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Gawin Kirkham -The Open Air Evangelist

Digital image restoration © Peter N Millward

Gawin Kirkham
The Open Air Evangelist

    Chapter 4      

                                         Ch1. Ch2. Ch3. Ch4. Ch5. Ch6. Ch7. Ch8. Ch9.                                                     

Later Morning: and Life's Great Deeps

An atmosphere akin to the romantic surrounds the nativity and early infancy of the Open-Air Mission. Its founder and leader, Mr. John Mac Gregor, son of General Sir Duncan Mac Gregor, K.C.B., had, as a babe of four weeks old, been rescued with his parents from the burning Kent, East Indiaman—an escape which was the forerunner of many adventures and deliverances to be experienced in the days of his famous voyagings by canoe. In him the genius of organization, united to earnest consecration of heart and life, was early manifested ; and with singular ardour he threw him￾self, while a young barrister in chambers, into philanthropic plans and projects, -many of which, in their successful issue, remain as abiding memorials of his lofty enterprise and skill. It was in the year 1853 that, with firm hand, strong faith, and clear intelligence, Mr. Mac Gregor’s sacred and cherished seed—the “ Open-Air Mission ”—was committed to the soil amid abounding hopes and prayers.  “On Sunday, April 17th, 1853”—so runs a later record from his pen—“ while visiting ragged schools in Whitechapel, some groups of people were observed listening to preachers in the open streets.  Six weeks afterwards a few of these preachers met in a room in Holborn to form the Open-Air Mission, and the following note was made at the time in a private diary :—‘ I see in this a small beginning of what may be—yes, and will be—a great, noble, blessed undertaking. May the Lord give us wisdom, zeal, and love to work unitedly, discreetly, vigorously ! ’” The fragrance of a sweet humility breathes within this statement; for the steps referred to, and the diary which recorded them, were his own. Speedily this humble germ, rooted thus in the sure soil of confidence in God, sprang up to Evident
vitality and fruitfulness. Tender blades of premise gladdened the hearts of a gathering band of men, whose hearts the Lord had touched to tend its early growth, and to water it with their tears and prayers. Nine preachers were at once appointed, and began to labour at set positions in the heart of London, where, twice on Sundays, and on two week-evenings, they discharged their ministry of love. Being in part detached from their daily occupations, they were paid an inconsiderable sum for their consequent loss of time. Within a year a thousand open-air services had been successfully held ; and it became possible to gauge the supreme importance and also the immensity of the task in hand. Soon a paper from Mr. Mac Gregor’s pen told of difficulties, encouragements, and results, and marked the flowing tide of interest and enthusiasm. “ Go out Quickly ”—a truly notable appeal, bearing the signature “Rob Roy”—a pseudonym by which Mr. Mac Gregor was hereafter to be widely known—followed ; and its clarion note rang out the call to action.

Mr John MacGregor -Founder of the Open-Air Mission

The Open-Air Mission

A field at King’s Cross became a Gospel rendezvous, and here Mr. Mac Gregor preached and debated with great activity, specially refuting the arguments of Romanists and secularists, and proving himself a giant in controversy. Races and Fairs received attention ; and the operations of the mission were extended country-wards ; while in winter the common lodging-houses of the metropolis sustained a peaceful and an ordinarily welcome invasion on the part of the appointed preachers, whose numbers grew apace. The effect upon the churches was immediate. Careful note was taken of the tokens of their arousing; and as early as in the second annual Report of the Mission, we arc informed that “the work of the mission has not only caused thousands to hear who would not otherwise have heard the Word, but has called forth other agencies, as well as the efforts of individuals, for the revival of the practice of open-air preaching as a recognised mode of proclaiming Scripture truth.” Here, indeed, as from one small grain of mustard-seed, we behold the spreading branches at length encompass all the land in their beneficent enfoldings. Committees were formed, and local branches inaugurated for street evangelization, the attention of Church dignitaries was successfully invoked, and ministers of the Gospel followed in large numbers where lay￾men had led the van. To Mr. MacGregor’s undying honour be it said, he discovered the great cause of open-air evangelism to be a soul without a body, and left it possessed of corporate existence. He found it practised feebly, fitfully, and, too often, unwisely, and left it furnished with well-defined and accurate laws ; he found it largely the object of the Church’s averted gaze, and left it, when at length his sacred trust and testimony were fulfilled, the recognised and the indispensable adjunct of its ministry among the multitude. Among many auxiliaries formed to aid this apostolic enterprise, the first, and ever the most vigorous, was that at Southwark, in the south of London. From this local centre, bands of preachers laboured constantly on racecourses and fairgrounds far beyond their home ; and a monthly conference, which still exists, was held for the stimulus and edification of those engaged. To this, and to the fellowship of these zealous and like-minded men of God, Gawin Kirkham was from the first attracted. He attended the inaugural assembly of the auxiliary on December 29th, 1856, and took a part, almost prophetic as to its nature, in the proceedings. Up to the year 1857, however, strange to say, he had never personally preached in the open-air ; though the services conducted by his vicar had inspired his soul with a glowing enthusiasm for the Christ-like vocation of the wayside preacher. But, on Easter Monday in that year, the ice was for ever broken. Invited by members of the Southwark band, and in their company, he addressed a large crowd gathered in the Old Kent Road, on their return from Greenwich Fair, along that broad and busy artery of the great metropolis.

His Appointment as Secretary

   “ In weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling,” he lifted up his voice amid the turmoil of the street. But the attempt, once made, was speedily followed by many others. Not only in the immediate environment of his calling as a Scripture Reader, but also at suburban and country races, as at Chatham and Epsom, we trace his footsteps. And thus, some-times alone, but often cheered by the congenial fellowship of brethren, he began to witness a confession that gathered within itself the vital elements of Godly courage and resource. From hence his eye beheld a broad, wide field of Christian husbandry ; and, with hand on plough, and the forward gaze of a glad assurance, he laboured as a man to whom the resistless call has been communicated. Never a backward look ; ever a furrrow straight and clean, until his task was ended. Three years later his appointment came. From the years 1853 to 1860 the secretaryship of the Open-Air Mission had been honourably and zealously filled by Mr. John Wilde Taylor (who still survives, and lives in peaceful retirement in Hertfordshire).  But removal to Scotland compelled him to resign his position, and with the change came the necessity of securing his successor. Mr. Mac Gregor was not long in doubt. Gawin Kirkham had become well-known to him on account of his diligent labours in the open-air, and Mr. Mac Gregor’s choice of him is thus explained by Mr. Richard Turner, one of Mr. Kirkham’s oldest and dearest friends, and a member of the committee of the Mission :—“ I knew dear Mr. Kirkham long before he was connected with the Open-Air Mission. While he was a Scripture Reader with the Rev. Duncan Long  in Bermondsey, he took a very active part in disseminating pure literature in his district ; in fact, at
that time he was one of our most successful workers in supplying monthly periodicals ; * and his occasional reports of his work in this way drew the attention of our dear friend, Mr. Mac Gregor, to him. He was also associated with the Southwark Auxiliary of the Open-Air Mission in its very early days. This was another link in bringing him under the notice of Mr. Mac Gregor, whose far-seeing judgment thought he would be a suitable man to succeed Mr. John Wilde Taylor. And this was how Mr. Kirkham was appointed. I always feel that, under God, the Open-Air Mission is indebted to the Pure Literature Society for having had this honoured man of God as its Secretary.” And so, standing in vision upon the shore, we see, in Gawin Kirkham’s ripening manhood, as it were, a goodly vessel—sails set, and laden with the precious merchandise of grace—after its erstwhile coastings, steer straight for the deeps of life. Gladly and solemnly attaching himself thus to this young but apostolic movement, and sped onwards by the affectionate farewells of his friends in Bermondsey  —whose regard took visible shape in the gift of a handsome clock—he found an organization of growing strength indeed, though as yet of small proportions. Only the meagre sum of £326 had been received as the income of the Mission for 1859 ; and, but for the fact that many members freely gave their time and strength without thought of earthly reward, this would have been altogether insufficient.


* Mr. Turner is the Secretary of the Pure Literature Society ; hence these remarks.

Early Days of the Mission

But, early in the history of the enterprise, it had been resolved to use to the utmost all such voluntary labour as could be obtained—a principle ever since adhered to.  The advantage, however, was not unqualified ; for
many regarded the Mission as scarcely in need of generous support, since such slender means procured such great results. Thus, with a work which must needs grow or perish, it became a matter of increasing difficulty to secure a sum in proportion to its necessities. The field of action rapidly spread and widened ; the sinews of war followed slowly and reluctantly. Nevertheless, it was a movement of immense and visible significance. For one thing, its labours at races, fairs, and fetes, where great concourses assemble, were almost unique, and, as a systematic effort, unexampled. Here, in the midst of scenes of ribaldry and riot, surrounded by thousands having no fear of God before their eyes, and often exposed to insult and contumely, these brave and devoted open-air preachers stood as undaunted witnesses for truth and righteousness—warning, pleading, inviting, proclaiming, and rescuing, wherever their glorious errand led them. Gospel publications were scattered by scores of thousands, and the great evangel was proclaimed in the very midst of Satan’s chosen seats. Throughout the land his strongholds were thus assailed. For public fairs, especially, were in those days very numerous, and were frequently attended by excesses almost too horrible to name. In Kent, Charlton Fair was conspicuous and notorious in this sense. “ There was a mock funeral, and the feigned deceased was carried off from the stage by the actors through the crowd, while the band played the ‘ Dead March in Saul.' Men were dressed in female apparel, and young girls were attired in men’s clothes. Of all the fairs visited by the Mission this is the vilest. The fearful spread of evil at each recurrence is enough to make one weep.” Effigies of Satan were exhibited, and drinking went on all night unchecked. This, then, became Gawin Kirkham’s great endeavour ; not only from headquarters to direct and organize, but also to lead his brethren in the holy war against the powers of darkness. With enthusiastic energy he threw himself at once into the thickest of the fray, proving himself from the first, by his courage, zeal, and faithfulness, a God-sent man, and attracting the warm affections of his growing band. Let us follow him'as he pursues his way among the teeming thousands assembled on our English race-courses. Since the day when, on May 27th, 1857, his bewildered and astonished gaze first rested on the sights inseparable from a Derby day at Epsom, and his aid had been enlisted in the work, his experience had rapidly increased. With his appointment as Secretary of the Mission came still more frequent visitations ; until on every noted racecourse in the land his voice had been uplifted in this arduous campaign. Bath races, for instance, annually formed one of these occasions. In May, 1862, “nearly 10,000 tracts were distributed during the two days.

Work at Bath Races

The Scriptures were read, and short addresses delivered on the course each day. Each evening services were held in the streets of the city; two the first evening, and one on the second. The attendance was large, and the attention almost everything that could be desired. Some remembered the visit of the previous year, and spoke of it with pleasure. On the course many interesting incidents occurred. All the sellers of sham jewellery were conversed with privately. One of them spoke of his father as superintending a Sunday school in the suburbs of London. He had in his pocket a letter from him, entreating him to consider his ways, and 
saying he never ceased to pray for him. We are able in these cases to follow up and deepen a father’s counsel. A foolish girl was about being led away by a wicked man. They were spoken to, and she went away ashamed. A man had a card offered, with the question on one side ‘ Is your soul saved ? ’ He took, it, crossed out the word ‘ soul,’ wrote over it the word ‘ money,’ and handed it back.” On the same race-course, in the following year, a striking incident happened. “ After one of the races a man came and stood right in front of Mr. Kirkham.  He was a ‘ trainer,’ and called himself ‘ a wretched racing vagabond.' He had a pious mother. ‘ She comes to me in my dreams and says, “Jack, why don’t you give up your sins, and meet me here ?” but it is impossible to be a Christian in the situation I am in?" Then he wept like a child. After an hour’s conversation he said, 'When you lay your head upon your pillow to-night, you may have the consolation of knowing that you have been made a blessing to me, for you have shown me that even for me there is hope.’ ” Insult and persecution were as surely expected as received. “Lewd fellows of the baser sort” often threw bags of flour, or missiles of a weightier kind. At Epsom races, in 1864, one of the preachers received a blow from the fist of an apparent gentleman to whom he had offered a tract; and this was by no means a solitary occurrence.  “ Sunday before the Derby,” popularly styled “ Show-out Sunday,” presented, until recently, perhaps the saddest spectacle of unabashed ungodliness to be found within the United Kingdom. Thousands gathered on the Downs at Epsom. Short horse-races, boxing and sparring exhibitions, shows more or less profane and vicious, roundabouts and similar amusements—all went on unhindered, to the unspeakable demoralization of the people and the desecration of the holy Sabbath. Vice and drunkenness abounded, and the noise was deafening. It was reserved for the Open-Air Mission to encounter this gigantic evil , and finally to be in some measure the instrument of its extinction. Year by year Mr. Kirkham, followed by his faithful band, took his stand amid the crowd gathered on the course on Sunday afternoon. And what a crowd ! “ The inner circle is composed of poor gipsies’ children, some of whom are accompanied by their parents.  Then the next two or three circles will be working people, and young men and women. Beyond these you may see a mixture of stable-boys, jockeys, and......  

The Lancashire Cotton Famine

betting men ; and further still, the dandies, with their silver-mounted sticks, eye-glasses, and cigars, who imagine they honour the poor preacher if they listen to him for a few minutes ; after which they walk on with a scornful look and a contemptuous toss of the head. Half-drunken men make their stupid, senseless observations, and witty infidels seek to create amusement at the preacher’s expense.” Here the glorious Gospel, preached in God-given power, repeated its ancient triumphs, and from these scenes of spiritual darkness gems of brightest lustre were added to Emmanuel’s jewelled crown.

It is a relief to divert the flow of thought to another channel, and to gaze awhile upon a different scene, albeit one of sadness and distress. The Lancashire cotton famine must needs constrain, on Gawin Kirkham’s part, the deepest sympathy. Ere long, having collected funds for distribution among the stricken operatives, he journeyed north to Preston. But not for this alone : to tell of the Bread that would not perish was his chief desire ; so philanthropy and evangelization joined their common service. Accompanied by several brethren, he preached the Word.  Crowds of half-famished people hung upon his lips.  Many received the truth, and in the highest sense “ the hungry ” were “ filled with good things.” At this time an affecting incident occurred. A lady, addressing one of these assemblies of the poor, suddenly exclaimed : “ I want as many of you as would like to meet me in heaven to hold up your hands.” Instantly hundreds of hands went up, and tears started to many eyes. “ Now,? she continued, “ the way to heaven is not an easy way ; but remember, Jesus lives to bring you through” The memory of the touching scene did not fade from Mr. Kirkham’s mind, and soon after he embodied it in the following lines, which reveal a gift of song often exercised during the course of his many-sided activities :—


“ He [Jesus] ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
(Heb. vii. 25.)
Friends and brethren, tried and tempted,
Sad the lot you daily rue :
None from trials are exempted,
But the Lord will “ bring you through.”
Fear not, though the tempest rages,
Though the skies display no blue ;
Though you’ve neither work nor wages, 
“ Jesus lives to bring you through.”
Gen’rous friends will love and bless you,
They will clothe and feed you too ;
None will needlessly distress you,
For the Lord will “ bring you through.”
Search the Scriptures ; read and ponder
God’s good news revealed to you ;
And still say, while thus you wonder, 
“Jesus lives to bring us through ! ”
If you feel the law’s just sentence,
For your sins of darkest hue,
And are brought to true repentance, 
“Jesus lives to bring you through.”

* These verses have been in print almost ever since; for they 
were published in 1867 for the benefit of the London poor, and 
are still to be obtained in leaflet form.

"Jesus Lives to Bring You Through"

Come to Christ, the loving Saviour,
He is ever kind and true ;
Free and lasting is his favour,
For He lives to “bring you through.’’
If your soul is bowed with sorrow,
And you know not what to do ;
Wait not for the coming morrow,
NOW He lives to “ bring you through.”
Do not let your hearts in sadness
Faint with trials not a few ;
All will soon be joy and gladness— 
“ Jesus lives to bring you through.”
Soon we hope to meet in glory,
And have nothing else to do 
But to tell the wondrous story,
How the Lord has brought us through.

Perhaps, among all the scenes with which Gawin Kirkham became yearly more and more familiar, those at public executions of condemned criminals touched the lowest depth of English civilization. Tens of thousands assembled on these occasions to witness the appalling sight. Great cities and towns were drained of their most brutalized human occupants, whose conduct was only less* shocking than the scene they had congregated to behold. To visit these dense concourses, and amid even such distracting surroundings to uplift a crucified Redeemer, became an object of Mr. Kirkham’s intense desire. Well-nigh coincident, therefore, with his assumption of office the work commenced, and rapidly developed until, some few years later, public executions were happily abolished.  “The work at executions has been considerably extended during the past year ” —so runs the record of the Open-Air Mission for 1863—“eleven such scenes having been visited by the Secretary, who has been greatly aided by kind friends at each place. None but those who have been actually engaged in speaking to the crowds at such a time can have any conception of the levity and trifling which go on for hours before an execution, nor of the solemnity produced by the preaching of the Gospel among such people. The executions visited have been at the Old Bailey, Winchester, Lancaster, Liverpool, Worcester, Dorchester, Maidstone, and Hereford. The crowds greatly improved in conduct during the past few years. The secretary had a long conversation with the executioner himself on a recent journey, who attributes this improvement to the preaching of the Gospel. He says he knows many persons who have been completely changed by reading the tracts they have received at such times.” Thus Mr. Kirkham himself takes up the story,  describing the work at the Old Bailey, in London :—  “ We had more preaching than I ever remember on a similar occasion. ‘There could not have been fewer than thirty addresses on the Sabbath evening and Monday morning. On Monday there was continuous preaching at four stations for nearly two hours. The principal one was in front of the drop, and consequently in the centre of the vast crowd, which numbered at least fifteen thousand persons. Although composed of the usual rough element, it was, on the whole, a remarkably orderly one.

Preaching at Public Executions

Many were under the influence of drink, and some laughed and joked while the most solemn things were being spoken, uttering mock ‘Amens’ while prayer was being offered for the poor culprit ; but the majority lent at least the outward ear, and some were moved to tears.”  A second account of a similar nature was penned by Mr. Kirkham in the year 1867, which vividly illustrates at once the difficulty and the blessedness of his remarkable labours on such occasions :—  "The execution of the unhappy man Jefferys was the occasion of a large and demoralized crowd assembling, among whom a considerable number of Christian men were engaged in preaching and distributing tracts. About thirty-five of us remained up all the previous night, and next morning our numbers were increased to sixty. The night was spent partly in preaching to the crowd, and partly in prayer in the Cow Cross Mission House, Clerkenwell. Not less than thirty thousand tracts were distributed.  “ I know not how to attempt a description of the crowd, especially in the night and early morning.  It was, in my judgement, worse than any of the forty execution crowds in which I have laboured in London and the provinces. It was emphatically an assemblage of poverty and crime, the latter element  predominating to a considerable extent. The poverty-stricken creatures might be counted by scores asleep in the doorways, on the pavement, and against the barriers in the street. There they lay coiled up together like bundles of rags till disturbed by the police, the occupants of the houses, the workmen engaged in fixing the barriers, or the noise of the crowd. Meanwhile scores, probably hundreds, of thieves were either hanging listlessly about, or amusing themselves by 'chaffing’ each other, or ill-treating any respectable person who presented himself on the scene. Anything like a respectable hat was beaten flat on the head of the unfortunate wearer, generally by fists, sometimes by sticks, and then tossed about for amusement while the owner was being robbed. Oaths, blasphemies, obscenities, and filthy and comic songs were freely and continuously indulged in. " Only once were the preachers set upon by these ruffians. It was at three o’clock. We had just sung Luther’s hymn, 'Great God, what do I see and hear’ ;and one of our brethren had commenced preaching, when we were suddenly surrounded, laid hold of, and robbed of whatever we had in our pockets. Of course we had not much with us, having deposited our watches, etc., at the Mission-house. It is but right to say that this is the first time to my knowledge that the preachers have been thus set upon in an execution crowd, and the second time I have had my pocket picked during ten years’ mission work in London, the extent of my loss being a pocket-handkerchief on each occasion. " Some may ask, 'What is the good of trying to preach to such a crowd as that? ’ We reply, ' Because it is a plain Christian duty.’ Here are hundreds of people who can never be so well reached at any other time.

Encouragements in the Work

They are not at home when the missionary or Bible-woman calls, and they will not even stop to listen to an open-air preacher, much less enter a church or chapel. But here they are, and will be for hours ; therefore it is our bounden duty to try and benefit them in some way. Besides, on the whole, they give us a better hearing than prejudiced or inexperienced persons imagine. The rough usage mentioned above is the exception, and even then some of the Bibles were restored. " Let facts speak. At twelve o’clock we had a most attentive audience, while three addresses were given ; and between five and eight o’clock we generally kept from four to six stations supplied with preachers in different parts of the crowd. One would go about giving tracts, and speaking a few words as he gave them. Another would place himself upon a stool in front of a barrier and read an account of the crucifixion, or some other portion of Scripture, while scores of earnest faces were fixed upon him, apparently forgetful of everything which was going on around. Another would face a group leaning over a barrier, and read aloud the tracts he was distributing, such as ' Before the Execution,’ or ' A Quiet Conscience,’ showing them its picture of the sleep of Argyle, and then giving one to each listener. Many of the tracts were at once taken and read under the lamp-posts. Others stood and explained the texts of Scripture painted on canvas. When daylight came these texts were read by 
thousands of persons. One of these banners was lighted by a naphtha lamp, and could be read by the lookers-on all through the night. Thus the preachers and tracts exercised a sobering influence upon the majority from time to time. “ At eight o’clock we found ourselves wedged up in different parts of that crowd of twenty thousand persons, without the possibility of stirring till all was over. We cannot speak of the results of this night’s work ; but the tears of penitence seen on many faces, and the rapt attention of many more, induce us to believe that this seed thus cast upon the waters shall be found, even though it be after many days.” One such token of blessing—the conversion of coachman at Winchester—came to light long years afterwards. Through an agent of the Open-Air Mission this man sent a message of profound gratitude to Mr. Kirkham, from whom, he averred, he had savingly received the truth in an execution crowd gathered outside the city prison.  Almost from the first Gawin Kirkham began to visit the great annual Eastern Counties Fair at Peterborough. Here, amid a background dark indeed, where sin and revelry ran riot, his figure became familiar as, year by year, he stood by the old bridge, gathered an eddy from the sweeping human current, and from the abundance of a large, deep heart spoke of Christ and pardon, of holiness and heaven. It is interesting to read the impressions of an onlooker at such a scene :— “ Coming from the north, I arrived at Peterborough in the evening, hoping to reach Norwich that night. I attempted to pass from the Great Northern to the Eastern Counties Railway, but thousands of people crowded the way.

At Peterborough Fair

Stalls too, of every variety, in one continuous line separated the road from the footpath. It was, I found, the last day of Peterborough Fair, and the populace of the surrounding villages was poured into this town to contribute by their presence and cash to the importance of this great gathering. Here was one of the gentle sex, elevated, doing the office of cheap-jack; there was a drunken woman with a large audience informing her hearers that she was a true Catholic : here an unsuccessful thief was being escorted out of the Babel by two policemen, amidst the yells of the elated crowd ; there a bellman was reading a notice to the public that ‘ Chang, the Chinese giant, would receive visitors at the Wentworth Hotel for the last evening, his highness intending to leave Peterborough in the morning. Admission one shilling.’ “ I pushed my way through the busy scene. Near to the young woman who was attempting the duty of cheap-jack was the sound of preaching, and I resolved to cross the road, give my countenance to the movement, and help them sing the songs of Zion. But who is it that is preaching ? It is the secretary of the Open-Air Mission, from London. It was Satan’s great day in Peterborough ; but he had not it all to himself.  Here, at least, were some of the children of God ; and about two hundred who had come to the fair were hearing of Christ. When Mr. Kirkham had ended his address, he invited me to speak to his attentive audience. There must have been many people attending that fair who attended the house of God ; for the singing was sustained so well that I had the impression my friend had brought a large staff with him, but it was not so. He had come with only one brother.  Among the hymns sung were ‘ O happy day, that fixed my choice ! ’ and ‘Say, brother, will you meet me?’ Bass and tenor voices were distinctly heard, making the service of God melodious even in the midst of Peterborough Fair.” Such words as these may well remain as descriptive of many similar incidents in a consecrated life. These more prominent labours, however, were but as main branches of a stream to which belonged innumerable smaller rills. The quiet routine of the office was never irksome ; it included loving fellowship with many whose active co-operation brought strength and blessing ; and gathered into itself an intimate communion with friends whose number ever increased. And how dear he was to these, his companions in Gospel travail, may be gathered from the numerous tokens of affection they tendered him as the years passed. So early as the year 1863, at a meeting of the Mission, its members testified their love by the gifts of a silver watch, Dr. Angus’s Bible Hand-book, Cowper’s Letters, Mimpriss’s Gospel Harmony, and a purse containing £16. And these were but the material symbols of a loyal unity that reigned within the ranks—a unity as “good” for the cause as it was assuredly “ pleasant ” in itself. The training and equipment of these preachers, in order to their mental enlargement and spiritual success, formed an important element of Mr. Kirkham’s work. They regularly met in monthly conference, and heard a lecture every quarter.

"This One Thing I Do"

The numerous auxiliaries of the Mission, too, sought to promote their usefulness by similar means ; and at all these gatherings Mr. Kirkham found himself called, whenever possible, to share in the proceedings, and 
to contribute to the edification of his appreciative brethren. Street evangelization of an ordinary and accustomed sort still further claimed its need of consecrated energy. Hardly a district in London was stranger to the resonant voice, the clear, impressive utterance, and the genial presence with which our friend was so happily endowed. In all weathers, and in all possible places of vantage, his great devotion, fed by heavenly light and heat, burst forth as the ready blooms of spring-tide. Often, and especially in winter, he would stand and preach alone, or slowly pace along a street, repeating aloud the precious and immortal words of Scripture that rose from memory’s hidden springs. To speak to companies of two or three, or even to audiences altogether invisible behind convenient doors and windows, was a task welcomed in its measure as gladly as the thrilling opportunity of gathering, retaining, and swaying some great assembly in a public park. The work was God’s, and therefore his —a heavenly treasure, a sacred trust; ever and always to be advanced beyond all else.  “This one thing I do” might well be inscribed  as the motto of his days. Apostolic, too, were his “journeyings oft.” Many were annual visits to places such as Lancaster, whither he always went with peculiar delight to tell the Gospel tidings among old friends and neighbours; rarely omitting at such times to linger awhile at Gressingham, to the joy of his parents and the unfeigned pleasure of the village folk, who loved to listen to a message from the lips of “our Gawin.” Thus, then, the years sped swiftly and serenely on—these years of the “ later morning.” A great peace was at his heart; a great light shone upon his life. At home, domestic happiness unclouded and assured ; around, the joy of doing good, of bringing balm to stricken souls, of following and proclaiming Christ the Lord ; within, a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Next Chapter 5

Ch1. Ch2. Ch3. Ch4. Ch5. Ch6. Ch7. Ch8. Ch9.