Great Driffield Circuit, Yorkshire - 1899 article
Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by ‘EPSILON’
GREAT Driffield town, which gives the name to this unique station in Primitive Methodism, may be considered the capital of the Yorkshire Wolds – the range of chalk uplands which runs some miles westerly from Speeton on the north-east coast, where the white walls of Albion rise up majestically, and then takes a southerly course towards Ferriby-on-the-Humber. This district is rich in historic lore and is full of archaeological interest. It is true of the Wolds –
‘You never tread upon them but you set
Your feet upon some ancient history.’
For numberless centuries on these Wold Hills various races of people have made their home, whose existence here is indicated by no written record, nor even by oral tradition. The only knowledge we possess of their ethnological characteristics has been revealed by spade and not by pen, as the narratives of the mound diggings of Canon Greenwell, Mr. Mortimer, Dr. Thornham, etc., and the contents of the Mortimer Museum, Lockwood Street, Driffield, testify. The earliest known inhabitants appear to have been the dolichocephalic race of the Stone Age, who were ‘longheaded,’ rude and savage; whose implements and weapons were formed of roughly-fashioned flints, and who ‘sheltered themselves in caves and hollow trees and made for themselves habitations in shallow, basin-shaped excavations of the earth, over which they placed conical roofs of tree branches covered with sods or reeds.’ It is supposed we have at Kendale, within a mile north of Driffield, still remaining, an old British town of this description, with about fifty such excavations irregularly placed along the southern slope of the valley.
During the Anglo-Saxon period, Driffield and neighbourhood must have been of note for the partial excavations of ‘Castle Hill’ at the north end of the town disclosed the ruins of King Aeldfrid’s Palace, which king of Northumbria is said by tablet to be buried in the chancel of Little Driffield church. The mound adjoining the Castle Hill, still called ‘Moot Hill,’ raises memories solemn and significant, and imagination quickly pictures the ‘folk-mote’ gatherings, to hear royal proclamations and discuss local politics.
Of the Danish invasion and usurpation the Wolds give ample testimony by entrenchments, probably first constructed by the Brigantes, and by place-names such as Danes’ Dale, Danes’ Dyke, and Danes’ Graves; the latter, about three miles from Driffield, ‘consisting of 197 tumuli clustered together over an area of four acres and over-canopied by a grove of trees.’ The cruel desolating work of these fierce Danish Vikings and of William the Conqueror in the East Riding had its baneful effect upon Driffield; and it is only during the last one hundred years it has become more important and developed from a village into the market-town of the Wolds.
Great Driffield lies in the centre of a fine agricultural district, is easily accessible, and has splendid and efficient canal and rail intercourse with the third port in the kingdom, – Hull, at a distance of some twenty miles south. The town is desirably compact and clean, and has a population of about six thousand. Methodism was first introduced into this district by John Wesley, who, according to tradition, from under a pear-tree standing in the middle of the main street or market-place, declared the Word of Life to a people sunk in ignorance, superstition and vice, and very meagrely blest with religious instruction, though having state-appointed ‘cures of souls.’
That the Methodistic fervour of Gospel evangelism had been brought to these rough, wicked, prodigal children of God, to ‘catch on’ and thrive, the whole history of local Methodism since, avows. At the time when Hugh Bourne, Daniel Shubotham, and others near Tunstall, were reading the stirring accounts, of American camp meetings, were having their hearts throbbing with an intenser love to God and were yearning for the salvation of their fellow-countrymen; so at Driffield there were some like-minded, like-hearted, and like-active. From a little tractate, yet extant, seen by the writer, it seems about the time of our ‘Mow Cop’ some laymen here organised a whole day’s camp-meeting to be held at the village of Langtoft; the estimated attendance at this was ten thousand, and the services were gloriously unctuous and soul-saving.
It was in the year 1820 that Primitive Methodism was introduced into Driffield by an aggressive preacher from Hull, whose name is not recorded, but whose pioneer work was very successful. He acted characteristically, taking his stand in the open air, in the well-suited position of Cross Hill, and published his mission to the curious crowd who had come to hear the ‘Ranter’ preacher. Some were coldly cynical, others mocked; some were indifferent, others approved; a few heard the message, were convicted and converted. A class was formed which met on Sunday evenings in a bake-house in Westgate led by Thomas Wood, the man of ‘double-distilled common sense’ who afterwards became a local preacher of great power, of great labours, and of great worth; who walked with God, and for sixty years was the generous host of Primitive Methodist preachers, lay and itinerant. At the first, the public services were held in the open air, in kitchens, and in barns; then it became necessary to have better accommodation, and the ‘Hunt Room,’ a place used for balls, concerts, and theatrical entertainments was rented for the Sunday services. In the autumn of the same year, the Rev. John Hewson, was sent from Hull to organise the society. He was a gifted preacher, had power with God and men, and therefore knew how to win souls. It was under his ministry that the notable George Bullock was converted, who became an eminently faithful local preacher in labours more abundant, whom the Conference subsequently honoured by electing to the Deed Poll, and to whom frequent reference would have to be made in an exhaustive account of this wonderful circuit. That mighty flame of fire, William Clowes, first visited Driffield, January, 1821, when on his way to mission Scarborough. In this district he is very highly revered, and some of the old saints remember his occasional visits and with beaming countenances tell of the power of his ministry. A notable instance is the camp-meeting in connection with the District gathering of 1844, when Clowes, Atkinson, Smith, Sanderson, and another were the preachers. This must have been remarkable, both for attendance and spiritual unction, as its memory is very fresh and green with those still living who were present. The writer has heard from lips not a few of the wondrous power of Clowes’ fervid utterances. On this occasion, while the glory of the Lord rested upon the people, he appealed to them in his own matchless style accompanied by dramatic action peculiarly striking and impressive; he got well into the ‘hwyl’ as the Welsh would say and the vast audience was swayed like a field of corn before a strong wind; wave upon wave of glory swept over the multitude, and shouts of praise were mingled with cries of mercy as the man of God spake living words.
After two years the members found it necessary to leave the ‘Hunt Room,’ owing to the overflowing congregations and the Divine call to rise and build. And though the story of such erection and its faith-lessons, has more or less found circulation in print years ago, the present times demand its repetition, as well as the rehearsal of other stirring bits of holy, heroic, connexional ventures, and the telling first-hand of new-wrought wondrous facts. After much prayer, and prudent procedure, a good site: in Mill Street was procured, and steps were at once taken to raise funds and commence operations.
At the foundation stone-laying the Rev. John Nelson preached to a large, interested congregation, and work progressed favourably until the walls were being erected, when lo! It was found that, on the land adjoining a tree was growing which cast one of its largest branches right across a prospective wall, and the owner doggedly refused to let it be touched. As a last resort the friends sent for ‘Johnny’ Oxtoby, the man mighty in prayer, from the home branch of the Hull circuit. They desired him to see the owner, but knowing he had been already interviewed over and over again, ‘Praying Johnny’ said, ‘Nay, nay, we mun gan to the Lord.’ To the Lord they went, and whilst they were praying, immediately, ‘the Lord sent a great wind and blew the branch clean off.’ Then, when the walls were up, and all ready to be roofed, £250 were due per contract to the builder, and the trustees had no money, neither could they succeed in obtaining a loan, so again they sent for ‘Johnny.’ The friends now wanted him to go round begging, but he said, ‘Nay, I’ll gan to the Lord first.’ Another prayer meeting was held and the very next morning Miss ______ took to ‘Johnny’s’ lodgings the sum required, having a conviction from the Lord, though she knew not of the matter.
From the preceding remarks it will be readily seen that the trustees had not sufficiently counted the cost of this brick and mortar venture; hence, when the shell structure was completed they had no money for the internal fittings. The Hull circuit authorities after considering the case, now sent ‘Johnny’ to help more permanently the work in Driffield. He arrived on a Saturday evening, held a prayer meeting, and quickly the rumour spread through the town that ‘Praying Johnny’ was going to preach on the morrow in the pewless chapel. Crowds gathered; the unfinished chapel was packed. Amongst the number present was a Mr. W. Byass, a retired farmer, who, touched by Oxtoby’s sincerity and white-heated earnestness, invited him to make his house his home, which he did. Soon Mr. Byass became a convert, and one day, asking ‘Johnny’ why the chapel was yet unfinished, and ‘being told it was owing to lack of funds’ he arranged to loan to the trustees the sum of £300 in order to finish, and the chapel was opened early in 1822; and some time after, on his death-bed, Mr. Byass willed the same including all unpaid interest to the society, thus giving proof of his firm attachment to the cause, and opening the way for easier aggressive efforts.
From this time Driffield became the centre of Primitive Methodist evangelisation on the Wolds. Rough pioneer work was attempted and done by a noble band of devout and dauntless souls. Every Sunday and on week-nights as well, preachers itinerant and local, went into the villages carrying the light of the gospel into every dark corner of the district. They were indefatigable workers, men of the Barnabas stamp, who in the power of the spirit went forth – Thomas Wood, Thomas Cook, John Oxtoby, William Sanderson, George Bullock and others. They suffered much persecution and hardship, underwent great trials and untold toils. They were kingly deniers of self and laboured with an abandon, to save men, truly apostolic. No wonder the work spread like wild-fire and a new ‘Book of the Acts’ of Modern Christianity could be written. They traversed the Wolds in every direction, and on village greens and open spaces, anywhere, they began a bolder battle for God against apparently Satanic fastness. They laughed at impossibilities; captured some of the devil’s generals; planted causes, organised, oft visited them, and had a holy knack of training and preparing recruits for active service. Men and women when they got converted in those days, could not settle down as many seek to do now; they were too full of joy and of the Holy Ghost. They knew themselves to be saved not for personal comfort and safety alone, but saved also to be co-workers with Christ. They had strong convictions, profound conceptions and large expectations. They knew Christ, and saw visions and dreamed dreams. They were saved souls with grand optimistic views, which they actualised by faith and prayer and untiring labours. It need not surprise the reader therefore to learn that when the Driffield branch of the Hull Station was made into a separate circuit in 1837, it comprised fifty places grouped together within a radius of twenty-five miles. We count the plan a weighty document now, but then it was extra weighty, as a plan for the third quarter of 1836, which now lies open before me proves. And think of it! about this time, when there were no Scotch expresses and no General Missionary Exchequer, the circuit had a mission at Glasgow – what a practical illustration of their faith, sacrifice, and optimism.
The Rev. H. Woodcock, in his entrancing book entitled ‘Primitive Methodism in the Yorkshire Wolds,’ tells us how at this period this ‘circuit extended itself by leaps and bounds. During the united ministry of the Revs. T. Holliday, A. Smith, and W. Lonsdale, the members agreed to pray for the conversion of 100 souls during one quarter, and at its close more than 100 increase was reported, many of the converts becoming the staunchest supporters of our cause for more than half a century.
As regards the Christian character of these early members; they were whole-hearted, irreproachably pious, fully consecrated, vigorously active, and naturally were remarkable for spiritual power. They believed in fervent prayer meetings, lively class meetings, soul-stirring lovefeasts, convicting, converting, and sanctifying camp meetings, and in preachers baptised with the Power of Pentecost. They were puritanic and self-denying in dress and mode of life, and exerted a great religious influence in the neighbourhood. As an instance of their puritanism, sacrifice and real dead-earnestness in following Jesus and crucifying self, take the following case, vouched for by the present Mrs. Thomas Wood, and having reference to her husband’s mother’s conversion – the wife of the above-named Thomas Wood, Driffield’s first class leader. It was in a prayer meeting after ‘Johnny’ Oxtoby had been preaching, when Anna Taylor got converted, and there came the moment for distinctive solemn dedication of self to Christ, and real literal sacrifice to be made. Anna Taylor was blessed with the woman’s crown of glory – a beautiful head of hair, which hung in rich thick tresses. It was felt this must be sacrificed for Christ, and self humiliated. So, while Ann Richardson took the scissors and in holy reverence cut off tress after tress, they all sang:—
‘Lo! the knife I boldly take,
Bind my Isaac to the stake,
To some to-day this may be counted at ludicrous business, crude, vulgar, and most repulsive; but in the record of the Lamb’s Book on high, this may have a notable place alongside the great patriarch’s exemplary act of faith.
Many stories are current which show these early Primitives were characterised by earnest prayer. They somehow knew how to approach God, asked for what they wanted and believed they would get it. They went to the sanctuary having prepared themselves by meditation and prayer, to hear profitably, and were wide-awake and ever expecting immediate results. They knew what ‘spiritual travail’ was, and for that reason loved and were ready to cherish the new-born babes. Wives agonised for husbands, parents wrestled for children, children pleaded for parents, and neighbours supplicated for neighbours. Sometimes the prayer might be exceedingly simple, nevertheless the spirit and meaning behind it were right; as for example, when Bessy Nicholson of Kilham, a good soul, whose husband was very worldly, once praying for him in the old chapel, said: ‘O God, save oor Willie, an’ if Thoo dizzn’t knaw ’im, ’ee is sat theear with a reead wes‘-cooat on.’ The Lord help us to be definite in our prayers. We have not to-day because we ask not, or in other words we ask amiss.
The mention of Kilham calls up the fact that in the graveyard there, near to the church porch, on the left side of the pathway, a tombstone may be noticed marking the spot where the body of Edward Anderson was interred, he who erected the flag on ‘Mow Cop’ and was one of the speakers at that epoch-making camp meeting. And probably in this Circuit we have the sepulchre of the boy-preacher of our Connexion; for on a tombstone in Beeford churchyard maybe read these words:— ‘Glory be to God. Sacred to the memory of Thomas Watson, Primitive Methodist minister, who departed this life December 16th, 1837, in the 19th year of his age and the 6th of his ministry. His slender age, deep piety, and extraordinary abilities, render his death a subject of deep and lasting regret.
‘Farewell, dear friend, nor would we call
Thy spirit from its blest abode.
Thy work is done—thy crown secure,
Thy seat the Throne of Christ the Lord,
‘Farewell,’ a thousand tongues exclaim;
And hundreds won by thee to truth
Shall pour their incense on thy tomb,
And bless the God of Watson’s youth.’ ’
Driffield circuit has an astonishing and noble past. Mill Street sanctuary was the spring-head, from whence flowed forth streams of godly influences. The members felt they were called of God. Delivered from Satan‘s power and from the woes of an eternal hell, they counted no sacrifice too costly and no labour too arduous, if only their Blessed Redeemer was glorified. We may say they lived in the normal condition for beholding wonders of grace and receiving outpourings of the Spirit. Revival scenes, rich in unction, grand for conversions, and powerful as reformative forces of life, were frequent. During the great revival of 1841-2 as many as three hundred in the town and two hundred in the villages were added to the church. During 1842-44 the circuit increased from 1132 to 1350 members, and the quarterly income was nearly tripled. From 1863 to 1865 there was an increase of 169 members.
Having heard several times of a special service in the old chapel about 1864, I sought information of the Rev. C. G. Honor, who alone survives of the ministers then in the circuit. He supplies the following: ‘The meeting was held on a Friday night. A memorable scene was witnessed. The now sainted Smith Birch and I were appointed to conduct it. While I was giving out this opening hymn Rev. F.A. Gledhill entered. We arranged he should give the first address. He was a bachelor, and very eccentric; but he was deeply pious, gifted with remarkable power in prayer, humorous and strikingly original. As soon as I called upon him he entered the desk, and apparently overlooking the object of the meeting, began by giving us a humorous description of his week’s work. In the course of it he said:— ‘On Monday I was at Gembling, where our society consists of six women and one man. I had however, above thirty people to preach to; but while I was in the middle of my sermon Mrs. Watson’s dog began to bark, and she had to go out to sell her tobacco.’ After had talked a few minutes in this way, the spirit of the meeting seemed to enter into him, and all present appeared to realise God’s presence and power. In flights of sanctified eloquence Mr. Gledhill called sinners to repentance. Very soon he was out of the desk, walking to and fro the whole length of the room. His perspiration sprinkled the floor in drops as large as shillings; his fervid appeals were irresistible. Some cried aloud for mercy while he was speaking. Wave after wave of glory from the heavenly world seemed to roll over us. Very soon we were all on our knees together, while shouts and songs and cries were heard all over the room as sinners stepped into liberty and believers into fuller joy
(To be continued.)
SINCE, the notable revivals spoken of in the preceding article, the circuit has ever and anon, experienced glorious soul-saving seasons. One of the most remarkable appears to have been that in the dale-towns, termed ‘the Spontaneous Revival’ to distinguish it from those said to be ‘got up,’ which depend so largely on the tact of the stranger-evangelist. The Weaverthorpe society was reduced almost to extinction, consisting only of three aged saints – one man and two women, who in, prayer-meeting, class and service, sought the Divine and craved His visitation. Revival services were planned for a certain Sunday, and when the day came, the society had only two members, for one of the godly women had been called ‘home.’ Two laymen, Brothers Harrison and Puckering, were appointed to conduct, and before the afternoon service the four sang down the street. In the evening some friends from West Linton came to their help and as they came they sang the gospel along the dale. The sturdy four, hearing the contingent coming, waxed warm in heart and were quickened in spirit for the holy fight. The little chapel was crowded. The Shechinah glory overshadowed. Out of the cloud God bared His mighty arm, and that night, before the third watch began, eighteen souls received pardon and peace, and greatly rejoiced. As might be expected, better days dawned, the empty chapel filled, and cottage meetings were held of wondrous converting and sanctifying spiritual power. Open-air work was brisk, class-meetings were highly prized, and the public services were longed for, and entered upon in strong faith and confident expectancy. For weeks the revival work progressed and local preachers, planned or unplanned, delighted to go. The work spread through the dale, and the cause flourished for years after, many of those converted remaining members till death, and others remain to this day.
Not the least glorious revival is the one which commenced three years ago in Driffield and has extended to Nafferton, and which continued to this spring with greater or less ardour. The gospel services of every kind became increasingly attended, intenser spirituality characterised the members, readier response for Christian work was observable, and also a beautiful spirit of concern for the salvation of others. Though there appears now, it is very sad to say, a creeping lukewarmness, yet there is no reason whatsoever, if the members are willing to throw it off, but that still by prayer and faith, Christly devotion and flaming zeal, this revival may become the greatest the circuit has ever witnessed.
Great Driffield station may be termed unique both for geographical and Methodistic considerations. Geographically the circuit covers an area of nearly 300 square miles, and therefore could easily encircle the county of Rutland. It embraces a district comprising thirty parishes and, as one has said, ‘is more like a diocese, or at any rate a rural deanery, than a circuit.’ With regard to physical aspects, it presents us with the beauty and picturesqueness of dale country in the North, with the charm of rich fertile lowland in the South, and centrally with the breezy openness and fine view-point of Wold elevation. Thus it takes in a sweep of country, whatever the season, delightful to traverse by those having an eye for nature and a sympathy with the rural.
As will be surmised, the working of this great circuit must be somewhat problematic. The preachers ‘travel’ here, or rather did. In earlier days they would start off on Saturday afternoon or early Sunday morning, and after preaching usually three times, would reach the farthest place, and then work their way homewards by short stages, and by Wednesday or Thursday night find themselves within easy walking distance of Driffield.
The dales round, however, are more difficult, the preacher on the Wednesday night finding himself as far from home as when he arrived in the dales, and therefore has no alternative but to take a second long journey. Times and customs change; so they have in the Driffield Circuit. The godly fore-elders liked the preachers to be in their homes for rest as well as at the table, and highly valued their visits, both for the social intercourse, and the spiritual stimulus they received. To-day there is, generally speaking, not the readiness to find the preacher sleeping accommodation, and moreover on the preacher’s part not the willingness to sleep away from his own home. Then also there was not so much demanded of the preachers as now, and therefore, not that imperative need for reading and preparation which can best be had in the quiet of the minister’s own study. As a rule the preachers now get to their own firesides night by night. Until recently this was done by driving to and from appointments on the first three days of the week, but lately the train service, where convenient, has been substituted and has been found slightly more economical.
Many are the stories, amusing and otherwise, which can be told of these ‘trap’ journeys over hill and dale, in the summer’s heat and light, and in the winter’s frosts, storms, and darkness:- stories concerning animals and men, theological discussions and homiletical talks, political debates, ethical questionings, and experiences sad, pleasant, and ludicrous. Long drives, dark nights, dangerous hills, sometimes strange horses, expert drivers (?) and a trap or bogey containing three or four ‘bodies of divinity,’ surely cannot be, three nights a week, without something of interest happening. Horses of all kinds have preceded the preachers, horses big and little, weak and strong; stumblers, kickers, jibbers, biters, some of spirit, and some of none; but probably best of all, though now becoming aged, is ‘Tommy,’ who can take the new preacher to any and every trap appointment, and stop where ‘the feed ’ will be found.
As might be expected, in the winter the drives, especially to and from the dale-towns, are intensely bleak and long, extending to five and six hours for the preacher at the most distant place, and should the snow be drifted they may be compelled to return without reaching their destination. A few winters ago, Nos. 3 and 4 tried to reach Lutton and Weaverthorpe by way of Cottam Bottom and Cowlam, when they found a snowdrift filling the road for about a mile. They pushed on till Tommy could go no farther. No. 4 was sent on to reconnoitre and walked some distance, when, suddenly, he nearly disappeared, having sunk in the snow. After some effort, extricating himself, he returned, and the two backed the horse and at last managed to turn it round. It was on this occasion that a little incident occurred which helped to make the return journey less gloomy. Our two friends found a very large species of owl sitting on a gate-post, and thinking it was disabled, No. 3 persuaded No. 4 to get out of the trap and go for it. No. 4 was soon in hot pursuit up the field after the owl, which dodged him several times, and just when the moment came for making the final, certain, desperate effort to secure it, lo and behold, No. 4 once more became embedded in the snow. The bird, of course, escaped, but the chasing was good for No. 4, as it caused his blood to circulate more freely, and the laughter of No. 3 had none the less effect upon him.
The uniqueness of this circuit, as regards Primitive Methodism, is, that well nigh every phase of our Connexion’s operations can be illustrated. Of the twenty -seven chapels, some are debtless, the others are in very easy circumstances, save two, and all of them are in good condition. Of the thirty societies, several have features which differentiate them from the rest. We have small societies where services are held in cottager’s kitchen and rented room, and while the organisation may be simple, yet the few who meet hold intercourse with heaven and realise the Word of Life to be precious. In not a few villages the members worship in model chapels where larger opportunities wait to be laid hold of, and then the promise of brighter times and greater Gospel triumphs would be assured. Others are thriving country societies, meeting in larger, well-built sanctuaries, where Sunday school is cherished, C.E. Branches are formed, and Endeavourers are active, ardent, and holily artful. And we have the town society and congregation of Driffield, with its probably unequalled premises in Primitive Methodism for a town of its size – the front view of which is given with this article. The fine chapel, with its semi-circular pitch-pine pews, seats nearly a thousand, has good acoustic properties, is fitted with Pickup’s patent ventilators, is most chastely decorated, and contains a rich-toned organ, which is skilfully played, and with the well-trained choir ensures the best leadership of the song-worship of the assemblies. The magnificent schoolroom behind, and more than a half-score class-rooms and other accessories, provide capital accommodation for the working of the society’s complex organisation—Sunday School, Band of Hope, Library, Sick Benefit Club, Christian Endeavour, Young People’s Bible Classes, Society Classes, Band and Prayer-meeting, and other kindred institutions. Indeed, the largeness of the town society and congregation, with its multiform operations, afford an up-to-date surprise and scope, not unworthy the culture, talent, energies, and enthusiasm of the most richly spirit-endowed prophet in our community.
This greatest of Home Stations, with a membership of near twelve hundred, and having societies so many and so differently conditioned, requires and possesses a noble band of workers, ever willing to give unwearied godly service. Besides the itinerant preachers, whose labours must be abundant would they be true to the circuit’s interests, there are over sixty local preachers earnestly active, zealously spirited, and more or less having the ‘old fire,’ whose services are of incalculable value. Thomas Coultas, who heads the list and whose photo we give, though in his eighty-first year, still takes an occasional appointment. He has been a member sixty-two years and a local preacher and a teetotaler fifty-five. He is a deep thinker, a scriptural theologian and is well versed in spiritual things. He is a ripe and mellow soul, lives what he teaches, and is beloved by everybody. A half-hour’s conversation with him is a mental and spiritual reviver. The other day a churchman who has known him long years said, and meaning it too, ‘Why, Coultas, I would rather hear you speak than the Archbishop of York.’ Until some months ago we had amongst us ‘Dan‘l Quorm’s’ double in many respects; but he has been called to the higher service, and we see no longer his round head, and the spectacles a-bridge of his nose, nor hear his quaint, original utterances full of common-sense, truth, and spritual wisdom; nor behold his love of the cause, detestation of shams, and observe his hot zeal for, and undaunted loyalty to, Christ. Brother W. Bowes, of Cranswick, the singing and praying blacksmith, was a ‘man of God,’ a diamond in the rough, a Puritan of the Puritans, and one of whom the world was not worthy.
To be a local preacher while at all capable, meant hard work. For, geographically, the circuit naturally divides itself into four or five sections, wherein the labours of the lay brethren so resident must necessarily be confined unless some other mode of transit is provided than ‘ shankster pony.’ Even then, with the best trap accommodation, from the extreme end of one section to another, on special occasions, as camp-meetings, it is not infrequent for the early hours of Monday to dawn before the workers can retire to a well-earned rest. In the winter, should a T.P. be planned in the dales, then the Driffieldians start off in the dark of morn because of an early service fourteen miles away, and return in the thick darkness of evening. Of the Driffield society it needs to be said, probably it holds the premier position in the whole Connexion for sacrifice in the interests of the surrounding villages. Being central, Sunday by Sunday it sends forth from ten to over a score supplies for our rural pulpits, in directions varying as the points of the compass, and moreover, though it raises nearly sufficient to engage two married preachers, yet it does not get the full service of one. Doubtless it would be difficult to supply a parallel case.
It is well-known chapel finances are of great importance and demand constant attention. Let the affection, however, of the members be truly set on the cause of God, and all finances, chapel and circuit, as well as Sunday school, will be promptly met; for the genuinely consecrated know, earnings and profits belong to God to be in part spent in His cause, equally as much as God claims voices for praise, prayer, and confession of Jesus. The Driffield trustees and friends, within the last three years, have been lifting the standard, and instead of resorting to sewing-meetings, bazaars, &c., which endanger the peace and true success of church-life, and moreover are questionable methods of raising church funds, they have this year resorted to the method of pure voluntary offerings. Sheldon’s ‘In His Steps‘ has been much pondered over, and certainly has led many to clearer views of believer’s obligations, and to truer conceptions of the spirit in which service should be rendered. At the yearly trustees’ meeting, the superintendent was able to say that a certain person was willing to give £100 if they would raise £400, and so pay £500 off the debt. When the meeting closed, three of the trustees went to the brother’s house who knew this ‘anonymous donor,’ purposed to quiz, for they had their suspicion. After attempting to draw the brother, he cornered them by the unquizzical challenge, ‘I will tell you if you will each give £50.’ In a few minutes they decided and the secret was out; as they supposed, it was the good brother himself. Immediately there were shouts of joy, and one asked the brother to pray while they all knelt in thankfulness before God. Another loyal trustee promised £50, the others, and members and friends, as they became aware of the project, enthusiastically ‘fell to,’ with the result that instead of £500, there was raised by the chapel anniversary at Eastertide, in money and promises, over £600. To God be all the praise!
Because of the above great efforts, the Kirkburn friends, who were bent on proceeding with their new chapel scheme, were advised to wait, and though all of them are working people, they had the daring faith to go on, and the remarkable success of the venture hitherto, reveals the wisdom of such a course. Among themselves, a village society of thirty members, they have subscribed considerably over £100, which sum represents matchless sacrifice and untold attachment to the cause. The farmers and gentry around also have liberally contributed, so that at the close of the glorious proceedings on the stone-laying day, they had realised just over £300 towards an outlay of possibly £450. They expect to open their new sanctuary free of debt, and it is probable they will.
Throughout the circuit the people are without exception most cordial in their hospitality, and appreciative of the arduous labours its greatness entails. There is very much compensation, after cold drives and walks, to get before cosy firesides, receive happiest greetings, and to know your ministry in the Word will be prized, and this is universally the case. Some of the very best officials of Primitive Methodism live and work in the Driffield Station. It would be invidious to mention names, and yet there is one who ought to be mentioned, namely, the acting circuit steward, Bro. D. Railton, who has held the office without a break for over thirty years. A truer, nobler, and more loyal son of the Church cannot be found. He is an unostentatious worker of such high order that it would be natural for many to get into ecstasies in writing of him, but I refrain. Also in the circuit there are not a few heroes and heroines in humble life, of the finest type for Christian character, loving work, pure spirit, and complete abandonment of self day by day for Christ and loved ones and the Church.
For the circuit to achieve its ideal condition for success, certain problems and difficulties will have to be faced and solved. Some of the problems are (1) better official qualifications – good officials make good churches; (2) more earnest Sunday school work – the children of our people must be cherished and the youth in God’s Name must be laid hold of; (3) division of the circuit, or sectional working and greater pastoral oversight of the town society – concentration of toil is an imperative need; (4) proportionate giving each one sharing the privilege of supporting weekly the circuit interests, that undue burdens may not press on any. Some of the difficulties to be faced are the depopulation of the villages, the baneful desecration of the Sabbath, the drink, gambling, and pleasure manias, the sad deepening irreligiousness of the many, and another, and not the least, the treacherous action of sacerdotalists. These pseudo-Romanists who would bring our dear native land once more under the crushing dominion of the papacy, work with gloved hands, are deft actors at dissimulation, and are as restless as the waves of the sea to achieve their base ends. Not a little of this nasty activity have we in this wide clrcuit, but particularly in the town of Driffield, as the following briefly given, recently unearthed case enacted since Christmas will testify.
It seems one of our boy scholars the Anglican female visitor had sought to win, and not suceeding, the clergy were put on his track. A certain local preacher passing down this street heard himself addressed thus, ‘What do you think, Mr. _____? this man wants to ‘tice me away from our Sunday school, and my father went to it before I was born1’ The curate had; tempted him by the offer of a suit of clothes, and the boy said, ‘I wouldn’t go to church if they would give me ten suits of clothes. My father can get me suits of clothes I want, and does, and as many sweets as does me good.’ The curate said to Mr. _______, ‘Hoped he did not think he was desirous of getting the boy from our Sunday school.’ The little lad replied, ‘Why, you have tried your best.’ The boy also was offered a place in the choir, but he had strength enough to refuse, and, declare ‘He would not wear a shirt on the top of his clothes.’ The boy was next seen by a person, said to be a lady, who promised him his tea every Sunday he went to school, and as extra, a free ‘trip‘ and good ‘feeds’ away. He said ‘His father and mother could give him as good teas as they, and did.’ She promised him all sorts of delicacies. The boy wanted to know, Who would make them? The lady said, ‘She would buy them.’ The boy told the lady ‘His mother could make things as good as anybody else, and perhaps a bit better,’ and when telling the local preacher added, ‘and when we are naughty we don’t deserve good things, do we, Mr. _____?’ After this the female visitor called upon his mother, and desired her to make the boy go to ‘church’ and it would be to her advantage. The parents have since taken the boy away from the National School and sent him to the Board, partly in order to be free from constant annoyance. Mr. ______ could supply the names of all concerned in this case. Another of our town members has been offered within the last month (July) clothes for himself, wife and family if he would join the Anglicans. Such cases lay bare the sneakish methods practised by some to further the interests of the self-styled ‘true church.‘
Notwithstanding the unceasing machinations of the sacerdotalists, if our members will be true, have some backbone, be loyal to the Connexion, and rise to their Christian calling, all the difficulties and problems of working this great circuit will find happy solution, and the exceeding rich heritage upon, which they are entered will be handed on to their children unsullied and richer. ‘God’s best gifts’ to this and all circuits are in the present and future, not in the past. God’s procedures are ever forward, never backward. There are always better things ahead for them that love God and are living up to their privileges.
Christian Messenger 1899/306; 1899/334