The early years
Ministry in Liverpool and surrounding areas
Revival in Aberdeen & around Scotland
Ministry in South & West
Across the continent
The final years and conclusion
Some miscellaneous anecdotes and quotations
Appendix - Reginald Heber Radcliffe (his son)
Though very few people will have heard of him today, Reginald Radcliffe was in fact probably the best known layman of his day. As with William Lockhart, also from Merseyside, he never left his secular employment until the end of his life. Nevertheless his lifetime accomplishment was truly remarkable, considerably more than many could hope for who are in full-time ministry. As with many of his contemporaries he had little regard for denominational differences but laboured exclusively for the wider interests of the kingdom of God. He worked alongside many of the great evangelists and preachers of the day and was frequently looked to for counsel and guidance and for finding openings for the gospel, which he did very effectively. One example of this, as will be mentioned later, was when John Hambleton, whilst already engaged in fruitful ministry in Preston, had the impression laid on his heart that he should leave what he was doing and go to Manchester in the expectancy of meeting Radcliffe, and to trust God to direct him through His servant. Sure enough within a few days Radcliffe arrived in Manchester from London to preach at the Corn Exchange. He informed Hambleton that God was moving in Bristol and asked both him and two of his colleagues to go there and preach to the many thousands who were expected to gather there. This happened just as he said, and a great move of God was experienced there.
Reginald Radcliffe was not a great preacher (or to use his own words, not a preacher at all), but he was certainly an anointed one and unquestionably a God called evangelist, seeing many thousands brought to Christ during his lifetime. This was particularly so in Aberdeen where it was said that he was the chief human agent that God used during the remarkable revival that took place there. Alvyn Austin described him as "the fiery evangelist of the 1859 revival"¹ and Dr Howard Taylor in the book on his father, Hudson Taylor, referred to him as "that fervent evangelist whose parish was the world and whose aim was nothing less than that the Gospel should be preached to every creature."² Professor Martin of Aberdeen once said of him that he was a man who seemed to have stepped out of the days of the Acts of the Apostles amongst us. His labours were extraordinary, particularly considering that he was a layman. Reading through "The Revival" his name at times seems to appear to be mentioned on every other page, recording him preaching in some part of the country or abroad. Radcliffe was a great man of prayer and also a man of deep humility, and this was undoubtedly one of the key factors in the powerful anointing that rested on him during his lifetime. Though God used him very powerfully on a number of occasions he never allowed this in any way to affect his walk with God and remained in a position of humility and prayerfulness throughout his life.
Lady Harriet Cowper said that he had a living faith, that faith which removes mountains, which knows no obstacle, which blots out the word ‘impossible’ from the Christian vocabulary, because nothing is impossible with God. With great faith he would speak of his love for his Saviour and that fervent, deep and burning love for sinners, which led him to labour with such unflagging zeal for their conversion.
Enduement of power from on high was the all-important thing to Reginald Radcliffe and also for anybody else he worked with. The following article in ‘The Revival’ of 21st February 1861 gives an account of a meeting of Christian workers held at the invitation of Radcliffe to pray for direction as to the means of carrying the Gospel into the thickly-peopled East of London. This is what he said to the workers:-
"We do not so much want a multiplication of agents or more agencies; but there is one little word which describes our greatest need, and this is power. We want the fulfilment of the Saviour’s promise, ‘Ye shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you.’ Two years ago I had the privilege of asking about one hundred and twenty believers to tea. They came, not to pray for the conversion of sinners, but for power on themselves: I observed from that day one man particularly. He had been a man of God before: but thenceforward a ten-fold blessing accompanied him – souls seemed to be slain under him. We come tonight for special prayer. If one thing is more pleasing to God than another, it is that we should be more holy: pray earnestly for that."
Studying the life of this great man of God has been an inspiration to me personally and I think that it is a shame that history has not taken more notice of him than in my view has been warranted. It is my hope that by writing this booklet that this will in some degree be re-addressed and also that what God did through him will be an encouragement and inspiration to faith as it has been to mine.
The content of this book has been mainly drawn from the biography of his life entitled, "Recollections of Reginald Radcliffe" by his wife.
¹ China’s Millions: the China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society 1832-1905 (p293).
² Hudson Taylor and The China Inland Mission (chapter 26).
The Early Years
Reginald Radcliffe was born in Great George Square, Liverpool on 10th January 1825. He was the sixth son of Richard Radcliffe, an eminent lawyer. His family later moved to Hayman’s Green, in a lovely old house near West Derby Village, and after being privately educated for a while with his brothers he attended the Royal Institution in Liverpool, at that time a large public school. After leaving school, being destined by his father for a legal career he was articled as a law clerk in the office of a Mr George Duncan. It was in this profession that he remained for the rest of his life, a career that was also followed by his son Reginald Heber Radcliffe.
The date of his conversion is not clear, but he does seem to have been a Christian from a very early age, and to have been eagerly involved in Christian work from being a youth. One of the activities in which he became involved was the commencement of a ragged school together with a friend of his, Alfred Jones. Somebody who knew him in those early years, once visited this school, in Old Swan, which he said was being carried on in the face of great opposition and difficulties. He remarked how impressed he was with Radcliffe’s prayer in the worker’s meeting, which he said was so earnest and real, with such evident faith and expectation in his approach to God that this made a lasting impression upon him.
Open air meetings
Fierce opposition was one of the things that Radcliffe was familiar with from an early age and this was particularly so at the open-air meetings that he took in Liverpool together with a curate by the name of Rev Wolsey. On a number of occasions he was driven out of Scotland Road with stones for preaching that Jesus was the only Saviour. On one of these occasions Rev Wolsey said to Radcliffe that he would show him a pulpit and the two young preachers, accompanied by the police as they were driven with stones before the crowd to St John’s Church-yard when Wolsey pointed to a raised grave-stone which Radcliffe soon mounted to preach.
On one occasion while Radcliffe was still a youth he made a special trip on his own to London with the sole object of preaching there in the open-air. Looking around for a suitable pulpit he wandered to Primrose Hill. Standing there on a seat he began with his wonderfully clear voice to read the 53rd Chapter of Isaiah. This unusual sound soon brought him to the attention of a constable, who ordered him to stop speaking. Radcliffe immediately asked him where the bounds of his land were. Being shown the limit, he simply crossed the hedge and began to preach the Gospel within sound of the people on both sides of the hedge.
So eager was the young Radcliffe to spread the Gospel in those days (as indeed he was throughout his life) that one of his many plans for doing so was, many years before the Gideons came on the scene, to place a Bible in the bedrooms of the lodging-houses and hotels of Southport as well as in some of the railway waiting rooms.
His marriage to Jane Hunter
In the autumn of 1849 Radcliffe borrowed a guide book of Wales from a friend, and bag in hand, proceeded to the Pier Head in order to catch a Welsh boat for a holiday trip. Without knowing why, he stood and watched the boat leave without him. Turning round, he gave the guidebook back to his friend, and took a train to Edinburgh. He was at that time much in prayer that if it were for God’s glory he should be married, and trusted Him to point him to the right person. The diverted holiday arrangement indeed proved to be God’s leading because it was in Edinburgh that he met the girl who was to be his wife and they were married the following year in August 1850, in Liverpool. ¹
Early married life
Their first home was at 15 Percy Street in Liverpool, close to where the Anglican Cathedral is now situated. One of their first engagements was the commencement of a prayer meeting on Saturday evenings and this was kept up for many years wherever they happened to be living. This time of prayer was looked upon as a wellspring of blessing by both the Radcliffes and also a band of co-workers who joined with them, which resulted in many answers to prayer in the years that followed.
Ministry amongst the colliers of Prescot
About a year after they were married they moved to Rainhill, about 10 miles from Liverpool where they stayed for about 9 months and the country around was soon scoured for opportunities of telling people of God’s love. The colliers of Prescot were particularly visited and brought to their cottage. So black were they, that once the dining-room carpet had to be lifted and almost washed after a Saturday night prayer meeting. The colliers came from their work hungry and unwashed, but God moved amongst them in a most wonderful way. One night, instead of going away when the time was over, several remained on their knees until a late hour, crying for mercy and three came to the Lord that night with another one left in a state of great anxiety. This young man’s wife was ill and he pleaded with the Lord to not let her die until she had come to know the Saviour. After a severe illness she recovered and with joy her husband brought her to the Saturday night prayer meeting with twelve pennies to be given to the Lord as a thank offering. One by one God led many of these colliers from Snig Lane, Prescot to salvation.
Visit of Queen Victoria to Rainhill
Reginald Radcliffe throughout his life often sought to maximise every opportunity of preaching the gospel. One such occasion was in 1851 when Queen Victoria, accompanied by Prince Albert and the young Prince of Wales, was visiting the neighbourhood of Liverpool. She left the train at Rainhill Station to stay with the Earl of Sefton at Croxteth Hall. Obtaining permission for some of the town missionaries to come to Rainhill for the occasion they distributed tracts to the vast crowds of people who had come to see the Queen. When the work was over they met up together in the cottage for a time of prayer and singing.
This was to be the first step towards a great movement which Radcliffe afterwards instituted in sending the Gospel to many of the crowds at racecourses, executions and fairs throughout the UK, which we will see in an outstanding way in the following chapters.
¹ Jane was also born in Liverpool.
Ministry in Liverpool & surrounding area
The great revival, known as the 1859 revival, which had its origins in America in 1857 in New York, affected nearly every part of the UK, even in many parts of Southern Ireland, notably County Kerry. Liverpool was one of the leading centres of this great revival. By the time it had hit these shores in 1859, however, revival had already been in progress some four years in part of Liverpool, and Reginald Radcliffe was a key figure through whom God brought this revival about.
Liverpool City Centre revival
In the autumn of 1854 the Radcliffes came back to Liverpool and lived in Chatham Place, in Edge Hill. A few years prior to this a new building had been erected in Lime Street by the name of Teutonic Hall (built 1847) near Lime Street Station, and in the location of the closed Forum Cinema, on the corner of Elliot Street. It had been put into the heart of Radcliffe to hire this building each Sunday for the purpose of reaching the masses in Liverpool who were non-churchgoers. His idea was to hold services from 10am until 9.30pm, without intermission. Each service was to continue for only half an hour and would included singing, prayer and a short, pointed address. It was to be open to everybody and although there was no difficulty in getting speakers, there was the understandable fear that people would not come. A week’s prayer was, therefore, arranged, night and day for God to move powerfully at the meetings. Others joined with them, including John Hambleton and a group of workers with him, and an extraordinary power of God rested upon the whole company as numbers began to swell during the week of prayer. Further encouragement was received when John Hambleton’s sister had a dream during this week of prayer, in which she saw running waters of revival flowing through the streets of Liverpool. Their expectations were fully met because the hall was crowded with people when the first service began at 10.00am. By 11.00am God’s power began to take hold of the people, and by 12noon it was necessary to remove anxious mourners, groaning under conviction of sin to the upper room. Christians who had come to the service were drafted in to point people to the Saviour, and this was particularly so after the evening services in the local churches when the congregations were dismissed and many more Christians were able to help. The meetings carried on until midnight with many people coming to the Lord in a very dramatic way. A more detailed account of this astonishing move of God is given in the section on John Hambleton. However it was a very powerful revival which continued for some time. Hambleton remarked that the running waters, which broke out in Liverpool in 1855, were still running 10 years later, fresher than ever.
Open Air Meeting at Exchange Flags, Liverpool
Following on from the momentous move of God that broke out in the Teutonic Hall, Radcliffe and a Rev Miller called upon and invited Dr Hugh McNeile a well-known preacher of the day to come and preach in the open air on a Sunday afternoon on the Exchange Flags in the City Centre. This he agreed to do and it seemed as though the whole of Liverpool turned out to hear him preach the simple Gospel. The response was astonishing and after he finished, a solemn march of the people proceeded, past the City Hall, filling Castle Street and Lord Street from side to side. Jane Radcliffe commented that never before had such a sight been seen on a Sunday afternoon in Liverpool, nor had it ever been repeated. At this period, she said, house-to-house visitation of Liverpool was organised and was well carried out by Christian men and women, amongst whom the town missionaries were prominent.
Fair in Scotland Road, Liverpool
Though his wife did not mention this event in Radcliffe’s biography, it was referred to by John Hambleton. As mentioned in the last chapter Radcliffe was on the receiving end of a lot of persecution when preaching in Scotland Road, but his persistence, however, paid off. At the very place where he had been driven away with stones, a fair was held and Radcliffe attended the fair and engaged in what was described as a "penny show." Hambleton spoke of a powerful move of God breaking out there with "sinners being broken down and crying for mercy until midnight, with labourers preaching outside to crowds of people.
Visits to Fairs and Racecourses
Radcliffe along with a team of workers, after much prayer, arranged for large texts of scripture to be printed and taken on to the Liverpool Racecourse, so that whilst some of them were preaching, the crowds would be able to read the Word of God. Some distributed tracts, others held boards, whilst others were engaged in preaching and conversing with the people. Full details of this occasion, and of an amazing angelic intervention, are given in the section on John Hambleton. On the first day they were assaulted by some gentlemen and about 15 policemen, but they failed to remove them on that occasion. On the third day, however, a plot was formed to attack the preachers, and a crowd of ruffians evidently from the grandstand, marched across the course to the spot where they were. They broke the Scripture placards, threw some of them over the rails, including Radcliffe and wounded one of them so that blood flowed from his temple. Hambleton, however, was rescued by angelic intervention and so elated was he by this that he started leaping and dancing about, shouting praises to God. This so startled the mob that they left off beating the preachers, until eventually the police arrived and marched them off the course. They immediately went into a sister’s house and sang praises to God for their deliverance.
Persecution and violence were not infrequent on such occasions. At Reading, for example, he was rescued in a wounded condition and taken to a doctor and then taken to somebody’s house to be taken care of.
In May 1857 some of the preachers were apprehended for preaching the Gospel in the open air. The people shouted "Shame!" "Shame!" but they were taken to the police station, where they remained about 3 hours. They were examined by a Major French, a magistrate, and refusing to give them bail, were ordered to be locked up for the night. Richard Weaver was one of those arrested and both he and Radcliffe were locked up in cells, side by side. A doctor went to the court and requested that the prisoners might be accommodated with rugs, otherwise the physical consequences might be serious. Major French said that if the doctor would become bail, he would accept him. This the doctor did, but didn’t communicate this to the prisoners. The constable then went to the prisoners and asked them to go out of the prison and that they were at liberty to go. However they refused to be discharged privately, saying that the officers had taken them publicly through the streets and that they therefore wished to be publicly discharged by the magistrates. After about 20 minutes the door was suddenly opened and Major French with his own hands assisted by the Police Superintendent thrust them out of the prison. The expelled prisoners were then conducted to the street lamp, at which they had been arrested. The next day they appeared before the magistrates and were discharged on the grounds that it had not appeared that a breach of the peace had been committed by anyone, which was greeted with loud cheers. Radcliffe in reply said that he had no vindictive feelings towards anyone, but that they had been taken publicly from preaching in the open street, in the open daylight and before all Chester, as a culprit to the Bridewell (a house of correction in Chester where petty crimes were punished by confinement and hard labour), and that he had, therefore, refused to be liberated until it was done publicly by the magistrates. He said that they had come simply to spread the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Some may think, he said, that the Race week is an unusual time to select for the purpose, but that on the contrary it was a most suitable time for preaching the Gospel to pickpockets, prostitutes and criminals.
Praying for the power of the Holy Spirit
Somebody who accompanied Radcliffe to the Chester Races later commented that he had been much surprised at the simplicity of his faith and at the same time the true, manly boldness, that feared no hostility from any class of men, however depraved. He seemed to be a living commentary upon the words "who is he that will harm you, if you be followers of that which is good?" Another thing that he observed of Radcliffe was his constant prayerfulness, and that he would arrange days beforehand with others for special prayer on behalf of the place in which he was going to labour. He said that in open air services he would go around the circled assembly, while one was addressing the crowd, his eye filled with anxiety and his lips trembling with emotion, as he whispered to believers as he passed them "brethren, pray for the power of the Holy Spirit on the people." He believed that the reason for Radcliffe’s success as an evangelist and soul winner was due to the special honour that he put upon the Divine Spirit, giving Him His place in the application of the redemption work of Jesus Christ.
Outpouring of the Spirit at Stanney, Ellesmere Port
While Radcliffe and his wife were lodging at a farmhouse in Stanney (Little Stanney?) just outside Ellesmere Port with a Primitive Methodist couple a special prayer meeting was arranged at another couple’s house in the same village. When they arrived with Richard Weaver the people begged Radcliffe and Weaver to preach the Gospel. This they refused to do until special prayer had been made. When they went into the room, however, they observed that a sumptuous tea had been prepared. Radcliffe said to his wife that they must have some of the silver and cake taken off the table, otherwise the prayer meetings would not be able to spread, because the humble brothers and sisters would not be able to afford to have prayer meetings like that. Mrs Radcliffe, therefore, spoke to the host explaining that it was their desire for prayer to be held up and down in many houses, rich and poor, and that their beautiful tea table might frighten some from gathering their friends together for prayer, if they were unable to lay on a similar spread. The host agreed to do so, although somewhat hesitant at first, and after tea, prayer began in their house, and such prayer it was – the house seemed shaken! Two sisters clasped each other and then fell back as in a faint. Jane Radcliffe showed alarm in her face, but one of the men said that "it is only the glory!" Radcliffe himself was so overpowered that he lay full length upon the floor. Hearts and tongues were touched by God’s Spirit that night. Jane Radcliffe summed up this powerful outpouring of God’s Spirit in this way, "in one place, with one accord, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit – at Pentecost, at Stanney."
Preaching at Backford Church, Chester
Having preached at all the villages north of Chester, Radcliffe tried to preach at Backford also, and asked for permission of the Vicar of Backford Church to preach in the schoolroom, which was refused. A large room at the public house was also refused. He decided, therefore, to preach at the gate of the church, before and after the afternoon service. He went into the morning service with Richard Weaver and gave out a number of tracts. Before the afternoon service he noticed a policeman standing at the door of the church, but went ahead anyway and preached. He then went into the service, which had a much larger attendance than normal, no doubt much to the surprise of the vicar. After the service he again took up his post and preached to another large congregation. When the servants from Chorlton Hall got home the squire sent for the coachman and asked him where he had been. He told him that he had been listening to Mr Radcliffe preach. Expressing disapproval of what had happened he dismissed him and then called the butler, who had also been listening to Mr Radcliffe. He asked him if he didn’t think that it was wrong of Mr Radcliffe to act in this way, to which the butler replied that the vicar never preached as he did nor did he ever preach half as well! Calling then the lady’s maid he asked if she also had been to hear Radcliffe to which she said that she had. He then asked her where he took the people during the service, to which she informed him that he took them into the church. When he heard that, he backed down and said that he would not have a word said against him!
The 1859 Revival in Liverpool
As previously stated the 1859 Revival which affected nearly every part of the UK was particularly powerful in Liverpool, although like other parts of England it was slower to gain momentum than it had been in Ulster, Scotland and Wales. Nevertheless as time went on God did a wonderful work in Liverpool, bringing many evangelists from other parts of the UK and also America who preached in various halls and churches around Liverpool. Whenever he could Radcliffe took part in the wonderful work that God was doing, and he held some powerful meetings in both Hope Hall and the Concert Hall. In the meetings that he took in Hope Hall, where many people were anxiously enquiring how they could be saved, he was joined by William Lockhart to whom he and others involved in the services eventually entrusted this work.
Meetings in the Concert Hall ¹
The meetings that he held in the Concert Hall in Lord Nelson Street came to the notice of a Liverpool paper that gave a wonderful account of what God was doing there. At the particular meeting that they attended they described how Mr Radcliffe had asked a number of men to leave the hall, and go into the streets adjacent, preach to the people, and invite all to come back with them to the hall. About a dozen men obeyed the call and Mr Radcliffe then proceeded with his address. While the congregation was singing a hymn, the sound of many voices was heard in the street, which gradually came nearer and then Mr Radcliffe announced that his friends were returning. They came into the hall followed by crowds of the lowest outcasts of both sexes, with whom the neighbourhood teemed, and the congregation in the hall took up the hymn that they were singing. The reporter described the scene as being very impressive and he gave his best wishes and support to this work. At these meetings Mr Radcliffe called on his colleagues to do all that they could to try and find other halls or rooms both in Liverpool and Birkenhead and also stressed the great need for more labourers because of the extraordinary work that God was doing.
At another meeting in the same hall, the crowds were so great that hundreds of people were unable to gain admission. Rather than having them sent away, Radcliffe requested the congregation to continue singing whilst seated and space was so economised as to admit several hundred more people.
It was in Aberdeen in Scotland, however, that he saw the greatest move of God in his ministry, and this is the subject of the next chapter.
¹ The Concert Hall in Lord Nelson Street, was a spacious building with a gallery on three sides, and had a seating capacity of 2,700 people.
Revival in Aberdeen & around Scotland
Towards the end of 1858 it became clear to the Radcliffes that God was beginning to open doors for him to preach the gospel in other parts of the country and that this would involve much absence from their beloved home in Liverpool, which was very precious to them. As Jane Radcliffe had decided that she would rather be homeless than husbandless, they decided to give up their house and together with their three children go wherever the Lord would call them, and after they did this Radcliffe felt so much more free to follow "The Pillar" as he described the Lord’s leading. Many places were visited, many addresses were given and many were brought to Jesus. His beloved Liverpool, however, was very much graven on his heart and wherever opportunity arose he returned there to preach to his countrymen, taking special meetings in either Liverpool or Birkenhead. He also, of course, had his business to attend to in Liverpool, although how he managed to do this effectively is not at all clear.
The spirit of prayer falling on the people.
In those days God was moving very powerfully in Scotland, and the call soon came for them to move up there to preach the Gospel, and in particular Aberdeen where he would become what was described as the chief human agent in the revival there. What needs to be stressed is the importance that prayer had in all this, both in their lives and that of their co-workers which is something that cannot be overstated. Prior to their trip there Jane Radcliffe recalls that, "in those days the spirit of prayer so fell upon the pleaders that the flight of time seemed forgotten. Strong men would be found stretched on the floor crying to God till bodily strength was exhausted. They had, however, the spirit of Jacob, and the language of their inmost soul was, ‘we will not let you go except Thou bless us.’" It was on such prevailing prayer that the Radcliffes were wafted to Aberdeen.
They arrived in Aberdeen in November 1858 at the invitation of William Martin, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Aberdeen University, somebody whom Jane Radcliffe described as being a person who was humble, prayerful and full of faith. He had been a friend of Jane Radcliffe’s family for many years, and had heard from Jane’s brother of Radcliffe’s earnest desire to spread the good news of the gospel. Professor Martin had hoped to secure the use of an established church, but he was initially disappointed and for a time they had to content themselves with a small mission room in Albion Street and a few children to speak to. It was not long, however, before many of these children were converted and the change of heart and life at home, in the nursery, and at school was so evident that the parents began to attend the meetings also and they also were converted. The churches and the hearts of the ministers opened gradually and the people began to crowd into the meetings. The Music Hall was taken and day by day Radcliffe was surrounded by an increasing number of earnest workers, one of whom was Mr Grant of Arndilly, a noted revivalist in the 1859 Revival.
Meetings packed to capacity
The meetings soon became packed and no sooner had one service finished than the people crowded in and filled the churches again and again. Sometimes two churches close together would be crammed with people at the same time. All this, as Jane Radcliffe recalls, was just to hear the simple story of God’s love from a living tongue with three or four meetings on weekdays or five or more on Sundays, as well as conversations with anxious enquirers whether in churches or private houses. At times he was compelled to send the people away simply because his bodily strength gave way.
About the same time as the Radcliffes arrived in Aberdeen, Brownlow North, an aristocrat and relative of Lord North, the Prime Minister, arrived also to hold a two week crusade there. Although he had only been converted four years previously, he was being powerfully used by God in revival ministry. When he found out that Radcliffe was in Aberdeen he sought for his active co-operation in the meetings, which he willingly gave, and they saw a real harvest of souls during those meetings. At the first meeting of the crusade it took the evangelist some 5 minutes to squeeze his way through the crowd to the pulpit.
On the verge of a great work
It soon became evident to Radcliffe that he would have to prolong his stay in the city beyond the period originally thought of. It was necessary for Brownlow North to move on because of other commitments and he encouraged the people to rally around his "comrade in the fight." Radcliffe wrote at that time that he trembled there on the verge of a great work and that all he wanted to do was to lie in the dust and be guided from on high. He asked his friends to pray for "a poor worm." In this spirit he toiled on day by day, speaking several times a day and often several times at one meeting, so unwilling were the people to disperse.
The closing days of 1858 saw the work of God in Aberdeen becoming still wider and deeper. Radcliffe showed characteristic anxiety lest he should be lifted up in his spirit by reason of the honour put upon him as now the chief human agent. He entreated his friends to pray that he might be kept low, and desired that they should not speak highly of him. Others who worked alongside him in those days, besides Brownlow North, were Grattan Guinness, Peter Drummond, Hay Macdowell Grant and John Gordon of Parkhill.
The physical strain on him was great as he was being called on to give three or four addresses daily and on Sunday up to six or seven addresses and it was only the special sustaining power of God that preserved him in the midst of such incessant labour, mental and physical. Amidst all this giving out he was also aware of the need to keep lowly and be filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
Opposition from the established Church
During all this he did encounter opposition, not from the people but from church leaders, particularly from the established church and most of them did not open their doors to him. Some said that the doctrine of instant pardon that he preached was a dangerous one, others accused him of abolishing the law, and others charged him with undue excitement and others prophesied that the converts would not stand. The fact that Radcliffe was a layman, however, was a matter of offence to many of them. The opposition that he experienced from the established church, however, actually helped, rather than hindered the revival, so far as the attendance was concerned. The people flocked to the meetings in crowds. When one service was over, some went away, but their places were immediately filled by those rushing in at other doors. Sometimes they would arrive at a church only to find that the doors had been locked against them. On such occasions they would preach from a cab, instead of the church pulpit, but the work went on all the same, with many people being converted. Radcliffe commented at the time that the whole of Scotland seemed white to harvest. Lord Kintore, a man of much repute in the Free Church, joined him also at this time, and sought to strengthen him in the work.
A mighty outpouring
Extraordinary things were happening all around. Groups of Christians going to and from the services made the streets of the city ring with their happy singing of the hymns which then came into such favour – ‘Oh, happy day that fixed my choice,’ ‘There is a fountain filled with blood,’ and many others.
Cottage meetings in various parts of the city, and gatherings in the surrounding villages, for the preaching of the Gospel, sprang up afterwards. The Aberdeen YMCA was then started – which subsequently proved to be a blessing to many, and a nursery of workers for the home and foreign fields.
Divinity students, medical and art students, young men in shops and offices, having themselves been blessed, became centres of blessing to others. Thus the light spread far and wide."
At a meeting in a boarding school for young gentlemen, a few simple words were spoken and the hearts of all were bowed down, so manifest was the power of God. Meetings were held for the rough boys at Old-Mill Reformatory with remarkable results. At a boarding school for girls, many of the girls, being about seventeen and eighteen years of age broke out, weeping bitterly. God poured out the Spirit as a mighty flood, sweeping away all self-reliance and laying souls prostate at the foot of the cross. From the city the movement spread out to Old Aberdeen, which had been proverbial for its spiritual darkness.
A remarkable incident
Dr R McKilliam testified, as follows, of a meeting that he attended in an exceptionally large building, which he said, was crowded. "People of every denomination, and from all parts, for many miles around, had flocked to hear him. I think most of us were disappointed. We had expected something entirely out of the ordinary in eloquence and learning. The address was short, and was simpler than what we were accustomed to. At the close, Mr Radcliffe invited those who were anxious to receive the salvation of their souls, to remain. Some of us, I regret to say, did not expect many to stay, after the disappointing sort of address to which we had listened, and we had what we expected – nobody remained.
Then we had such a rebuke, and such a lesson of simple faith in God, as the writer will never forget. That man of child-like faith stood up, and said to the handful of workers who had remained behind looking at him with blank disappointment written in every face, ‘Friends, have faith in God. Let us ask God to send them back.’ Then he prayed, as a child would speak to his father. While he prayed, one by one the people began to drop in; by-and-by in twos and threes, and later on in crowds, until, before the prayer was finished and a hymn sung, the big Kirk was again one-third full. (On their way home, the villagers had been stricken with conviction, as if a Divine hand had stopped them and compelled them to return.) ¹ Then what a night we had! There was a wondrous breakdown; boys, girls, young men and women, old, grey-haired fathers and mothers wept together like babies. Our brother was only able to be with us one night at the time. Yet, for many, many months we continued to reap, and the place was literally changed. For a long time the ordinary topics of conversation were forgotten in real, serious, spiritual talk; croquet parties, social evenings, etc., were set aside for prayer-meetings and Bible readings, and we never for a long time came together without expecting manifest blessing."
The power of communion with God
Rev H M Williamson testified that Mr Radcliffe used to wander in the woods alone with God. While thus holding communion with God, through His Word, some text or truth apprehended him so as to take possession of him. Thus held by the truth, when the evening came and the meeting was held, he poured it forth like torrents of lava, blistering the conscience, awakening the sleeper, terrifying the careless, and in the bright light of the Spirit revealing the Lamb of God. The Word at his mouth, was a hammer – it broke the rocks; it was a fire- it melted the hearts of men. Then followed the meetings for inquirers, when, with Divine wisdom and
tenderness, he was found binding up the broken-hearted, pouring in oil and wine, and pointing clearly to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.
Where is your faith?
Rev Alexander Forbes testified of an incident illustrating Radcliffe’s strong faith. "A group of us were being driven to a meeting and after prayer for a blessing, Mr Radcliffe said, ‘Now you will all be required tonight to speak a word to the anxious.’ I replied that I would be glad to do so if there were any. ‘Where is your faith?’ said the evangelist; ‘the church will be filled with anxious ones.’ Out of the congregation that evening three or four hundred remained to be spoken with in the after-meeting. It showed the power that accompanied the address, and the faith of him who delivered it."
What must we do to be saved?
A further testimony was given by a Rev J More as follows:- A number of earnest Christians were driven over with Mr Radcliffe in the private omnibus of the Duchess of Gordon. I very vividly remember that the journey was filled with a succession of prayer and praise. It was like the march of Jehoshaphat and his followers to the battlefield. It was a dismal, rainy, northern night, yet the church was crowded to its utmost capacity. Never having seen any one but a trained and ordained minister in a pulpit before, I remember still the peculiar and uncertain feeling that I had when Mr Radcliffe, in a light tweed suit, appeared in the pulpit. He read the Epistle to the Laodicean Church, and began his address in a very halting manner. I listened with increasing excitement, because I felt sure he would 'stick';’ and sure enough it seemed as if he did. ‘Ah,’ thought I, ‘that comes of his not having gone through the college.’ He covered his face with his hands as if ashamed, and the silence for a few minutes was oppressive. Then he burst into tears, and exclaimed in a voice trembling with emotion: ‘Oh, dear friends, how can a poor worm like me describe to you the glory of my Lord Jesus Christ?’ His mouth was opened, and for twenty minutes the truth poured from his lips like a torrent. At the close of the address hardly anybody left and the workers proceeded to converse with the anxious. I had never attempted such work before, but a beginning had to be made. There was witnessed a sight, which must be a precious memory in heaven: these hard-headed unemotional people were sobbing all over the place, and were literally asking, ‘What must we do to be saved.’
Standing the test of time
The following testimony from Dr Gauld, a medical missionary, some years after describes how the converts from these crusades stood the test of time: -" Many were the decisions for Christ brought about; and most of them have stood the test of after years. Some have become preachers of the word at home (a few of them are still in the front rank of such); others have gone to make known to the far distant heathen the unsearchable riches of Christ; and not a few are still holding honoured and influential positions in business and in municipal affairs as well as in church."
In the spring of 1859 Radcliffe’s health broke down through the work in Aberdeen and it was necessary for him to have a period of prolonged rest, and he gave his farewell address leaving a weeping congregation before the service was over. John Gordon of Parkhill who lived about 8 miles from Aberdeen gave him somewhere to stay where he could enjoy complete rest for a period of time. Somebody else who gave him hospitality at this time was the Duchess of Gordon, an earnest Christian who had followed the work with a close and growing interest.
After Radcliffe had left Aberdeen he travelled for some time around other parts of Scotland including Dundee, Greenock, Perth and Edinburgh. Everywhere he went there were crowds waiting for him, eager to hear the Word of God. At Crief he was joined by Richard Weaver where they addressed a large crowd of people in a field. After the appeal was made they offered to speak with any anxious ones a short distance away. Hundreds seemed to follow them across the field including an old woman who had for years been seeking peace and when she found it she was so overjoyed that she could not express her happiness. One of their colleagues told them afterwards that whole families had remained awake all night for joy. At Braco as they drove up they found the villagers assembled, Bible in hand, just waiting for a passing word. A great work was done by the two evangelists in Edinburgh where for 6 weeks they spoke night and day among all classes of people. There were no fewer than 2,000 people in attendance at the meetings held in the Assembly Hall as well as in the Alhambra Theatre, so much so that the halls were found to be too small for the people that were attending. On one night when there were hundreds who could not get in they stood on the large flight of steps and on the flags below and these were addressed separately with the gospel message. Of the special meetings that he took (including those for children) one was held for cabmen and ostlers of which 400 attended, besides many of their wives. There were 100 enquirers from this meeting alone. On two occasions he visited Carlton Gaol with Richard Weaver and many found salvation after hearing them preach, including one young boy who had intended to hang himself.
One day at a market in Inverness Mr Radcliffe from the market steps tried to address the multitude. In vain! They gave no heed! Guided by Divine wisdom, he said to a man standing by, ‘Can you sing?’ Replying that he could, Mr Radcliffe added, ‘For the Master’s sake sing in Gaelic a part of the twenty-third Psalm.’ He did so, and in a moment every eye was towards them; and the multitude took it up, and in that grave, slow, sweet melody they sang that Psalm which has entwined itself around the heart and memory of every Scotchman. They then received it with gladness.
At a meeting in Rothiemay, the church was crowded, and he commenced his address; but as he went on, those who had come with him felt the absence of the power of God, and with sinking hearts began to call upon God. He too felt that God was not speaking through him. He suddenly halted and said that they must appeal to God, and he poured forth his soul in prayer. As he prayed, the house was as if shaken; every heart was moved; a great awe of God fell upon all, and God wrought mightily. As there was no possibility of dealing with the many anxious people that night, to the astonishment of the more timid, Radcliffe announced a meeting of inquirers, at an early hour the next morning. The Lord rebuked the weak faith of many, and honoured the faith of His servant, by filling the church the next morning with inquirers after God and His salvation.
Rev H M Williamson, Presbyterian Minister gave the following testimony:-
"The great secret of the blessing which came from God to the awakening of whole districts, the quickening of Christians and the salvation of multitudes, was prayer, continued, fervent, believing, expectant. There was never anything very striking in Mr Radcliffe’s addresses, in the way of depth of thought, or freshness of illustration, or novelty of interpretation. Through communion with the living Christ, the Word came forth with living and life-giving power. It was simply a chariot of light and fire, in which Christ rode in conquering power into the hearts of men."
¹ This information (in brackets) came from two other accounts about this incident
Ministry in South & West
Radcliffe was invited to London by the Hon. Baptist Noel, having heard of the revival going on in Aberdeen and had gone there to witness it for himself. Evidence of how real the awakening was among the churches in London at that time was shown by the fact that special services were being concurrently held in places like St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Exeter Hall, St James Hall in addition to numerous others when special services were being held. On his first address in Baptist Noel’s church, John Street Chapel, in Bedford Row, Radcliffe saw God move powerfully. At the close of the service the vestry was filled with enquirers, many of whom were in tears. A similar response was seen in the evening at the Marylebone Presbyterian Church. So God continued to bless his ministry in London, also, which he would continue at intervals for the next two years.
Professional thief hiding in the pews
One evening in John Street Chapel, after the address whilst Radcliffe was walking around looking for anxious souls he found, hid in a high pew in the gallery a professional thief bowed down under the weight of his sins. The thief said that it was no use speaking to him of forgiveness, because he was bound. Radcliffe told him tenderly that Jesus had come to proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to those that are bound. He very soon afterwards came into liberty and some time after that he was seen standing on a chair on a street corner preaching the Gospel of deliverance. Wherever he went large crowds gathered to hear him preach. At the Marylebone Theatre, Portman Market, one Sunday night great crowds gathered including many young men and boys so that the doors had to be closed at an early hour with numbers not being able to get in. Many people waited till a late hour in order to be counselled.
Children weeping bitterly
At the Presbyterian Church in Upper George Street the schoolroom was filled with inquirers. Little children in all parts of the room were in tears, some crying very bitterly, whilst others were radiant with joy, after coming to know the Saviour. And all this was, as Jane Radcliffe reports, the result of no exciting preaching. A hymn or two, a few brief prayers and then quiet conversation, formed the order of the after service. The whole secret was that God was saving souls and that he used feeble means in order that no flesh may glory in His presence.
Young converts on the stage
One night, after meeting friends in Wentworth Street he went off rather dispirited to his meeting in the City of London Theatre, as he thought he had not seen such blessing as he expected. So after preaching there he said that it would be encouraging to faith if any one present who had found the Saviour at the meetings would come ‘behind the scenes.’ One rose, then another, then a third, until from sixty to eight people arose; and after prayer Radcliffe returned to the stage with the young converts following him. He got them singing ‘I do believe, I will believe that Jesus died for me’ which they did with some vigour. A young man nearby sat weeping in agony, but then sprang into liberty and joined them in the singing. It was such a scene that some were weeping and some were laughing for joy.
Visit to thieves lodging house
In Kate Street, Radcliffe and his wife, together with a number of others visited a thieves’ lodging house. They had to pass through a drinking bar and the manager stopped them and said that he wished to count the party, just to ensure that they all came out again. Somebody said to the thieves that a lady had come to speak to them at which all the thieves came forward "en masse" and looked at Jane Radcliffe. Somewhat taken aback she simply said to them that they had only come to shake hands and wish them well. After a time of hearty hand shaking and a kind welcome from them, they gave them the good news of the Gospel, and then departed with none of them missing!
Address to businessmen
One Sunday afternoon at the Marlborough Rooms, he addressed a large number of young businessmen. He began by saying, ‘I will speak for five minutes, and then converse with any who are in soul-anxiety.’ He did speak, literally, for five minutes, with great tenderness and power, on ‘I am the Door.’ Every word seemed to tell. When he finished, the hall was a very ‘Bochim,’ (Judges 2:5) full of men seeking, with many tears, the way of salvation. At the same place at an early ‘before breakfast’ meeting for young men, the floor of the room was literally covered with broken-hearted inquirers; and one had to step among them with holy carefulness, like a surgeon on a battlefield.
Pastor Frank White testified of his ministry in London as follows:- "Reginald Radcliffe spoke in various rooms and chapels in the West of London, always in that same earnest, impassioned way, which has characterised him to this hour – his zeal for the salvation of souls apparently consuming him. I soon got into yoke with him, only, of course, as an underling, helping to pick up the ‘slain of the Lord’ through his preaching, which were very many. Those too who fell under his piercing words were cut to the very quick. His blade, if not very richly set, and though rough and rugged of handle, had nevertheless a keen edge, and cut deep. There was a mighty power behind it. I remember he would sometimes seem on the point of breaking down; then covering his face with his hands, he would burst into tears, and in a few broken sentences, tenderly beseech his hearers to be ‘reconciled to God.’"
A correspondent from the Presbyterian Witness of Halifax, N.S. Canada testified:- "As soon as Mr Radcliffe opened his mouth, you felt as if a current of electricity were coming direct from the lips of the speaker to your very heart. He discoursed upon religion just as a merchant would do about the markets, or a lawyer about jurisprudence, or a shoemaker about shoes. No wonder he is everywhere listened to with the deepest and the warmest interest; and that Providence appears very much to be using him and his fellow evangelist as the means of causing to break out, in the metropolis at last, that revival of religion of which the signs have been so long hovering on the horizon."
Radcliffe’s last evening in London was on 27th June 1860 and they had a prayer meeting afterwards, which was attended by a number of friends including Lady Rowley and Lady Trowbridge.
Crowds of 10,000 people at Clifton Downs
The following Sunday he spoke in the Broadmead Rooms in Bristol at which the crowd was so great that he had to speak outside as well as inside. On Clifton Downs a few days later it was said that the people who came to listen numbered 10,000 people. Because God was working so powerfully he invited numbers of others to join him including John Hambleton. Lady Rowley paid all their expenses and thought that she would go herself to Bristol, but then decided not to do so, but instead to use the ten pounds that it might have cost in sending others.
At a meeting in the Chapel in George Street at which Radcliffe and Baptist Noel were to speak the chapel was soon filled long before the hour of the meeting and by the time the service commenced all available standing room was occupied. The service was opened by George Muller and was followed by Baptist Noel and then Radcliffe spoke. The preaching closed about 9.30pm and when the appeal was made nearly half the congregation responded. Groups were soon formed in every part of the Chapel; deep seriousness permeated the meeting; some were utterly inconsolable, the burden of unpardoned sin was quite oppresive. They made great efforts to restrain their feelings, but it was impossible; and the floodgates of their anguish burst forth in groans and weeping. So great was the number and earnestness of the inquirers, that the meeting was not closed until 11.30pm.
On the Thursday morning at 7.00am there was a prayer meeting at Hope Chapel, Clifton; and at 11.00am another special service in the Victoria Rooms. Baptist Noel spoke, followed by Radcliffe, at which "his burst of denunciation against hollow professors and deluded Pharisees was very startling." In the evening another special meeting was held in the Broadmead Rooms, and the numbers that responded to the appeal was even greater than the night before.
Visit to Ashley Down
A very special occasion for them was when they drove over to Ashley Down, to George Muller’s Orphan Houses, and as Radcliffe was to address the boys, Muller said that he felt at liberty to invite them to tea. He added, however, that he only offered this because Radcliffe was helping the orphans, since he considered that God sent the supply to the orphanage for them. Muller led them in, and it really seemed as if the bread had come from heaven – and so it had. They had a very precious time in the room where Muller used to meet on Sundays. After the meeting was over, he took Radcliffe’s hand in his, and said, "My young brother, above all keeping, keep thy heart; for out of it are the issues of life." This word was treasured up, and was well remembered to his last day on earth.
Together with Shuldham Henry, the barrister, he visited Exeter, Barnstable, Bideford, Stratton, Taunton, Weymouth, Bridport and Sherborne. At each place where they spoke their visits were usually very brief, seldom staying more than one night in each place, and having to refuse pressing invitations to a number of neighbouring towns and they exhorted people to cry to the Lord of the harvest to send out evangelists throughout the land.
At Lowestoft a great blessing fell on the people. The meeting was held in a railway shed this being the only place that was big enough to hold the people. They visited Lodden, Norwich, Ipswich and Barnet. At
Barnet he had the great privilege of meeting Dr David Livingstone in the place where he was staying.
On 6th March one night was given to Brighton. On that morning a young lady, worldly and careless was taking a ride, when all at once her horse became unmanageable, and bolted. Somehow it was stopped – and her life saved – just opposite the Chapel where Radcliffe and Shuldham Henry were that night to speak. After her fright, and in the excitement, she looked round to see where she was; and noticing the large placards on the Chapel announcing that evening’s meeting, said, "Here my life has been saved; and instead of going to the entertainment as I intended, I will come to this Chapel and hear these gentlemen." Thus Georgia Hodgson was gloriously saved that very night on the spot in that little Chapel. She became a great witness for the Lord and joined Radcliffe and Henry later on when they were ministering in Brussels. Another person saved that night was a Mrs Somerville and she too was much used in speaking to others.
Huge crowds at Winchester
At Winchester Radcliffe was chosen to cast the net for a draught, where 7,000 gathered to hear him in the St John’s Rooms. He first spoke at some length to believers followed by an address to the unsaved. When the message was finished numbers of people remained with many crying out to God for mercy. One abandoned woman, suddenly sprang into liberty and started singing out, her face resplendent with joy, the chorus, "I do believe, I will believe that Jesus died for me." She was led out, singing at the top of her voice the rest of the hymn, but it proved to be no hindrance to the others around because it was a time of deep reality. The woman’s soul was tuned for praise after a life of rebellion, and caught that moment to confess before all her joy at being reconciled.
At one of the places that Radcliffe and Henry spoke the curate was converted and immediately stood up and confessed Christ. Radcliffe testified, " This has been a glorious journey – a flood at every place; souls rejoining at every spot!"
Across the Continent
The invitation for Radcliffe and Shuldham Henry to go to Paris was given by Madame Andrè Walther, whose son, a banker was converted in one of their meetings soon afterwards. Radcliffe’s first address was given in a Wesleyan Chapel and was translated by a William Monod. His heart was so full that he burst into prayer in the middle of the address. Monod also prayed, after explaining to the people that Radcliffe had felt constrained to do so, longing that God would Himself touch the hearts of those listening to a language they could not understand, and let it be manifest that his Spirit was working amongst them.
Address to 3000 children
On the following morning at the Napoleon Circus they addressed three thousand children, who with their parents, filled the vast enclosure. In the Assembly-Room of Hert in Paris one of the large halls in the capital, which was used for concerts and mercantile meetings, there were huge queues of people waiting outside the hall long before the meeting started, anxious for the beginning of the service. On each side of the platform was a large committee room, and a full hour before the meeting started both these rooms were filled with men on the one side and women on the other calling out to God for his blessing on the meeting. Radcliffe spoke with great simplicity and earnestness and with a commanding power, which they were not used to. When the appeal was made some 400 people remained for counselling.
Policemen weeping at doors
Over the next few weeks a number of other meetings were held with powerful results. Huge notices were placarded through the city announcing that a revival meeting would be held, the subject being the love of God to sinners, with the text underneath being John 3:16. Not one of them was torn or pulled down. There wasn’t a single meting without conversions, and the very policemen at the doors were seen weeping on account of sin and gladly received the New Testament and tracts which were given to them. Distressed that he could not speak to them in their own language Radcliffe would cry out "you cannot understand me, but I feel as if I could take each of your souls and carry you to the feet of Jesus, declaring to you in his name how ready he is to receive and pardon you."
Not only did the meetings bring numbers of people to Christ but they also had a marked influence on the churches in Paris. Before the crusades a spirit of coldness and worldliness had crept into the church but after the crusades many of the Christians lives were transformed with a renewed desire to devote themselves to God’s service. The chapels and churches were, thereafter, better attended with numerous houses being opened for prayer meetings.
Unbeliever opens door for preaching of Gospel
Sadly, orders were issued shortly afterwards by the Prefect of Police prohibiting any further meetings in public halls and meetings thereafter had to be held in churches and chapels. So incensed was an unbeliever in Paris at the closing of the halls by the Prefect of Police that he opened his gymnasium for the preaching of the gospel, saying that he was doing good for the bodies of the people, but that they were trying to do good for their souls. Responding to the closure of the halls, Radcliffe responded that the police had been stirred and that they had wanted to clip his wings. He sent a letter of appeal to the Minister of the Interior and asked to speak to the Emperor if necessary.
A great harvest
Nevertheless a good work was done by Radcliffe and Henry. Dr Monod said that he had seen more people converted in the 5/6 weeks of their ministry than in 42 years of his own ministry there. Lady Harriet Cowper, who spent a lot of time in Paris remarked that during the previous three years, often with eyes dim with tears, they had in France, Elijah like, looked into the skies, seeking the "little cloud" which would indicate a coming blessing, but during the long season of waiting nothing appeared. They continued, however, with their supplications for an awakening in Paris, and in France with unceasing prayer to the Throne of Grace. With the coming of Radcliffe and Henry all their years of crying out to God bore fruit with great blessing.
Pastor Fred Monod remarked that the general effect produced by these meeting in Paris had been very remarkable and were the subject of every conversation. From 27-30 weekly prayer meetings had been organised to take place in private houses on different days, at different quarters, and their prayer was that the awakening would live, extend itself and would be consolidated in Paris, in the whole of France, and in the neighbouring countries.
Frederic Monnier summed up their efforts in Paris by saying "these missionary laymen, whose words were so powerful and who traversed England in every direction, found their strength in prayer. They were men of prayer. This was their grand method – praying.
Radcliffe and Henry left Paris in June 1861. On the last night that Radcliffe spoke in Paris, people of all ranks were running in crowds to one of the greatest church in Paris, to hear once more the lawyer from Liverpool. ‘I am not a preacher,’ said Mr Radcliffe that night to eleven or twelve hundred people hanging upon his words, ‘nor am I capable of being one. It was an amazing meeting and there was certainly joy amongst the angels in heaven that night.
Mr Radcliffe visited a number of European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway Germany and Russia, again seeing great blessing with crowds of up to 5000 people gathering to hear him in Sweden. The following is an account of some of the ways in which God ministered through him.
During his two month stay in this country Radcliffe spoke on a number of occasions in open-airs, but on one occasion whilst in Geneva the police arrived and ordered him to stop preaching. Radcliffe, informing the crowd what was happening invited them to follow him through the town to another venue, a private field, where he told them no power on earth could stop them. There followed a time of clapping by the crowd and then they moved very slowly through the town. Many who saw them thought that they were escaping from a fire. Every few minutes they stopped whilst he spoke to the people in the streets informing them that he had been stopped from preaching by the police, but invited them to come and hear about the wondrous love of God. The enemy had certainly outwitted himself, because the crowd increased during their slow progress up the streets of Geneva. On the way they passed cafes, shops, markets and hotels; on by Protestant churches; on by Roman Catholic churches from which emerged black-robed priests, to gaze and wonder at the strange procession, and eventually addressed a somewhat larger crowd than he first addressed!
One young girl from a village near Vevey called Chexbres went to work in Manchester as a nursemaid and whilst there was converted under Radcliffe’s ministry. When she returned she prayed every day that he would come to her country. When she heard that he was in Paris she thought that her prayers were going to be answered. Then she heard of him being in Geneva and she rejoiced at that. Then she heard of him being in Crassier, but that he had left and gone back to Paris, which left her feeling discouraged. However she continued praying and eventually he turned up in her own village of Chexbres!
On one occasion when speaking on the subject "the water of life" he said in a moment of solemnity and power, "Oh that I could speak your language! Oh that my voice could resound through Geneva, across Switzerland, across Italy, across beloved France, to cry to all, Drink, drink, drink at the fountain of living water! Oh the love of God! May the Holy Spirit give you to understand this love!"
In Copenhagen daily noon prayer meetings were held which were well attended and the people were urged to bring their Bibles with them, but they did not do so. Mrs Radcliffe, tying to encourage somebody to do so by offering to buy a pocket Bible for him found that no such edition existed. The smallest Bible available weighed 2 ½ lbs and was quite expensive. They therefore organised a petition to the British and Foreign Bible Society to print one and initially ordered 7000 copies. This led on eventually to the purchase of many thousands which were used extensively throughout Denmark in Sunday Schools and Bible meetings.
When he arrived in Norway he found that the churches were not generally available for laymen to speak in., One minister told him that he could not conscientiously give a layman the church for meetings, to which he replied that he knew that God had called him to Norway and that the "iron gate" would open of its own accord. The minister was astonished at his confident words. When he arrived in Bergen he could not find a church to minister in and furthermore the police would not give permission to speak in the open air. He therefore went with his host to an Army General stationed in Bergen and asked permission to use the Military Parade Ground, and this was given for two services on a Sunday. The iron gate did therefore open of its own accord as he predicted. When Sunday came it seemed as if the whole town came out to hear him.
At Arendal he had the same problem with nobody being willing to open either a church or mission hall. Eventually the rector of a school who was a "Free Thinker" gave one of his halls for a meeting. However the rector was so roused in the meeting to hear the bad interpretation that he got up himself and interpreted Radcliffe’s message. God moved so powerfully with great numbers of people responding to the appeal that Radcliffe said that it was reminiscent of the revival that took place some years’ previously in Aberdeen.
His final years and conclusion
Radcliffe never enjoyed good health during all the years of ministry and frequently had to take periods of complete rest in order to recover. However in December 1890 his health deteriorated and he became very frail and he sadly had to give up on his much-loved trips around the globe to preach the gospel. During his last 5 years, however, he never lost an opportunity of speaking for his master. He spoke to all whether it was the coalman, milkman or the boy who brought the vegetables and many others. In October 1895 when 70 years of age his health finally gave way. Almost his last words were "I want, I want, I want the Christians to go all over the world spreading the glad news. Henry Grattan Guinness wrote after his departure, "Reginald Radcliffe – a name which will be remembered when sun and moon are forgotten in that land where their light is needed no more. He has ceased to be a lamp on earth and shines as star in heaven. How beautiful the sunset of his departure! In that last desire of his for the evangelization of the world, what appreciation of the Gospel and love for humanity! That is the Spirit of Christ; and it is meet, that where the Master is the servant should be."
The funeral service was taken by a lifelong friend Canon Woodward who had stood by his side in Scotland Road, Liverpool. He summed up his character by saying that "he was a man of extraordinary power. He was a man of constant mind. He was a man of stupendous faith. He refused to look at difficulties in the way, obstacles and impediments were nothing; strong in the confidence of Christ and the assurance of Christ’s promises, he went on with his work, faithful to the end.
The author, R C Morgan wrote of him "He was so filled with the Spirit that he ‘bound the whole round world about the feet of God’ in prayer. Prayer, prayer, prayer was the secret of his power in winning souls, and God used and honoured him to give effect to his own prayers. His frame was slight and his health weak, but he was a man of lion-like courage, of godly sincerity and with the simplicity of a child. He served his generation according to the will of God and probably no man of his generation had done more to spread the gospel.
Mr R J Glasgow said of him in tribute "I never knew a man who so deliberately kept himself in the background and pushed others forward. There are many in Liverpool and throughout the whole kingdom to bear testimony to the fact that it was the stimulus received from Reginald Radcliffe, which prompted them to devote themselves to Christ.
Reginald Radcliffe was buried in Toxteth Park Cemetery in Smithdown Road, in Liverpool the same place as William Lockhart.
At the time of his death they lived in Waterloo. His wife only outlived him by four years and died in West Derby in 1899, aged 72 years.
Miscellaneous anecdotes and quotations
Here are some miscellaneous anecdotes of various ways in which God used Radcliffe:-
- One day in 1884 he and his wife and Miss Macpherson were passing through Grace’s Alley into Wellclose Square in London as the evening performances in the music hall were proceeding. The dreadful noise and sounds that came from the hall startled them. They paused to listen and were so impressed that they paid the admission fee and went in to see what really could be going on. The sights on the stage and the condition of things were so awful that they fell on their knees in the centre of the hall, and in view of the onlookers and the stage prayed that God would break the power of the devil in the place, and bring the premises into the use of Christian people. Soon after this the hall was closed, the licences lapsed, and it was not again opened until February 1888, when it was opened as the East End Mission of the Methodist Church in 1885 and became a church in February 1888 being used by the Mission until 1956.
- He experienced much blessing in Manchester whilst speaking in various chapels, which were crowded to capacity. In one of these meetings a group of volunteers left during the service and went down into the back streets where there were none but thieves and prostitutes and numbers of them came back to the chapel and were converted. Also on this occasion a backslider, who heard this group singing in the streets where the brothels were, was convicted of his sin and began to weep. He followed the group back to the chapel and re-dedicated his life to the Lord again. Such was the blessing experienced in Manchester at that time that a special meeting was held in the Corn Exchange for all the converts and those still anxious about their souls and it was crowded to excess with around 2000 people being present.
- In "The Revival" in 1861 it was reported that Radcliffe preached to a crowd of 2500 – 3000 people in a railway goods depot in Norwich and that upwards of 1200 people responded to the appeal!
- At a meeting held in Dublin a young lady was converted whilst the hymn was being read out, before any exhortation had been made.
- A young widow who was a staunch Roman Catholic had a great desire to see the roof of St James Hall in London, as she had heard that it resembled a building in Pisa. When she arrived she found that a meeting was being held that night by Radcliffe. She therefore entered the building about half an hour before the commencement of the meeting. However, because of the huge crowds that had assembled and quickly filled the hall she found it impossible to make her way out, so she unwillingly sat down, not intending to hear a word. She eventually managed to push her way out into Piccadilly but immediately felt that she must go back to hear more. She went forward when the appeal was made with the many others who responded and told Radcliffe that he had made her miserable, but that she must hear more. Eventually she came through to salvation but she came under severe persecution from both her church and her family, including an uncle, furious at her apostasy. This uncle went to a doctor who he knew in an endeavour to get her admitted to a lunatic asylum. However what he did not know was that the doctor had also been converted!
- At Banff in Scotland both Radcliffe and Shuldham Henry preached on one Sunday from 3pm to 11pm with only an hour’s interval in between. When the service was concluded in the large green in the afternoon and was about to adjourn to the nearest church to speak to those who had responded to the appeal, Radcliffe gave out a psalm to be sung on the way, which to those present gave a sense of the solemn assemblies that used to march to Zion with the voice of thanksgiving and praise.
- Before he became the famous Bishop of Liverpool, J C Ryle, who was probably the most well-known evangelical in the Church of England, whilst he was the vicar of Stadbroke in Suffolk invited Radcliffe to conduct parish missions and open air evangelism in Ipswich and Stadbroke.
- In a circular dated 26th September 1861 he referred to a meeting held in Manchester with Duncan Matheson, Harrison Ord and Edward Usher and stated that in the middle of the meeting, these men, instead of wasting their time listening to him went outside to proclaim the Gospel near the crowded thoroughfare. We need such efforts he said and what a need for more such labourers as these.
- In another circular sent to The Revival in March 1861 he described the pain of only being able to stay in a town one day and tear himself away from babes in Christ and distressed ones, in order to fulfil engagement elsewhere. He pleaded for thousands of earnest men and women to rise throughout the country to this work.
- Christian unity was something that was very dear and important to him. Whenever he was invited to preach in a town he would write to ask if the different Christian denominations were united and brotherly. For this reason he usually preferred to speak in large buildings for his preaching which formed as it were on a neutral ground and not consecrated to any particular denomination. He referred to one place in particular where great unity and brotherly love was shown and the result, he said, was a large outpouring of the Spirit and a great revival. If a church is to be blessed, he said, it must be united.
- In 1874 he organised a house-to-house visitation programme in Manchester and Liverpool in connection with the visit of Moody and Sankey, by which means every household in these cities were brought into touch with the gospel. So impressed was Moody with his efforts that he invited Radcliffe to do the same in London prior to his big crusade meetings there, which he did. One old lady 85 years of age, hearing that Radcliffe was coming to London to arrange the house-to-house visitation said "I must do something; I am getting old, but I will take a district." This she did and in one house she visited where they were Roman Catholics they refused to take a leaflet, so she said to them, therefore, that she would read it out to them They had to listen to her as they did not have the heart to put out an 85 years old woman. An army of volunteers was brought together and after months of hard work with weekly prayer meetings being held in a number of different localities, London’s four million households were visited.
- In 1888 he was invited to travel to America with Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary to China, in order to raise funds for the mission field, Mr Taylor appealing for China, and Radcliffe for Russia, for which he had a particular burden. They travelled extensively throughout America and Canada addressing large crowds throughout.
- Radcliffe always had a strong association with an organisation called "The Stranger’s Rest" which was first established in Liverpool in 1875. In conjunction with Annie Macpherson he established one in London a year later, based on the one in Liverpool, and five years later he set about establishing one in Hamburg for the benefit of foreigners and seamen. Subsequently he established one in Hull in which his daughter was actively involved. His son Heber, later established one in Denmark.
- Radcliffe produced a profound impression in Paris by simply uttering the words, "Dieu vous aime!" – two or three times over i.e. "God loves you."
- In the booklet "The evangelisation of the world" partly written by Radcliffe, he stressed the importance of older people being engaged in Christian work, stating that some of their most effective missionaries were elderly people. Witness the departure, a few days ago, he said, of Bishop Taylor, aged 63 years, taking a party of 40 missionaries into the interior of Africa by a route that was expected to occupy him three years of marching.
- There are a number of books/booklets written by Radcliffe, either solely or in conjunction with others, which are listed below. They are all available at the British Library.
- Pardon and Holiness. An address.
- Living for Jesus.
- The Evangelization of the World (together with C T Studd)
- Give ye them to eat. An address
He also wrote an introductory note to James Turner’s "How to reach the masses." This is also available at the Evangelical Library.
17. They had three children, Catherine, Heber and Brainard.
APPENDIX - Reginald Heber Radcliffe
Heber Radcliffe (named after Bishop Heber) was born to the Radcliffes in 1855 in Liverpool. Despite having a Christian upbringing it wasn’t until the Moody/Sankey crusades in 1875 that he was really converted and offered himself for Christian service. One of the people who influenced him during his early life was Hudson Taylor, who came to stay with his parents. It was like having an angel in his hour, he said, because his face literally radiated love. Such people like him and others who stayed in his house, had a great influence on Heber and made him long to be like them.
He followed his father into the legal profession and whilst his parents were abroad in Europe and Russia he managed their financial affairs. In order to raise funds for their oversees missions he set about developing large empty pieces of land owned by them. He got builders to put up rows of working class homes, and roads all around sprang into being. Many of the roads were named after the places where his parents were ministering such as Moscow Drive, Russian Drive, and Kremlin Drive, all in Stoneycroft. Like his father he wasn’t a great preacher but as soon as the anointing came upon him, as his daughter testified, it was as though it wasn’t him speaking. The Holy Spirit took over, she said, love flowed from him, people were bowed in their seats and many of them got converted.
Heber and his wife chose a site in Bootle to build a hall for evangelistic meetings and they named it Sun Hall (also referred to as Sun Evangelistic Hall). In a short while the crowd became so great that a gallery, holding 500 more people was added and still the crowds increased, with 1000 children attending the Sunday School. They then decided to build another hall in addition to this in Kensington (another part of Liverpool), which would seat 5000 people and this was opened in 1905. A number of people had wanted this to be used for the second Torrey/Alexander Crusade, but he didn’t agree to this and the Tournament Hall was used instead. It was, however used for one of the Evan Roberts crusade meetings, with around 6000 people being present at that meeting. ²
In the first year of the new Sun Hall, over 300 families came to the Lord. They regularly had 2000 people attending the afternoon service, which his wife took and 5000 people in the evening meeting. A special hymnbook was produced for the meetings, which was entitled "Sun Hall Hymns" and contained around 800 hymns and choruses. After a while Heber found it too much for him to run both halls and he, therefore, entrusted the Bootle Hall to his sister, Miss Catherine Radcliffe. She was a gifted speaker, and had taken and helped in missions in Canada and the USA. However, she wasn’t a good organiser and she therefore asked another of the Radcliffe family, Gershon Radcliffe, then in his late 20’s, and an able speaker, to take responsibility for this.
Heber died at a young age in 1915, when only 60 years of age.
The content of this article has been drawn from a booklet by his daughter, Elizabeth Green, entitled "My father’s faith. The story of Heber Radcliffe," which was published in 1969.
¹ Permission is being sought to use this photograph.
² The hall was also regularly used for orchestral concerts, and political rallies. Amongst those who spoke there were Lloyd George, Campbell-Bannerman, and Winston Churchill.
Recollections of Reginald Radcliffe - Jane Radcliffe
Buds, blossoms and fruits of the revival - John Hambleton
Reminiscences of the Revival of 1859 - University Press
My father's faith. The story of Heber Radcliffe - Catherine Green
Picton Library Archives - Give ye them to eat
Reginald Radcliffe - The evangelisation of the world
Radcliffe, C T Studd, S P Smith - Annals of the Liverpool Stage
R J Broadbent - Chester Walls - The Northgate Part 2
China's Millions - China Inland Mission
Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission - Dr Howard Taylor
Liverpool Street Names - Thomas Lloyd-Jones
When the door squeaked - The Bible Study
Stephney Folk Wilton's Music Hall - The evangelical Bishop
P Landy - Gideon Chapel
Bristol Information - Dareham Baptist Church History
Revival in Norfolk - The Gilcomston Story 1868 - 1968
The Revival - 23/3/1861
The Revival - 3/8/1861
The Revival - 26/9/1861
The Revival - 12/10/1861
The Revival - 19/10/1861
Liverpool Observer - October 1861
Revivals in Merseyside - G R Green