Britain’s only hope
On 19 June, Penn Free Methodist Church in Buckinghamshire held a day conference entitled ‘Britain’s only hope’, which focused on the nation-changing labours of the early Methodists.
Pastor Roland Burrows of Cradley Heath described the labours of John Wesley’s itinerating preachers – some 800 people who, over a 50-year period, engaged in tireless and courageous endeavours to take the gospel around the country, targeting the new industrial and mining areas.
These ‘lay’ preachers were most definitely called of God, and systematically travelled through their circuits, working around the basic building block of the local Methodist societies.
They saw the general prevalence of wickedness and unbelief in the nation not as obstacles but as their opportunity, because Christ came to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance.
Concerning the content of their preaching, they focused upon justification by faith, the new birth and salvation by grace. Peter Murcott, a Methodist local preacher on the Isle of Man, told how the early Methodist preachers separated themselves both from the world’s ungodliness and from the bland, lifeless deism of the 18th century churches, although not from their lost, unbelieving neighbours.
Dealing with the issue of persecution, Mr Murcott, a former lecturer in law, made an interesting comparison between the law with which the early Methodists had to contend, namely that of seditious libel, and modern hate crime legislation, including the Public Order Act of 1986, which is now being used against Christians. He also described some of the persecutions that the Primitive Methodists endured in the early 19th century.
Pastor Peter Simpson of Penn gave the concluding paper. He dealt with Wesley’s emphasis on the need to preach God’s law to un-awakened unbelievers before telling them of his love and mercy; and how the early Methodists had a national perspective, teaching the people that God deals with nations as nations. This needs emphasising in our own day, as political correctness tends to spurn the concept of nationhood.
Two audio CDs are available of the talks, including the minister’s opening address entitled ‘The reality of national crisis’ (cheque for £4 incl. p&p, payable to Penn Free Methodist Church; sent to Pastor Peter Simpson, Chapel Cottage, Church Road, Penn, Bucks, HP10 8NU).