The story of Thomas Delaune raises some key questions to Irish Baptists and the wider Church in the circumstances of today:
1. Are we fully supportive of those in the work and suffering of Gospel ministry? Daniel Defoe’s . . .“Preface” in . . . A Plea for the Non-Conformists . . . ask[s] a painful question. Why wasn’t Delaune rescued by the London Particular Baptists? There may be a valid reason for their apparent abandonment of the Delaunes. But, . . . it reminds us that we should make every effort to love our laborers well, assisting especially if we know they are in isolation and need.
2. In evangelism and mission are we restricting the Gospel to our own cultural model? It is very natural for us to relate well to those we are most comfortable with in terms of class, group and tradition. Major Riggs reminds us in his reaching out to young Thomas Delaune that we ought to be reaching outside of our cultural boxes, at least from time to time.
3. Is the mess of our times crushing our vision for the growth of God’s Kingdom? As we see the mass confusion across the Church and the world coupled with the unbelievers’ incredulity towards Christian ethics and theology today, we are inclined to want to take cover. Yet, Delaune, Mrs. Woods, and many more found Christ in the maelstrom of seventeenth-century Ireland. English and Irish believers communicated the Gospel regardless of the surrounding political machinations. Perhaps we need a fresh confidence in Christ and His Gospel, to speak up, regardless of the judgmental hubris surrounding us today? As Christians who may experience relatively mild pressures from the state today, we should read Delaune’s A Plea for the Non-Conformists, remembering his courage in obscurity, and ask God for the same courage and resolve he and many others were given. --Andy Compton
The picture is of the title page of A Narrative of the Sufferings of Thomas Delaune (1684).