Leeds Town Hall (1875)

Dear Sir,-I came to Leeds on Tuesday and was privileged to take part in the thanksgiving service held in St James Church, where the Rev W H Aitken had been the Mission preacher. It was a touching sight to see the body of the church crowded with about 700 communicants, many of whom had received blessing during the services.

Leeds has been stirred more deeply than any other town where a similar movement has taken place. It is estimated that out of a population of 280,000, no less than 50,000 have been listening, night after night, to the preaching of the gospel. Much earnest prayer has been offered for months past, and a rich blessing has been vouchsafed. At the parish church, the number of awakened sinners has been very large. From early in the morning until late at night the whole time of the Mission preacher, the Rev. G. H. Wilkinson, of Eaton-square, has been taken up with anxious souls, and it has been his blessed privilege to lead very many to the Saviour.

At all the supplementary meetings held in the Town Hall by Rev W H Aitken, there have been a large number of seeking souls, and numbers have gone away rejoicing in the knowledge of forgiveness through the blood of Christ.

On Friday evening, Feb. 5, the hall was packed with three or four thousand men, who listened with breathless attention to the gospel message; and after the sermon, two large rooms were filled with anxious souls while many remained to the after-meeting and were spoken to by believers in the hall.

The greatest sympathy for the work has been manifested by the Non-conformists of the town who have thrown themselves heartily into the work and helped it on in every possible way.

I venture to think that this wonderful outpouring of God's Holy Spirit on Leeds has its lesson for the Christians of England. Let Christians of every name unite in earnest, believing prayer and effort, and we shall see even greater things than these. This morning the concluding address was given by Mr Aitken in the Town Hall on Psalm 126. In illustration of verse 6, he referred in a very touching way to his sainted father and told us that among the earliest recollections of his childhood were the sobs and groans and prayers of his father in the room underneath, and which were often the last sounds he heard as he closed his eyes in sleep.  As a churchman, he rejoiced that this work had begun in the Church of England and that the Nonconformists of Leeds, forgetting the coldness and sin which had disgraced the Church in times past and had really caused the alienation of so many from her communion, had manifested such a loving, Christian spirit. He said that beneath the cross of Christ, there was common ground on which all who loved the Lord Jesus Christ could unite to do his work, and described the present work of grace as God's great Liberation Society for the emancipation of souls.

A great united prayer and praise meeting of all denominations is to be held in the Town Hall this evening.

Truly the Christians of Leeds can say, "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad," and are encouraged still to pray, "'Turn our captivity, O Lord, as the rivers in the south.

February 6th.

"The Christian," February 25th, 1875. 


The blessed work has been going on at Leeds since the 24th ult. Churches filled to overflowing every night, and schoolrooms and chapels opened to take the overflow. Bible readings and lectures were attended in a manner never before seen in Leeds.
Truly, the Lord was present in power. I was only able to be present on the last Sunday. In the morning I attended St. James's, where the Rev. W. H. H. Aitken was the missioner. He is well known as a revivalist and his power is impossible to describe. He riveted his hearers for three-quarters of an hour and the deep impression left showed that many a heart-felt that the word was from God. I could understand Mr Aitken, with his marvellous power, drawing such large congregations, and I was anxious to see if other mission preachers got the crowd Mr Aitken did and whether they could keep the attention of their hearers. I had heard that a clergyman from Sheffield (Rev. G. J. Watts) was at St. Clement's and drawing very large congregations; and being myself a Sheffield man, I thought I would go in the evening to St Clement's. I got there long before the time for service and found the church quite full. Forms and chairs were placed in every available corner. All the steps up to the communion table were filled, and there was scarcely room for the choir to pass to their places. Mr Watts preached from 1 Kings 17:21. The word was indeed with power. For nearly three-quarters of an hour, he rivetted the attention of that vast gathering. Apparently, without a note before him, he poured out words which seemed to go home to every heart. I shall never forget the close of his sermon. Holding the people as it were, breathless, he called upon all who were for Baal or the world to rise; then, after a pause that seemed almost awful, with a voice clear and thrilling, he bid all who were "halting between two opinions, who were "undecided" to rise. These calls were not responded to and then the preacher after another pause, said, "Those who were on the Lord's side stand up." Almost before the last word was uttered, the whole congregation were upon their feet. The sensation was wonderful, even the preacher seemed startled at the effect he had produced. Tears were pouring down the eyes of many. As that vast congregation stood with eyes on the preacher he asked them to sing a hymn. At the close of the hymn Mr Watts said he should go across to the schoolroom and hold an after-meeting for those who did not remain to the Communion. In a few minutes, the schoolroom was packed in every corner and when I left at 10:30 pm there were still at least one hundred then remaining still to be spoken to. It was the nearest approach to the glorious services lately held in Sheffield by those great and good men, Messrs Moody and Sankey, that I ever saw. 

Sheffield, Feb. 4.

"The Christian," February 26th, 1875.

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