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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V03, Page 905 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BIBLE CHRISTIANS, one of the denominations now merged in the United Methodist Church (see UNITED METHODISTS), so called because its early preachers appealed solely to the Bible in confirmation of their doctrines. The denomination arose in the agricultural districts and fishing villages of north Cornwall and Devon; a district only slightly influenced by John Wesley and the original Methodist movement. The founder was William O'Bryan (afterwards Bryant), a Methodist lay preacher of Luxillian, Cornwall. Finding that the people had no evangelical preaching he began an itinerary to supply the need. The coastmen were expert smugglers and wreckers, the agriculturists were ignorant and drunken, the parish clergy were slothful, in many cases intemperate, and largely given to fox-hunting. Only in a parish or two was there any approach to religious ministry. O'Bryan commenced his labours in north Devon, and in 1815 a small society was formed at Lake Farm, Shebbear. The movement had the seeds of great vitality in it. In 1819 the first conference was held at Launceston. There were present besides O'Bryan one accepted minister—James Thorne—fourteen ministers on trial and fifteen women preachers, a class that was always conspicuous in the denomination. At that conference the work had spread from Ring's Ash in Devon to Morrah, a lonely and desolate parish in west Cornwall. In 1820–1821 Kent, Northumberland, the Scilly and Norman (i .e. Channel) Islands appeared on the list of stations. Then came a serious break. In 1829 there was a severance between the larger part of the new body and O'Bryan, who had claimed to be perpetual president, and to have all property vested in him personally. He tried to establish a separate conference, but failed, and in 1836 there was a re-union. O'Bryan left England for America, where he remained for the rest of his life, and his contingent (numbering 565 members and 4 ministers) returned to the original conference. The growth continued. In 1831 agents were sent to Canada and Prince Edward's Island, in 185o to South Australia, in 1855 to Victoria, in 1866 to Queensland, in 1877 to New Zealand and in 1885 to China, so that the original O'Bryan tradition of fervid evangelism was amply maintained. On O'Bryan's departure, James Thorne, the first fully recognized minister, at whose father's farm the connexion started, became its leader. Although reared as an ordinary farm lad, he proved to be a man of singular devotion and spiritual genius. He laid the foundations broadly in evangelism, finance, temperance and education, founding in the latter connexion a middle-class school at Shebbear, at which generations of ministers' sons and numerous students for the ministry have been educated. James Thorne was five times president of the conference and fifteen times secretary. He died in 1872. In this period there was much persecution. Landowners refused sites, and in the Isle of Wight the people worshipped for many months in a quarry. The preachers were sometimes imprisoned and many times assaulted. The old Methodist body even excommunicated persons for attending " Bryanite " meetings. Partly co-operative with James Thorne and at his death independently, the Church was favoured with the influence of Frederick William Bourne. He was a minister for fifty-five years, and served the Bible Christians as editor, missionary treasurer, book steward and three times president of conference. With him will always be associated the name of Billy Bray, an illiterate but inimitable Cornish evangelist, a memoir of whom, written by Bourne,exerted a great influence in the religious life of the de-nomination. In doctrine the Bible Christians did not differ from the other Methodists. In constitution they differed only slightly. There was an annual conference with full legislative power, and ability to hold and dispose of property, composed of an equal number of lay and ministerial representatives meeting together. The local churches were grouped into circuits governed representatively by a quarterly meeting. The quarterly or circuit meetings were in turn organized into twelve districts, eleven in England and one in China. In 1906 the statistics showed 218 ministers, 32,549 members and 652 chapels, with 47,301 scholars in Sunday-schools. These figures include nearly 1400 full and probationary members in the China mission, the first-fruits of two years' labour amongst the Miao tribe. In the various colonial Methodist unions the Bible Christians have contributed a total of 159 ministers, 14,925 members and 66o chapels. The community supported a regular ministry from the beginning. Its members have been keen evangelists, trusting largely to " revivals " for their success, staunch Radicals in politics and total abstainers to a man. Both ministers and people entered with interest and sympathy into the scheme for union between them-selves, the Methodist New Connexion and the United Methodist Free Church, which was successfully accomplished in 1906. See

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BIBLE CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST BILLY BOLITHO. GOSPEL LETTER Faith in God is believing that God is and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Faith in God boils down to just one thing, will you trust Him in life’s greatest trials? Paul the Apostle was a prisoner on a ship, when a great storm arose. The ship was in great danger of sinking, but God spoke to Paul by an angel who told him that if they all stayed in the ship it would not sink, and they would all be saved. What trust this took, how many of us would have tried some other way, maybe by swimming, or clinging to some piece of old wood. Paul’s words of faith and trust in God brought them all to safety, but the ship was lost. Dear Saints, when the wind blows and the storms of life crashes against you, hold on tight to God’s promises and rest in His peace, for He said, “ I am mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea”, {Psalm 93 v 4}. Jesus was in a boat in lake Galilee when a great storm arose, yes He was fast asleep, but His disciples were in great panic and distress. How could Jesus sleep through such a storm? Because He totally trusted His Heavenly Father. In great panic His disciples shook Him and woke Him up, and said “don’t you care if we perish? ”Jesus replied,” “Where is your faith?” And He gave a command for the storm to cease. And if you put your total unwavering trust in Him, He will command that storm in your life to cease. So, trust your heavenly Father as Jesus did, and be at peace in the storms of life, for it is written, “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is staid on thee, trust ye in the Lord forever for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength”, {Isaiah 26 v 3& 4}. EVANGELIST BILLY BOLITHO
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