Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by Joseph Grieves
MEMOIR OF JOHN BELL.
(Primitive Methodist Travelling Preacher.)
JOHN BELL was the son of James and Jane Bell, who were poor but honest and industrious people. He was born August 21. 1800, at Sturton by Stow, in the county of Lincoln. From a child he was of an easy quiet turn of mind, and through youth to manhood, of an obliging and affectionate disposition, which gained him the esteem of those who knew him.
In regard to his conversion, the following are his own words. “In January 1818, I was led, through curiosity, to hear a female P.M. preacher, at Breittleby; and under her sermon, I was convinced that I was a sinner. I thought if what she said was true I was wrong; Yet was willing to seek repentance in God’s own way. In May 1818, I obtained mercy; and I praise the Lord for what my eyes have seen, ears heard, and heart felt of his goodness since that time. I have had many precious seasons in waiting upon him.”
Having received the love of God in his own soul, he naturally felt a strong attachment to those who were partakers of like precious faith. Hence he embraced every opportunity to hear God’s word. But this soon offended his irreligious master, who said if he continued to attend those meetings, he must leave his service. In reply, Br. Bell, said it was there he got his soul blessed, and he could not in conscience refrain.
On the ensuing sabbath he attended the means of grace as usual. And the next morning his master ordered him to unyoke the horses from the plough, and he would pay him his wages, and he must quit his service. He answered, “Very well, sir, I dare say if your door closes, my mother’s door will open.” On his way home he kneeled down, and covenanted with the Lord, if he would open his way, he would be his for ever.
Shortly after this, he went to live with a religious family, where he could worship without restraint: and who bear testimony to his piety and zeal.
About this time he was convinced it was his duty to exhort sinners to turn to God. And such was the esteem in which he was held, and such were his engaging manners, that numbers flocked to hear, and many were converted. And he was soon received as a local preacher, which office he discharged with fidelity for six months; and in July 1820, he was taken out to travel in the Boston circuit, where he had the ague, and this caused him, for a time, to return home. But he again resumed his labours in Lincoln circuit, where he continued until the Balderton branch was made a separate circuit, in which he was stationed. His journal says, “Oct. 18. 1823, I was much affected at leaving my friends, and home, to go into a distant part to preach the gospel. But was encouraged to trust in the Great Head of the church, who has said, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,’ ’’
“After this I set off for Bemersley in Staffordshire, and was much pleased with meeting at Nottingham, with Messrs. James and Hugh Bourne. I had often heard of them, but now I had pleasure of seeing them.”
“Oct. 15. I spoke in Tunstall chapel. A precious time. 19th. spoke at Congleton, in the morning in the new school room. In the afternoon and evening in the chapel to large congregations. 20th. at Danehenshaw, and in the prayer meeting after, one woman was brought unto glorious liberty. 30th. spoke at Overton, (in what is now Preston Brook circuit) the people were all in tears. The work of God is going on.”
In 1824 he was stationed in Ramsor circuit, and his journal shows that his soul was still breathing in a divine atmosphere, and his grand object was to do good.
In 1825, he was stationed at Oaken Gates. His journal says, “It is now many months since I came into this part; and I have enjoyed many happy seasons with the tempted followers of Christ.”
“April 30, I and others held a Camp meeting at Cold Hatton Heath, in union with the Shrewsbury and Prees circuits. The day was fine, the congregation large, all the preachers had liberty, and the praying companies were attended with the mighty power of God. And in the lovefeast twelve souls found the Lord.”
“May 23, I and Bro. Smith held a meeting in Wrockwardine Wood chapel: three souls were brought to God. The members are doing well.”
In 1826 and 1827, he was stationed in Hopton Bank circuit; and in a letter to his friends he says, “The work of the Lord is rolling on in this part. My station is in the Welch part of the circuit; and, dear father and mother, it would do you good to be at our meetings. O how animating to see hundreds coming together amidst these mountains, to pray and hear the word of God: to see sinners fall beneath divine power, penitents crying for mercy, and believers clapping their hands for joy. Some enjoy the full sanctifying power, and the Lord is deepening his work in my soul. While writing I feel that Jesus is mine; he is my sun and shield, prophet, priest, and King. My wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. I always live in his fear, and I would rather die than grieve him. May I prove a faithful witness for my Lord.”
In 1828, he was stationed for Brinkworth; 1829, Nottingham; 1830, Brinkworth; 1831, for Presteign. The P. committee say, ‘We believe John Bell was a man of faith and deep piety. He travelled twice in this circuit, and was well received by the societies, and generally received by the people. Under his preaching the Christian was comforted. His prayers were in general short, but full of weighty matter, fervency, and zeal for the blessings he solicited. In short he was a man of God.’
According to an arrangement between the Presteign and Cwm circuits, he was removed to the latter. But only preached a few times before he was ill. The medical men judged he had a complaint in the liver; and all means to remove it were ineffectual. At Midsummer 1832, when l came to the Cwm circuit, he was in a weak state, yet able to walk a mile to the house of God. But his strength gradually declined; and when no longer able to walk out, a prayer meeting was, at his request, held in the house where he resided. My colleagues and I generally visited him two or three times a week. He was completely delivered from the fear of dying, and his confidence in God was strong and unmoved to the last. He would converse about his death with as much composure as of any common occurrence in life. After a very restless night of pain and coughing, on my asking how he felt, he said, “Well, Bro. I expect to get weaker and weaker, then at once to pass off, and leave you all.” At another time after raising him up in bed and beginning to sympathise with him in his sufferings, he smiled and said, “All is right. God will keep me no longer in the furnace than what he sees needful. Probably there is something in or about me which wants purifying, and he sees this is the best way to do it.”
In a letter to his parents he says, “I am at present much weaker; I cannot labour now, nor ever shall again. I think I shall reach my heavenly home before either of you.—I have much to be thankful for amidst all my afflictions. I am placed among kind friends; and best of all, God is with me. Yes, though my heart and flesh fail, God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”’
The last letter he ever wrote was dated Sept. 30. 1832, in it he says, “I am getting weaker and weaker in my body. I am unable to leave my room. A little while, and, I trust I shall have done with all my sufferings here below. Yes, a little while and I shall see the King in his beauty, and shall inherit that land where
‘Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.’
“For I know in whom I have believed. I feel my religion is of the right sort, it not only supports me in my affliction, but it gives a bright prospect of being with Christ which is far better,” he said. I do not think I have had those raptures of joy which I have heard people in my circumstances speak of; yet, bless God, I have no doubts. All is well. I feel strong in faith and peace; and am quite resigned to the will of God. I am willing to die to night, or recover and live twenty years longer, or lie in this bed where I am,—just as God pleases.”
The day before he died, he was favoured with an extraordinary manifestation of Divine power. He broke out aloud, so as to be heard throughout the house, exclaiming, ”God will preserve me for ever—yes, for ever! tis all peace, peace, peace; and all through the BLOOD of Christ—through the blood of Christ.”
His father, James Bell from Lincolnshire, being in the room below, united with him, until the house was filled with the praise of God. In this happy frame of mind he continued till the next morning, when he breathed his soul into the hands of his Saviour and his God, Oct. 31, 1832. So calm was his exit, that the moment of his departure was scarcely perceived by those around him.
Approved by the Cwm Circuit Committee.
John was born on 21 August 1800 at Sturton by Stow, Lincolnshire, to parents James and Jane.
John died on 31 October 1832.
- 1823 Lincoln
- 1824 Ramsor
- 1825 Oakengates
- 1826 Hopton bank
- 1828 Brinkworth
- 1829 Nottingham
- 1830 Brinkworth
- 1831 Presteigne
- 1832 Prees
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1833/160
W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers