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.”
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.
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.
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!
A RECORD AND A TRIBUTE.
(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.