Hugh Bourne was the fifth child of his Christian parents, Joseph and Ellen. He was born at Fordhays, near Stoke-on-Trent on April 3rd,1772. He was brought up by his mother to be a pious Christian. He wrote later, “About my sixth or seventh year, I was deeply convicted of sin; and for a period of above twenty years afterwards, I seldom went to bed without a dread of being in hell before morning; and in the morning I had a dread of being in hell before night. Still, as I grew up I was regarded as being a moral man, and some persons thought me a righteous man. But ‘the heart knoweth its own bitterness;’ and I think during these twenty sorrowful years no man could have induced me to believe that there was any sorrow like my sorrow.”
In 1799 a friend lent his mother a book containing several treatises and sermons written by people like John Wesley and John Fletcher. Through this book he learned to have faith in Christ, received the forgiveness of his sins and was filled with peace and joy. In the ‘History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion’ it says, ‘Love to God and all mankind overflowed his soul, and he had such a foretaste of heaven as he had not previously believed to be possible for anyone to enjoy in this world.’ It is probably this experience and other similar ones, that explain the anointing on his life.
The following summer he joined the Methodists at Ridgway., three or four miles from Tunstall. His mother soon joined as well and later his brother James.
Bourne was naturally shy, so it took 18 months before he would pray out loud in public. He began a carpentry business, and when not working he spent a great deal of his time studying theology. Early in 1800 Bourne began to order oak timber from a merchant in Dale’s Green, which is between Harriseahead and Mow Cop, which meant that he often had to come to the area. He was able to convert a relative in the area and the two of them, together with a third man, began to minister in the area. They established prayer meetings in the area and a revival soon took place, bringing quite a reformation to the area. The work spread to Kidsgrove and to the Cheshire side of Mow.
Bourne began to run a class of the new converts at Kidsgrove, and because there was a scarcity of preaching in the area, he was encouraged to fill the gap. His first time preaching was on July 12th, 1801, but it was not in the usual building because there were too many people, so he had to preach outside. This first attempt was not great, but a powerful prayer meeting followed. He continued preaching in the area, although he was not officially sanctioned my the Methodists to do so.
For a long time no new converts were added to their number, which grieved Bourne. Towards the end of 1804 he went to hear two revivalists from Stockport preach at Congleton Chapel. They spoke on ‘sanctification’ and how one could receive the blessing. One of them prayed for Bourne and he felt the power come. The next night he attended a class meeting at Harriseahead and the Holy Spirit came in an unusual manner. He wrote, “I was humbled down, and shown the manner in which the Stockport men worshipped. I came by simple faith, and obtained the blessing; and after the meeting was concluded, the power of God came upon us in such a degree that we began again and again, and for some time could scarcely stand or speak, so great was the power of God upon us.” The receiving of the blessing of entire sanctification by several of the members was followed by the conversion of sinners, and a considerable extension of the work of God. Soon afterwards a revival broke out at Tunstall and Burslem.
It was around this time that Bourne first met William Clowes who would be a co-leader of the Primitive Methodists. William Clowes who was born on March 12th, 1780, at Burslem, Staffordshire. His parents were Samuel and Ann. Ann was a dedicated member of the Church of England, and her father was Aaron Wedgwood, who was one of the first to make china. Clowes, at only ten, was apprenticed to his uncle to learn about pottery. At this time e became convicted of sin, and through a revival at Burslem he understood his need for mercy. Unfortunately there was nobody available to sow him the way to salvation, so he grew up, drinking, gambling and fighting.
At twenty Clowes finished his apprenticeship ended, so he went to work as a potter in Hull. Despite earning very good money he got into debt, into fights and generally led a degenerate life. After one fight he was almost press-ganged onto a warship. After this fright Clowes returned to Staffordshire, where e tried to live a more righteous life. He got married and reduced his drinking.
He was invited to a service at Burslem and then he went to a love-feast where the Holy Spirit fell in power. On January 20th, 1805, he went to a prayer meeting in a house at Tunstall. He wrote, “In an agony of wrestling prayer, I believed God ould save me – ten I believed He was saving me – then I believed he had saved me – and it was so. I did not praise God aloud at the moment of my deliverance; but I was fully persuaded that I was pardoned, and I had peace with God through Jesus Christ. Accordingly, when the meeting was ended, and someone asked me how I was going on, I instantly replied, ‘God has pardoned all my sins.’ The people then fell upon their knees, and returned thanks to God for my great deliverances.” His life was completely changed, he became a man of good character, with a strong passion for Jesus. He immediately joined the Methodists at Tunstall.
As mentioned above, it was at this time that Clowes and Bourne met. Bourne was attracted to Clowes’ extraordinary faith and devotion. Bourne wrote, “Such a man of faith I scarcely ever saw; he gains any blessing almost immediately” and, “He says that in his work, and everything, he gives up all to God, and he has full and perfect patience, and submission to the will of God in all things. And when he speaks a word which seems to be out of place, or neglects anything, he immediately goes to God, and if he only says, Lord help me! He feels the power of God as soon as he has spoken.” In April he wrote, “William Clowes is one raised up immediately by God, – a man of uncommonly deep experience, of unusual growth in grace, deep humility, steady zeal and flaming love. Such a man I scarcely ever met wit. O God, that thou wouldst make me like him!”
The revival at Harriseahead went on for about a year, but then there was a year without any salvations. Bourne and Clowes had heard for some time about the success in America of Camp meetings, and now they had the opportunity to hear Lorenzo Dow, an American revivalist, who was ministering in the area. Both of them were fired up by Dow’s preaching and they learned more from him about the Camp meetings. It was decided in the class that they would hold a meeting on the Cheshire side of Mow Cop in order to stir up the work of God again.
Bourne wrote, “’Mow camp-meeting was held on Sunday, May 31st, 1807. The morning proved unfavourable; but about six o’clock the Lord sent the clouds off and gave us a very pleasant day.
“The meeting was opened by two holy men from Knutsford, Captain Anderson having previously erected a flag on the mountain to direct strangers; and these three, with some pious people from Macclesfield, carried on the meeting a considerable time in a most vigorous and lively manner. The congregation rapidly increased, and others began to join in the holy exercises. The wind was cold, but a large grove of fir trees kept it off; and another preaching stand was erected in a distant part of the field, under the cover of a stone wall Returning [from the second stand] I met [with] a company at a distance from the first stand, praying for a man in distress. I could not get near; but I there found such a degree of joy and love, that it was beyond description. I should gladly have stopped there, but other matters called me away. I perceived that the Lord was beginning to work mightily. Nearer the first stand was another company, praying with mourners. Immediately the man in the former company was praising God, and I found that he had obtained the pardon of his sins. Many were afterwards converted in the other company. Meantime preaching went on without intermission at both stands, and about noon the congregation was so much increased that we were obliged to erect a third preaching stand. We fixed it at a distance below the first, by the side of the fir-tree grove. I got upon this stand after the first preaching, and was extremely surprised at the amazing sight that appeared before me. The people were nearly all under my eye; and I had not before conceived that such a vast multitude was present. Thousands hearing with attention as solemn as death, presented a scene of the most sublime and awfully-pleasing grandeur that my eyes ever beheld.
“The preachers seemed to be fired with uncommon zeal, and an extraordinary unction attended their word, while tears were flowing and sinners trembling on every side. Numbers [of them] were convinced, and saints were uncommonly quickened.
“Many preachers were now upon the ground, from Knutsford, Congleton, Wheelock, Burslem, Macclesfield, and other places, and an extraordinary variety appeared. One who was a great scholar and philosopher, and who had been an infidel, till he was converted under the preaching of Lorenzo Dow, and who had been in the field of war, and seen death flying in every direction, and walked in blood over fields covered with the dying and the dead; shewed the happiness of this land, and the gratitude we owed to God for being far from the seat of war. Another, who had seen the horrors of rebellion lately in Ireland, persuaded us to turn to righteousness, because we were exempt from such calamities. E. Anderson related the devotion he had beheld in other parts of the world, and exhorted us to turn to God, lest the devout in these parts should rise in judgment against us. All the preachers seemed to be strengthened in their work; persuasion dwelt upon their tongues, while the multitudes were trembling or rejoicing around.
”The congregation increased so rapidly that a fourth preaching stand was called for. The work now became general, and the scene was most interesting. Thousands were listening with solemn attention; a company near the first stand were wrestling in prayer for mourners, and four preachers were preaching with all their might. This extraordinary scene continued till about four o’clock, when the people began to retire, and before six they were confined to one stand. About seven o’clock a work began among children, six of whom were converted before the meeting broke up. About half-past eight this extraordinary meeting closed; a meeting such as our eyes had never beheld, a meeting for which many will praise God both in time and in eternity. Such a day as this we never before enjoyed. It was a day spent in the active service of God; a Sabbath in which Jesus Christ made glad the hearts of his saints, and sent his arrows to the hearts of sinners. The propriety and utility of camp-meetings appeared to every one. So great was the work effected that the people were ready to say, ‘We have seen strange things to day.’”
Clowes wrote of the same meeting, “The morning was unfavourable; it was rainy. Nevertheless I resolved to proceed to the place; and on my arrival at the hill, about six o’clock, I found a small group of people assembled under a wall, singing. I immediately joined them, and several of us engaged in prayer. When we had concluded the singing and praying services, one Peter Bradburn preached a sermon, and an individual from Macclesfield followed with another. The people now began to be strongly affected, and we commenced another praying service. During the progress of these labours the people kept increasing in large numbers, but as they came from various places, many were at a loss to know to what part of the hill they should make. At last a person of the name of Taylor, from Tunstall, suggested that a flag, or something of the kind, should be hoisted, as a guide to the coming multitudes, directing them to the place where the religious services were going on. Accordingly a Mr. Edward Anderson, from Kilham, in Yorkshire, unfurled something like a flag, on a pole in a conspicuous and elevated position, which became the centre of attraction.
“It was about this time that I stood up on the stand to address the people. I began by giving a statement of my Christian experience, and of the motives which had influenced me to attend the meeting. Then I followed with an exhortation to all to look immediately to the Lord, by faith for a present salvation. During this period of the meeting the unction of the Holy Spirit flowed with great power, and the praying labourers engaged most zealously in praying with mourners. But this did not stay the word of exhortation; it rather gave it greater energy and effect.
“A second stand was fixed, and a person from Ireland gave an exhortation; the substance of it was that we should praise God for our privileges as English Christians, improve them to the glory of God, and pity and pray for the poor and spiritually degraded Irish. After this individual had concluded, Mr. Edward Anderson, already mentioned, addressed the meeting. He read a part of his life and experience, which was written in verse, interspersed with sentences of exhortation.
“As the people kept increasing, it was resolved to fix a third stand; and in the afternoon a fourth was erected, and all were occupied with preachers, one at each stand preaching at the same time. The day was now very fine, and the crowds of people immensely large.
“The meeting presented at this period a most magnificent and sublime spectacle; — four preachers simultaneously crying to sinners to flee from the wrath to come; thousands listening with devout attention; many in deep distress, and others pleading with Heaven in their behalf: some praising God aloud for the great things brought to pass, and others rejoicing in the testimony of their sins being forgiven.
“About four o’clock in the afternoon the numbers of the people were prodigious; but after this time many began to retire. Yet the power of the Highest continued with undiminished force to the last. Towards the conclusion, the services were principally carried on by praying companies; and at the close, which took place about half-past eight o’clock in the evening, several souls were set at liberty.
“At the termination of this memorable day, I felt excessively exhausted, as I had laboured from the commencement of the meeting, with little cessation, till eight o’clock in the evening. But the glory that filled my soul on that day far exceeds my powers of description. Much of the good wrought at this great meeting remains; but the full amount of that good eternity alone will develop; and myriads of saints and angels will everlastingly laud the Eternal Majesty on account of the day’s praying on Mow Hill.”
The success of this meeting encouraged them to arrange another at Mow Cop in July and one at Norton in August. Bourne listed some rules which needed to be followed.
1. — To get the ground licensed under the Toleration Act, that all interruption or mis-behaviour in the time of meeting might be prevented, or else punished as the law directs.
2. — To provide a sufficient quantity of stands and seats.
3. — To provide tents sufficient to defend the people from the inclemency of the weather.
4. — To provide a large supply of coals, candles, lanterns, &c., to light the camp during the night.
5. — To get provision sufficient to supply all distant comers during the Sabbath.
6.—To defray the expenses by public collections during the meeting.
Thousands of these announcements were given out around the countryside. Despite the success of the meeting, the Methodist preachers of the Burslem and Macclesfield circuits issued hand-bills disclaiming any connection with them. The religious spirit had raised its ugly head, persuading the ministers that the only true way of doing things was the way they did them.
Bourne got a license for the meeting ground, and had himself licensed as a Protestant Dissenting Minister, so all would be legal. About sixty were converted at the three day meeting, so it could be judged a success. However, opposition increased, with the Methodist Conference of 1807 deciding that such meetings were ‘highly improper in England, and likely to be productive of considerable mischief’, even though nobody at the conference had ever been to one! It is so sad that only 16 years after John Wesley’s death, his organisation rejected something that he would have loved. Denominations nearly always end up being all about ‘order’ and not about the Spirit of God.
On returning home, the superintendent of the Burslem Circuit told his preachers to speak out against the camp meetings. The result was that the meetings lost much of the support they had. After a momentary hesitation, Bourne decided to proceed with organising the Norton meeting; being joined by is brother James, who threw his all into supporting the event. The Norton meeting went well, and afterwards the opposition never amounted to much.
For the rest of the year Bourne ministered with his brother in different parts and then organised camp meetings the following summer on the Wrekin, at Bug Lawton and at Mow Cop. Then in June 1808 he received the news that he was expelled from the Methodist Church. Bourne was not told that he was going to be under discussion, he was not asked to the meeting; he was just told that he was expelled. The reason is even unclear, but it was probably because he continued with the camp meetings. He made no objection to the decision, just paid up his dues and carried on evangelising.
In 1809 several men joined Bourne in preaching in needy places. Including his brother, there were eight that joined Bourne, but any new converts were put in Methodist Societies. In 1810 the Bournes preached in the village of Standley and a society of ten was formed with the intention of joining it to the Burslem circuit. However, the superintendent of the circuit made it a condition that the Bournes not be allowed to preach there, but this was unacceptable to the society, so they formed an independent society, which was really the first of the Primitive Methodist.
As Bourne and the preachers went about their work, people were converted, societies formed and more preachers joined, and in no time there were 136 members. Meanwhile Clowes had been appointed a preacher in the Burslem circuit and was extremely successful in bring sinners to the feet of Jesus. He also assisted the Bournes when he could. In June 1810 he preached at the fourth Ramsor camp meeting, which caused offence with those in his circuit, so he was expelled like Bourne. Clowes wrote, “Much uneasiness began to show itself among certain parties in Burslem Circuit, on account of the camp-meetings, and my attending them. Accordingly, in the June quarter of 1810, my name was omitted on the preachers’ plan. This proceeding excited a strong ferment throughout the country, especially amongst religious persons of various denominations
Invitations from all parts of the country flowed in upon me, soliciting me to preach, and offering me every encouragement in the name of the Lord. The travelling preachers of the Methodist New Connexion urged me to preach for them. I preached once in their chapel, and one soul was set at liberty. — One of the official persons invited me to join their body ; but I observed I could do nothing as yet, but wait and lay my case before the Lord, for him to direct me in my providential way.
“At the September visitation, my quarterly ticket as a member of society was withheld. When Mr. Aikenhead, the travelling preacher, came to Kidsgrove to preach and renew the tickets, as the leader of the class, I gave him my class paper to call over the names as usual; but in calling over the names he passed by my name, and called over the rest in order. In speaking to the people, he rebuked them for their liveliness in their way of worshipping and praising God; and remarked, he supposed they acted as they had been taught. The night following, the same preacher, who was in a great measure a stranger, having but recently come into the circuit, preached at Tunstall, and afterwards called a leaders’ meeting. I stopped at the meeting in my official character, and ventured to inquire what I had done amiss that my ticket had been withheld, and my name left off the preachers’ plan? No charge had been officially preferred against me, I therefore wished to know the reason of such singular proceedings. I was then told my name was left off the plan because I attended camp-meetings, contrary to Methodist discipline, and that I could not be a preacher or leader amongst them unless I promised not to attend such meetings any more. I told the members of the meeting that I would promise to attend every appointment on the plan which should be put down for me, and to attend all the means of grace and ordinances of the Church, but to promise not to attend any more camp-meetings I could not conscientiously do, for God had greatly blessed me at these meetings, which were calculated for great usefulness, and my motive for assisting in them was simply to glorify God, and bring sinners to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. I was then told that I was no longer with them, that the matter was settled. I therefore immediately delivered up my class papers to the meeting, and became un-churched.”
It is interesting that the Methodist Church expelled both Bourne and Clowes without resorting to the biblical way of disciplining; in fact they behaved in a thoroughly unchristian way.
Some of Clowes’ old class came to him to ask him to continue teaching them, he accepted and by doing so formed a society. Two of his friends in the class offered to give him an amount of money, which was much less than half what he was earning, to be a full time preacher. After consulting God and his wife, Clowes accepted.
In 1811 a chapel was built at Tunstall as the place of preaching became too small. It was built so that it could be later turned into four houses in case the new movement failed. By September there were seventeen preachers and seventeen societies, nearly all of them in Staffordshire villages. Early the following year there were twenty-three preachers and thirty-four places they visited. At this time they chose the name ‘Primitive Methodist’ for their new denomination, a name which offended some in the larger body.
1812 saw the new denomination grow gently. Clowes writes, “We next opened Threapwoodhead, Denstone, Froghall…Hanging-bridge and other villages, in which God owned the labours of His servants in the salvation of souls, and in the formation of Christian churches.” Joseph Biddulph, of Froghall, had heard Clowes preach at Kingsley; and “the Lord, converted his soul. He then gave me an invitation to preach in his house at Froghall. I did so; the house was large, the congregation overflowing, and the season will never be forgotten by the people assembled on that occasion.”
In 1813 Clowes writes, “I preached the Gospel of the grace of God at Stonepit Hill, Fleet- Green, Cow-Head, Warslow, Holme-end, Allston-Field, Mill-Dale, Hardngton, Butterton, Windy-Bank, and Onecote; at all the places God poured out His spirit, many were truly saved, and at most of these places Christian churches were formed.”
The Connexion expanded through evangelising until 1814 when evangelising as laid aside. This probably happened because they diverted to looking after the new flock. This was understandable, but not wise. Growth was vital to the infant denomination; if an organisation does not grow it withers. However, missionary activity picked up again. Bourne writes, “A few enterprising individuals again entered upon missionary labours, and the Lord set before them an open door. Belper in Derbyshire, was the first place opened on this occasion; and several pious praying labourers from the societies at Mercaston, Weston-under-Wood, and Tumditch, laboured diligently in the work at Belper. The meetings there, on some occasions, continued late in the evening, on account of souls being in distress. When these powerful meetings were closed, the praying people were accustomed to sing through the streets as they returned home. This circumstance procured them the name of ‘Ranters,’ which afterwards spread very extensively.”
Clowes writes, “Our mission extended to Belper and our labours were crowned with prosperity. Mr. Strutt, the proprietor of several large cotton factories, perceiving a decided change wrought by our instrumentality in many of his work-people, became very friendly to us. The place in which we worshipped being far too small, we made application to Mr. Strutt for land on which to erect a Chapel; he kindly offered us as much land as we wanted at a shilling per yard; a chapel was soon raised, which I, with others, had the pleasure of opening.” It was noticed that the power of the camp-meetings was declining.
It was also noticed that the composition of those meetings had changed. To begin with they were made up of numerous, powerful prayer meetings and short talks, but the talks became longer and longer; sometimes two hours, so there was less time for praying. Once the balance was corrected, the power returned.
The missionary work spread out from Staffordshire, into Derbyshire, and then into Nottinghamshire. In 1817 they moved into Lincoln and Leicestershire. The preachers experienced persecution of all types, from all directions, just as John Wesley did 70 years earlier. The persecution came mainly from ‘the Church’, just as in Wesley’s day.
By the time of the 1820 Conference membership was 7,842 and it was estimated that in 1819 it was about 3,900. It was thought that this was slow progress and the reasons given were:
– The war with France in the early years was not conducive to evangelism.
– The political unrest after the end of the war in 1815 was similarly disadvantageous.
– The places where the preachers went were sparsely populated.
It is likely that many of the people awakened in the meetings would have joined the more acceptable Methodists or the Church of England. It is also impossible to know how many of the membership came from disaffected Methodists.
Over the next few years the work extended out, county by county with much success, particularly between 1820 and 1824 when membership grew from 7,842 to 33.450. Their preachers often reported over a thousand people coming to hear them, but at the same time they experienced a great deal of persecution with many being arrested from time to time.
From 1825-1828 there was stagnation and a small reduction in numbers. Bourne found this period very difficult, even considering closing the Connexion, however, there were some perfectly good reasons to explain this lack of growth.
– The very fast growth of the previous years would, organizationally, have always been difficult to maintain.
– Growth came about through travelling preachers, so there was a need for a constantly increasing pool of gifted men to pull from, but that did not happen, so men of limited ability had to be sent out to satisfy demand, and some of there caused problems.
– Some of the societies received members who were unhappy with the churches they had been in. Some of these disaffected people caused trouble, ruining societies through their ambition.
– During this period there was a recession in the manufacturing industries, thousands loosing their jobs. This was the heartland of Primitive Methodism.
Growth began again with the Connexion virtually doubling, from 31,610-62,306 between 1828 and 1836. Some of this time was a time when revival was experienced in many parts of the UK, but having said that it was still a good growth rate. It then took until 1860 for the membership to do double again. The 1850’s were a particularly difficult time in some areas due to emigrations to America and Australia. When seeing these membership figures it must be remembered that life expectancy rates were very different. At the beginning of the nineteenth century only about half the population lived beyond 40. Add to this big cholera outbreaks in 1831-2 and 1848-49 and significant emigration (Primitive Methodists were mainly from the class that emigrated), and the growth figures look OK.
Membership only grew 80,000 between 1860 and 1910 and then it went into decline until it merged back with the Methodists in 1932, and its decline continued until the present day. Interestingly, supposedly the biggest revival to hit England, that of 1859-1861 hardly touched the Primitive Methodists with growth averaging 3-4% per year, and the Welsh Revival of 1904 did not touch the Primitive Methodists in England at all.
It is interesting to see the change in emphasis in the book which I have used to write this essay. It is the official history of the movement, written for its 50th anniversary. The account relates approximately 60 revivals from 1808 to 1824 and around 30 from 1825 to 1860. So, half as many revivals in double the time period or one quarter the incidence of revivals. Now it is possible that the explanation for such a decline is that the compiler could not find written accounts, possibly because later ministers did not journal their lives. It is also possible that the Lord was not moving as powerfully in those years. However, as you read the book, 1840-1860 is almost entirely taken up with accounts of building churches.
In my opinion it only took the Connexion around thirty years to go from a radical, pioneering movement, to a denomination. The early preachers went from not knowing where their next piece of bread or bed was coming from, to having a comfortable church and manse. They went from wondering if the next soul they were going to win for Christ was just around the next bend in the road, to wondering how to finance a church building. The Connexion went from concentrating on growth to order and consolidation. In my opinion ‘denomination’ is a word of death to any movement. As far as I can see no denomination in England has ever embraced ‘revival’. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Puritans embraced revival, but their drive disappeared when persecution stopped around 1685. In the eighteenth century it was the Methodists, but we have already seen how they rejected Bourne and Clowes, just a few years after becoming a denomination. Later William Booth moved in revival, but he left the Methodist New Connexion because they would not allow him to do ‘revival’ meetings. Since Booth we have barely seen revival in England. We need a radical group to rise again in this nation.The strange thing is that we are taught in the Bible that unity is good and yet it seems the opposite is true when it comes to denominations. Usually splits happen when those who are radical for Jesus are not allowed to minister the way the Lord has told them, because the denomination is all about ‘order’ and doing things the same. However, a merger happens normally when two or more denominations have declined so much that they see economies of scale in merging. I have never found denominations merging because they are doing well. Food for thought!
From, ‘The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion from its origin, by John Petty, 1860, p238. His 1859 version can also be seen on-line at, http://www.archive.org/details/historyprimitiv01pettgoog
There follows direct extracts from the above book, relating what happened to John Bourne and William Clowes after they were pensioned off in 1842.
‘William Clowes died in the full assurance of faith, on the 2nd of March, 1851, aged 71 years. He was the founder of the society in Hull; and he laboured frequently there with uncommon energy and apostolical success for many years. His ministry was attended with extraordinary power, and multitudes were brought to the Lord through his instrumentality. In his later years, he could not often preach; but in answer to his mighty prayers, showers of spiritual blessings were frequently vouchsafed to the assemblies with which he worshipped. Like a prince, he wrestled with God, and prevailed. During his public intercessions in behalf of his fellow- worshippers, such a deep and glorious sense of the Divine presence frequently pervaded the sanctuary, as filled the guilty with dread and consternation, melted cold and frozen hearts into penitential grief, comforted mourning souls with the blessed hope of pardon, filled believers with peace and joy, and led many to exclaim, “How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” None but those who have enjoyed the privilege of associating with Mr. Clowes in public worship, can form adequate conceptions of the spiritual power and glory which commonly descended upon the audience through his fervent and believing supplications.
But it was not in public worship alone that Mr. Clowes rendered eminent service to the society of Hull. He watched over its interests in all respects; and incalculable advantages resulted from his paternal care, wise forethought, and prudent management in meetings for church affairs, the wisdom of his counsel, and the hallowed influence of his lofty piety, produced the most salutary effects. In his private intercourse with his colleagues in the ministry, the office-bearers, and the members of the church, his kindly disposition, fatherly advice, and highly devotional spirit, were felt in an uncommon degree, and tended vastly to mature their religious character and promote their usefulness. It was no mean privilege to sit in the social circle where he was the presiding personage. The atmosphere in which he habitually breathed was so eminently heavenly and sanctifying, that every spiritually-minded person could not but intensely feel its elevating and transforming influence. He constantly sat with Christ in heavenly places, and earnestly sought to raise all his friends and associates to the same spiritual elevation and nearness to God. The moral grandeur of his character filled his friends and acquaintances with admiration, and excited them to emulate his lofty virtues, and aspire after his high religious attainments.’
Since his retirement in 1842, “Mr. Bourne took comparatively little part in the most important business of the Connexion. This chiefly devolved upon junior and more active brethren, fully competent for the duties of their respective offices. The decline of Mr. Bourne’s physical and mental powers, through the toil and labours of more than threescore years and ten, required relief from the solicitude and cares of former periods. He, however, retained unabated interest in the welfare of the Connexion, and constantly regarded it with paternal affection. He took frequent excursions to different and distant stations, and laboured both publicly and privately to promote their prosperity. As long as strength permitted, he continued to prosecute the work of faith and labour of love to which his long life had been devoted; and when increasing infirmities confined him to his residence, he patiently endured protracted sufferings, and calmly waited for his summons. His departure, though somewhat sudden, was dignified and happy. On the day on which he died, he rose as usual, and appeared as well as for some time before. About four o’clock in the afternoon, he reclined on the sofa, and fell asleep. On awaking, he appeared to be conversing with some one, and beckoning for a nearer approach cried, “Come! come!” Than exclaiming, ”My old companions! old companions! my mother!” without a groan or sigh, he quietly breathed his last A fit termination of a long course of piety and usefulness.
He died at Bemersley, near Tunstall, Staffordshire October 11th, 1852, aged eighty years. On the following Sabbath he was interred in the burying-ground in connection with the Primitive Methodist chapel at Englesea Brook, in Cheshire, when several thousand persons testified their respect for his memory by joining the funeral procession, and uniting in the solemn services performed on the occasion. Mr H. Leech delivered an address to a large assemblage in Tunstall market-place; and Messrs. S. Sanders and T. Russell took the chief part in the service at the grave. The impression which the event produced in the district was solemn and extensive. All classes shared in the respect borne to his memory for the services he had rendered to the cause of Christ.
As a preacher, Mr. Bourne had never been popular in the locality, except for his original and peculiar talent in preaching to children; but his laborious and self-denying efforts to do good, through a long series of years, had justly won for him the esteem of the wise and pious. His own denomination owes him a great debt of gratitude for the sacrifices he made for its welfare, and the energetic and efficient manner in which he promoted its interests. He was not indifferent to the prosperity of other communities, in whose well-being he sincerely rejoiced; but believing that the Providence of God had called him to labour among the community in whose formation he had taken so prominent a part, he consecrated all his powers both of body and mind to promote its weal. His life was bound up in its prosperity; his constant study, his unvaried aim, was to minister to its usefulness; his toilsome and zealous labours were all intended to enhance its well-being. And it is difficult to calculate aright the amount of good which he accomplished by his caution, his forethought, his energy of purpose, and his determined perseverance. For many years he was the leading spirit in the denomination, and took an active part in its most important transactions.