The Power of Prayer in the Conversion of Souls

James Hudson Taylor in 1865

A Heritage of Faith
James Hudson Taylor was born in 1832 and died when the Welsh Revival of 1904 was one year old.

His story is one of prayer, or perseverance, of faith and of suffering. His story is one of radical obedience to Christ’s Commission to take the gospel to the world.

Hudson Taylor was a Yorkshireman, born in Barnsley. He was the son of evangelical Methodists and his family enjoyed the privilege of having hosted John Wesley, the great Methodist Evangelist, in 1786.

The story of his great grandparents looking after Wesley and then hearing him preach to a great congregation had been told and retold many times.

HT’s father was fascinated with China. He was a highly respected Chemist who also treated patients in a consulting room behind the store. But the passion he instilled into his children was centred on China. He had actually prayed, ‘Lord, if you give us a son, grant that he may work for You in China!’

His prayer was answered spectacularly.

A teenager’s apathy and a mother’s love
As a ‘teenager’ HT began to question the faith of his family. He wasn’t so sure that the daily Bible readings which his father led, were so necessary. He began to be sceptical.

But his mother began to pray, fervently and passionately.

One day in June 1849, the bored 17yr old began looking around for something to read. He casually looked through his father’s bookshelves when a tract caught his eye.

He knew what it was, and decided that he’d read the story part (which he assumed would be at the beginning of the tract) and skim read over the ‘moral of the story’ and probably a mini sermon at the end.

What he didn’t know was that his mother had also found herself at a loose end while she was in another town, and began praying fervently for his conversion. She began to get a conviction in prayer that she should pray on until she knew she had the answer from God.

In Praise of Tracts!
‘Let me tell you how God answered the prayers of my dear mother for my conversion!’ Hudson wrote in his book ‘Retrospect’

‘In the afternoon I looked through my father’s library to find some book with which to while away the unoccupied hours. Nothing attracting me, I turned over a little basket of pamphlets and selected from among them a Gospel tract which looked interesting, saying to myself, ‘There will be a story at the beginning , and a sermon or moral at the close: I will take the former and leave the latter for those who like it.’

I sat down to read the little book in an utterly unconcerned state of mind, believing indeed that I there were any salvation it was not for me…’

Little did I know at the same time what was going on in the heart of my dear mother, seventy or eighty miles away.

The Power of Prayer
She [had] an intense yearning for the conversion of her boy…She went to her room and turned the key in the door, resolved not to leave that spot until her prayers were answered.

Hour after hour did that dear mother plead for me, until at length she could pray no longer, but was constrained to praise God for that which His Spirit taught her had already been accomplished – the conversion of her only son.

I, in the meantime, while reading the tract, was struck with the sentence ‘the finished work of Christ.’

Why does the author use this expression? Why not say ‘the atoning work of Christ’?

Immediately the words, ‘It is finished!’ suggested themselves to my mind [these were words spoken by Jesus when he was on the cross – John 19:30]. What was finished?

And I at once replied: ‘A full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin: the debt was paid…Christ died for our sins!’

Then came the thought, ‘If the whole work was finished and the whole debt paid, what is there left for me to do?’

The finished work of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit
And with this dawned the joyful conviction, as light was flashed into my soul by the Holy Spirit, that there was nothing in the world to be done but to fall down on one’s knees, and accepting this Saviour and His salvation, to praise Him forever more!

Thus while my dear mother was praising God on her knees in her chamber, I was praising Him in the old warehouse to which I had gone alone to read this little book at my leisure.

When our dear mother came home a fortnight later, I was the first to meet her at the door, and to tell her I had such glad news to give.

I can almost feel that dear mother’s arms around my neck, as she pressed me to her bosom and said, ‘I know, my boy; I have been rejoicing for a fortnight in the glad tidings you have to tell me!’

My mother assured me that it was not from any human source that she had learned the tidings…

You will agree with me that it would be strange indeed if I were not a believer in the power of prayer.’[i]

To read the first part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor Story, the first steps towards the mission in China, click here

Personal Tracts

Tracts can still be incredibly powerful – and you don’t have to purchase an old fashioned one with dull graphics. You can easily write your own. Click here for more details.

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] From To China with Love, Hudson Taylor, Bethany House, p.10-13

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JC Ryle on the type of preaching that awakened England

JC Ryle in his study

We’re busy enjoying JC Ryle’s description of the preaching of the Evangelists whom God used to change the culture of 18th century England. (This is Part Four of a short series on Ryle. See Part One, Two and Three)

Having emphasised that it was specifically preaching that was used by God, he describes the type of messages the Evangelists preached.

1. They preached attractive, accessible messages
‘They used illustrations and anecdotes in abundance, and like their divine Master, borrowed lessons from every object in nature.

‘They revived the style of sermons in which Luther and Latimer used to be so eminently successful.’ Ryle then applies a saying of Luther to the 18th century Evangelists: ‘No one can be a good preacher to the people who is not willing to preach in a manner that seems childish and vulgar to some.’ (p.25)

2. They preached fervently and directly
‘They cast aside that dull, cold, heavy, lifeless mode of delivery which had long made sermons a very proverb for dullness.

‘They proclaimed the words of faith, and the story of life with life!

‘They spoke with fiery zeal, like men who were thoroughly persuaded that what they said was true, and that it was of the upmost importance to your eternal interest to hear it.

‘They spoke like men who had got a message from God to you, and must deliver it, and must have your attention while they delivered it.

‘They threw heart and soul and feeling into their sermons and sent their hearers home convinced, at any rate, that the preacher was sincere and wished them well.

‘They believed that you must speak from the heart if you wish to speak to the heart.’ (p.25)

3. Their sermons were full of Biblical content

‘I would have it understood that it was eminently doctrinal, positive, dogmatical and distinct.

‘The trumpets which blew down the walls of Jericho were trumpets which gave no uncertain sound.

‘The English evangelists of last century were not men of an uncertain creed…’ (p.25)

Next time we’ll look at the main points the Evangelists’ preached, and which had such a transforming impact on their culture.

All quotes from Christian Leaders Of The 18th Century by J. C. Ryle, Banner of Truth edition.
You can Purchase Ryle’s excellent book from the Banner of Truth website

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

JC Ryle’s Thoughts on the 18th Century Awakening, Part 3

JC Ryle, the 19th century Pastor, wrote extensively about the great heroes of the 18th century awakening in England.

We’ve been enjoying his frank observations on both the source of the problems and the means of revival that God used.

Ryle specifically lifts up the role and gift of the Evangelist as being the key to the breakthroughs that took place, and we will continue to be challenged by his analysis in this post.

1. The opposition experienced by the Evangelists
Ryle writes, ‘At first people in high places affected to despise them. The men of letters sneered at them as fanatics…

‘The Church shut her doors on them…the ignorant mob persecuted them. But the movement of these few evangelists went on, and made itself felt in every part of the land.’ (p.23)

2. The Primary method for changing the cultural landscape of England was Preaching
‘The instrumentality by which the spiritual reformers of the last century carried on their operations was of the simplest description.

‘It was neither more nor less that the old apostolic weapon of preaching.

‘Beyond doubt, preaching was their favourite weapon. They wisely went back to first principles.’

3. The Evangelists preached everywhere.
‘If the pulpit was open to them they gladly availed themselves of it [but] they were equally ready to preach in a barn.

‘No place came amiss to them. In the field or by the road side, on the village green, or in a market place, in lanes, or in alleys, in cellars or in garrets, on a tub or on a table, on a bench or on a horse block, wherever hearers could be gathered [they] were ready to speak…They were instant in season and out of season…’ (p.24)

4. They preached simply
‘They rightly concluded that the very first qualification to be aimed at in a sermon is to be understood!

‘They saw clearly that thousands of able and well composed sermons are utterly useless because they are above the heads of the hearers.’

Ryle says they preached in a way that could be clearly and immediately understood: ‘To attain this they were not ashamed to crucify their style and sacrifice their reputation for learning.’  (p.24-25)

We’ll continue next time, to hear about the style of preaching which God used to turn England upside down in the 18th Century.

All quotes from Christian Leaders Of The 18th Century by J. C. Ryle, Banner of Truth edition.
You can Purchase Ryle’s excellent book from the Banner of Truth website

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

JC Ryle’s Thoughts on the 18th Century Awakening, Part 2

JC Ryle...with beard

Last time we took a brief look at Ryle’s analysis of the problem. Today we’re going to enjoy his description of how God turned things around.

What makes Ryle’s commentary so appealing is the fact that we can apply the same lessons to ourselves and trust God for major breakthrough in our various cities and nations.

1. Everyone was aware of a major change
Says Ryle: ‘That a great change for the better has come over England in the last hundred years is a fact which I suppose no well informed person would ever attempt to deny. You might as well attempt to deny that there was a Protestant Reformation in the days of Luther…’ (p.21)

2. Where the change didn’t come from
Not the Government: ‘The government of the country can lay no claim to the credit of the change.’
Not the Church of England: ‘Nor…from the Church of England as a body. The leaders of that venerable communion were utterly unequal to the times. Left to herself, the Church of England would probably have died of dignity…’
Not the ‘Free’ churches: ‘Nor…from the Dissenters. Content with their hard-won triumphs, that worthy body of men seemed to rest upon their oars.’ (p.22)

3. The change came through Evangelists
‘The men who wrought deliverance for us…were a few individuals…whose hearts God touched about the same time in various parts of the country.

‘They were not wealthy or highly connected. They were simply men whom God stirred up and brought out to do His work.

‘They did His work in the old apostolic way, by becoming the evangelists of their day.’(p.22)

4. The demeanour of these Evangelists
Ryle writes, ‘They taught one set of truths. They taught them in the same way, with fire, reality, earnestness, as men fully convinced of what they taught.

‘They taught them in the same spirit, always loving, compassionate…even weeping, but always bold, unflinching and not fearing the face of man.

‘And they taught them on the same plan, always acting on the aggressive; not waiting for sinners to come to them, but going after, and seeking sinners; not sitting idle till sinners offered to repent, but assaulting the high places of ungodliness like men storming a breach…

‘The movement of these gallant evangelists shook England from one end to another.’ (p.23)

We’ll continue with Ryle’s observations next time…

All quotes from Christian Leaders Of The 18th Century by J. C. Ryle, Banner of Truth edition.
You can Purchase Ryle’s excellent book from the Banner of Truth website

To read the first post in this series go here

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

John Wesley and William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce

Fighting Slavery
While George Whitefield sought to improve the treatment of African American slaves, John Wesley could see far more objectively: Slavery ought not to be merely adjusted or made more humane – it must be abolished altogether.

Wesley had not come to this conclusion all at once. Like Whitefield, he was appalled at the treatment of the slaves he had seen in America, but he had not then thought it a crime.

He later met John Newton, a former slave trader who had been converted and had quit the trade. But apparently neither of the two Johns had yet seen the need to oppose slavery.

The value of reading widely

Anthony Benezet’s Historical Account of Slavery

The change came when he read an account of slavery written by American Quaker, Anthony Benezet, which described in detail the reality of slavery.

Wesley was horrified by the brutality and shamed by the heartlessness of such wickedness and became determined to go to print.

Thoughts on Slavery by John Wesley

In 1774 he published ‘Thoughts on Slavery’ in which he wrote,

‘If therefore you have any regard to justice, (to say nothing of mercy, nor of the revealed law of GOD) render unto all their due. Give liberty to whom liberty is due, that is to every child of man, to every partaker of human nature.

‘Let none serve you but by his own act and deed, by his own voluntary choice. Away with all whips, all chains, all compulsion! Be gentle towards men. And see that you invariably do unto every one, as you would he should do unto you.’ (‘Thoughts on Slavery’ by John Wesley)

It was primarily through reading the words of Wesley in this short publication that John Newton came to see that slavery was indeed a crime. [i]

The value of writing letters
John Wesley influenced many of the major players in the fight against slavery in 18th Century Britain and America.

In fact, his very last letter was sent to a young politician named William Wilberforce, who would spend much of his political life fighting for the abolition of the slave trade.

Wesley’s last letter
To Wilberforce he wrote,

‘DEAR SIR,

Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as Athanasius contra mundum, [an ‘Athanasius against the world.’] I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature.

‘Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils.

‘But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing.

‘Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

‘Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by that circumstance, that a man who has a black skin, being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a law in all our Colonies that the oath of a black against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this!
‘That He who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things is the prayer of, dear sir,

Your affectionate servant,

John Wesley’ (from the WCO)

Wesley’s passion and encouragement, and his last letter, helped the young Wilberforce to fight successfully until the British parliament finally signed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.

More next time…

[i] John Pollock, John Wesley (London:Hodder, 1989) p.235

© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley and his Wife (part 2)

Why most good churches have Marriage Preparation Courses!
And so, John Wesley was married. His strategy for being a good husband was pretty simple: ‘I cannot understand how a Methodist preacher can answer it to God to preach one sermon or travel one day less, in a married than in a single state.’

At first Molly accompanied him but his travel schedule (by any standard through all church history) was relentless, and she, as a newly married 40 year old woman, was clearly hoping for some normal domestic joys.

Often absent for weeks at a time, Wesley gave his wife permission to open all the mail that came for him. This included many letters from women seeking guidance and counsel, and Molly soon began to feel that some of them had more than a little affection towards her man.

Jealousy, slander and insensitivity
Her jealousy increased, as did her sense of being overlooked by him, and even unloved by him. She began to be, not only troubled by but gripped by jealousy.

She wrote disgruntled, critical, letters to him. She travelled to spy on him. She sent his private papers directly to his enemies that they might slander him. Eventually she publicly and repeatedly accused him of adultery over a period of twenty years.

At one point, after a fierce exchange of letters, he sent a scathing, hostile, reply.

‘Know me and know yourself. Suspect me no more, asperse me no more, provoke me no more: do not any longer contend for mastery…be content to be a private insignificant person, known and loved by God and me.’

Robert Southey, who quotes this letter, gives more of its contents, ‘He reminded her that she had laid to his charge things that he knew not, robbed him, betrayed his confidence, revealed his secrets, given him a thousand treacherous wounds, and made it her business so to do, under the pretence of vindicating her own character; ‘whereas’, said he, ‘of what importance is your character to mankind? If you were buried just now, or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God?’

Southey adds, ‘There are few stomachs which could bear to have humility administered in such doses.’ (Robert Southey, The Life of John Wesley, Hutchinson, p.266)

Dragged along by the hair

On several occasions she left home, only returning after he begged her repeatedly. Although he had been unspeakably angry with her, he kept aiming at reconciliation.

But the home life was unhappy. John Hampson of Manchester ‘once entered a room unannounced to find Molly dragging her husband across the floor by his hair.’ (John Pollock, Wesley, Hodder, p.238)

Finally, she left for good. Wesley wryly reported in his journal, ‘I did not forsake her, I did not dismiss her, I will not recall her.’

He should have consulted with Charles. He should have asked for the wisdom of other leaders. He should have been prepared for marriage. He should have considered his wife’s needs more than his own.

In all this, the story of Wesley’s marriage is an unhappy one. But if it is uncomfortable for us to read, let’s not forget that it was far more uncomfortable for him to live. And equally uncomfortable for Molly, who, perhaps was merely hoping to have some of him for herself.

Make sure you read Part One to get the context!

The Marriage Course
If you feel you need help in your marriage, The Marriage Course, pioneered at Holy Trinity Church, London may be of help to you. Click here for links to the Course and to find one in your part of the world.
http://relationshipcentral.org/

To read the very first of the sequence of posts about Wesley’s attempts to get a bride click here and follow the links

© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley and his Wife (part 1)

Less than three years after his failed engagement to Grace Murray, Wesley was becoming interested in another potential wife.

Uh oh!

His unwillingness to consult with his brother Charles in this new romance was completely understandable.

But, of course, it is exactly what he should have done. His reluctance to take counsel on this vitally important decision was to lead to twenty years of unhappiness both for him, and for his future wife.

Introducing Molly
Molly Vazeille, widowed for three years, but wealthy, had shown an interest in spiritual things and Wesley wrote to her in 1750.

Charles Wesley and his wife, Sally, already knew Molly and were not impressed.

John, however, was impressed and said as much to her in what he probably considered a glowing letter. He said he appreciated her ‘industry’, her ‘exact frugality’ and her ‘uncommon neatness and cleanness.’ She must have been beside herself with delight!

He was careful to add that this uncommon neatness and cleanness extended to her person, her clothes and to all those things around her!

It made us all hide our faces
He merely announced to Charles and Sally his intention to marry. Charles was ‘thunderstruck’ and filled with dread.

At the next church service John announced that he was to marry Molly Vazeille. Charles, commenting on the response of the congregation, said it ‘made us all hide our faces.’

In mid-February 1751, just a couple of years after the Grace Murray disaster, John Wesley was married.

To read the highly popular Part Two click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Wesley’s Failed Courtship

If his attempts to woo the woman he loved seemed rash, on the one hand, or boring, on the other, things were about to get much, much worse.

Although the ‘unofficially together’ couple were companions on a number of speaking tours, with Grace counselling the female society members, there was a major problem.

She was promised to another!

John Bennett, probably Wesley’s most successful itinerant preacher, a committed Calvinist, was also interested and had already exchanged love letters with Grace. He too felt that she had shown him some signs of love.

John and Grace continued travelling together, and also with Charles at one point. He had no idea of John’s affection for her, and considered her almost as one of the servants.

Grace herself, had not taken Wesley’s former expression of love as binding, or as evidence of an engagement, and so kept up her correspondence with John Bennett.

John, John! Put down your book on the Plague of London and win the lady!!

The Sudden Marriage

When John finally revealed his intentions to his brother, Charles was so shocked that he immediately sought to intervene.

These two men, who along with Whitefield and others, were turning a nation to God, were completely at a loss when it came to women.

Charles had met his bride and John had married them. Surely Charles would now reciprocate! Not at all! When John declared his love for Grace, he was rebuked.

To cut a long soap opera story short, without Wesley’s knowledge, quite suddenly and at Charles’ insistence, Grace was married to John Bennett in Newcastle.

Wesley’s Deepest Sadness

John was understandably upset. At first he refused to meet Charles, but George Whitefield, probably the only person who could, brought them together. They exchanged furious words, as Whitefield wept silently. Finally the two brothers embraced.

Mr. and Mrs. John Bennett, the newly married couple, were also brought in that all might be reconciled, but Wesley undoubtedly bore the weight of the reconciliation.

After the meeting, alone, in deep sadness, Wesley rode silently away.

Following some slanderous comments and a criticism from Bennett, Wesley reacted in a private letter to him:

‘I left with you my dearest friend, one I loved above all on earth, and fully designed for my wife. To this woman you proposed marriage, without either my knowledge or consent…You wrote me word you would take no farther step without my consent but…you tore her from me…

‘I think you have done me the deepest wrong which I can receive on this side the grave. But I spare you. ‘Tis but for a little time, and I shall be where the weary are at rest.’ (Quoted in John Pollock, Wesley, Hodder, Ch. 21)

To read how John Wesley finally met and married his wife click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley Tries to Find a Wife

John Wesley


Love is in the air!

By the late 1740’s both John and Charles Wesley’s thoughts turned to marriage.

James Hutton, a Methodist leader, wrote at length on the subject to Count Zinzendorf:

‘JW and CW, both of them, are dangerous snares to many young women; several are in love with them.

I wish they were married to some good sisters, but I would not give them one of my sisters if I had many…’ (Quoted in John Pollock, Wesley, Hodder, p.190)

Charles was married in 1748 and had, as it happens, a long and happy marriage.

Things would work out slightly differently for John.

Grace is in the air!
John Wesley had appointed Grace Murray, a Geordie, a new convert, a competent leader and a widow, to oversee the Methodist Orphanage in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

He was clearly taken with her ability. She was firm, efficient, and, upon his arriving in Newcastle sick on one occasion, wonderfully caring.

Surely she was the kind of woman who could be his wife!

As he recovered, he began to have stronger feelings towards her and, perhaps unwisely, suddenly said to her, ‘If ever I marry, I think you will be the person!’ (ibid. p.192)

She, understandably, was surprised and impacted by the statement, and, a little stunned, said to John, ‘This is too great a blessing for me! I can’t tell how to believe it! This is all I could have wished for under heaven, if I had dared to wish for it!’

Wesley soon recovered from his illness and made plans to travel down to Yorkshire. Grace, being unwilling to so quickly separate from him after their new found love, convinced him to allow her to ride with him part of the journey.

Wesley, apparently undistracted by the presence of his new found love, quietly read Hodge’s ‘Account of the Plague in London’ as they travelled silently on.

The calamities continue. To read the next installment of Wesley’s attempted courtship click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Come see a Christian triumphing over death!

Newgate Prison, London

We saw earlier how John Lancaster, a prisoner condemned to death in Newgate prison, had come to faith in Christ.

Now we see him at his last moment and at his most triumphant. The year was 1748 and John Wesley recorded the events for future generations in his journals.

As Lancaster was led out of his cell, his confession was “Blessed be the day I came into this place! O what a glorious work hath the Lord carried on in my soul since I came hither!”

“O that I could tell the thousandth part of the joys I feel!”
Wesley adds, ‘Then he said to those near him, “O my dear friends, join in praise with me a sinner! O for a tongue to praise Him as I ought! My heart is like fire…I am ready to burst…O that I could tell the thousandth part of the joys I feel!”

‘One saying, “I am sorry to see you in that condition.” He answered, “I would not change it for ten thousands worlds.”

‘From the press-yard he was removed into a large room where he exhorted all the officers to repentance.

Thomas Atkins was brought in, whom he immediately asked, “How is it between God and your soul?” He answered, “Blessed be God, I am ready.”

Newgate Prison, London by George Shepherd

“By one o’clock I will be in Paradise!”
An officer asked what time it was and Lancaster happily replied, “By one I shall be in Paradise, safely resting in Abraham’s bosom…I see [Jesus] by faith, standing at the right hand of God, with open arms to receive our souls.”

Another asked, “Which is Lancaster?” and he answered, “Here I am. Come see a Christian triumphing over death.”

‘A bystander said, “Be steadfast to the end.” He answered, “I am, by the grace of God, as steadfast as the rock I am built upon, and that rock is Christ.”

Why no-one should despair
‘Then he said to the people, “Cry to the Lord for mercy, and you will surely find it. I have found it; therefore none should despair. When I came first to this place, my heart was as hard as my cell walls, and as black as hell. But now I am washed, now I am made clean by the blood of Christ.”’

Speaking of the prayer time he had with other prisoners the night before he said, “I was as it were in heaven. O, if a foretaste be so sweet, what must the full enjoyment be?”

Wesley continues, ‘The people round, the mean time, were in tears; and the officers stood like men affrighted.’

Praying for the Nations and the Local Church
‘Then Lancaster exhorted one in doubt, never to rest till he had found rest in Christ. After this he broke out into strong prayer…that the true Gospel of Christ might spread to every corner of the habitable earth; that the [Methodist] congregation at the Foundery might abound more and more in the knowledge and love of God…’

‘When the officers told them it was time to go, [the converted prisoners] rose with inexpressible joy, and embraced each other…’

“I am going to Paradise today!”
‘Coming into the press yard, he saw Sarah Peters. He stepped to her, kissed her, and earnestly said, “I am going to Paradise today; and you will follow me soon.”

‘The crowd being great, they could not readily get through. So he had another opportunity of declaring the goodness of God [saying] “Rely on Him for mercy and you will surely find it.”

‘Turning to the spectators he said, “It is but a short time and we shall be where all sorrow and sighing flee away. Turn from the evil of your ways; and you also shall stand with the innumerable company on Mount Zion…See that you love Christ; and then you will come there too!”

‘All the people who saw them seemed to be amazed; but much more when they came to the place of execution. A solemn awe overwhelmed the whole multitude.

‘As soon as the executioner had done his part with Lancaster, and the two that were with him, he called for a hymn book, and gave out a hymn with a clear, strong voice.

‘Even,’ John Wesley adds, ‘a little circumstance that followed seems worth observing. His body was carried away by a company hired by the surgeons. But a crew of sailors pursued them, took it from them by force, and delivered it to his mother…

‘He died on Friday October 28 and was buried on Sunday the 30th.’
(All quotes from John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 2, p.123-125, Baker Edition)

© 2010 Lex Loizides

‘Nothing to Trust in Except the Blood of Christ’

We continue the amazing accounts of grace given to those condemned to death in the 1700’s.

John Wesley recorded these testimonies of men facing execution, in his own journals, giving them a wider audience than they might have otherwise had.

They had been faithfully visited by Sarah Peters. She shared the gospel with them and many were genuinely converted.

Thomas Atkins
‘The next who was spoken to was Thomas Atkins, nineteen years of age.

‘When he was asked (after many other questions, in answering which he expressed the clearest and deepest conviction of all his sins, as well as that for which he was condemned) if he was afraid to die; he fixed his eyes upward, and said, in the most earnest and solemn manner, ‘I bless God, I am not afraid to die; for I have laid my soul at the feet of Jesus.’

And to the last moment of his life, he gave all reason to believe that these were not vain words.’

William Gardiner
‘William Gardiner, from the time that he was condemned, was very ill… [Sarah Peters] visited him in his own cell, till he was able to [move about].

He was a man of exceeding few words, but of a broken and contrite spirit.

Some time after, he expressed great readiness to die, yet with the utmost diffidence of himself.

One of his expressions, to a person accompanying him to the place of execution was:

“O Sir! I have nothing to trust to but the blood of Christ! If that won’t do, I am undone forever!”‘

More next time…
(From John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 2, p.121-122, Baker Edition)

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Evangelistic Depression

18th Century Cartoon Mocking Evangelist George Whitefield

A broad overview of church history does give us a picture of the Church gaining ever-increasing strength and global relevance. Church History is encouraging!

But there are still major gaps in our knowledge of certain periods where it seems the gospel wasn’t having the kind of impact we’d desire or expect.

The Mission isn’t easy
And as you move in closer to specific periods, even periods marked with revivals, you soon see the challenges, the failures and the difficulties.

Great Evangelists like George Whitefield and John Wesley, who must rank as amongst the hardest working of Christian leaders, also had times of discouragement.

Whitefield is often quoted as saying that some of the converts ‘were like a rope of sand’. This statement, made at a time of disappointment with the numbers who had joined the Wesleyan societies, is usually taken out of context and used against Whitefield’s gospel message.

But he wasn’t saying that his gospel was ineffective, or that his Reformed theological position was evangelistically irrelevant. He was merely breathing out his disappointment at a particular time and place.

John Wesley also said much the same thing. Having spent so much time and effort in Newgate amongst the prisoners, he laments the lack of result and says, ‘I see no fruit of our labour!’ (Journal, Vol 2, p.89, Baker Edition)

Don’t give up!
Every believer who has sought to share the gospel with someone they care about knows the disappointment of non-response or negative response. This is part of the struggle we are in together.

Rather than become less evangelistic we should take courage that even the greatest Evangelists don’t see breakthrough all the time.

There’s work to be done. And if we truly believe we will reap what we sow, then we should be sowing much, much more than we are, and not give up prematurely.

Don’t give up. In the gospel of Jesus Christ you’ve got the greatest message ever given to humankind. Keep going.

‘Do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.’ Hebrews 6:12 (NKJV)

More next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Noisy Meetings!

The Problem of Praiseless Praise and Joyless Joy!
Most Christians are used to passion in their gathered church meetings. It would be strange, in a perfectly logical sense, to encounter strict formality, dull routine and lacklustre praise (how can you praise someone blandly, with praiseless praise, joyless joy?)

The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to praise God with joy filled hearts and even with shouts of joy!

The Sound Psalmists
David says, ‘I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart’ (Ps 9:1) and the sons of Korah cry repeatedly, ‘Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.’ (Ps 47:6)

You have to admit, you don’t need to go far in the Book of Psalms to realise these guys are exhorting the gathered community of God’s people to exuberant expressions of joy!

Again, Psalm 66:17 says ‘I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue.’ And there’s even a Biblical exhortation to clap our hands and shout – during a time of worship!! (see Psalm 47:1)

Anyhow, for the great Evangelistic preachers of the 18th Century, the noise didn’t usually come from meetings of believers.

Noise, sometimes overriding everything else, came from the mobs and crowds that were hired to disrupt their meetings, and who blew trumpets, banged on drums and threw copious amounts of dirt and stones.

The meetings were also disturbed by the loud cries and shrieks of those who were suddenly aware of their desperate need of God’s forgiveness, or who were being delivered from some form of bondage.

Non-Christians behaving, Christians raving!
However, when Wesley visited Gwennap in Cornwall (England) in 1747 he was surprised by a welcome reversal.

A very large crowd gathered to listen attentively to his preaching. Wesley writes, ‘About half an hour after five I began at Gwennap. I was afraid my voice would not suffice for such an immense multitude.

‘But my fear was groundless; as the evening was quite calm, and the people all attention.

‘It was more difficult to be heard in meeting the society, amidst the cries of those, on the one hand, who were pierced through as with a sword, and of those, on the other, who were filled with joy unspeakable.’
(from John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 2, p.62, Baker Edition)

May God give us such ‘revival’ scenes once more, with multitudes gathering to hear the good news of the grace of God in Christ, and church meetings filled with foretastes of heavenly glory.

More next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Leading From the Front

Every season of spiritual reform encounters resistance.

Every culture-changing spiritual breakthrough is accompanied by resistance. It is naïve of us to imagine, or hope, it might not be so.

As the Christian message had ever increasing impact outside the acceptable confines of the local churches and into the culture of 18th Century England, the leaders and new converts had to deal with opposition.

We’ll come to the inspirational bravery of the converts who continued to live and trade in hostile contexts after the preachers had moved on to new towns in a later post.

For now we will continue with John Wesley’s description of his experience in Staffordshire in October 1743.

To catch up with the story begin here and follow the links

Wesley continues to reason with an angry and violent mob
‘I began asking, “What evil have I done?”…and continued speaking for above a quarter of an hour, till my voice suddenly failed.

Then the floods began to lift up their voice again; many crying out, “Bring him away! Bring his away!”

‘In the mean time my strength returned and I broke out aloud into prayer.

A sudden change of heart after hearing Wesley pray
‘And now the man who just before headed the mob turned, and said, “Sir, I will spend my life for you! Follow me and not one soul here shall touch a hair of your head.”

‘Two or three of his fellows confirmed his words and got close to me immediately.

‘At the same time, the gentleman in the shop cried out, “For shame, for shame! Let him go!”

‘An honest butcher, who was a little further off…pulled back four or five, one after another, who were running on the most fiercely.

The Final escape
‘The people then, as if it had been by common consent, fell back to the right and the left, while those three or four men took me between them…

‘But on the bridge the mob rallied again. We therefore went on one side, over the mill-dam, and thence through the meadows; till…God brought me safe to Wednesbury; having lost only one flap of my waistcoat and a little skin from one of my hands.

A woman punches Wesley’s opponents
‘The poor woman of Darlaston, who had headed that mob, and sworn, that none should touch me, when she saw her followers give way, ran into the thickest of the throng and knocked down three or four men, one after another.

‘But she was soon overpowered and had probably been killed in a few minutes had not a man called to one of them, “Hold, Tom, hold!” So they held their hand and let her get up…’

Wesley recounts the injuries he had received whilst preaching
Wesley genuinely believed he was spared pain and danger, trusting, as he did, in the sovereignty of God.

He recalled his various injuries during his efforts to preach the gospel: ‘By how gentle degrees does God prepare us for his will! Two years ago a piece of brick grazed my shoulders.

‘It was a year after that the stone struck me between the eyes.

‘Last month I received one blow, and this evening two; one before we came into the town, and one after we were gone out; but both were as nothing:

‘For though one man struck me on the breast with all his might, and the other on the mouth with such a force that the blood gushed out immediately, I felt no more pain from either of the blows, than if they touched me with a straw.’

Back to the believers
Wesley found his way back to the four other leaders who had accompanied him through the ordeal, and back to the newly formed ‘society’ who had been praying.

William Sitch had been at Wesley’s side but was dragged away and beaten but afterwards he got up and found his way back to Wesley.

When asked what he thought would happen to them, Sitch replied, ‘To die for Him who had died for us!’

What became of the Two Justices of the Peace?
Following this outrageous violence, the two Justices, who had refused to face the crowd or see Wesley to protect him, wrote a letter to all the Police Constables and Peace Officers within Staffordshire.

It was a letter of warning, informing them of several ‘disorderly persons styling themselves Methodist Preachers’ who ‘go about raising routs and riots to the great damage’ of the people.

The police were instructed to search for these preachers, arrest them and bring them before Justices of the Peace throughout the county!
(All quotes from John Wesley Journal, Vol 1, p.439-441, Baker Edition)

More next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

A Massive Fist Fight With John Wesley in the Middle!

John Wesley - his long hair would prove to be a disadvantage

This is getting silly!
Having failed to secure a hearing with a Judge in Wednesbury, the crowd decide to march Wesley to a Justice of the Peace in nearby Walsal.

It’s not clear exactly what they thought they would accomplish; possibly to have Wesley censured for disturbing the peace.

(Read the first part of the story here and follow the links)

As news was being delivered to them that the second judge was already in bed and not willing to see them, it happened!

Two Mobs attack each other!
Wesley writes, ‘About fifty of them undertook to convoy me. But we had not gone a hundred yards when the mob of Walsal came, pouring in like a flood, and bore down all before them.

‘The Darleston mob made what defence they could; but they were weary, as well as out-numbered, so that in a short time, many being knocked down, the rest ran away, and left me in their hands.

‘To attempt speaking was in vain, for the noise on every side was like the roaring of the sea.

Yanked by the hair
‘So they dragged me along till we came to the town where, seeing the door of a large house open, I attempted to go in; but a man catching me by the hair, pulled me back into the middle of the mob.

‘They made no more stop till they had carried me through the main street, from one end of the town to the other.

‘I continued speaking all the time to those within hearing, feeling no pain or weariness.

‘At the west end of the town, seeing a door half open, I made towards it and would have gone in, but a gentleman in the shop would not suffer me, saying they would pull the house down to the ground.

‘However, I stood at the door and asked, “Are you willing to hear me speak?” Many cried out, “No! No! Knock his brains out! Down with him! Kill him at once!”‘
(From John Wesley Journal, Vol 1, p.437-438, Baker Edition)

We’ll pick up the final installment in the story next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley hustled to a Judge by 200 Ruffians

Late one evening, in Wednesbury, England, the famous Evangelist John Wesley found the house he was staying in surrounded by an angry mob. He called the ringleaders inside and spoke wisely to them.

(Read the first part of the story here, the second part here)

Sensing the crowd would be pacified, Wesley decided to go out to them but several still demanded he be taken to a local magistrate to be censured for disturbing the peace.

Wesley, being perhaps a little over-confident, agreed to go with them despite the relative lateness of the hour.

‘Let it Rain!’
A ridiculous, lumbering crowd of between two and three hundred pushed and shoved along for about a mile. Then, typical of June in England, the rain began to pour down. ‘Heavy rain’, says Wesley in his journal.

Finally, after a two mile rain-soaked walk, those running ahead arrived at the Wednesbury Magistrate’s house.

Not very surprisingly, he wasn’t keen to meet the unruly crowd and had a servant tell them he was in bed and they should take Wesley back into Wednesbury.

The charge against the Evangelicals
However, when the main bulk of the crowd got to the house they began banging on the door. This time, the bold Justice sent his son to the door. He asked for information on what Wesley and his colleagues had actually done wrong.

The answer was this: ‘Why, an’t please you, they sing psalms all day. Nay, and make folks rise at five in the morning.’

After a brief pause the Magistrate’s doorstep verdict was delivered: “Go home and be quiet!”

Unfortunately, one bright spark suggested that they try another Magistrate in the nearby town of Walsal. And that’s when the real trouble began…

More next time…
(Quotes from John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 1, p.437, Baker edition)
© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley Speaks to a Violent Mob

See the first part of this story here

John Wesley, making an entry in his journal for 20th June 1743, wrote,

‘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!”

‘I desired one to take their captain by the hand and bring him into the house.

The ring leaders calm down once they meet John Wesley personally
‘After a few sentences interchanged between us the lion was become a lamb.

‘I desired him to go and bring one or two more of the most angry of his companions.

‘He brought in two, who were ready to swallow the ground with rage; but in two minutes they were as calm as he.

Wesley decides to go out and address the angry crowd
‘I then bade them make way that I might go out among the people.

‘As soon as I was in the midst of them I called for a chair; and, standing up, asked, “What do any of you want with me?” Some said, “We want you to go with us to the Justice.”

‘I replied, “That I will, with all my heart.”

Wesley senses an evangelistic opportunity!
‘I then spoke a few words, which God applied; so that they cried out with might and main, “This gentleman is an honest gentleman, and we will spill our blood in his defence.”

‘I asked, “Shall we go to the Justice tonight or in the morning?”

‘Most of them cried, “Tonight, tonight!”

A crowd of more than 200 people decide to walk Wesley to the Magistrate’s house!
‘[Hearing this] I went before [them] and two or three hundred followed, the rest returning whence they came.’

Wesley’s most frightening night was only just beginning. Although he thought he had steered the situation to a peaceful outcome, the decision to search for a Magistrate would prove to be a decision that Wesley and most of the crowd were later to regret.

What happened next is probably not what you think…

(All quotes from John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 1, p.436-7, Baker Edition)

For more on Wesley and Whitefield click here
For the next installment of this story click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Surrounded by the Mob – Wesley in Wednesbury

John Wesley in Wednesbury, England

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)

For the next installment click here

To see more on how the early Methodists coped with mob violence click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Don’t Become Weary of Doing Good

The Market Cross in old Epworth

God gives us encouragements in the midst of difficulties. And each encouragement is deeply appreciated. Your leadership challenge may be tough for reasons that are entirely outside yourself.

It’s great to hear news of numerical breakthroughs and blessing in other places. We’re often helpfully stirred to pray and believe for greater breakthrough in our own towns.

But faithfulness to God’s call, with a heart toward God and a helping hand toward man, can sow spiritual seed that will produce fruit not only in our generation but also in the one to come.

After preaching each day for a week in his home-town of Epworth (Lincolnshire, England), John Wesley describes the huge crowd who heard him and reflects on the faithful labours of his father, Samuel Wesley, who was a minister in that town.

Wesley preaches to ‘a vast multitude’
He writes, ‘At six I preached for the last time in Epworth church-yard [he had been preaching on his father’s grave stone, after being denied the use of the church pulpit] to a vast multitude gathered together from all parts…

‘I continued among them for near three hours; and yet we scarce knew how to part.

‘O let none think his labour of love is lost because the fruit does not immediately appear!

‘Near forty years did my father labour here; but he saw little fruit of all his labour…but now the fruit appeared.

‘There were scarce any in the town on whom either my father or I had taken any pains formerly, but the seed, sown so long since, now sprung up, bringing forth repentance and remission of sins.’
(John Wesley’s Journals, Vol 1, Baker edition, p.379-380)

Galatians 6:9 says, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’

1 Corinthians 15:58 says, ‘Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.’

Be encouraged as you seek to share the gospel of grace in your community – and remember Epworth and how years of sowing did eventually produce a massive harvest!

More next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Angry Wife Leads to Evangelists’ Acquittal (because she’s no longer angry)

Ever met someone who could give such a tongue lashing that you were nervous of even saying hello?

Well, one poor husband who endured such rebukes for many years found himself in a tight spot – in court. His wife had suddenly stopped her verbal attacks and became considerate and mild – but the husband still wasn’t happy. What was the cause and what would the Judge say?

John Wesley, writing in his journal in 1742 tells the story:

Wednesday, 9 June: ‘I rode over to a neighbouring town, to wait upon a Justice of Peace, a man of candour and understanding; before whom (I was informed) their angry neighbours had carried a whole wagon-load of these new heretics.’ [ie, new Christian converts along with some of those who had been sharing the gospel with them]

‘But when asked what they had done, there was a deep silence; for that was a point their conductors had forgot.

‘At length one said, “Why, they pretend to be better than other people…and besides, they prayed from morning to night.”

‘Mr. S asked, “But have they done nothing besides?”

“Yes Sir!”, said an old man, “An’t please your worship, they have convarted my wife. Till she went among them she had such a tongue! And now she is as quiet as a lamb!”

“Carry them back, carry them back,” replied the Justice, “and let them convert all the scolds in the town!”
(From John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 1, Baker edition, p.378)

Gal 5:22-23 says, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.’

More next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley Preaching on his Father’s Grave

John Wesley Preaches from his Father's Grave

On Sunday June 6th 1742 John Wesley, the English Evangelist re-visited his home town, Epworth in Lincolnshire.

This was the town of his birth and his father had been the Pastor of the St. Andrew’s Anglican Church there. The Wesley children had been raised there.

Prior to the Sunday service beginning Wesley offered to assist the Curate with the service, either by preaching or ‘reading prayers’ (from the Book of Common Prayer, then used by Anglicans).

The curate wasn’t keen, and we pick up the story from Wesley’s Journal:

‘He did not care to accept my assistance. The church was exceeding full in the afternoon, a rumour being spread that I was to preach.

‘But the sermon on ‘Quench not the Spirit’ was not suitable to the expectation of many of the hearers. Mr. Romney told them one of the most dangerous ways of quenching the Spirit was by enthusiasm; and enlarged on the character of an enthusiast…’

It’s quite likely that John Wesley, his friends and many of the people could clearly understand that the dodgy ‘character’ being described was Wesley himself!

‘Mr. Wesley will preach in the graveyard!’
Wesley continues, ‘After sermon, John Taylor stood in the church-yard, and gave notice, as the people were coming out, ‘Mr. Wesley, not being permitted to preach in the church, designs to preach here at six o’clock.’

‘Accordingly at six I came, and found such a congregation as I believe Epworth never saw before.

‘I stood near the east end of the church, upon my father’s tomb stone and cried, ‘The kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’

We might expect that many left the Church of England because of the combination of the Curate’s and Wesley’s behaviour. And they did. But Wesley remained a loyal Anglican to the very end, urging new converts to attend the very churches that were teaching against the evangelical movement and preaching specifically against him and Whitefield.

In fact, because some who had left what they considered an unbelieving church were urging others to leave, Wesley, the very same day he had defied the Curate, decided to stay in Epworth and plead with several to remain within the Church of England.

It was a religious loyalty and tension that he struggled with all through his life.

While he was in Epworth he preached every evening of that week from his father’s grave to great crowds who continued to hear him. (all quotes from John Wesley’s Journal, Baker edition, Vol 1, p.377)

It was only near the end that he finally faced the inevitable and laid hands on the first apostolic delegate to America, Thomas Coke. Coke, in turn, had authority to appoint other leaders over the Methodist work in America.

So the Methodist movement, finally freed from its traditional English roots, became established in its own right and for many years became a mighty mouthpiece for evangelical Christianity around the world.

More next time…

© 2009 Lex Loizides

A Christmas Miracle – Back from the Brink of Death

Christmastime with John Wesley

In December 1742 John Wesley and trainee leader Thomas Meyrick travelled to the North of England to preach the gospel.

It was a bitterly cold journey and they both became ill. Meyrick’s sickness, however, took a turn for the worse and twice he was feared dead.

Wesley tells the story of this particular event in his journal.

‘Wed 15th Dec. [Each of us had caught] a violent cold by riding the day before. Mine gradually wore off; but Mr Meyrick’s increased, so that on Friday, he took his bed…’

The Physician fears the worst

Mon 20th…they told me the Physician said, he did not expect Mr. Meyrick would live till morning. I went to him but his pulse was gone.

‘He had been speechless and senseless for some time. A few of us immediately joined in prayer: (I relate the naked fact) Before we had done, his sense and his speech returned.

‘Now he that will account for this by natural causes has my free leave: But I choose to say, This is the power of God.’

Keep praying and never give up!

Sat 25th Dec. ‘The Physician told me he could do no more; Mr. Metyrick could not live over the night. I went up and found them all crying about him; his legs being cold, and (as it seemed) dead already.

‘We all kneeled down, and called upon God with strong cries and tears.

‘He opened his eyes, and called for me; and from that hour he continued to recover his strength till he was restored to perfect health.

‘I wait to hear who will either disprove this fact, or philosophically account for it.’

(From John Wesley’s Journal, Baker edition, Vol 1, p.405-6)

A life of service to God

You might wonder what happened next – especially as he sank back into sickness after the initial bout of prayer.

Well, he did indeed recover and live a further 28 years, finally dying in 1770 (see here).

Prayer is not automatic. We come to a Person, to God the Father, who knows our need. But we can come with strong encouragements that He hears us according to His purpose and will.

Jesus said, ‘For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.’ (Matt 7:8 – see the verses in their context here)

What are you asking God for?

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Violence Seems to Triumph – The First Methodist Martyr

(Methodism and the Mob Part 6)

The Mob Reacts – The Death of William Seward

How do you respond when you hear that a Christian missionary is in trouble for distributing Christian literature, or for some other attempt to communicate the Christian faith?

Maybe your first response is to assume that the believer lacked wisdom. You may be right, of course. Christians can get carried away as they try and verbalise how wonderful they think Jesus Christ is. Each incident needs to be assessed separately.

But on the other hand, we’ve got to a slightly strange place when our assumption is that a follower of Christ trying to share their faith is automatically over-zealous or unwise.

Don’t misunderstand me: the Christian needs to communicate his faith with respect, wisdom and grace, with an ability to listen to others’ objections and beliefs. (see Col 4:4-6)

But the idea that a negative response to an honest attempt at presenting the gospel is always a correction, or, worse, a sign of God’s disapproval, merely reveals our evangelistic immaturity. Jesus made it clear that there would be times when the message would be rejected. Even He was rejected (see John 15:20-21).

And it’s difficult to think of how the Christian Faith advanced from its earliest days apart from believers courageously communicating the gospel to those who didn’t respect the Christian ideals of tolerance and debate.

Another thought before we re-join the 18th century battlefield: put yourself in the position of the hapless ‘missionary’ who is in jail for trying to share the Christian faith. It’s quite likely that you would be your own harshest critic as you retrace the decisions or statements that got you into trouble. My guess is that you’d want folk to pray for you.

The First Methodist Martyr
In October 1740,William Seward and Howell Harris were out again preaching the gospel in Wales. This time, they visited Hay-on-Wye.

Suddenly, someone from the crowd took aim and Seward was hit with a large stone and lay unconscious on the ground.

Dallimore writes, ‘he was carried from the scene unconscious. For a few days he hovered between life and death, but sank steadily lower till on October 22, 1740, his spirit passed away.’ (Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Vol 1, Banner of Truth, p.584)

Seward’s death, at age 38, was a blow to the young movement. But it did not stop their passionate preaching. Undeterred, they continued to present the gospel to the masses in Britain.

It was a personal blow to Whitefield, both in terms of friendship and financial support. Seward was helping fund Whitefield’s Orphan House in Georgia and Whitefield now carried that financial burden alone. Tragically, Seward had not made a will (ibid, p.585)

Trusting in God’s Sovereignty

John Wesley wrote in his journal for Mon Oct 27th, ‘The surprising news of poor Mr Seward’s death was confirmed. Surely God will maintain his own cause! Righteous art thou O Lord!’

Wesley’s trust in God’s sovereignty is totally appropriate. Is there any individual, or people too hard for God to reach by His grace? No! ‘The earth is the Lord’s and its fullness.’

We might question Seward’s enthusiasm, especially when he had been a target for violence before; the sin, however, was not his, but the one who threw the stone.

And the message of forgiveness of all sins through Jesus Christ continued to be preached throughout Britain during the 1740’s.

See Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

To see more on how John Wesley handled a mob situation click here
© 2009 Lex Loizides

Preachers Pelted with Dirt, a Cat and a Dead Dog

(Methodism and the Mob Part 5)

William Seward
William Seward was a wealthy supporter of the work that George Whitefield and Howell Harris were doing.

He also helped John Wesley with generous funding for the meeting place in Bristol, even though Wesley was assuming a leadership role there that Seward felt excluded Whitefield (See here for how Whitefield began the work in Bristol).

Seward had accompanied these preachers and witnessed both the joys and dangers of massive crowds.

In 1740 he travelled with Howell Harris in Wales and records several occasions when the crowds became violent.

Seward with Howell Harris
On Sept 9 he wrote, ‘We had been singing and praying and discoursing for half an hour when the mob began to be outrageous, and to pelt us…till at length I was struck with a stone upon my eye, which caused me so much anguish that I was forced to go away to the Inn.

‘Bro. Harris continued to discourse for some time afterward…I got my eye dressed and went to bed as soon as possible.

The next morning they went out again, preaching in the same place to the same crowds.

Stones, dirt, a cat and a dead dog
Seward writes, ‘We had continual showers of stones, walnuts, dirt, a cat and also a dead dog thrown at us…

‘I was struck on my forehead and under my right eye again, and also on my side with a stone.

‘A drum was ordered to be beat, which drowned [our] voices…the Book [the Bible] was all covered with dirt.

‘After Bro. Harris had done, I spoke a few words, but I found my call was more to suffer than to preach.’ (from William Seward, ‘Journal of a Voyage from Savannah to Philadelphia and from Philadelphia to England’ p.27)

Perhaps he should have backed down. Perhaps he should have let others do the preaching. Perhaps…

Seward would accompany Harris again in October, 1740 as Harris preached powerfully to hostile crowds. It would be the last time Seward would share in the struggle to bring Britain to Christ.

For the next installment click here

Also see: Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Howell Harris Gets Beaten up While Preaching

(Methodism and the Mob, Part 3)

Bala, in Wales. Not exactly a holiday destination for Howell Harris

The Evangelist preaches, is resisted, rejected and then covered in sewerage and beaten ruthlessly.

Hugh Hughes, in his biography of Harris describes one scene in Bala, Wales, in 1741. Howell Harris, the great pioneer of outdoor preaching during the Great Awakening, received a beating at the hands of violent men and women.

Suffering for Christ
Hughes writes, ‘The women were as fiendish as the men, for they besmeared him with mire, while their companions belaboured him with their fists and clubs, inflicting such wounds that his path could be marked in the street by the crimson stains of his blood.’

‘The enemy continued to persecute him…striking him with sticks and with staves, until overcome with exhaustion, he fell to the ground…They still abused him, though prostrate…’ (Hugh J Hughes Life of Howell Harris, p.142-3, quoted in Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Wakeman Press)

Empowered by the Spirit
Describing his resilience at another similar time of violent reaction, Harris wrote, ‘Had bullets been shot at me, I felt I should not move. Mob raged. Voice lifted up, and though by the power going with the words my head almost went to pieces, such was my zeal that I cried, ‘I’ll preach Christ till to pieces I fall!’ (ibid p.142)

Peter wrote, ‘But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.’ (1 Peter 4:13-14)

Certainly Harris was conscious of the power of the Holy Spirit resting upon him at such times. John Wesley also reports a similar experience of peace in the midst of sometimes violent storms.

While it may be difficult for us to imagine that the pleasure and power of God might rest upon us at a time of persecution, nevertheless those who have suffered prove the promise of Scripture to be true.

For the next installment click here

Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2

© 2009 Lex Loizides