Liverpool (1860)

Last week a most important work of God the Holy Ghost took place in the Penitentiary at Liverpool. I spoke to 64 inmates about three-quarters of an hour, chiefly concerning the Lord's work in England, Ireland, and elsewhere. I then asked them if they meant to turn their backs that night coldly on Jesus, and said that I would give them two minutes to consider their answer. Silence had lasted about a minute and a half, when suddenly, one of them rose and cried out bitterly, "Oh Jesus, I'm lost, lost forever," and fell prostrate on the floor. Others immediately cried out, and in a few minutes the whole number were sobbing in intense anguish. I have never seen anything like it out of Ireland. I felt I could say and do nothing. The Lord had taken the thing into his own hand. I had to go away, and in about two hours I called at the Penitentiary and found that they had continued in that state for nearly that time, till they went to bed. One who had before been seeking Jesus found Him in the interval and had been speaking to others about Him. This is the first quickening in Liverpool—and several of the ministers had been lamenting the absence of any.—Private Letter.

From the 'Revival Newspaper', Volume II, page 131.

The Work of God in the Penitentiary of this town is very extraordinary. No less than fifty-five of the inmates give every evidence of true conversion. It is stated that so great is the manifestation of their love to the Lord Jesus, and to one another, that it is quite delightful to be in their society. They love much, having had much forgiven.

From the 'Revival Newspaper', Volume II, page 156.

THE following thrilling narrative is by an eye-witness, a lady who had recently returned from the scenes of the Revival in America, and who vouches for the unexaggerated truth of every word:

On Easter-Monday, April 9, 1860, the Rev. John Baillie (author of the Memoir of Hewitson), who was spending a few days in Liverpool, visited the Penitentiary and gave an address to the inmates. The whole service lasted but an hour but the results were marvellous. Towards the close of his address he spoke somewhat to this effect: "My dear young friends,--I propose a plain question to you: will you give yourselves to God or to the devil I will give you three minutes to consider." A solemn silence followed; but before the time had expired it was broken by the sobs of the poor women, who fell on their knees all over the room, crying for mercy. Several were stricken to the ground and carried out senseless. All through the night the excitement lasted. The women, instead of going to bed, gathered in little groups for prayer, sobs and shrieks were intermingled, and the scene became fearful to witness. Mr Baillie left on the Tuesday morning, consequently, he never saw the inmates again; but between the Monday evening and the following Thursday, twenty-five of them were prostrated bodily, and the entire number seemed to be under the influence of deep feeling. I was myself spending the winter in Liver­pool, and had been admitted a visitor at the institution: had twice addressed the women before the events I am relating but was not present when Mr Baillie was with them. It was on the Wednesday after that I called and learned what had taken place. Four women were then in a heavy sleep, or to speak more correctly, in a trance state. While I was there one of them returned to consciousness, and I went up to see her. She held her hand to me, a happy expression lighting up her whole countenance, and she said, "Jesus has done all for me; His blood has washed me from all my sin. I am, quite happy." Then looking at me with peculiar earnestness, she went on—" I have been travelling far away." Where have you been?" "With Jesus."What, in heaven:" " Yes, and He spoke to me and said, "Daughter, thy sins are forgiven, go in peace." She was in a state of great exhaustion, and after a few more words I prepared to leave her, but she interrupted my farewell by a request that I would pray before I left. "What shall I pray for I asked?" Oh, pray that all my fellow-inmates may come to Jesus. I wish I could bring all the world to Him; there is room for them all if they would only come. Then turning towards the women who stood around the bed, she said imploringly, "Come to Jesus just now." With streaming eyes they knelt beside her and I com­plied with her request, beseeching the Lord to carry on the work He had begun and to glorify the name of his Son yet more and more in the conversion of sinners in that place. From the 'Revival Newspaper', Volume III, page 60.

Some of the women officiated as nurses to these poor stricken ones, and the devotion and love they manifested towards them was beautiful to witness.

The case previously narrated was not the only one in the room needing attention, though it was one of the most serious. Before she was thoroughly quieted, a form in another bed would begin to move, and another voice would begin to wail piteously, " I'm lost; I'm lost; I know I'm lost!" and then would follow a struggle, similar to the one we have described, in which the very same words would be used and addressed apparently to the same invisible object. In this way I spent three successive nights, going from bed to bed; and I can safely say that three such nights I never spent before. The long room, dimly lighted with candles, seemed to be the abode of some supernatural beings rather than of women possessing flesh and blood like myself; and it was difficult to realize that I was yet in the world and among fellow-mortals.

The first time I heard the shrieks I have described, and witnessed the uncontrollable anguish of the poor sufferers, my blood chilled, and my heart sank within me; but feeling that was no time to yield to terror, I nerved myself to the work, and, looking to God for help, I stood by and rendered such assistance as I was able. I have never realized the terrors of hell; and the future of the unsaved is a subject from which I shrink, as being "too painful for me," but I seemed to have here the horrors of the lost brought before me, and I realized then, as I never had done before, the power of evil spirits, and the dreadful fate it must be to be left to their companion­ship forever. I soon learned however, even in these severe cases, not to be over distressed by their struggles, painful though they were, inasmuch as they were always succeeded by victory, and curled invariably in joy and peace in believing.

The case of the young girl, first mentioned, is very striking. Very young, but very wicked, she had come into the institution a bigoted Roman Catholic (she is even now unable to read) and had resisted, until the period of which we are speak­ing, every attempt to convey to her the truth as it is in Jesus. Her heart was not touched, either, at the time of Mr Baillis's address, but afterwards, seeing the impression made on others, terror laid hold upon her, and a heavy feeling settled upon her heart, which she, as well as some others, described to me by comparing it to the whole house being laid upon their heart. In her sore distress and bewilderment, she knew not what to do, and spoke to no one, endeavouring to go on with her work, which was ironing. The feeling grew stronger, and at last, on the Thursday afternoon, she said to a companion at work by her side, " I should not care if I was like the women upstairs " (meaning the stricken ones). No sooner had she said this than, to use her own Words, "the Lord called her," and with a loud cry she fell senseless to the floor. Her companion raised her in her arms and attempted to carry her upstairs, but was herself prostrated. in the same manner before she had gone many steps.

They were both carried up by others and laid in beds along­side each other, and from that moment there seemed to be a peculiar sympathy between them. As one improved, so did the other, and when one became worse, we knew the other was sure to follow. These two women were confined to bed for

From the 'Revival Newspaper', Volume III, page 76.


The way in which the women all spoke of Jesus is worthy of being noticed. It seemed that, in a wonderfully brief space of time, they had become personally and intimately acquainted with Him, and they spoke of Him with the freedom one feels with reference to a very dear friend. If I asked, "Did you sleep last night? " the reply would be, " Yes, I slept in Jesus all night;" or, when wishing them good night, they would invariably say, "I'm going to sleep in Jesus "I must not lie here,' said another, one morning; "I shall grieve Jesus. I must get up and be at any work.' And when reminded on another occasion that, in bestowing my attentions on one patient, I had rather overlooked another lying close by, and she would be jealous, "Oh, no," she exclaimed warmly, "Jesus won't let one be jealous."


should be glad if she would send her a message. She went away for a few minutes and then returned with a paper, on which she had written these words, "Behold I have set before thee an open door and no man can shut it." On another occasion I was sitting together with the matron and my first- named doubting friend by the bed of a young girl who was slowly recovering from prostration, when she asked me, as usual, to sing. "What shall I sing?" I asked. "Come to Jesus," she answered. "But you have come to Jesus," I suggested. "Yes," she replied, "but I want more to come." Well, whom do you want to come now? Is it I? "You have come," she answered quietly. "Is it the matron," I continued. "She has come." "How do you know?" asked the matron. "Be­cause you love Him," she returned. "Oh, I know you came to Jesus many years before I thought of coming to Him." "Is it her you want to come?" I asked finally, turning towards any friend. She looked her earnestly in the face, and said, "She has come, but I want everybody to come."

I have more than once felt thankful that I had been permitted to teach a few Revival hymns to the women before Mr Baillie's visit. They had by that time become familiar with the Irish Converts' Psalm

"I waited for the Lord my God,"

and with several others, such as,

"I do believe, I will believe," &c.

all of which came into full and constant use as soon as the work really began among them. On my first visit to the house after that memorable address, I could not avoid being struck by the change in the women's manner. All faces glowed with pleasure to see me, and every hand was outstretched to give me a welcome. I wandered from room to room, scarcely knowing where I was, and marvelling at the wondrous revolu­tion which had been effected in so short a time. At about half-past nine in the evening the matron came to me, saying that I had overlooked the women in the wash-house, and that they were grieved. I went there at once and found about a dozen women enveloped in a cloud of steam. No sooner did they see me enter than they simultaneously quitted their occupation, and flocking around me, without a single introduc­tory word they began to sing, "Come to Jesus." "Ah," said one of them afterwards, "I never could sing until last Sunday, and I used to hate to hear the others singing, but now I am never tired of it." The genuineness of this work was quickly proved by the alteration in the conduct of those who were the subjects of it. The most intense hatred of sin in every shape and form was wrought in every one who gave evidence of any real change. A little circumstance will serve to illustrate this. One of the rules of the house is that no one shall carry any food away from the table unknown to the matron. A number of them had made little pockets, which they wore for the express purpose of secreting portions of food, but no sooner had this work of grace declared itself in their midst, than they made these pockets up into a bundle and took them to the matron, begging her to burn them. I was one day with them just after their dinner, when one said to another, " Did you see — put her piece of bread aside; it made her fairly shudder till she laid it down again on the table." As the cases of bodily prostration gradually improved, inter­course with the women became altogether pleasure, and some of the happiest hours of my life were spent with them. Their love for the Scriptures and for hymns, and their delight in talking or hearing about Jesus, made religious conversation per­fectly easy and natural, though I was, perhaps, never before so much of a listener. The first fruit of the Spirit, as mentioned by the apostle, is love; and it might be truly said of them, "Ye are taught of God to love one another." I myself reaped a rich harvest in this direction and was more than repaid by their love for the little services I had been permitted to render them. Leave-taking, though but for a few hours, was quite a serious matter, and I cannot easily forget their warm squeezes of the hand and hearty benedictions. "Good-bye, ma'am, and God bless you," was the universal salutation. "God bless you wherever you go, and make you a blessing. Go and tell sinners everywhere about the love of Jesus. Go and work for Christ. Tell them what great things He has done for us, and how his blessings are flowing in this house." Such were the benedictions and exhortations, with which they regularly dismissed me. To everyone who loved the Lord Jesus Christ their love over­flowed, and the matron they regarded as a mother. Her office became one of loving labour, night and day she cared for them bodily and spiritually, and concerning many of them she did truly travail in birth until Christ was formed in them. Verily she hath her reward. Not only towards their fellow-believers did their love mani­fest itself, but as strongly towards those who had not been made partakers with them of the grace of God. I used to receive daily requests that I would speak to some individual whose heart was yet untouched, but for whose salvation a sister was yearning. Do speak to my companion, please," was the frequent entreaty; " I have said all I can to her, but maybe she would listen to you." A visit to the house involved a whole round of parochial duties, all brought within the compass of one building. Here in the work-room were a number of happy people entreating for a hymn or a little reading; in the laundry others were looking out for a passing word of encouragement and good cheer; and passing along the hall an earnest entreaty would take me into the pantry to speak a few words of prayer with an anxious one. The woman at the mangle would tell me as I went by her how happy she was all day long at her work, in the company of her newly-found friend Jesus, while another close by her would hang her head, and in reply to my inquiry whether she too had found Jesus, would answer with tears in her eyes, " I wish I had." The time spent there always seemed to be divided between prayer and praise, and I never left them without being myself refreshed and stirred up. Not to myself only was the season blessed. I believe that all who were helpers in the work received a confirmation of their faith and hope. My friend already alluded to would, I am sure, gratefully acknowledge the benefit she derived from witnessing the grace of God thus marvellously bestowed. She has repeatedly said to me that one visit to the Penitentiary did more for her than twenty sermons, and I can truly say the same. From the 'Revival Newspaper', Volume III, page 80.

It was my custom to spend some portion of every Sunday with the women, and that portion was always the happiest part of the day. It was so delightful to steal in upon them by surprise, and find them dispersed in the garden; some walking up and down in pairs reading a tract together, some joining in the singing of a hymn, and some sitting under a tree quietly talking to each other,—then to hear their glad exclamations as soon as they were conscious of the presence of a friend, and to receive their hearty greetings as, one by one, they gathered around me.

The women were by this time all able to attend worship, which they were extremely anxious to do. Two of them were on that occasion overcome by their feelings, and, beginning to sob violently, had to be taken out of the room. They were, as may be judged, of the number who had suffered severe pros­tration. In reply to ray inquiries, they answered, smiling amidst their tears, "Please, ma'am, I was only rejoicing in Jesus."

It may perhaps appear from the descriptions I have given as if the entire number of the inmates were brought under the power of God; if it should be so, this is a mistake I must hasten to rectify. I have never attempted to ascertain the precise numbers of those who were brought to believe in Jesus during this season of visitation. In the first instance, there was scarcely a woman in the house who was not im­pressed more or less; but gradually as the terror which had been produced by the stricken cases wore away, it became evident that many had only trembled like Felix, and had said with him, "Go thy way for this time."

The stricken eases themselves ceased within the first week, that is, no fresh cases occurred after that time, though many became anxious about their salvation, and sought Christ with more or less marked earnestness.

Whatever may be said as to sympathy and contagion in this matter, it remains nevertheless a fact that the bodily cases ceased to occur, as I have already stated, after the first few days, and that although the women acting as nurses were many of them un­converted, though most of them anxious, and though some of them have told me that they longed to go through the same kind of experience, yet not one of them was ever stricken. There was at the first, indeed, a desire on the part of all who were seeking Christ to find Him in this special manner; it was a feeling against which all their Christian friends warned them, and which in a short time they quite overcame. I freely confess myself, though I should be thought a fool for so doing, that I have looked on with a lunging heart as I witnessed the strong faith, the overflowing joy, or the deep settled peace, enjoyed by these poor women ; and if by undergoing the same kind of experience I could have received as real an increase of my faith, as clear a revelation of the love of Christ, and as effectual a deliverance from the power of sin, I would cheerfully have submitted to it. Knowing as I did, however, that the - grace of Christ is not communicated by any special means, or rather, that He gives it by all means in a great variety of ways and freely to all who desire, I discouraged any such thought either in myself or others.

The world has yet had but one day of Pentecost. Many a fervent appeal for Christ did Peter make after that day; many a time did Paul, with tears in his eyes, beseech men to be reconciled to God, and never did he speak, so far as we have any record, without some result; yet only that once do we road of 3000 added to the Lord in one place and one day. We are looking for great things in these days; encouraged by- the great things we have already seen, and our eyes may behold even greater things than Pentecost, but as yet the very largest shower of grace ever received has been only partial. It was thus here as elsewhere: the Lord's flock is still a little flock. When quiet had once more settled down in the little world contained in that house, it was soon found that all were not saved—far from it. The prince of this world is not so easily shaken out of his dominions, and he returned to assert his power. It is hardly possible for anyone to pass through such a season as this and not be either the better or the worse for it. Those who had felt and resisted the power of the Holy Ghost there, were no exceptions to this rule. I firmly believe, never­theless, that impressions have been made then, the results of which will be known only in eternity. Some of them will be owned of Christ in the great day of his appearing, concerning whom much discouragement has been felt here.

I shall venture upon the insertion of a letter or two from the inmates, as they will describe in their own words much better than I can the great change which they had undergone, and the reader must judge for himself how far it bears the mark of reality.

In case anyone should be disposed to think the publishing of letters a breach of confidence, I will say at once that the women have entreated me again and again to tell anything about them that I could, and that might be likely to warn and encourage others.

DEAR MATRON,—On the 9th of April, when you came into the work-room at dinner-time to ask the women if we would work our recreation, as we were going to have a strange minister, and that he always left fruit after him, I felt a strange feeling come over me, and I asked myself if / would get any of the fruit. I remained for a short time that way, and then I could not sit, so I. went downstairs and prayed to God to soften my hard heart and to show me myself that night. I kept on praying till the minister came, and when he gave out the text: " He brought me out of the horrible pit," I will try and tell you what I felt. I felt that I was a sinner, and I prayed to Jesus that He would forgive me. I felt that if I did not pray to Jesus, I should be lost. When I was smitten that night I thought I was plunged into hell, and all the power left me. I thought when I was in my greatest agony that I saw a hand come down into hell, and when I looked at the hand it pulled me up. The next day when I got up I prayed to Jesus that He would show me Himself. That day there was a great terror over me, and I was trying to baffle all the thoughts that were in my heart and I could not. 1 thought I heard something say, "Don’t let go, hold fast;" and something else would say, "Don't go that way." This was on Thursday night; between that night and Sunday the only thing I had to comfort me was that verse in the Bible, that it was not the righteous Jesus came to save; but me, a wretched sinner. But now, dear Matron, I wish to tell you the way I feel now. I am sure that Jesus has washed all my sins away in his blood, and I am trying to keep Him in my heart at my work all day long. I have more temptations now than ever I had, but the things I once loved I hate now. I will keep on praying to Jesus for his Holy Spirit to keep me from all temptations or from ever offending him any more. You know when I came into this room I did not know how to pray, but I asked Jesus, and He taught me. Dear Matron, I know that your words have not gone to loss on my poor soul.—[the writer was a Roman Catholic.]

MY DEAR MOTHER,—Since I received your letter I have passed through a great change; the Lord in his mercy has forgiven me all my sins. Such a change in this house. The Holy Spirit has come in a great measure over us all. The Revival has reached us; and though many of us are prostrated in body, yet, blessed be God, our souls are safe in his keeping. It was on Thursday night that I was made to feel my state as a sinner. I was struck down while the minister was preaching, and was unconscious for a time, till our blessed Saviour gave me a sight of Himself bleeding on the cross, and He told me my sins were all forgiven me. Oh, my dear mother, the happiness I feel now is more than I can describe! Oh that everyone felt as I feel; especially you, my dear mother I long to see you and tell you all about it, that I may try to persuade you to seek Jesus, that you might see Him as I have seen Him and do see Him still, though a dark cloud comes over the prospect sometimes, and Satan tells me that it is not right, yet Jesus shows his face again, and all is bright. Oh, my dear mother, won't you seek that precious Jesus, and love Him as I do now? I never thought it was such happiness to love Jesus; but now I feel it is so great that I would like to bring every sinner to Him. I am thankful I am getting strong in body. Many of my fellow-inmates have felt the same happy change. We are all prostrated for a time in body, but blessed be God, our souls are happy. Why, dear mother, you can­not tell how different my love is for you now, because I love your soul! You cannot think of the kindness of our dear matron and all the ladies. Oh, how different I see everything now! Oh, shall I ever be thankful enough for coming into this blessed house; for here I have found my Saviour!

From the 'Revival Newspaper', Volume III, page 101.

Additional Information

The marker shows where the Female Penitentiary was.

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