Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A movement inspired by the Holy Spirit

The Primitive Methodist movement was inspired by the Holy Spirit. It grew from nearly 8,000 members in 1820 and expanded to over 100,000 members 30 years later. It doubled in size to nearly 200,000 by 1888. The movement is testimony to God at work in the lives of tens of thousands of working-class men and women whose lives were radically transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed whole villages and communities experienced transformation as men and women who were often violent, foul-mouthed, and known for drunkenness, became believers and followers of Christ. The movement was inspired by the Spirit as their leaders made new converts, raised “societies” and established churches.

There were two founding fathers of the movement: Hugh Bourne (1772- 1852) and William Clowes (1780-1851). Hugh Bourne was effectively the general superintendent and William Clowes the missionary apostle. Both of these men had profound experiences of the Holy Spirit which shaped their lifelong ministry. They made converts and established churches across the length and breadth of England. The movement later extended to America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Hugh Bourne describes a life changing experience of the Holy Spirit at Harriseahead chapel, in 1804. “The brethren could have exercised faith in silence, but they laboured with all their heart, and mind and voice, and the noise was heard afar off, and all were in a uniting faith before the Lord; and in my opinion there was the greatest outpouring of the Holy Ghost I have ever known… It was the greatest time of power I had ever known”. Hugh Bourne experienced the “unction” of the Spirit as he preached, visited families and encouraged and exhorted local groups of believers and those earnestly seeking God for forgiveness of sin.

William Clowes recalls an infilling of the Holy Spirit, in a profound experience in 1812. He relates the agony of soul as he meditated on “account of the millions of souls on the earth who were posting on in the way of death, whose steps take hold on hell”. He continues “I arrived on a forest, and then I gave way to my feelings, and poured out my soul, and cried like a woman in the pangs of childbirth. I thought the agony into which I was thrown would terminate my life. This was a glorious baptism into the ministry; the glory of God was revealed to me in a wonderful manner; it left an unction on my soul which continues to this day; and the sweetness which was imparted to my spirit, it is impossible for me to describe”.

Bourne recalls a service of the Lord’s supper (which the Primitive Methodists called a love-feast) at Tunstall on Sunday September 24th, 1820. It was “at first rather heavy, and the labouring was severe; but when it had proceeded about an hour and a-half, there was an outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord on the whole congregation; and this was the first effectual appearance of a general increase or revival of the work of the Lord.” The next evening he preached and many were converted to Christ.

Let us pray that God will raise up like-minded men and women today who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, will lead a movement to transform lives in our day and generation.

“Memoirs of the Life and Labours of Hugh Bourne", Volume I,p111, Volume II, p106 republished by Tentmaker Publications 121 Hartshill Rd, Stoke-on-Trent (http://www.tentmaker.org.uk/)

“The Journals of William Clowes”, p107 originally published in 1844 and republished 2002 by Tentmaker Publications 121 Hartshill Rd, Stoke-on-Trent (http://www.tentmaker.org.uk/)

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