Richard Weaver (Liverpool)
The Liverpool City Missionary
I have included Richard Weaver as one of the people who have impacted Merseyside and Chester in a special way. Although he was born in Shropshire he spent a lot of his early Christian life and ministry here under his mentor and life long friend and colleague, Liverpool solicitor Reginald Radcliffe, and after a while came to live in Prescot, Liverpool with his family, where he worked as a town missionary. He was undoubtedly one of the most powerful evangelists in the UK in the 19th Century, winning many thousands to Christ through his ministry, but he was also a wonderful personal worker. I have included in this booklet a number of anecdotes from the two books written on his life i.e. "Richard Weaver's Life Story, the English Evangelist" by James Paterson (1900) and "The Converted Collier" by R C Morgan (1863) relating to the time he was here in Merseyside. The simplicity of his faith and his great earnestness are truly inspiring and although I don't think we could really emulate the methods he used in evangelism today, I do think that we can learn a lot from his simple childlike faith.
One of the people who greatly admired Weaver's ministry, by whom he was baptised, was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who is often referred to as the 'Prince of Preachers.' This is what he said of him in a sermon given to his congregation at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London on Christmas Eve 1863 when Weaver was only 36 years of age:
"I would not mind asking the whole world to find a master of arts now living who has brought more souls to Christ Jesus than Richard Weaver. If the whole bench of bishops have done a tenth as much in the way of soul winning as that one man, it is more than most of us give them credit for. Let us give to our God all the glory, but still let us not deny the fact that this sinner saved, with the brogue of the collier still about him fresh from the coal pit, tells the story of the cross by God's grace in such a way that right reverend fathers in God might humbly sit at his feet to learn the way to reach the heart and melt the stubborn heart. It is true an uneducated brother is not fitted for all work - he has his own sphere - but he is quite able to tell of what he has seen and heard, and so it strikes me is every man in a measure."
The following is an extract from the American edition of the "The Converted Collier" written by Daniel Wise, which was during the lifetime of Weaver:
"Those who are familiar with Richard Weaver and his preaching will not think any of the anecdotes here related very improbable, but some of them are so unusual as possibly to impress others with the idea of invention or exaggeration. In order to assure myself of their reality by the testimony of eye and ear witnesses, I visited Prescot, where some of the most remarkable events occurred, and there read to Christians of various ranks in life, that which had been written. Their common testimony was that nothing had been stated which was not true, and that indeed much more should have been said, in order to convey an accurate conception of his sojourn there."
In the biography of Reginald Radcliffe written by his wife, Jane Radcliffe, she refers to Weaver on many occasions, as one so beloved by them, and how God so powerfully used both of them. What she made clear, however, was the underlying factor behind their great power and anointing, and I give below some relevant quotations from her book on the importance of prayer in their lives and ministry:
"The watchword that sounded forth in those days was PRAYER. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit. "It was another Pentecost" she said, "the children of God waited, but with unceasing and united prayer for the promise; and its fulfilment came in manifested power from on high, that no flesh should glory in His presence." (Preface)
"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 thee go except thou bless us.’" (P36)
"Prayer is the one word to be written in large letters on the whole of this work, and the Saturday evening prayer meetings before referred to were very living ones. Poor and rich met together in our dining room; and sometimes at a room not far off. "(P20)
I do think that we all need to take careful note of what she has said, particularly in these days when people are praying a lot less than they used to and many churches have ceased holding prayer meetings all together.
His early Christian life
Richard Weaver was born in Asterley, Shropshire, in 1827. He had a hard upbringing with his father being a violent man and drunkard. He became a coal miner and was himself a brutally hard man and his early days were filled with getting drunk and bare fist fighting as a semi-professional pugilist. Through the testimonies of some Christians and especially his wife he became a Christian in 1852 and subsequently a fervent evangelist. At the time of the 1859 Revival he was greatly used as the rough-tongued evangelist whose preaching was readily received by the rough and ready masses of England. Vast numbers of these people were converted to Christ under his ministry. I have already mentioned in my booklet "Revivals in Merseyside" about the significant part that he played in the 1859 Revival as it affected Liverpool. He was also a very capable soloist and used his singing talent to great effect sometimes interrupting his own message by bursting into song.
One example of his amazing ministry was in Macclesfield, Cheshire, in 1861 when he preached at a Methodist church, which was filled to capacity. The results were amazing with "some of the vilest characters, as well as the most intelligent people" brought to Christ. Publicans complained of their lack of customers and took down their signs. Policemen and Magistrates testified of the transformation that took place in the town’s morals, with one magistrate saying that he had nothing to do on several occasions. Upwards of 1,200 converts registered with the church leaders at that place.
Richard's first contact with Reginald Radcliffe came in 1856 in Hyde, where he was working and living at the time with his wife. Two labourers for Christ, Liverpool evangelists John Hambleton and Edward Usher came to sell Bibles at Hyde market every Saturday night. Richard, who lived at Haughton Green, about a mile from Hyde, had to go there to buy food for the week, and, as he heard these two brothers speaking of Jesus, he stood to listen. When they had done, he thought they looked tired, so he asked if they should sing. They very heartily consented, and Weaver and his companions sang:
" Saw ye my Saviour ?
Saw ye my Saviour and God?
He died on Calvary
To atone for you and me,
And to purchase our pardon with blood."
After this he joined them every Saturday night, and the power of God rested on the people, and many were reconciled to God. Usher and Hambleton announced that an open-air meeting would be held on the Good Friday following, at which Mr. Reginald Radcliffe, of Liverpool, would preach. Five or six thousand people assembled, among whom was Richard Weaver, looking out for this lawyer from Liverpool, as they called Mr. Radcliffe. But they were disappointed, as he had been unable to attend. One of the brethren in the wagon from which they spoke espied Weaver, and beckoned him up. He expected that they wanted him to help them to sing, but they gave out that the collier would speak to them. He had never spoken before to so many; but, looking up to God for help, he told them what Christ had done for the wretched Richard Weaver, and said that He who had saved him could and would save them if they would listen to his voice. There was a blessed meeting, and ground was broken up which subsequently yielded a rich harvest of saved souls. Usher and Hambleton were called to labour in another town, and Richard was asked to take their place at the Bible-stall on Saturday night. So after he had finished work he went, though it was no little trial to endure the scoffs and sneers of his fellow-workmen as they passed to the public-house. But he determined not to be ashamed of Jesus and his Gospel, which had been the power of God to his salvation.
A few days later Radcliffe turned up in Hyde. When Weaver first saw him he was in a large public hall on his knees pleading with God to bless the forthcoming meeting. At Radcliffe's suggestion they turned out and went through the streets singing and talking to the people. When they got back to the hall it was full to overflowing and hundreds waiting outside. There was such power in the meeting that people who had gone there to scoff fell down on the floor crying out to God to save them. After the meeting somebody asked Radcliffe if he would give Richard a week's lodging in Liverpool, to which he replied that he would give him a month if he would come. He little thought of what this would lead to.
Weaver comes to Liverpool
As nothing more was said about the invitation that had been given for Weaver to go to Liverpool he went home and possibly didn't give it a further thought. A few days later, however, on the Saturday night whilst he was at his Bible stall, somebody came to see him, sent by Reginald Radcliffe, which would very much change the course of his future life and ministry. From this point I have quoted from the biography "Richard Weaver's Life Story" in which Weaver tells his story in his own words. On a number of occasions, for reasons not stated he refers to some people by the first letter of their name, perhaps as advised by his Solicitor mentor in order to protect people's identity:
One Saturday evening in the month of April, a young gentleman came to me at the stall, and asked, "Are you Mr Weaver?"
I said, "No."
"I beg your pardon he said," and turned away. He came again and said,
"Is your name Richard Weaver?"
"Yes" I said.
"Well" he said, "Mr Radcliffe has sent me to take you to Liverpool".
"You are mistaken" I said.
"No, I am not," said he; "you must go back with me".
"But, my dear sir" I said, "I cannot do any such thing. I am obliged to give my master a month’s notice, or I become liable to imprisonment. Besides," I continued, "I am not qualified to go out and speak for Christ."
Mr Street tried to persuade me to go. I made all sorts of excuses. My clothes were not of the right sort; I was not scholar enough; I did not feel called to that work; and then there was that one month’s notice which I was under promise to give. Mr Street said: "I will write your master concerning that." He wrote. My master agreed to give me leave of absence for a month. But I was in great perplexity. I had a home to provide for. I was doing well in the colliery, and had the prospect of doing better. No salary was offered me. Added to that, I did not think I was qualified for such work. I knew not what to do. I only know I wanted to be guided by the Lord.
I prayed about it all Saturday evening. Sabbath morning came. I went to the early meeting. I had been presented with a new Bible. I stood with the new Bible in my hand, and said:
"Now, brethren, about leaving the coal-pit. I will shut my eyes, and open this new Bible, and I will look at the left-hand page; and if the word there points to my going, I will go; if it doesn’t, I will stay in the coal-pit."
I opened my Bible. The words given were the following: "Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." I fell on my knees, and said: "Here I am, Lord, I will go."
On the Monday morning my dear wife sat weeping, with our ten month old first born on her knee as I prayed. At last she said:
"I yield to the Lord’s will, and consent to your going."
So I left the coal-pit to walk by faith, and to trust in God for all I needed. Mr Street met me at Guide-bridge, gave me ten shillings, and sent me on my way with the words spoken to David, "Go, and the Lord be with thee."
His arrival in Liverpool
On reaching Liverpool I was met by the young gentleman who had brought the message to me in Hyde market place, and was taken by him to Mr Radcliffe’s house. There it was arranged that I was to make a start by giving out tracts in and around Chester. I received a note of introduction to Mr A.., the Superintendent of Chester City Mission. He was to supply me with the tracts, and I was to work under his direction. I was also furnished with a companion, who was to take me to Chester and introduce me to the friends of Gospel work there. On our way thither we walked as far as a farm where some friends of his lived, and with them we had dinner and a short session of prayer. We proceeded thence by rail. On our arrival in Chester my companion said to me:
"I have some friends I would like to call and see. You had better take that letter to Mr A and meet me at seven o’clock by the lamp in Bridge Street, and we will have a meeting there."
I found the superintendent’s house and knocked at the door. A servant opened it, and I asked if Mr A.. was at home.
"Will you please to give him this note?"
She took the note in, and in a short time Mr A.. came to the door, with my letter in his hand. He looked at me from head to foot, and said:
"You have come to give out tracts?"
I said, "Yes"
"You have, have you?"
"Yes," I said again.
"Ah!" he said; "will you meet me at such and such a place tomorrow, and I’ll see what’s to be done with you?"
I said, "Yes."
He then said, "Good afternoon," and shut the door.
I thought this is a cold reception. I did not know where to go or what to do. I was hungry too, but shame stopped me from going anywhere to buy something to eat, so I walked about till seven, and then met my friend as appointed. He took his stand on a borrowed chair, sang and prayed, and sang again, and then preached to those who had gathered around. Then I took my stand on the chair, and there began my mission work. I told the people how the Lord met me on my way to hell as He met Paul, and how for three days, like Paul, I could not see; and how at last He gave me light, and pardon, and peace. Then I sang that old hymn---
"In evil long I took delight,
Unsaved by shame or fear,
Till a new object met my sight,
And stopped my wild career."
And the Lord was with us. I saw tears running down the faces of many in the crowd. When the meeting was over an old woman took me by the hand, and invited me to call and see her next day, and then she bade me "Good night."
A Stranger in the City
As my companion and I walked down the street, he asked me where I was going to stay. I told him I did not know. He told me he had secured a bed for himself at his friend’s house, and then he shook my hand, and said, "Good night! God bless thee!" and left me!! As he had been sent with me to care for me, I was greatly put about. I knew not what to do. It was after nine o’clock. I had not tasted food since twelve; I was an utter stranger to the city. I said to myself, "I wish I were at home."
After considering the matter, I thought I had better go and ask Mr A.., under whom I was to work, if he could tell me of a place to stay at. He came to the door, asking:
"What is it you want?"
"Please, sir," I said, "can you tell me where I can stay for the night?"
"Oh yes," he said, and he wrote an address on a slip of paper, and told me to go there.
I found the street and the house. It was a low and filthy common lodging-house! And such a bed! I thought of my own clean bed at home, and was miserable. I needed no ringing up in the morning. I strolled round the ancient walls of the city till about eight o’clock, and then went to call on the old woman who had given me the invitation the night before. She gave me a hearty welcome, and an opportunity to make myself clean. She had as a lodger a young man – a joiner – who had heard me speak the night before. He asked me if I had had my breakfast. I had to confess that I hadn’t. He also asked me where I had been staying. He said:
"Mrs Evans, get him some ham and eggs."
I did enjoy that breakfast. Addressing his landlady again, he said:
"Mrs Evans, if it is agreeable to you, and if he will accept my offer, he can sleep with me."
I most thankfully accepted the offer, and praised God for his kindness in thus providing for me.
At the hour appointed I went and met Mr A.., received the tracts and instructions, and set off to the work given me to do. The races were to take place within three weeks. The tracts dealt specially with the sin of gambling; and I was expected to go through the villages around and give away these tracts, and, if possible, persuade the people not to go to the races. As I went out early in the morning, the people who had so kindly given me lodgings thought I went out to my meals. It was not so. The ten shillings that I brought with me was soon spent, and no man gave unto me. I was glad to "drink of the brook in the way." Going along a lane one day, I saw a man working among turnips in a field by the side of the lane. I begged one. That was all my food for four days. On the fourth day of my fast I was going up the street of a village, and as I went I began to sing:
"Come ye that fear the Lord
I’ve something good to say
About the narrow way,
For Christ the other day
Saved my soul."
At the Chester Races
A farmer’s wife heard me, and came to the gate, and said:
"Master, do you love Christ?"
I said, "Yes, I do, because He first loved me."
Then she said: "Come into the house and have a cup of tea with us."
We had tea and prayer. I told them of the mission I was engaged in. The farmer gave me two shillings, and I went on my way with my little stock replenished.
The race week came on. Mr Radcliffe and others arrived. We held meetings every night amidst much opposition. We were pelted with paper bags full of flour and eggs, and looked fine figures, especially those who wore black coats. One night, three of us were standing before one of the principal hotels, when the betting gentlemen came out and began to push us about. While they were doing so, a man who had long hair waving on his shoulders, and who wore no hat, climbed up the lamp-post, and put his chin on the projecting rail. The lamp shone on his eyes and mouth, and his long hair and beard prevented anything else from being seen. With a hoarse voice, he shouted:
"Crucify him! Crucify him!"
The betting men looked round to see where the sound came from; and seeing nothing but the bright eyes staring at them, they bolted off as if the evil one himself were after them.
After the races I went back to Liverpool with Mr Radcliffe, and held meetings in the open air.
One night, as I was preaching, a young woman came up to me, and said:
"Can Christ save me?"
I said: "Yes, for by the grace of God He tasted death for every man."
"Ah! you don’t know me," she said. "I am one of those forlorn creatures."
I said, "I don’t care what you are: ‘He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.’ "
"Can He save me here? Can He save me now?"
"Yes; ‘Now is the accepted time: today is the day of salvation.’ Only try Him."
She said: "If I perish, I will perish here, crying to Him to have mercy upon me."
She dropped on her knees and cried: "Lord, if Thou canst save poor prostitutes, save me here and save me now."
Presently she got up on to her feet, her eyes streaming with tears, and lifting up her hands to heaven, said:
"My God is reconciled,
His pardoning voice I hear."
I took her with me to Mr Radcliffe’s house. She was afterwards sent to her friends at Warrington, and is now a Christian wife and mother, holding on her way to heaven, and rejoicing in a sin-pardoning God.
A few evenings later, a young man came to me at the close of an address that I had given from the words: "Be sure your sin will find you out," and told me he had run away from home, and was passing down the street where I held the meeting, on his way to take ship to America. The word had arrested him. He professed to have found mercy. I went with him to the railway station, and saw him into the train on his way back to his home.
Mercy Sought and Found
Mr Radcliffe took Brunswick Hall in Liverpool for the Sabbath evenings, and sent me to preach there. One Sabbath evening, on my way to the meeting, a poor girl accosted me with the words, "Good evening, my dear."
"Good night, my love" said I.
"May I accompany you?" said she.
"Oh yes," I replied.
"Where are you going?" said she.
"I’m going to a dancing saloon; come and take hold of my arm."
When we got to the ball, it was crowded.
Pushing the girl before me, I said to the hall-keeper, "Make way for this young lady." I got her on to the platform, and placed her in charge of a dear sister in Christ. After I had done speaking, she fell on her knees and implored mercy from the Lord Jesus. Her prayer was heard. She was taken home by the lady into whose charge I had given her. Her mother was sent for, and the daughter who had gone astray like a lost sheep was restored to her home.
Some years afterwards I was preaching in the theatre at Leeds. A nicely dressed woman with a baby in her arms came up to me, accompanied by a man holding a little girl by the hand. She said:
"Do you know me?"
I said, "No."
"You remember taking a young woman to Brunswick Hall one Sunday night?"
I said, "Yes."
"Well," she said, "as I am that woman, and this is my husband, and these are my children; and ever since that night I have been walking with God."
She asked me to go and take tea with them.
I went, and found her husband was a local preacher; and the sower and the reaper rejoiced together.
Some of us one Sabbath evening after the meeting were returning to our lodgings singing the hymn---
"My rest is in heaven,
My rest is not here;
Why then should I murmur
When trials are near?
Be hushed, my sad spirit!
The worst that can come
But shortens my journey
And hastens me home;
For the Lion of Judah shall break every chain,
And give us the victory again and again."
A policeman came up to me and said, "Stop that noise."
I said, "I shan’t!"
"Then," he said, "I will make you;" and, getting hold of the neckerchief that was tied in a Lancashire slip-knot, and was therefore a running noose, he said again, "Stop it."
"No," I said, "I must sing."
He pulled the neckerchief, and brought the music to an abrupt conclusion. A rough sailor who was passing saw my fix, and knocked the policeman down. I took off my neckerchief, and have never worn one since. The policeman sprang his rattle, and another officer came to his help. One got me by the right arm, another by the left, and marched me up the street towards the Bridewell. I kept singing---
"For the Lion of Judah shall break every chain---"
and the people helped me. Passing the house of one of the brethren who had been at the meeting, he came running out without jacket or hat, to ask:
"What’s the matter?"
The people said: "They are taking Weaver to prison."
He shouted, "Look up, Brother Weaver: the Lord be with thee!" and he kept shouting "Praise the Lord!"
Arrested for Singing
As I wanted a companion, I said to the policemen: "One of you loose me and bring that other noisy chap with me."
So one of them said to him: "If you don’t stop your noise, I will take you also."
"Glory be to God," said the brother. "Thee must just take me then; for I shall not stop praising God. Praise the Lord!"
One of the policemen caught hold of him, and marched him along with me. The brother’s wife said: "Never mind, Jack, I will fetch thy jacket and hat."
When we got into the Bridewell, we immediately fell on our knees and began a prayer meeting. The man who kept the books said to the policemen who had run us in:
"What did you bring those men here for?"
The policeman said: "For causing a disturbance in the street."
Pointing to me as the chief offender, the book-keeper said"
"What did he do?"
"Why, he was shouting something about lions breaking chains, and I told him to stop, and he wouldn’t; so I brought him here."
The bookkeeper said: "He is with Mr Reginald Radcliffe; you will get into a fine row over this."
He came to me with his pen in hand, and said: "You may go out."
I said: "We have been put in publicly, and we will be put out publicly."
He said: "Dear me! I never heard such a man."
I said: "You have none too many prayer meetings here, and we’ll hold one. ‘Lord save the policemen’ "
He said to our captors, "We’ll have no peace all night," and turning again to me, he said: "My good man do go out. The next place I shall hear of you being in will be Rainhill Asylum!"
I still refused, and continued to pray and to sing, By-and-by, from behind the partition where we were, we heard someone come in and ask the book-keeper:
"Have you got a missionary here?"
"Yes, sir," said the officer.
"Will you take bail for him?"
"Bail!" said the officer. "He has been at liberty to go for the last two hours, and he won’t. Do try and get him out, and I shall feel greatly obliged."
"I thought you had got the wrong man," said my friend. He came to me and advised me to go out: so I shook hands with the officers, and told them I hoped I should meet them in heaven, and bade them goodnight. A few nights after this, the policeman who had taken me into custody met me and asked me to forgive him. I said:
"I forgive thee freely. Have you ever asked God to forgive thy sins?"
He said: "I’d give every hair of my head to know that my sins are forgiven, as you know that yours are forgiven."
I said: "You don’t need to give anything. God gave Christ for you, and He will forgive every one that comes to Him by Jesus Christ."
The officer believed the love of God, and from that hour he helped me in every way he could.
Abused at the Liverpool Races
I went with Mr Radcliffe to Liverpool Races, to deliver tracts and to speak for Christ. A fine, stalwart, pugilistic-looking man, on his way from the station to the race-course, was accosted by one of our workers named Duckers, who pleaded with him to flee from the wrath to come. The gentleman resented the pleadings of brother Duckers. As he seemed likely to strike him, I slipped in between them, and began to talk to the stranger as lovingly as I could about Jesus his Saviour. He asked whether Jesus did not say, "If a man strike thee on the one cheek, turn to him the other also."
I said, "Yes; and if it will do you any good you can strike me."
He struck out from the shoulder, and I received a blow on my face that made me stagger; but I was enabled to turn the other cheek, and say:
"Nay," he said, "I will not strike again."
I said, "Now it’s my turn; and I knelt down and prayed for his salvation. When I had done praying and rose from my knees, he pressed two half-crowns on my acceptance, and stood by me and protected me from many who would have insulted me. Some years later, when walking down Lime Street, a stranger accosted me, and asked me if I knew him. I had to confess that I did not. He asked if I remembered a man striking me at Liverpool Races. I said I did. He said: "I am that man. That prayer of yours for me has been heard, I can now, with you, praise God as the God of my salvation."
From Betting to Begging
I went with Mr Radcliffe to the Chester Races for the second time. One morning, as I stood giving out tracts, I saw a gang of men from Staffordshire. As they drew near they recognised me. I heard you say, "Hullo! here’s ‘Undaunted Richard’ "
"Good morning, Undaunted," said he.
"Good morning," said I.
"How art going on?"
"First rate, praise the Lord."
"Now, Weaver, how much hast thou gained by serving the Lord?"
"How much hast thou gained by serving the devil?"
"Well," he said, "I’ve won two whole streets of houses by horse-racing; and if I win today I shall have another street."
"I have gained far more than that," said I.
"How is that?" he asked.
"Well, Tom, I will tell thee. I have become heir to an inheritance incorruptible, modified, reserved in heaven for me’; and when thy bricks and mortar have crumbled into dust, my inheritance will be safe and secure."
"Oh," said he, "good morning."
Some years afterwards, while holding a mission in Dublin, I one day in Sackville Street met a man whom I thought I knew. His clothes and his shoes were the worse for wear, and he looked anything but happy. It was Tom. I stopped and asked:
"What bring you here?"
"Ah, Weaver," he said, "this meeting is providential. Wilt lend me a shilling?"
"Why, where’s thy two streets, Tom?"
"Gone," he replied; "I have lost all, and I am here out of the way of the policeman."
I urged him to look after his interest in the inheritance that fadeth not away, gave him half-a-crown, and went on my way recalling that word, "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."
One night, during those Chester Races, we stood under a lamp in Bridge Street, near a large hotel that was much resorted to by betting men. Some of the gamblers gave five pounds to a man who was selling a list of the races to pull the preacher from the chair. At the time he set about the attempt a Baptist minister who was preaching. As the race-card seller came pushing and elbowing his way towards the speaker, a rough, hard-set, resolute-looking Lancashire man, hailing from Bolton, said:
"What art doing?"
He replied, "I am going to pull that man off the chair."
"Nay," said the Lancashire man, "theau shalt na: my feyther and mother are good people I’ Bowton, and I’m a bad son; but these are good men. Theau shalt na pu’ him deawn."
The Chester man said, "if yo dunno stand back, I will knock thee down."
"Two can play at that game," said the other.
The race-card man struck him, and the other instantly struck back.
At the Chester Races again
As soon as the fight commenced, the Baptist minister jumped down from the chair, and away he ran. Where he ran to, I do not know. If he continued at the rate at which he started, he is far past Jericho long ere this. A ring was formed round the fighters. Mr Radcliffe asked a policeman who was looking on to stop the fight. He refused to interfere. The betting man in the hotel windows shouted:
"Give him fair play."
"Yes," said the little Bolton man, "he shall have fair play; and when I have done with him, one or two of you gentleman can come down, and I’ll serve you the ‘same"
And he turned to his work, and soon finished it in a workmanlike manner.
Mr Radcliffe jumped on the chair, and began to speak about Jesus. In a twinkling the policeman who refused to stop the fight commanded him to desist. He refused. The policeman pulled him off the chair. Another of our workers, named William Brown, instantly mounted it. The brave policeman took hold of him and pulled him down also. I jumped up. The policeman looked at me: but, as he had not got three hands, he could do nothing more; so he marched his prisoners off to the Bridewell, while I preached to the crowd. Presently I saw him coming round the corner of the street, wiping the perspiration from his brow. Coming to me, he said:
"Are you going to stop?"
I said, "Nay, not till I have had my say; and if you touch me before I have had my say, the Lord may take an arm from you."
He said nothing, but stood looking at me till I had finished. Then I jumped down and took the policeman by the arm, and we marched up the street, with hundreds following us. I began to sing the old battle song---
"For the Lion of Judah shall break every chain."
The crowd took it up. I kept nudging the policeman in the ribs with my elbow.
"Sing, man," I said.
He said, "Come along."
I nudged him again and said, "Sing up, man."
So we went to the Bridewell. When we got inside I said to Mr Radcliffe and Mr Brown, who had been taken there before me, "We’ll have a word of prayer."
Mr Radcliffe laughed and wept.
Mr Brown said "Amen."
I prayed. By-and-by came in Major T.., with the chief of police, and they held a consultation together.
A number of constables were inside. After a time there was a knock at the door.
"Who’s there?" asked a constable.
"I have brought a supper for the missionaries."
Cold ham, cold fowl, cold salmon, and other good things were brought in in abundance. Almost immediately there was another knock. It was a second "supper for the missionaries." In walked a man in livery--- white tie and knee-breeches carrying a tray covered with white cloth, which when removed exposed to view another nice supper. A third came. I tell you, friends, I never had so many suppers in one night in my life! I could not help thinking times had changed since Paul and Silas were put in prison for speaking of Jesus.
Before the Magistrate
After our suppers Mr Radcliffe was called before Major T.., and the following conversation took place.
"What is your name?"
"Oh! Where from?"
"Will you give bail?"
"No. We have been put in publicly, and we will be put out publicly."
"Lock him up," said Major T..
The constables refused, and Mr Radcliffe went and sat down. A similar talk took place between Major T.. said Mr Brown, and he also went and sat down.
Then I was called up.
"What’s your name?"
"A sinner saved by grace."
"Pooh! Pooh! Tell me what your name is."
"A sinner saved by grace."
"But where do you come from?"
"The City of Destruction."
"Pooh! Pooh! Where is your home?"
"Will you give bail?"
"Bail? Why, do you want me to give bail twice?
The Lord Jesus Christ gave bail for me above eighteen hundred years ago, and I am not going to give bail again."
"Lock him up," said the major; and in my case also the constables refused. Just then in came Dr D.., another magistrate, shook hands with us, and said to Major T, "If you put these men in damp cells, I shall hold you responsible for any ill effects that may ensue. As one of them is weakly you will have to give them beds and blankets."
The major said, "Doctor, will you give bail for them?"
"Yes," said the doctor; and he did it.
Coming to me again, he asked Mr Radcliffe to go out with him. Mr Radcliffe thanked him, but said that as we had been publicly put in, our out-going must also be public. I overheard the major say to the chief constable, "I wish I had had nothing to do with this affair." The chief of police told his officers to go outside and clear away the crowd from the door. When the door was open, the chief constable got hold of Mr Radcliffe, and pulled him towards it. Then he took hold of Mr Brown, and did likewise with him. Then he pulled me in behind Mr Brown. Then Major T.. and the chief constable got in behind me, and pushed all three of us right out on to the street, in the sight of the assembled thousands, and we returned to our stand in Bridge Street and sang:
"Praise God from whom all blessing flow."
Next day Mr Radcliffe sent a special engine, carriage, and brake, to Birkenhead for a barrister to plead for me. After a trial lasting four hours and a half we were acquitted.
At the Eleventh Hour
One Sunday afternoon, when labouring in Tarvin, a gentleman came and asked me to visit a sick man.
"Where does he live?" I asked.
"At Stamford Bridge," was the reply.
"How far is that?"
"About two miles."
"I have to preach here tonight: how can I get there and back?"
"I will drive you in my gig."
I got ready and went. To my surprise I was driven up to a public house. My friend told me it was the publican who was ill. I knocked at the door. No one answered. Hearing conversation, I walked in. There sat men drinking; the servant girl was talking and laughing with them, as if neither death nor sickness was near. I asked the girl if there wasn’t someone ill in the house. She said:
"Yes, master is ill; you will find him upstairs."
She did not so much as rise to show me where the stair was; but it was an old fashioned house and I soon found the stair, and began to walk up. When I got to the landing I heard someone speaking, but was at a loss to know from which room the sound came.
The Dying Publican
Presently I discovered it was the room to my right. As I paused in the doorway, an agonised voice from the bed was saying:
"Look at me, my dear wife and children; I am dying: I fear I shall be lost. Can you tell me what I must do to be saved?"
His weeping wife and children sobbed out, "No". On the right of the dying man sat two sisters. To them he addressed the same earnest appeal:
"Can you tell me what I must do to be saved?"
"No brother," said they; and they wept and sobbed aloud.
A man of some fourscore years sat at the foot of the bed. To him the dying man next turned with his piteous enquiry:
"Father, can you tell me what I must do to be saved?"
"No, my boy, I wish I could," was the weeping father’s reply.
I thought it was time for me to walk in. They looked at me, but did not ask who I was nor where I had come from. The sick man put out his hand, and said:
"Sir, I am dying; and the minister tells me that as I have been baptised and confirmed, and have taken the last rites of the church, and been prayed for, I must just rest content; but I cannot, for I fear I shall be lost. Can you hold out any hope for me, sir?"
I said, "Yes, thank God, I can. I have come with some promises spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for you."
I opened my Bible and began to turn to the tenth chapter of Romans. As I was doing so, the dull eyes of the publican brightened, and the heavy cloud passed away from his countenance as he asked:
"Oh, is there a promise for poor G..?"
I said: "Yes; but if I read it to you, will you believe it?"
For answer he told me what a character he had been for fighting and everything that was bad. I told him a little of my own evil history. He asked:
"Have you been as bad as that?"
"Yes", I said, "and I have found pardon."
The execution of poor Palmer¹ was very vivid at that time in the minds of all in that neighbourhood; so I read: "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." I reminded him that the execution was the end of the law to Palmer. The offended law was satisfied when the penalty had been paid. I showed him that the law of God had no such claim in Christ as the law of England had on Palmer; and yet he paid the death penalty. To whom then is Christ the end of the law? According to the New Testament, "To every one that believeth." Then I read to him the verses that follow; "Moses described the righteousness which is of the law, That the man who doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise: Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above); or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead). But what saith it? "The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach, that if thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Then I quoted John iii, 16, and tried to show him how Christ with his finished work on Calvary was God’s offered gift to him and to me, inasmuch as the offer is to "whosoever believeth."
He said: "Is that in my Bible?"
I said: "Yes, it is in your Bible."
He said to his elder child: "You read it to me, and I will believe it."
She lifted the family Bible that lay on the bed, and opened it: but tears so bedimmed her sight that she sobbed out:
"O father, I cannot read it; but it must be there, or he would not say it is."
The publican’s younger child stepped forward, wiped his eyes, and said:
"Father, I will read it." He found the place. He read the life-giving words: "God so loved the world, that He gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
The publican clapped his hands, and said:
"Thank God, I can rest contented now. God so loved me that He gave his Son to die for me."
What a scene of weeping and rejoicing! The publican had not been out of bed for weeks; but whilst I was praying, he somehow got on his feet on the floor, and put his arms round his wife’s neck, and said:
"It’s done me more good than all the medicine. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth me from all sin. Praise the Lord!"
He said to me. "The devil wanted to have poor G.., but the Lord has saved me!"
He was so far restored in health that he was able to go in a cab to Chester, and tell his friends what the Lord had done for his soul. Sometime afterwards he asked his wife to write me. I have that letter. It is adorned with teardrops as the fields in early summer are adorned with daisies. His message was as follows:
"Tell Richard Weaver poor G.. has got the victory."
Not long after, he died, triumphing in Christ.
The Real Proprietor
On one occasion, when travelling from Chester to Liverpool, I was led into a somewhat amusing conversation with an old gentleman farmer who entered the train at Warrington. He at once became very communicative, and in a short time the conversation took the following turn:
"Do you see that house over the river?" he asked.
"Yes" I said.
"Well, I can remember when the gentleman who lives there had hardly a sixpence that he could call his own; and now that house and all this land belongs to him."
"Nay, friend," said I, "you are mistaken. This land belongs to my Father."
"Your Father, sir?"
"Yes. I am a King’s son."
The old gentleman looked astonished, and asked:
"Where do you come from?"
"From the City of Destruction."
"Where’s that? It is not in this country, is it? Is it not over the water?"
"Yes," I said, "it’s over the water" (an allusion to baptism).
"Let’s see," said the old gentleman. "Our country has a Queen, not a King."
"Yes," I said; "but my Father is a King."
"Dear me!" said the old gentleman.
"Yes," I said, "and all this land on each side of the railway, from Warrington to Liverpool, belongs to my Father."
"Nay," he exclaimed. "Then he must have leased it. Hasn’t he?"
"They have leased it of my Father," said the King’s son.
"Dear me!" said the other, "I never heard of such a thing as that."
"All Cheshire," continued the King’s son, "belongs to my Father."
"Nay, I am sure that’s a lie," said the other, indignantly. "I’ve got a farm in Cheshire, and I’m going now to Liverpool to settle about my will."
"I don’t care. The farm belongs to my Father."
"I’m sure it don’t."
"And all the money in your pockets belongs to my Father."
"It’s a downright lie," said the old gentleman, now quite angry, and he looked at me as if he thought I had just broken loose from some asylum; but he said:
"Tell me what your Father’s name is."
"Well," I said, "He is called by different names; but I call Him, ‘God is love.’ "
The old gentleman told me he hadn’t thought of these things. I talked to him about the seriousness of the situation for him when, according to his own confession, he was on his way to make his will, and as yet was not able to call God his Father. He confessed his desire for a Father in heaven. We knelt in the railway carriage. He prayed the publican’s prayer. God was pleased to hear his cry. We got out at Garston, and got on to the top of the omnibus to ride to Liverpool; and the old farmer could do nothing else but praise God and tell our fellow-passengers how he had found Christ in the railway carriage. When we parted company he pressed half a sovereign on my acceptance. As I took it I could not help saying, "Didn’t I tell you the money in your pockets belonged to my Father?"
Preaching at the Fair
Having been appointed Town Missionary at Prescot, I was led, at the time of the Fair, to ask my brethren to help me to make an attack on the tomfooleries that were carried on in the market-place. In the midst of the travelling theatres, boxing saloons, swing boats, shooting galleries, and shows of various descriptions we took our stand, and began to sing:
"Come ye that love the Lord,
And let your joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
And thus surround the throne."
They attempted to drown our voices. One theatre company called a band to their aid. We kept to the one hymn, singing it over and over again. On one side there were showmen’s bells ringing, drums being beaten, cymbals clashing, rattles rattling, and the band playing. On the other side only the unaided voices. For two hours the contest proceeded. By-and-by the drummers began to show signs of fatigue; first one hand got cramped, then the other. It was the same with the musicians; the cramp got in amongst their fingers. At last they gave in, and our voices held the field. A gentleman came to me, and said he had taken the Town Hall for us. In less than ten minutes it was packed in every corner. The power of God came down upon the gathering; saints were baptized with the Spirit; sinners were saved.
One of the showmen, at the close of the Fair, complained that, while he had taken £10 at the Fair a year before, he had not taken 10s. at this Fair. He laid the blame at my door. When pulling down his show, one of his children was heard asking:
"Are you going to Newton Races, father?"
"No," he said; "it’s no use going there. That preacher is going."
Old Irish Mary
One day a priest, knocked at the door of the house of one of the members of his flock, called "Old Irish Mary," and asked her if it was true that she "had joined
Richard Weaver’s lot."
"Yes, Father," she said; "you told me to go to the Mother: and I have prayed to her all these years, and have never derived any benefit. That man told me to go to the Son of God, and I went, and He has made me free. I have not got my scapular over my shoulders now: I have burned it. I do not bow before the crucifix now; I have burned it also."
The priest got angry, and cursed her eating and cursed her drinking; cursed her waking and cursed her sleeping; cursed her lying down and cursed her standing up; cursed her eyes and cursed her ears; cursed her hands and cursed her feet. What an awful prayer! Mary heard it out, and said:
"You have only wasted your breath, for the Lord has set a hedge about me; a hedge so high that your curse cannot get over it; a hedge so thick that your curse cannot get through it; a hedge so deep-set that your curse cannot get under it; and all the time you have been cursing, God has been blessing."
The priest beat a retreat, and Mary went on her way rejoicing.
The Frightened Publican
Passing a beer-house one day with a friend, we heard a tap on the window. We turned to look, and saw a man beckoning us in. The landlord of that very place had boasted that if ever I dared to enter his public-house, he would speedily put me to the door; but having received an invitation from those within, I thought it well to enter, and ask what they wanted.
"Oh, nothing," said the man who had tapped on the window.
"But," I said; "you called me in, didn’t you?"
"Yes," he said.
"Well," I said; "you know I don’t drink, and you know my business in Prescot is to warn sinners to flee to Christ." And I began to plead with them to leave their sins before it was too late.
We knelt to pray. I had noticed a large bull terrier dog in the room. As I knelt on one knee, I felt the dog pass under the other knee, and growl. I knew enough about dogs to know that if its tail was hanging down, it might bark but it wouldn’t bite. I opened my eyes to see if it meant to bite me. One glance convinced me that the Lord had muzzled the dog as well as the men. So I continued my prayer. One old woman began to cry for mercy. My friend began to shout, "Glory, Hallelujah!"
I was told afterwards that the publican came, with his wife, to the door of the room, and looked in at us on our knees; but, instead of turning us out, they went out themselves, and hid themselves in the tool-house at the foot of the garden. One wonders what they were afraid of. I was also told that an officer from the police station on the other side of the street came across to find out the meaning of the shouting, and, having seen, went back to his chief and reported:
"It’s only Mr Weaver praying."
"Then came in and shut the door, or we’ll have him praying here directly."
Shortly after this I returned to Prescot for a little necessary rest. Many were under the impression that by leaving the coal-pit for the platform I had an eye to the bettering of my worldly condition. Had that been my motive, I would have been disappointed. It was so far otherwise, that soon after my return to my family there was no food in the house, nor was there any money to buy it. I remember one morning on which we had not broken our fast for thirty-six hours. I did not care for myself; but it was a severe trial to see my wife and two children foodless.
I had received an invitation to return to London; but I had no money to pay my fare. On the table were the teacups and other crockery; but there was nothing in the way of food. My wife sat with the baby on her knee. I took the Bible and read a portion of God’s Word, and then knelt to pray. My little boy came to me and said:
"Stop praying, pa. Me so hungry. Give me my breakfast, and pray afterwards. Me so hungry."
He went to his mother, and said:
"Ma, I wish pa would stop praying, and give me my breakfast. Me so hungry."
He came again to me and laid his little face to mine. I felt his tears wet my cheek. I shall feel them to my dying day. What could I do but plead with God! There was a knock at the door. I got up from my knees and opened to the postman. He placed a registered letter in my hand. I signed the little paper and opened my letter. I found a five-pound note from an unknown friend. It meant food for my family and my fare to London.
A prodigal returns
I set off with my bag. When I reached Rainhill Station I found the parliamentary train had gone, so I had to take a second-class ticket. When I entered the apartment I was greeted with a social "Good morning!" by the gentleman who was already there. He immediately began to talk to me about politics. When I understood I replied; when I did not understand I held my peace. By-and-by I said to him:
"Let us change the subject."
He was willing, and asked what subject I wished to talk about.
I said, "God is love."
He dropped his paper and pulled off his hat, and said:
"Do you know anything of the love of God?"
"A little," I replied. "I know that He loves me and gave his Son for me."
He said, "Thank God!"
I suggested that we pray in the railway carriage. He agreed. I prayed, and he prayed, and I prayed again, and then I sang. When I had done singing, he asked my name.
"Richard Weaver," I said. In a moment his hand was thrust into his pocket for a well-filled purse, which he offered to me with the words:
"God bless you: this is yours."
"Nay," said I, "I cannot accept it until I know what it is for."
He asked if I remembered preaching in the theatre in Liverpool.
I said, "Yes."
"Well," he said, "I had a son who, through associating with bad companions, had become one of the worst characters in Liverpool. He was drinking and gambling to a fearful extent, and robbing us at home on every hand. He went to hear you preach, and came home a new man in Christ Jesus. He is now the greatest comfort we have got. This purse has been in my pocket for some time as a present to you for what the Lord, through you, has done for our boy."
I gratefully accepted the purse.
Navvies crying for Mercy
The pleasant surprises of the day, however, were yet to be added to. I was under promise to preach at Green Lane on my way to London. In order to keep that promise I broke my journey at Stafford, and got into the train for Wolverhampton. In the carriage were two navvies and a respectably dressed woman. As the train proceeded towards Wolverhampton, the navvies were talking with each other, and in their talk were frequently taking God’s name in vain. At last, I could bear it no longer; and I said to one of the men:
"Here, my good man, don’t you call my Father names anymore."
"Call your father names!" said he, "I never spoke a word about your father. I don’t know him. Dust thee, Jim?"
"No," said his comrade.
"The more shame to you," said I. "If you knew my Father, you would love Him. So please don’t call Him names anymore."
I asked him to give me his hand. I spoke to him of God’s love. He told me that six months before he had gone to see his dying mother, and she had put her hand on his head and asked God to bless him. He asked:
"Do you think, Sir, that God will save a sinner like me?"
We knelt in the carriage. The navvies cried to God, and their prayer was answered. One of those navvies is now a missionary of the Gospel.
From poverty to riches
When I got out at Wolverhampton, the woman who was in the carriage followed me, and asked if my name was Richard Weaver. She said she guessed it was, from my talk with the men. She went on to ask if I remembered preaching at such-and-such a place, some sixteen months before.
I said, "Yes."
She said, "The Lord bless thee! Sixteen months ago I had no bed but a bed of straw; my four children had nothing to eat. My husband had been put in prison, and had come out more like a devil than a man. As he came along he saw a placard with your name on it. He said to himself: ‘That must be the man I used to work with in the coal-pit. I’ll go and hear him.’ Your text was, "The Master is come, and calleth for thee." He was the first to go to the penitent form.
"I was sitting at home that night in fear. When he came in there was only an inch of candle in the socket. He said, "Where are the children?" ‘Upstairs in bed,’ I said. ‘Bring them down,’ said he. I laid the baby on the hearthstone and went upstairs, thinking he was about to turn us all out to seek shelter under some hedgerow. I knelt by my sleeping children, and asked the Lord to protect them; and then I awoke them and took them down. To my astonishment, my husband took the eldest into his arms and kissed her, and said, ‘My dear lass, the Lord has sent them a father home tonight.’ He did the same with the second girl, and with the boy, and also with the baby. Then he put his arm around my neck, and kissed me, and said, ‘My dear wife, the Lord has sent thee a husband home tonight.’ Oh, Mr Weaver, what a word! ‘My dear wife’ I had not heard it for fourteen years! How can I thank you? The Lord bless thee!"
Next morning there was a knock at the door of my room.
"Come in," I cried.
In walked four children, followed by a man, who said: "God bless thee, Richard. I am the man that my wife told thee of yesterday." Then they stood, dressed in a way that showed at once respectability and comfort. We had a delightful thanksgiving meeting.
¹ He is referring here to the public execution in 1856 of a notorious criminal by the name of Dr. William Palmer (aged 31) in Stafford to which Radcliffe, Weaver and a number of others attended. An estimated crowd of 30,000 people attended the execution and the missionaries arrived there at 3am by which time people had started gathering for the occasion, some paying as much as £5.00 for a good position. They were armed with between 70,000 and 80,000 tracts to give out. It had quite a profound effect upon Weaver as he mentioned it on a number of occasions afterwards. He was personally unable to look at the hanging and testified that he just stood there with his eyes closed, trembling and praying.
SOME MORE ANECDOTES
The content of the following has been taken from the earlier book on Weaver's life "The Converted Collier" which was not included in the later book "The life of Richard Weaver, or had less detail." As the later book was written in the 'first person' and this one in the 'third person' it was difficult to merge the two together, so I have decided to keep them separate.
The incident at the railway station
Before he came to live in Prescot on one occasion Weaver found himself at the railway station without the means of paying his fare. But he believed that he was the Lord's servant, and that he would provide him with what he needed, for he had told him his necessity, and prayed that money might be sent to enable him to go home. He had a few tracts in his pocket, which he distributed among the persons in the station. He gave one to a young man, who read it attentively, and then came and asked Weaver where he came from. "From the City of Destruction," he replied. "So do I," said the other. "Where are you going? " "I'm bound for glory," answered Weaver. "So am I." They shook hands, for they found that they were brothers. "But where do you pitch your tent to-night?" continued his new acquaintance. "At Manchester," answered Weaver. "I'm going that way too. I'll pay for your ticket." He paid for his ticket and gave him half-a-crown besides. When the train started no one else entered the same compartment, and Weaver said, "Now we'll have a prayer-meeting," and in his prayer he gave the Lord thanks for helping him out of his difficulty. In conversation afterward he told his friend how he had been situated, and before they parted he gave him a half-sovereign more.
His appointment as town missionary
Mr. Radcliffe now proposed to Weaver that he visit Prescot, to assist a fellow-labourer who had recently gone to that place as town missionary. When he arrived at Prescot he found that the brother whom he had come to help was in a house, holding a prayer meeting. Weaver proposed that they should go out of doors and he would preach. A crowd collected, and the Word was given with power. He remained at Prescot three weeks, preaching frequently, and more than four hundred, among whom were some of the worst men in the town, professed to find peace in believing. After a short time the missionary relinquished his position and Weaver succeeded him as the town missionary.
Preaching in a field
One evening a gentleman procured the town hall opened for preaching. Crowds came in from the streets, and many professed to have obtained the pardon of their sins. Weaver afterward preached in a field, and forty-four persons declared themselves to have found peace at that time. It was a most affecting scene. Some were mourning under a newly- awakened consciousness of sin; others rejoicing in the glorious hope of which they had just become partakers, through faith in the blood shedding of the Son of God. Here and there relatives and friends were hanging on each other's necks, weeping for sorrow or for joy; some crying, "Lord, save me!" and others giving glory to God for having saved them.
The clown at Prescot Fair
At the Prescot Fair, Weaver again took his stand among the shows, and a clown on one of them challenged him to come on the stage and hold a discussion with him. He went, and soon found that the clown was a Roman Catholic. Weaver had the best of the argument, and the merry-andrew was confounded before the people. He could say nothing. At last he broke away from the discussion by saying, " If I wanted a loaf of bread would you give me one ?" "Yes," answered the preacher," I would." "Well," he said, "I do want one." "Then come along with me and I'll give you one." The clown seemed backward at starting but Weaver took hold of his arm and led him down the steps and up the street, a host of people following them, to the shop of a baker, who was in a fright lest his windows should be broken by the crush. The missionary bought a sixpenny loaf and said, "Now before I give it thee I must pray with thee." And so the preacher and the man with painted face and clown's attire knelt together in the open shop, and the Lord's servant prayed his Father to save the soul of his fellow. The clown wanted to pay for the loaf, but Weaver would not let him. He returned to his show, but was ashamed to appear outside for the rest of the day. On the following morning he came and begged Richard to forgive him, saying he wished he could get a living in some other way. He grasped his hand, with tears in his eyes, when Weaver said, "The Lord bless thee. You have done nothing against me." Shall not the bread then cast upon the waters be found after many days?
The conversion of a collier
One of his first converts after being appointed the Town Missionary was a collier, who spent his time much as he himself had done in his ungodly days, in drinking, cockfighting, etc. Hearing the sound of preaching at a distance he was attracted to the spot, where he stood and listened. The terrors of the law, which were strenuously propounded, laid hold of the man's soul, and he ran home and went to bed, covering his head with the bed-clothes, to hide himself from the wrath of God. While he lay there shivering with terror his wife came, and asked him in astonishment what was the matter; but he told her if she did not let him alone he would knock her brains out. The next night he went again. After preaching, Weaver retired from the street to an adjoining schoolroom, inviting inquirers to follow him. Those who were anxious to obtain peace with God were then asked to come forward, and this cockfighting collier was among the first who accepted the invitation. He said that the devil "heaved him up to come there;" but he found peace, and then he knew that not the evil spirit, but the Spirit of God, had led him thither. He is still walking in the way of holiness. Three other colliers, married men, were brought in about the same time, and leaving their evil habits they set themselves to learn to read.
A transformed family
There was a watchmaker at Prescot whose brother had been converted under Weaver, and who said he believed that if his brother would hear him he would be converted too. He went, and as the preacher thundered out the law he felt as if he should be damned in the place. Thus made willing to be saved on God's own terms, he was brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God before he left. He was the eldest son at home, and the main support of his widowed mother. The change soon became apparent; he was now as attentive to her as before he had been unkind, and this may possibly have conduced to her own conversion under Weaver subsequently. She died happily some time after in her son's arms, and it was very unwillingly that he left her grave. This young man is a zealous and faithful labourer in the Gospel. He visited Woolwich and Barnet in 1860, by invitation, as a lay preacher.
Two notorious brothers
There were two twin brothers, labouring men, one of whom had paid as much as £50 in small sums, from time to time, in fines for being drunk. They were awful characters, and when they could find no one else to fight with they exercised their quarrelsome propensities upon each other. They came together one night to a small chapel where our friend was preaching, and both, at least as regards outward deportment, became changed characters. They are still members of the Temperance Society, and attend the house of God regularly.
A brush with death
On one occasion he went into the house of a Roman Catholic at Prescot, an Irishman, who declared he would cut his throat. "Then," said Richard, "you shall murder me on my knees." The man stood over him with an open razor while he prayed; but before the prayer was over his mind was changed, and he said, "Sure I wouldn't hurt him for the world; he says nothing but the truth."
Preaching in the ale-houses
With a collier named Berry, who had been converted under Mr. Radcliffe, Weaver went into alehouses and prayed in the kitchen in the midst of those who were drinking there, sometimes receiving thanks and kindness, sometimes abuse and threatening, but gaining the respect of all. Many of those whom he visited in sickness found a present Saviour through his instrumentality, and others still live to thank God for his sojourn there.
The Saturday prayer meeting
As soon as the fruits of his labours began to appear, Richard invited the converts to his house every Saturday night — a meeting of which it would be difficult to overrate the importance, and doubly valuable at that time, when they were subject to greater temptation than at any other hour in the week. There was a public house next door, and often the people would leave their drink, and go away to escape the sound of the praying.
The conversion of the violent drunkard
News came one morning that a man had almost killed his wife. The poor woman had been to a meeting the night before and got her sins pardoned; she had gone home and gone to bed, and left the door open for him. You know there's nothing to steal in a drunkard's house. Well, he went home about three o'clock in the morning, and dragged his poor wife down stairs by the hair of her head. I went to the house, and there I found the poor woman sitting down and holding her sides. She could hardly breathe. Three or four of her ribs were broken by his kicks. He had blinded her on one eye before, and now he had locked up the other. "O, Richard," she says, "I can't see thee, but I know thy voice. O, Richard, if the Lord would only take me home!" "My dear sister," I whispered to her, "you must say, "Not my will, but thine, be done." She showed me her poor legs black and blue. I said, "Where's thy husband now?" "Don't go near him," she answered; "he swears he'll kill anybody who meddles with him." I went into the bit of a place behind: there he was with a carving knife in his hand cutting a bit of bread, shaking just like drunkards do. "Well, my lad," I said, "what hast thou been doing? Look at thy poor wife." "Thee go to hell," says he. "O no, I shall never go there; Jesus has saved me from hell, and can save thee too. Why, thou hadst a praying mother," (I knew he had;) "dostna remember what she used to teach thee?" "Ah, Richard," said he, "twas different times with us then. When I lost my mother I lost my best friend." "O no thee didn't; thou'st got thee best friend. Jesus is thee best friend, and he'll save thee yet if thou'lt come to him." "O no, he won't save me." "Ah, but I'm sure he will." "If I thought he would I'd go on my knees now and I'd never get up again till he had" "Now, then, we'll try him; now thee kneel there and I'll kneel here." So we knelt down, and I prayed and he prayed, and I believed and he believed; and so, by and by, he jumps up crying, "Glory be to God, my sins are pardoned!" He clasps his poor wife in his arms and begs her to forgive him. And now, when I'm at home, I see them of a Sunday morning going arm-in arm to the house of God.
The lady with the gold coins
I was called once to see a poor old lady on her dying bed. Gold was her God, and she kept it under her pillow. Well, in my prayer I shook her over hell, and as I was taking her a walk through the flames I heard something go smack on the floor, then another, and another, and another; this was four bags of gold. Her daughter picked them up and brought them to her; but she cried, "Take them away! I don't want them, I want Jesus now!" and she was saved just as she was dropping into hell.
Ministry to a dying man
Weaver was one day called to visit a widow's son dying in decline. He asked if there were any mercy for him, and the missionary told him how Jesus had died for sin, that sinful men might live through him Afterward, while he prayed, the sick man burst into a cry to God for mercy and before they separated he had found righteousness and peace. He was now happy beyond expression. In a few weeks, early one Monday morning, the dying one sent for him again. His feet were dipped in the brim of Jordan, but he was happy in the Lord. His mother and sisters and brothers stood around him, and he asked them one by one, "Mother, sister, brother, will you meet me in heaven? " His eldest brother was a sceptic, and long held out, while the departing Christian pressed him, all the while praising and blessing God, with "Jonathan, will you meet me in heaven?" The brother yielded at last, saying, "Yes, I will." May the Lord ever keep him mindful of that solemn promise! Then the joyful believer lifted up his hands and prayed, "Come, Lord Jesus," and fell asleep in him.
"Nellie, I've got it!"
During his sojourn at Prescot he visited many of the surrounding villages. On one of these occasions he preached at a little place called Haydock, where thirty-two professed to find peace the same night. There was a man who went to chapel under the impressions produced by his brother having been killed in a coal-pit, and he told his wife that was the last time he would go. He was a great rabbit-man, dog-fancier, pigeon- flier, etc., and before he went on the Sunday morning some of his companions called for him to go out with them. He asked them to wait a while; he should not be long. He would not go with his wife the direct road, but went across the fields and got in at the back way, being ashamed to be seen going to chapel. He did not know who was to preach. The text was, "Go, and the Lord be with thee." Conviction laid hold of him while he sat under the word, and he wept. When he returned home the men had gone, and in the afternoon he went to his father-in- law's house, to be out of the way, and to avoid going to chapel again at night. But when the time came he cried out, "It's no use; I must go to chapel." The text again fell upon him as a message from God: "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." His brother, and the wife of the brother who had been killed, were brought to the Lord that night, but he still resisted, though he was so wrought upon that he knew not what to do with himself. The next morning when he got down into the coal-pit he said "he durstna work till he had prayed," and he prayed. But he could not remain. He was terrified lest something should fall upon him and kill him. He went home and sat in the house the rest of the day, weeping and sighing, "O dear, what must I do? " He said to his wife, "Hey, Nelly, what have I been doing?" for he thought the preacher had meant him all the time. Tuesday passed in the same way, and his wife and neighbours thought he had gone mad; he could not work, and did nothing but cry, and moan, and weep. He asked where that man lived that preached, for he must go and see him. On the Wednesday he went to the coal-pit, but soon returned. When he came home he asked his child to fetch down the Bible and the hymn book, (for he had had praying parents,) and as he turned over the leaves he observed to his wife how his good old father had marked his favourite places in the books, and how they had neglected them. He cried to the Lord to have mercy upon him, and just then he opened at the hymn beginning,
" My God! I know, I feel thee mine,
And will not quit my claim
Till all I have is lost in thine,
And all renewed I am.
" I hold thee with a trembling hand,
But will not let thee go,
Till steadfastly by faith I stand,
And all thy goodness know."
When he had got thus far he cried out, "Nelly, I've got it! Nelly, I've got it! I've got Jesus! I've got it!" and off he went up stairs, shouting and praising God. There he fell on his knees, and prayed so loud and long that the people came in to see what was the matter, and found the wife and children standing at the bottom of the stairs, crying to think the husband and father had gone out of his mind. He ran off to the house of a local preacher and class-leader, and said, "Mr. F., I am come to ask you to pray with me. I've found Christ! " They prayed together, and he returned home, but was soon away again to tell his brother, who had been saved on Sunday night, and they praised God together, gathered their Christian neighbours, and had a joyous meeting. Weaver says he is one of the choicest men he knows, and if he had had no other fruit of his labours he would be infinitely rewarded in this one soul. He is a man of earnest and believing prayer. On one occasion he was sent of the Lord to a house tenanted by a family of four persons, to tell them that God would save them that day. He talked and prayed with them, and did not leave them till they all professed faith in the name of Jesus.
Outpouring at Dunham-on-the-Hill
Early in 1859 Mr. Radcliffe, having received an invitation to Scotland, asked Weaver to supply some engagements for him in Cheshire. Richard accordingly made his headquarters at a farmhouse, where he preached. He laboured also in the villages around, and God was with him; many precious and immortal souls were saved. He was invited to a village called Dunham-on-the-hill, of which a minister told him, if there was any place like the cities of the plain that was it. He was sure Weaver would do no good there. However, the Lord had many souls in that place whom he had ordained to eternal life, and a mighty work was wrought in the name of the holy child Jesus. The people flocked together and filled the chapel, so that they were obliged to adjourn to the open air. The windows of heaven were opened, and a blessing was poured down. They had an excellent time, and many were added to the Lord. Weaver then returned to Prescot, and then he went toWillenhall, where he preached every night for a fortnight, and God owned the word so that more than five hundred persons gave in their names as having found peace in believing. Among them was an infidel, who, with his wife, stood up and confessed Christ in the midst of the congrega- tion. Many who had been living in adultery were married, dog-fanciers and pigeon- fliers sold their pets, and some of the most degraded characters were reclaimed, and came and sat at the feet of Jesus.
Another "Pentecost" at Stanney, Ellesmere Port
The following incident was mentioned in the book "Recollections of Reginald Radcliffe," as told by his wife Jane Radcliffe:
"Whilst lodging at a farm house a few miles from Chester a special prayer meeting was arranged at the house of a Wesleyan Methodist couple at a house in Stanney, Ellesmere Port to which both he and Reginald Radcliffe were invited. Tea over, prayer began - and such prayer; the very house seemed shaken! I saw two holy sisters clasp each other, and fall back as in a faint. I was alarmed; but one of the men said to me, "It is only the glory." My own husband was so overpowered, he lay at full length upon the floor. 'In one place with one accord, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost' - at Pentecost, at Stanney; and yet again we may ask for the filling, and get it. Hearts and tongues were touched by God's Spirit that night; and we drove home through the high hedge-rows of the Cheshire lanes by the light of Donati's Comet, but with brighter light in our hearts, even a heavenly."
Weaver gives prophetic words
In December 1857, a woman stopped Weaver in the street and began to sneer at him. He spoke to her of the love of Christ, but she laughed in his face, asking, " Who is Christ?" She still scoffed and mocked, when he said that Christ was the Saviour of the world. Then he turned to the law and told her, " ' The wages of sin is death. The soul that sinneth it shall die.' " When he had given her several such passages as these he paused, and she still mocked. All at once, and before he could consider his words, he was impelled to say, " Mrs. , this is December, 1867, and if I am a man of God, before this month is out I believe you will be dead and damned if you don't repent of your sins and turn to the Lord." Her reply was too blasphemous to be repeated here. The preacher said, "The Lord save you," and went his way. As he walked he pondered on what he had said, wondering at his words, and asking the Lord to forgive him if he had spoken unadvisedly. A fortnight after, being ill, he was going, accompanied by a friend, to see the doctor, and on the way they passed this woman's house. The blinds were down, and Weaver stood still to ask his friend, - "Is somebody dead here? " He said, "Haven't you heard that Mrs. is dead? " "Is that true?" asked Weaver, greatly shocked. "Yes; she died on Saturday last." On inquiring the circumstances of her death, he learned that she had been taken with some sudden seizure and carried to bed. The doctor was sent for, but could give no assistance, not being able to discover the cause of her suffering. One of her family asked her if some one should be sent for to pray with her; but she turned her head, and looking at her friend, replied by a frightful imprecation, and ordered her to be out of the road; and thus she died, her mouth filled with curses and blasphemy.
In the same place a publican stood outside the crowd cursing the preacher and reviling the Word of God. Some time before, in a fit of delirium tremens, he had sprung from his bed in the night and fled from the devils which he imagined were haunting him, run through the town in his undress to a coal-pit, and slid down the rope to the bottom, where the astonished colliers found him in the morning. As he stood listening to the preacher these words fell upon his ear: "Maybe some one here, before twelve o'clock to-morrow will be dead and damned if they don't repent now." The publican went away cursing and reviling as before. The next day his landlord called about a quarter to twelve, to give him notice to quit the house. He jumped up in a rage, and told the landlord to go to hell. He immediately fell down the cellar steps, broke his neck, and was taken up dead.
After this, according to the 1871 Census he went to live in Fallibroome, Prestbury, Cheshire with his wife and family. He continued to be used powerfully around the country and went to be with the Lord in 1896 when he was 68 years of age. The person asked to officiate at his funeral was Dr. Barnardo but he unfortunately missed his train so somebody else took it, but he did give the following tribute, of which the following is a short extract:
"I gladly comply with the request that I should lay my humble wreath upon the coffin of the inimitable evangelist and veteran warrior of Christ, Richard Weaver.
My recollections of him date back to the very beginning of my own Christian life. I think that it was in 1863 when I first met Richard. He visited Dublin, where I then lived, just as the marvellous revival of religion associated with the ministry of J Denham Smith and Grattan Guinness was subsiding. It is not exaggeration to say that Richard took the city by storm. The old Metropolitan Hall, and subsequently the Merrion Hall, were crowded out to hear the impassioned utterances of the collier evangelist. The influence he exercised extended through every rank; not merely did vast crowds of business people and working folk throng every assembly, but the wealth, fashion, and high birth of the Irish metropolis were also at the feet of the lowly-born pitman.
I can understand, for I myself have felt, why men were thrilled, and why women surrendered themselves to the magic of an oratory that was untutored indeed, but which was touched as by a live coal from off the heavenly altar. I have never seen any one, never expect to hear any one on earth to compare with him in his matchless eloquence.
The memory of this dear servant of God is green in my heart, and I can never forget the wonders which God did by his agency."
Richard Weaver's descendants
There are a number of his descendants in the ministry today, and I had the privilege of meeting up with one of them a few years ago, Roy Weaver, and above is a photo that I took of him outside a church in Warrington where he had been ministering. Roy has a great interest in his famous relative and has done a lot of research into his life and has made contact with a number of his relatives, both in this country and around the world.
I would like to thank the following:
Roy Weaver - for help and information given to me.
Anita Dellaway - for help with proof-reading and for doing most of the typing.
Richard Weaver in later life