December 18, 2017

A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ (2)

Mark Minnick

CWesley[From yesterday’s introduction:] It would be hard to find any preachers of the last two centuries any more acquainted with outright warfare for Christ than Charles and his brother John. Their earliest journals are not only almost monotonously replete with references to it, but often the entries nearly spurt blood. Here are samples from Charles’s journal for just one week in 1743.

A stream of ruffians was suffered to bear me from the steps. I rose, and, having given the blessing was beaten down again (May 21).

The stones flew thick, hitting the desk and the people. … The stones often struck me in the face (May 25). …

Do you ever wonder how you’d perform under fire? Occasionally after some minor discouragement that my brooding flesh has worried into a major internal crisis, I find the Lord’s challenge to Jeremiah chiding my conscience: If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? …

So we’ll let Charles Wesley himself tell us what the consequences were of their suffering hardship like good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Here are five instances for our meditation and encouragement.

Our Adversaries’ Hearts Were Turned

Bristol (February 25th, 1747): A day never to be forgotten! At seven I walked quietly to Mrs. Philips’s; began preaching a little before the time appointed; and for three quarters of an hour invited a few listening sinners to Christ. Then the boys, with their bells, like the devil’s infantry began; and soon after his whole army assaulted the house, to bring us forth. We sat in a little ground-room, and ordered all the doors to be thrown open. They brought a hand engine [for pumping water], and began to play into the house. Just then, Mr. Borough, the constable, came, seized upon the spout of the engine, and carried it off in spite of them all … but they hurried out to fetch the larger engine.

They now began playing the larger engine, which broke the windows, flooded the rooms, and spoiled the goods. We were withdrawn to a small upper room, in the back part of the house, seeing no way to escape their violence. … Our brother who keeps the society they laid hold on first; dragged him away, and threw him into the horse pond; and broke his back.

We gave ourselves to prayer, believing the Lord would deliver us; how or when we saw not, nor any possible way of escaping. Therefore we stood still to see the salvation of the Lord. As soon as the mob had emptied the engine, they ran to fill it again, keeping strict watch on all sides lest we should escape.

The rioters without continued playing their engine, which diverted them for some time; but their number and fierceness still increased; and the gentlemen plied them with pitchers of ale, as much as they would drink. … We had now stood siege for about three hours; and none but the Invisible Hand could have kept them one moment from tearing us in pieces. Our constable had applied to Mr. Street, the only justice in town, who would not act. We found there was no help in man, which drove us closer to the Lord.

We prayed and conversed as freely as if we had been in the midst of our brethren; and had great confidence that the Lord would either deliver us from the danger, or in it. … They were now close to us, on every side, and over our heads, untiling the roof. I was diverted by a little girl, who called to me through the door, “Mr. Wesley! Mr. Wesley! creep under the bed! They will kill you. They are pulling down the house.”

At this time we fully expected their appearance and retired to the furthermost corner of the room; and I said, “This is the crisis.” In that moment Jesus rebuked the winds and seas, and there was a great calm. We heard not a breath without, and wondered what was come to them. The silence lasted for three quarters of an hour before anyone came near us; and we continued in mutual exhortation and prayer, looking for deliverance. If ever we felt faith, it was now. Our souls hung upon that arm which divided the sea.

In about an hour after the last general assault, the answer of faith came, and God made bare his arm. Soon after three Mr. Clarke knocked at the door, and brought with him the persecuting constable. He said, “Sir, if you will promise never to preach here again, the gentlemen and I will engage to bring you safe out of town.” My answer was, “I shall promise no such thing.” “But you will not tell me, you have no intention of returning hither?” “Not till you are better disposed to receive me; for, in obedience to my Master, if you persecute me in one city, I will flee to another. But, setting aside my office, I will not give up my birthright, as an Englishman, of visiting what part I please of his majesty’s dominions.” “Sir, we expect no such promise, that you will never come here again: only tell me that it is not your present intention; that I may tell the gentlemen, who will then secure your quiet departure.” I answered, “I cannot come now, because I must return to London a week hence; but OBSERVE, I make no promise of not preaching here when the door is opened; and don’t you say that I do.”

He went away with this answer, and we betook ourselves again to prayer and thanksgiving. We perceived it was the Lord’s doing, and it was marvelous in our eyes. Our adversaries’ hearts were turned. Whether pity for us, or fear for themselves, wrought strongest, God knoweth. Probably the latter; for the mob were wrought up to such a pitch of fury, that their masters dreaded the consequence, and therefore went about appeasing the multitude, and charging them not to touch us in our departure. I knew full well, it was not in their power to lay the devil they had raised, and none but the Almighty could engage for our security.

None Were Suffered to Hurt Me

Dublin, Ireland (September, 1747): Here the first news we heard was, that the little flock stands fast in the storm of persecution. … The Popish mob has broken open their room, and destroyed all before them.

(September 9) I walked at five in the evening to the shattered room in Marlborough-street, where a few people were met, who did not fear what men or devils could do unto them. God has called me to suffer affliction with his people. The Popish mob, encouraged and assisted by the Protestant, are so insolent and outrageous, that whatever street we pass through, it is up in arms. The mayor would assist us, but cannot. The grand jury have had the plainest evidence of the riot laid before them; that mixed rabble of Papists and Protestants broke open our room, and four locks, and a warehouse, stealing and destroying the goods to a considerable value; beat and wounded several with clubs, &c.; and burned them openly before the gate, swearing they would murder us all: yet it is much doubted whether the grand jury will find the bill!

I met the society and the Lord knit our hearts together in love stronger than death. We both wept and rejoiced for the consolation.

(September 13) In the strength of the Lord I went forth. … I stood under the wall of the barracks and preached Christ crucified. … Thousands were now assembled to hear the word, and many to hinder them. … In vain did the poor blind Papists rage, and shout, and cast stones. None were suffered to hurt me, or any of the hearers.

We Sung a Song of Triumph

Athlone, Ireland (February 11, 1748): At eight I took horse for Athlone. We were seven in company, and rode mostly abreast. Some overtook us, running in great haste; and one horseman, riding full speed. We suspected nothing, and rode on, singing, till within half a mile of the town. Mr. Samuel Handy and John Healey happened to be foremost, three or four yards out of the line, though I had led the company till then. We were mounting a little hill, when three or four men appeared at the top, and bade us go back. We thought them in jest, till the stones flew. John Healey was knocked off his horse with a stone fell backward, and lay without sense or motion. Mr. Handy, setting spurs to his horse, charged through the enemy, and immediately turned upon them again. There were only five or six ruffians on the spot; but we saw many gathering to us from all sides.

I observed the man who knocked down John Healey, striking him on the face with his club, and cried to him to stop; which drew him upon me, and probably saved our brother’s life, whom another blow might have dispatched. They had gathered against our coming great heaps of stones, one of which was sufficient to beat out our brains. How we escaped them, God only knows, and our guardian angels. I had no apprehensions of their hurting me, even when one struck me on the back with a large stone, which took away my breath. One struck Mr. Force on the head; at whom Mr. Handy made a full flow. He turned, and escaped past; yet it knocked him down, and for the present disabled him. As often as we returned, we were driven off by showers of stones. Some were for returning home, but I asked if we should leave our brother in the hands of his murderers.

We rode back to the field of battle, which our enemies had quitted, the Protestants beginning to rise upon them. It seems the Papists had laid their scheme for murdering us, at the instigation of their priest, father Ferril, who had sounded an alarm last Sunday, and raised a crusade against us. The man who wounded John Healey was the priest’s servant, and rode his master’s horse. He was just going to finish the work with his knife, swearing desperately that he would cut him up, when a poor woman from her hut came to his assistance, and swore as stoutly that he should not cut him up. The man half killed her with a blow from John Healey’s whip; yet she hindered him till more help came.

We found John Healey, in his blood, at the hut, wither the woman and her husband had carried him. He recovered his senses at hearing my voice. We got him to Athlone; had him blooded; and his wounds dressed. The surgeon would take nothing for his pains.

The people of the town expressed great indignation at our treatment. The soldiers flocked about us. They had been ordered by their officers to meet and guard us into the town.

We marched very slowly for the sake of our patient, till we came to the field of battle. It was stained with blood abundantly. We halted, and sung a song of triumph, and praise to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Here we sent back our guard and went on our way rejoicing to the Moat. I proclaimed in the street the faithful saying, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. A few stones were cast, and a drum beat, to entertain the ladies. In spite of the genteel devil, some impression was made on the vulgar, as their tears testified. We rode through the noisy ones to Mr. Handy’s. The voice of joy and thanksgiving was heard in his dwelling; and we magnified the God by whom we escape death.

Christ Wins

Charles Wesley’s “Soldiers of Christ, Arise” doesn’t leave the end in doubt. Tread all the powers of darkness down, and win the well-fought day, it triumphantly concludes. We ought therefore, brothers, to urge one another To stand … to withstand … having done all, to stand. … stand therefore … stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.

Dr. Mark Minnick is the pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and serves as adjunct professor of preaching and exposition at Bob Jones Seminary.

(Originally published in FrontLine • May/June 2007. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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