« Reminiscences of the Early History of Primitive Methodism in Weardale »
By the Rev. W. Dent (1882)

Part 1

METHODISM was planted in Weardale about the middle of the last century by Jacob Rowell and Christopher Hopper, two of the most successful early Methodist preachers, and for some years it was remarkably prosperous. Mr. Wesley, on one of his visits, comparing that work with a similar one at Everton, near Liverpool, gave the preference to that in the Dale, both as to its extent and depth. A few years after the commencement of the present century, there was a good revival under the labours of W. Dalby and J. P. Haswell, when my mother was converted and became a member of the society. But for several years prior to the introduction of Primitive Methodism into the Dale the work was at a very low ebb. Conversions were 'few and far between.' No very notable signs and wonders followed the preaching even of John Smith, that eminent revivalist, when Weardale formed a part of Barnard Castle circuit, where he travelled about the year 1818. His first sermon at Westgate, on the conversion of the Philippian jailor, made a permanent impression on my youthful heart. That was just before he had seized the fallen mantle of W. Bramwell. The prayer meetings were formal and heavy, — three long prayers and slow singing was the order of the meetings. As to evangelistic efforts in the open air, nothing of the kind was thought of in those days. The moral condition of the Dale was very bad; drunkenness, profanity, gambling, poaching, cook-fighting, and man-fighting prevailed to a fearful extent. Frequently the poachers and game-watchers came into murderous conflict, and a large number of strong men were possessed with the war demon, and on various occasions seriously injured each other. On one occasion a man near Westgate was stabbed almost fatally. At another time, at St. John's Chapel, a cousin of mine, who was only a spectator of a brutal fight, was knocked down and had one of his eyebrows and part of his nose bitten. off. And well do I remember a sort of irregular battle within a few yards of my father's house: about forty men were so engaged, with fist and foot, etc. One man was thrown over a stone bridge close by. That. was only a short while before the Primitive Methodist missionaries came and preached the gospel of peace with such remarkable effect as I am about to describe in some degree.

Stanhope was missioned a short time before Westgate, by Sammy Laister, from Darlington, — W. Vickers, John Emmerson, Joseph Raine, etc., being among the first converts, who became very useful leaders and local preachers for many years; though one of them was subsequently drawn aside for some time, but not into open sin. The first attempt to open Westgate failed. The preacher, whose name I don't remember, not getting a congregation, returned to Stanhope the same evening. Not long after, however, a successful effort was made by Jane Ansdale, who subsequently became the wife of W. Suddards, a man of superior ability, who was. a travelling preacher for a few years; but not satisfied with fourteen shillings a week, desisted, and emigrated to the United States of America, where he became an episcopal minister; and, for anything I know, is still living. A very large company gathered to hear the woman preacher ; and on some account or other, the open air not being favourable for the holding of the service, the Methodist Chapel was obtained for the occasion, by the desire of a few of the leading members, but to the displeasure of others; which occasioned some strife, and led to a visit from the Chairman of the Newcastle District. But instead of healing the breach he widened it, and the result was the secession of about half-a-dozen of those who had been guilty of the ecclesiastical irregularity, and who forthwith formed the nucleus of the new interest. That preaching service, so held, was a most interesting and profitable one; as fresh in my memory to-day as if it had taken place but sixty days since, instead of sixty years. The preacher's appearance, her voice, delivery and manner (so becoming her sex), her praying and singing, all combined to win attention and make the happiest impression; and the subject of her discourse and her mode of treating it, were alike interesting and profitable. The text was Mal. iii. 16, 17: 'Then they that feared the Lord, spake often to another,' etc. It was a fitting introduction to the good work that was soon to take place. Even her giving out of the hymns so distinct, emphatic, and sweetly solemn, affected me most happily And her subsequent ministrations were equally effective. Much of the fruit that sprang up in Weardale and the adjoining Dales, undoubtedly was the harvest of Jane Ansdale's sowing. It was an evidence of the wisdom and piety of Hugh Bourne that he laid hands on a number of intelligent and divinely baptized women, 'who laboured much in the Lord.' It was also an evidence of the Pentecostal character of the work. Acts ii. 17, 18. Other denominations besides the Society of Friends, are now being convinced that the 'daughters' of the Church — the Lord's 'handmaids,' as well as His servants, may be moved and qualified by the Holy Spirit to 'prophesy':— to 'speak to men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.' And why not also to 'warn the wicked of his way?' The next preacher that visited Westgate was F. N. Jersey, the sailor preacher, who took for his text Rev. i. 7, 'Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him,' etc. Mr. Jersey had little to recommend him except a fair share of common sense, scriptural knowledge and burning zeal. Not unfrequently before beginning to preach, he put off his coat and neck-cloth and unbutton his waistcoat; and notwithstanding this unusual precaution against excessive heat, he laboured till the perspiration was strikingly visible. His heart was hot within him. The word of the Lord was in his heart as a burning fire shut up in his bones. He was very successful in the conversion of sinners; sometimes as many as into the teens at one service. At the first Missionary meeting held at Westgate, among many remarkable cases, he told us of a woman who, towards the close of a service at which a. number of souls were set at liberty, clambered over the forms in the room, and .inquired anxiously, 'Please, sir, are ye ganta convart onny mair t'-neet ?'

It was to be regretted that, after several years of successful labour, he should have left our ministry. Probably if he had been kept to the work of an evangelist — to which he was well adapted — he might have continued. Being comparatively uneducated and of warm temperament, he was ill able to perform the duties of a superintendent minister, especially as he most likely would have occasionally to do with some men of the spirit of Diotrephes rather than of the spirit of Christ. Our official members are now generally more sensible and liberal; perhaps, in some instances, they are scarcely faithful to their convictions. The Connexion owes a good deal of its stability and prosperity to the admirable union of ministerial and lay agency in its polity. Bat while enlightened forbearance should always prevail, fidelity should never be allowed to sleep.

The first Weardale camp-meeting was held on Stanhope Common, about a mile from the town, conducted by Jane Ansdale, assisted by W. Young and J. Emmerson, from Darlington Circuit, a preacher from Barnard Castle, and others. It was a day to be remembered. No doubt the novelty of the proceedings contributed much to the impressions made on that large gathering of people, but the permanent results proved that 'the Lord was there.' A considerable proportion of the people had brought a lunch with them, during the partaking of which a brother remarked that he had observed a few young men behaving disorderly, and expressed a wish that one of the preachers in the afternoon might preach from such a text as Acts xiii. 41, 'Behold, ye despisers,' etc. And, without any intimation to that effect having been given the preacher, the first sermon delivered after the resumption of the service was from that very same text, which had a good effect. The sight and hearing of the praying companies affected me the most powerfully. I have long been convinced that the waning influence of our modern camp-meetings in the north is much the consequence of the insufficient attention given to this their chief original characteristic, which used to bring into useful exercise a much larger number of praying men and women. In recent years numbers of our members have taken no part on these occasions, except in the singing. The main thing wanted in order to the restoration of the primitive power with increase, is more earnest, importunate, believing prayer both before these special gatherings and when met together. Praying in the great temple in the presence of on-lookers, whose salvation we desire, has a grand stimulating effect.

Another thing I may here touch upon as accounting for the declining influence of our camp-meetings at this day. In former times they were commonly held at some distance from towns, and the day was spent on the ground, with partial abstinence from food, which proved favourable both to physical and mental activity. And many a blessed round of singing and praying I have witnessed after a light refreshment, before the regular service was resumed. But of late years I have often observed that there has been a falling off of the influence in the afternoon, when the congregation has been the largest, attributable, in all probability, to the heaviness occasioned by a full dinner, which the women have stayed at home to cook, instead of being at the meeting.

Thomas Batty (we had no Revs. in those days), who has not without reason been called the apostle of Weardale, was a Primitive Methodist home missionary of the right stamp, having a good voice, well managed, it rapid but distinct delivery, a clear view of the plan of salvation, and great boldness in the Master's cause. He was a first-rate singer of what are now called 'the old hymns and tunes,' which brought into play the musical gift of all the youngsters in the .Dale, and contributed largely to his success. He had the gift and the spirit of prayer in an eminent degree. Instead of telling the Lord a great many things about His perfections and work that He knows well enough without being told, he prayed in keeping with the doctrine of a free, full, and present salvation which he preached. But after much hard labour and protracted praying for about nine months, he saw but little fruit, and was almost discouraged. At length, however, in answer to a whole night's pleading with God, he heard 'the sound of abundance of rain.' And toward the close of a sermon which he preached on the Sunday evening immediately following, he made a sudden significant pause, and then, in the exercise of the 'faith which calleth those things which be not as though they were,' looking upward, he shouted, 'Stop, Gabriel,' and proceeded to tell the heavenly messenger what was about to happen in the Dale — the conversion of many sinners to God. Whether or no he had read a similar incident in the life of George Whitfield, I know not; but certainly that was no mere imitation; for the same night the salvation-work broke out which spread like fire through the Dale, and neighbouring Dales; and in three or four months, more than a thousand conversions took place, including a large proportion of the fighting men before mentioned, who became champions for Christ, and several of them useful local preachers and class leaders. It was a marvellous work of grace, — a grand moral revolution, as permanent as it was rapid. One noteworthy result of the work was, that the partial injury which the Wesleyan society at Westgate suffered, was far more than repaired. It was a summer revival; and most of the work being done in the open air, and there being no chapel or house to contain half of the converts, many of them joined the old Methodists, who had several commodious chapels in the Dale; so that they were enabled to engage an additional preacher forthwith, and from that time to the present have been in a very improved position. A striking proof this, that the work was of God; showing the important difference between, proselytising and converting men.

At an early stage of that great work a prayer meeting was held on a Sunday evening in the house where it first began, followed by a class meeting, when three of my brothers were converted, myself being a silent seeker of the Lord. At the conclusion of the prayer meeting we all came out of the house for a few minutes, when my eldest brother urged the youngest, being under ten years of age, to go home, saying it was time for him to go to bed. But the little fellow persisted in returning with us into the house to the class meeting, and was the first of ten persons who found pardon and peace through faith in Jesus, that evening; from which time to his dying day, he pursued a steady course of piety and usefulness, being for many years a popular and successful local preacher and class leader. My eldest brother became a local preacher of considerable ability and earnestness for about forty years, and a successful class leader most of that time; and died in peace between fifteen and sixteen years ago. The other brother, fifteen years of age, was very promising for awhile, having a remarkable gift of prayer, but being much made of, not unfrequently praised to his face, was lifted up with pride and fell 'into the condemnation of the devil,' hiding his talents through the remainder of his life. How many young men have been lost to the Chnrch by that insidious poison, not unfrequently adminisered by injudicious friends! There is in all men by nature a strong tendency to pride, in one form or another, which is not usually counteracted without that self-knowledge which experience only can teach. While, therefore, young persons should be encouraged and aided in the pursuit of knowledge, everything approaching to flattery should be carefully avoided.

Part 2

WELL do I remember the Sunday morning on which my father and four of his sons and a daughter, all joined a class at Westgate, led by old John Coultard, the best class-leader I have ever known; so sensible, so well read in the Scriptures, so affectionate, but faithful, and so highly gifted and fervent in prayer. Before he began to preach, he was unexpectedly called to supply the pulpit in the absence of the appointed preacher one Sunday afternoon. I can imagine I see him standing with tears of holy affection, and hear him saying, 'By the grace of God I love all men, but I fear no man.' It was a melting profitable season. John Coultard was one of the few whose sympathy with the Primitive Methodist missionaries led to their secession from the old society. Old Joseph Walton was another of the honoured band, a sensible man, an earnest Christian and a good leader, who at one time had a hundred members under his watchful care, and not a dumb one among them all. On same occasions of their meeting, the power from on high was so mighty, calling forth such bursts of prayer and praise that he could speak but to very few of them. The Holy Ghost led the class. J. D. Muschamp, Esq., was another member of that first class at Westgate which so soon multiplied to hundreds. Though he was quite destitute of the singing gift, yet he used to walk in the front of the processions holding up his hymn-book as if he could sing with the best of us; thus showing, at least, what side he was on. He never took much active part in public religious exercises; but he was warmly interested in the good cause, and served it in various ways. Mrs. Muschamp was a decided, lively Christian and a hearty helper of the Lord's servants. Their eldest son, Emmerson Muschamp, who was brought to Jesus by J. Oxtoby, whom he highly esteemed for his work's sake, became a prominent official member at Sunderland, to which town he removed shortly after his conversion. He was an amiable man; but, while he maintained his standing in the Connexion, to which he was warmly attached, he exemplified the truth implied in the lines we have so often sung :—

'Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?'

and at the early age of thirty-nine years was called hence, probably 'from the evil to come.'

The second camp-meeting was held in Swinhope, a considerable distance from nearly all the houses, in the direction of Middleton in Teesdale. Almost the whole of the inhabitants of the Dale were gathered together. The ground was well suited for the occasion, a kind of natural amphitheatre. An extraordinarily gracious influence attended all the exercises of the day, and the open lovefeast in the evening. The deepest and most lasting impression was produced by the sermon of W. Young, whose text was, the four leprous men at the gate of Samaria. If ever a man preached 'with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven,' that little man did so preach on that memorable occasion; I have no statistics of the immediate results of that camp-meeting; but they were such as undoubtedly caused great joy in the presence of the angels of God, and in not a few earthly dwellings.

The next camp-meeting, held at the same place, was favoured by the presence and labours of the late John Flesher, who was then travelling in Barnard Castle branch of Hull circuit. He was at that time comparatively a young man — one of the best-looking men that ever stood up to preach: his voice clear, strong, and musical, his delivery and manner perfect, and the subject of his sermon instructive and impressive in a high degree. I never saw so many people moved to tears, while he expounded and applied that grand gospel text, — Romans viii. 32, 'He that spared not His own Son,' &c. I have heard some of the most eloquent preachers of this country; but not one to surpass, if, indeed, to equal John Flesher in those days. What a pity, one thinks, that his charming, powerful voice was so soon silenced, at least as far as the pulpit was concerned! If his poetic gift had been equal to that of his elocution, we should have had a better hymn book in use this last quarter of a century. He was, if I may say so, too much of a slave to logic and grammar to be a good judge of poetry.

T. Batty was an excellent open-air preacher, having so good a voice and so well managed, his preaching so simple both as to matter and style, so ready and forcible in his delivery, and so direct and earnest in his addresses to his hearers, who could not help understanding that he meant them. The last time I remember hearing him preach was at what was called the children's camp-meeting, held at Sidehead, near Westgate, which was appointed without his consent having been first obtained, and of which for awhile he did not approve. But in the reading of the llth chapter of Isaiah that Sunday morning, where in connection with a grand description of the Messiah and His kingdom and people it is written, — 'And a little child shall lead them,' he received an impression that the meeting so appointed was of the Lord. So he attended and preached a very appropriate sermon from, — 'The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence,' &c. It was a most interesting meeting, nearly all the boys and girls of the Dale being assembled. I have said that Batty might justly be called the Apostle of Weardale; for, certainly, he was the principal agent in the beginning and carrying forward for a time of that great work, which so suddenly and so permanently changed the face of the Dale. Two good chapels were built, at Westgate and Wearhead, under his superintendency, which were regularly filled with interested, hearers and happy believers. I remember being at a lovefeast at the latter place when more than a dozen persons spoke in succession of having been converted under the preaching of Thomas Batty, the preacher who conducted the service being the first. One brother stood up and said, — 'And I have something to say about that little man that go many of my brothers and sisters have been speaking of. I went to hear him at ——. His text was about Paul being in "a strait betwixt two," &c. But before he had finished his sermon I felt myself in a bigger strait than Paul was in.' He then proceeded to tell how he was brought out of that strait. This occurrence was some time after Mr. Batty had left the Dale. His successor was John Hewson, a good sound preacher, with an excellent voice and free delivery; and who had a superior helpmeet, who occasionally occupied the pulpit with more than general acceptance; Mr. Hewson, after labouring about five years with increasing credit and success, was killed instantaneously on the Hetton and Sunderland railway, early in the year 1831, along with John Branfoot, one of the earliest and most highly respected Primitive Methodist preachers in the Sunderland district. G. W. Armitage (now superannuated in Leeds third circuit), was one of Mr. Hewson's colleagues; an acceptable preacher though under twenty years of age. There was no special movement under their highly approved ministry till they were joined by John Oxtoby — 'Praying Johnny,' as he was called — who came from Whitehaven, in October 1824. The first service which he held was on a Friday evening; a full chapel to hear the wonderful man. But, certainly, there was nothing in his appearance and manner of address to recommend him even to the plain people of Weardale, but the contrary: his person unprepossessing, the hair on his forehead down to his eyebrows; a snuff-coloured coat and vest; a silk neckerchief; corduroy breeches, and blue stockings; and his dialect the most vulgar Yorkshire. I had, from my childhood, reverenced preachers of the gospel; but really I could not but despise him, and thought he was not 'the right man in the right place.' But before he had done speaking I was of another mind, both in regard to him and myself. It was not a sermon, strictly speaking; but it did more for me than all the sermons I had heard: and, young as I was, I had heard many good sermons with attention; having been a regular attendant at the Methodist chapel from a child. His text was, — 'What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.' That discourse showed unto me the way of salvation, which I had been anxiously desiring for more than a year. What he said about faith amounted, on the whole, to the old woman's definition of it, — 'A taking God at His word;' strongly enforcing the duty of it, in opposition to the notion of a passive reception of it as the sovereign gift of God; and showing the warrant of every sincere seeker to believe for salvation at once, without waiting for any further fitness of feeling.' Some people,' said he, 'in praying go round and round about the throne, and never come up to it; but I go right up and reach out my hand and tak' what I want.' I thought at the moment, that that was rather too bold; but soon saw it to be in accordance with Scripture, which affirms that 'all things are ready' on God's part, who 'waits that He may be gracious,' and upbraids us for our slowness of heart to believe His promises. (I am reminded here of a subsequent occasion, on which a brother was praying in the roundabout way, when Johnny went up to him, and laying his hand on his shoulder said, 'Man, thou's a mile off God.') A very homely illustration that he used threw much light into my mind on the necessity of believing in order to our receiving. Towards the close of his discourse he said, 'Now some who are here are waiting to feel before you believe;' and then proceeded to say, 'It's a cowardly soldier that never comes up into the field till the battle has been fought and the victory won.' How unreasonable I saw it to be, to expect to be saved before believing, when the order is, — 'Believe and live.' 'If thou canst believe.' I then felt it my duty to believe for a present salvation; was humbled for my unbelief, and if I ever obeyed God in any instance, it was in the matter of believing — taking Him at His word. Thus, in my case, those words of the Apostle were verified :— 'God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence' (1 Corinthians i. 27-29). The effect of that imperfect sermon was marvellous. Strong men bowed and shook under it like leaves before the wind; and several conversions took place. That was the beginning of a work similar to the former one, and in some respects exceeding it. The preaching of entire sanctification, in answer to frequent whole nights of prayer, set the Dale on fire. Hundreds of believers not only professed, but gave daily evidence of entire consecration to God, — rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in everything giving thanks; living in love, and striving together for the advancement of the good work. And many sinners were awakened and brought into the liberty of the gospel. There were at that time in the Westgate congregation the largest proportion of sanctified souls that I ever witnessed anywhere. The spirit of prayer was possessed in large measure, and exercised with great freedom and power; and the singing, without the aid of instruments, was almost fit to lift the roof of the chapel.

A Congregational minister who was in the Dale at that time, endeavouring, unsuccessfully, to raise an interest, who strongly favoured quiet religious exercises, was heard to say, 'He wondered that the roof of the Ranters' chapel did not fall upon them when making such a noise.' But there was an influence in that 'joyful noise' to which he was a stranger, though he was a good pious man. He could scarcely have preached from that text, — Psalm cxxxii. 16, 'I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.'

Fellowship meetings and lovefeasts were such in reality, numerously attended, signalised by 'the purer flame' of love, 'singing as in the ancient days,' and communications of the inward heaven. The leader never had to say, 'Come, friends, speak on, let no time be lost.' Frequently half would be up at once, sisters as well as brethren, in blessed unison giving 'glory to their common Lord.' I never, elsewhere, heard such fervent, believing prayers and hearty responses. And that fervour was accompanied with deep seriousness and unaffected reverence. The same becoming spirit characterized their other religious exercises, and even their social intercourse, while they 'joyed in God through Jesus Christ,' &c. Even dancing Nanny, as they called her, of Rookhope, a few miles from Westgate, was as serious as she was earnest. She might have been truly called praying Nanny; for she was remarkable for 'continuing instant in prayer;' making everything that concerned her a matter of prayer, as we are all exhorted to do. (Philippians iv. 6.) Everybody believed in her genuineness. Hence no one appeared to be annoyed at her frequent dancing or jumping during divine service, in a little pew by herself near the pulpit. The nearest approach to facetiousness that I remember of her was, when, on being asked why she danced more in the Ranters' chapel than in the Methodist chapel, (that was the way that most people in those-days designated the two denominations) she replied, 'Because the Ranters are better fiddlers.'

There were many cases of prostration in connection with that great work. I have seen more than fifteen at one meeting, some of whom were sober-minded Christians, as humble as they were earnest. And what was very observable, there was nothing in the voice or manner of the preacher to account for such effects; no vociferation, no highly impassioned address. He stood as steadily and talked as calmly as I ever witnessed any one do. But he was fully in. the faith — clothed with salvation; having in many instances got to know substantially in his closet what was about to take place in the great congregation. He did not take a falling down as a certain proof of the obtaining of entire sanctification; but ascribed much to physical causes — to nervous weakness. I do not recollect that there were any cases of the kind proved to be hypocritical mimicry. It was wonderful how some persons, so affected, were preserved from physical harm. I remember seeing men fall suddenly backwards on stone flags without being hurt. And on one occasion in a dwelling-house a man fell against the fireplace, the fire burning at the time, without being injured.

If 'Johnny' had a fault it was sometimes in mistaking character, and speaking somewhat rashly; though I am not certain that it was really so in any instance. I remember one case which had such appearance. We were in the habit, at that time, of having a special religious service on the evening of the preparatory Quarterly Meeting, and were sometimes favoured with the presence and services of one or more of the neighbouring preachers; and on one such occasion W. Garner, from Hexham, and John ———, from Barnard Castle, paid us a visit, each of whom-preached prior to the holding of a fellowship meeting. For some reason or other, Oxtoby thought that they were trying whether of them could preach the better — without the right aim. And with that impression he sat all the time close to the pulpit with his hands clasped and placed on his chin. When the preaching was finished he got up, and addressing the people, said, — 'Speak like yersens, and never mind the poor fellows in d' pulpit.' It was a precious fellowship meeting. We were not soon tired in those days, either of hearing sermons or of other religious services. Two or three months after that, our Barnard Castle friend paid us a second visit, to attend one or more missionary meetings, and approaching 'Johnny,' told him that God had sanctified his soul since his former visit; expecting, I dare say, some words of pious congratulation, or a 'Glory be to God.' But instead of that the old man said bluntly, 'Then thou'll have got shot of that nasty praad (pride), that thou had when thou was here before.' That was certainly calculated to test his profession of entire holiness, or perfect Christian temper. Whether 'Johnny,' who was said to be somewhat of a discerner of spirits, perceived some serious defect in that brother or not, was known to God only; but that preacher, not long after, somehow or other, failed. 'Johnny' sometimes selected singular texts. On one occasion he read out, — 'And Samuel said, What meaneth this bleating of the sheep and lowing of the oxen that I hear!' (1 Samuel xv. 14). Among other things that he said would bleat against some professors of religion at the last day, he mentioned large toppings on the forehead, as an indication of pride; which was very much talked about. And a Wesleyan minister who was then travelling in the Dale, and wore a very large topping, was induced to cut it clean off, which excited no little attention. One of Johnny's most edifying discourses was from Ruth ii. 19, 'Where hast thou gleaned to-day?' showing that we should be daily gleaners, seeking a constant increase of knowledge and grace. On one occasion he stuck fast: 'the text,' he said, 'would not go;' so he changed it and got on as usual. He introduced one of his sermons by saying, 'When I get into d' pulpit, I don't try to preach like Dr. Raffles, or Robert Newton, or John Flesher; but like mesen (myself).' In his farewell sermon, I remember him saying, emphatically, 'Mah brethren, if you would get to heaven, you mun gan deaf and dumb and blind;' by which he meant, that we should be deaf to idle tales and uncharitable conversation; dumb when tempted to take part in unprofitable talk, resentful expressions, or evil speaking; and blind to worldly vanities, and the infirmities of our weak brethren. Johnny's second station in Weardale was moderately successful. There was a striking difference between him and his superintendent, Mr. Flesher, who, nevertheless, highly appreciated his uncultivated colleague, and rejoiced in his useful labours. But Mr. Flesher was guilty of the not very common fault of over-estimating his colleagues, especially young men, who sometimes require a little-ballast as well as encouragement.

The last time I saw Johnny was in York circuit, in 1828, when he was travelling in Tadcaster circuit. On one of his rounds he had occasion to come through the village where I was appointed to preach the same evening. He met me just as he had got through that village; and as soon as he had come within speaking distance, he said in a joyful mood, 'Man, God has just set a woman's soul at liberty. He did give her a shak'ing.' He had called at a house in the village, and talked and prayed with the woman till she obtained pardon and peace through faith in Jesus. That was no uncommon thing with him. Instead of saluting me in the usual manner, he just gave me some account of what God was doing in his circuit, and then, without even shaking hands or bidding me good day, he went on to his appointment, and I saw him no more. For awhile I felt disappointed, being young in the itinerant work, and never having seen him from the time of his leaving Weardale. But I began to think that he probably had a purpose in that unceremonious, not to say, uncivil conduct towards me: that he meant to impress me with the great importance of minding one thing — the salvation of souls, independent of many of the conventionalities which are so much regarded by most men. With all his oddities he was an excellent type of a Primitive Methodist home evangelist; wholly sanctified to God, and devoted to the work of Christ. In conversation at one time with a brother who had been engaged with him in a prayer meeting, at which the following well-known lines were sung :—

'Prone to wander, lord, I feel it,' &c.,

he said, mentioning his friend's name,. 'Ah cudden't join ye in singing that verse; if I had I would have tell'd God a lie; for since He sanctified me soul, a've not been prone to wander from Him;' and then. proceeded to relate something of his experience from that time, which was far-above the common run of Christian attainment. It is now more than half a century since he departed this life, and, having been. for many years in daily converse with 'the things which are not seen,' his death might truly be called a departure 'to be with Christ, which is far better' than what any one can have here. I have long thought that it is to be regretted a life of him has not been written by one who had a personal knowledge of him, and therefore in sympathy with his peculiarities and wonderfully successful labours. His journals in some of the early volumes of the fourpenny Connexional Magazine are very interesting. Young Armitage went heartily into that grand revival along with Hewson and Oxtoby, and, under the Pentecostal influence, preached like a man of considerable experience. I remember being much edified, as well as pleased under .a sermon which he preached from the Song of .Solomon, — 'My beloved spake and said, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.' A very suitable discourse in relation to the blessed work that was going on, causing great joy all up and down the Dale. One evening while preaching in the house where the former work first began, standing on an elevation close to a set of shelves full of dinner plates, the 'power from on high' came upon him and shook him, so that he fell against the shelf, causing some little damage, as well as noise. But no confusion followed the incident, it being so evidently the effect of Divine influence, with which the congregation had so lively a sympathy. The following evening the happy young man preached in Weardale chapel an appropriate sermon from Mark v. 19, 'Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.' The sermon was highly calculated to aid the good work, showing the duty of witnessing for Christ, and seeking the salvation of our kindred and neighbours.

Part 3

MR. HEWSON was succeeded by John Garner, who was no ordinary man, either as to his person or talents. His appearance, voice, manner, and elocution were all in his favour; and his sermons, both as to matter and form, good. He was addicted to joking, a kind of facetious irony, on certain occasions: it was not sometimes quite clear to those who were not well acquainted with him, whether he was in earnest or not in what he was saying. But he never dishonoured the pulpit with any trifling or laughable remarks. He was well liked as a preacher in Weardale, although his preaching was not attended with any striking results. One sermon in particular fastened itself on my memory. It was the first funeral sermon preached in Westgate chapel, on the occasion of the death of one of the most pious members of the society, Joseph Lonsdale, a brother of the late Rev. W. Lonsdale. The text was, Eccl. iv. 2. It was a solemn profitable service. A very large number of happy souls have left the Dale for the better land since that occasion — a period of fifty-seven years. John Garner suffered a good deal of persecution in the early part of his ministry; one such case was thought to have affected his health through the remainder of his life. He died in the Lord soon after the Hull Conference of 1855. From the time of Mr. Garner's leaving the Dale, till 1826, we had the following preachers :— W. Summersides, a good earnest preacher, who was one of the first missionaries sent to the United States of America, along with T. Morris, and a female preacher, Ruth Watkins, from Tunstall District, which mission, on some account or other, was unsuccessful. Perhaps the chief cause was, there being no missionary committee at that time; there was a want of proper direction and aid. Only a few men are able to make their way as missionaries without help for a time. W. Thackray preached better sermons than most of his brethren; but alas! they were borrowed. But he delivered them so well and earnestly that nobody would have questioned their originality if he had not been 'found out' by some reading brethren who could not keep the secret. He died early while stationed in the North Shields Circuit. Mr. Thackray's father, a local preacher whom I knew at a place not many miles from Scarboro', in 1827, was sufficiently original. A very faithful, earnest preacher he was, but not much of a scholar. On one occasion, addressing his unconverted hearers, he said with strong feeling, 'Ye may fight agean (against) God as lang as ye will, but depend on't He'll ha'd last bat.'

Simon Butterwick, — a regular good preacher, with a hoarse voice, but not badly managed — was well received. I don't remember what became of him after his removing to Whitehaven. Thomas Everett, a Newcastle-on-Tyne man, was a shouting and stamping preacher. I was once at a preaching service in a dwelling-house when he broke the chair he was standing upon, and down he came, which had a moderating effect upon him. He was, I believe, a good, sincere man; but shouting and stamping, even with earnest praying, could not supply the want of preaching ability. He soon desisted.

Elizabeth Allen was a highly gifted woman, very energetic and very popular. Once, or oftener, in the pulpit at Westgate, such an influence came upon her that she fell down, and could not speak for awhile. Thomas Morris, a native of Hull; a very acceptable preacher, one of the first missionaries to America, who in that way was lost to the Connexion, to the regret of those who knew him. William Turner, a Cornish man, of slender ability and awkward manner, but earnest. He had happily proved the truth of that proverb :— 'He that findeth a wife, findeth a good thing;' for he often praised her in the congregation. She was his 'better half!' David Beattie, a Scotchman, a very devout, faithful Christian preacher, but not unfrequently preached too long; and would not be corrected, being so full both of matter and the Spirit. One Sunday morning at a certain place he preached till the patience of an old local preacher was exhausted, and he took out his watch and held it up, looking at the preacher. David paused, and then rather warmly said, 'Put up your watch, my brother, I don't preach by watches.' After labouring a few years, with general acceptance and usefulness, he departed this life in peace, many years ago. In the summer of 1826, Jeremiah Gilbert visited Weardale. I remember hearing him preach in Wearhead Chapel. His text was, — 'Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,' &c. I expected him to describe the happy death of the righteous, not perceiving at that time that the text does not refer to death, but to some dark, afflictive providence, paralleled by a passage in another Psalm, 'Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me.' He might as well have had for his text, 'The wicked is driven away in his wickedness;' for he spoke chiefly of the dreadful end of the unconverted, in contrast with the peaceful end of the good man. J. Gilbert was a very successful evangelist, and suffered much persecution nobly for the gospel's sake; but he was not a teacher, he was not able to 'feed the people with knowledge.' Every man in his own order, according to his particular gift, so should be his calling, in which he I should abide. The evangelist and the exhorter should keep to their department of labour, and not aspire to, or be set to do what they are not qualified for. Romans xii. 6-8. In 1826, Joseph Greaves, of Middleton, in Teesdale, commenced his itinerant ministry in Weardale: a very suitable man for the work, who laboured earnestly and successfully for a number of years, chiefly in Tunstall District, and then entered into rest, — sooner than one might have expected, as he was a robust, agile man. During the early period to which this paper refers, we had a considerable number of preachers in the Dale, of various degrees of qualification, but all characterised by serious earnestness. And it is something to say, that not one of them disgraced the cause by any improper conduct.

During the first six months of the year 1829 I had the happiness of being stationed. in my native dale, along with Mr. Flesher and three other preachers. It was then still a branch of Hull Circuit, and included Alston, Allendale, and a part of what is now Crook Circuit. Mr. Flesher treated me like a. father, aiding me in my studies, and encouraging me in the arduous work, but the station being so extensive, I had not many opportunities of being with him. My first round in Allendale was rendered somewhat memorable by two things, — the formation of the first class of members at Allen Town, and my being storm-stayed at Allenhead, the like of which I never experienced either before or afterwards. And too well I remember the severity of the weather, just after removing from York Circuit, where the weather had been comparatively mild, rather seriously affected my health. On Good Friday of that year my courage was tested a little more than usual by my having to preach at Alston before my superintendent, whom I venerated. My subject was the sufferings of Christ. But I need not have yielded to any trepidation, for I was divinely helped, and Mr. Flesher, instead of sitting as a cold critic, not only listened with apparent interest, but wept a good part of the time. The friend with whom I lodged that night said to me as we walked to his house, 'You may well be proud of yourself, making such a man as Mr. Flesher weep.' At a place not many miles from Alston, I, along with Mr. Flesher, heard a man of colour preach, George Cousins, who was then travelling in Newcastle-on-Tyne Circuit. He delivered a very good sermon in an impressive manner; but it was another man's composition. We all slept together in one bed that night. When we parted the next morning, Mr. Cousins said to me, 'Good-bye, the Master of devils go with you.' Not long after that time, he was sent by the Sunderland Circuit to Weymouth, along with the late John Nelson, and, while there, turned Baptist, and left the Connexion.

Mr. Flesher was succeeded by W. Sanderson, and had for colleagues, W. Sanders, the poet, Robert Hill, &c. Mr. Sanderson was next to Mr. Flesher for eloquence; and some might think him superior. His personal appearance was a good introduction. It is reported of him that when at Hull, at an early period of our history, he was called to occupy the pulpit of the principal Wesleyan Chapel on a special occasion — the annual gathering of the various Nonconformist Sunday-schools; and as he was going up the pulpit stairs, a lady in the front pew of the gallery was heard to say, 'Oh, what a bonny man!' At that time the Primitives were commonly called, either opprobriously or ignorantly, Ranters. And I suppose the lady would expect to see on that occasion some ugly sort of being. Hence her great surprise! Mr. Sanderson was very popular wherever he went. His sermons, truly evangelical, were well thought out, and delivered with uncommon freedom and energy, reminding me of the very fluent and forcible preaching of the late Dr. Beaumont. And what I have always regarded as very important, his praying was in keeping with his preaching; no discrepancy or inconsistency in that respect. Hence the spiritual influence that attended his preaching! Nor was there any abatement of his energy up to the time of his being suddenly silenced by an attack of paralysis. But, for my part, notwithstanding the distinctness of his articulation, I think a little more deliberation would have contributed to his usefulness, if not to his popularity. Instruction is of greater consequence than impression; and a very rapid delivery is not favourable either to the reception or retention of what is delivered. During Mr. Sanderson's second year in Weardale a glorious work broke out, in connection with which a young man was converted, who has held a very prominent and useful position in the dale from that time, 1830, to the present — Mr. George Race. I have never, I think, known a man in whom the intellectual and the emotional were so admirably united. Notwithstanding his tendency to the speculative, the scientific and argumentative, he has, as far as I have known, performed his public religious services with an enthusiasm seldom exceeded, and enjoyed the prayer-meeting and class-meeting in as high a degree as any of our most simple-minded .and earnest members. It is a .matter of regret that his state of health has not, for several years, permitted him to occupy the pulpit and the platform, for which he is so well qualified. But he has the happiness of having a son and namesake, who, for a good many years, has worthily supplied his lack of service in that line. No, I must correct myself; George Race, jun., has been doing his own work — employing the talents for which he is himself responsible. 'Every man shall bear his own burden,' and shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.'

Part 4

ON my way from Whitehaven to Hull in 1830, I called at my native place, and had the privilege of hearing the little Connexional poet, Mr. Sanders, preach a very instructive and edifying sermon from Galatians ii. 20: 'I am crucified with Christ,' &c. And I found his conversation to me as edifying as his preaching. What a pity that this excellent man, from a domestic cause, was lost to the Connexion! He went to America. There have been many grand revivals in Weardale since Mr. Sanderson travelled there; the most remarkable of which, perhaps, occurred under the superintendency of Thomas Simpson in 1836, and more recently when the Rev. H. Philips was the superintendent. At both those times many hundreds were converted, so that a large proportion of the inhabitants became connected with the two bodies of Methodists. O that such a state of things might be generally witnessed!

Two things in particular have contributed to the stability and permanence of Primitive Methodism in Weardale: prayer, and the reading of good books. The spirit of prayer, which was abundantly poured at the beginning of the work, has been tolerably well maintained. A Sunday morning prayer meeting has, from the first, been well attended, and the class-meetings have not been 'wells without water.' And at an early period a library was established, which has been made good use of, the lead miners having more time for reading than most of working men. And when once a taste for useful reading has been created, it becomes a luxury as well as a benefit. I might add, as another material cause of regular advancement — practical, prayerful sympathy of the people with the ministry. They went to the chapel, not merely to have a happy meeting, but praying for the preacher, and expecting some conversions. While I remained in the Dale we used to go to the chapel half an hour before the appointed time for singing and prayer, and a large proportion of the congregation was present before the preacher arrived, and he could feel the holy influence as he went up into the pulpit. What a stimulus and help to him in his salvation work! In such circumstances, if he had the right spirit, he could not but preach in faith the doctrine of a present salvation. It is too evident that at the present day both preachers and people are sadly at fault in regard to this most important matter. There is often a palpable want of adaptation in the subject of discourse to any saving results, and an equal want of manifest solicitude on the part of the preacher for the salvation of his hearers. And how few even of pious people go to the church or chapel with a desire or expectation of anything beyond their own edification and comfort! I remember many years since going to a place to preach on a Sunday morning, and meeting with one of the leaders of the society whom I took to be an earnest as well as a sincere Christian, I asked him whether he expected any souls to he saved that morning. The question seemed to surprise him, and he replied, 'I have not thought about it.' I fear this is a too common case.

The Society at Wearhead has been in a lively and prosperous condition from the first. Some of the other places, particularly Stanhope and Frosterly, have been more prosperous in comparatively recent years, as they are at the present time. All things considered, I question whether there are, in the whole Connexion, other two societies superior to them, either in point of numbers or spiritual life. There has been a regular course of prosperity at the last named place for more than a generation, which is very interesting to me from the fact that when I used to preach there in 1829, there were only about half a dozen members, and the services held in a dwelling-house. I shall never forget a Sunday evening service at that place, when I was stationed in the circuit a second time, at which two persons, one of each sex, got happily into the faith while I was preaching on the subject from Hebrews xi. 6. The case of the woman specially interested me. I visited her next morning and found her rejoicing in Christ Jesus. On my inquiry how she obtained the great blessing, she said, 'While you were preaching I began to think what a sinner I was not to believe God when I have His word to read at home, and hear it preached so plainly in His house. I saw,' said she, 'how I was vexing God by my unbelief; my heart was broken, especially on account of my unbelief, and soon after I was enabled to trust in Christ as my Saviour. I did not feel much joy at the first, but I felt it my duty to believe, and I am now happy, and determined to live for heaven.' This woman became a useful member of the society, at whose house one of the preachers was entertained, when appointed at that place, for a number of years. If faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, why should we not look for conversions under the preaching of the word as well as in the prayer-meeting?

Weardale has supplied the Connexion with a considerable number of travelling preachers, most of whom have laboured with credit, and some with marked success. For several years prior to the introduction of Primitive Methodism, it was a very rare thing for any addition to be made to the local staff, to say nothing of the regular ministry. I only remember two cases during several years, Joseph Peart and Anthony Race, both of whom subsequently became Primitive Methodist itinerants. The former was considered a very remarkable case, being the son of a man who was regarded as a half-wit — not all there, as some would express it. A ludicrous incident may be mentioned as an illustration of this. He was out late one moonlight night, and on his return home, he saw his shadow before him, and taking it to be a spirit, he was terribly frightened. In giving an account of it to his friends, he said, 'When ah went it went, and when ah steud it steud (stood). At last ah gat courage to speak to it. I said, "Please, canny man, will ye let me come past ye! a'll niver bide out se lang at neet agean."' Joseph Peart was a very popular preacher. Young as I was, I was so taken with him, I could have followed him almost through fire and water. Several of his texts are fresh in my memory to this day. Some time after leaving the Dale to teach a school at a place in the east of the county of Durham, he joined the Primitive Methodists, and was called out to travel. For a few years he laboured with great acceptance, but like many talented men, it was thought that ho allowed popularity to interfere with his aim at usefulness. I remember hearing him preach once at Westgate when on a visit to his native dale. His text was Psalm xlv. 10, 11. It was a beautiful sermon of two hours' length, but it did not seem to me to be so long. A while after that, leaving the Connexion, he was engaged as a sailors' missionary in Liverpool, and then emigrated to America.

Anthony Race, a relative of Mr. G. Race was a different type of a man, a son of a good old. Methodist local preacher whom I knew well. For a few years Anthony was a nominal Methodist, and a good Sunday-school teacher. When I was a Sunday scholar, the rudiments of learning and writing were taught in Sunday-schools. He was led to decision on the subject of religion by the death of his father, and soon began to preach. Like Mr. Peart, he removed to what the Weardale people used to call the east country, east of Durham, or the south of Northumberland, and soon united with the Primitives, and was called into the ministry. He travelled a short while in his native dale, in Hexham, and one or more circuits in Yorkshire, and was generally well received. He was a good-looking man, tall, athletic, intelligent, having had a better education than most of our preachers of that day,— a likely man to live to 'threescore years and ten.' But he died at Malton in 1828, aged forty-three years. I respect his memory, and have regretted that no memoir of him appeared in the Connexional magazine. I had the honour of being the first to be engaged in the itinerant work of those who became members in 1823. Under twenty-one years of age, without learning, and but little experience as a Christian, I was called out without any previous warning or examination. It was a severe trial of my faith and courage. For a while I would gladly have resumed my work in the lead mines, and had I not felt that 'necessity was laid upon me' by One greater than he who gave me the outward call, I certainly should have desisted before making any lengthened trial of it. But obtaining help of the Lord, I continued in the work with some encouraging success, till I no longer had strength for it, when it was a greater trial to desist than it was to commence. All my earliest colleagues are gone hence; and I do not know that one of those who were converted during the first great work in the Dale is now alive on the earth. I was at the opening of the new chapel at Westgate, eleven years ago, which was a very interesting occasion to me, recollecting so well the opening of the old one in 1824. At the public meeting held on the occasion, I requested the chairman to test the audience as to how many then present were at the opening of the former God-honoured chapel, and only five or six, including the chairman and myself, held up a hand. What havoc death had made in forty-seven years! But there is good reason to hope that those numerous departed friends have been numbered with the saints of God in glory everlasting. I often think of what a joyful meeting I shall have with them. For, through 'the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ,' I have such a hope. Praise the Lord!

Joseph Featherston was the next to leave Weardale for the itinerancy (the son of a good, pious mother), a sensible, earnest preacher, who laboured with general acceptance and considerable success for several years, and departed this life, if I mistake not, at Pontefract. He was a tall, well-built man, likely to live and labour many years longer, but the Master knows best when to call His servants home.

I forbear speaking particularly of those who have, in more recent years, entered our ministry from Weardale (though I am strongly tempted to do so), lest the mention of a few cases of special noteworthiness should be regarded as invidious in relation to the rest. Besides, I think that, at the present day, there is too much eulogising of living ministers. Encouragement is, in many cases, helpful, but such praises as we sometimes hear and read of are not according to the highest wisdom. To do the work of Christ from love to Him and the souls of His blood-purchase, patiently waiting till 'the Lord come,' when every deserving labourer 'shall have praise of God,' is the great thing for our ambition. When Rowland Hill first began to preach (a good deal in the open air), his aristocratic relatives and friends felt themselves somewhat scandalised, and persecuted him rather severely. For his encouragement the Rev. John Berridge, of Everton, sent him a letter in which he said to him, that such persecution was good physic for a young preacher. Everyone who is sincerely and earnestly seeking the higher Christian life, so far from aspiring after pre-eminence in the church, is specially jealous of his own heart in regard to spiritual pride, knowing something of its exceeding subtilty and abomination in the sight of God. Entire sanctification is the destruction of self-conceit. At a rather early period of the religious history of the excellent J. Fletcher, of Madeley, in reply to an invitation from the famous poet of Methodism to pay him a visit for a few days, he gave his consent only on certain conditions, one of which was that he, C. Wesley, should avoid, in conversation, whatever might tend to hinder him in the pursuit of that self-abasement of which he so deeply felt his need. And, at a subsequent period, he was heard to say, that he could bear to be called a fool, or a madman, or to be pelted with rotten eggs, &c., but he neither could nor would bear to hear a word of praise on account of his talents or piety. Anything like adulation was highly provoking to him. So concerned was he to obtain more of that 'genuine meek humility,' which is at once the basis and the top of that Christian perfection of which he was so able an expositor and so beautiful an example. In conclusion, I think if I had had no other evidence of the moral and spiritual power of the gospel of Christ than what Primitive Methodism has supplied in Weardale, I should not be personally touched by the scepticism of the present day.

'Jesus, mighty to redeem,
He alone the work hath wrought;
Worthy is the work of Him,
Him who spake a world from nought.'

Source: The Primitive Methodist Magazine, Vol. V / LXIII, 1882