Hobson-A Story of Leaving the Roman Catholic Church

At the moment I am reading Richard Hobson of Liverpool: The Autobiography of a Faithful Pastor. If you want a copy of the book click the title just listed and you will get some options. Though Richard Hobson was in the Church of England his testimony of salvation is clear, he even speaks of being born-again, and his doctrine in the fundamentals is sound. Further, he was highly respected by JC Ryle. Hobson ultimately became the vicar of a parish in Liverpool. Now I know some at this point will be concerned about me recommending someone whose description includes the Church of England and being a vicar. However, let me say that judging the man on his merits I believe there is much we can learn from him. As well, the Wesley’s and Whitfield were Church of England. Further, and I hate having to justify myself so much, but so-be-it, I am not in favour of the Church of England today. Right, one with the story.

Hobson grew up in extreme poverty in Ireland. But, through the grace of God and a willingness to work hard at whatever he put his hand to, Hobson was used greatly.

At the moment I am reading of his early years serving the Lord. He worked as an “agent” at several missions who targeted Roman Catholic strong holds in Ireland. He shares many amazing stories but I want to relate just one here. Now, the event took place in the 1850’s and so his language is a little different. For example, in another part of the book he says,

The editor [of a Catholic Newspaper] christened poor me, ‘War Hawk’ by which supposedly opprobrious cognomen, I became generally known; but finding that I gloried in it-if I were, indeed, such an one for God and His people-he substituted ‘Ware Hawk’ which, however, did not catch on.

I like the story in and of itself, but “opprobrious cognomen”? So, it might be a little difficult to read, but it is worth it:

With much prayer to God on its behalf,the work was soon be carried on with efficient zeal. The school was attended by seventy-one Romanists, old and young; a controversial class was held in the parish church school and Romanists were being visited at their homes. Suddenly an attack on the mission was made from the altar of the Romanish chapel; the town was in a blaze, the agents were hooted up and down, visiting became impossible.

The worst attack was that on the mission Sunday School. One of the Popish priests sent a young man who “served” at mass, to take down, and report to him, the names of all the Romanists who attended. I now became a special door-keeper, and saw the young man challenge each one of the scholars entering. He had with him a crowd consisting of the scum of the town, who threw mud and stones in abundance. The next Sunday there were but twenty-one (down from seventy-one) Romanists at the school; soon we had not one, only a few protestants.

The teachers, however, met for prayer each Sunday, and I was still door-keeper, in face of an infuriated mob, led on by the same young man, with whom I tried to get into conversation.

After several Sundays I succeeded in quoting 1 Timothy 2:5, from the Douay Testament [he used this as it was considered the Catholic’s Bible instead of the AV], putting it thus, after a few kindly words of remonstance; ‘Now, my friend, Paul says, “There is one God, and one Mediator.” I will give you five pounds if you will show me a text in your own Bible saying there one God and two mediators.’

I kept him to that one point: his only reply was: ‘There is no such text in the Douay Testament.’ The crowd listened, but at times renewed their yelling, so that no good seemed to come of it; but, to my amazement, that young man called at my house next morning, and asked whether the above-mentioned text was actually in the Douay Testament, which at his request I lent him for a week.

After only three days , however, he came, and declared that he would never again pray to the Virgin Mary or the saints. He continued to call, secretly, as an earnest seeker after truth; which, happily, soon ended in his receiving the Lord Jesus as his full and only Saviour, followed by his openly going to the very shool he had been the means of crushing, attending the parish church, and becoming ‘valient for the truth.’

This created a great stir; indeed, it made the common people wild, and there seemed to be a doubt as to whether the agents could hold the station.

A volume might be written about what that young fellow had to go through, of which the following may suffice as an illustration.

He was surrounded one day in a street in Dundalk, lifted on to a jaunting-car, his mouth was bound up, and, with two men hold him, he was driven off in a certain direction amidst the shouts and jeers of the mob.

Hobson records that eventually the young man had to be rescued by the police and live under their protection. Ultimately he had to enlist in the army and move away to ensure his safety. Hobson records this story among several others and concludes by saying,

“Rome is a relentless persecutor of God’s saints, especially of those who have left her in order to become such.”

Hobson does note that in England at that time, as in many places where the Roman Catholic church is weak, individual’s experiences of leaving the Roman Catholic church is not quite as severe.

Changing a system of beliefs is never easy, and from some religious systems it is harder to leave than others. But I fully believe that an unbiased study of Christ will lead a person to abandon everything and to trust Christ.

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