Wrexham - D L Moody (1875)

Prayer meetings were held in the afternoon in various of the Sunday schools at an early hour a large crowd had collected in the Beast market, where Mr Moody was to speak. This triangular space in one of the outskirts of the town is about an acre and a half in extent, and a rough, but substantial platform was erected for Mr Moody, the ministers and choir et cetera, at one side of it, in front of the National Schoolhouse, was intended for use as an inquiry room. As it turned out, it was not brought into requisition for that purpose. Long before 6 o’clock, the market was crowded closely from end to end, except at the extreme ends where it was neither possible to see or hear. The people must have flocked from all the surrounding districts, as it was freely asserted that 20,000 persons were present; and judging from the vast sea of heads that was presented to view from the platform and the area covered by the closely packed multitude, I am not disposed largely to reduce this estimate.  Mr Sankey's hymns for sung for some time, led by and local choir, and as a variation, a Welsh verse was sung to a beautifully plaintive air, which carried me away to a Highland, where the Gaelic, speaking population meet periodically, to observe the Lord's supper. It was joined in more heartily even than Mr Sankey's hymns and testified to the affection of the Welsh people for their native language.

When Mr Moody arrived, in company with Mr Balfour and saw the immense congregation, he expressed his doubts as to whether he could make them all hear and suggested that an adjournment should be made to an adjoining field, where a more central position could be got for the speaker. As all the proper preparations were made, however, he agreed to go on with the service, though, as it turned out, his opinion was the correct one.  Mr Moody plunged into his discourse from the text, “The Son of Man is coming to seek, and to save that which was lost.” He pitched his voice in a high key and laboured hard to make his audience hear, but it was evident from the moving of the outside portion of the crowd that he was only partially successful. He was very earnest and the sermon which we had before heard him give many times, seemed as fresh as at first, many of the illustrations been told with thrilling effect. After speaking for about 20 minutes, his voice seem to be fast giving way under the great strain to which he was subjecting it, and he wisely closed the discourse. After prayer, he announced that a service would be held in the field in half an hour when Mr Aitken would preach.

To the field multitudes flocked, accordingly, though a good many went away, the second gathering being a good deal smaller than that in the marketplace, but still large enough to form an imposing congregation. Mr Moody, having recovered his voice, preceded thither also, and himself resumed addressing the people, being heard freely by all. He asked and answered the question. “What must I do to be saved?“ And his words were carried home with such power that a number held up their hands at the close as desirous of being prayed for. An invitation was extended to those who were really anxious for salvation to go to the Public Hall and upwards of 30 responded, and were conversed with by Mr Moody and others, and subsequently addressed by Mr Aitken. The record of such as were saved through the day of services is on high, but, at all events, the good seed was unsparingly and faithfully sown, to fructify in eternal life, we hope and believe, to many of our Welsh countrymen and women. The weather was beautifully fine and this added much to the comfort and picturesqueness of the outdoor proceedings.

"The Christian," August 12th, 1875.

Perhaps not within the memory of anyone living has there been so striking and so general a stir amongst the religious circles of this part of Wales as there was on Sunday and Monday last, when Mr D. L. Moody, the American evangelist, addressed vast audiences at Wrexham and Rosysett. During the two-year stay of Messrs Moody and Sankey in this country, they have excited religious feeling to a degree never paralleled. Their progress through the land has been marked by a revival of a most remarkable character, and their labours, we are assured, have been blessed abundantly. Whether the results attained are likely to be permanent it would be somewhat difficult positively to say, and it might be equally difficult to assert the precise causes that have led to this effect. Even the hundreds of thousands who have never seen or heard these evangelists have seemed to feel the influences that radiated from their work, and thus Moody and Sankey have indeed become household words. Consequently, there was good ground for the belief that Mr Moody's service in Wrexham last Sunday would be attended by a concourse of people so numerous in its proportions as never before to have been equalled in the history of the town. The circumstances under which Mr Moody was induced to visit this town we detailed last week, and, therefore, they must be pretty well known to our readers. As regards Wrexham, it may be said that the arrangements for the reception of Mr Moody and for accommodating the large congregation were as satisfactory as was possible, considering the short period within which all the preliminaries had to be accomplished.

At half-past seven o'clock on Sunday morning there was a united prayer meeting in the Public Hall. It was largely attended and was characterised by much fervour and subdued emotion. The Rev. E. Jerman conducted, and in a few words asked his hearers to make that day a day of special prayer. The clouds were full, the blessing was near and the instrument whom God had so honoured in conferring His blessings was soon to be in their midst. He also requested the friends to mingle among the crowd in the evening, for the purpose of maintaining order, and of directing anyone who might require advice.

It having been announced that the Rev. W. H. M. H. Aitken was to preach in St. Mark's church in the morning, that edifice was crowded by a large congregation, comprising members of all the various denominations of the town. This rev. gentlemen was until lately vicar of Christ church, Liverpool, but he voluntarily gave up his care so that he might devote his whole energy to the work of evangelisation. Since, he has accompanied Messrs. Moody and Sankey, and most have been of incalculable assistance to those gentlemen. As a preacher, he is inferior to few. Combined with a rich, sonorous, mellow voice, he has an eloquent, unhesitating flow of language, simple in its character, but extremely impressive and forcible. He speaks extempore, and looking his hearers full in the face, his countenance lit up by an intense love for his Master and anxiety for sinners, he passionately, powerfully, appeals to them to give their souls to Jesus. On ascending the pulpit he asked the congregation to spend a few moments in silent prayer. He then took for his text part of the 17th verse of the 14th chapter of St. Luke— "Come, for all things are now ready." For an hour he kept his auditory spellbound, and few indeed must have been those who left the church without serious thoughts having been awakened within their hearts.

All day long the people poured into town from every direction. The day was fine, and this enabled thousands to walk from the surrounding districts. Along all the avenues leading to the town might have been seen streams of dusty perspiring travellers, many footsore and weary on account of the long distance they had traversed. Without intermission, vehicles were arriving laden with visitors. The stage carts plying between the town and Rhos and Brymbo were literally crammed, and the demand for seats could scarcely be supplied. Some of the poor horses were dreadfully punished by the heavy traffic and the many journeys they had to make. But so long as there were people to be conveyed, the drivers cared little for their animals. On the Ruabon Road there was presented an almost continuous procession of carts, laden to the almost capacity, and in most cases the occupants singing some of the melodies which will ever be associated with the names of the American revivalists. The aspect of the streets in the town was unusual in the extreme. Instead of the quietude of the Sabbath vast crowds of people were passing to and fro, and not a few, we are sorry to record, frequenting the public houses to an extent not customarily witnessed on Sunday. Most of the public houses were open all day because little doubt could be felt as to the bona fide character of the travellers. Even some of the houses usually closed on Sunday were opened for the sale of drink. Of the consequences we need not speak; the most unimaginative mind need be at no loss in calculating the effects of alcoholic liquors taken in undue quantities. The thoroughfares towards the close of the day wore an aspect that was really deplorable, and which we hope never to observe again. Of course the point of attraction was the Beast Market, and during the whole of the afternoon people were passing up and down Charles-street on their way to and from the locality in which the gathering was to take place. In front of the National School-room had been erected a platform by Mr Benjamin Owen, builder, and this was critically examined by some hundreds, who had no other way of killing time. That no opportunity of doing good might slip, the Primitive Methodist minister (the Rev. S. Stansfield) held a service outside the chapel of that denomination, whilst at another part of the area Mr Hardwicke, the town missionary, delivered an address to a crowd that soon assembled when he rose to give out "Hold the Fort." At the same time, the Rev. Mr Aitken spoke to a number of persons in Hope-street and exhorted them to throw themselves on the mercy of God.

At half-past four about 5,000 persons were in the Beast Market, clustered in front of the platform; and for two hours the people poured into the vast space until it was all filled. No seats were provided, and consequently, less room was taken up by each individual than otherwise would have been the case. Those persons who stood nearest the platform were very closely packed, and as the evening wore on, and the heat became greater, a number of women fainted and had to be carried or led away. At a quarter to five, the choir, under the leadership of Mr W. H. Williams, took up positions on the platform, which was soon afterwards filled by ministers and a privileged few. Amongst the ministers present were—The Rev. W. H. M. H. Aitken, the Rev. E. Jerman, Hill-street Presbyterian Chapel; the Rev. David Roberts, Queen-street Chapel; the Rev. W. Shaw, Wesleyan the Rev. S. Stansfield, Primitive Methodist; the Rev. Thomas Francis, Calvinistic Methodist; the Rev. Owen Evans, Calvinist, Ruthin the Rev. Mr Roberts, Independent, Brymbo; the Rev. Joseph Davies, Baptist; the Rev. John Jones, Wesleyan, Brymbo; the Rev. David Jones, Calvinist; the Rev. Isaac Jones, Presbyterian, Glanrafon; the Rev. William Evans, Coedpoeth the Rev. Lewis Humphreys. Myddfai, Carmarthenshire; the Rev. F. B. Brown, Independent, Chester-street; the Rev. T. F. Nathan, Independent; and the Rev. Mr Roberts, Penycae. The choir, as soon as they were settled, commenced to sing "Tell me the old, old story," but the audience generally did not join very heartily in rendering this beautiful hymn. Then followed, "Hold the Fort," "Jesus of Nazareth Passeth By," and "Oh, think of the home over there." At half-past five, the Rev. Mr Aitken delivered a short address to the multitude. He said it was advisable that they should be in a proper state to receive him whom they were expecting. Some no doubt there were before him who had come from a natural curiosity, and in consequence of a natural excitement. He wished to put one thought before them - "What went ye out for to see?" He was glad to hear of a religious awakening in Wales; he was glad to hear that people had been drawn to the cross of Christ. We lived in glorious days, but also in days that brought with them their doable weight of responsibility. Let the work of grace begin at once in their hearts, Thre thousand persons were converted on the day of Pentecost; surely there were three thousand unconverted souls in the multitude he was now addressing. Oh! might thousands of souls be converted that afternoon. (Cries of Amen.")

The rev. gentleman then offered prayer and asked the audience to say the Lord's Prayer aloud, which a portion of them did. Two hymns were then sung, after which the Rev. David Roberts asked the Welsh part of the audience to sing a verse of a well-known Welsh hymn. This was given with greater force than the previous ones. Just as the congregation took up the first. line, Mr Alexander Balfaur and Mr Moody were seen turning the corner of Charles-street, it being then five, minutes to six. There were now in the Beast Market from 25 000 to 30,000 people. The scene was one which will not soon be effaced from the recollection of those whose positions of vantage enabled them at one glance to see the huge mass of human beings. Such a gathering of people had never before been known in Wrexham the whole scene was grandly effective. It was some minutes ere Mr Moody reached the platform, he having to push through the crowd. To him, the spectacle must have been strongly impressive. He appeared to think that, accustomed though he was to addressing large multitudes, he had little hope of reaching every unit in this mighty throng. Taking a seat, he spent a few seconds in devotion. He next incisively inquired, "What can the whole congregation sing?" He then announced that they would sing the 14th hymn, "Tell me the old, old story." Whilst the hymn was in course of rendering, he stood surveying the sea of faces that were gazing at him. In his hand he clasped the Bible which he always carries with him, and the pages of which are much the worse for the constant use it has been put to. He cast his eyes round the edge of the multitude, and then at the spectators who filled the windows of the houses surrounding, and he seemed to be calculating how many would be able to hear him. He had previously expressed a wish to go into an adjoining field to deliver his discourse, and it was not until he found that those who had charge of the proceedings were greatly averse to his proposal, that he gave way. It was plain that he was not at ease the confidence he usually exhibits on such occasions was not so apparent as customary is the case. At twenty minutes past six, he read the 19th chapter of Luke, from which he preached. He spoke for twenty minutes, and having pitched his voice too high, he in that time became hoarse, and somewhat abruptly closed the service. For the first few moments he was listened to with great attention, and then his hearers became listless, and large numbers were seen to be leaving from the outskirts of the crowd. At no time did he get a firm bold of the auditory and this is scarcely to be wondered at. His discourse, notwithstanding the energy and fire of the speaker, fell flat. The points were lost in a torrent of words the illustrative stories were given with a minuteness that was wearisome. A smile was caused once or twice when he placed modern phrases, not of the most approved idiom, in the mouths of Bible heroes. But beyond this the interest evinced in his remarks was slight there was a universal feeling of disappointment. The thousands had formed too high an ideal of the man; the pedestal on which he stood in their minds was laid low with a suddenness that was somewhat startling. Apathy took the place of expectant concern in what was said and people began to inquire how so indifferent a preacher had attained effects so wonderful. Why was the audience of Sunday evening less emotional and enthusiastic than similar gatherings elsewhere? Why did the people take so small a part in the singing of the hymns with which ninety-nine out of every hundred are well acquainted? It would prove a difficult task to rightly answer these interrogations. No doubt, the absence of Mr Sankey caused a blank, at least in comparison with the services held in Liverpool, London, and other large towns. Mr Sankey has contributed in no slight measure to the effectiveness of the revival services but even his presence, we think, would not have maintained the anticipatory excitement which filled the Beast Market with thousands of people from many miles around. Mr Moody seemingly felt that he made little or no impression. But his indomitable will carried him on in the work. After he had closed the service he invited the people to the Feather's Field, where, he said, he would speak to them again. To the field in question, accordingly, about 10,000 persons went and were addressed again by Mr Moody, who, standing on a table, took as a text the 30th verse of the 16th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. In his second effort, he was much happier, and the effect was more marked. He was listened to with rapt attention for more than half an hour, and when he asked those who wished to be saved to hold up their hands, about 20 persons did so. After a short prayer from the Rev. Mr Aitken and a hymn, the assembly dispersed. About 40 persons subsequently, on the invitation of Mr Moody, went to the inquiry room (the Public Hall), where they were met by various Christian ministers and gentlemen of the town. This ended the day's services, but it was not until a very late hour that the streets resumed that soothing quietude which we always associate with the Sabbath evening.

"Wrexham and Denbighshire Advertiser," 7th August 1875.

Additional Information

I believe the Beast Market was as marked.

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