Often times I find myself thinking that in years past, the world was a better, more civil place... A place more hospitable to the gospel and the Christian faith. As I've been slowly reading through the 2 volume biography of George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore, this mindset has largely persisted within me, causing me to think things like, "If only our age was similar to Whitefield's age (mid 1700's), then maybe we would also see such significant revival and renewal." Whitefield was the instrument of the conversion of untold thousands, and frequently preached to many thousands daily. Reading last night, however, my eyes were finally opened to see the truth that Whitefield's age and our own age are far more similar than I generally perceive. As Whitefield began his preaching career, both England and America were in serious spiritual decline. One of the very tangible ways this evidenced itself in Whitefield's life was the simple fact that he constantly faced persecution and threats, both from the world and from the established church.
In 1742 Whitefield found himself preaching one Monday at an annual carnival in London. As he preached, many were indeed cut to the heart, but others hated Whitefield's preaching. Whitefield writes, "I was honoured with having a few stones, dirt, rotten eggs and pieces of dead cats thrown at me... My soul was indeed among lions." One man got on another man's shoulders and attempted to slash Whitefield with a whip while he was in his pulpit. The next day Whitefield ventured out again to preach and a man tried to stab him. The next day Whitefield went out to preach again and he writes, "After they found that pelting, noise and threatenings would not do, one of the merry Andrews got up into a tree very near the pulpit, and shamefully exposed his nakedness...."
Having read this I finally understood that there really is no such thing as "the good old days" when it comes to the Christian faith. Often, the greatest revivals and spiritual awakenings took place when society was at its most depraved (as in Whitefield's day) - and the greatest times of spiritual apathy occurred when society was most civil.
Ultimately, what I realized last night while reading about Whitefield was that there truly is no excuse for not working and praying and preaching and teaching and living to the end that the gospel advance in profound ways throughout our own land. I may be tempted to think, "If only we lived in the good old days, then we'd see some real evangelism and growth," but that way of thinking is at best an error and most likely a sin.