Saturday, March 31, 2007

John Pugh XXIV: 'Nunc Dimitis'

John Pugh, founder and Superintendent of the Calvinistic Methodist Forward Movement passed into his eternal reward on 24 March 1907, Palm Sunday, one hundred years and one week from today. To the last, he was concerned for the souls of the people of Wales. His daughter, Ann, described his final hours:

"A short while before he left us I was sitting with him in his room when the Rev. F. W. Cole [pictured] came in. He prayed with us, and when he had finished my father said, 'Francis, will you take charge of Heath Hall? They are without a minister and there is a great opportunity for the Kingdom of God.' He promised to do so.
"The same evening Dr Cunningham Bowie, the doctor who attended my father and was his great friend, came in and told me in his hearing, 'There is no reason that your father should die; with his constitution he could live another twenty years, but he has completely burned himself out. If your Connexion had given him a telephone and a car, the bare necessities to enable him to accomplish the more easily all he has done in less than fifteen years, he could have lived.'
"'But,' said my father, taking hold of my hand, 'the Saviour died when he was 33 and I am 60. Don't "rust". Wear yourself out for His sake, my child.'
Those were his last words.
The funeral was held at the huge Crwys Hall, which was packed many hours before his coffin arrived there. As well as many of those common people for whose sake Pugh had spent himself , the funeral was attended by many luminaries of Welsh life. The Lord Mayor of Cardiff was present, as were six Members of Parliament. It could almost have been a state funeral of the sort accroded to senior military officers. The funeral orations dwelt on Pugh's selflessness and zeal for Christ. Perhaps the most stirring was that of Alfred Thomas, Lord Pontypridd, a Baptist and fomer MP. He praised Pugh's courage in seeking to win Wales for Christ, remembering times when Pugh had sought out men feared by the Police, with a perfect love that cast out fear. In the eyes of Lord Pontypridd, had pugh been ambitious for himself, he could easily have become the leader of a new denomination. But, like George Whitfield, Pugh was quite content to let the name of a mere man perish so that Christ could be exalted.
Hundreds of people from the different Forward Movement Centres crowded the graveside to pay their last respects to the man who had shown such love for them. A great many had walked, unable to pay bus or tram fares. Hymns were sung, as the official proceedings continued in Crwys Hall. Jack Turner, a member at Saltmead Hall, spoke impromptu:
"Brothers, the one thing that John Pugh loved to do above all else was to present ourselves to Christ. If we haven't done that already, let's do it now, and afresh, and uteerly, as he taught us to do, so that we may be worthy to stand at his graveside. Now, my brothers, as for being able to live a worthy life in our own strength - a life similar to his - that we cannot do. Bit in Christ we are able and all we need do is to respond to his promptings in our hearts. May this day be a turning point in our lives and the start of a better life."
'And all the people said "Amen."' Many wept aloud, a sight more moving in those more stoic times. Sethb Joshua led the crowds in a hymn. Among the crowd were the Thirty evangelists of the Forward Movement, lieutenants mourning their General, or children mourning their father in Christ.
As the crowd disperrsed, the grave-diggers began their task. One of them asked: 'Why is there such a commotion? He wasn't a bishop or anything.' One of those mourners who lingered gave the only appropriate reply: 'No he wasn't, but he was more than a bishop. He spoke to me about Jesus Christ and what he could do for me - that's what he told me.'
And his gravestone still stands in Cathays cemetery, facing Crwys Hall, close to the boundary wall. While his bones await the final judgement, his spirit having gone to be 'Forever with the Lord.'



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