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By James Ray
I lived in his city. I walked in his steps. I preached
in his church. I would love to have known him.
I t has been this author’s privilege
on a number of occasions to
speak at Melbourne Hall in
Leicester, England. This great
church was once pastored by Dr.
F. B. Meyer. I will never forget
the awesome feeling of standing
behind the same pulpit and on the
very spot where Meyer stood and
preached for so many years of his
life. I wish that I could have known
him but Leicester made him more
real to me than ever before.
he laid, and walked the streets that he walked. I identified with Meyer in
Leicester. I had moved to Leicester to assist in the planting of a new church
and to reach the people for Christ. The Pastor of the church at the time, Pastor
Paul Bassett, was a great encouragement to me. One hundred years before,
Meyer lived in the city for the same purpose. In Leicester, he poured out his
soul to those in darkness. Meyer, writing about his mInistry in Leicester said:
One of the most popular legends of Brittany is that relating to an
imaginary town called Is (pronounced Iss), which is supposed to have
been swallowed up by the sea at some unknown time. There are several
places along the coast, which are pointed out as the site of this city, and
the fishermen have many strange tales to tell of it.
According to them, the tips of the spires of the churches may be seen
in the hollow of the waves when the sea is rough, while during a calm
the music of their bells ringing out the hymns rises above the waters.
In Leicester, I preached in his
church, saw the cornerstone that
Similarly, as it has always seemed to me, amid the submerged masses,
deep down at the bottom of the ocean of human life, there are yearnings
and desires for a better life that ring sadly and perpetually. It has been
the aim of my life to listen for these, and where I have detected them,
to present the only answer—the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. 1
F. B. Meyer had at one time pastored in York. It was there that he met D. L.
Moody. Moody and Sankey had arrived from America to discover that the
two men who had invited them to England were both dead. Fredrick Meyer,
a local pastor, met Moody and invited him to preach. He then introduced
Moody to other pastors. Soon the powerful preaching of D. L. Moody swept
through the whole country with thousands of conversions. D. L. Moody
imparted to F. B. Meyer a love for souls and evangelism. Meyer wrote:
From the beginning of my ministry, I had desired to reach the large
masses of the people that are outside our churches…. This desire was
deepened during my pastorate at York, where…Moody and Sankey, not
4 F. B. Meyer, The Bells of IS (New York: Flemming H. Revell Company, 1894). 5–6.
In May 1878, Meyer resigned as pastor of
Victoria Road Baptist Church. However, there
were a number of members who had been
touched by Meyer’s effort to reach others.
Relating to this, Meyer wrote the following:
A number of friends gathered round
me and proposed that I should begin
preaching to the people in a public hall,
the Museum Buildings. Very shortly,
the place became crowded on Sunday
evenings, even to the adjacent room,
where people would sit to hear, though
they could not see the speaker. Large
numbers also professed conversion, and
joined the little church. 4
then so famous, spent about three weeks with me,
preaching those sermons and singing those hymns. 2
When Meyer assumed the pastorate at Victoria Road
Baptist Church, a large church in Leicester, he met stiff
resistance to his ministry of evangelism. Victoria Road
was a society church with paid pews. Those with wealth
were assigned special pews. The working class disliked
the pew system with its class and money distinctions. The
affluent members of Victoria Road had little interest and
some disdain for common people without class.
I had noticed what large crowds gather in
public halls and theaters to hear the simple
preaching of God’s Word; and I often
wished that the time might come when I
could preach regularly in a building where
all the seats were perfectly open and free to
all comers, early attendance alone giving a
claim to the same position. 3
On a cold evening in March 1880, about 300
persons gathered to dedicate a piece of ground
to God on which a new church building would
be erected. In July the memorial stones were laid and on
July 2, 1881, the new church, Melbourne Hall, opened
its doors for the first service. The building would seat
1,300. When the pews were filled, chairs were placed
in the aisles, bringing the capacity to 2,000. The church
had 80 workers and sometimes ministered to 2,500 in
Sunday school. I lived in his city. I walked in his steps. I
preached in his church. I would love to have known him.
Through his years in Leicester, F. B. Meyer
poured his heart into the city. He was a
practical and “people” person.
4 Meyer’s efforts to lead the church into
evangelism antagonized the class-conscious
members and were blocked by the same.
Victoria Road Baptist Church with its paid pews
and social status were steps to NOWHERE!
The Welford Coffee House
F.B. Meyer would meet prisoners
at the gate of the prison upon their
release and bring them here. He would
feed them and bring them to Christ.