The Second Torrey/Alexander Crusade
As previously mentioned one of the conditions for holding another mission for Torrey/Alexander was the procurement of a larger building than had been used for the previous mission, i.e. the Philharmonic Hall, which proved to be far too small. This was a very difficult task for the committee but eventually a suitable building was located.
It was found that the great Tournament Building in Manchester (which had been first erected for the Royal Military Tournament in 1901) was available and so arrangements were made for this to be purchased and then transported to the Edge Lane Estate in Liverpool (the same location as the former Plesseys site, now the Liverpool Digital Building). This was an incredible building and was described at the time as the finest in the country. Standing on a site comprising altogether three and a half acres the hall itself covered two acres, and had a seating capacity of 12,500 people. Several additional thousands could be admitted, for the building had been certified to contain 16,000 persons. The structure was 374 feet long and 197 feet wide, and the height from the ground line to the ridge of the main roof was 55 feet. The arena measured 254 feet by 77 feet. The acoustic properties of the building were excellent, both singing and speaking being clearly heard in even the most remote parts. A large platform was erected for speakers, officials and choir and this accommodated a further 1200 persons. Altogether some 250 men were employed in the erection of the building. In short it was the largest evangelistic event ever undertaken in the country. The question was though, would they be able to fill it, in view of the fact that it was three miles from the city centre, and a good distance from the nearest public transport.
Any doubts that were held about the possibility of filling this vast building were soon dispelled on the very first day of the mission. In fact as the mission progressed there would be times when it actually proved to be inadequate, particularly on the last day of the mission. Unfortunately it was impractical to hold any overflow meetings, as with the Philharmonic Hall, since the Tournament Building was a fair distance from the nearest building. At the outset of the mission, however, such a problem was not at all envisaged, but rather the opposite.
Bringing people to the Hall
A lot of prayer had preceded this mission. For months before it commenced united prayer meetings were held in all parts of Liverpool, and just before the crusade opened an all-day prayer meeting was held. Because of its distance from the city centre, rich people were asked to bring up the poor people from the city in trams, paying their fares. One of those who took this up was a city councillor who undertook to pay the tramcar fares of all the people who could be persuaded to attend the mission. A minister by the name of Rev Herbert Wood availed himself of this generous offer, and brought between forty and fifty men from the streets to one of the meetings, and then on another night he was the guide and conductor of a hundred women. He first of all treated the women to a tea party, afterwards taking them to the meeting. One businessman who had been converted in the previous mission purchased a Gospel waggonette in order to carry his unconverted friends to and from the mission. On his second trip a former comrade was converted, and on its third, a lady was converted.
The visiting evangelists were first of all welcomed on the Friday night preceding the mission, in the Tournament Hall, when a number of speeches were made, in which emphasis was made that this was not man’s mission, but God’s, and that upon Him was all the dependence placed. During his address Dr Torrey gave the following word of exhortation, "Men and women of Liverpool, there are enough of us here tonight, if we will improve our privilege of prayer, to bring down the power of God in Liverpool as it was never seen before. There are enough of us here to so pray that every seat in this vast auditorium will be packed every night. It is possible for every one of us so to pray, that not only the building be full of people but full of the presence and power of the Lord God Almighty." He left them with the challenge, "Will you pray?"
The Mission commences
The mission commenced on Sunday 6th November 1904 and was scheduled to last for eleven weeks, with a two-week break over Christmas. In all there were 1,000 stewards, and 3,400 singers, of which there was a sizeable number from the large Liverpool Welsh Community, who were thrilled at the opportunity of taking part. It was intended that Torrey and Alexander would minister twice a day, except Fridays, this being their rest day. There was a special interest in this mission nationally, with reporters from The Daily Express, and the Daily Mail being present on the first day of the mission. Three meetings were held on Sundays and at the first meeting held at 8.00am which Dr Torrey was unable to attend, Mr Alexander spoke to them and said that many people would be praising God for all who had come to Christ during the last mission. There was, however a greater expectation that God was going to do mighty things throughout the city, and it was his hope that not only Liverpool be moved but that all England might be won for Christ. He went on to exhort them to do personal work for Christ, saying that it was chronicled in the New Testament that Jesus had talked to nineteen different persons individually and was the model soul winner, and he counselled them to follow the example of Christ. Numbers were brought to Christ in the afternoon meeting, but the evening meeting was remarkable in many respects. Very few people believed that the vast hall would be filled on the first day, but as the doors were opened at 6.00pm almost immediately a long, steady stream of people began to flow in. The singing started at 7.00pm and an hour later there was not a single vacant seat on platform, choir, or gallery. Mr Alexander gave directions for some of the people in the aisles to come on to the platform where the preachers usually sat, and so a steady stream poured on to the platform. Orders were given to close the doors, and it was calculated that there were thousands of people outside who were unable to obtain admittance. It was a never-to-be-forgotten experience. Everybody was astonished at such a great throng on the very opening night, and hearts were grateful that God had at that early stage in the mission began to bless the work of His servants. Dr Torrey and Mr Alexander acknowledged that it was the best opening day that they had ever had. Three rows were cleared for inquirers after the appeal equal to six rows in the Philharmonic Hall. Nearly all the people who came forward were young men.
For the following six weeks, however, until the Christmas vacation came round, the winter weather had properly set in, and all the varieties of climate came with a vengeance. Rain, fog, sleet, frost, and snow followed one another with aggravating persistency, and sometimes two or more of them came together. Through the great hall icy draughts that chilled to the very bone raced with deadly violence. It seemed as if all the material elements had entered into a combination against the Mission. This was at times very difficult. On one bitterly cold afternoon a tiny handful of people sat near the front of the area, huddled together, willing to do battle with the unruly elements rather than miss the meeting. The meeting, however, was not curtailed, with both Dr Torrey and Mr Alexander both giving of their best. It was a strange thing that the smallest meeting that the evangelists had ever experienced in their British tour was held in the Tournament Building, but it was also the scene of their largest ever meeting. Despite all this the evening meetings were always well attended and rarely fell below 6,000 people, with an average of around 100 conversions at each evening service. The Sunday services were nearly always very well attended, the second Sunday in particular was as full as the first week. The chief steward declared that there must have been nearly 18,000 people in and around the building. The corridors, he said, were full of people, whilst outside in the yard there were great crowds, and open-air addresses were given for their benefit.
Mr Alexander’s exhortation to do personal work for Christ certainly didn’t fall on deaf ears, as many wonderful things were done by the workers of the mission. Several processions were undertaken with the view to attract people to the meetings. On one Saturday a procession of around 300 to 400 people started from St Domingo Church headed by the City Mission Concertina Band and the Band of the Gospel Hall, Heyworth Street. The procession, as it made its way through the streets, attracted considerable attention. The bands played and the people sang, the procession swelling as it went along. Stops were made occasionally when the mission hymns were sung. Another two bands followed up later. The procession arrived at the Tournament Hall in time for the meeting. On another occasion also on a Saturday a band started from St George’s Hall marching through the principal streets between that centre and the Mission Hall, at the head of a column of workers, who distributed literature, and urged the people to come to the service. A lady member of the choir testified that she had been down singing in one of the Sailors’ Missions. God’s Spirit was mightily present there, and one of the workers told her that the influence of the Mission was being felt all along the docks, and in the vessels there.
The weeks prior to the Christmas break were remarkable for the success of the auxiliary meetings that were held in various places in the city. Dr Torrey’s meetings for businessmen at the Corn Exchange were crowded and the lectures were listened to with profound attention. Great attention was also paid to the opposite end of society. Dinner-hour meetings for workmen and factory girls were held at quite a number of works and mills, and much good was done there. Branch missions were conducted in the north and south ends of the city by Rev Musgrave Brown and Gypsy Evans respectively, both of which produced great blessings. At a children’s meeting on a Saturday there were over 400 children who responded to the gospel appeal. In addition to this gatherings were arranged in various quarters of the town for classes of people who could not attend the big meetings. These were addressed by Mrs Torrey and Mrs Alexander and at each service God’s power was manifested. At one such meeting for laundry-girls at a certain home a girl was converted who had been a source of trouble to them. She was not only converted but became a powerful witness to the other girls in the home.
Many remarkable conversions
By the time of the Christmas break there had been 3,841 decisions made for Christ. The great majority of these were by people from Liverpool, but there were also quite a number from other places as far afield as Ireland, Canada, and the United States. There were so many remarkable conversions, including whole families brought to Christ (seven in one family) but space unfortunately does not permit to include them here. However here is a selection of them: -
- One of the workers testified to speaking to a very miserable despairing looking young man in his early twenties. Having led him to Christ this young man then wrote to his father a hundred miles away. His father read the letter at the breakfast-table the next morning, and this led to the conversion of one of his brothers. He in turn wrote to another brother, away in the Isle of Man, who also got converted. The man from the Isle of Man then set to work and after a while he had fifty men in his Bible class, most of whom had accepted Christ.
- One man testified of having been converted with half a dozen of his mates. They had been drinking at a public house and his mates had bet him a gallon of beer that he would not go to the meeting. He took the bet, and the money was lodged in the bar. They went to the mission, and he walked right up to the front. One of his friends went in with him to see that he really did go in, so he had won his gallon of beer, but he never returned for it. His nickname used to be Billy the Boozer and he had gone into that meeting drunk with the purpose of disrupting it, but got converted instead.
- A headmaster of a Wesleyan school testified that 76 of his pupils had been converted in the mission.
- In one factory sixty of the men were converted at the mission. One of them testified that instead of the place being full of swearing and cursing it was now filled with the sound of the mission hymns, and they also had a good Bible study each dinner hour.
- During one of the street processions which was specially organised to attract the careless and indifferent wanderers of the streets to the meetings, they were singing a hymn entitled "everybody should know." Standing amongst a group of sailors was a shipping man, who had at first ridiculed the mission. Very soon he heard the sweet strains of the hymn piercing the air, and as he listened to the phrase, "I have such a wonderful Saviour, that everybody should know," he felt that there was a message for him in the song. He followed the crowd up the street and finally entered the hall merely with the intention of hearing the singing. As the meeting proceeded he was convicted of sin, and at the close of the service went forward to receive salvation.
- One young man said he had had the pleasure of leading twenty-five young converts to Christ and he expected to be able to lead twenty-five adults during the coming week.
- Five young men who got converted during the mission brought three football teams to one of the meetings.
- A policeman whilst standing at his post in Kensington on a cold, raw, frosty night, noticed a poor woman, ill clad, and barefooted, crossing the road, clearly a vagrant. Asking her where she was going, she said that she had nowhere to go. When he asked her if she had heard of the Torrey/Alexander Mission, she said that she had, but that she didn’t have any decent clothes or boots to wear to go in. He asked her to call at his house the next day, and that she would have all the things for her to wear. She called the following day and found the policeman’s wife waiting for her. A new pair of boots was provided, besides sundry articles of clothing. The woman soon made ready and that night accepted Christ as her Saviour, and subsequently rejoiced in her new-found salvation.
- One of the workers had a shop next door to a Chinese laundry, and both she and her friends prayed for the three Chinese in that place. Before inviting them to the Mission they asked them up to their house for a cup of tea. They went to the meeting, and all three of them were converted, and they in turn subsequently sought to win their countrymen for Christ.
- One evening four men were on their way to the theatre when they passed a mission hall, and on hearing a young lady singing, they entered. After she had finished she told them about the mission and said that one of her cousins had been converted by the hymn she had been singing, and who died a few days later. She then said how nice it would be if each one of them went to the mission and brought a friend with them. All four of them attended the mission and got converted, and said that they were going to tell all their work mates about the mission.
Return from Christmas break
The mission re-commenced on New Year’s Day 1905, after the evangelists had had a holiday in Germany with their families. The rostrum was draped with red cloth, with the words "Welcome Back" in white letters, whilst the front rails were decorated with ivy. They were both very much refreshed after their break and the meetings were even more blessed than in the previous session. Prayer was made that Pentecostal fire would come upon Liverpool during the remainder of the mission. The prayer was certainly answered because there was an average of 1,000 conversions each week, during the final three weeks of the Mission.
On one day a large excursion from Cardiff paid a special visit to Liverpool for the purpose of attending the afternoon and evening meetings. Dr Torrey had recently taken a mission in that city, and the party of around 500 persons was made up of those who had been converted in that mission. After the evening meeting a large company numbering around 2,000 people accompanied them to the Edge Hill Station to see them off. On the platform a huge "song service" was held, and as the company left the station a reporter from the Christian Herald noticed that a number of the porters were heartily joining in the singing. He asked one of them if he had been to the mission, to which he replied "Oh yes. I was converted at the last year’s mission and now I am in the choir. Better still, I am rejoicing in the Lord."
The Lord Mayor’s Luncheon
A very pleasant incident took place on Friday 13th January when Dr Torrey and Mr Alexander were invited by the Lord Mayor to lunch at the Town
Hall. A number of local dignitaries were also invited together with a number of Liverpool ministers including the Rector of Liverpool. The Lord Mayor after luncheon extended a cordial welcome to them and on behalf of the community at large thanked them for their efforts, which were calculated to enhance the life of the city. He said that they were one with them in faith, hope, and Christian charity, and that he was sure that their visit to Liverpool could not fail to do immense good. In response Dr Torrey said that he and his colleagues always felt at home in Liverpool. What he liked particularly about Liverpool was the association of the political life with the religious life. Everything that made for righteousness made for the political stability of the community.
Banquets for the poor
In between the first and second missions held in Liverpool, Mr Alexander had got married, and the choir, instead of making a gift to the married couple, decided instead to give a treat to the poor, knowing well that this thoughtfulness and consideration for others would be appreciated by both of them more highly than anything done directly for themselves. This did indeed please them very much, and Friday 6th January was therefore fixed for the event. No fewer that 2,300 invitations were issued, and these were naturally gratefully received. Though the hall doors were not to be opened until 6.30pm, a group of poor, ragged ones assembled around the gates as early as 5.00pm. The company was made up of the young as well as the old, women as well as men. Most of them looked ragged, downcast and forlorn, and numbers of them were dirty, for in their eagerness to reach the feast many of them had not lingered to remove the grime from their hands or faces. They came in just as they were, and found awaiting them a loving welcome. The sad, haggard expression that dwelt on so many countenances soon went when the paper bags containing food were opened and the cups of tea were passed around. During this time the choir of over 3,000 sang many of the favourite hymns, and a brass band also played sweet music. After this the guests were invited to help themselves to the flowers which stood on the tables. Dr Torrey followed this up with an address and 217 of them accepted Christ that night. Another treat for the poor was held on Tuesday 17th January, at which 2,500 were invited to the hall. The tickets of admission were handed out to be distributed to the most deserving cases, efforts being made to reach those who did not participate in the previous treat. The format of the event was similar to the previous one, and again over 200 people accepted Christ that night.
35,000 people arrive on final night
The closing day of the mission was one never to be forgotten. It was estimated that there were 15,000 people inside the building and 20,000 outside. It was therefore decided to hold two meetings and an announcement was sent outside that there would be another meeting. There were four open-air meetings going on outside in the course of the first service. When the first meeting closed at 8.20pm it took about an hour to empty the building and get the new crowd in, and the second service commenced at 9.20pm, and finished at 10.30pm. Around 250 people were converted that night. At midnight a large part of the choir came over and sang in the street in front of Mr Alexander’s house (32 Loudon Grove, Princes Park Gate) so both he and his wife got up and made speeches to them. They had prayer and then went to the front gate and they all filed past and shook hands with them.
The number of conversions during the mission totalled 7,049 people. On the day of departure for Dr and Mrs Torrey a huge crowd assembled to send them off, including 500 persons from Sheffield. Mr Alexander, who returned later, led the thousands assembled in singing some of the hymns of the mission. Dr Torrey said that he had been more than pleased with the general results of the mission. England, he said, was a deeply religious country, but it wanted now and again, he thought, a touch of religious electrification.