Persistence in the midst of Persecution
In their mission to bring the Christian message to every town and village in Great Britain, the 18th century Methodist preachers travelled extensively.
They would arrive at a place, attempt to preach in one of the churches or, failing that, in a market place or at a fair.
Their style was engaging and they spoke with authority and grace. Wesley described their work as ‘offering pardon to sinners’.
But they didn’t always receive a warm welcome. While many thousands gathered to hear the message, some reacted negatively. Sometimes fuelled by jealous clergy, or fearful ‘Gentlemen’, and sometimes by a basic reaction of anger, the preachers faced violence fairly regularly. This was a different type of spiritual warfare.
John Wesley in Wednesbury, West Midlands
One famous incident in the life of John Wesley took place in October, 1743.
He writes, ‘Thursday 20th Oct, 1743 – ‘I rode to Wednesbury.
At twelve I preached in a ground near the middle of the town, to a far larger congregation than was expected, on, ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.’
‘I believe everyone present felt the power of God…and we held our peace.
An afternoon’s writing interrupted
‘I was writing at Francis Ward’s in the afternoon, when the cry arose, that the mob had beset the house.
‘We prayed that God would disperse them; and it was so. One went this way, and another that; so that in half an hour not a man was left.’
Wesley felt it would be sensible to leave, before there was any more trouble. But his hosts, understandably thrilled to have the great John Wesley staying in their house, urged him to stay on.
Not wanting to offend them, he conceded. But the few troublemakers who had drifted off before weren’t finished, and a larger number soon returned.
‘Before five the mob surrounded the house again, in greater numbers than ever. The cry of one and all was, ‘Bring out the Minister! We will have the Minister!’
(All quotes from John Wesley’s Journals, Vol 1, Baker Edition, p.436)
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© 2010 Lex Loizides