded on Sunday 22nd April, but both Moody and Sankey returned the following Thursday for a Christian Conference at which deputations from various parts of the country attended and included Bishop Ryle and the well-known hymn writer Dr Bonar. One of the speakers at this conference would be Rev Charles Garrett who had been unable to attend the meetings at the mission due to his duties as President of the Wesleyan Conference. Mr Moody had specifically asked him to attend a conference ‘to originate a movement for the amelioration of the Arabs and pariahs of the Liverpool streets’!

The final meeting held on Friday was a special meeting for converts both from this mission and the previous one. They sailed back to America the very next day. Their next visit to the UK would be later that year in November to conduct a prolonged evangelistic Mission in London.