Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reflections from a lighthouse

Several months ago we spent a few days on the Bellarine Peninsula. Whilst we were there we visited Fort Queenscliff, and joined a tour.

This included information about the lighthouse. From this lighthouse, the tour guide noted, the light can be seen some 20km out at sea, way beyond the Heads of Port Phillip Bay, to provide shipping a reference point when coming through the Heads. What surprised me though, it that the lamp itself is only a 100 watt bulb, of equivalent power to a domestic light bulb.

What gives the lamp its reach and makes it effective, is the strategic position, on top of the lighthouse, together with the reflectors behind it that amplify the light. One little lamp is able to shine out of all proportion to its innate capacity.

That lamp is in the position of maximum effectiveness. It seems to me that this is a metaphor for us, as followers of Christ. Our lives are limited, in terms of what one person can do or achieve, or a mere 100 watts, if you prefer. Yet when we are in that place of maximum effectiveness, God by His Spirit, can use our lives to reflect His light, for His glory, far in excess of we think is possible.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On getting to heaven ...

Here is an extract from a sermon preached by Hugh Bourne to children. I have preserved the old dialect words (like ‘childer’ for ‘children’).

Now, my dear childer, when you get to heaven, you’ll all be clothed with fine robes; (you know what robes are my childer- they are long garments, trailing on the ground, which kings and queens wear). And you’ll have a crown on your head, finer and grander than Queen Victoria’s; and when your daddies and mammies see you they’ll scarcely know you. They’ll say – ‘Hay! is yon our Mary or our Tommy? Why, they look as nice as nice and as grand as grand.’ And there’s tree o’life in heaven and nicer tasted fruit than it grows never was – it’s nicer and sweeter than sugar: and there’s t’river of water of life, too, clear as crystal: nicer and better tasted water never was. And you’ll have no more sore eyes nor aches and pains, nor sickness of any sort there – so you must all strive to get there. When you get to heaven, my childer, you will, after a while, see this old world burning up … and you’ll say – ‘There goes t’old world on which we sinned so much and suffered so much and in which old Satin tempted us so much’; but after all, you’ll say ‘it sarved our purpose very well’, for we heard of Jesus on it, said our prayers on it, and lived to God on it, and got to Heaven from off it, so we have no fault to find with it.

See also
Eternal Consequences

Heaven and hell: an inconvenient truth?

Quote from "A Little Primitive", by Kenneth Lysons, p. 36

Monday, May 24, 2010

Eternal consequences

For the Primitive Methodist pioneers Hell and Heaven were eternal realities. Here is an extract from a hymn by Hugh Bourne:

His vengeance will my soul pursue
If I refuse His grace.
And ah! – alas what must I do
If banished from His face.
Eternal darkness I must see
And hope will never come,
But fiends will my companions be
And Hell will be my home.

These words are blunt and confronting! Our modern methods of evangelism tend not to mention the wrath of God, or the coming judgment. We are happy to talk of the love of God, whilst preaching a soft line on his justice, and wrath (that is, His righteous anger). The apostle Paul puts it like this “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:8)

See also
“On getting to Heaven” in the next post …
Heaven and hell: an inconvenient truth?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Take care of the children

In 1824, Hugh Bourne, and his brother James began the publication of a Children's Magazine. Demand exceeded initial expectations and so another print run was organised. The Magazine proved to be a great success.

Ministry to children was a lifelong passion of Hugh Bourne. His rallying cry was “Take care of the children”. He was tireless in promoting the importance of the work amongst children. As late as 1843, when he was in his early 70s, he published “The Early Trumpet: A Treatise on Preaching to Children.”

In the following decades, the number of children in Primitive Methodist Sunday Schools grew substantially, and was a major emphasis of the movement. By 1852 there were 118,000 Sunday School children in 1,400 Sunday Schools, led by 22,000 teachers. By the time of the centenary in 1907 there were 477,000 children, 4,200 Sunday schools and 61,000 teachers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ministry to children

Many of the children in Primitive Methodist Sunday Schools were illiterate. They were taught Bible stories and how to read and write. The following piece “On the small letters”, appeared in the Children’s Magazine in 1835:

Two feet, one head, and score across,
In letter A we see
And one stroke down, and two half-rounds
Complete the letter B.
The letter Y stands quite upright,
And shows its open head,
And one slant stroke, with head and foot,
Completes the letter Z.
The Lord our God on Sinai,
Did write for us we know;
Letters he gave, and written laws,
That we to heaven might go

‘On the small letters’, Primitive Methodist Children’s Magazine, 1835, pp.60-61 quoted in Primitive Methodism, G. Milburn, p.51

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sing a new song

As with many other movements of God, the Primitive Methodist movement was characterised by song. They used music and song effectively, especially in the open-air. It was standard practice for an open-air preacher and his (or her) supporters to approach a market-place, singing as they went. Their singing soon attracted a crowd.

The most popular hymn was by Hugh Bourne and William Sanders, which was enormously popular for marches and camp meetings.

Hark! the gospel news is sounding,
Christ has suffered on the tree;
Streams of mercy are abounding,
Grace for all is rich and free.
Now poor sinner, Now poor sinner,
Come to Him who died for thee.

Listen to the tune here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why should the devil have all the best tunes?

Like William Booth of the Salvation Army, the Primitive Methodists did not see why the devil should have all the best tunes.

When the Primitive Methodists came to Manchester, in the 1820s, it was common to hear lewd or ribald songs sung in the streets, especially on Sundays. The Primitive Methodists used to pick up the most effective tunes they heard, and put them to their hymns. At their open-air tent meetings, young people were attracted to what was happening, thinking they were singing a favourite song.

They may have been disappointed initially, but many were affected by the hymn whose words went to the heart.

In this way the words of a gospel hymn displaced the words of lewd songs. Why, indeed, should the devil have all the best tunes?

See also Steve Addison's post Why should the devil have all the best tunes?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The procession

East Bridgford is near to Nottingham in the UK. In the pioneering days of the Primitive Methodist movement, a woman by the name of Dinah Maul promoted a regular Sunday evening procession of believers round her village. Dinah was a woman of good sense, and a forceful personality.

At the head of the procession, it was usual practice to get a convert from the previous week to walk with them. Dinah and the preacher led the procession. The new convert would walk between them. He was often a drunk who had happened to stray into the Sunday service. Now, he walked with tears streaming down his face and hands held high.

The procession passed by the pubs in the village, where the publicans' wives watched with a mixture of sympathy and amazement. There they observed, first hand, the radical change in men whose lives were formerly characterised by alcohol fuelled anger and rage.

How about that for a discipleship training method?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How to move a chapel in one easy lesson


The year 1862 was noteworthy for a feat in chapel moving. In 1860, a site was purchased at Melton, in Suffolk for a chapel by the Primitive Methodists. The site was next to a villa occupied by a barrister.

A few months after the completion of the building, the villa owner brought an action against the trustees for alleged interference with his light. The trial was heard and went against the trustees.

At this point a Mr. H. Collins suggested that the chapel should be moved in one piece. This strange suggestion was soon taken up seriously. Additional land was bought, and, by an ingenious process Collins and his brother, as engineers, moved the chapel.

A Great “Moving Day” was announced, and hundreds gathered to witness the operation.

The chapel was moved, in all some twenty feet eight inches, without a window-pane being cracked, or the building suffering the slightest damage.

It was a triumph of mechanics over bigotry.

Abridged from "The Origin and History of the Primitive Methodist Church", Volume II, p246-247

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jesus, apprentices and Primitive Methodists

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. (Mark 6:6-7)

Jesus used the apprenticeship training model with his disciples. That is

  1. He showed them how to do ministry

  2. He sent them out two by two to copy ministry they had seen and experienced

  3. The disciples reported back to Jesus

Jesus is the model for our training of disciples. Today we tend to send people to Bible college or theological college. What we most need is disciples who have spent time with Jesus and learn under supervision, who have seen ministry in action. Theological training happens best when used with an apprenticeship model.

If we are to raise an army of lay leaders like the Primitive Methodists, then we need to train them on-the-job, as disciple – apprentices.