Oxford Place, Leeds (1875)


The Rev. W. H. M. H. Aitken writes -- God pouring down blessings here. Many churches crowded out, hundreds failing to gain admission. Hundreds are seeking the Lord every night and finding Him too. No town, I should say in which a Mission has been held, has been so shaken yet. This at least is my impression. All praise to God! There is an excellent feeling between Churchmen and Dissenters. All are ready to help."

"The Christian," January 21st, 1875.


Never in the annals of Leeds has the town been so deeply stirred by any religious movement as during the past two weeks. So signal has been the success of the 10 days Mission, that its operations have been continued beyond the time proposed, throughout the whole of last week.

It would take many pages to describe the wide extent of the work. Able and effective mission preachers held services every day during the last week in January, in more than 25 churches in Leeds.

… the correspondent informs us that 700 converts, the fruits of his mission, partook of the Lord's Supper one evening last week. Special addresses have been delivered in the daytime by Bishop Bickersteth and other preachers to workpeople in foundries, iron works, carriage works, marble works, sewing factories, cap factories, leatherworks, breweries, oil works, printing works, colliery companies, workhouses and the barracks. This was done in some cases at the meal hours and in some instances, the firms gave their own time for the meetings.

A general Thanksgiving service for the mission was held in Leeds parish church on Monday, February 1 and the Bishop, in his sermon gave a brief summary of the mission.

"An eventful mission is drawing to its close and we meet together in this sacred place to offer up our united praises and thanksgiving to almighty God for the blessing which He has been pleased to pour down upon it. I believe very few of us fully anticipated so copious a shower of blessing as God has bestowed. Far be it for me to use the language of exaggeration, but I think, on reviewing what has taken place during the past week, I am not mistaken in saying that this large and important community has been deeply stirred. There has been a remarkable unanimity among the clergy with respect to this great work.

There has also been a very kindly feeling expressed on behalf of the Mission by all classes of the community. Even those who do not belong to our own church have, nevertheless wished godspeed to the effort and in the chapels of some of our non-conforming brethren prayers have been offered that God would pour down His abundant grace upan this great effort to win souls to Christ. Most of the principal firms in Leeds have kindly thrown open their places of work to allow the preaching of the everlasting gospel to the hands whom they employ. Those opportunities were freely accepted by the men for whose benefit they were intended. Our churches have been crowded with eager and attentive listeners. Many have come inquiring about their souls' salvation, many have been anxious who were never anxious before about their spiritual state and can we for a moment doubt that many, through God's grace, have been brought to Jesus and have found joy and peace in believing and that a fresh anthem of praise has resounded through the courts of heaven over many a returning sinner brought to God, instrumentally through this mission?"

On Monday the noon day meeting at the Albert Hall was crowded with about 2,000 people, many being unable to obtain admission. Mr Aitken's address was on Herod and John the Baptist. In the course of a powerful address he said:

"Herod heard John gladly and did many things, but this was of little avail unless he was willing at once to give up his dark darling sin and to do the one thing needful. Let each one ask himself solemnly to what he was consecrating his life; To God or mammon. How many merchants would perish through the idolatry of covetousness? How many young women were keeping back from pardon and peace and salvation on account of a few miserable flimsy fashionable nothings which had far better made a bonfire? Christians might meet with mocking and difficulty in this life; but would any present sacrifice their souls for a sneer - would any of them lose heaven for an empty scorner's laugh? No doubt, after John the Baptist and his persistent, fearless reproofs were got rid of, Herod would pay a good salary to get some nice court chaplain who would preach to him pleasant little sermons, with pretty quotations and elegant phrases; but Herod's sin remained and took still firmer hold of him. Herod might gloat over his darling sin for a while but ere long retribution came.

The day would come when some now present would visit the Leeds Cloth Market for the last time; would for the last time get into the omnibus or carriage that took them to their well-furnished house, when their friends would gather round the friendly table for the last time; when they would have their last dinner party; or their last evening spent in talking nonsense. Then there would come a messenger from the lonely dungeon. Would it be to take the departing one to some dark dreary abode of woe where no sumptuous house, smiling friends or bankers accounts could follow them? Such, and worse, would be the everlasting fate of those who before Christ, preferred Barabbas the robber, who would rob them of everything, everything except sin. Let them at once decide whether they would have Christ or their sins, Christ's salvation or the bonds of eternel misery which Satan was preparing for them. No one of them could with impunity trifle with his soul or with God, or with Satan. Let there be no trifling with words; no miserable subterfuges. They were on trial for eternity, let them lose not a moment in getting ready to stand before God.”

Two hours later the small hall was again crowded to overflowing by an audience composed chiefly of ladies, assembled to hear Bible readings and addresses by Mrs Baxter.

On Monday evening a still more remarkable scene was presented in the Town Hall, where the reverend W H Aitken had been announced to preach. For some time before the commencement of the service every seat in the hall was filled and even standing room was eagerly occupied. After about 3,000 persons of all classes had been thus accommodated, there were still so many unable to obtain admission that the neighbouring chapel in Oxford Place had also to be opened and there a goodly congregation gathered at a service conducted principally by students from Headingley College. At the Town Hall a special platform had been erected at one of the centre side doors for the accommodation of the preacher... Mr Aitken said - "how long halt ye between two opinions?  If the Lord be God, follow Him, but if Baal, then follow him, and the people answered him not a word." In powerful language and with thrilling earnestness the preacher proceeded to contrast the service of the true and living God with the unsatisfying nature and destructive results of serving the God of this world, whether in the form of Mammon, pleasure, fashion or sin. In conclusion, he pleaded that no one present should longer be so reckless or unreasonable as to halt between two opinions where the course of duty was so clear. At the close of the service an after-meeting was held to which a large number remained, On Tuesday three similar services were held by Mr Aitken in the Town Hall.

“Signs of Our Times,” February 10th, 1875.

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