Hugh Bourne and Camp Meetings

May 2, 2015

 

"Hugh Bourne (1772–1852) along with William Clowes was the joint founder of Primitive Methodism, the largest offshoot of Wesleyan Methodism and, in the mid nineteenth century, an influential Protestant Christian movement in its own right.

 

Bourne was constitutionally shy, somewhat dour, yet – strange union of opposites – courageous and doggedly persistent.  He soon earned a reputation as a zealous preacher but the Wesleyan leadership were uncomfortable with his radicalism. Initially, he conducted a recognisably Wesleyan form of service but, later, he rejected this as being boring and of out-date; in short, the traditional service was 'not fit for purpose'. To engage with people, Bourne developed a style of open-air preaching, combined with public confession of sin, group prayer, and hymn singing. This was clearly distinctive from the Wesleyan norm and provided the template for the later Camp Meetings." [1]

 

 

In 1824 Bourne wrote:

 

“Worship in the open air commenced with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, when in a state of innocence.

 

After the fall of man, worship by sacrifice was instituted, which must, of course, be in the open air. Noah, Job, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, celebrated worship in the open presence of heaven. So also did the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai, and it was established by the hands of Moses.

 

In the Promised Land, the ten thousands of Israel regularly celebrated the worship of God in the open air.

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ carried on religious services in the open air, and his apostles followed the example.” [2]

 

Peter’s address to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost was clearly in the open air. Acts 2:41 tells us, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number.” There would have been no baptistery or font in a synagogue, the only likely building for such a gathering, so the baptisms were in the open air. The crowd was larger than 3,000. Acts 2:13 tells us that, “Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’” This was their reaction to hearing the apostles speaking in tongues.  An unknown number rejected the message but swelled the overall number gathered. It is sure that the apostles left the ‘house where they were sitting’ (Acts 2:2) to engage with the crowd in the open air.  

 

Interestingly, many of the listeners were quite religious. Acts 2:5 states that “there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.”  But they failed to recognise the gifts of the Holy Spirit in evidence and were challenged by Peter (Acts 2:38) to repent. Being God-fearing is not enough. The call is to accept that “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36)

 

If you have time, meditate on the next few words in verse 37. “When the people heard this they were cut to the heart.” [my emphasis]

 

On Sunday 24th May FSMC hope to have a camp meeting.  No doubt this will appear quite different from those held even when some of our congregation was in their childhood, let alone the style, size and length that existed in the earliest days. It is reasonable for us to accept or expect that a 21st Century camp meeting might differ from those of the past. However, one would hope and pray that believers who attend would come with hearts ready and open for all that God may do.

 

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Bourne

[2] www.myprimitivemethodists.org.uk/page_id__993_path__0p4p39p.aspx

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