The Missionary School That Trained Gladiators

The 70 year-old man shuffled out into the the middle of the towering colosseum. He didn’t look like a gladiator, but he was in the spiritual fight of his life and the audience was about to see heavenly combat on a scale they had never witnessed before. His ankles were anchored with shackles and a heavy chain wrapped around his stomach and clasped his wrists.

“Who are you, wicked wretch, who transgress our commands and persuade others to do the same so that they should miserably perish like you will?” the Emperor barked.

Ignatius, stiffened with the stance of a warrior. He had been fasting and praying for this moment in time. The audience was silent. They were hungry to see the Emperor flex his power and send his beasts to consume Ignatius to bone. The gloves had come off.

Ignatius looked frail, but his spirit was strong. His body was weak, but his eyes burned with consuming fire. Many men urinated on themselves in the center of the Roman colosseum when they knew that death was knocking on their door, but Ignatius was not afraid. He didn’t fear, because he knew something that no one else in the colosseum knew that day – death had no power over him!

“All the evil spirits and demons you worship have departed. I am the servant of the one true God.” Ignatius declared and then, in a direct challenge to the Emperor, he said, “I have Christ the King of heaven within me, and I will destroy all the devices of these evil spirits.”

The Emperor had a list with names of an unruly group in Antioch called Christians and Ignatius was known to be their leader. This old wretch in front of him was supposed to be the leader of a rebellious group in Antioch.

After condemning him, the Emperor called for the lions to be brought out. The crowd cheered!

Ignatius prayed aloud, “How I look forward to the lions that have been prepared for me! All I pray is that I will find them swift. I am going to make overtures to them so that … they will devour me with all speed. And if they are reluctant, I shall have to use force on them … Fire, cross, beast-fighting, hacking and quartering, splintering of bone and mangling of limb, even the pulverizing of my whole body. Let every horrid and diabolical torment come upon me provided only that I can win my way to Jesus Christ!”

1,700 years later, these were the events that inspired the missionary training at Gosport mission school. They believed that missionaries were not merely messengers of love, but were spiritual gladiators entering into the modern-day Roman Colosseum.

Dr. David Bogue was the minister of the Independent Chapel and the only professor for the entire mission school.

In its short history, Gosport Academy trained only 200 young men. They were all handpicked and trained by Dr. David Bogue himself. Each one would eventually be world-changers. Like Ignatius, many would be martyrs in the process. Thirteen of those students would eventually be found memorialized in Britain’s Dictionary of National Biography.

Out of the meager 200 graduates, most were sent to nations where no missionary had ever been sent before. Not only did David eventually hand-select Robert Morrison to go to China, but he sent his students for the first time to be missionaries to Malta, Demerara, Siberia, Africa, Calcutta, Madras, Travancore, Islands in the South Seas, Surat, Java, Bellary, Benares, Malaysia, Burma, Singapore, Malta, Bangalore, Macao, Hong Kong, Ghent, Trinidad, as well as to Flanders, France, the USA, Australia, and Canada.

The missionaries produced at Gosport were not timid, academic Christians—they were gladiators, knowingly entering the ring of the beasts. They didn’t run from death; they waited in line for their turn. Standing at the dark gates of hell like a disciplined Thracian, curved sword of the Word of God in hand, crested with the helmet of salvation and with a visor of tunnel vision for preaching the Gospel.

The beasts were not the only predators in the arena. The missionaries of Gosport seemed possessed with a hunger for battle, not simply finding pleasure in remaining spectators. The winning of souls was prized by both sides, and the stakes could not be higher.

Blood was required of Christ, and so was it with His disciples. There is no pleasure in death, but it is there where glory is found. The students of Gosport would be legally condemned again and again, but their conscience would not be polluted with mediocrity. Robert was entering into the colosseum of warriors where the most gruesome martyrdom was not only permitted against them, but demanded by the wild hordes that attacked them. However, that was not the worst part.

The worst part likely was when the crowds, representing the very people that God had called them to come and save, cheered and jeered at their tortuously slow and painful slaughter.

Mercy did not entertain these crowds, only the sight of agony on the missionary’s face, begging for clemency and receiving butchery, satiated the taunting masses. The crowds did not come to the arena to hear the missionary’s message of salvation. They came to entertain themselves with their gashing wounds and gaping injuries. In fact, they would boo the missionary’s demise if it came too quickly.

As much as they hated delays, they hated hasty homicides even more. They desired to savor the taste of the missionary’s blood as it gently flowed out, soaked up by the dusty ground.

When Robert Morrison entered into Gosport Mission Academy, little did he know a fellow student would die in his arms. Three previous students who had walked through that same door of the small school were killed in India and the Pacific Islands before he would graduate.

More about the untold story of Gosport missionary training school and China’s first missionary, Robert Morrison, can be found in the new book BURY ME IN CHINA.

Bury Me in China – Robert Morrison Biography (eBook)


Dr. Eugene Bach is a known trouble-maker with an active imagination and sinful past. He has a PhD, but is not a real doctor, so please do not call for him during a medical emergency on an airplane when someone is having a heart attack. Eugene started working for Back to Jerusalem in the year 2000 after a backroom deal involving Chinese spies, the NRA, Swiss bankers, and a small group of Apostolic Christians that only baptize in Jesus’ name. He spends most of his time in closed countries attempting to topple governments by proclaiming the name of Jesus and not taking showers. From time-to-time he pretends to be a writer. He is not good at it, but everyone around him tries to humor him.

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