Ouseley, Gideon

Ouseley, Gideon, a minister of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection in Ireland, noted as a missionary, was born at Dunmore, Galway, in 1762. He was the eldest son of his house, the brother of General Sir Ralph Ouseley, and cousin of Sir William and Sir Gore Ouseley, the Orientalists; and his family is distinguished in British military, diplomatic, and literary history. He was designed for the government service, and received a classical education. Married while not yet of age, his recklessness speedily brought him towards financial and moral ruin; but a peculiar episode in his history, closing with an almost fatal gunshot, led him to consider most seriously his spiritual condition. Thus solemnized in his thoughts, he was in 1789 converted by some Methodist soldiers quartered at Dunmore, where Ouseley then resided. He at once began to preach with the same vigor and zeal which he had before displayed in his career of vice and folly, and soon became a most ardent Gospel evangelist. The people heard him with wonder. Attacking at the same time Romish superstition and Protestant indifference, he preached in season and out of season, exhorted in the streets and churchyards, fairs and markets, and was accustomed to attend the wake-houses, or places where the dead lay, there to mingle with the crowds that were collected for the purpose of "hearing mass;" and while the priest read the prayers in Latin, he would translate every part that was good into Irish, and then address the whole assembly, in the presence of the priest, on their eternal interests. He rode on horseback from town to town, generally addressed the crowd without dismounting, and preached from three to five times a day. For seven years he traveled in this manner throughout the province of Connaught, and as far as Leinster, before his name appeared in the minutes. He was then received into the Wesleyan Conference, and in 1799 was appointed missionary to Ireland. It was just at the close of the rebellion, and the Catholic Irish often treated him rudely; but being a master of the Irish language, and thoroughly acquainted with the Irish character, he succeeded in converting thousands. Charles Graham traveled with him. Together they went into the worst fields of the country, to the darkest and strongest holds of popery and of Satan. On entering a town, the Bible in hand and their hats off, processions of the people followed them to some convenient place, where they worshipped in the following manner: First they sang a translation of one of Charles Wesley's hymns. Next a brief but fervent prayer was so uttered that all heard it, some standing and crossing themselves, some on their knees smiting their breasts. Then one of the missionaries proclaimed a text in both English and Irish, and preached a short but powerful sermon, the other following with an exhortation. Their discourses were mostly in Irish, but were often interspersed with English passages. These brave itinerants thus boldly grappling with the monster evil of the land, Protestants generally, who comprehended that there was no alternative if popery was ever to be conquered, as well as many of the clergy of the Establishment, took sides with them, and welcomed them to their homes and their parishes; and in the occasional mobs, Protestants of all denominations stood faithfully around them. Moreover, Ouseley was an Irish gentleman, his family was influential, and his father, having been converted, sided with him. The wonderful missionary had thus a prestige which commanded respect among his countrymen. His sincere reverence for '"the blessed Virgin" procured him, it is said, many a respectful hearing. Allusions in his sermons to her and the Scripture saints often secured reverent attention, without compromising his Protestantism. His popish hearers were seldom scandalized at anything in his services except the omission of the "Hail Mary" after the final prayer. Without provoking the prejudices of his hearers, he treated them with a courage and frankness which challenged their admiration and secured their good-humor. Thus in a town filled with Romanists he hired the bellman, as was his custom, to announce through the streets preaching for the evening. The man, afraid of opposition, uttered the announcement timidly and indistinctly. Ouseley, passing in the street, heard him, and, taking the bell, rang it himself, proclaiming aloud: "This is to give you notice that Gideon Ouseley, the Irish missionary, is to preach this evening in such a place and at such an hour; and I am the man myself!" When Coke applied to the Irish Conference for the first official approval of his Asiatic project, and that body, looking upon him with almost idolatrous affection as its own chief apostle, not only sanctioned his plan, but voted him several of its ministers as missionaries, Ouseley stood forth on the Conference floor and begged, with tears, to be permitted to accompany them. His services, however, could not be dispensed with at home, and he was thus continued in his warfare to the last. When seventy- four years old, and after nearly half a century of devoted labor, he was still abroad on the highways and in the market-places as actively as ever, preaching fourteen. sixteen, and sometimes twenty sermons a week. In the last year of his life he was several times prostrated by sickness, but rallying his remaining energies, he went forth again and again to his missionary labors.On April 8,1839, he finished his ministry at Mountmellick, where he that day preached three times, once in the street. He returned to Dublin to lie down on his death-bed. "I have no fear of death; the Spirit of God sustains me; God's Spirit is my support," was his dying exclamation. He died May 14, 1839, in the hundredth year of Methodism. "Gideon Ouseley," says Stevens, will be forever recognized as the Protestant apostle of Ireland; it is hardly too much to affirm that no one man has, directly and indirectly, done so much for her deliverance from the stupendous burden of superstition under which popery has crushed her." Besides his incessant missionary labors, Ouseley was the author of several polemical publications, the most important of which was Old Christianity and Papal Novelties. The priests could not refute the conclusive arguments of this work; for its educated author was an adept in the controversy. Many popish laymen, popish schoolmasters, and even candidates for the priesthood, were converted by it, and not a few of these converts became: preachers of the Wesleyan body or of the Established Church. See Stevens, Hist. of Methodism, vol. iii (see Index); Riley, Life of Ouseley (Lond. and New York, 1848); Arthur, Life of the Rev. Gideon Ouseley (Lond. 1876).

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.