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 Top: History and Explanation of the Picture "The Broad and The Narrow Way": Gawin Kirkham

Gawin Kirkham -The Open Air Evangelist

Digital image restoration © Peter N Millward

Gawin Kirkham
The Open Air Evangelist

Chapter 9

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

                              Sunset; and the After-glow                               

SUNSET drew nigh, and with its solemn vision light and shade more closely inter­ mingled. As when hidden waters, long pent up in unknown depths, burst forth at length to join the harmonies of nature ; so with the year 1890, more than one of Gawin Kirkham’s deep heart-longings were fulfilled. But one heavy sorrow at the least—a sorrow until now withheld — rose up to stay the flow of his abundant joy. Thus shone the light of heaven more brightly upon a ripening life, and thus drew near earth’s deeper shadows.

Journey to Palestine

Let us recall these eventide events. There rises up  the memory  of his visit to  the Holy Land, and of a crowning kindness which pre­ceded  it.  His brethren  in  the ministry  of the open-air,  hearing  of his desire to  look  upon  that land, had, several months before, with great devotion united to place in his hands an ample provision for the journey.  Great things were hoped  for: that his health,  somewhat impaired,  as we have seen, would  receive full restoration; and  that his future ministries would be enriched by a wealth of illus­tration  gathered  from that best and  most wondrous commentary upon the Word of God—the Land of the people of God.  The annual gathering  of the Mission  in  January  was made the occasion  of his farewell,  and  of many  prayers on  his behalf; and a few days later he departed on his quest. But not at once to  Palestine.  Another joy  lay in  his track.  It had  been  arranged  that he should first proceed  to  Stuttgart,  there to  deliver,  literally for the one thousandth  time,  his lecture on  the picture “ The Broad and the Narrow Way.” This was truly a notable occasion!  Audiences, each numbering a thousand, gathered on two consecutive evenings in the Concert Hall; Mr. Adolf Reihlen, son of the devoted lady whose consecrated skill had given the picture to  the Church  and  to  the world,  presiding; Pastor Israel, the instrument of its issue in Holland, where Mr. Kirkham found it, was also present; representatives of the family of Herr Schacher, the young and now sainted artist who had assisted Mrs. Reihlen, looked  on  with  grateful tears; and  not least,  Mr. Charles L. Young, Mr. Kirkham’s old and dear friend, helpful,  as on  hundreds of previous occasions,  in “pointing” the picture—these were the accompaniments to an occasion of thrilling interest, and, we may hope, of abiding blessedness. From thence his journey was to Gratz, in Austria, where Mr. and Mrs. Reinmuth’s mission work was assisted  amid  emotions of deepest sympathy.  A few days later he sailed  from Trieste for Egypt, Palestine,  and  Asia Minor; signalizing  his ascent of the great pyramid  of Ghizeh  by  delivering  an open-air “ sermonette ” to a group of Arabs gathered on the summit. Time and  space fail adequately  to  tell the story of this sojourn, extending over three months, in Bible lands.  Writing  from “ Elisha’s Fountain,  Jericho,” on February 21st, he exclaims: “ How is it possible to attempt a description of what I have seen, heard, and felt, during the week which has elapsed since I last wrote! Here we are in  the centre of the Pro­mised Land, and already we have seen sacred places enough to last us for a life-time. Between mountains and  plains,  cities and  villages,  towers,  mosques, churches, ruins, grottos, birds, flowers, storms, sun­ shine, tents, seas, rivers, and Bedaween, the mind is confused ; and it will take some time to put things into shape mentally. It is like a dream to be tread­ing  in  the footsteps of prophets and  apostles,  and especially  of our blessed  Lord  Himself.  May  we have grace to use our great privileges to his glory ! ” And  again,  after the Land  had  been  well-nigh traversed : “ We have been to Bethlehem where Jesus was born, and to Nazareth where He was brought up. We have followed his footsteps through Samaria and Galilee. We have traversed the shores of the sea of Galilee, where so large a part of his public ministry was exercised, and have also sailed on the bosom of the lake, and proved how quickly storms arise on its treacherous waters. We have sat in the ruins of the old  synagogue at Capernaum,  the white stones of which heard the marvellous discourse on the bread of life (John  vi.).  We have seen  the place where the Lord lay after his crucifixion ; and the Mount of Olives, from which He ascended after his resurrection.

Jaffa and Jerusalem

"These, and a hundred other sacred associations render such a tour exceedingly valuable ; and  I cannot imagine a better investment by Christian congregations than to send their ministers on a visit to  the Holy  Land  ; for their teaching  must be enriched thereby for the rest of their lives. In these days of scepticism it is well to be armed at every point. My chief in the Open-Air Mission, Mr. John Mac Gregor, writing to me from Capernaum twenty- one years ago, said : ‘ Everything I have seen and probed to the bottom has always turned out at last to be in complete accordance with the Bible. Yes, it is not a cunningly-devised fable that we are living by. Christ’s religion is a reality ; dreadful to many, but sweet and charming to some.’ ” Keen  and  kindly  was the gaze he cast upon  the many  Christian  enterprises inspected  during  this memorable tour. Those at Jaffa connected with the Mildmay Conference Hall could not fail to possess peculiar interest.  Concerning  this he writes : “ I managed  to  pay  a hasty  visit to  the Mildmay Hospital,  a substantial and  roomy  building  erected on  a hill at the south  end  of the town.  Here I found  eight deaconesses and  nurses at dinner,  and looked into some of the wards. Even so brief a visit was intensely gratifying to me ; as I knew dear Miss Mangan, who sacrificed her life to obtain this boon in a place where it is so sorely needed.”

Open Air Pulpit Jerusalem

Touching Jerusalem and its Christian institutions, he says: “ I am afraid to write about Jerusalem, as I am so deeply conscious of my own ignorance. Nor can I as yet say much about mission work, as I have only  seen  a little of the surface of it.  On  Sunday afternoon  I got a pleasant glimpse of the work  of the Church  Missionary  Society.  I was invited  by the Rev. T. C. Wilson to address his Sunday School. The way to his mission-room was somewhat narrow, and up many steps ; but the room itself was lofty and light.  Between  sixty  and  seventy  children  were present, chiefly belonging to the Greek church, and about ten  adults.  The boys had  the customary  fez, but took it off during the service; and all the girls had coloured kerchiefs over their heads. They were remarkably well behaved, and displayed considerable intelligence.  The service was in  Arabic,  and  my address was translated by one of the teachers.” Vivid interest attached to the same Society’s work at Nazareth. “ The service was, as usual, in Arabic, and was heartily joined in by the congregation, which I estimated at nearly one hundred and fifty. It was deeply  interesting  to  see among  the audience the picturesque Bedaween, with whom we have become so familiar from seeing them on horseback, with long guns slung  across their backs,  or tending  their flocks, or following the plough. They retained their peculiar head-dress during  Divine service.  About forty  persons remained  for the Lord’s Supper,  in which five of our party joined, though that service was also in Arabic. In a conversation with the Rev. T. F. Walters, the missionary in charge, he lamented that the Arab  character lacked  solidity,  and  that it was difficult to get the converts to see the importance of Godly, practical living.”


But he continues: " That which will retain the most vivid impression on my memory in connection with Nazareth, is its Orphanage for Girls, under the fostering care of the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East * I shall recall it, first, because it is difficult to reach. After a toil in the hot sun through narrow streets to its outer gates, there were one hundred  and  eight steps to  climb  to  reach  the front door,  and  still another flight to  reach  the ground  floor.  But a hearty  welcome from Miss Adams assured  me I had  reached  a real home for children.  The seventy  orphans were gathered  together in a room still higher ; and nearly as many girls from schools in the town, with some teachers from country  schools,  to  whom I expounded  my ‘ Broad and Narrow Way’ picture, and was cleverly interpreted by one of the native teachers. We were then  shown  over the entire premises; and  nothing can be more complete than the arrangements for the children’s education,  health,  and  habits of industry and order. If Bishop Gobat’s school at Jerusalem is the hope of the country so far as the boys are concerned, this orphanage at Nazareth is certainly so as far as the girls are concerned.  When  they  go  out into the world again they will introduce new ideas of home life as wives and mothers, and so help to elevate coming  generations.  Let such  institutions be multiplied, and let them be generously main­tained ! ” Mr. Kirkham had gone to the Holy Land for rest. But, as in the United States, so now: the zeal within, which many waters could not quench, constrained his soul to  speech.


* Miss Webb, 267, Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, S.W., is the Secretary of this most beneficent Society.

One companion,  a well - beloved and  long-tried  friend,  he had.  It was his Picture, though  a smaller copy.  Here,  as everywhere,  his pathway was bestrewn with opportunities; and thus his voice, his presence, and his Picture, so familiar in his native land, made their impressions and imparted their unfading lessons amid audiences of wondering Arabs, young and old, where once He walked who, in  all his wondrous ministries,  pictured  forth  the Father’s love.  “ The night cometh!' Perchance the solemn message of those words, so often the theme of his own earnest exhortations to fellow-labourers, echoed through his soul, and constrained unceasing diligence while the light of day remained. Upon  his friends at home there dawned,  though not at once, the fear that he was suffering unwonted exposure to  the elements.  The year was young; winter had not departed ; and in the Lebanon snow, frost and storm made tent-life somewhat dangerous and difficult. In a letter from Damascus, dated March 10, describing their journey across the slopes of Hermon, he wrote :— “ Friday  will long  be remembered  as the most trying day we have yet had. All night long it rained (Thursday).  Our tent gave way  on  one side,  and  I was awoke by the rain dropping  on  my  bed.  We got up,  and  drew the beds nearer the centre,  and some of the men got the canvas into its place. That was 3  a.m.

"The Dew of Hermon"

I had many anxious forebodings; for I knew we had to ascend the slopes of Hermon, to an altitude of five thousand  feet, ie,  three thousand eight hundred  feet higher than  we then  were.  I knew also that the day was the most difficult of the whole journey, and needed the best weather. I had been  elected  chairman  of the party  before leaving Jerusalem, and so felt my responsibility the greater. We had  agreed  to  rise at 4.45, and  start at six. Never did travellers rise more reluctantly. “ I asked  at breakfast-time whether we had  not better remain where we were ; but all were anxious to reach Damascus by Sunday, so it was decided to go  on.  Psalm xxxvii.  5  : ‘ Commit thy  way  unto the Lord,’ was given me at starting. Then the rain ceased for three hours, and we were cheered, our only difficulty being the soaked ground and the slippery rocks.  Over one shoulder of the mountain  a rude way had been cut in the limestone rock, over which the horses picked  their way  with  wonderful skill. We only saw the sides of the great mountain occa­sionally,  as it was crowned  with  mist,  which  also drove up  from the valley,  and  sometimes nearly obliterated our cavalcade. “We were not near the highest point when  the rain came on, driven by a high wind ; and then for three hours we were exposed to the fury of the storm. During that time we crossed a snow-drift, where the horses floundered, and some of the party had a difficulty  in  keeping  their seats.  It seemed  as if the lunch-tent never would  appear in  sight.  At length, on a branch of the river Pharpar, there it was ; but we had been six and a half hours in the saddle, and to restore circulation to our stiffened limbs, we ran races, played leap-frog, and did all sorts of childish  things.  It was about half-past eight that night before we could have dinner ; as the baggage animals had been heavily laden with the soaked canvas, and two of the men were left exhausted with the cold at a Druse village. ’ Mr.  Kirkham’s return  did  much  to  confirm our fears ; for, though his strength had been preserved, his face was thin.  And  fuller narratives,  imparted with obvious reluctance, made us aware that, intense as his enjoyment had been, his health had been en­dangered  rather than  established  by  his journeys “ through Palestine on horseback.” And  now a heavy  sorrow followed  fast His devoted  wife,  whose love and  prayers had  so  long borne him onward,  sickened  unto  death.  Back from his last long  absence she had  welcomed  her beloved  ; happy  days,  in  which,  as by  a gracious Providence,  unwonted  leisure had  been  given  him, followed  in  the enjoyment of his company  to  an extent almost unknown  before.  Then  the frail and nervous frame, long unequal to life’s heavier burdens, yielded in the struggle. A few brief weeks of sickness,  hovering  on  time’s borderland,  and  the tired spirit fled away. She who, through bodily weakness, had often feared the thought of death, now met its sure approach  triumphantly  serene.  Leaning  on  the immortal arm of her Beloved, she bade farewell to the wilderness, and entered his people’s rest. Sweet is the memory of her deeds of kindness. “ She was a true Christian worker, and many will bless God  for her labours.  When  resident in  Ber­mondsey, she was one of the district visitors in St. Paul’s parish,  and  continued  to  act in  the same capacity  on  removing  to  St.  Michael’s,  Islington, thirty  years ago. 

"Preach Christ!"

Her district visiting  was pursued at St.  Jude’s,  Mildmay  Park,  on  removing  there eighteen years ago. “ Her forte was in personal dealing. Armed with a handful of tracts and periodicals, she would give them on her walks among working-men, cabmen, car­ men,  policemen,  and  others whom she met.  The rougher the man, the greater the attraction  he had for her, as she seemed absolutely devoid of fear on these occasions, though naturally very timid.  She delighted in having her poorest friends round her to tea, and the last tea in her garden was for railway porters, milkmen, and others.” * Amid visible and deepening marks of his bereavement,  Mr.  Kirkham laboured  bravely  on,  as if he would, with tenfold zeal, fulfil the dying exhortation of his wife to the preachers gathered then at Epsom Races,  in  which,  through  his lips,  she bade them earnestly “Preach Christ.”

It has been said that, at this time, joy and sorrow closely  intermingled  in  this devoted  life.  A great desire had just been accomplished in the publication of his “ Open-Air Preacher’s Hand-book,”+ a true labour of love for the instruction of his younger and less experienced brethren. Gathering up the lessons of the years, he wrote in wise, winning, and helpful words,  concerning  the manner of presenting  the Gospel in  the streets. 


* The Christian^ June 20th, 1890.   + The Open-Air Preacher’s Hand-book (Morgan & Scott. 2s.).

The book  at once became popular, and several editions followed in quick suc­cession.  More than all, it was richly blessed in its purpose to  stimulate the ambassadors of the cross. Many spoke or wrote their thanks, and many were constrained to take up the blessed toil, and begin to preach beneath  the skies.  Thus from his heart a song of praise arose, which gathered fulness as the days increased. In  the following  year he journeyed  to  Ireland, partly for the purpose of aiding in the establishment at Dublin of an Open-Air Mission for that country, and also in order to witness for himself the famous meetings in  the streets of Arklow.  Recording  his experiences in the latter town, he says :— “  Morning  service  in  the  parish  church  did  not begin  till  half-past  eleven.  The  congregation  consisted  of  two  hundred  and  thirty-two  persons,  who entered reverently into the service, and joined heartily in  the  singing.  The  rector  preached  earnestly and suggestively on Divine guidance, from Psalm lxxiii. 24. A short prayer-meeting followed, held in the church, at which I gave an address to the workers ; and then the rector, curate, and about sixty of the congregation sallied forth, and went down the main street towards one of the schoolrooms, singing :— 

"Look, ye saints, the sight is glorious.’

“ Members of the constabulary kept pace with the procession  on  each  side of the thoroughfare,  their business being to keep the people in the side streets.  Arriving at a friendly house, I was requested to stand on the doorstep and speak. This was the signal for an outbreak of shouts and yells indescribable, chiefly by women and children. The constables marched to and fro in squads to prevent any assemblage of the people. The procession broke up by agreement, and kept on the move.  Women  and  girls ran  about, yelling,  shouting,  gesticulating,  and  making  the ugliest faces imaginable; one woman distinguishing herself by  perpetually  screaming,  ‘You  old  liar!’ But there were lulls in the storm, when the voice of the preacher could be distinctly heard. “

In the Streets of Arklow

Arriving at the Tinahask schoolroom, another word of exhortation  was addressed  to  the workers, and then another address outside, amid quieter sur­roundings ; and so on to two more stations, singing as we went,  and  always accompanied  by  the con­stables,  and  yelled  at by  the women  from the entrance of most of the side streets.  Another favourite method  of drowning  our voices was the beating of the doors of the houses from the inside. But many  heard  the Gospel,  and  the last station was almost as quiet as in  any  English  town.  The men  took  very  little part in  the shouting  ; but the demoniacal faces of some of the women will long linger in my memory. “ This effort to preach the Gospel and to assert the right of free speech has been continued for a year without missing for a single Sunday. Mr. Hallowes has never asked  for the protection  of the police; but it is doubtful if his life would have been pre­served without them. At one time the tumult was so great that two hundred constables were sent, and one hundred and fifty Seaforth Highlanders. “ It is needless to say that the Church of Rome is responsible for all this opposition to the Gospel.  On one occasion one of the Roman  Catholic curates, attended by a band of music, did his best to drive off,  by  noisy  opposition,  the Protestant clergyman and  his faithful followers.  Matters culminated  last February,  when  Mr.  Hallowes and  his curate were convicted  for street obstruction  and  fined  £1 each. This charge was of the flimsiest kind,  and  pre­arranged  ; and  sooner than  pay  so  unjust a fine, both of them went to Wexford gaol for a fortnight as a protest against the injustice.  Had  I been  in their place,  I would  have done exactly  the same. Now matters have settled down, and become much more quiet ; and I trust these men of God may be able to go on and win the battle for the free pro­clamation  of the Gospel in  that unhappy,  priest- ridden country.”*

On July 15th, 1891, Mr. Kirkham was united in marriage to Miss Fanny Elizabeth Bull, an intimate friend of his late wife. Great and mutual joy succeeded  this happy  and  appropriate union. 


*  This prayer is answered.  The Rev.  R.  C.  Hallowes and his friends now preach  without interruption  or disturbance in the streets of Arklow—a truly notable victory for the cause of Christ.

The Closing Days 

Perhaps in all the land a sweeter home could not be found than their residence in the north of London. Peace and love exercised their own gentle and harmonious sway ; and Mr. Kirkham’s closing days were indescribably soothed and comforted by the affection and care of his beloved  wife. Alas! in  less than  one short year the shadow of death was destined to fall upon  a scene that seemed  to  some too  bright for earth. A brief sojourn in Switzerland was succeeded, later in the autumn, by a visit to his old home ; where, accompanied by his wife, he gazed again—it was for the last time—on the scenes of early boyhood. Keen was his interest and delight, as the following letter reveals:—

“Ambleside, Oct. 22nd, 1891.

“MY DEAR COCKREM,—I wonder when I shall find time to write you a proper letter, and worthy of the occasion ! Each day has been so fully occupied that writing has been my strange work. “ Tuesday was filled up with memories of the past by  our visit to  Eskrigge and  Gressingham.  The day was lovely, and nothing could have been more delightful. We hired a trap, and drove up one side of the Lune and back by the other. We saw ‘the house where I was born’; the village school where I learned my  letters ; the brook  into  which  I fell and  was nearly drowned when quite young ; ‘ Borrons’, which father farmed for twenty years or more ; the house in which mother died ; the corn-mill where three of us serious lads held our first prayer-meeting ; the church where I found peace forty years ago the 8th of this month, and where I played the clarionet as a boy ; and in the churchyard adjoining which my beloved father  and  mother  await  the  resurrection  of  the just. “We called  at the parsonage,  and  made the acquaintance of the new vicar, and also looked in at the school, and saw the new schoolmistress teaching her twelve children in the afternoon sunlight. It was indeed a red-letter day to be able to take my best-belovcd to see all these places, and to kindle afresh on my own heart the flame of gratitude to God for his abundant goodness to his unworthy servant.

                                                                                    “ Ever yours,

                                                                                                 “ G. Kirkham." 

Quickly—all too quickly—sped the passing year, and another dawned.  It brought a serious attack  of influenza, and for three weeks in its first month our dear friend was detained at home. But, ere his ill­ness reached  the stage of convalescence,  his busy pen, never long idle, resumed its full tale of useful­ness in  a series of inspiring  articles on  open-air preaching intended for one of the religious weeklies. He could not lose a moment. There followed  apparent full recovery.  Glad at heart, he returned to his beloved labours, preaching or lecturing  almost daily,  and  taking  all his usual interest in the concerns of the office and the Mis­sion.  The writing of the Annual Report engaged him much through the months of February and March.  It involved  heavy  toil,  and  had  to  be accomplished by rising early in the morning—a task not strange or burdensome to him.

His Last Annual Meeting

Then came the Annual Meeting of the Mission gathering fraught with intense interest and charged with  spiritual power; ever to  be regarded  as the visible, the God-given crown of a remarkable career. In  the chair was the saintly  and  now sainted Sir Arthur Blackwood,  and  one of the speakers of the evening  was the chairman’s “ own  son  in  the faith,” Pastor Archibald  G.  Brown,  upon  whom a heavenly unction  rested—a sacred  fragrance which spread  to  the whole audience.  With all his usual tact and wisdom Mr. Kirkham told the story of the year’s endeavour ; and, sitting down, watched with much delight the happy  progress of the meeting. Almost youthful vigour and elasticity seemed to have returned awhile, though time and toil had left their traces upon  the familiar countenance and  figure. The genial face had deepened in its outlines, and the dark hair and beard were deeply interlined with grey. But within, the old fire burned, and the spirit of the earnest soul-winner shone forth  through  the bright, kindly eyes. None present dreamt that the end was near—that in one swift month the great, kind heart would cease to throb ; the voice we knew so well might never more encourage and exhort ; the warm hand,  full often  pressing  ours in  sympathy,  would have bestowed its final greeting. It was even so. There came a day—the date was the 30th of April, 1892—on which he left us for a short period of evangelistic service in Sheffield, whither he had been invited by the local Young Men's Christian Association.  Taking his picture with him, he set forth. It was Saturday.  From their home at Harringay, Mrs. Kirkham watched his train pass by on its rapid journey northward, and with a dim foreboding at her heart, sat down to weep. 

Sunday was a day of toil altogether pleasant to his heart; and though arduous indeed, was not more so than this heroic man of God had frequently sustained before.  The sun  shone brilliantly  ; the sky  was cloudless ; the gatherings in the streets were large, attentive, and impressive ; and Mr. Kirkham’s spirit rejoiced  in  its liberty  of service,  and  in  its happy fellowship with kindred and consecrated souls. Monday came, and a letter to his wife, written on that day,  breathed  out its fulness of deep  feeling and  stedfast happiness.  The lecture in  the evening gathered  round  itself the usual attraction  that be­ longed to his Picture and himself; and on Tuesday morning  he returned  to  London,  and  to  the office, and to his familiar and well-loved seat. His friend Mr. Turner, “our daily visitor,” as Mr. Kirkham often called him in his happy way, remarked that our brother’s voice was husky ; but no thought of serious issues came to disturb our restfulness of labour. For some hours Mr. Kirkham remained—how wonderfully every matter of moment seemed to engage his effectual attention  in  those brief hours !—and then, during the writer’s temporary absence, left to go  home.  On  his desk,  when  the writer had  re­turned,  was a brief note,  signed,  addressed,  and dated, with his usual precision of accuracy, and saying :—“ I have got a touch of sore throat; so if I do not turn up to-morrow, you will know I am at home nursing myself.—G. Kirkham, May 3rd, 1892.”

"Waiting, Hoping, Fearing"

The morrow came, but not our leader. He had taken  to  his bed  the previous evening.  A serious affection  of the throat developed  with  alarming rapidity  and malignance; and by Wednesday even­ing his condition had aroused within us deep concern. The veteran lay, like a wounded warrior on the field of battle who,  after many  a well-fought fight,  is stricken  sore.  As we approached  his bed-side on that evening, he said, in painful, broken utterances : “ I am down at last. I can neither speak, nor breathe, nor swallow.” The effort was all too evident.  He breathed in short, sharp, distressful gasps ; there was a laboured panting; the voice had lost its clearness. By Friday the condition of the throat had consider­ably  improved,  and  he evidently  felt much better. Speech was more easily possible, and he was taking liquid nourishment.  He was cheerful,  and  able to converse a little.  We,  gladly  sharing  his manifest hopefulness,  fondly  thought the worst had  passed, and  that recovery  was nigh  at hand.  It was not to be. Tenderly, lovingly they nursed him ; his devoted wife—“ a most precious gift from God,” as his last words to me expressed it—ceaselessly keeping vigil. But on  Saturday  his weakness and  prostration  increased ; and on that day his brother, Mr. William Kirkham, received a summons to his bed-side. Sunday morning dawned, and the end drew nigh. Fainter shone the light of “ this mortality.” Deeper grew the exhaustion  ; weaker the heart’s reluctant action  ; heavier the laboured,  painful breathing; sharper the conflict between  life and  death.  Waiting, hoping, fearing, the dear ones of his family circle gathered  around.  One was asked  to  pray.  Then came a request for a hymn he loved; and while it was sung with trembling lips, one weak hand beat time upon the coverlet. 

“ Tenderly guide us, O Shepherd of love,            To the green pastures and waters above ;     Guarding us ever by night and by day,               Never from Thee would we stray.             “ Over our weakness Thy strength has been cast, Keep us in meekness Thine own till the last, Then, safely folded, with joy we shall say, Never from Thee would we stray.” 

The day began to wane, and with its waning came unconsciousness.  The little company  of watchers grew more numerous, hope sinking in their hearts as the Sabbath noontide passed. Then it was that, from the sufferer’s dying  lips, while mortal strength fast ebbed away, there issued in ceaseless succession such prayers,  appeals,  and  exhortations,  as those who heard  may  never more forget His heart turned to  the heathen—to  those for whom his early  love had longed to spend itself. “ Won’t you go and tell the heathen  of Jesus?” he repeatedly  exclaimed. Anon it was an imaginary audience of communicants to  whom the message was delivered.  And  so the dying evangelist preached in death. The flame leapt high, and then expired. So the afternoon passed by, and evening shadows gathered  in  the room where stillness reigned,  save where the patient lay breathing forth his life. And, with the gathering of the shadows, for Gawin Kirkham all terrestrial darkness broke, dispersed, and fled for evermore.

"With Christ"

Even as the sun set deep and calm, eternal sunrise dawned upon the liberated soul. One triumphant cry he uttered :  “ There is one Offer­ing for sin—Jesus!”    and with that well-loved Name upon his lips the happy spirit fled away to that blest realm

“ Where glory, glory dwelleth In Immanuel’s Land.”

His pastor, who had lingered long at the bedside, went to  his evening labours at New Court Chapel, and, abandoning his sermon, told to a deeply-moved assembly the story of the noble life that had passed away.

Let us linger for awhile over the events of his final day of toil at Sheffield. Mr. Walter Jervis, secretary of the Young Men’s Christian Association, writes, in words which possess peculiar pathos :— “ Our dear departed friend came to Sheffield on Saturday, April 30th, when I met him at the station on the arrival of the 5.10 p.m. train. I had not seen him for eighteen months or more; and I was struck with  his altered  bearing—he seemed  to  have aged very considerably. My wife also remarked this after tea; for I took Mr. Kirkham home with me to have some refreshment and rest before the meeting. “ I remember the pleasant walk we had together from my house to the Association : he was greatly interested in some Jaffa oranges which he saw in the window, and he conversed pleasantly about his visit to Palestine. “ Our friend’s address at the open-air meeting at eight o’clock was, as usual, excellent; and our workers, who, one and all, heard him for the first time —this being Mr. Kirkham’s first visit to Sheffield— were highly delighted and encouraged. “ The position at the ‘ Monolith,’ where we hold our meetings, is an excellent one in all respects ; save, as Mr.  Kirkham remarked,  it is not immediately surrounded by houses, thus demanding greater exertion  in  speaking  than  would  be required  in  many places. Our visitor enjoyed the meeting very much, and was strongly impressed by the number of men present—this being a characteristic of our meetings, fully ninety-five per cent, being men at all times. “ At 9.30 I accompanied him on the ’bus to his host’s residence, where I remained  to  supper.  He said he was just ‘ comfortably tired.’ At his special desire I had  arranged  for him to  preach  on  the following  morning,  and  take a collection  for the Open-Air Mission. “ As I was speaking  at another meeting  in  the afternoon, I did not see him until after the meeting (4.30),  when  I rejoined  him at the Y.M.C.A.,  and we had  tea together with  about thirty-five of our workers. “ The one hundred  and  seventy young  men  ad­dressed by Mr. Kirkham created a deep impression on  him,  as he afterwards remarked  ; whilst they appreciated his stirring address to the full. “ After tea we adjourned to the parlour, as usual, and  after some singing  and  a short address by  a ministerial visitor from Nottingham,  I asked  our friend  if he would  remain  seated  and  offer a few suggestions to our open-air workers.

An Account of His last Day's Work

He gladly responded,  but would  insist on  standing; telling our young  men  that they  would  always find  it a help  to  stand  when  giving  an  address.  In  his bright and  racy  manner he gave some useful hints for about ten  minutes,  and  again  reclined  in  the easy  chair.  We broke up  at six  o’clock,  when  he had a wash and further rest in my room. “ After prayer together we started at 7 o’clock for our two open-air meetings—at the Monolith and High Street—and as Mr. Kirkham was announced to speak at the Monolith  only,  the High  Street band  of workers suggested to him that he should ‘just give them a look up ’ after he had spoken at the Monolith ; which, in his good-natured way, he readily consented to do. I heard him at the latter place only, where he spoke on 1 Sam. ix. 27, ‘ Stand thou still awhile (or to-day) that I may show thee the word of God.’ “His clear voice rang through the street; and, being a delightful evening,  a vast crowd  assembled  and hung on his words for over half an hour, after which his nephew led him to High Street. I saw no more of him that evening ; but one of our members walked home with him.

“ On Monday morning he called on me, and after fixing his picture and lamp for the evening lecture on ‘The Broad and the Narrow Way’ we inspected one of the largest cutlery warehouses in the town, where four thousand people are employed. He made some purchases for his home and for presents ; and after calling on a bookseller with whom he made arrangements for the sale of copies of his picture, he returned to his host in time for dinner at 1.30. "I need scarcely add that the lecture was enjoyed— it always was—and although we had not such a full hall as we could have wished, yet, considering the fine evening, it was a fairly good company. “We packed  everything  up  that evening,  as he wished to catch an early train in the morning ; and as I live some distance from the town, I said ‘ good­ bye ’ to  him then,  thanking  him warmly  for his valuable help. “ As far as I could see, he was in his usual strength then ; and I was painfully surprised to hear from you on the Thursday that he was seriously ill.  We remembered him in our Y.M.C.A. prayer meetings ; but his work was done on earth, and the sad news of his death created quite a sensation amongst our workers.

“ Having known him for many years whilst I was in London, I counted it a real joy to have him with me and my co-workers in Sheffield ; but little did I think that his labours with  us were to  be his last.  ‘ He fought a good fight.’ He 'rightly divided the word of  truth.’  In  labours  he  was  ‘  more  abundant.’ ‘ His works do follow him.’”

Amid tokens of deepest sorrow we committed his precious remains to the tomb,  on  Thursday,  May  12th,  surrounded by a numerous company of those who knew and loved him. Many eyes were dim ; strong men bowed be­neath the stroke ; for some had lost their dearest earthly  friend, the minister of their deliverance in seasons of affliction and distress.


His pastor, the Rev. William Pierce, and his brother-in-law, the Rev. Eben Evans, conducted the mournful service, which yet was radiant with  resurrection-hope.  Mr.  R.  C. Morgan,  Mr.  Richard  Turner,  and  Mr.  Charles L. Young uttered fitting words to the hushed assembly gathered  there beneath  the brilliant sky of May; songs of victory  and  praise ascended  ; and thanks were offered for the gift of this beloved man to the church militant, and for his translation to the church triumphant. The grief was widespread. Thousands throughout the land  had  known  and  loved  him,  and  hundreds who had never seen his face yet mourned his loss. Expressions of sympathy  were many,  among  them resolutions of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, and other bodies. And, in all the depth of her unutterable sorrow, Mrs. Kirkham was upheld by  the everlasting  arms so  wondrously,  and  was enabled  to  exhibit such  a steadfastness of resigna­tion, that the grace of God was truly magnified in her. Reader,  my  task  is finished.  Pause,  then,  one brief moment, and in the stillness of thy heart learn thou  the abiding  lessons of Gawin  Kirkham’s life. Listen to its eloquent appeal, as it points thee to the poor and maimed, and halt, and blind, whom Jesus bids thee seek. Learn how they can be sought—yea, sought and  won—by  hearts deep  filled  with  love. Go out, and “ go out quickly,” in the footsteps of the fairest sons of God,  and  in  the path  which, lowly though it be, thy Saviour’s example hath for ever consecrated.  Take up,  O church  of Christ,  this cross—if cross it be, and learn how burdens such as these are soon transfigured into blessings. Go, then, without the camp, bearing his reproach, that so some soul, emancipated from its thraldom through thy liberating message, may bless thee at the last! Look  thou  once more upon  that youth  of lowly birth, who, occupied in humblest earthly toil, yet, with a heart surrendered unto God, goes forth at length to lead  the conflict in  many  glorious and  triumphant assaults upon the strongholds of the Prince of Evil. Learn how, clad with holy courage—bold as a lion, gentle as a child—and  inspired  by  the might of hidden and Divine resources, he pressed the battle to the gate. And do thou likewise. Farewell,  then,  my  brother! yea,  more than brother—dearest friend  my  earthly  course shall know. Never shalt thou be forgotten ! Never, while life remains, shall thy memory lose its preciousness of inspiration, or thy high example its secret power. Thou  livest still! Thy  words,  thy  deeds,  have im­mortality. Few, few were thy faults; patient, serene, and gracious was thy testimony to the power of God that had its residence within  thy  soul.  The glory and the praise be His alone!

(Secretary of the Open-Air Mission.)

“go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city.
Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in.”
Luke xiv. 21, 23.


Chapter 9

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