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Are You Being Persecuted Yet? Part 2

Sep 22, 2019

The true Christian WILL face persecution for sharing the gospel. Consider these three amazing examples.

In Part 1 of this article I said that persecution is a good indication of whether you are a committed Christian or not. It is a good test of determining if you really are following Christ fully and faithfully. Sure, some care is needed here: sometimes we are disliked, opposed and persecuted – NOT because we are terrific followers of Jesus Christ – but because we may be jerks, or a pain in the butt, or just annoying to be around.

But that is not what I am speaking about here. What I mean is that those who are real deal followers of Christ, and who boldly proclaim biblical truth, will be persecuted. Jesus made this perfectly clear, as did his disciples. And church history fully attests to this.

In Part 1 of this article I examined the life of John Wesley, offering just a few – of many – examples of the fierce and abusive opposition he faced on a regular basis. Let me now offer my next two examples of this.

George Whitefield

The great preacher Whitefield (1714-1770) also knew his fair share of opposition and hostility. Here I will utilise the 2-volume biography by Arnold Dallimore (Banner of Truth, 1970, 1980) as I offer just a few examples of the vile abuse he often encountered.

In early 1742, while doing open-air preaching at Moorfields, London, he tells us the response he received by some of the “twenty or thirty thousand people” assembled there: “I was honoured with having a few stones, dirt, rotten eggs and pieces of dead cats thrown at me.” He continues:

Finding those efforts to fail, a large body . . . assembled together, and having got a large pole for their standard, advanced towards us with steady and formidable steps, till they came very near the skirts of our hearing, praying, and almost undaunted congregation. I saw, gave warning, and prayed . . . for present support and deliverance. . . . Just as they approached us with looks full of resentment, I know not by what accident, they quarrelled among themselves, threw down their staff and went their way.

He reports this incident from the next day:

But Satan did not like thus to be attacked in his strong-holds, and I narrowly escaped with my life: for as I was passing from the pulpit to the coach, I felt my wig and hat to be almost off. I turned about, and observed a sword just touching my temples.

A young rake . . . was determined to stab me, but a gentleman, seeing the sword thrusting near me, struck it up with his cane . . . The enraged multitude soon seized him, and had it not been for one of my friends, who received him into his house, he must have undergone a severe discipline.

The next day, I renewed my attack in Moorfields; . . . After they found that pelting, noise, and threatenings would not do, one of the merry Andrews got up into a tree very near the pulpit, and shamefully exposed his nakedness. . . Such a beastly action quite abashed the serious part of my auditory; whilst hundreds of another stamp . . . expressed their approbation by repeated laughs. I must own that, at first, it gave me a shock. . . but, recovering my spirits, I appealed to all, since they had now such a spectacle before them, whether I had wronged human nature, in saying, after pious Bishop Hall, “that man, when left to himself, was half a devil and half a beast; . . .”

Consider another incident from 1744 in which two attackers nearly killed him:

One night, shortly after his arrival in Plymouth, an officer from a man-of war came to his lodging, seeking an interview. Whitefield was in bed, but believing the man to be a spiritual inquirer he had the landlady show him up to his room.

The conversation had but well begun when – and here is Whitefield’s account:

‘. . . he suddenly rose up, uttering the most abusive language; calling me dog, rogue, villain, &cc, and beat me most unmercifully with his gold-headed cane. . . . But my hostess and her daughter hearing me cry murder, rushed into the room, and seized him by the collar; however, he immediately disengaged himself from them, and repeated his blows upon me.’

A second attacker also appeared, but before lasting harm was done the noise of the assault aroused the people in homes around about and the assailants fled. It is probable that, as Whitefield believed, these men intended to murder him.

The Booths and the Salvation Army

William and Catherine Booth also encountered constant opposition and persecution, as did so many members of the newly-formed Salvation Army. Talk about persecution, these folks certainly experienced it big time. Because they fearlessly proclaimed the biblical gospel with Holy Ghost boldness, they were met with fury, hostility and determined opposition.

Consider just a few snippets, as found in Trevor Yaxley’s William & Catherine (Bethany House, 2003):

Image of William and Catherine: The Life and Legacy of the Booths: Founders of the Salvation Army
William and Catherine: The Life and Legacy of the Booths: Founders of the Salvation Army by Trevor Yaxley Amazon logo

William and his helpers soon got used to the disruptions caused by drunken roughs during their open-air meetings. . . . They did not always come away from their open-air work unharmed. Anything opponents could find was thrown their way, and often they hit the mark. On many evenings, William would trudge the eight miles to his Hammersmith home, arriving weary and battle-scarred, his clothes stained with blood or rotten fruit and his body bruised. This was the price they had to pay as they sought to save the worst of sinners – a price they never considered too high….

Just as they were willing to weather the storms of unfavorable public opinion, the early Salvationists were prepared to bear any cost to see salvation come to ordinary men and women like themselves. However, as the work of the Army expanded, the disruptions and attacks against them began to take on a more serious and sinister form. Their willingness to pay the price was regularly tested to the limit. . . . Preaching on the streets was at times like preaching in hell. Teams of Salvationists faced ridicule, scorn, and hatred as they proclaimed the gospel in the degraded slums. Many of the poor and destitute were strongly atheistic, hating the name of God and fiercely opposing those who spoke of any form of religion….

By 1880 this holy Army was attracting severe opposition. Those who stood to lose the most from their success became their greatest enemies. Hotel and brothel owners faced falling profits as their previously thriving businesses began to suffer. The escalating conversion rate of many of their most loyal customers was plainly evident….

Tragically greater injuries were also to follow. In Guildford that same year the wife of the corps officer was kicked to death. A fellow woman soldier was so severely beaten during the same parade that she also died some days later from the wounds she sustained. It is difficult to imagine this degree of persecution of Christians occurring in a ‘Christian’ nation such as Britain in the nineteenth century.

In Whitechapel, East London, Salvation Army lasses were tied together with rope and pelted with live coals. It was not uncommon for parades heading for the evening meetings to be showered with tar and burning sulphur. ‘Blood and Fire’ became a reality for this army of God, unfortunately not only in the way originally foreseen.

Conclusion

I could go on and on like this, but I trust that you get the point. Bold preaching of the gospel will always invite determined and fierce opposition. Real persecution will always follow the faithful proclamation of the good news of salvation in Christ. This is one clear test of genuine Christian discipleship.

Yes, not all of us are street preachers or open-air campaigners. Not all of us have such ministries as these three incredible examples. But every follower of Jesus Christ is called to be a witness. We are all called to tell others about Jesus Christ. And when we do that, we can expect resentment, animosity, rejection and persecution.

Sure, in the civilised West we may not necessarily face the same persecution that these great saints did. We may not encounter screaming and enraged mobs, ready to kill us or stone us or run us out of town. But the hostility and persecution can be just as significant and painful, with people losing their jobs, being fined, and sometimes even jailed.

So we dare not expect that as committed disciples of Christ we can somehow escape persecution and hatred. Let me close with some stirring words by Catherine Booth as found in her 1880 book, Aggressive Christianity:

Opposition! It is a bad sign for the Christianity of this day that it provokes so little opposition. If there were no other evidence of it being wrong, I should know from that. When the Church and the world can jog along together comfortably, you may be sure there is something wrong. The world has not altered. Its spirit is exactly the same as it ever was, and if Christians were equally faithful and devoted to the Lord, and separated from the world, living so that their lives were a reproof to all ungodliness, the world would hate them as much as it ever did. It is the Church that has altered, not the world….

I often wonder whether there would be any martyrs now. Sometimes I think that the greatest boon to the Church of Christ would be a time of persecution. I believe it would. I believe it would drive us up to God and each other. We should find out, then, whether we were willing to forsake all to follow Him. You know that if the martyrs had taken the standard of religious life that exists now, they would never have been martyrs. They would have looked after their own skins, and left the Lord to look after the Gospel.

Part 1 of this article is found here: billmuehlenberg.com/2019/09/22/are-you-being-persecuted-yet-part-1/

[1667 words]

7 Responses to Are You Being Persecuted Yet? Part 2

  • Thanks Bill for both Parts 1 and 2, I’d previosly heard snippets of Wesley’s and Whitefield’s persecutions but it’s sobering and inspiring to now know of these details, and I’d also previously known little of the Booth’s (and their followers’) persecutions beyond “some pub hostility”; thanks so much for informing us.

    Two snippets I’d like to comment on briefly:

    1. “Many of the poor and destitute were strongly atheistic, hating the name of God and fiercely opposing those who spoke of any form of religion…”

    Logically (i.e. putting aside for the moment the fact that the Bible tells us of the spiritual forces working to keep these people deceived), I find that intriguing, bewildering and ironic, given that it’s the poor and destitute who have the most to gain!

    2. “Those who stood to lose the most from their [the Salvation Army’s] success became their greatest enemies. Hotel and brothel owners faced falling profits as their previously thriving businesses began to suffer.”

    Further to “the big end of town” being anti-God, in the last few days I’ve heard two claims about Australian banks’ activities that left me dumbfounded. The first, from a panellist on one of Sky Channel’s programs, was that one reason the banks are overtly pro-abortion (I didn’t know that they were), is that it results in more account holders dying without descendants, and the banks ‘inherit’ the money in accounts left inactive for an extended period by default. The second snippet I think I heard in a documentary, about a scandal relating to a prominent brothel, it had been loaned a substantial amount of money from a bank, completely interest-free …

  • I had read of Salvationists who gave their lives in service of Christ in England in late 19th century but had found it difficult to relocate the sources again – thanks for including this info. I remember Salvos rattling boxes in pubs when I spent too much time and money in them 40 years ago – we all gave them money and bought them a squash so they would leave sooner. Although most respected their social gospel, they didn’t speak about Jesus. No criticism, but I am grateful for those who did speak to me (and others) about Christ … I held out for some years, but God had His way. William Booth’s famous ‘fear’ of the Church in 20th Century: “The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.” I wonder what he would think about the Army today (and Wesley and Whitfield about Methodism)? We all need to be on our guard and remember the psalmist’s words: “How the mighty have fallen!” and to take heed lest we too fall.

  • Bill, It’s more painful when the persecution comes from those who claim to be fellow followers of Christ.

  • Quite right John. And all three of my examples above knew all about opposition and persecution from various religious leaders and some churches.

  • Peter definitely misused his sword, when Jesus was betrayed, to attack the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear (Luke 22:50, John 18:10) but we need to understand that Peter had that sword at Jesus’ direction (Luke 22:35). Peter may have wrongly attacked those in authority, especially after Jesus had specifically told His disciples to obey those in authority, but there is absolutely nothing in scripture that says you are not permitted to defend your own life from an unlawful rabble. Doing so is in fact helping to prevent people from sinning. This is a very different matter to turning the other cheek to an individual.

    Whether this will become useful to people as Australia becomes increasingly degenerate, I don’t know. Most of the attacks Christians are wrongly suffering currently seem to be through media misinformation and using the courts for vexatious litigation.

    I should add that carrying swords, knives and guns in Australia is mostly illegal. We are meant to believe that we are in such an ordered society, with the authorities in this nation in such complete control, that we don’t need these to defend ourselves. It is a shame, however, that we are not permitted access to the media to defend our position while the rabble, it appears, are given huge access, especially through the largely deceitful public as well as the increasingly immorality-promoting private media.

  • Another useful book on The Salvation Army lists Gunfire, Mob rule, Skeleton Army, Riot Act, Military intervention, Bloodshed, Beatings, Abuse, Conspiracy, and Imprisonment. These perils in 1880s England are described in the book BLOOD ON THE FLAG by Nigel Bovey a former editor of the Warcry. Link here:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Flag-Nigel-Bovey/dp/0854129421/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Blood+on+the+Flag+Nigel+Bovey&qid=156935460published in 20153&s=gateway&sr=8-1

    The book is not mere history though, because a legal precedent was set in the Beatty v Gillbanks case in 1882, namely: Lawful conduct cannot be made unlawful by the actions of others. That precedent has been quoted here in the UK in several recent court cases where Faithful Christians have been charged with “hate crimes” for preaching The BIble in public.

    In one other case in the UK, preaching The Bible has been changed into “You did repeatedly shout and utter religious remarks” on the charge sheet – and I kid you not!! In that case, the preacher has been accused of behaving in a “threatening or abusive manner which was likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm”, a charge more often applied to a violent drunk person shouting and bawling in public.

    Two other Christians in the UK are due to face their TWELFTH trial shortly for preaching The Bible – and that is just the tip of the iceberg as Christian persecution continues…

  • How to get physically attacked in Australia:
    Get noticed by AntiFa thugs (publicise their tactics), Muslim thugs (evangelise muslims), satanist thugs (resist abortion).
    How to get slandered in Australia:
    Get noticed by atheists (dismantle evolution, get people saved from homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, and all the fruits of humanism).
    It should be pretty much identical today as it was in the days of Wesley, Whitfield and the Booths. It’s just that nobody these days is as direct as Wesley, Whitfield and the Booths.
    Everyone is so politically correct that a simple little Falau incident with a single little quote of a Bible verse becomes the new “Falau contra mundum”.

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