F. B. Meyer: Saintly Servant

by Bernard R. DeRemer

His earliest recorded prayer, at age 5, was, "Put Thy Holy Spirit in me to make my heart good, like Jesus Christ was." If the grammar was a bit faulty, the theology wasn't.

It was a foreshadow of F. B. Meyer's future, who was destined to become president of a score of societies, as well as a distinguished pastor and devotional author. His works continue to be mightily used today.

Frederick Brotherton Meyer (no wonder he used initials!) was born in 1847 at London, into a home wealthy both materially and spiritually. Before college, he was persuaded to enter the business world, so he spent two years in the office of a tea merchant. There he learned to keep accurate records and use time wisely, as well as other disciplines. At Brighton and Regent's Park Baptist College, he was recalled as one "admired without envy and regarded with the deepest affection by all."

His successful pastorates included Liverpool, York, Leicester, and London. A major milestone occurred in 1873, when he met D. L. Moody, then starting his first great British Isles campaign. Meyer introduced Moody to various churches-the seed germ of a mighty harvest. Thus began a lifelong friendship. Meyer testified that he learned from the American, "how to point men to God."

F. B. MeyerMeyer could never be accused of being so heavenly minded he was no earthly good. His social, temperance, and reclamation work took many forms. He rented a house, filled it with friendless boys, installed a caretaker, and after that Providence House carried on a rich ministry.

But he also reached other fields, needy ones, including rough working men, drunkards, those sick of life. Meyer recalled, "I had 800 of them every Sunday afternoon, and I [talked only of] Jesus Christ. There were conversions by the scores."

Sometimes he would actually see drunks home on Saturday night. Later they would find in their coat pockets his card, with a message and an invitation.

He also headed a movement to close saloons, and was the means of shutting down nearly 500 immoral houses.

An associate recalled that Meyer was "equal to any occasion, from making tea in a cottage kitchen to solemnly exhorting a company of learned ministers."

At Keswick, the great institution so famed for its emphasis on the deeper life, he had his own "deeper experience" one memorable night. With others he had prayed earnestly for a "fresh infilling." This was wonderfully granted and he found himself a frequent speaker at Keswick, as well as conferences in various parts of the country.

In his train travels he utilized time efficiently. "Sometimes he wrote, often he read, frequently he just sat still."

But later he felt led to leave the settled pastorate to "travel through the world…doing what I can to raise the standard of Christian living…." He visited Europe, the U.S., Canada, the Near East, India, China, South Africa, and Australia-all in the primitive days before jet planes or even fast, streamlined trains. He actually lost count of the number of times he crossed the Atlantic.

Like Paul, Meyer was "in journeyings oft." He was a frequent, much beloved delegate and speaker at various conferences. In Stockholm, he gave a Bible reading in the home of the Prince and Princess which the Queen of Sweden attended.

U.S. honors were legion. Los Angeles hosts found that "he has no peer on either continent."

Of course he was one of the most popular speakers at the Northfield, Mass., conference which D. L. Moody founded. Once he found that G. Campbell Morgan's meetings drew larger crowds than his own, and was tempted to jealousy. He testified, "The only way I can conquer my feeling is to pray for him daily, which I do."

Canon E. C. Earp, Saskatoon, Canada, recorded this revealing impression: "To see him enter the pulpit one might imagine that the weight of nearly fourscore years was a burden too great to be borne. But as he begins to speak the years seem to fall away from him. His clear voice rings out to the farthest corners of a great church. His cultured accents fall on the ear like sweet music. His modulated tones articulate each word to its full value and on his face there shines the light which comes from close communion with God."

Surely through his writings Meyer made his greatest and most lasting contributions. He authored some 70 books; according to the Dictionary of National Biography, it was estimated that at the time of his death 5 million copies of his books and tracts had been circulated. Books in Print lists 23 titles currently available.

In Listening to the Giants, Warren Wiersbe notes that Meyer's books are found "on almost every pastor's shelves." He cites Light on Life's Duties and Back to Bethel as among his favorites, but also calls Our Daily Homily "a priceless collection of expositions…useful as both a daily devotional guide and a 'pump primer' for the preacher."

Multitudes have been saved and blessed through Meyer's publications, one of which transformed the ministry of J. Wilbur Chapman (see Pulpit Helps, June, 1998).

Perhaps the most remarkable incident of all is that of the bindery employee who was assembling pages of one of Meyer's books. She became "so captivated that she hid some of the leaves in her frock and read them at night." Soon she came under conviction, was saved, and later baptized. All this occurred before the book was actually off the press and available in stores!

A woman who typed articles for the distinguished author had the misfortune to lose two of them. She of course apologized profoundly. He replied, "I can imagine your distress. Think no more of it…. it was a good thing, as my second attempt was an improvement[!]"

Meyer married Jane Eliza Jones; they had one daughter. At various times he headed the National Free Church Council, Baptist Union, World's Sunday School Convention, and "served other movements with similar energy and ability."

But finally health failed and the venerable warrior was confined to a nursing home for several weeks before he went to be with the Lord on March 28, 1929.

"All the trumpets sounded for him on the other side" - the man who probably had won more of a "wealth of affection" than anyone else of his day.