Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Opposing the work of God is a risky business

This story happened around 1816 at Belper in Derbyshire in the English Midlands. It concerns John Benton, a Primitive Methodist open-air preacher and missionary. At this time, the movement was beginning to expand rapidly, using open-air preaching throughout the counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

This style of preaching was not without its challenges. One of the hazards of open-air preaching was opposition and persecution from rabble-rousers and gangs. Primitive Methodist preachers often faced name-calling, violence and disruption in their public meetings. However not all opposition went in the way desired by their opponents. This is just one of many stories of how the plans of those who opposed the Primitive Methodist preachers came undone.

One evening Benton and a group of young converts entered the town of Belper, singing as they approached the market-place. They intended to preach the gospel and “mission” the town. Hundreds of people gathered to hear the missionary preacher and his associates. As well as those who came to hear them, a rabble also gathered to cause trouble.

The rabble was organised by a ringleader, intent on disrupting the preaching. His plan was a simple one. He had taken a bucket, and mixed in it blood and excrement from an animal that had been killed. His intention was to scale a ladder at the back of the building and pour the bucket of filth on the preacher’s head from the front of the building.

The ringleader climbed the ladder and tried to place the bucket on the ridge of the building. As he did so, his foot slipped, and the whole of the contents came down on his own head, and he could only get down the ladder with great difficulty.

This was a great source of laughter and mirth for his fellow rabble rousers, and he was so humiliated by the whole process, that the next time Benton came to preach he gave him a sober hearing. So the moral of this story is: when opposing God, be prepared for the unexpected.

Abridged from “Biographical Sketches of some Preachers of the Primitive Methodist Connexion”, p282-283 originally published in 1855 and republished 2002 by Tentmaker Publications 121 Hartshill Rd, Stoke-on-Trent (http://www.tentmaker.org.uk/)

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