Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by H Bickerstaffe Kendall in the series “One Hundred Years Ago”
THE eve of St. Valentine’s Day, February 13th, 1812, is a day to be noted and remembered by all good Primitive Methodists. In Hugh Bourne’s Journal we have an entry, signifying, by its bolder script, his sense of the importance of the record:— “Thursday, Feb. 13th, 1812, we called a meeting and made plans for the next quarter, and made some other regulations: in particular, we took the name of THE SOCIETY OF THE PRIMITIVE METHODISTS.” To us this assumption of our legal denominational name was the most memorable piece of business transacted that evening a century ago. Yet we are assured by Mr. Petty, on the testimony of Hugh Bourne himself, that the name was decided upon at the fag-end of a long business session, and at a time when Hugh Bourne, jaded by what he had already gone through, was overcome by momentary drowsiness. When he came to himself the christening was over. To James Crawfoot, more than to any other man, were due the choice and advocacy of the name that was ultimately decided upon. Once again he told the story of John Wesley’s farewell address to the preachers of Chester Circuit in 1790—the story he had already told when vindicating his action in preaching for the Quaker Methodists. When brought to book for this he had applied that story in the final words:— “Mr. Chairman, if you have deviated from the old usages, I have not: I still remain a primitive Methodist.” Now on February 13th, 1812, Crawfoot contended the time had come for turning the small “p” into a capital letter, and for making Primitive Methodist a title descriptive of the ideal the new denomination would ever set before it. It was done. Crawfoot prevailed. The name was predestined and inevitable. It was appropriate and could be historically justified.
But what other matters were discussed and decided upon at this meeting? Not the least important was the consideration of a communication from the authorities of the Burslem Methodist Circuit with a view to the return to the fold of those who had been expelled or voluntarily gone out therefrom. Mr. Aikenhead, “the stern disciplinarian,” had been succeeded by Joseph Sutcliffe, M.A., a man of a very different stamp. (Dr. Gregory speaks of him and another Joseph—Joseph Entwisle “as the two saintliest men my eyes have ever rested upon”). In his letter to the brethren he expressed the belief that a reconciliation would be for the glory of God and would conduce to the spread of His Kingdom. The discussion that followed the reading of the letter revealed no inclination for reunion, but rather the reverse. So it seemed to W. Clowes. What conditions, if any, had to be complied with by the returning ones we are not told. However, the matter being of so much importance, it was thought wise to defer the final decision to the next Quarter day. Meanwhile, the brethren were exhorted to give themselves to prayer, and the itinerant preachers were instructed to ascertain the mind of the societies and to report.
At this same meeting it was resolved that henceforth the Circuit plans should be printed, and not written as heretofore. A copy of the first printed plan will be found in the “History” (Vol. 1, page 134, commencing March 22nd). It was also decided that “regular Quarter day meetings should be held in March, June, September and December.”
So our forefathers were busied on that February day what time the great Wellington was preparing for the storming of Badajoz.
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1912/147