Monday, January 25, 2010

Pentecostals before the Pentecostal movement?

Were the Primitive Methodists Pentecostals? Given that the following event happened over eighty years before the Pentecostal movement in Azusa Street, Los Angeles, this is an interesting question.

A Primitive Methodist preacher (Mr A. Brownsword) makes the following diary entry

Monday 31 July, 1820

“I preached again in this room (in Manchester). As soon as I had done, there was such an outpouring of the Spirit – such a Pentecostal shower, as I never before witnessed. Sinners were crying out for mercy on every side, and ten at least, struggled into liberty”

It sounds Pentecostal to me!

See here for more examples of powerful outpourings of the Holy Spirit.

Source: History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, by John Petty, page 89

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Would you join this movement?

The first Annual Conference of the Primitive Methodist movement was held in May 1820 in Hull. They reported a membership of 7,842.

John Petty records that

“there were no outward attractions to draw people to the new denomination. The preachers were men possessed of common sense, of sound theological views, and of ardent zeal for the conversion of sinners; but they were not distinguished by learning and eloquence, in the sense in which these terms were generally understood. Their places of worship were the open-air, dwelling-houses, and rented rooms of various sizes, often dark and damp, and in many cases unpleasant and uncomfortable in a high degree. The converts were mostly from the humblest classes; dressed in coarse attire, and of unpolished manners. These things presented no outward inducement to unite with infant societies; and it is no marvel that great numbers who were awakened under the thundering addresses of the preachers in the open-air, sought shelter in the established churches, instead of strengthening the hands of those under whom they were brought to God.”

The Annual Conference for 1821 shows membership more than doubled to 16,394, and that the next year, 1822 it grew by another eight thousand to 25,218 members.

In spite of the lack of outward attraction, God was building a powerful movement that changed their world.

Source: History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, by John Petty, page 86-87

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pioneering can be challenging

The Primitive Methodist pioneers took toil and discomfort as part of the missionary’s lot.

This moving account was sent by Joseph Reynolds to report on his mission in and around Cambridge, August, 1821.

"Dear Brethren,

When I left Tunstall, I gave myself up to labour and sufferings, and I have gone through both; but, praise the Lord, it has been for His glory and the good of souls. My sufferings are known only to God and myself. I have many times been knocked down while preaching, and have often had sore bones.

Once I was knocked down and was trampled under the feet of the crowd, and had my clothes torn and all my money taken from me. In consequence of this I have been obliged to suffer much hunger.

One day I travelled nearly thirty miles and had only a penny cake to eat. I preached at night to nearly two thousand persons. But I was so weak when I had done, that I could scarcely stand. I then made my supper of cold cabbage, and slept under a hay stack in a field till about four o clock in the morning. The singing of the birds then awoke me, and I arose and went into the town, and preached at five to many people.

I afterwards came to Cambridge, where I have been a fortnight, and preached to a great congregation, though almost worn out with fatigue and hunger.

To-day I was glad to eat the pea-husks as I walked on the road. But I bless God that much good has been done. I believe that hundreds will have to bless Him in eternity for leading me hither."

Quotation taken from History of the Primitive Methodist Church, Chapter V

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Heaven and hell: an inconvenient truth?

The pioneers of the Primitive Methodist movement had a very clear view on the realities of heaven and hell. They were heaven-bound, and life here on earth was simply a temporary, or probationary existence. Heaven was a real place, and they knew that was where they were heading. By the same token, they believed in the existence of hell, and they were unafraid to proclaim loudly and clearly, “flee from the wrath to come”.

The reality of heaven and hell is a consistent New Testament theme. Jesus himself clearly teaches on the existence of hell, particularly in the parable of the net in Matthew 13:47-50. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declares “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:30). These are strong words indeed.

The apostle Paul frequently refers to the wrath of God (in other words, God’s righteous anger). “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:8) For other references, see Romans 3:5, 4:15, 5:9, 9:22, 12:19 Ephesians 2:3, 5:6 Colossians 3:6, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 2:16, 5:9. The core of the gospel is that it is Jesus Christ who rescues us from the coming wrath.

In our contemporary Christianity we have emphasized the love of God and rarely talk about God’s righteous anger. We tend not to teach or preach on judgment.

The Primitive Methodist pioneers preached an uncompromising version of biblical truth.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Richard Dawkins and ignorance of the Bible

In a previous post I misquoted the well-known atheist Richard Dawkins on our ignorance of the Bible. Here is what he actually says

"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, “The God Delusion”, page 383)
In other words Richard Dawkins wants us to know what the Bible says. The only way to do that is to read it. If an atheist wants us to read the Bible, Christians have no excuse!

Here is my previous posting on the problem of biblical illiteracy. (I have corrected the quote too!)

Have you read the Bible today?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Primitive Methodist Centenary plate

Here are more details of the text on the centenary plate

Top Centre Banner "1807 Primitive Methodist Centenary 1907"
Left portrait Hugh Bourne, Born April 3rd 1772, Died Oct 11th, 1852
Right portrait William Clowes, Born March 12th, 1780, Died March 2nd, 1851

Four oval panels
Panel 1, centre top First Camp Meeting, held at Mow Cop, May 31 - 1807
Panel 2, right hand side Jubilee Chapel, Tunstall
Panel 3, centre bottom Clowes Memorial Chapel, Burslem
Panel 4, left hand side Memorial chapel, Mow Cop

Circumscribed text
"The little cloud increaseth still
Which first arose upon Mow Hill
The centenary Camp Meeting was held at
Mow Cop on May 25th, 26th & 27th 1907"

Background notes
The Primitive Methodist movement was founded by Hugh Bourne and William Clowes. Bourne was the organisational genius, overseer, master strategist and tactician, and an introvert by nature. Clowes by contrast was an extrovert, and the leading missionary and apostle of the movement. He preached the gospel to tens of thousands, usually in the open-air, and was possibly the greatest preacher in his generation.

On May 31 1807, Hugh Bourne organised the first English "Camp Meeting", an open-air all day service, on Mow Cop in North Staffordshire. As a direct result of involvement in these meetings, both Bourne and Clowes were expelled from the Wesleyan Methodists. Subsequently the new movement took the name "Primitive Methodism".

The movement grew rapidly and by 1907 they had established five thousand churches, gathered eight hundred thousand members and adherents, 500,000 Sunday School scholars, and spread to the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Estimates of the attendance at the Centenary services at Mow Cop in 1907 vary from 60,000 to 100,000 people.

Primitive Methodism was a movement amongst working class people during the industrial revolution. The transformation of individuals, families and communities was often dramatic.

Known as "The Ranters" they were persecuted by mobs and gangs, they were often brought before magistrates and a number of their early preachers went to jail. The Ranters were well known for their lively singing and shouting. It was quite common for people to experience shaking, or to lie apparently motionless under the power of dynamic preaching inspired by the Holy Spirit.

For details of the rear of the plate, click here.