In the 1870s, the Spirit of God did a remarkable work among the upper classes in Russia. A prominent instrument of that work was Lord Radstock, whose preaching and individual witnessing were peculiarly blessed.
Granville A. W. Waldegrave (1833-1913) became the third Lord Radstock. His grandmother was a devoted believer who gave generously to mission work in India and Siberia. Interestingly, Granville was converted while fighting Russia. He served as an officer in the British military during the Crimean War (1852-1856). The war was a blunder costing an estimated 500,000 lives. Tennyson’s poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, recalls one disaster when 600 of England’s finest cavalrymen rode into “the valley of Death.” Only 195 returned.
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Burning with fever, Granville was given up by the doctors. He told himself, “My last hour is come and I am not ready.” It was then he took seriously his Christian upbringing, and the simple gospel he had known. Near the shores of the Black Sea, he cried out and the mighty hand of God caught him.
Back in England, installed as Lord Radstock, he and his new wife Susan joined to pray, travel, evangelize and give. David Livingstone said, “I have seen Lady Radstock; she is as good as she is beautiful.” Together they raised seven children. This happy family revolved around Christian activities. They held Bible studies attended by the aristocracy, opened missions and homeless shelters in the slums of London, and actively evangelized any and all in society at large. Of course, what spoke loudest to their upper class peers was that they sacrificially condescended to men of low estate. They continued to maintain their properties and employ their staff of servants, but they did not live “in style.” Radstock was highly disciplined and frugal. “If he could get a tie for 1s. 6d., why spend more?” One worker told David Fountain, Radstock’s biographer, “he sold paintings and horses to send money to relieve those suffering from famine in India.” He also gave away all his carriages, and used a donkey cart! On a train ride, he was asked, “Why do you travel third class?” To which he answered, “Because there’s no fourth class.”
Lord Radstock cast a long shadow over the upper classes in Britain, and from 1866 onwards, in the Netherlands, France, Denmark and Sweden. But he longed to visit Russia. When preaching in Paris, a grand duchess from Russia heard him and invited him to St. Petersburg. He did so and, at gatherings organized by this noble lady, presented the claims of Christ.
In his Diary of a Winter, Dostoievsky wrote after hearing Radstock, “I found nothing startling. He spoke neither particularly cleverly, nor in a particularly dull manner. But yet he performs miracles over human hearts; people are flocking around him, many of them are astounded; they are looking for the poor, in order as quickly as possible to bestow benefits upon them; they are almost ready to give away their fortunes . . .”
The spark in St Petersburg touched off a chain reaction. Those known as Evangelical Christians met in the palace of Princess Nathalie Lieven. Similar meetings popped up elsewhere–it seemed everywhere. Many nobles left the Orthodox Church and began meeting in scriptural simplicity. Perhaps we smell a little jealousy in Leo Tolstoy’s complaint that the aristocratic gospel meetings at Princess Lieven’s palace were “a mere fashionable craze.”
In The Christians From Siberia, J. C. Pollock tells Colonel Vassilij Alexandrovitch Paschkoff’s story. He was a personal friend of the Czar. One spring evening in 1873, he was driven to the palace of the Grand Duchess. “Gilded doors swung noiselessly open and footmen bowed as the Colonel, resplendent in his Guards’ uniform, walked with nonchalant hauteur towards the wide, richly carpeted staircase. The major-domo at the entrance to the drawing-room did not announce him, but murmured respectfully that the guests of her Imperial Highness were already seated. Surprised, Paschkoff looked across the great room with its Chinese silks, rare furniture and priceless works of art beneath the soft glow from the hundreds of candles in the chandeliers, and saw a circle of fashionably dressed men and women, most of whom he knew, listening to a plainly dressed gentleman, who stood by the fireplace, talking earnestly in French, a language used by the Russian nobility among themselves. Paschkoff took a seat. Intrigued at this new form of entertainment, he listened carefully. The speaker had an English accent. His words seemed barely in keeping with the brittle gossip that formed the usual stuff of conversation in St. Petersburg drawing-rooms. ‘This same Jesus,’ he was saying, ‘who sought the fallen woman of Samaria, and Saul of Tarsus, is alive still, the Son of Man, Who came to seek and to save that which is lost.’ Soon the Englishman turned to castigate the extravagance and idleness of his hearers, until upon the innermost mind of Paschkoff, who was used to hearing little except flattery from his peers and fawning from his inferiors, dawned an uncomfortable conviction that life hitherto had been selfish, worthless, and vain.”
That night Colonel Paschkoff trusted Christ. Count M. M. Korff, the Maitre de la Cour, Count Brobrinsky, the Minister of the Interior, and others followed. In Undertones of the Nineteenth Century, Mrs. Edward Trotter says Count Bobrinsky’s brief visit with Lord Radstock “resulted in a flood of light such as arrested Paul on the Damascus road.”
Of the converts, Paschkoff was the most forthright and visible. He opened his palace ballroom for gospel meetings and himself preached wherever possible–in palaces, prisons, hospitals, meeting-rooms and homes. He sank his wealth into publishing the Scriptures, tracts and books, and in relieving poor saints.
Colonel Paschkoff was friendly to the Stundists scattered over southern Russia. He once organized a conference of these poor believers, at his own expense. He rented a roomy hotel in St. Petersburg and invited the widely scattered gatherings to send their chief men to the capital city for teaching meetings held in a hall in the palace of Princess Lieven; arranging to pay the travel fares of the poor. About four hundred came. From remote areas, unfamiliar with the ways of the fashionable metropolis, they came (often with a spoon thrust into one of their long boot-legs, and a comb into the other, as their sole traveling equipment).
Day after day the meetings proceeded. However, the state church had a jealous eye on the meetings. Without warning, they cut short Paschkoff’s conference. The guests were arrested, harassed, and accompanied to the railway stations, to be sent to their distant homes with the warning, “If any of you are again discovered in this city, you will be arrested and punished!” This was the paranoid atmosphere in which Radstock and Baedeker served Christ.
After the initial revival came thirty years of severe testing. Under the infamous Pobiedonostzeff, procurator of the Holy Synod, liberty of conscience was denied believers in the Empire. Fines, confiscations, imprisonments, exile, were pitilessly imposed on any who dissented from the Czar’s religion. Radstock was expelled in 1878. Until his death he prayed for an opportunity to return. He never did.
The Times of London said “Lord Radstock was a man of immense energy and determination, who followed what he considered to be the right path without the slightest regard for the consequences.” I would rather say “with every regard for the consequences!”
In 1880 Paschkoff was forbidden to hold meetings on his own premises. He continued to do so, and eventually was banished. Most of his property was confiscated. Two leaflets circulated after 1883 tell the story–No Salvation Outside the orthodox Church and The Damned Stundist..
Friedrich Baedeker (1823-1906) was converted under Radstock’s preaching in 1866. At the close of the service, Radstock put his hand on his shoulder and said, “My man, God has a message through me for you tonight,” As they visited in the ante-room, his encrusted infidelity crumbled away. God was acknowledged, the Saviour trusted, and the joy of salvation soon filled his soul. Baedeker expressed it this way: “I went in a proud German infidel, and came out a humble, believing disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise God!”
Lord Radstock was used to open that “wide door and effectual” for Baedeker. In 1874, Radstock visited Berlin; and in conference with Christian friends decided to invite a well-known American evangelist to hold an evangelistic campaign there. Baedeker was in the city, so they asked the recent convert to interpret for the foreign preacher. He interpreted in such a spirit that the believers said, “What need had we to send to America for a preacher? Here is a man of our own race and tongue upon whom the Holy Ghost manifestly rests. We will listen to him!” Consequently, the doctor revisited the places of the recent meetings, conducting his first gospel campaign.
Fraulein Tony von Blucher, afterwards known throughout the Empire for her works of piety and charity, heard Baedeker. She went home, shut herself in her room and agonized to enter in at the strait gate. “Now, Lord, or never!” was her cry.
In 1877, Baedeker’s father in the faith and mentor, Lord Radstock, introduced him to high social classes in St. Petersburg. From the mansion to the peasant’s hovel, Baedeker preached in English, German or French, and was familiar with Russian. He generally had a Christian translate into Finn, Fris, Russian, Polish, Lett, Georgian, Armenian, Estonian, or any other of the bewildering dialects spoken in the Empire. Eventually Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary, Galicia, Poland, Switzerland, Finland, and the western and southern provinces of the Empire became his parish. Occasionally he would keep two, three, and even five interpreters going at one time, each surrounded by a crowd, while a few who understood the language in which the doctor was preaching, grouped around him. “I like to preach by interpreter,” he said; “it gives me a rest.”
Much of the material for this article was taken from:
The Pilgrim Church; E. Hamer Broadbent
The Stundists; C.A.W., published by Bible Truth Publishers
The Christians From Siberia; J. C. Pollock
Religious Schism in the Russian Aristocracy 1860-1890 — Radstockism and Pashkovism; Edmund Heier, published by Martinus Nijhoff (available through Mayflower Christian Books)
Undertones of the Nineteenth Century; Mrs. Edward Trotter
James Lees–Shepherd of Lonely Sheep in Europe; Ransome W. Cooper
Dr. Baedeker and His Apostolic Work in Russia; R. S. Latimer
Lord Radstock and the Russian Awakening; David Fountain (available through Mayflower Christian Books)
Vol. 9, That the World May Know — Red Glow Over Eastern Europe;
Fredk. A. Tatford, published by Echoes of Service