OTHER GOOD READING
ABOUT PRIMITIVE METHODISM
Historiography of the national movement falls into two main phases. The first includes the work of contemporary participants and later Primitive Methodist writers who wished to celebrate the lives of the early pioneers, especially Petty (1880) and Ritson (1911). The second phase includes Primitive Methodist and other writers who have studied the movement’s history. There is a tendency for the second phase to focus on the early movement, or on external matters such as statistics, demography, architecture, or institutional organisation, and for the writers to record the same beliefs and phenomena, but to lack sympathy for the actual religion and to distance themselves from some of those features.
Most novelists who introduce Methodists use them as a type for crabbed, censorious hypocrisy, gloom, and obsolescence, though a minority write with warmth and affection.
Histories of Victorian Nonconformity tend to say little about the Primitive Methodists, though they describe the religious historical background.
The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion – Petty (1880)
In a quest to penetrate the inner ethos of Primitive Methodism, it is good to turn especially to Petty (1880, third edition). He was contemporary (1807-68) with the period, was accredited to the general missionary committee in 1826, and took part with John Ride’s wife in revival meetings. He was a colleague of Ride when the latter was superintendent of the Brinkworth Circuit, and preached at the opening of Brinkworth chapel in 1828. In 1829 he spent three weeks with Ride in Berkshire, paving the way for the opening of the Berkshire mission. He introduced his history with these words:
The writer can conscientiously affirm that he has laboured to avoid all colouring or exaggeration, and to present the naked truth before his readers. The work is neither controversial, nor apologetic. The Author has anxiously guarded against feeding denominational pride and vanity … by recording examples worthy of imitation, and narrating evils and failures as an admonition to increased vigilance and caution; and has been wishful to furnish such information and present such facts as would enable intelligent readers of other denominations to form their own unbiassed judgment of the community whose history he has written.
Petty began writing in 1856 and covers the period till 1860; a brief Supplement was added for the 1880 edition. Although he conveys the spirit and ardour of Primitive Methodism more affectively and effectively than later writers, he leans somewhat towards hagiography and seems to overlook or at least to downplay the less attractive or praiseworthy features of the movement: the shortcomings, failures, and sins which beset the work.
Petty, J. (1880). The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion. London: Dickenson.
The Romance of Primitive Methodism – Ritson (1911)
Ritson (1852-1932) deals largely with other parts of the country than the agricultural south, and makes it his stated aim to convey the ‘romance’ of the movement. He supplies the image which Primitive Methodists had of their first generation at about the time of their centenary, and provides a helpful pointer to the discovery of the ethos of those years.
Ritson, J. (1911). The Romance of Primitive Methodism. London: Primitive Methodist Publishing House.
The secret of Mow Cop: a new appraisal of Primitive Methodist origins – Farndale (1950)
This is a synopsis of the 1950 Wesley Historical Society Lecture and is subtitled “A New Appraisal of Primitive Methodist Origins”. Surveying the early movement, the lecture concludes that the eponymous secret of Mow Cop and of the subsequent success of the movement was corporate prayer offered in faith to a God who intervenes on behalf of his people as an essential element in the ethos of the movement.
Farndale, W. E., (1950). The secret of Mow Cop: a new appraisal of Primitive Methodist origins. London: Epworth.
The Message and the Man: some essentials of effective preaching – Jackson (1912)
From the author’s Preface: “…the following pages have been written under the conviction that one of the greatest needs of the present day is a pulpit revival – a revival which will issue in a new endeavour to realise the highest possibilities of the divinest of callings. Many of late years have wandered from the fold; mighty is the multitude of those who have never been within her fellowship. … any attempt to claim and reclaim must, to be successful on a large scale, commence in a renaissance of Gospel preaching.”
Jackson, J. Dodd (1912) The Message and the Man: some essentials of effective preaching. London: Hammond, Primitive Methodist Publishing House.
This book can be read online at http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/lookup?num=30609
Turning the world upside down – Price (2012)
Dave Price’s Turning the world upside down: learning from the Primitive Methodist movement (Charleston, SC, USA: privately printed) is a 141-page summary of Primitive Methodist history down to 1932, including Australia and New Zealand, written in popular style and sympathetic towards the ethos and aims of the early movement. It can be recommended as an easy introduction to the beliefs, inner life and evolution of the denomination.
The book is available from amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Turning-World-Upside-Down-Primitive/dp/1478340002/ or the Kindle edition at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008O1BWAY
The books are probably easiest to obtain on the Internet or from the Methodist charity bookshop at Alsager: https://www.facebook.com/alsagerbookemporiumforengleseabrook/
A History of the Primitive Methodist Church in the United States of America – Rev. John H. Acornley (Fall River, Mass., 1909)
This book traces the story of Primitive Methodism in America from the sending of the first four missionaries (W. Knowles, William Summersides, Thomas Morris, Ruth Watkins) by the British Conference in 1829. It also records the independence of the American churches from the British Conference in 1840, Hugh Bourne’s visit in 1845, the ministry of William Towler from England in 1846, and much much else.
This tells of the spread of Primitive Methodism from Britain to American, and from there to other lands. It provides a rich and wide range of information about the present ministries of the denomination.
Sangster, William E. (1938) Methodism can be born again London: Hodder & Stoughton
[Sangster was twice President of Conference, and Minister at Westminster Central Hall]
Tentmaker publications (the publisher of some of my books) also publish the following works on Primitive Methodism: