A pilgrim is “a person who makes a journey, often a long and difficult one, to a special place for religious reasons”.
One of my more recent reading activities is The Pilgrim Church by E.H.Broadbent. I came across this well researched book full of useful information not normally seen elsewhere, written in 1931 by a Brethren missionary, many years ago, but recently revisited as I was mulling over such related subjects as the persecution of the church, apostasy in the church and the question of whether there is a prophetic voice speaking to us now. It also relates to one of my special interests: history and in particular the history of the church and what made people tick (in it) and why. I confess for the sake of those who don’t know it that for most of my fifty odd years being a Christian it has been in the Brethren and some of that experience is associating with folk suspicious of non-Brethren Christians, believing they were true custodians of pure New Testament teachings, although the reality is no one group has ALL the truth.
The first thing to say is the book is a jolly good read and after being out of print many years is now available by ordering online. The book takes a view that real Christians have been in a minority down two millennia among those who profess to be Christian. Often, clouding matters, has been the ever presence of false teaching, ranging from mildly to outrageously so. It also argues the case, with plenty of evidence to back it up, that these real Christians often suffered, including being killed, because they kept to their principles despite often being offered the easy way out of going along with whatever ideological / religious position that met the approval of the powers that be. While it may be true that history is often written by the victors (in this case by the persecutors rather than the persecuted), these radical dissenters, representing a variety of groups as they did, rather than being heretics in most cases, were often those true to authentic Christianity and as my early Brethren mentors might have noted, faithfully adhered to sound doctrine in a way their detractors did not. As for those who opposed them, it was not just the secular authorities who had felt threatened, but Christians – not just the Catholics as we might expect but, with the advent of the Reformation around the sixteenth century, by Protestant groups, especially if having power and influence in government, and this included those often seen in my circles as the “good guys”, e.g. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. Those deemed as heretics by those with power to so pronounce or in some way seen as threats to the establishment, because of some aspect of their faith, were often persecuted, made to suffer and killed.
As I survey the Christian landscape, not only do I see opposition from among Catholic and Liberal types but also lukewarm and woke Evangelicals, who I might have thought should have known better (although I sense the Lord will vindicate his own and is calling out an unlikely remnant that is faithful to Him alone), as well as a societal shift with antipathy toward true religion. The thrilling message that has come through loud and clear from reading this book is that the torch of the Gospel and Bible truth has been passed down from one generation of the pilgrim (or remnant) church to another, for 2000 years, and as I see evidence of persecution (new cases every day) in ALL corners of the world, I recognise therein lies members of that Pilgrim Church. Like Christian in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress, we face trials on a daily basis but we continue to maintain the faith and journey on, knowing our destination is the Celestial City and our duty is to pass that torch on. We also need to remember and honour the Pilgrim Church, who kept the faith, despite the cost, and in a real way left a legacy we do now enjoy.
“And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” Hebrews 11:36-40.