The People God has used

Whilst undertaking research into some of the great things that God has done in our region in the past I was particularly struck by some of the amazing people that God has raised up and used to impact our region in a most effective way.

The appointment of J C Ryle, for example, as the first Bishop of Liverpool, a most fervent evangelical, was the cause of much rejoicing not only in Liverpool, but also throughout the country. The circumstances of his appointment are truly amazing as will be read of in chapter 10, which shows the providence of God in such a wonderful way. His successor also, J Chavasse who was greatly influenced by the 1859 revival did much good for Liverpool and was the moving force behind the construction of our marvellous cathedral. Also people like Alexander Balfour, whose monument is in St John’s Gardens, behind St George’s Hall, though not a preacher himself was a hugely significant character in the Christian life of Liverpool, with a great passion for his city.

I have also been struck by a number of powerful evangelists whom God raised up in our region during the 19th Century, whom I had never heard of let alone knew anything about. People like Reginald Radcliffe, William Lockhart and John Hambleton, whom God used during times of revival in an extraordinary way, seeing multitudes coming to faith in Christ during their preaching.

So what was it that the Christians of this period had that brought such spiritual blessing to Liverpool and in which we are perhaps lacking today? There are a number of factors that have become evident to me during my period of research and I would like to suggest some of these as follows: -

  • Their prayer life was on a different level to what it is today.
  • There was a greater eagerness to seek God’s anointing and to empowered from on high, not only in their preaching, but also in other areas of ministry such as in singing and worship.
  • They had a more earnest desire to be clothed with humility, particularly in times of revival when so many thousands were being brought in the kingdom.
  • They preached the gospel clearly and did not compromise on the truth of the Word of God, and they also seemed to show a greater earnestness in their quest to reach the lost for Jesus.
  • There was a much stronger bond of unity amongst the churches, so much so that people from other parts of the country used to comment on this.
  • There was less dependence on human effort and a greater dependence on the Holy Spirit as they sought to reach people with the gospel.

With regard to this last point Mary Lockhart in the biography of her husband said that during the times of God’s blessing there was little attraction in the means used, but there was the supreme attraction – the power of God’s Spirit drawing men to Him. She referred, for example, to the meetings where Brownlow North spoke with such marvellous power, and said that the only singing in his meetings was the 100th Psalm.2 She said that the fact that there would be a meeting was enough to fill a room, and men and women who had been at work all day in the mills would then walk for miles to hear the Word, stand in crowded halls or churches, and then tramp back again late at night, and have to rise early the next morning for work again. Later in her husband’s life when some workers spoke to him about using certain methods to get at the people, he informed them that “a revival can’t be got up, it must be got down!”

I do believe that we have much to learn from these great warriors of Christ. In the process of studying the lives of these men the following impressions have come to me very forcibly which, I’m sure, will come to anyone else who reads of their lives, namely their: -

  • Exceptional prayer life.
  • Powerful anointing in the Holy Spirit.
  • Great earnestness and faith.
  • Steadfastness
  • Little or no fear of man.
  • Little regard for the goods of this world.

I do feel that whatever they had we have to some extent “lost” today, and it is my prayer that God will raise up amongst us men and women in our midst with that same spirit who will impact our generation as forcibly as they did theirs.