God’s Hand in Armed Robbery

by | Jun 12, 1997 | Giving

George Whitfield was one of the founders of the great Methodist movement. But even doing that important work did not give him immunity from one of the great dangers of his era — the highway man.

Whitfield was going from town to town preaching. The day he was to face the armed robber started with him first meeting a mother struggling to feed and finance her family.

Whitfield decided to help the woman, who was about to be evicted from her home for not paying rent. He gave her ten guineas, all the money he had in his wallet. That was a lot of money in those days. And by giving it away, Whitfield had nothing.

Whitfield and his companion then rode off on horseback to the next town.

The man riding with him was angry at Whitfield’s actions. Whitfield no longer had enough money to care for himself. What irresponsibility to give his last few guineas towards the woman’s rent.

The anger burst out in conversation as the two rode on. The companion impressed on Whitfield how irresponsible he had been.

Enter the highway man

Riding between towns could be dangerous at that stage of England’s history. Poverty forced many a man to become a “highway man,” a picturesque term for a ruthless armed robber.

The usual cry of highway men as they put their pistols to the heads of their victims was, “Your money or your life.” That was the call Whitfield was to hear as he rode that lonely English highway. But he had no money.

The highway man took every guinea from Whitfield’s travelling companion, but could take nothing from Whitfield.

As Whitfield and his companion rode on, Whitfield asked, “Where would you rather your money be — with the woman or with the highwayman?”

“With the woman,” the companion had to admit.

The companion’s mood was somber. Circumstances had chasened him. He could now see that Whitfield had done the right thing giving his last guinea to the woman.

They were both penniless now. But Whitfield had done some good with his money. He hadn’t.

Sound of hooves

As they rode on, the sound of galloping hooves came up behind them. It was the highway man again.

“Ye may not have any money,” he said with his gun pointed squarely at Whitfield. “But that’s a right-pretty coat you have on there. And it be the same size as mine. I’ll have it. Take it off! Give it to me!”

Whitfield did. And before riding off, the highway man threw him his old, smelly coat in return.

It was now Whitfield’s turn to be somber. Because he had given his money to the widow, he had lost his coat.

Hooves a third time

The two rode on in the near silence of the English countryside. Then for the third time, that near silence was broken by the sound of galloping hooves behind them. It was the highway man coming for them a third time.

“Let’s move,” they shouted. And the two gallopped on, trying to reach the next town before the highway man could draw too close. The run was successful. They made the town and the chase stopped. The highway man would not enter the town. They were safe.

But why was the highway man chasing them again? They didn’t have to wait long to find out.

As Whitfield took off the smelly coat, he felt padding in its lining. He investigated, and found 100 guineas in the coat. All the highway man’s ill-gotten gains were in that coat. There was no way to get the money back to its rightful owners. So the 100 guineas was Whitfield’s.

He had started the day by giving the widow two guineas. As a direct result of that generosity, he had ended the day with fifty times that amount.

God’s hand had been in the armed hold-up.

Phil Ward.

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God’s Hand in Armed Robbery

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