- Parent Category: History
- Category: Brethren Biographies
- Published on Saturday, 14 November 2009 18:21
DR. F. W. BAEDEKER
FREDERICK W. BAEDEKER, though he was born in Germany, spent by far the greater part of his life away from it. After some years, as a young man, spent in professional pursuits in the Australasian Colonies (whither he had gone as a hopeless consumptive, the French ship in which he sailed was nearly wrecked, and he—the traveller of future years—landing in Australia literally on crutches), returning to the Northern Hemisphere, his steps were directed to England—and Weston-super-Mare, which was destined to be the scene and base of his life and labours for the remainder of his days. For the first half of his earthly career, while strictly moral and outwardly correct, he lived without God, and was, as he often expressed it, “a German infidel.” But He who brings the blind by a way that they knew not, and leads them in paths they have not known, was guiding the doctor towards a crisis in his life, which would bring untold blessing to himself and to countless others through him.
Earl Cavan, of fragrant memory, in the year 1866, invited Lord Radstock to take possession of The Lodge for two or three months, in order that he might devote himself to evangelistic work in Weston and neighbourhood. Meetings were arranged in the Assembly Rooms, and were carried on almost nightly for the space of eight months, resulting in a work of grace for extent, depth, and, as time has proved, permanency such as Weston had never experienced before.
All classes of the community were more or less affected by the movement, but, on account of the high station of the chief actors in it, perhaps the converts were chiefly from the upper grades of society.
Through the importunity of a Christian military officer, of whom he had some acquaintance, Dr. Baedeker at length reluctantly consented to attend one meeting. Interest was awakened sufficient for his repeating his visit, but he was careful to make his exit before the noble preacher could reach him at the closing of the first service. Having attended several meetings, the doctor one evening lingered long enough, or got far enough in without the ability to get out faster than the crowd would admit of, for Lord Radstock to reach him. Putting his hand on his shoulder, said he, “My man, God has a message through me for you to-night,” urging him to enter the ante-room. In presence of the crowd he did so, and the two were soon on their knees. During those solemn moments a work was done in this suddenly convicted soul whereby the accumulated infidelity of years was dissipated for ever. God was believed, the Saviour trusted, and the joy of salvation filled his soul. The experience of that memorable night would be by himself thus tersely expressed: “I went in a proud German infidel, and came out a humble, believing disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise God!”
Soon the young convert was set to work to point other anxious souls to Christ, which he found to be a service for his new Master at once delightful and fruitful. As a coincidence, interesting and remarkable, Dr. Baedeker gave his first Gospel address on the theme dear to his own heart in the village of Kewstoke, on the other side of the Worle Hill from Weston; and having expressed a desire to revisit the same village after a long absence, he accompanied a friend over the hill on Sunday evening, 30th September, and in the Iron Room there gave his last Gospel address—1866- 1906! He found the ruin of men the same as forty years ago, and he knew no remedy but the one old, unchanged, inspired Gospel.
Lord Radstock had opened to him in Russia “a wide door and effectual,” large numbers high in rank being among the fruit of his labour there. Dr. Baedeker, having passed through ten years of preparation in the study of God’s Word, and the exercise of his gift at home, felt drawn to go forth and carry the Gospel to the regions beyond, and in 1876 started on his first evangelistic journey through Continental lands. After some time in Berlin and other parts of Germany, having been commended to Russian friends by his spiritual father and predecessor in the field, the call to come over into Russia was responded to, there to further help in the work begun, and carry the Gospel still further afield. Deeply impressed by what he had seen of the condition of things in the great Russian Empire with its teeming millions sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, needing the Gospel which was eagerly heard as often as preached, in the following year, 1877, Dr. Baedeker, having let his house for three years, again went forth, this time accompanied by his wife and their adopted daughter, and devoted almost the whole of this period to labour for the Lord among the peoples of that vast Empire.
As years went by, annual visits were paid to Russia and other European countries, his purpose ever the same, until he would be much more abroad than at home. Thousands on thousands of miles were traversed, the means of transit often being of the most primitive description, and the ground to be gone over such as would test the mettle of a much younger and stronger man; but the doctor made light of it, only remarking by the way as he would come back and narrate some of his experiences, that it was interesting to find out what a strain the human frame could stand. Into every corner of Russia he penetrated with the Gospel message. Permits were granted, through the influence of a Christian Countess, by the head authorities, which gave him access to all the prisons of Russia and Siberia, each permit lasting two years, and then a renewal of it for another couple of years, the evangelist feeling with every extension of the privilege (enjoyed alone by him) the importance of using it to the utmost; and so journey after journey was undertaken, Bibles, supplied freely by the British and Foreign Bible Society, distributed through the prisons and elsewhere by the thousand, while the Gospel of salvation was sounded out with the living voice.
His sympathy and love for the oppressed won for him a way to many a heart, and the Day alone will declare the full results of such abundant labours, where the tread of the evangelist’s foot was otherwise unknown. No thought of rest seemed to enter his mind even after the 80th milestone had been passed—still he would go forth as with all the zest and energy of former days, and his record this year mounted up to four journeys to the Continent. On one occasion he went right through Siberia, visiting the inhospitable Saghalien Island, in the Gulf of Tartary, the Russian convict station for the most desperate of her criminals. It was a universal surprise that a servant of God should come there, but as still a part of “the world,” they were the objects of Divine love, and the evangelist had the Gospel of grace, salvation, and peace for the worst of them. Japan, China, Singapore, and other parts were taken in in the course of his journey home.
Some twenty years before he died, hearing of communities of Germans in Canada, he booked his passage, and set out to preach the Gospel to his countrymen. The Stundists of Russia, the Armenians, and others who have had his sympathy and succour in the midst of the fires of persecution, as well as many abroad and at home, whose temporal needs called forth his generous benefactions, have all lost a friend.
He caught a chill attending a two-days’ Conference at Clifton, and was called hence on October 9, 1906, at the advanced age of 83. D. R.