Thursday, December 31, 2009

Some suggestions for New Year resolutions

Happy New Year! Here are 15 suggestions for improving your daily time with God in 2010.

  1. Find the time – early in the morning is good for most people. The key to getting up early is not going to bed late – turn off the TV and go to bed on time. Don’t expect to get up before dawn if you’ve been watching the tennis till 2:00am! The same time every day is best.

  2. Find the place – find that quiet spot in the house where you can be comfortable and warm. Prepare the spot the night before, if need be. Lying down in bed doesn’t count. Find that place where you can pray in secret.

  3. Start with heaven … and biscuits if you wish.

  4. Make a cup of tea or coffee

  5. Centre on Jesus. Learn to make Jesus the centre of your life every day. This is the process of “centering”. For example use the I AM sayings in the gospel of John to start. “Lord Jesus, Thank you that you are the bread of life. Help me to eat of the bread of life today by trusting you for everything that will happen today. Thank you that you sustain my life. Take a minute or two to reflect and meditate on what Jesus being the centre means to you. I find this is one of the most challenging things I do everyday.Then use other verses of scripture – I have used a concordance to look up Holy Spirit, love, faith, hope, joy peace patience and the fruits of the Spirit.

  6. Tune into your iPod. Use your worship songs to praise God. Focus on giving praise to God not on what I can get out of it. I am worshipping to please God. You can raise you hands, lie prostrate on the floor, stand, sit or whatever (no-one is watching). Imagine you are like Isaiah coming into the presence of the Lord God Almighty.

  7. Confess sin. Just as Isaiah cried out “For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”, so now is a good time to repent of things we may have thought, said, done - actions and behaviour - that are displeasing to God.

  8. Get out your highlighters to highlight scripture.

  9. Read a meaningful passage of scripture with highlighter in hand. Start at a chapter a day, and over time work towards several chapters a day. However be prepared to slow down. This is a good time for the SOAP method – Scripture, Observe, Apply and Pray.

  10. Pray asking the Holy Spirit to help you apply what you have observed.

  11. Pray with thanksgiving. See if you can name five new things to give thanks for (today is a new day, so there’s one)

  12. Pray in the Spirit – now is a good time to exercise the gift of tongues. Pray in English as well asking God to help you with the needs of the day.

  13. Read a chapter of a Christian book – such as Selwyn Hughes “the seven laws of spiritual success.”. Recently I have read Billy Graham’s compendium “The secret of happiness”, “Hope for the troubled heart”, “Death and the life after”. Read the biography of inspiring Christian leaders – William Booth of Salvation Army, John Wesley, Billy Graham, Selwyn Hughes, to name a few.

  14. If you are a diary writer or journal writer, now is a good time to write in it.

  15. Get going – there’s a day to be lived and a world to win for Christ!

Rules for Holy Living

Here is the guidance given by Hugh Bourne to those who attended the open-air Camp Meeting in 1808 during the early beginnings of the Primitive Methodist movement. We have much to learn from this wisdom two hundred years later, especially given the level of Biblical illiteracy today.

Rule 1. - Endeavour to rise early in the morning, for this is most healthful. Spend some time in private prayer ; give yourself with all your concerns up to God ; and if possible get the family together before going to work, pray with them, and for them, and recommend them to God.

2. - While at work lift up your heart to God, and if possible get a little time in private once or twice a day to kneel before God.

3. - At night be sure to get the family together on their knees, pray with them, and for them; before going to bed spend some time on your knees, and pour out your soul before God, and remember God is present. Psalm cxxxix.

4 .- If you are able, read a chapter or part of a chapter in the Bible every day.

5. - If you are not born again pray for God to show you the need of it:

6. - As ye have received the Lord Jesus so walk in Him.

7. - On the Sabbath attend public worship as often as possible; avoid buying or selling, or talking about worldly business, or doing any work that is unnecessary. Be sure to shave and clean shoes before Sunday, and be as much afraid of sin as of burning fire.

8. - If the Lord call you to any public exercise, to assist in a Sunday School, He will give you wisdom and patience.

9. - Now play the man, be strong, never mind being reproached for Christ.

Quoted in "The Life of the Venerable Hugh Bourne", by Jesse Ashworth, 1888, page 26

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Are we becoming Biblically illiterate?

Here are two quotations, the first by the well-known atheist Richard Dawkins and the second by highly respected Christian researcher, George Barna.

"I must admit that even I am a little taken aback at the biblical ignorance commonly displayed by people educated in more recent decades than I was." (Richard Dawkins, author “The God Delusion”)

In his research review for 2009, Barna makes a number of conclusions. His third major theme is the lack of Biblical literacy in the U.S.

“Bible reading has become the religious equivalent of sound-bite journalism. When people read from the Bible they typically open it, read a brief passage without much regard for the context, and consider the primary thought or feeling that the passage provided. If they are comfortable with it, they accept it; otherwise, they deem it interesting but irrelevant to their life, and move on. There is shockingly little growth evident in people’s understanding of the fundamental themes of the scriptures and amazingly little interest in deepening their knowledge and application of biblical principles.”

Read more of Barna's research here.

I am aware of research that indicates that as many as 50% of church attenders read the Bible twice a week or less. I suspect that many believers are not reading the Bible on a daily basis at all.

So what's the answer? In part we should expect and encourage all believers, whether new to faith, or long established, to read about a chapter a day (or more!), in sequence. This encourages contextual reading, and helps guard against a sound-bite mentality or a pick-and-choose approach. Certainly a devotion on one or two verses is beneficial, but we also need to grasp historical and literary context. It is well said that a text without a context is a pretext!

Being ignorant of what God says in his Word is a serious challenge!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The gospel goes to hell

The village of Mercaston is near to Derby in the English Midlands. In the early part of the nineteenth century the village gained a reputation for vice. Conventional Methodism had become extinct in the village, and because of its notoriety it gained the label “Hell Green”.

God however, had not given up on Mercaston, in spite of its terrible name. One family who lived on a farm there were a Mr and Mrs Kirkland, their two sons, and daughter Sarah. In 1811, Hugh Bourne visited Mercaston, and spoke with young Sarah. As a result of this conversation she came under the influence of the Holy Spirit, trembled and wept. She had a powerful conversion to Jesus Christ.

Sarah Kirkland went on to become the first female travelling preacher, or open-air evangelist, for the Primitive Methodist movement. In early 1816, aged just 21, she was instrumental in a significant revival in Nottingham, when “some of the most notorious sinners … became reformed characters”. In May of that year she spoke to a gathering of over 12,000 people at a tent meeting in Nottingham Forest.

Mercaston became the venue for a number for open-air meetings and a force for good. From “Hell Green”, Sarah and her co-workers brought the experience of heaven to tens of thousands of men and women across the Midlands.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The nonsense my wife talks!

My Wife says I must buy no more books 'till I build another house and advises me to first read some of those I have already - What nonsense she talks sometimes!

Josiah Wedgwood to Thomas Bentley
December 1779



Saturday, December 26, 2009

What Dave had for Christmas



Yes, you guessed ...

A Primitive Methodist Centenary plate. It's over a hundred years old, and celebrates the movement's achievements from 1807 to 1907.

The inscription on the back of the plates reads as follows:



“What hath God wrought!”

Chapels & Preaching Places…. 4,905
Ministers …. 1,153
Local Preachers … 16,209
Church members … 210,173
Adherents … 607,682
Sunday Schools … 4209
Teachers … 61,275
Scholars …. 477,114
Value of property … £4,958,978

RD. No 491901
Royal semi porcelain
Manufactured by Wood & Sons, Burslem

In summary, by 1907, that's over 800,000 members and adherents, five thousand churches and nearly half a million scholars.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Repost: A Christmas Day story from 1800

In 1800, life for ordinary working people in England was hard. Times were tough and no-one really cared for the “masses”. One of these men was a coal miner by the name of Daniel Shubotham, who lived in the North Staffordshire village of Harriseahead.

Daniel was a fist fighter, drunkard, gambler and poacher, and prone to outbursts of violence and uncontrolled anger. Although he had been left a considerable amount of property by his father, he had reduced himself and his family to comparative poverty.

Above all else, he excelled at swearing, cursing and profanity. Even his hard living friends, themselves no stranger to foul language, thought that Daniel was the worst swearer they had ever heard.

After bouts of drinking Daniel began to feel remorse and guilt. One day he went to see a friend, a blacksmith, who suggested that Daniel go and see his cousin Hugh Bourne. Bourne himself had been converted to Christ the previous year (in 1799), and had decided to write down his testimony.

Hugh was by nature and temperament shy, bashful and timid, but he took courage went to see Daniel on Christmas Day, 1800. He shared the gospel with his cousin, and gave him a copy of his testimony. Daniel was soundly converted, and news of the dramatic change in his life soon got round the village. From that moment gospel spread like wild fire in the community.

Once converted, Daniel proved a champion of the faith, deterred neither by difficulty nor opposition. In everyday conversation he preached “Jesus and Him crucified” with great zeal. The effects of Daniel’s dramatic change were soon noted in the community and the whole neighbourhood soon felt the effects. Hugh Bourne recalls “In our conversational way, we preached the gospel to all - good and bad, rough and smooth; people were obliged to hear, and we soon had four other coal miners under deep conviction of sin.”

The new converts were great “talkers for the Lord”, and soon the village of Harriseahead was “moralised” (to use their original expression) and the revival quickly spread to the surrounding villages and towns. Conversions spread among the coal miners of Kidsgrove, and five months later, by the time of the Congleton May Fair, the transforming power of the gospel was felt in Mow Cop, Congleton, and beyond. It was like the epicentre of an earthquake, whose effects sent shock waves through the locality.

New believers gathered in homes and they held lively and loud prayer meetings. One woman was converted because she could hear the sound of prayer and praise from a distance of two kilometres.

Once the fire of the gospel took hold, there was no stopping it. There was a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1804. In 1807 they held their first open-air camp meeting at Mow Cop; by 1810 they formally became the Primitive Methodists, and ten years later they had eight thousand members. We have a lot to learn from this revival that became a movement.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dynamic prayer meetings (part four)

The Primitive Methodists were well known for their lively and loud prayer meetings. They were loud for two particular reasons: shouting and singing.

The practice of shouting became a consistent feature of the movement. They would have a shout of praise to God – it was simply a demonstrative form of prayer. William Clowes describes preaching at Englesea Brook in 1826 “the glory was great, and the shouts of praise and thanksgiving were loud and general among the people”.

They were also known for their lively singing, and their hymn books became very popular. Whenever an open-air preacher came to a market place he and his companions would sing as they walked through the streets.

Charles Spurgeon says of the Primitive Methodists. “I had heard of this people from many, and how they sang so loudly that they made people's heads ache; but that did not matter. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they made my head ache ever so much, I did not care.”

Perhaps our modern day prayer meetings would benefit from loud shouting and singing in praise to God!

Quotes from “The Journals of William Clowes”, p274 originally published in 1844 and republished 2002 by Tentmaker Publications 121 Hartshill Rd, Stoke-on-Trent and "Charles H. Spurgeon: His Faith and Works", H.L. Wayland, 1892.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dynamic prayer meetings (part three)

The Primitive Methodists demonstrated wisdom in their scheduling of prayer meetings. They recognised that their constituency consisted of working men with demanding physical jobs.

Accordingly weekday evening prayer meetings lasted for about an hour and a quarter, and they were quite deliberate in not letting them continue beyond the allotted time. As working men, they felt it their Christian duty to be fit for work the next day.

There is a wise balance between zeal and balance here. Sometimes unwise zeal causes us to “burn the candle at both ends”. Whilst that may be fine in the short term, it is not usually sustainable in the longer term.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dynamic prayer meetings (part two)

Prayer was an integral part of the Primitive Methodist movement. It was not simply something they did occasionally; dynamic prayer was at the very core of the movement. Prayed fuelled the passion of the movement, and the “pious praying labourers” were the engine room.

Preaching services were usually followed by prayer services. The work of ministry begun during the sermon continued during the prayer service. It was often the case that those who were being convicted of sin, would enter a time of “mourning” until being brought into “liberty”.

Occasionally in response to powerful preaching, people would fall off their seats, or would shake violently. Sometimes those under conviction would lie motionless on the floor, appearing lifeless except for still having a pulse. The outward response usually indicated an inward work of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, people would experience a deep conviction of sin and sinfulness, before being born again as new believers in Christ. Preaching and prayer were inextricably linked in Primitive Methodism.

Prayer and evangelism are intimately linked – they are two sides of the same coin. Passion is fuelled by prayer and passion fuels evangelism. Oh, that we had more effective, fervent prayer in the church today!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dynamic prayer meetings (part one)

In the early 1800s the Primitive Methodists developed prayer meetings which had a transforming effect on young Christian believers and led to many conversions in the neighbouring localities of Kidsgrove, in North Staffordshire, and Congleton in Cheshire. Here is one description of their prayer gatherings:

The providential manner in which these prayer meetings originated, the way in which timid, inexperienced Christians were led to become energetic workers for Christ, and the marvellous converting power which rested upon them, …in these prayer meetings the new converts learned to travail in birth for souls. They learned that the trial of their faith is more precious than gold, and they learned to offer the effectual, fervent, prevailing prayer.

In other words, new converts quickly learned how to pray and they rapidly became zealous evangelists and “conversation preachers”. They learned how to preach the gospel in everyday conversation.

Surely one of the first requirements for new believers in our day and generation should be to teach them to pray, effectively and fervently!

Quote from “The Life of the Venerable Hugh Bourne", by Jesse Ashworth, 1888, p14

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Life is full of serendipity

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.(Isaiah 55:9)

Life is full of apparently insignificant moments that in the big picture scheme of things turn out to be highly significant. These moments are often “hinge points” or change points in our lives.

One such moment happened to Hugh Bourne, the chief founder of the Primitive Methodist movement, on February 13th, 1812. They had a quarterly business meeting to plan and prepare for the next three months of the growing and expanding movement. As yet the movement had no official name. There were a number of items on the agenda. The session went on and on, so much so that Hugh Bourne was overcome by drowsiness and fell asleep.

When he woke up the meeting had decided upon a name: “The Society of the Primitive Methodists”. It was a momentous decision, yet the founder of the movement slept through the decision-making process. It was a done deal, … a moment of serendipity.

Perhaps we can take encouragement that God can work out his purposes even when we are asleep. God’s ways are higher than ours, and He knows in advance which moments are significant.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What’s in a name? Why “Primitive” Methodism?

The name “Primitive Methodism” seems rather quaint to our modern ears. The word “primitive” usually conveys a negative impression – that of being prehistoric, out-of-date or archaic. That is not what is intended.

John Wesley founded the Methodist movement in 1738. One of the most effective methods he pioneered, together with George Whitfield was field preaching or open-air preaching. In so doing he was able to preach the gospel to hundreds or even thousands of people at any one time. Ironically, by the early 1800s, Wesleyan Methodism had become respectable, and field preaching had fallen out of favour.

In 1790, Wesley preached a farewell address to the preachers of the Chester Circuit. He urged his preachers to preach the gospel wherever there was opportunity. He said “they must enter in, and preach the gospel, under a hedge or a tree” or in any place that was available. Wesley was passionate about using any and every means to declare the Good News.

By 1807, a group of Wesleyan Methodists, led by Hugh Bourne, organised a series of open-air tent meetings (or camp meetings as they were known). These meetings were officially denounced by the Methodist authorities. In response, the Wesleyan Conference of 1807 passed the following resolution:

Q. - What is the judgment of the Conference concerning what are called Camp meetings?

Ans. - It is our judgment that even supposing such meetings to be allowable in America, they are highly improper in England, and are likely to be productive of considerable mischief; and we disclaim all connection with them.

Consequently Hugh Bourne and others were expelled from the Wesleyan Methodists. They continued to practice open-air preaching and camp meetings, believing that in so doing they were reverting to early, authentic Methodism.

One of Hugh Bourne’s fellow preachers defended his position to the Wesleyans when accused of preaching for the Quaker Methodists. Referring to Wesley’s farewell address he said “Mr. Chairman, if you have deviated from the old usages I have not; I still remain a primitive Methodist.”

In 1812 the time came for a name for the new movement. At a business meeting they decided on “The Society of the Primitive Methodists”. The primitive Methodists became Primitive (with a capital P) Methodists.

That is how this slightly anachronistic name identified a great world-wide movement of God.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hugh Bourne and the lads

A number of Hugh Bourne’s fellow labourers in Primitive Methodist ministry were uneducated young men known as lads. They were a motley crew.

There were many complaints respecting the young men appointed to labour with him; some said – “they were nothing but lads just taken from the plough”.

However, as a result of their ministry in a single year, 1819, they paid a substantial debt of thirty pounds incurred by the Tunstall circuit, they restored camp meetings to their earlier effectiveness, and they were successful evangelists.

So successful were they that at “the quarter-day [business meeting], held at Tunstall, December 27th, 1819, it was found that these plain, unlettered lads had gathered hundreds of precious souls into the church of Christ, the increase for the year being one thousand and fourteen”.

In other words these lads made a thousand converts in one year. Not bad, for uneducated, ordinary young men. Jesus recruited a motley crew – they were called disciples!

Abridged from the “Memoirs of the Life and Labours of Hugh Bourne", Volume II, p98 republished by Tentmaker Publications 121 Hartshill Rd, Stoke-on-Trent

Friday, December 11, 2009

The three amigos, prayer and the start of a movement

On Christmas Day, 1800, Hugh Bourne led his friend Daniel Shubotham to Christ. Not long after Daniel's conversion, Hugh Bourne became friends with another converted coal miner, Matthias Bayley. These three - Hugh, Daniel and Matthias - formed a trio of earnest evangelists, and the whole neighbourhood soon felt the effects as they spoke on pit banks and in open spaces. Lives were dramatically changed as the impact of the gospel message was experienced.

They also organised a weekly prayer meeting on Tuesday evenings which lasted strictly for an hour and a quarter. This was time constrained, because as working men, they felt it their Christian duty to be fit for work the next day. However, the prayer meetings were so dynamic that they wanted to pray more.

Their frustration at not being able to pray increased amongst the zealous believers. One day in a moment of prophetic foresight Daniel proclaimed ‘You shall have a meeting upon Mow Cop some Sunday, and have a whole day’s praying, and then you will be satisfied’.

These words came true on May 31st, 1807 when thousands gathered at Mow Cop in North Staffordshire for the first English Camp Meeting. This event marked the start of what became the Primitive Methodist movement.

The ripples from this great open-air preaching and praying service went far and wide. A whole new denomination was formed, over five thousand churches planted, and hundreds of thousands of members gathered. By 1907, there were ten Primitive Methodist Members of Parliament, and the movement played a key part in the development of Trade Unions and other social institutions such as homes for orphans, an institute for “working lads”, day schools and Sunday Schools.

All this from three friends who gathered together to pray once a week.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who led Charles Spurgeon to Christ?

Charles Haddon Spurgeon is one of the best known preachers of the nineteenth century. But who led him to faith in Christ? The answer is Robert Eaglen, a Primitive Methodist believer. Here is the chain of events that led to Spurgeon’s conversion in 1850.

Link #1
A Primitive Methodist preacher called Robert Key preached at a village in Norfolk in 1832. As he spoke under the power of God, sinners came under great conviction.

Link #2
One of the converts that night was a young woman.

Link #3
The woman’s changed life led her brother, Robert Eaglen to become a follower of Christ.

Link #4
Eaglen was instrumental in pointing Spurgeon to Christ, in the Colchester Primitive Methodist Chapel.

Here is the account in Spurgeon’s own words …

I was miserable, I could do scarcely anything. My heart was broken to pieces. Six months did I pray, prayed agonizingly with all my heart, and never had an answer. I resolved that in the town where I lived I would visit every place of worship, in order to find the way of salvation. I felt I was willing to do anything if God would only forgive me. I set off determined to visit all the chapels, and though I deeply venerate the men who occupy those pulpits now, and did so then, I am bound to say, that I never heard them once fully preach the gospel. ... At last, one snowy day, I found rather an obscure street and turned down a court, and there was a little chapel. I wanted to go somewhere, but I did not know this street. It was the Primitive Methodists' chapel. I had heard of this people from many, and how they sang so loudly that they made people's heads ache; but that did not matter. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they made my head ache ever so much, I did not care. So sitting down, the service went on, but no minister came. At last a very thin-looking man came into the pulpit. He opened the Bible and read these words: "Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth." Just setting his eyes upon me, as if he knew me all by heart, he said: "Young man, you are in trouble!" Well, I was, sure enough. Says he: "You will never get out of it unless you look to Christ." Then,
lifting his eyes, he cried, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, "Look, look, look!" I saw at once the way of salvation. O, how I did leap for joy at that moment! I know not what else he said, I was so possessed with that one thought. ... I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away, and in heaven I will look on still, in my joy unspeakable.

Abridged from Charles H. Spurgeon: His Faith and Works, H.L. Wayland, 1892 and the History of the Primitive Methodist Church, H B Kendal, 1919.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

As different as chalk and cheese - part two

The two founding fathers of the Primitive Methodist movement, Hugh Bourne and William Clowes were men of completely opposite temperaments. They were as different as the proverbial chalk and cheese. In this post we look at the personality of William Clowes.

William Clowes (1780-1851) – the extrovert

By contrast to Hugh Bourne, William Clowes was by nature an outgoing, vivacious, charismatic and magnetic personality. In his youth he led a decadent lifestyle wasting his money and running into debt. A prize-winning dancer, he always seemed to gather a crowd, wherever he went. Once he was converted to Christ, God used his outgoing nature to great effect.

Known as apostolic Clowes, as the leading missionary evangelist of the movement, he preached in the open air, to vast crowds of people. He took the gospel all across England, making converts wherever he went. In the Hull mission alone, from 1819 he gathered twelve thousand members, in seven years.

He was thought by some to be the best preacher in the world at that time. His journals record the stories of a man who met not only with success, but great hardship as a “missionary of the cross”. He often faced opposition, trouble and difficulty. His wife suffered from depression, possibly exacerbated by his long absences from home. Nevertheless he faced life and ministry with a positive outlook, with unshakable confidence in a great God.

So what can we learn? That God can use either an introvert or an extrovert, so long as we are prepared to obey Him.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

As different as chalk and cheese - part one

The two founding fathers of the Primitive Methodist movement, Hugh Bourne and William Clowes were men of completely opposite temperaments. They were as different as the proverbial chalk and cheese. In this first post we look at the personality of Hugh Bourne.

Hugh Bourne (1772- 1852) - the introvert



Hugh Bourne was by temperament shy, bashful and timid. By nature he was an introvert, which was partly the consequence of loneliness growing up on an isolated farm, some distance from schools and places of worship. Although he grew up on a farm, he loved to study and read books. He had a fine intellect, was a serious thinker and taught himself Greek, Hebrew and Latin.

His clear thinking and the ability to keep things simple were keys to his oversight of the movement in later years. He oversaw the growth of a church planting movement that touched many of the towns and villages in England. He was the architect of the movement as it grew from 10 members in 1810 to 100,000 members by 1852.

He was so shy that he was initially afraid to pray in public, and when he finally began to preach, he covered part of his face with his hand. Nevertheless, God used him to preach and teach many days each week, as he travelled on foot from town to village as he visited young churches and “societies”.

He was prone to depression, and often laboured under “trials of mind”. He was forthright in open debate, and he was well-known for his short temper, and therefore not always easy to work with. He was prolific in his writing, publishing books, hymn books and a regular monthly magazine for the benefit of the movement.

He was passionate about the spiritual requirements of children and sensitive to their needs. The effect of this was that by 1888, there were half a million children in the movement’s Sunday schools each week.

One measure of his influence is that when he died in 1852, sixteen thousand people lined the streets for his funeral.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How a revival started on Christmas Day 1800

In 1800, life for ordinary working people in England was hard. Times were tough and no-one really cared for the “masses”. One of these men was a coal miner by the name of Daniel Shubotham, who lived in the North Staffordshire village of Harriseahead.

Daniel was a fist fighter, drunkard, gambler and poacher, and prone to outbursts of violence and uncontrolled anger. Although he had been left a considerable amount of property by his father, he had reduced himself and his family to comparative poverty.

Above all else, he excelled at swearing, cursing and profanity. Even his hard living friends, themselves no stranger to foul language, thought that Daniel was the worst swearer they had ever heard.

After bouts of drinking Daniel began to feel remorse and guilt. One day he went to see a friend, a blacksmith, who suggested that Daniel go and see his cousin Hugh Bourne. Bourne himself had been converted to Christ the previous year (in 1799), and had decided to write down his testimony.

Hugh was by nature and temperament shy, bashful and timid, but he took courage went to see Daniel on Christmas Day, 1800. He shared the gospel with his cousin, and gave him a copy of his testimony. Daniel was soundly converted, and news of the dramatic change in his life soon got round the village. From that moment gospel spread like wild fire in the community.

Once converted, Daniel proved a champion of the faith, deterred neither by difficulty nor opposition. In everyday conversation he preached “Jesus and Him crucified” with great zeal. The effects of Daniel’s dramatic change were soon noted in the community and the whole neighbourhood soon felt the effects. Hugh Bourne recalls “In our conversational way, we preached the gospel to all - good and bad, rough and smooth; people were obliged to hear, and we soon had four other coal miners under deep conviction of sin.”

The new converts were great “talkers for the Lord”, and soon the village of Harriseahead was “moralised” (to use their original expression) and the revival quickly spread to the surrounding villages and towns. Conversions spread among the coal miners of Kidsgrove, and five months later, by the time of the Congleton May Fair, the transforming power of the gospel was felt in Mow Cop, Congleton, and beyond. It was like the epicentre of an earthquake, whose effects sent shock waves through the locality.

New believers gathered in homes and they held lively and loud prayer meetings. One woman was converted because she could hear the sound of prayer and praise from a distance of two kilometres.

Once the fire of the gospel took hold, there was no stopping it. There was a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1804. In 1807 they held their first open-air camp meeting at Mow Cop; by 1810 they formally became the Primitive Methodists, and ten years later they had eight thousand members. We have a lot to learn from this revival that became a movement.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A short biography of William Clowes



William Clowes became the apostle, leading evangelist and missionary pioneer of the Primitive Methodist movement, much like the apostle Paul. Known as apostolic Clowes, he preached in the open-air to vast crowds and saw many men and women come to faith in Christ.

William Clowes was born in 1780, in Burslem in North Staffordshire, which was the centre of the pottery making industry. He became a master potter by trade and earned a good wage. In his youth he led a decadent lifestyle marked by drunkenness, swearing and violence. He was often involved in fights and sometimes bore bruises all over his body. He wasted his money and ran into debt. He was also a champion dancer.

By nature he was an extrovert with a charismatic character. One writer says “He had a vivid, magnetic personality which seemed as though it could focus itself in his eye and concentrate in his voice.” He possessed that mysterious quality called charm.

For a period of time he went to live and work in Hull. There as a prank, he and other friends pretended to be members of a “press gang” who forced men into serving onboard naval ships in the port. This prank back-fired when after a fight in a pub, he himself was arrested by a real press gang, and he narrowly escaped being forced into a life at sea. He fled Hull the next morning, to return in very different circumstances in 1819.

At the age of 24 he had a long lasting conversion after attending a Wesleyan Methodist love-feast (communion service) on January 20, 1805. From that time he grew rapidly in his new found faith and soon became a Wesleyan Methodist class leader.

He joined with Hugh Bourne and others in promoting open-air Camp Meetings from 1807 onwards. Because of his involvement in, and commitment to these events, he was expelled from the Wesleyan Methodists in 1810. This expulsion resulted in Clowes and Bourne beginning a separate movement which took the name Primitive Methodism in 1812.

He traversed the cities, towns and villages of England. In each location and at each meeting he made handfuls of converts, and gathered followers who formed a local class meeting. Later, as these class meetings grew, local chapels were built.

His visit to Hull is typical of his method, when he arrived in January, 1819. With the reputation of the movement spreading far and wide, the cry soon went out that “a Ranter preacher” had arrived, and a lively crowd of the curious, the intrigued, rabble rousers and many others soon gathered around him.

Clowes records in his journal “On the very day of my entering into Hull I preached in an old factory in North-street. Vast numbers of people attended, many influenced by curiosity, others with an intention to create disturbance, having heard of the arrival of the “Ranter preacher ”; however, God was present in my first effort to make known the riches of his mercy, and the wicked were restrained, so the meeting terminated in peace and quiet.”

William Clowes preached in the open air, in the market place, in farmers’ fields, barns, sheds, factories or any other convenient location. In 1820, he preached in a theatre.Within four years there were over eight thousand members of this young and dynamic movement. He records that by 1826 from Hull, “twenty-one circuits had been made, with 8,455 members; … consequently, from January 12, 1819, the day when I began the Hull mission, a period of seven years and two months, the Hull circuit alone had raised up in the Primitive Methodist Connexion 11,996 souls ! Hosannah ! Hosannah!”

Later he went as an evangelist and missionary to London and Cornwall. As a result of the efforts of William Clowes and fellow travelling preachers the movement spread to many towns and villages in England.

He died in 1851 and the chapel in Hull is named the Clowes Memorial chapel in his honour.

More details in “The Journals of William Clowes”, originally published in 1844 and republished 2002 by Tentmaker Publications 121 Hartshill Rd, Stoke-on-Trent (www.tentmaker.org.uk)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Flying like a bird with a broken wing

In the early days of the Primitive Movement (1811-1819) there was considerable tension between consolidation and extension. How much effort should the movement devote to consolidating the gains already made (in terms of strengthening existing societies) and how much effort should be devoted to expanding the movement and starting new churches?

This tension became so significant that the Tunstall circuit enacted the “Tunstall Non-Mission law”. The cry was “let Consolidation be our main business, and not Extension”. It proved to be an unsound and unwise move.

Hugh Bourne, one of the movement’s chief founders, put it like this “Extension and Consolidation must go on together. There must be a double movement, or the Church will fare like the bird which attempts to fly with a broken wing.”

However men with a big vision challenged the accepted wisdom and broke the Non-Mission law. John Benton, a leading travelling preacher pleaded that “Primitive Methodism should be allowed to go through the land as it was raised up to do.” He realised that this movement had the potential to impact England and beyond. In fact, the movement spread to America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

History proved the point: it is estimated that there was an average yearly addition of 490 in membership in the years from 1811 to 1819. Finally, in 1819 Tunstall Circuit freed itself from the fetters of the Non-Mission Law and took up aggressive work with great vigour. The movement grew rapidly in 1820 from 8,000 members to 33,000 members in 1824.

The challenge for a healthy church is to consolidate and expand at the same time. Both wings are needed to fly.

Abridged from “History of the Primitive Methodist Church”, published in 1919, by H B Kendall.