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Who was F. B. Meyer?

F. B. Meyer

Frederick Brotherton (F. B.) Meyer (1847—1929) was a Baptist pastor, teacher, and evangelist based in London. His preaching ministry and inner-city mission work were concentrated in England and America but eventually extended to South Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Meyer was an outspoken campaigner for public morality and against social injustices. A profound concern for people in need marked his life. He wrote more than seventy books, primarily devotional and expositional, along with many famous biographies of Bible figures.

F. B. Meyer was born in Clapham, London. He was the son of business owner Frederick Meyer and his wife, Ann. The family attended Bloomsbury Chapel, a missions-minded Baptist church, where young Frederick developed an early interest in ministry. He was baptized as a believer in his teens and began theological training in 1866 at Regents Park Baptist College. He also attended Brighton College and graduated from London University in 1869.

Meyer began pastoral ministry in 1870 as an assistant and then associate minister at Pembroke Baptist Chapel in Liverpool. In February 1871, he married Jane Eliza Jones, his lifelong companion and partner in ministry. The couple had one daughter.

Meyer accepted his first full pastorate at Priory Street Baptist Church in York in 1872. Here, he met and began a long and close friendship with the evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Through Moody’s influence, Meyer began to reshape his ministry outlook, placing evangelism at the forefront of his priorities. In 1874, he left York to pastor Victoria Road Nonconformist Baptist Church in Leicester. However, facing resistance from church leadership to his desire for outward-facing ministry, Meyer resigned from his role after four years.

In 1878, Meyer and a small group of supporters pioneered a new independent church on the outskirts of Leicester. The church building, called Melbourne Hall, was constructed in a non-traditional style, designed to be a center for evangelistic outreach, Christian teaching, community education, and social activity. Membership quickly swelled from a handful of people to 1,500, making the ministry one of Britain’s first megachurches. It became well-known for its outreach to thousands of discharged prisoners. Meyer offered them employment and training through two avenues he created: a firewood business and a window-washing service.

From there, F. B. Meyer returned to London to pastor Regent’s Park Baptist Chapel (1888—1892 and 1909—1915) and Christ Church, Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth (1892—1907 and 1915—1920). Meyer incorporated his evangelistic focus, Baptist practices, and Moody-style worship at both congregations. While at Christ Church, he instituted informal Sunday afternoon gatherings, attracting hundreds of blue-collar workers. He also devised a large-scale network of social services for those living in one of London’s poorest sections of town, created a youth center and applied Christian principles to issues such as drunkenness, prostitution, and other societal problems.

Between 1895 and 1907, F. B. Meyer led a moral crusade that effectively shut down more than 700 brothels. He was involved in the Blue Ribbon movement promoting temperance; the Purity, Rescue, and Temperance work of the Central South London Free Church Council; and the Homeless Children’s Aid and Adoption Society. He served as president of the World’s Sunday School Association and the National Union of Christian Endeavor, general secretary of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union, and founder of South London Missionary Training College.

F. B. Meyer was a leader in the Keswick holiness or higher Christian life movement, traveling widely and speaking often at Keswick conventions in London and worldwide. Beginning in 1891, he served as a speaker at Moody’s annual conferences in Northfield, Massachusetts. He made numerous trips to the United States and Canada, touring thousands of miles and delivering hundreds of messages. Later, Moody wrote to Meyer, “I do not think you will ever know on earth what you did or what the Lord did through you. I am hearing all the time of blessing” (Douglas, J. D., “God’s Errand Boy,” Christianity Today, 1979, vol. 23). Meyer’s evangelistic tours included North and Central America, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, and South Africa, where he and his wife once met for talks with Gandhi.

In 1911, McMaster University in Canada awarded Meyer an honorary Doctor of Divinity. That same year, he successfully crusaded against a world boxing title fight to be held at Earl’s Court between Jack Johnson of the United States and Bombardier Wells, a British contender. Johnson, the title holder, was black, and his challenger was white. F. B. Meyer felt the fight was being portrayed as a public test of racial superiority. The London press criticized Meyer, labeling him “Meddling, Maudlin Meyer.” Eventually, Winston Churchill, England’s home secretary, canceled the fight.

In 1917, F. B. Meyer joined many Keswick leaders in introducing the Advent Testimony and Preparation Movement, which promoted the belief that Jesus Christ would soon return to begin His millennial kingdom reign.

F. B. Meyers died in March of 1929, just days before turning 82. He had left an indelible impact on the kingdom of God through his determined voice, prolific pen, dauntless service, and courageous spirit. He transcended denominations and reached outside church walls to be remembered as “the most important bridge-builder in the evangelical world of his day” (Randall, I. M., “Meyer, Frederick Brotherton,” Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Timothy Larsen, et al., InterVarsity Press, 2003, p. 430).

Consider these selected quotations from F. B. Meyer:

“The great tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer but unoffered prayer.”

“To sacrifice something is to make it holy by giving it away for love.”

“Every moment of resistance to temptation is a victory.”

“God incarnate is the end of fear; and the heart that realizes that he is in the midst . . . will be quiet in the midst of alarm.”

(All cited from Christian Quotations, Martin Manser, 2016)

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This page last updated: April 30, 2024