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.

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