Gideon Ouseley (1762-1839)

“Go then and tell them these two things, the disease and the cure! All the rest is nothing but talk!”

Gideon Ouseley was born into an Anglican gentry family in Dunmore, Co. Galway. As he was the eldest son, he was the heir-apparent to his father’s estate, and therefore received a thorough mathematical and classical education. His younger brother was educated for the army, and was afterward distinguished as Major General, Sir Ralph Ouseley. Gideon was gifted, jubilant, and outgoing, but also stubborn and hot-tempered! During his wild youth, he lost an eye in a drunken tavern brawl, a loss that left him with a frightening appearance.

In 1791 devout Methodists soldiers were quartered in Dunmore, and God used their singing and praying to bring Gideon under deep conviction. Gideon left his wild ways behind him and was converted to Christ. Everyone could see that he now walked in close and constant fellowship with God.

Gideon set out to convert and reform others. He preached in the streets and churchyards, at fairs and markets, at wakes and funerals, wherever in fact he could find people assembled, whether Protestant or Catholic. His knowledge of the Irish language and of peasant mores— not to mention his eccentric preaching astride a white horse— won him renown as Methodism’s ‘apostle to the Irish’.

One day Gideon rode up to a Roman Catholic chapel, where a priest was celebrating mass; the large congregation were on their knees, and Gideon knelt with them. Gideon translated every Latin word which the priest spoke, into Irish – the people didn’t understand Latin; and when he wished any part of the service impressed on the minds of the people, he would emphatically exclaim, “Listen to that.” The people became deeply affected, and the priest not knowing who he was (and not knowing Irish), was thunderstruck. After the service Gideon and the congregation rose on their feet, and before they returned home, he delivered a warm-hearted exhortation to them, to repent and forsake their sins, and believe in Christ. When he had finished his exhortation, the people cried out to the priest, “Father, who is that?” “I don’t know,” he replied; “he is not a man at all, he is an angel; no man could do what he has done.”

Gideon mounted his horse, amid the prayers and blessings of the people, and rode off to seek another opportunity of doing good.

At the end of his life, Gideon recalled how God called him to become an evangelist:

While I was praying, the Lord said, “Gideon, go and preach the Gospel.” But I knew my limitations and so replied, “How can I go? O Lord, I cannot speak, for I am a child.” But the Lord persisted, “Do you not know the disease?” “O yes, Lord, I do!”

“And do you know the cure?” the Lord asked. “Indeed, I do, glory be to thy holy name!” I only had to remember the grace that had transformed me. Then came the divine call: “Go then and tell them these two things, the disease and the cure! All the rest is nothing but talk!”

Old Christianity, against Papal Novelties

Gideon wrote in 1877 a book “Old Christianity, against Papal Novelties” which shows how he often was attacked by the Roman catholic Clergy and his replies. An example is as follows:

One evening a priest, named Glin attacked Gideon on doctrinal subjects. Gideon raised objections to the doctrines of extreme unction, transubstantiation, etc. The priest inquired, “O, my dear sir, was it not taught by St. James as having been instituted by Jesus Christ?” Gideon replied, “No, sir; you are aware that in order to its being a sacrament, it should have been instituted by Christ; and so much was the Council of Trent at a loss, that three hundred bishops, with the pope at their head, could not find a single word of our Lord to sanction its institution. Lest you might suppose me arguing unfairly, I’ll quote the words of the Trent Council for you.” He then quoted verbatim the words of the Council, and proved thereby, that extreme unction is not a sacrament of Jesus Christ. He next spoke on the subject of half-communion and the real presence, and so confounded the poor priest, who was indeed a man of considerable argumentative powers, that the latter exclaimed, “O, my dear sir, if you were to see all the books that I saw, when I was at college in France, on that one subject” — the real presence — “you would be afraid to speak a word upon it all the days of your life.”

Gideon said, “My dear sir, there are some things a child may know as well as an archbishop; for instance, how many panes of glass there are in that window.” “Poh!” said the priest, “that’s a physical fact; any one can tell that.” “Is it not equally a physical fact, that John the Baptist was not the son of the Virgin Mary?” “Very true indeed, sir,” replied the priest. “Why is he not her son?” inquired Gideon. “Because John the Baptist was never born of the Virgin Mary,” said the priest. “Could any man that had never been born of her, ever become her son?” “Certainly not,” replied the priest. “Could any thing that never was born of her, ever become her son?” “Indeed, I think not,” said the unsuspecting priest. “I have you now, my good fellow,” exclaimed Gideon; “can the corn which grew last year, ground by the miller, baked by the baker, and consecrated by the priest, by any power of God or man, ever become the son of the Virgin Mary?” “O,” said Father Glin, “all things are possible to God.” “No,” retorted Mr. O , “all things are not possible to God, for it is impossible for God to lie, or work a self contradiction, which would be necessarily involved in the doctrine of your Church; and how can any rational being believe, that the accidents to which the host may be liable, can happen to the Son of God? It can be carried away by the wind, and totally disappear; be devoured by an animal, a mouse or a cat; a spider can be drowned in the cup; it can be frozen, fall on the ground, be vomited by the priest, piously swallowed up again, licked up with the tongue; and the wine can, if poisoned, be poured on linen or tow, dried, then be burned, and the ashes buried in holy ground. Now, sir, permit me to ask, can you believe the doctrine of your own Church? Can any man in his senses believe that any of the above occurrences take place in regard to the true Christ?”

The priest was confounded, and said, True enough, sir; a great many people think that all things are possible to God, but he could not make this stick in my hand without two ends to it, nor make two hills without a valley between them.” Thus he acknowledged himself vanquished, and wisely gave up the contest. On a subsequent visit to the gentleman’s house where the above conversation took place, the priest said: “These Methodist preachers are queer fellows; I declare, I did not think they were such men.” “But what do you think of your own argument, Father Glin?” said one to him. “If it were not for the price of bread,” he replied, “I would never celebrate mass again as long as I live.”