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Henry Moorhouse

August 2018 | by Roger Carswell

Henry Moorhouse
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138 years ago, Henry Moorhouse was buried in the Ardwick Cemetery in Manchester. In normal circumstances this would have been his final resting place, but the cemetery was redeveloped towards the end of the 20th century to make way for a bus station.

Moorhouse’s gravestone was eventually located by Rev. David Earnshaw of Inskip Baptist Church. In June he arranged for it to be moved and set in the graveyard surrounding the Inskip church (PR4 OTT)*. The stone, which is well preserved, stands again as a permanent memorial to an important Victorian evangelist.

His favourite text is etched on the stone and, all these years later even though he is dead, the message he preached can still be read. David Earnshaw says, ‘Whilst it is only a stone, it is a great reminder of what the Lord can do with anyone who is prepared to be bold and tell the world about the Lord Jesus. He had such a short life, but made a massive impact’.

Henry Moorhouse gravestone
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Prodigal son

Henry Moorhouse was born into a Methodist family, in Lyon Street, Ardwick, Manchester on 27 September 1840. Aged 12, he started work in a shipping house, where he fell into bad company. He found himself in jail on more than one occasion, but eventually joined the army, although with no intention of starting a new life.

Moorhouse’s life greatly deteriorated, so eventually at considerable cost his father bought him out of the army. Now his life had become one of drink, violence and gambling. He was so desperately unhappy that he carried a loaded pistol, not so much to defend himself as to shoot himself if a moment of utter despair came.

One night in December 1861, passing along Hyde Street, he was struck by the sound of singing coming from a little room. He was told there was ‘lots of drink and fun’, so he went in. The place was so crowded he had to stand on the stairs. But he found he had come to a gospel meeting.

After the singing there was a Bible reading — the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15 — and then a sermon. Henry Moorhouse saw himself in the story told of a rebellious, reckless youth who was far from home. The name ‘Jesus’ pierced his heart.

He rushed home, but had not yet trusted Jesus. For three weeks he struggled. Now he found he could not intoxicate himself, though he would drink all day. He tried to hide from God but knew he couldn’t.

Salvation

One day he went to see a young Christian in the engine room of John Rylands and Sons’ warehouse. Together they looked at some verses in the Bible: ‘If you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’ (Romans 10:9-10).

Henry said to his friend that he did believe that Jesus had died on the cross for his sin. He did believe that Jesus was the risen Saviour, and he was willing to say to others that he was trusting in Christ to forgive him and become his Lord. And then he cried out, ‘I see it! I am saved!’ God had spoken to him on a staircase, but he was converted in an engine room!

He feared breaking from his friends because he had made a covenant of death if ever he left them. But though he feared for his life, a new power had gripped him. He devoured the Bible, spending hours studying it. He became a man of prayer. He loved being with spiritual men and people who won others to Christ.

In 1870 he married, and they had a daughter, Minnie. She was born paralysed, but he said, ‘My heavenly Father knew what was best for me. He has given me one little paralysed girl; and she has done more to soften my heart for other poor little children and their sorrows than a crowd of healthy ones could have ever done’.

His was a life of sacrificial generosity towards the needs of others and in it, he found great joy, saying, ‘I do not think Christians ought to be miserable, no matter what kind of days there are’.

Preacher

Henry was prosperous in business and also did some auctioneering. One evening, when working as an auctioneer, a man nicknamed ‘the hatless preacher’ stood before him and cried aloud, ‘Thou oughtest to have thy Bible in thy hand, out amongst the people, and not that hammer for the devil’, and immediately departed!

It was like a thunderbolt falling on Henry. He at once dropped the auctioneer’s hammer, went out and began full time, itinerant, evangelistic ministry, without a salary or any promise of support.

With others he carried text boards, went to public places and preached, and led evangelistic missions, including at hired theatres. He went to the William Shakespeare tercentenary meeting (1864) and distributed hundreds of Christian tracts while preaching. He became known as ‘the boy preacher’ because of his boyish looking face.

In later years he had horse-drawn Bible carriages, which he would take around, selling and giving Bibles, books and tracts by the hundreds of thousands.

His favourite text was John 3:16 and it is that verse which is on his gravestone: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life’.

D. L. Moody, 1900
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D. L. Moody

The best-known evangelist of that day was the American, D. L. Moody. Moorhouse met Moody when as a young man he was preaching in England. Moorhouse introduced himself by saying, ‘I’ll preach for you in America!’ Moody politely but rashly said, ‘If you should ever get to Chicago, come down to my church and I will give you a chance to preach’.

Months later Moorhouse followed this through, telegramming Moody to say he was in Chicago. Moody had to be true to his promise, so reluctantly agreed for Moorhouse to preach when he himself was away. Upon return Moody asked his wife how the young preacher did.

‘Oh, he is a better preacher than you are’, his wife said. ‘He is telling sinners that God loves them’. ‘That is not right,’ said Moody. ‘God does not love sinners’.

‘Well’, she said, ‘you go and hear him. He has been preaching all week, and he has only had one verse for a text. It is John 3:16’.

Moody went, and heard Henry Moorhouse preach on that one verse and afterward said it was on that night that he first clearly understood the gospel and God’s great love.

Now, instead of only preaching that God is going to judge sinners, so people should flee from the wrath to come, Moody could preach God’s great demonstration of love, that Jesus died, taking on himself the sin that would condemn us and offering forgiveness and new life.

Moody said, ‘I have never forgotten those nights hearing Henry Moorhouse. I have preached a different gospel since, and I have had more power with God and men since then’.

Friendship

Moorhouse took time to teach Moody how to study the Bible for himself, and be true to God’s Word in his preaching. They became good friends, with Henry often preaching for D. L. Moody.

Henry died on 28 December 1880, aged 40 years of age, after some years of suffering with a heart condition. Confident of going to heaven because of the forgiveness and new life he had received from God, he wrote in his last letter, ‘Ask prayer for me to suffer for Christ better than ever I preached for him; I only want to glorify him’.

Due to his impact on D. L. Moody, Henry Moorhouse was known as ‘The man who moved the man who moved millions’.

* The 101st Inskip Bible Convention, 25-28 August 25-28, runs for four days and can see over 350 in attendance. The speakers this year are John Shearer (Edinburgh), David Earnshaw (Inskip), Tony Brown (Bradford), Roger Carswell (Leeds) and Alan Barnett (Bath).

Roger Carswell is an evangelist. He was born and brought up in Leeds, England, and has lived in Horsforth for the past 23 years. He is married to Dorothy, and they have four children and six grandsons. His mother is Armenian; his father was a Yorkshireman.