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Gawin Kirkham -The Open Air Evangelist

Digital image restoration © Peter N Millward

Gawin Kirkham
The Open Air Evangelist

Chapter 8 

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

Evening Shadows: and Quickened Footsteps

It was toward  the close of  the year 1884, that the writer was appointed by the Committee of the Open-Air Mission to succeed Mr. John M. Pamment,* as Mr. Kirkham’s Assistant,  having  made his acquaintance some few years previously.  What a privilege to share the labours,  and  to  enjoy  the fellowship  of such  a man! How unspeakably  precious and memorable the years thus spent together! Our constant reflection  could not fail to  be,  Here is a man of God whom the Church/of Christ, honoured and  loved  by  thousands though  he be,  must value more when  he is gone,  and  his voice no  longer speaks ; even as a mountain; height, from which the traveller recedes,  appears in  fuller majesty  and grandeur than when beneath its shadow. Time had  laid  a visible,  though  a tender and caressing, hand upon Gawin Kirkham. Conflict and care began  to  plough their furrows across the lofty brow ; and the compact figure was bowed. Yet the eager, though restful, 'countenance, the quick footstep, and the resolute attention to the moment’s duty, be­ tokened the tireless energy which immediately and unfailingly impressed the beholder ; while it begat, perchance unconsciously, the fair and tender grace of emulation.


*  Mr.  Pamment on  his resignation  became a Missionary Pastor in  the United  States,  and  now labours among  the Red Indians of the West.

A Transfigured Life

Like the goodly saints of ancient days, he “ rose early  in  the morning.” Full often ere the hour of five,  repairing  to  his study,  he drew nigh  to  God, watching  and  pleading while others slept.  Thus, in  secret,  hallowed,  intimate,  communion  with  his Master,  the inner fires of his soul were fed.  Thus rose high the sacred flame—one undivided trinity of grace : faith,  hope,  and  love,  abounding.  Corre­spondence and similar tasks would then engage him until the hour of family worship, at which, appearing fresh and radiant, he would in a few brief moments of expository reading, conduct his hearers into some sweet pasture-land  of holy  Scripture,  and  thence lead  them,  on  the untiring  wings of prayer and praise, to the inner shrines of the sanctuary, within the vail. In his office, conducting the varied operations of the evangel which he loved to spread, he laboured as one whose task is wholly congenial and of Divine appointment.  Here,  as the hours sped,  fresh  evi­dences of his ripened  and  harmonious character shone forth  in  a transfigured  life.  Ever kind  and gentle in his sweet considerateness to all about him ; ready, whenever needful, himself to take the humblest part of duty  ; always genial in  his brotherly  and spontaneous affection, and in warmly welcoming his brethren ; ready to bear their burden, to sustain, console, uplift—he won all hearts, even as to David drew a gathering army of enthusiasts, like the host of God. His nature, eminently bright, and calm and joyous, communicated its glad infection to those about him, and forbade gloom. Often his humour, as restrained as  it  was  delightful,  made  merry  laughter  in  the family  circle,  while  within  his  own  home,  and  in many  other  homes,  his  presence  was  as  sunshine. How  he  loved  little  children !  Often  in  a  railway carriage we have watched with amused interest his advances  toward  some  little  one.  Soon  the  child would be found upon his knee, looking into his face ' and  listening  to  his  playful  words,  with  wondering eyes and ears. In the welfare of domestic servants, too,  he  was  deeply  interested,  and  after  sojourning as a guest within a home he would often despatch some  suitable  volume  as  a  gift  to  those  whose calling reminded him so strongly of his own earliest toils. He lived in an atmosphere of prayer. The opening of the letters was followed each morning by a brief season of waiting upon God on the part of all in the office at the moment.  At such  times his whole soul beamed  forth,  and  the deep  hidden springs of his spiritual life were stirred, as he com­mended the work to his Heavenly Father’s care— the members scattered  over all the world  ; the agents labouring in “ the high places of the field ” at great concourses of the people here and  there ; matters arising  out of the daily  correspondence; special tasks before us ; and, not seldom, the high concerns  of  the  nation  and  the  church. 

His Prayfulness

In  him reposed “ A heart at leisure from itself, To soothe and sympathize.” And  thus it was that many  weary  brethren,  bowed beneath a load of affliction, poverty, or sickness, were tenderly  remembered  at the Throne of Grace,  and went away refreshed. How prayerful he was may be gathered from the fact that on one occasion, pass­ing  some uncompleted  houses in  Barnsbury,  he prayed  in  each  one successively  for a blessing on those who might hereafter dwell there. He redeemed  the time.  Evening  hours were anticipated,  not for rest,  but for the open  doors of service which  it was his meat and  drink  to  enter. Expounding  his beloved  Picture,  or instructing  and inspiring  his younger brethren,  or lifting  up  his voice, rich, resonant, and musical, beneath the open skies to all who would incline an ear to the joyful sound—these were the toils and  triumphs through which the grace of God was magnified in him : perpetual fountains that yielded living waters of abiding pleasure to his soul, and spread to many a thirsty one beside.

His charities—what a life-story is included in them alone ! Modest enough  were his personal means ; but,  not content with  such  bounties,  inconsiderable in amount, which his own purse could yield, he had, as long before as the year 1860, founded a benevolent fund, by which thousands of hearts have been made glad, and not a few lives lengthened. The existence of this fund was instrumentally due to Mr. C. Russell Hurditch,  who,  at a meeting  of Christian  workers, placed in Mr. Kirkham’s hands a sum of money for distribution among poor evangelists. It was as seed sown  in  ready  and  productive soil.  Mr.  Kirkham’s sympathetic heart longed  to  relieve his tried  and afflicted  brethren,  and  hence came into  being  an almost silent and wholly unobtrusive means which, in its record of mercy and of deliverance, will be an undying  cause of praise in  the great and  glorious hereafter. His method was to issue once a year, a lithographed appeal for help, naming special cases of urgent need, and showing the receipts and expenditure of the preceding year. This was sent forth on its Christ-like errand to his friends and to many of the Lord's stewards,and  was invariably  blessed  to the ingathering  of considerable sums,  sometimes amounting  in  the year to  as much  as £600. This again  was supplemented,  in  later years,  by  the Christian  generosity  of an  aged  baronet,  who  entrusted to Mr. Kirkham for distribution many wel­come gifts to various societies and  missions.  Thus did the Master fill his ready hands with labour, and his heart with joy ; and thus, to his poorer brethren, in hours of their bitter need  and  deep  distress,  and to  many  others of the “ household  of faith,” were ministered the consolations and deliverances of their Father through  a channel as wise and  tender and loving as Gawin Kirkham !

His Beneficence

How lovingly his heart overflowed  in  sympathy to the friendless and the careworn may be gathered in some measure by the following tribute from the pen  of Mrs.  John  Chapman,  of Suffolk  House, Harrow-on-the-Hill,  who  writes:—“When,  as Miss Stroud and a Deaconess at Mildmay, I was led by the Lord to found, in connection with the Deaconess House, its present Home for young women, strangers in London and out of place,’ Mr. Kirkham was the very first to give a helping hand, and for seventeen years his interest was unabated.  Many  a poor lonely one for whom the Home failed to find accom­modation could ever be received and cared for in Mr. and  Mrs.  Kirkham’s house.  I always knew where to  send  my  matron  with  any  poor governess or such  like; being  assured  of ready  sympathy  and shelter until a situation  offered.  Many  a poor friendless gentlewoman  has been  in  this way  a partaker of his bounty, and, more than all, received the knowledge of salvation in his house.”

It was seldom, indeed, that a day passed without a call from some distressed one seeking for his guidance or his help; and it was seldom indeed, that such an one, unless known to be utterly undeserving, was sent away wholly without succour.  Where they came from, these wanderers, or how his name had become known to them, was a constant source of wonder. But for every story, however improbable, a patient attentiveness was ready, and the key that never failed to unlock his generous heart was a case of evident distress.  Many, many, drawn out of deep waters of affliction, or horrible depths of temptation, rise up and call him blessed, cherishing his memory as a fond possession.   Let me recall the things he counted priceless- things which through all labour and all experience bound themselves ever more tenaciously around his heart, and nourished his soul in God. He loved, with all the strength of being, the Gospel of the grace of God.  To  it,  and  to  its power,  he acknowledged  an  unutterable debt.  This was the very  heart of truth,  which  would  not suffer com­promise,  apology,  or indifference.  He saw himself under nature’s curse and  sin’s pollution.  He saw himself redeemed  by  the one atoning  sacrifice,  the death  of the eternal and  spotless Son  of God.  He knew himself united  to  his death,  his resurrection, his ascension,  by  the effectual operation  of the Lord  the Spirit, through faith ; and thus, delivered from condemnation, drawn into the fulness of infinite favour,  and  begotten  unto  sonship.  Vital truth  was therefore a vital matter,  incapable of expansion, contraction,  or amendment; but revealed  in  all- sufficiency  in  the written  Word,  and  made known by the Infallible Teacher to the obedient spirit. He saw and mourned a widespread departure from the truth,  and  recognised  it as preparatory  to  the final apostasy.  Not for an  instant did  he question the wisdom or the necessity of the great conflict into which Pastor C. H. Spurgeon threw himself, in his glorious championship  of the absolute inspiration, authority,  and  inerrancy  of the precious Word  of God. Nay, rather it was the theme of his praise, his admiration, and his prayerful intercessions, and, perhaps, no man living held a higher place in his affec­tionate esteem than Mr. Spurgeon.

His Love for the Sabbath

He loved the Sabbath. To him, indeed, the Lord’s Day  was the Christian  Sabbath,  illuminated and perfected by the resurrection of Jesus Christ; a day for rest, for worship, and for holy service. Hence he strenuously upheld the efforts of those who seek to  defend  its sanctity,  and  to  preserve its untold privileges to  the nation.  Never once,  he repeatedly affirmed,  amid  his incessant journeyings,  had  he made use of train,  omnibus,  cab,  or car for any purpose on the Lord’s Day since life began. Never once, as secretary of the Open-Air Mission, had he instructed a preacher to travel on that day ; but, on the contrary,  had  rejoiced  in  the rule of the committee that preachers sent to  country  districts must be received from Saturday to Monday, or if in town must walk  to  their engagements for the mission. And the postman’s day of rest was just as much the object of his solicitude ; for country letters written on Saturday  were invariably  withheld  from the post until Monday morning, so that, as far as in him lay, he might not add  to  the postman’s Sabbath  toil. “ The release of the twenty thousand postmen of our land,” he emphatically declared, “ demands the best energies of all Christian people.” To see the Lord’s Day publicly desecrated moved his inmost soul to  righteous indignation  and  grief, and  at such  times it could  be seen  what depths of feeling  lay  hidden  within.  After labouring  in the Gospel at a Brighton  Volunteer Review he wrote :—“ Any one wanting to see the world’s mode of spending the Sabbath should go to Brighton on the eve of a volunteer review.  What with  the sight of volunteers, the sound of military bands, the constant stream of people on  the promenade,  the open Aquarium,  and  the passing  to  and  fro  of public vehicles,  it was utterly  unlike a day of rest. If my soul was grieved, what must the pure and holy God have felt? Yet the special correspondent of a leading morning paper appears to have enjoyed it thoroughly, and makes it the occasion to administer a rebuke to those who are always fearing the evils of the introduction  of a Continental Sunday  in  England,  and exclaims,  ‘ Why,  we had a Continental Sunday  in Brighton  to-day,  and  nobody  is the worse for it.’ Nevertheless his first words on Monday refer to the heaviness of eyes and unwillingness to turn out after their gay  Sunday  evening.  So  that,  judged  by  his own standard, such a mode of spending the Sabbath is not the best preparation for work on Monday.” He loved to preach. No heavy task, no drudgery was it to  extol the glories of the Lamb,  and  to expound  the Gospel in  all its height,  and  breadth, and  length,  and  depth  of saving  truth.  This was work  on  which  no  pall of weariness,  no  sense of exhaustion ever fell. For the Gospel was “the power of God ” ; a power seen, handled, and felt within the realm of his own glad experience. Again and again, on the open highway, and amid scenes where sin ran riot, and the powers of darkness held almost undis­puted  sway,  he had  marked  its soul-subduing,  its heart-changing,  its wholly  regenerating  power.  To preach it simply, clearly, intelligently, fully, freely, in the power of the Holy Ghost, was the dearest desire and  the highest object before his vision.  He knew, he sought, no other remedy for human sin.

The Drink Traffic, and Gambling

The Gospel was to him a sun, full-orbed, undimmed, and quenchless in  its light and  heat; able to  penetrate the hardest hearts and  the darkest lands,  and  to inaugurate the reign of God. Let us pass to the things he feared. The drink traffic, that many-headed monster, inspired in Gawin Kirkham inexpressible horror and dismay. Alas ! he had seen its ravages among some of the fairest of the sons of men, fellow-labourers with him in the Gospel. Once as bright stars in the high firmament, they had fallen to depths unutterable, and would sometimes come to him,  wretched  and  woe-begone,  for temporal help, presenting such sad evidences of the soul-destroying power of drink as moved his soul to its inmost depths. With  all his strength,  by  precept and  example,  he fought this demon, and pressed the battle to the gate. The sin  of gambling  was hardly  less abhorred. On the race-courses of our land he beheld the en­snaring power of this subtle vice, and watched how it held men in its grasp in multitudes—princes, peers, and  peasants alike.  Often  he lifted  up his voice in warning  at these racing  centres themselves,  and  in the hearing of the very promoters of the evil; more than once receiving personal blows from the enraged enemies of the truth. He feared the influence of the press in spreading information on the subject. Said he:—“ No one can notice the prominence given to sporting matters by the press without fearing for the future well-being  of the country.  As an  illustration of the place racing occupies in the estimation of the public, it may suffice to state that when the country was startled by the awfully sudden death of a prince of the royal house,  the only  other item announced on the placard of a respectable London evening paper was the winner of a horse race at Liverpool! ” He feared  the power of Rome,  and  her ally Ritualism ; and  a visit to  Ireland  towards the end of his life, with its experiences of Romish intolerance and  persecution,  only  served  to  deepen  life-long convictions,  and  to  warn  his brethren  more and more earnestly of her unceasing and relentless  con­ spiracies. But abounding evil, growing indifference, and wide­ spread  worldliness only  served  as signals of the Lord’s appearing.  This was the hope immediately present to  his heart—the coming  of the King.  For this he looked and waited, and to this he constantly referred in public speech and in private conversation ; warning  the sinner of his danger,  and  bidding  the saint lift up  his head,  trim his lamp,  and  don  the garments of consecration. Under his fostering  care and  that of Mr. Mac­ Gregor, who survived Mr. Kirkham by a few weeks only, the Open-Air Mission had grown to an organi­zation of the first importance, even though its income was lamentably  small and  totally  inadequate.  Marvellous work  had  been  accomplished  with  very limited  resources.  The principal races,  fairs,  and galas were being visited by agents of large experi­ence and  appropriate gifts ; a membership  of one thousand  preachers had  been  formed  for voluntary work ; men of God were sent forth on application, and  were being  used  in  the winning  of souls at numerous open-air services ; and the churches were being increasingly stirred by the publications of the mission to a recognition of, and response to, the great command to “ go out quickly ” ; while by the same means many  labourers were being  encouraged, equipped,  and  thrust forth  into  the harvest field. Thus,  guided  by  the rich  and  almost unique experience of years ; gifted  with  rare wisdom,  tact, and skill, tempered by a sweet humility, Mr. Kirkham set his face toward the eventide of life, and to the rest beyond.

Sojourn in Switzerland

Borne on the wings of such sacred toil, the flight of the years was swift.  In  September,  1885,  constrained by  the evident hand  of Providence,  he sojourned  for a few brief weeks in  Switzerland, finding in the wondrous vistas of that glorious peak­ land  “ an  inspiration  and  a revelation.” Gathering up the spoil in lessons of sacred import, he wrote to The Christian thus :—


This wonderland, this paradise for tourists, was full of pleasant surprises.  One of my  friends,  who had been there six times before, greatly enjoyed our pleasure and  wonder as the glories of the country unfolded  themselves to  our astonished  gaze.  Light green  valleys,  dark  green  woods,  frowning  rocks, graceful cataracts,  and  snow - capped  peaks,  came before us in endless succession. Such is the journey of life. Our heavenly Father provides infinite variety for his children, and delights in their enjoyment of his gifts. ‘Oh, how great is thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee  (Psa. xxxi. 19). 


“ But travellers soon learn that the reality is not according to expectation. It was a pleasant surprise to pass from the savage, rocky pass of the Devil’s Bridge and tunnel of Urnerloch into the lovely green meadows of the Urseren valley ; but it was a rude awakening to the suddenness of climatic changes to meet a snow-storm on  the Furca Pass (8,100  feet) before the middle of September,  and  to  find  our­selves on  the same day  nearly  knee-deep  in  snow on  the Grimsel Pass.  To  reach  high  places where we had  expected magnificent views, and to  'view the mist, and miss the view,’ was also disappointing. To find hidden intervening ravines when the object we sought seemed so near was also wearying. So it is in passing through life. The unexpected happens. ‘We have need  of patience’ (Heb.  x.  36),  ‘but let patience have her perfect work ’ (James i. 4).


“It was a rare thing  to  find  travellers without a guide-book,  and  frequently  they  were also accompanied  by  a guide.  We were fortunate in  this respect, one of our friends being as good as a guide from his familiarity  with  the country.  But on  one occasion, when on our way from Chamounix to the valley of Sixt, we were overtaken by a snow-storm on  the Col d’Anterne (7,428  feet).  Here we found ourselves enveloped in mist, soaked by the rain, and benumbed by the cold ; the path almost obliterated by the snow, some miles from the nearest house, and the locality  entirely  unknown  to  any  of us. 

How welcome at such a moment would a guide have been! So there are moments in life’s journey when we feel entirely cast upon God. The way is hid, and we can but stand still and wait on Him who has said, ‘ I will guide thee with  mine eye’ (Psa.  xxxii.  8).  Then, as in our case, the guide-book is consulted, a fervent prayer offered,  the mist lifts,  the path  re­appears, and we journey on till the end is reached in safety.


“When ‘the Lord answered Job out of the whirl­wind,’ and put to him a series of sublime questions, one of them was this, ‘ Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?’ (Job  xxxviii.  22).  No  one can traverse these Alpine regions without pondering this question.  At first it seems a mere waste of territory to have so large a proportion covered with perpetual snow and ice, however much the beholder may wonder and admire. But he soon perceives the wisdom and benevolence of God in thus treasuring up  a never-failing  source of fertility  for the inter­vening  valleys.  I do  not think  we saw a single stream in  our travels that was not born  of the glacier.  Thus,  in  addition  to  protecting  plants and keeping  the earth  warm,  these ‘treasures of the snow’ serve the purpose of perpetual springs.  So ‘ He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills’ (Psa. civ. 10), leading the reflecting tourist to exclaim, ‘ O Lord, how manifold are thy works ! in  wisdom hast Thou  made them all: the earth is full of thy riches ’ (Psa. civ. 24).


“ One of the most solemn and delightful privileges of the traveller is to watch the after-glow upon the mountains when the sun has disappeared. This was accorded to us on several occasions, but was never more impressive than  in  the valley  of Chamounix. To see the hoary head of Mont Blanc, and even the pointed aiguilles of the locality, too steep to allow the snow to settle on them, all aglow with rosy tints, made us feel as though by some transformation scene we were inhabitants of another world, or as though heaven had come down to earth, and the tabernacle of God had been pitched among men.


“ The guide-books name the time when rainbows may be seen on some of the many waterfalls which abound  in  Switzerland.  One day,  when  at Lauter­ brunnen, I went to the famous Staulbach Fall (980 feet), and sat down by the flagstaff, and waited and watched.  Others did  the same,  and  we all went away  disappointed.  Next day  one of my  friends said he would show us how to find the rainbow. So I went again, and saw a most lovely one, and stood almost in  the centre of it.  Then  I found  that not only were sunshine and spray necessary to produce a rainbow ; but also that those who would see it must stand between it and the sun, i.e., it could be seen only  at a given  point.  Then  I perceived  that those who would see the glory of God could see it only in the face of Jesus Christ, and that the reason why so many fail in this respect is because they do not take the right standpoint.


" While seeking for a rainbow in the Handeck Falls another lesson was learned. A beautiful butterfly was sporting  in  the sunshine ; and  either through carelessness, or the fascination of the pearly drops which shot from the Fall in profusion, went too near, was caught in the falling shower, and hurled to destruction in the awful gulf two hundred feet below. Who does not see in this an every-day occurrence ? Young people, in the thoughtlessness which the pur­suit of pleasure engenders,  go  to  places in  which they ‘ see no harm,’ and, alas I are soon hurled into the gulf of disgrace here, and of everlasting despair hereafter.


“ One form of this ‘ pursuit of pleasure ’ is Sunday travelling.  During  the three weeks we were in  the country, we 'rested the Sabbath Day, according to the commandment’ (Luke xxiii.  56).  One of these was spent at the Wildstrubel Hotel, on the wonderful pass of the Gemmi (7,553 feet). Public worship was out of the question  ; nor could  family  worship  be indulged, as hostess and her servants spoke German only.  So  we sought a rocky  knoll,  overlooking  the valley of the Dala, where we sang some hymns, read the account of the transfiguration, and the descrip­tion  of the New Jerusalem,  and  prayed.  The surroundings aided devotion. The tinklings of the sheep-bells on the mountain side made sweet music. The fleecy  clouds of purest white floating  by  reminded  us of the transfiguration,  when  our Lord’s raiment became ‘ exceeding white as snow’ (Mark ix. 3), while occasional glimpses of Monte Rosa, and other far-off mountain peaks, carried our thoughts to the everlasting  hills and  the New Jerusalem.  We felt that earth receded, and heaven came nearer; and though we could not go ‘ with the multitude to the house of God ’ (Psa. xlii. 4), yet, like the beloved disciple in Patmos, we were 'in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day’ (Rev. i. 10). “ Soon after, two English tourists, having ascended the pass,  came and  stood  by  our side.  They  had heard our singing half an hour before they reached us, and one of them declared that when they started that morning  they  had  forgotten  it was Sunday! Such is the indifference of some of our countrymen on  the Continent to  the right use of this blessed day of rest. “ I cannot omit another incident which  makes this particular Sunday  linger in  my  memory.  Our hostess and her maid occasionally went to the edge of the rocks overlooking  the valley  of Dala,  three thousand feet below, and the Gemmi pass, to watch for travellers ascending  the steep  path.  On  these occasions they  took  with  them a telescope to  aid their natural vision.  In  imagination  I pictured  the angels thus standing  on  the battlements of heaven, looking  out for pilgrims as they  ascend  from this lower world,  and  ready  to  welcome them to  their eternal abode. And as our hostess and her maid stood  again  on  the same spot early  the following morning to wave a friendly farewell as we descended into the mists of the valley, I grieved at our inability to  speak  their tongue,  and  could  only  hope that the few tracts we had left might be made a blessing to their souls.


“ How sad it is to see some of the fairest spots in  Switzerland  given  over to  the priests of Rome! One day  when  travelling  between  Vernayaz and Chamounix  we saw the peasants in  their Sunday clothes wending  their way  to  church  from valley and  hillside.  It was a lovely  day  for agricultural work, yet these men, women, and children forsook field, chalet, and school at the bidding of a corrupt church,  to  celebrate St.  Maurice’s day.  But they readily  took  some illuminated  Scripture leaflets,  of which I gave about seven hundred during the tour. Devotion  is one thing,  but the object of devotion should be placed first. God is a Spirit, and requires spiritual worship (John iv. 24).


“ Between  Grindelwald  and  Lauterbrunnen  we were attracted  by  the sound  of the Alpine horn. This is a long wooden instrument, which, when used in the vicinity of certain rocks, produces a peculiar melodious echo; and  travellers love to  hear the sound  dying  away  in  the distance.  The lesson deduced from this performance was the effect of the Gospel trumpet upon hard hearts, which, when used by  the  Holy  Spirit,  produces  melody,  from  that which by nature is hard and stony.


“ Although  the romance of our journey  ceased when  we left behind  the flowery  valleys and  the snowy  peaks,  yet on  arriving  at Geneva,  amid  the pouring rain, we made our way to the point where the confluence of the Arve and  the Rhone can  be best seen.  Till it enters the Lake of Geneva,  the latter, like all streams of glacial origin, is a muddy river ; but when it emerges from that lake at Geneva it is of a lovely  blue colour,  and  clear as crystal. Rejoicing in its new-found liberty, it hurries onward, but is joined  immediately  below the town  by  the muddy Arve, a turbulent stream as strong as itself. Judging from appearances, I should say that before long the Arve would conquer the Rhone ; but as far as the eye could follow it, the latter maintained its purity  by  the side of its unwelcome neighbour. Cheever delighted to dwell upon this as an illustra­tion of the difference between Romanism and Protest­antism,  as those who  have read  his ‘ Wanderings of a Pilgrim ’ so  well remember.  We saw in  it also  these two  things: ‘ Be not unequally  yoked together with unbelievers’ (2 Cor. vi. 14), and ‘Evil communications corrupt good  manners’ (1  Cor. xv.  33).  Then  we hastened  home,  refreshed  and strengthened for the duties of life by the wonderful things we had seen and heard.” Swiftly and silently the evening shadows began to lengthen. But the shadows were transfigured by the richer radiance which,  with  their approach, fell across the pathway of Gawin Kirkham’s pilgrimage, and spoke to him of heaven.

Tokens of Esteem

Tokens  of  esteem  and  love;  the  gathering  round his life of kindred fellowships ; the harmonious setting of  day  unto  day  in  a  gracious  and  glad  environ­ment—as when the purple pall of the sun’s farewell glorifies  the  mountains,  outlined  against  the  sky— these were the signals of the eve, though he knew it not. One such was a touching gift, received in 1887, from the members of a Women’s Bible Class, conducted at Hackney by Mrs. Seymour, to whom he had minis­tered  the  Word  of  God  at  intervals  during  several years. It consisted of an inkstand, suitably inscribed, and accompanied by the following letter:— “ Will you please accept the small token of love we now present to  you? It is offered  with  a real feeling of respect and affection. For seven or eight years you have kindly presided amongst us at every social gathering  of our Bible Class,  and  we have always received  comfort and  instruction  from the words that God  has given  you  from time to  time to  speak  to  us ; and  some,  by  his mercy,  through your means have been induced to turn ‘from darkness to  light,  and  from the power of Satan  unto  God.’ We trust and  pray  that your life may  be long spared  to  proclaim the glad  tidings of salvation; and  that every  one of the undersigned  may  meet you at last in the glory, where with

‘Nothing else to do, We shall tell the wondrous story, How the Lord has brought us through.’”

To  this are appended  the names of one hundred and  thirty-two  women,  whose tribute of gratitude, we may be quite sure, brought comfort and gladness to Mr. Kirkham’s heart. It was in  the following  year,  that,  for the first time,  the lamp  of life began  to  fail.  Overwork induced prostration, and in February he was ordered to  the seaside,  where a period  of rest induced strength  to  return  awhile.  But from this time such attacks of weakness followed  annually  with  almost painful regularity.  It was no  longer possible to labour for years together without a holiday,  and hence in August we find him again in Switzerland. One of his letters to the writer at this time may serve as an  example of many others which  are cherished as tokens of his love:—

A Letter Home

“ Hotel de Stalden, Stalden, Switzerland, “August 31st, 1888.

“ My Dear Cockrem,—This kind of life is all very well in its way ; but I am quite ready to come home, and eager to recommence the ordinary duties of life. It is a great mercy that it has pleased God to give you and me a real love for the work which in  his providence He has assigned  us.  We have repeatedly  met men  on  this tour who  have been sighing  to  think  that their holidays were so  nearly over; whereas, if I were to  meet you  at the office this morning,  instead  of renewing  my  descent of this lovely valley, it would be more according to my heart’s desire.  The Lord  bring  me to  you  in  due course, and meanwhile give you all the wisdom you need  in  managing  the affairs of the office.  .  .  . My friend’s chief idea is motion. He looks upon reading,  writing,  and  resting,  as things which  may be done at home ; but here the proper vocation is 'onward and upward.’ So we have been kept ‘ on the trot ’ day after day, and it has only been possible to write on wet days, or when we finished our day’s journey  earlier than  usual.  Beyond  one letter to Mr. MacGregor from Chatillon, I have only written to  you  and  Mrs.  K.,  whom I have informed  from time to time of our journeyings with tolerable completeness.  Yesterday,  however,  I managed  to  write from Zermatt an account of the tour for the Lancaster Observer, which covered seven pages twice the size of this. “ From Chatillon, where I last wrote, we went up Val Tourmanche to  Breuil.  That was Tuesday’s work.  The first nine miles was done in  a carriage to save myself for the next day, which I knew, and had  known  all along,  would  be the hardest in  the tour, ie, the crossing of the Theodule Pass, 10,899 feet above the sea. The hotel at which we stayed is the last house on  the Italian  side.  The majestic Matterhorn had been the chief object of interest in coming up the valley ; and as we sat on a form out­side the hotel,  and  watched  the last glow of the evening  sun  illuminating  the fringe on  his head, elevated thousands of feet above us, it was a sight never to  be forgotten.  The interest of that evening was further heightened  by  looking  through  a telescope at a cabin  on  a ledge by  the Great Tower, where some hardy adventurers had gone to pass the night, intending to finish the ascent next day. What a mite that cabin  looked,  perched  on  its elevated ledge,  and  what a magnificent view its occupants must have had of the world of mountain and valley so far below them in that glorious sunset! While we were absorbed in gazing up at those awful heights, we were startled  by  the thunder of an  avalanche from a neighbouring mountain, but so far away that by the time the sound reached us, all we could see was a tiny stream of white gliding down the rock. “ Next morning we girded ourselves for the Theodule Pass.  We were up  soon  after three,  and  off soon  after four.  The moon  and  the stars shone brightly,  as if to  bid  us God-speed,  as we slowly ascended the upland pastures, treading on the crisp, frosty grass ; and then winding among stony paths till we reached a roofless hut, where we had some coffee brought from the hotel.  By  this time the sun  had risen, and was glowing on the peaks behind us, the Matterhorn  on  our left being  consciously  proud  of showing  the first rosy  tints,  and  proclaiming  the break of day to the lesser heights, which seemed to wait upon him as his humble vassals. “We then entered upon the eternal snow, ascending by paths made by previous travellers, and by eight o’clock we stood on the summit. What a panorama! Here,  at an  altitude of nearly  11,000  feet,  we were surrounded by snowy plains, and snowy peaks towering  thousands of feet above us,  the glorious sun shining upon us all from a cloudless sky. But, as is so often the case, the unexpected happens. Here amid these desolate regions was a tiny cabin or hotel, where we had warm soup by a comfortable stove. Here also were other tourists, some of whom had slept here, and already been to the top of the Breithorn, more than 3,000  feet above us.  What amazing  activity  and  self-denial is manifested  by mountaineers! If but half of it were brought to bear upon  the evangelization  of the world,  what a marvellous change would be witnessed in a year! “ Our guide and  ourselves were now roped  to­gether, my green vail put on to protect my face from the snow and  sun,  and  we began  the descent.  In little more than an hour we left the snow and took to  the rocks,  and  soon  after mid-day  arrived  at Zermatt,  having  descended  more than  5,500  feet— which I paid for by three blisters on my own feet! “ Yesterday my friend wanted me to start with him for another five hours’ climb ; but I told him I would climb no more, so he went alone while I rested and wrote.  Later in  the day  we took  a carriage,  and drove down the valley of St. Nicholas, twelve miles, and then walked on here, eight miles further, arriving soon after seven. “ We are now making  our way  to  the Lake of Geneva,  and  shall probably  spend  Sunday  at  Fryburg.  Adieu !                               

                                                                         “ Affectionately yours,

                                                                                      “ Gawin Kirkham.”

Next Chapter 9

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