It is the experience of many preachers of powerful Christian movements to go to jail. Examples include Paul and Silas in Philippi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany and Martin Luther King in Birmingham jail. It often seems to be part of God’s plan. As our western society moves from being post-Christian to being increasingly anti-Christian, it may be the lot of modern-day preachers to be sent to prison for preaching the Gospel, as well.
Here is the story of how some early preachers of the Primitive Methodist movement were imprisoned, and what happened as a result.
On Sunday, July 2, 1820, Mr. Brownsword and others went to Stourbridge. At six in the evening, he stood up to preach at the top of the town, to about a thousand people. But after he had spoken for a short time, a constable came and took him into custody.
On the next day, Monday July 3rd, Mr. Brownsword and two others were committed to the county jail at Worcester, because they had preached in the open-air, and would not refrain from the practice. Once in prison, they “exerted themselves for the good of the prisoners generally, preaching or exhorting among them every night, and a great reformation soon appeared among them, and many who had been accustomed to curse and swear, began to read and pray.”
“This imprisonment,” said Hugh Bourne, “caused considerable excitement. … Throughout the Darlaston Circuit, and a great part of Tunstall circuit, prayer was made without ceasing to God for help; and He raised up friends on every side, kindness flowed from every quarter; ministers of other communities came forward to assist – voluntary contributions came in liberally; Tunstall Circuit also pledged its aid; and due preparations were made to meet the expected trial. But as the preachers had broken no laws, those who had ordered them to be apprehended, declined bringing the case to a trial.”
The preachers were taken from jail to the Shire Hall, on the 11th of July, and there liberated. In the evening of the same day, they held a meeting on the race ground at Worcester. A vast concourse attended, partly through curiosity to see and hear persons who had been in jail for preaching the Gospel; hundreds were melted to tears; deep religious impressions were made on many minds, and the apparently untoward event became the means of introducing the Primitive Methodists into this city.
Are you prepared to go to jail for the sake of the Gospel?
Source: History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, by John Petty, page 93.