Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness. (Matthew 5:10)
The commitment of the early pioneers of the Primitive Methodist movement was characterized by active and sustained persecution. This came in two distinctive forms: the mob and the magistrate.
The mob was often a cause of opposition, particularly because of the use of open-air preaching. The mob was verbally and physically aggressive, and it was the lot of many a preacher to face heckling, and violence, often having stones and rotting vegetables thrown at them. The mob was an unruly and unpredictable group who came to disrupt the evangelistic efforts of the missionary preachers. Sometimes the violence became so extreme, that the preacher was fortunate to escape with his life. The missionary pioneers became used to suffering for the gospel of Christ.
John Garner began his work as a travelling preacher in February, 1819. In May of that year he preached several times in the village of Sow, near Coventry. No sooner had he and his friends entered the village when stones were thrown at them by a mob. He quickly retreated to a safe house, but the mob followed him, surrounded the house, broke the windows, and stopped the meeting being held there.
When he realised that the persecution was not going to stop, Garner confronted the mob, who promptly proceeded to drive him out of the village, with stones, rotten eggs, sludge, or whatever came to hand. Garner’s friends who were with him, tried to escape, but Garner was chased by the rebels.
They followed him out of the village, and in his own words, they “propped my mouth open with stones, while some were engaged in attempting to pour sludge down my throat. The cry was raised, `Kill the devil! d---- him!'”
He was knocked down, beaten and kicked, and hit with various weapons. His clothes were badly torn. He was dragged to a pond, and at this point he fully expected to die. Just at this point one of the worst persecutors rescued him from the rest of the gang, and they withdrew.
Garner picked himself up, walked a few hundred metres, and a woman who had seen his pitiful state, took him into her home, washed him and looked after him. With the help of a friend, he walked a couple of miles to Bell Green, where he rested from his injuries. He was given a new set of clothes, and they made a scarecrow out of his old torn ones. After a few days he resumed his normal work of preaching.
Story abridged from the "History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion", by H B Kendal, page 32.