William Seward: The First Methodist Martyr

SEWARD1Jesus said in Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  A man named William Seward lived from 1702-1740.  He died at the age of 38 from unnatural causes in October of 1740.  Here is a brief account of Seward’s life and death:

Born at Badsey [England] in 1702, William went to London as a young man and there he acquired considerable wealth as a successful business man; he also enjoyed a reputation as a generous benefactor of the poor… [He bestowed Badsey Church with many expensive tangible gifts].

In 1738, William met the Reverend Charles Wesley and soon became closely involved with the evangelistic campaigns of the early Methodists.  One of the group, George Whitefield, wrote in his diary in April 1739, “went to Badsey and preached in Mr. Seward’s brother’s yard.”  In all, Whitefield preached at Badsey on three consecutive days, on the third occasion to “a weeping audience.”

In 1740, following his return from a trip to America, William Seward commenced open-air preaching on his own account. He encountered hostile crowds in South Wales and then at Hay-on-Wye [which is on the Welsh side of the Welsh/English border] in October he was heavily stoned by a particularly aggressive mob and a few days later died from his wounds, thus becoming the first Methodist martyr. He is buried near Hay, in the village churchyard at Cusop. The church there has a memorial tablet, which was dedicated in August 1978, 238 years after Seward’s death.
(Terry Sparrow, A Brief History of Badsey and Aldington).

Seward is known as the first Methodist martyr.  Every indication is that Seward was a man who was faithful up to and including death for the sake of Christ.  In light of the persecution that the early Methodist revival encountered, Charles Wesley devoted his time to writing a series of hymns for “times of trouble and persecution.”  In the section “Hymns in Times of Persecution,” hymn #15 is titled, “A Prayer for the First Martyr,” likely written with William Seward in mind (Hymns for Times of Trouble and Persecution, 40, n. 20).  Wesley wanted to contribute hymns to prepare Christians for the persecution they would likely face in his time.  Wesley writes,

While in affliction’s furnace,
And passing through the fire,
Thy love we praise, which knows our days,
And ever brings us nigher.
We clap our hands exulting
In Thine almighty favor;
The love divine which made us Thine
Shall keep us Thine forever.
(Charles Wesley, “Head of Thy Church Triumphant,” 1745)

We need Wesley’s eloquent reminder.  Wesley’s poetic expression echoes the exhortations of the Risen Christ to the church in Smyrna, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10, ESV).  The risk-filled gospel requires much of us if we give ourselves to the task of being witnesses for Christ.  Even so we must press on with the words of Christ: “Do not fear” and “be faithful unto death.”

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The First Martyrs of the Turkish Church

What is Islam about?  This question is not simply to discover the pillars of doctrine for Islam, though undoubtedly the recent brutal actions of five young Muslim men in Turkey were grounded in Muslim doctrine, particularly to protect the name of Allah.   

Undoubtedly, the main issue is Islam’s response to “infidels.”  How are they to be dealt with according to Islam?  They are to be killed, removed from the face of the earth.  As a pastor, I need to have a certain level of understanding about this religion.  What I desire to know is why the killing of Christians in Muslim countries is not by a minority but is a part of mainstream Islam.  See this story for example.

On April 18, 2007, three Christians were brutally killed.  Their crime: being Christians.  Here is an excerpt of the story: 

Tilmann Geske lived 10 of his 46 years in Turkey, a member of the country’s small Christian community. He and two Turkish Christians were killed last week, their hands and feet bound and their throats slit, at a Christian publishing house that distributes Bibles. Five young men were detained and charged with murder; they allegedly said they killed to protect Islam (you can read the article here). [Editorial note: for reasons unknown to me, the article is no longer avaliable at the URL provided.]

What I have uncovered in my research is that they not only killed them, they brutally tortured them for three hours before finally ending their lives by slighting their throats.  Some of this was captured on their cell phone according to this source.   This simply boggles my mind.  These heinous actions in the name of Allah?  One of the greatest ironies is that Muslims flock to America to distribute their literature, build Mosques, and proselytize others when their relatives in their homelands are killing Christians who are doing the same things in their lands.  They bask in the freedoms they deny others.  Yet this receives no press and Islam is seen as a peaceful religion.  Actions speak so much more loudly than words.  Muslims, your actions have spoken so loudly that I can’t hear what you say about Islam being a peaceful religion.  It is my hope that the truth about Islam is exposed to a greater degree to show 1) that Christianity and Islam could not be further apart in their response to those who are not of the same faith and 2) that Islam is, by nature, a militant and oppressive religion.   

Praise God for these three Christian martyrs who died for their faith.  May God us this for His glory in the Turkish Church in the 21st century as He did in Asia Minor in the 1st century.  May we, Christians who live in a free land, use our liberty to its fullest for the sake of Jesus Christ and the gospel.  Christians, pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ in Muslim lands (Hebrews 13:3).  As a Turkish pastor said after the death of these three Christians: “Don’t pray against persecution, pray for perseverance,” urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.  Tertullian said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” (cf. Acts 8:4).  Grant this we pray for the Turkish church, Our Father.