Saturday, June 10, 2006

Who Will Suffer With the Savior?

On Friday, February 12, 1748, John Wesley relates a harrowing experience in his Journal.

"After preaching at Oakhill about noon, I rode to Shepton and found them all under a strange consternation. A mob, they said, was hired, prepared, and made sufficiently drunk, in order to do all manner of mischief. I began preaching between four and five; none hindered or interrupted at all. We had a blessed opportunity, and the hearts of many were exceedingly comforted. I wondered what was become of the mob. But we were quickly informed: they mistook the place, imagining I should alight (as I used to do) at William Stone’s house, and had summoned, by drum, all their forces together to meet me at my coming: but Mr. Swindells innocently carrying me to the other end of the town, they did not find their mistake till I had done preaching: so that the hindering this, which was one of their designs, was utterly disappointed.

"However, they attended us from the preaching house to William Stone’s, throwing dirt, stones, and clods in abundance; but they could not hurt us. Only Mr. Swindells had a little dirt on his coat, and I a few specks on my hat."

This is a fascinating account in the life of the busy evangelist; however, it wasn't to be over. The drunk mob didn't disperse but continued their riotous behavior. Wesley continues:

"After we were gong into the house, they began throwing great stones, in order to break the door. But perceiving this would require some time, they dropped that design for the present. They first broke all the tiles on the penthouse over the door and then poured in a shower of stones at the windows. One of their captains, in his great zeal, had followed us into the house and was now shut in with us. He did not like this and would fain have got out; but it was not possible; so he kept as close to me as he could, thinking himself safe when he was near me: but, staying a little behind—when I went up two pair of stairs and stood close on one side, where we were a little sheltered—a large stone struck him on the forehead, and the blood spouted out like a stream. He cried out, 'O sir, are we to die tonight? What must I do? What must I do?' I said, 'Pray to God. He is able to deliver you from all danger.' He took my advice and began praying in such a manner as he had scarcely done ever since he was born."

I must confess that I've never been in a house where people who hated me were stoning it! Wesley sure knew how to attract hatred. What is hilarious is that a drunk leader of the mob, accidentally locked inside, stayed close to Wesley because he believed he would be safe! However, a rock to the head told him otherwise. Back to Wesley's account:

"Mr. Swindells and I then went to prayer; after which I told him, 'We must not stay here; we must go down immediately.' He said, 'Sir, we cannot stir; you see how the stones fly about.' I walked straight through the room and down the stairs; and not a stone came in, till we were at the bottom. The mob had just broken open the door when we came into the lower room; and exactly while they burst in at one door, we walked out at the other. Nor did one man take any notice of us, though we were within five yards of each other."

The Lord Jesus never promised Christians an easy life. In fact, he carefully explained that the slaves of Satan would afflict the Church of God. Notice his warning:

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me." (John 15.18-21 ESV)

About eight months before this experience Wesley commits to paper another experience in a Journal entry for Tuesday June 30, 1747, in which he sounds perplexed (perhaps uneasy) that he isn't receiving persecution in a place where things got rough for him before:

"We came to St. Ives before morning prayers, and walked to church without so much as one huzza. How strangely has one year changed the scene in Cornwall! This is now a peaceable, nay, honorable station. They give us good words almost in every place. What have we done that the world should be so civil to us?"

Christianity records a warning for those who never stir up opposition:

"Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets." (Luke 6.26 ESV)

Now, John Wesley had his share of persecution; I'm not suggesting that he was a false prophet. Still, I wonder if he felt uncomfortable in the absence of opposition in Cornwall!

I'm not suggesting we try to instigate trouble for ourselves but others may attempt to do just that toward us. Are we never opposed for the Truth? Do we never feel the sting of rejection because we stand for the Truth? Have we never had people refuse to associate with us because we are different than they are? Does everybody like us? Is that a good thing?