March On

Posted on March 6, 2015

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imagesA very sobering and at times a very modern read is G. R. Craig’s 1957 classic, Puritanism in the Period of the Great Persecution 1660-1688 that chronicles the suffering of the Anglican Puritan movement. From the return of the Stewart monarchy in 1660, Anglicans were persecuted by their fellow churchmen and citizens. Priests were removed from their churches and denied freedom to assemble for worship with their congregations. They were severely punished when driven by conscience to break the laws aimed at them. The courts were used as a tool to rob them of their assets and property. They were imprisoned, suffering physical and psychological abuse, denied access to education, sometimes killed, often transported to the new colonies in the Americas as slave labor and a living death. They became a political football as offers of amnesty by the Crown were given and snatched away. For thirty years, their faith was refined by suffering.

How they survived at all is compelling and has much to teach us today. Craig details how their daily attendance to God’s Word in their homes and while imprisoned, their hidden assemblies that gathered for prayer and mutual support sustained them. And he tells how in time they saw their sufferings and imprisonments as our heavenly Father’s instrument to bring them to a deeper union with their Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. It was that the knowledge of their union in Christ that so strenthened and energized them. Our Lord’s final discourses in John’s Gospel (Chapters 14-16) and his final prayer (Chapter 17) became a favorite stop and resting place for many.

Which brings me to ponder how it is a wonderful thing that it should be possible to remain untroubled in heart when everything is, to all appearances, going very wrong. And yet this what our gracious Savior calls his disciples to do (John 14.1).

“Let not your hearts be troubled.” Simply do not let it happen. How is this possible? It is possible only through our glorious Savior. He had overcome the world (John 16.33). Now, despite the great difficulty, he calls on us to do what he has already accomplished for us and in us.

If we do not do this, we are simply wasting time and energy. But if we trust him to do it for us and in us, we will succeed. Therefore, simply do not let your heart be troubled.It may sound naive in the extreme, but it precisely what our Anglican forebears reach out to us to do, just as the following hymn exhorts us. March on, my soul, with strength.

March forward, void of fear;
Who has led will lead,
Through each succeeding year;
And as you journey on your way,
his hand shall hold you day by day.

March on, my soul, with strength,
In ease you dare not dwell;
Your Master calls you forth;
Then up, and serve him well!
Take up your cross, take up your sword,
And fight the battles of your Lord!

March on, my soul, with strength,
With strength, but not your own;
The conquest you shall gain,
Through Christ your Lord alone;
His grace shall power your feeble arm,
His love preserve you safe from harm.

March on, my soul, with strength,
From strength to strength march on;
Warfare shall end at length,
All foes be overthrown.
And then, my soul, if faithful now,
The crown of life awaits your brow.
– William Wright