Nenthead - Primitive Methodists (1823)

In the year 1823, the missionaries belonging to Hull Circuit also extended their labours into the north-eastern part of the county of Cumberland. Nenthead, in Alston Moor, four or five miles eastward of Alston, was visited with great success. "The inhabitants having heard of our operations in Weardale,'' says Mr Batty, "invited us to visit them, with which invitation we complied in the spring of 1823. Two of my colleagues went thither before I did, and the way opened in a remarkable manner. Numbers who had not been in the habit of attending any place of worship, came to hear us Many of the people had been accustomed to spend the Sabbath in the fields, or upon the fells (moors or commons) looking at their sheep and cattle. But when the rumour spread that the 'Ranters’ as we were then frequently called, were coming, the name being new, there was great excitement in the district, and the people from far and near came to see what we were like, and to hear what we should say. Before they heard us, some of them said we were outlandish men, and others said we were radicals (political Radical Reformers) though called by another name. Great numbers, however, attended our ministry, and many received the Word with all readiness of mind.” At first, the missionaries could only visit this locality once a fortnight on work-days, and not on the Sabbath at all. Yet the Lord worked mightily with them; a great awakening took place among the inhabitants and numbers were made partakers of regenerating grace. "In the course of six months,” says Mr Batty, ''we had a society of one hundred and twenty members in Nenthead, so mightily did the work of the Lord grow and prevail. Numbers were also induced by some to join with other societies, which was then generally the case on our missions”

Some striking and singular circumstances occurred in this locality, which illustrate the depth and extent of the religious awakening which took place under the zealous preaching of the missionaries. One of these circumstances may be recorded. A man who had attended the preaching for some time, was going to his work one morning, when hearing a neighbour at prayer, he felt a desire to go in and join in the exercise, and began to direct his steps towards his neighbour's dwelling; bat he was seized with such deep convictions of sin, and brought into such distress and alarm, that he nearly lost his bodily strength, so that he could not reach the door, but leaned against the wall to keep himself from falling, and there began to cry to the Lord to have mercy upon him. Some of the neighbours hearing a noise, came out to see what was the matter, and when they saw him in this position and heard him praying, one called another till a goodly number was assembled. But the man was so earnestly engaged in penitential supplications that he was not for a time aware of their presence. When he had done praying and looked about him, to his great astonishment he saw many of his neighbours standing round him in tears. He, however, was neither ashamed nor intimidated, but began to warn them of their danger, and to exhort them to turn from their sins and to walk in the way to heaven, saying, — "We are all going to hell together." He and his wife were soon afterwards made happy in the love of God, as were also two of his brothers and their wives, and many of their neighbours.

From, ‘The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion from its origin, by John Petty, 1860, p166-7

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