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.

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