The Olympic Games will soon begin in London, and while I was there, I couldn’t help but be struck by the contrast of the modern world in the midst of a city so old. London was founded by the Romans about the time when Jesus walked the earth. I even saw Roman ruins among the glass skyscrapers.
But even more striking than the contrast of ancient and modern was the contrast of godly and worldly. London is a city like most, bearing the smudge of the world’s fingerprint upon it: crime, drugs, homelessness, prostitution, etc. Two things especially struck me about the spiritual state of London’s population, the first was violent crime. I had picked up one of those freebie newspapers, and it was full of stories about murder—most of which had occurred in London. The majority of the murders I read about were random murders—murder just for the sake of killing. And the violence of these murders was astonishing. For example, a heavily pregnant 20 year old woman was beaten to death at a bus stop. Her unborn infant died with her.
The other thing that struck me about the spiritual state of London was the hostility towards Christianity. In addition to the same anti-Christian attitudes found in America, I was told that it is popular in London now to have un-christening ceremonies in which they become un-baptized. I don’t know anything about the ceremony, but they sign an un-baptism certificate in front of witnesses, and send a letter to the church asking to be removed from the baptism records. They even send letters to their god-parents, informing them that they will now be solely responsible for their own spiritual choices.
So it is against this backdrop that we visited some of Christianity’s most important places. The first place we visited was the Buxton Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery in Victoria Tower Gardens. Abolition was promoted by Christians. Sadly, there are more slaves today than at any other time in the history of the world—and this despite virtually every country in the world having laws forbidding slavery. The modern name for slavery is Human Trafficking, and it is virtually everywhere. The removal of most border controls in Europe means that transporting slaves throughout Europe is easier than ever.
From there we walked to St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was built by Christopher Wren. His tomb inside the cathedral proclaims it as his memorial marker. Wren was one of the founding Freemasons of London, and all around the cathedral are masonic symbols like obelisks, which originated as an object of sun worship and fertility.
Then we went to Tower Hill. In Trinity Square Garden is a plaque showing the site of the scaffold where many people were executed, including members of the clergy and two Archbishops of Canterbury. This was not the only place in London where Christians were martyred. We also saw the site where Christians were burned at the stake for heresy. When I refer to Christian martyrs, I mean both Catholic and Protestant. In London’s history, when the Catholics were in power, Protestants were martyred as heretics, and vise-versa. Either way, it is a sad historical fact.
The Tower of London was both a castle for visiting royalty and a prison. I guess that was handy for keeping visitors in line.
The day was hot, 29 (about 85 Fahrenheit) degrees. I know my Texas friends will laugh, but that seems much hotter than it actually is when you factor in no breeze and standing in the sun a lot. So in the early afternoon we went to a cool, shady place: Bunhill Fields, which was the Nonconformist burial grounds. John Bunyan, pastor and author of Pilgrim’s Progress is entombed there. Susanna Wesley is also buried there, and her headstone is visible from her son, John Wesley’s house, where we went next. The house is small and simple, like the man (he was only five feet, maybe five-foot-two). The most impressive feature of the house was his prayer room, adjacent to his bedroom. There was a padded kneeler in front of a small desk with an open Bible on it. He was said to have risen at four and spent many hours in prayer. We were told the following:
One day John Wesley was riding along a road when it dawned upon him that three whole days had passed in which he had suffered no persecution. Not a brick or an egg had been thrown at him for three days. Alarmed, he stopped his horse, and exclaimed, “Can it be that I have sinned and am backslidden?”
Slipping from his horse Wesley went down on his knees and began interceding with God to show him where, if any, there had been a fault.
A rough fellow, on the other side of the hedge, hearing the prayer, looked across and recognized the preacher. “I’ll fix that Methodist preacher,” he said taking a brick and tossing it over at him. It missed its mark and fell harmlessly beside John.
Whereupon Wesley leaped to his feet joyfully exclaiming, “Thank God, it’s all right. I still have His presence.”
I wonder how many Christians today would be so happy to be persecuted.
Next door to the house is Wesley’s Chapel, which has the organ on which Charles Wesley (his brother) wrote such wonderful hymns as “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” (lyrics: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Christ_the_Lord_Is_Risen_Today), “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (lyrics: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/O_for_a_Thousand_Tongues_to_Sing), Christmas favorite, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” (lyrics: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Our_American_Holidays_-_Christmas/Christmas_Day), and many others.
Downstairs is the museum, where I got the following wonderful quotes from John Wesley:
I am no longer my own, but Yours. Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will, put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for You or laid aside for You, exalted for You, or brought low for You; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are mine and I am Yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in Heaven. Amen.
I wonder how many Christians today would pray for suffering.
And I’ll leave you with the last quote:
John Wesley’s Rule
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
I can only add: Do good because God is good.