A selection of articles which appeared in the Ulster Bulwark in 2006

 

Sixty Years and Still Contending - 1946 - 2006

 

This year, the Evangelical Protestant Society celebrates its Diamond Jubilee. As we reflect upon sixty years of faithful evangelical and Protestant witness, we are reminded that, "except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" (Psalm 127:1).

 

We praise Almighty God for His guidance, presence and help as we, and others before us, have sought to build, maintain and develop the work of EPS. To God be all the glory! There have been many changes over those sixty years. In 1946, our nation had emerged from the darkness of war, and, as it did so, it gave thanks to God for deliverance from Nazi tyranny and for the preservation of civil and religious liberty. People in general had, at the very least, a respect for the Bible and Biblical standards, and, despite the development of false ecumenism and theological liberalism, the Gospel was still preached in many churches across the United Kingdom. How things have changed almost beyond recognition!

 

The nation and, sad to say, in more recent years our own Province, have largely abandoned God and His Word and all around us there is open rebellion against Christianity. This is reflected in the Government's secular "human rights" agenda which actually threatens the civil and religious liberty of evangelical Christians. As a result of the nefarious impact of years of false ecumenism, many Protestant churches have compromised with Rome and some have degenerated into apostasy.

Writing in theGospel Magazinein July 2000, Edward Malcolm rightly said that today the Protestant churches "actively seek to reverse the Reformation, and to be the opposite of what their founding fathers intended", and, tragically, large swathes of England and Wales in particular are now bereft of a faithful Gospel witness. Some evangelical Protestant churches appear to have been affected by the changing climate. They continue to preach the Gospel, and are happy to be regarded as "evangelical" and "reformed", but they seem slightly embarrassed to be known as "Protestant".

 

As a result, the cutting edge is lost and there is a reluctance to engage in controversy or in battle with the Church of Rome. Conscious of the confused and compromised state of Protestantism, Rome has grown in confidence and influence across the land. If ever there was a need for a clear uncompromising evangelical Protestant voice it is today, and sixty years on, we rejoice that the EPS is still alive and well.

 

It has not all been plain sailing of course and, as with all other organisations, we have had our good times and our bad, but the Lord has been with us through them all. As recently as 2001, the Society stood at the crossroads. Due to declining levels of income and other problems, we were reluctantly forced to make our full-time Secretary redundant and to give serious consideration to the future of EPS itself. We felt strongly, however, that the EPS had a unique and vital role to play and, after much prayer and discussion, we determined to press on. We are really glad that we did so, for today the EPS is stronger than ever.

 

Although we have no full-time staff, Wallace Thompson fulfils the role of secretary and editor of the Ulster Bulwark on a part-time consultancy basis. The Council, which was strengthened a few years ago by the addition of Rev Dr Eric Culbertson and Rev Stephen Dickinson, meets regularly and has been blessed by a tremendous spirit of unity and friendship. It is a truly ecumenical Council comprising of members of the Presbyterian, Church of Ireland, Free Presbyterian, Evangelical Presbyterian and Congregational Reformed churches.

 

The Society is now a well-known and respected voice on evangelical Protestant issues, and several Council members contribute regularly to a range of discussions on the radio and in the newspapers. We respond to various Government consultation papers in areas which impact upon our faith, heritage and moral values. We aim to maximise Protestant unity and avoid unnecessary divisions between brethren on minor or secondary issues. We are also keen to develop closer relations with evangelical Protestants on the UK mainland, and the EPS is at the centre of discussions on the formation of the new UK-wide pressure-group called the British Protestant Coalition.

 

The Ulster Bulwark remains our priority with several thousand copies distributed each quarter across the United Kingdom and beyond. No subscription is required for the magazine, and the Society has always relied on gifts from its supporters. We would place on record once again our deep gratitude to all our loyal friends and supporters who regularly make donations. Your generosity is very much appreciated, and without it, we could not maintain our witness.

 

If, however, the role of EPS is to be further developed and enhanced to meet the demands of the 21st century, we really need to increase our income and so, as we celebrate our 60th anniversary, we would make a special appeal to all our readers to give as generously as they can to our annual Thanksgiving Appeal. Many of our most faithful supporters are senior citizens and, each year, some of these dear friends are called home to Glory. It is imperative that others stand in the gap, and we would especially encourage young people to join with us and help us to take the work forward into another decade as we seek to promote and defend historic Biblical Protestantism.

 

REFORMATION IN THE REIGN OF KING HEZEKIAH: SOME LESSONS FOR TODAY

A study in 2 Chronicles 29 - 31 by Wallace Thompson (From the April- June 2006 edition)

As Protestants, we rejoice in the great Reformation of the 16th century, when, through Martin Luther's conversion, the glorious Gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone once more had free course throughout Europe and beyond, thus dispelling centuries of spiritual darkness and superstition. In our national and church life today, conditions are very similar to those which prevailed in Europe just before the Reformation, and we desperately need not only another Revival but another Reformation. The Protestant Reformation has its parallels in a number of similar reformations which occurred during Bible times and, in all cases, we find that both the prevailing conditions and the remedies are very similar. Let us by way of example look briefly at the Reformation under King Hezekiah as it is recounted for us in 2 Chronicles chapters 29 - 31.

1. Spiritual rottenness.Under Hezekiah's ungodly father King Ahaz, the land of Judah had departed from God and wandered into idolatry and sin. 2 Chronicles 29:7 sets out four key areas of decline in the church. The doors of the porch of the temple were shut; the lamps were extinguished; incense was no longer burned; no burnt offerings were made. These symptoms are symbolic of those in the professing church today. Many churches are shut or in terminal decline, and some of those that are open do not proclaim the light of God's truth. That light is to be found in the reading and preaching of the Word of God, which is a lamp unto our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). The Bible, and the Bible alone, brings light, and its absence brings darkness. Incense speaks of prayer, and, with a few exceptions, the church seems to have lost the power of prayer. Indeed, the prayer meeting attracts only small numbers and some churches have abandoned it altogether. The sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament reminded people that sin could only be dealt with by the shedding of blood and death. It points us to the Gospel, where Christ, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed to appease God's wrath and to open up a way of reconciliation between sinful man and a holy God. Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, said that while some seek a sign and some wisdom, he preached "Christ crucified". When a church abandons the preaching of this Gospel, it has surely lost its way. The conditions in the church were reflected in the nation, for in chapter 31:1, we read that the land was also plagued by idolatry and false religion.

2. A strong response.Hezekiah was a good man who "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord" (29:2) and who led by example. He urged the priests and Levites, many of whom had backslidden, to live godly and proper lives, and reminded them of their great privileges as servants of the Lord. In 29:5, he urged them to sanctify themselves. The Bible tells us that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. We can't make ourselves holy. We need to be made holy by the righteousness of Christ. There is no other way. We are only sanctified when we have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb. If we are saved, and trusting in Christ, then it is our duty, and it ought to be our desire, to live holy lives. Note too, in verse 11, that Hezekiah warned against negligence. As Christians, we must be very attentive to our duties and to our daily walk. If we "talk the talk" but don't "walk the walk", then we are mere hypocrites.

3. A spiritual remnant.In chapter 29:12-14, we see that only 14 Levites responded to Hezekiah. But Scripture and church history repeatedly teach us that the Lord will use a faithful remnant. Let's not get too worried about numbers!

4. A solid reformation. From chapter 29:12 and into chapters 30 and 31 we read of the results of Hezekiah's leadership and the obedient response of the leaders. All that was sinful and idolatrous in the church was removed, and true Gospel worship properly restored. The people were so enthralled and affected by the observance of the Feast of the Passover that they could not tolerate sin in any shape or form. The church had been cleansed and purified, and the images, the groves, the high places and the altars torn down across the nation. As obedient Christians, we have a duty to confront and expose all forms of false religion. In the account of Hezekiah's Reformation in 2 Kings, we read in chapter 18:4 that even the brazen serpent, made by Moses under God's instruction in the wilderness and a shadow and type of the crucified Christ, was destroyed. It had had a good and proper function, but over time it had become a relic. This surely is a profound example of the dangers of Romanism and its obsession with "Christian relics". Dr Paisley recently said that "more and more Rome is returning to relics, the darkness of the pre Reformation ages.  Rome's language is guarded but relics are not condemned or rejected but rather honoured and revered". We must warn people of the dangers of Romanism and all other false religions which usurp the place of Christ, but there are many other idols which need to be torn down too. Society today worships at the shrines of selfishness, greed, lust, money, hedonism and possessions. Perhaps, even as believers, we might occasionally pay our respects at some of these shrines. May we say with William Cowper, "the dearest idol I have known, whate'er that idol be; help me to tear it from thy throne and worship only Thee".

5. A sudden reformation.Finally, in chapter 29:36, it is encouraging to read that the Reformation happened "suddenly". It is a well-known saying that the "darkest hour is just before dawn", and so, while things today are bleak, we must keep pressing on and keep praying to God to revive His work "in the midst of the years" (Habakkuk 3:2). It has happened before and it can happen again. Let us learn the lessons of Hezekiah's reign, and apply them to 2006.

 

An account of the life and times of George Wise by Ian Henderson serialised in the Ulster Bulwark during 2006

As a pastor in Liverpool, George Wise was to become one of the leading Protestant protagonists of the early 20th century. Sadly, little is known about him, and we are grateful to our good friend Ian Henderson from Liverpool who has carried out extensive research into the life and witness of a remarkable man. The following article casts light not only on Wise and his cause but on the great city of Liverpool itself. It is based on an abridged and slightly edited version of Ian's power-point illustrated lecture.

Let's begin by familiarising ourselves with the city of Liverpool and some of the situations that had arisen in connection with the Protestant cause before George Wise arrived on Merseyside. Liverpool has been inextricably linked with Ireland for centuries. With good reason, some people call it the 'Capital of Ireland', because right back in the 13th century, Liverpool was first used as a harbour for sending supplies to Ireland. As early as 1798, it had been described as an Orange city, and in 1819 the Liverpool Mercury reported "an Orange Lodge procession planned for the 12th of July will be attacked by the Irish". They were right, and when 2,000 Irish launched their assault, this was the first recorded street clash in the history of Liverpool. From 1822 onwards, major disturbances were the norm. In 1829, an Act of Parliament was passed which allowed Roman Catholics to be admitted to Westminster. This caused serious unrest in Liverpool and, in 1835, Rev. Hugh McNeile (whose bust can be found today on a plinth in the St. George's Hall) commenced the Liverpool Protestant Association for the purpose of distributing Protestant information and maintaining Protestant principles. On 8 November 1836, 5,000 people gathered at the 1st Annual General Meeting of the Association and 46 Ministers of Liverpool Churches were represented on the platform. Just think, 46 local ministers on a Protestant platform! How things have changed! The aim of the organisation was simple. It was 'to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints' (Jude v.3). The Association printed and circulated thousands of Gospel tracts, but by 1837, at the time of the second AGM in November, concern was being expressed at the fearful advance of Popery.

In June 1837, the Tuam Diocesan Education Society met to consider the subject of "Justice for Ireland". McNeile opposed the meeting and serious rioting occurred. In Municipal Elections in that same year, Irish Roman Catholics won the north end of the city, with the ship carpenters and the Orangemen winning the south.

In 1845, Ireland was hit by the great potato famine and within the next two years, over 100,000 refugees arrived in Liverpool. By 1847, the Press were reporting that, "Our workhouses are full and so are our gaols… the people who come here are not labourers, they are beggars and paupers..they never did an honest day's work in their lives..75% of the rates are expended upon the Irish inhabitants and persons of Irish extraction...and yet Irish Clubs are being formed to threaten the city..and all they do is sit idle at home, basking in the sun, telling stories, plotting, rebelling and wishing death to every Saxon." Because of the slave trade and the textile industry, and the wide-reaching impact of the Industrial Revolution, Liverpool witnessed dramatic growth during the 19th century. New docks were built, railways opened, and by 1871, the population had reached 489,000. By that time, over 20,000 ships were using the Mersey every year, and many dock workers were sympathetic to the Orange and Protestant cause. In 1876, there were 78 Orange Lodges in Liverpool, with a membership in excess of 10,000, and 60,000 more supporters cheering them on. As a result of the influx of labour from Britain and Europe, Liverpool had over 250 churches by 1877 and, to quote from the Liverpool Walk of Faith magazine, "the early 20th century saw many decades of sectarianism with Protestant and Catholic Church leaders barely on speaking terms."

By the time George Wise arrived in Liverpool, the population had reached 685,000. In the north end of the city, where much of his ministry would be centred, the population in areas such as Everton, Kirkdale and Netherfield Road had grown dramatically, and the area was packed with small dwellings and shops. Some of the street names remain the same today, although the area has, of course, been decimated of its Protestant population. George Wise was born in Bermondsey in London on 4 November, 1855. Very little is known about his childhood days, but, at the age of 16 however, his life was turned upside down when he discovered that, like all mankind, he was a sinner, and he accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as His personal Saviour. Following his conversion, he became an earnest and enthusiastic worker at Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle. Meanwhile, the staunchly Protestant Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, J C Ryle, wrote a Gospel tract "What we owe to the Reformation", and, following the reading of this tract (which is still available today) George Wise was led into the Anglican Church where, after a period of time, he joined the staff of the Christian Evidence Society, addressing huge rallies and engaging in public debate all over the country. While lecturing for the Society, he first visited Liverpool at the age of 32 in 1888. In the 1890s, he visited America and in 1895 and 1896 he lectured on Christian Evidence subjects at Brooklyn, New York, and the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

At the beginning of 1897, he returned to Liverpool to deliver a series of lectures on "The Romish Controversy" in the Association Hall. He had become increasingly concerned at Romish developments within the Anglican Church and, in 1898, he protested at St. Thomas's Church of England Church in Warwick Street against popery in the church. He received massive publicity as a result of this protest, and the Christian Evidence Society decided to withdraw support from him. For a time, his relationship with Bishop Ryle was also strained because he felt that Ryle was not outspoken enough against popish priests in the Church of England. However, before Ryle's death in 1900, the two men shared Protestant platforms in some of the major halls in the city. But George Wise was now alone. He had no backing from the Church and no support from the clergy, and a lesser man would have wavered and compromised. But Wise, determined to oppose the false teaching and errors of Romanism, accepted the challenge. He took over a large room above two shops in Potter Street, in the north end of the city, and made this place the centre of Protestant activity. Here he founded the British Protestant Union with the motto "For God, for Truth and for Freedom". The work rapidly expanded, and branches opened throughout the city.

When Wise decided to contest the School Board Election in 1902, he topped the poll with 107,063 votes. His popularity was on the rise amongst the ordinary people. The Protestant Truth Society, formed to oppose popery in the Church of England, worked closely with Wise. The Society's Wycliffe Preachers held meetings throughout the city and these were often attacked by Roman Catholic mobs. Instead of taking action against those who were rioting and trying to break up the meetings, the police arrested the Protestant speakers.

John Alfred Kensit of the PTS refused to be bound over 'to keep the peace' and was sent to prison for three months. The city was stunned. George Wise held meetings attended by thousands, culminating in a great rally in Birkenhead in September 1902, when John Kensit Senior, founder of the PTS, was attacked by a Romanist and subsequently died. The man charged with his murder was freed for lack of evidence and carried from the court by a cheering crowd. John Kensit was the last man martyred in England for the Protestant cause. In October that year, Wise was also arrested, but as the summer open air campaign had come to an end, he agreed to be bound over to keep the peace for six months. In the spring of 1903, he resumed his open air ministry, having used the winter months doing pastoral work amongst his congregation. The year 1903 was to prove a very exciting one in the history of the Protestant cause in Liverpool. Wise formed the Liverpool Protestant Party. Contesting four seats at the next Municipal Elections, three of the candidates were successful, one of whom was George Wise, and the fourth lost by only one vote.

Liverpool Protestants were beginning to make themselves heard and the power that they wielded would be a force to be reckoned with in the city for many years to come. Indeed, the Liverpool Protestant Party continued until 1973, when the seats in the St. Domingo and Netherfield wards of the city were fought for the last time. In the 1970s, ward boundary changes (or "gerrymandering" as Irish Republicans like to call it) destroyed the Protestant vote and scattered the Protestant people far and wide. The authorities decided to deny George Wise the opportunity of going to St. Domingo Pit, a Protestant area, for an open-air rally, but instead issued him with a court summons. A meeting of the Everton Branch of the British Protestant Union on 21 March passed a resolution stating, "that in the opinion of the members and friends of the Everton Branch of the British Protestant Union the conduct of the Chief Constable in issuing the summons against Mr Wise is of a most arbitrary and coercive character, and calls on all Protestants to offer the most determined resistance in every legitimate way to resist the effort to stop the right of free speech." George Wise had resumed his open air campaign and again he was arrested. Bound over to keep the peace for 12 months (a peace he had never broken), he decided that, as a matter of principle, he would not allow Protestant open airs to be stamped out, and he would go to jail. He was given three days to reflect on his decision, but at a massive rally at the Picton Hall he said, "I intend to speak at St. Domingo Pit. Islington Square is taken away from us because it is situated in a Roman Catholic quarter. I can understand that this is more or less reasonable. But I cannot understand why St. Domingo Pit...should be taken away from us. I do not say that the Battle of the Boyne was fought there, but I do say that a battle for Protestantism is being fought there at this moment, and we, in the name of God, intend to conquer." And conquer he did. After the three days grace were over, a great farewell meeting was held in the YMCA in Mount Pleasant, and from there he drove in an open carriage, accompanied by many thousands of people, to Walton Prison.

The Home Secretary was presented with a petition containing nearly 90,000 signatures. MPs, councillors and ministers of religion all campaigned for his release, although a reporter writing on 11 April 1903, stated "George Wise is a menace to public peace and should be suppressed as a public nuisance. He has gone to gaol - the saints be praised." On his release on 6 June, he was met outside the prison by a crowd of some 60,000 people and pulled by his supporters in an open carriage to St. Domingo Pit. He then addressed the crowd in a great open-air demonstration. Two years later, in March, 1905, George Wise marched with his supporters along Netherfield Road to Islington Square where he preached on the subject, "The Jesuits and the Coronation Oath". These meetings led to violent disturbances, and George Wise was summoned to give good reason why he should not give sureties to the police for good behaviour. He undertook not to return to Islington Square. He went instead to St. George's Hall, where again rioting ensued. As a result, and in spite of his co-operation in moving to St. George's Hall, he was bound over to keep the peace for twelve months. He obeyed the court order but, on the day that the twelve months expired, he resumed his open air meetings, which he again called "Protestant Crusades" and, again, disorder followed. Full scale riots took place at St. Domingo Pit/Mere Lane in October 1906 as a crowd of Roman Catholics met head-on with the followers of George Wise. A few days later, he was bound over again to keep the peace, this time for six months. About twenty of his followers were also either fined or imprisoned. The Chief Constable, Leonard Dunning, accused George Wise of making our streets "a bear garden of religious bigotry and hatred." He went on, "He demands the right of free speech but does not moderate his language. The Wesleyans and the Salvation Army hold street meetings without causing a breach of the peace, why can't he? Five hundred police have been required to protect a meeting at Hope Hall but it was indoors and freedom of speech was allowed, but not in a public place where unpopular and violent language could result in riots. If George Wise is allowed to continue open airs, the city would be deprived of half of its police protection just to accommodate him." And then he closed with this telling statement, "In Hyde Park in London it was different, because Roman Catholics took no notice - but in Liverpool the result was public disorder". We may well ask just who was responsible for breaking the peace?

In the same year that the Liverpool Protestant Party was formed, it was decided that the premises in Potter Street were now not big enough to meet the needs of the crowds who attended week by week. A vacant Welsh Methodist Chapel in Netherfield Road North, at the corner of Crete Street and Conyer Street, had come up for sale and was subsequently purchased. On Christmas Day, 1903, thousands marched in procession to the opening of this building to which George Wise was installed as the first Pastor. The Protestant Reformers' Memorial Church had opened. The Liverpool Daily Post stated, "within 6 months the church will either be closed OR the foundation of a large congregation established." The latter became true, and Pastor George Wise became the leader of the largest congregation in the city, with a Men's Sunday afternoon Bible Class over 1000 strong. The Men's Bible Class was a great tribute to the pastoral and preaching ministry of George Wise. Many of its members had been rescued from lives of wickedness, and many had been brought up in the Roman Catholic Church, but they had come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Twice yearly a massive Protestant book distribution took place when well-known personalities were invited to the Bible Class to make the distribution. Over 16 years, this twice-yearly event took place, and over 26,000 books, which would help Protestants understand their faith and know their history, were distributed.

In 1913, it was obvious that, after 10 years, the work of the Church was too much for one man. And so, at the age of 27, Harold Dixon Longbottom was appointed as Wise's assistant. He rapidly became accepted as a sound and able lecturer and he organised open air meetings for Gospel preaching at St. Domingo Pit, Luton Grove, and Stanley Park as well as in the terraced streets off Netherfield Road. Every Sunday afternoon, the church was packed to capacity by adult men singing the praises of God and listening to sound, Gospel preaching. Five parades were held every Sunday, one of them a Church parade and the other four connected to the Bible Class. Again Wise clashed with the authorities and was called upon to abandon his Bible Class parades on the grounds that they were likely to create a breach of the peace. He refused, and the day before he was due to hold one of his parades he was arrested, brought before the Stipendiary Magistrate and ordered to be bound over to keep the peace, which would have meant abandoning the Bible Class parade. Again he refused to sign - and was sentenced to four months' imprisonment. There was a huge outcry, and after nine days he was released pending an appeal. The High Court dismissed the appeal and so, on a beautiful summer Saturday afternoon, he marched in procession to prison to finish off his sentence with an estimated 100,000 supporters. Five weeks later, he was free again as the Home Office responded to the appeals of Liverpool MPs and prominent businessmen. On his release, he marched his Sunday Bible Class out on parade as an indication that he had not sacrificed what he believed to be his legitimate right.

Arising from this second imprisonment, the Home Office ordered a Police Inquiry to investigate the conduct of the Liverpool police during the sectarian disturbances and to investigate why a Roman Catholic procession of an illegal and provocative nature had been permitted by the authorities. The Inquiry, held in St. George's Hall, lasted 4 weeks. George Wise figured prominently although the end Report allocated credit and blame to both sides. The local Press published a cartoon depicting Wise as an "insectarian", always annoying and never being quite swatted away! As a result of the Inquiry, a "Peace Conference" was established which paved the way a few years later for the regulating of street processions and open air meetings. In an effort to avoid sectarian conflict, Wise played an important role in this Conference and agreement was reached that no Roman Catholic parade could take place carrying 'illegal' images through the streets, that all processions had to be granted permission and police protection, and that public spaces were to be allocated for open air demonstrations. That, of course, is still the case today and you know that when you march the streets, you need to seek police approval for the route you have chosen.

It is not surprising that George Wise was interested in the Irish Home Rule Question. Protestant Ulster was making it clear that she was opposing Home Rule for Ireland - and Protestant Ulster could depend on the full support of Pastor Wise in its campaign. Under his leadership, the support of Liverpool Protestants for Ulster was so obvious that Sir Archibald Salvidge, the leader of the Conservatives in the city, was able to invite Sir Edward Carson to Liverpool. Salvidge announced, "Liverpool stands today between England, of which we are part, and Ulster, to which we have a peculiar geographical and sympathetic connection, and of which we understand the mind and character far better than is understood in many other parts of Great Britain." That, of course, is still true today! Pastor Wise threw his support behind Salvidge, and a massive demonstration was arranged to meet Carson as he arrived at the Pier Head at 7.30 a.m. on a Sunday morning in 1912. Some 150,000 people thronged the landing stage and a mighty procession made up of the Protestant Workingmen's Association and the Orange Order, with bands playing and banners flying, accompanied Carson to the Conservative Party Headquarters in Dale Street. It must have been quite an amazing sight. Liverpool had thrown her weight behind the Protestants of Ulster. Even at breakfast time on a Sunday morning Liverpool Protestants were marching for a cause dear to their hearts. George Wise knew that Home Rule would have serious implications. He felt that the Irish Home Rule Parliament could establish a relationship with the Vatican, fill public positions with priests, place education under the control of the papacy, legalise the carrying of statues and images through the streets and punish Bible Protestants who 'won't bow down'.

Wise visited Ulster in 1914, preaching and lecturing in Belfast, and while there he was able to confirm for himself the strong feelings that were apparent against Home Rule. In 1914, Britain went to war with Germany. The Government decided to use the opportunity to appoint a Special Envoy, Sir Henry Howard, to Pope Benedict XV. (We've just recently had Benedict XV1 appointed). The London Council of the United Protestant Societies lodged a vigorous protest, fully supported by George Wise. W.E. Gladstone did not agree for he did not think that the Vatican was an enemy to be despised. Prime Minister Asquith visited the Pope, and Wise reminded him that the sympathies of the Pope and the Vatican lay with Germany. George Wise was infuriating his enemies once again. His opposition to popery, his exposure of the Irish rebels, and his stand for Britain brought accusations that he was himself a German (Weiss). He held a great Protestant rally in the Sun Hall, Kensington on 2 June, 1915 when, amongst great hilarity, he produced his birth certificate and his parents' marriage certificate, and thus gave indisputable evidence that he was born and bred in London.. George Wise's life was now drawing to a close. At the time of his death, over twenty societies were operating within the ranks of the members of his church, covering everything from Christian Endeavours to Open Airs, from Bible Classes to Sunday Schools, all sorts of societies for every age group, young and old, male and female, and even the Protestant Reformers' Cycling Club which was used to keep young people together on Saturdays and during holiday periods.

The Kirkdale Institute was based in two houses opposite the church in Netherfield Road and it conducted a rescue work for people who were hooked on gambling and drinking. Wise introduced sewing classes for women and became a member of the Liverpool Distress Committee and the West Derby Board of Guardians, organisations set up to cater for the poor and downtrodden in the community.

On 29 November, 1917, aged 62, George Wise was called home to glory. His funeral was an impressive demonstration of the love and regard in which he had been held down through some twenty years. The funeral service, held at the Protestant Reformers' Memorial Church, was conducted by Pastor T.B. Wilmot and Rev. H.D. Longbottom. Much was said, of which the following are but examples. "He was a mighty believer, a wonderful Protestant, a man of stainless character"; "he had the simple heart of a little child. Although he knew a great deal about science and philosophy, his religion was based on a simple faith and a simple trust in His Saviour"; "he was a valiant warrior... the joy of battle was in his blood and yet he was a man with a wonderful capacity for friendship"; "though he came to Liverpool unknown, and without any influential backing, he became one of the most powerful influences in the city, which no man moved so profoundly as he".

The funeral procession to Anfield Cemetery was headed by Orangemen in regalia followed by two carriages laden with wreaths. The hearse followed on with dense crowds gathered at every point along the route. Businesses and shops closed and house blinds were drawn as a mark of respect and, as the procession passed by, the sorrowing crowd was visibly moved . In these articles, we've learned something of the history of Liverpool and of the role played by Pastor George Wise in opposing Popery, supporting Ulster, preaching the Gospel and standing for the cause of Jesus Christ. In conclusion, I would appeal to you to know your history. Don't be ashamed of being Protestant. Be alert, for our freedoms are being eroded before our very eyes. Even more importantly, know your Bible- and know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and pray that God will, even in our day, raise up a man to follow in the footsteps of George Wise and to keep the Protestant flag flying.

Firm as the Martyrs stood,

Resisting unto blood Rome's tyranny.

So may we ever stand,

Upheld by God's right hand, Resolved to keep our land,

From popery.

 

A TORCH OF INEXTINGUISHABLE LIGHT

The Martyrdom of Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley (Ulster Bulwark)

During the reign of "Bloody Mary" (Queen Mary I 1558) nearly three hundred Protestants were burned at the stake for their faith. The burnings began in February 1555 with that of Bible translator John Rogers and Bishop John Hooper. The most famous of all those who died are the Oxford Martyrs, Bishops Hugh Latimer, Nicolas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer. Hugh Latimer was born on a farm in Thurcaston, Leicester sometime around 1485, and was sent to Cambridge in 1506. An ardent defender of the Roman church, he disputed with the Reformers and implored them to abandon their convictions. Merle D'Aubigne says, "He was a second Saul, and was soon to resemble the apostle of the Gentiles in another respect". Latimer was converted through the influence of Thomas Bilney, who had earlier become a Christian by reading the New Testament (and who was do die a martyr's death in 1531). Bilney asked Latimer to hear his confession and, as he shared with him his faith in Christ, Latimer was saved. He became the most popular preacher of his day, and maintained that the Bible should be read in every household. He became Bishop of Worcester in 1535, but resigned in 1539. As he threw off the robes of his bishopric, he leaped into the air, and declared that he found himself lighter than he had ever felt before. He was later put into prison for a short period but released in 1547, with the accession of the godly Protestant King Edward VI. He spent the next six years as a humble preacher, residing with his dear friend, Thomas Cranmer. However, when Mary became Queen in 1553, she put an end to his preaching the gospel. He was thrown in the Tower of London with Cranmer, Ridley, and John Bradford. If Latimer was the popular preacher, Nicholas Ridley was to become the theologian of the Reformers. The younger of the two, he was born in 1500 in Northumberland. He attended university in Cambridge and was converted as a young man at a time when he was engaged in a detailed study of Scripture, including the committing of the Pauline Epistles to memory. In 1534, while a proctor of Cambridge, he signed the decree against the pope's supremacy in England. In 1537 he became chaplain to Thomas Cranmer, and in 1541 chaplain to Henry VIII and canon of Canterbury. He became Bishop of Rochester (1547), and was part of the committee that drew up the first English Book of Common Prayer. In 1550 he became Bishop of London. Ridley supported Lady Jane Grey's claims to the crown, and in 1553, shortly after the accession of Mary, he was imprisoned. In 1555, Latimer and Ridley were found guilty of heresy and, on 16 October that year, they were led to their martyrdom. The seventy-year-old Latimer followed feebly behind Ridley, who gave his clothes away to those standing by. Latimer quietly stripped to his shroud. As a burning faggot was laid at the feet of Ridley, Latimer spoke his famous words, "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out". John Foxe relates, "And so the fire being kindled, when Ridley saw the fire flaming up towards him, he cried with a loud voice, "Lord into Thy hands I commend my spirit: Lord, receive my spirit!" and repeated the latter part often. Latimer, crying as vehemently on the other side of the stake, "Father of heaven, receive my soul!" received the flame as if embracing it. After he had stroked his face with his hands, and as it were bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died, as it appeared, with very little pain". Although Latimer died quickly, his friend Ridley endured a lingering death and suffered excruciating pain. The hundreds of bystanders were moved by what they had witnessed and, as they looked at the two motionless bodies, all that could be heard was weeping. Many more were to suffer a similar martyrdom, including Thomas Cranmer who died at the stake the following spring, and their deaths had a profound effect upon the Reformation movement in England. Latimer's candle was well and truly lit and, although it has flickered low in recent years, it has never been extinguished. The historian, A G Dickens, has written, "we have tended overmuch to neglect the martyrs". This ought not to be so, and we should praise God for the noble army of martyrs. Let us revere the memory of Latimer and Ridley, and, like them, contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints.

HUGH LATIMER ON RIGHTEOUSNESS

We have no proper righteousness of our own ; but we borrow, that is to say, we take the righteousness of Christ, which He offered freely to as many as believe in Him. And this treasure of His righteousness is not wasted or spent; He hath enough for all the world, yea, if this were a thousand worlds. Sermon preached at Grimsthorpe, 1553