J. C. (John Charles) Ryle.

The Christian leaders of the last century; or, England a hundred years ago online

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The last specimen that I will give of Grimshaw's remains is
a letter addressed by him to certain Christians in London. It
is dated January 9, 1760, and is to be foimd in Hardy's Life.

" Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our
Lord Jesus. It is well with some sorts of people that you have had, or now
have .to do with. It is well with those of you in Christ who are gone to God ;
it is well with those of you in Christ who are not gone to God ; it is well
with those of you who earnestly long to be in Christ, that they may go to
God ; it is well for those who neither desire to be in Christ nor to go to
God ; and it is only bad with such who, being out of Christ, are gone to
the devil. Them it is best to let alone, and say no more about them.

"It is well with those of you who, being in Christ, are gone to God.
You, ministers and members of Christ, have no more doubt or pain about
them. They are now and for ever out of the reach of the world, flesh, and
devil. They are gone where the wicked cease from troubling, and where
the weary are at rest. They are sweetly reposing in Abraham's bosom.
They dwell in His presence who hath redeemed them, where there is fulness
of joy and pleasure for evennore. They are waiting the joyful morning of
the resurrection, when their vile bodies shall be made like unto his glorious


body, shall be re-united to the soul, shall receive the joyful sentence, and
inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.

" It is well also with those of you who are in Christ though not gone to
Cod. You live next door to them. Heaven is begun with you too. The
kingdom of God is within you ; you feel it. This is a kingdom of righteous-
ness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It is begun in grace, and shall
terminate in glory. Yea, it is Christ within you the hope of glory. Christ
the rock, the foundation laid in your hearts, hope in the middle, and glory
at the top. Christ, hope, glory! Christ, hope, glory! You are washed in
the blood of the Lamb ; justified, sanctified, and shall shortly be glorified.
Yea, your lives are already hid with Christ in God. You have your con-
versation already in heaven. Already you sit in heavenly places in Christ
Jesus. What heavenly sentences are these ! What can come nearer Para-
dise? Bless the Lord, O ye happy souls, and let all that is within you bless
his holy name. Sing unto the Lord as long as you live, and praise your
God while you have your being. And how long will that be? Through
the endless ages of a glorious eternity !

" It is well with all those of you who truly desire to be in Christ, that you
may go to God. Surely he owns you. Your desires are from him ; you shall
enjoy his favour. By-and-by you shall have peace with him through our
Lord Jesus Christ. Go forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed by the
Shepherd's tents. Be constant in every means of grace. He will be found
of them that diligently seek him. Blessed are they that mourn, for they
shall be comforted. Though your sins be never so many, never so monstrous,
all shall be forgiven. He will have mercy upon you, and will abundantly
pardon. For where sin hath abounded, grace doth much more -abound.
He who hath begun this good work in you will accomplish it to your eternal
good and his eternal glory. Therefore doubt not, fear not ; a broken and
a contrite heart God will not despise. The deeper is your sorrow, the
nearer is your joy. Your extremity is God's opportunity. It is usually
darkest just before daybreak. You shall shortly find pardon, peace, and
plenteous redemption, and at last rejoice in the common and glorious sal-
vation of his saints.

" And lastly, it is well for you who neither tiaily desire to be in Christ,
nor to go to God. For it is well for you that you are not in hell. It is
well your day of grace is not utterly past. Behold, now is your accepted
time ; behold, now is your day of salvation ! Oh that you may employ the
remainder of it in working out your salvation with fear and trembling. Now
is faith to be had — saving faith. Now you may be washed from all sins in
the Redeemer's blood, justified, sanctified, and prepared for heaven. Take,
I beseech you, the time, while the time is. You have now the means of
<n-ace to use, the ordinances of (iod to enjoy, his Word to read and hear,
his ministers to instruct you, and his members to converse with. You know
not what a day may bring forth. You may die suddenly. As death leaves
you judgment will find you. And if you should die as you are — out of
Christ, void of true faith, unregenerate. unsanctified — fire and brimstone,


storm and tempest, God will rain upon you, as your eternal, intolerable
portion to drink.

" Suffer me, therefore, thus far, one and all of you. Cod's glory and vour
everlasting salvation is all I aim at. What I look for in return from yuu is,
I confess, much more than I deserve — your prayers."

It would be easy to supply many more extracts than these.
But I forbear. I make no apology, however, for the length of
those I have already given. The reader will probably agree
with me that they are in themselves full of interesting matter.
But this is not all. They possess an additional value as sup-
plying a most graphic picture of Grimshaw's mode of expressing
himself, and of the topics on which his mind was constantly
dwelling. In fact, they furnish a pretty correct idea of what
the good man's preaching must have been. He evidently
wrote as he thought and spoke. His remains are just the over-
flowings of a heart full of Scripture, full of Christ, full of deep
thoughts on the sinfulness of sin, the value of the soul, the need
of repentance and faith, the happiness of holy living, the im-
portance of a world to come. Let a man analyze Grimshaw's
remains carefully and thoughtfully, and I suspect he will have
a very fair conception of the style in which Grimshaw used to

The anecdotes and traditions that have been handed down
about the good Incumbent of Ha worth are very many and very
curious. All of them, perhaps, are not true. Some, perhaps,
are greatly exaggerated. Many, however, after making every
fair deduction, are undoubtedly credible and genuine. I will
mention some of them.

The influence he gradually obtained in his own parish was
very great. Even those who were not converted looked up to
him and feared him. John Newton says : " One Sunday, as a
man was passing through Haworth on horseback, his horse lost
a shoe. He applied to a blacksmith to put it on. To his
surprise, the man told him he could not shoe a horse on the


Lord's day without the minister's leave. They went together
to Mr. Grimshaw, and the man satisfying him that he was really
in haste, going for a doctor, Mr. Grimshaw permitted the black-
smith to shoe the horse, which otherwise he would not have
done for double pay."

" It was his frequent custom," adds Newton, " to leave the
church at Haworth while the psalm before sermon was singing,
to see if any were absent from worship and idling their time in
the churchyard, the street, or the ale-houses ; and many of those
whom he so found he would drive into church before him.* A
friend of mine, passing a public-house in Haworth on a Lord's
day morning, saw several persons making their escape out of it,
some jumping out of the lower windows, and some over a low
wall. He was at first alarmed, fearing the house was on fire ;
but upon inquiring what was the cause of the commotion, he
was only told that they saw the parson coming. They were
more afraid of the parson than of a justice of the peace. His
reproof was so authoritative, and yet so mild and friendly, that
the stoutest sinner could not stand before him.

" He endeavoured likewise to suppress the common custom
of walking in the fields on the Lord's day in summer, instead
of coming to God's house. He not only bore his testimony
against it from the pulpit, but went into the fields in person to
detect and reprove the delinquents. There was a spot at some
distance from the village, where many young people used to
assemble on Sundays in spite of all his warnings. At last he
disguised himself one evening, that he might not be known till
he was near enough to discover who they were. He then threw
off his disguise, and charged them not to move. He took down
all their names with his pencil, and ordered them to attend on

* According to Hardy, there is a tradition in Haworth that Grimshaw sometimes used

a stick or horse-whip on these occasions, and that he occasionally gave out the 119th Psalm

' to be sung during his absence from church, in order that he might have the longer time

for prosecuting his search after the disorderly. These stories, however, are probably



him on a day and hour which he appointed. They all waited
on him accordingly, as punctually as if they had been served
with a warrant. When they came, he led them into a private
room, when, after forming them into a circle and commanding
them to kneel down, he kneeled down in the midst of them,
and prayed for them with much earnestness for a considerable
time. After rising from his knees, he gave them a close and
affecting lecture. He never had occasion to repeat this
friendly discipline. He entirely broke the objectionable cus-

One of the most remarkable and well-authenticated anecdotes
about Grimshaw is in connection with Haworth races. These
races were an annual festival got up by the innkeepers, and a
great occasion of drunkenness, riot, profligacy, and confusion.
For some time Grimshaw attempted in vain to stop these races.
" At last," says John Newton, " unable to prevail with men, he
addressed himself to God. For some time before the races he
made it a subject of fervent prayer that the Lord would be
pleased to interfere, and to stop these evil proceedings in his
own way. When the race-time came, the people assembled as
usual, but they were soon dispersed. Before the races could
begin, dark clouds covered the sky, and such excessively heavy
rain fell, that the people could not remain on the ground, and
it continued to rain incessantly during the three days appointed
for the races. This event was much spoken of at Haworth.
It became a sort of proverbial saying among the people that old
Grimshaw put a stop to the races by his prayers. And it
proved an effectual stop. There were no more races at

" He was particularly watchful," says Newton, " over those of
his flock who made an open profession of religion, to see if
they adorned the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things, and
maintained a consistent character ; and he was very severe in
his censures if he found any of his communicants guilty of


wrong practices. When he suspected hypocrisy, he sometimes
took such strange methods to detect it, as perhaps few men but
himself would have thought of He had a suspicion of the
sincerity of some of his hearers, who made great pretence to
religion. In order to find out one of them, he disguised him-
self as a poor man, and applied to him for relief and a lodging ;
and, behold ! this person who wished to be thought very good
and charitable, treated him with some abuse. — He then went to
another house, to a woman who was almost blind. He touched
her gently with his stick, and went on doing it until she, sup-
posing it was done by some children in the neighbourhood,
began not only to threaten but to swear at them. Thus he was
confirmed in his apprehensions."

" At a cottage prayer-meeting," says Hardy, " some of Grim-
shaw's people had to endure much annoyance and persecution,
and for a long time no one could discover who the delinquents
were. At last the incumbent came to their assistance and
solved the mystery. He put on an old woman's cap, and peeped
stealthily from behind the door, and then appeared to grow
rather bolder, while he quietly made the observation he wished.
He found there was a set of rude boys who only came to make
sport and annoy others. They soon began to make fun of
the old woman (as she seemed to be), and defied her with mocks
and menaces. In this way they were all found out and brought
to justice, and then the persecution ceased."

He carried his humility and simplicity of living to such an
extent that he thought anything good enough for himself, if he
could only show a Christian brother kindness and hospitality.
A godly friend who once came to stay a night with him, was
horrified on looking out of his bedroom window in the morn-
ing, to see Grimshaw with his own hands cleaning his guest's
boots ! Nor was this all. On coming down stairs he dis-
covered that Grimshaw had actually given up his own bedroom
for his accommodation, and had spent the night in a hay-loft !


His ways in his own parish, as he went about doing the work
of a pastor, were very pecuhar. Hardy says, " When he met
with any one in the lanes he would enter into famihar conver-
sation with them, and generally asked if they were accustomed
to pray. When they answered in the affirmative, and he doubted
their sincerity, he bade them kneel down and show him how
they performed this duty. There were sometimes scenes by the
road-side, in consequence, that a stranger could not look at
without a smile ; but to the persons concerned these inquiries
were, in some instances, the means of awakening concern about
their souls. The tradition of the district is, that ' he would i-ivc
them from horseback to make them pray.' But he was as ready
to do an act of courtesy as to administer reproof. Once on his
way to Colne, he overtook an old woman, and asked her where
she was going. She replied, ' To hear Grimshaw.' He pitied
her many infirmities ; but she said her heart was already there,
and she would make the body follow. Struck by her earnest-
ness, he actually took her up behind him on the pillion of his
own horse, and thus enabled her to reach the place without
further toil."

Hardy adds, " Grimshaw was not unmindful of himself, whilst
watchful over the souls of others. Once he had a very fine cow,
in which he took so much pride, that the thought of her fol-
lowed him into the service of the Church, and hindered his
communion with God. He determined that she should no
longer ruffle his mind, and so announced her for sale. When a
farmer came to look at her^ he asked, as usual, whether she had
any fault. To this Grimshaw made this quaint reply, ' Her fault
in my eyes will be no fault to you ; she follows me into my pulpit.' "

The things that he did inside his church, both in the reading-
desk and the pulpit, may certainly seem to us very eccentric
and strange in the present day.* Undoubtedly, they are not

* Hardy, in his biography, gives an interesting description of Haworth Parish Church,
which, according to him, is very little altered bince Grimshaw's death. Among other things^


examples for imitation ; and unless a man is " a Grimshaw," he
has no right to attempt them. Before condemning them too
strongly, however, men should call to mind the times and the
population with which he had to do. We are, in fact, dealing
with a man who lived a hundred years ago.

He was very particular in enforcing order and devout be-
haviour among the worshippers in his church at Haworth.
Carelessness and inattention were instantly observed and openly
rebuked ; and he would not proceed with the service until he saw
every person present in the attitude of devotion. Some of his
hearers certainly deserved great attention and encouragement.
Not a few came ten or twelve miles every Sunday to attend his
ministry. One John Madden of Bacup often walked to Ha-
worth on the Sabbath, and returned the same evening, a distance,
out and home, of nearly forty miles.*

In giving out the hymns to be sung in church, he sometimes
took singular liberties. A valued friend of mine was told by an
old man in Haworth that he remembered his grandfather speaking
of Grimshaw, and telling the following story : — His grandfather
was in Haworth Church, when Grimshaw gave out the well-
known hymn of Dr. Watts, beginning, —

" Come, ye that love the Lord,
And let your joys be known ;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
And so surround the throne."

He said, that when Grimshaw had read the first verse, he looked
at the people, and cried out, " Now, unconverted sinners here
present, can you sing that % "

His sermons were seldom short when he occupied his own
pulpit at Haworth. Indeed, he sometimes preached for two

he says : "Appropriate inscriptions, in various parts of the church, remind the worship-
pers of their duty. Under the sounding-board of the pulpit, in gilt letters, there is the
sentence, ' I determined not to know anything .save Jesus Christ and him crucified.' His
favourite text, ' To nie to live is Christ,' appears on the pulpit, on the brass chandelier, and
on a tablet with the names of the church-officers. On the baptismal font is the sentence,
* I indeed baptize with water, but he .shall baptize with the Holy Ghost.'"
* Methodist Magazine for 1811, p. 521.


hours ! For this he once made an apology to John Newton : .
" If I were in some places," he said, " I might not think it
needful to speak so much. But mSny of my hearers, who are
wicked and careless, are likewise very ignorant and slow of
apprehension. If they do not understand me, I cannot hope to
do them good ; and when I think of the uncertainty of life,
that, perhaps, it may be the last opportunity, and that it is not
impossible I may never see them again till the great day, I know
not how to be expHcit enough. I try to set the subject in a
variety of lights. I express the same thoughts in different
words, and can scarcely tell how to leave off, lest I should have
omitted something, for want of which my preaching and their
hearing should be vain."

His prayers after sermon must have been sometimes very
remarkable. John Pawson, a well-known ]\Iethodist preacher,
said, in 1803, that he heard him, fifty years before, preach a
most comforting discourse on the words, " O fear the Lord, ye
his saints, for there is no want to them that fear him" (Ps.
xxxiv. 9), in which he spoke very strongly about God's faith-
fulness to his promises, and said, " Before the Lord will suffer
his promise to fail, he will lay aside his divinity and un-God
himself" He then offered the following prayer : " Lord, dis-
miss us with thy blessing. Take all these poor people under
thy care, and bring them in safety to their own houses, and give
them their supper when they get home. But let them not eat a
morsel till they have said a grace. Then let them eat and be
satisfied, and return thanks to thee when they have done. Then
let them kneel down and say their prayers before they go to
bed. Let them do this for once at any rate, and then thou wilt
preserve them till the morning."

Though Grimshaw's ministry was almost entirely among the

poor and lower middle classes, he was quite able to take his

position and speak wisely and shrewdly in any company. On

one occasion he was invited to meet a nobleman who had
U95) 10


imbibed infidel priiiciples, and had resisted the efforts of two
eminent clergymen to convince him of his error. He wished
at once to draw Grimshanv into a discussion, but Grimshaw
firmly and decidedly declined. "' My lord," he said, " I do not
refuse to argue because I have nothing to say, or because I
fear for my cause. I refuse because argument will do you no
good. If you really needed any information, I would gladly
assist you. But the fault is not in your head, but in your heart,
which can only be reached by a divine power. I shall pray for
you, but I will not dispute with you." The nobleman afterwards
said that he was more impressed by the honesty and firmness of
those simple words than by all the arguments he had heard.

" To a lady," says Hardy, " with whom Grimshaw was con-
versing, he once gave a striking reproof She was expressing
her admiration of a certain minister who had more talents than
grace. ' Madam,' said Grimshaw, ' I am glad you never saw
the devil. He has greater talents than all the ministers in the
world. I fear, if you saw him, you would fall in love with him,
as you have so high a regard for talents without sanctity. Pray,
do not be led away with the sound of talents.' "

Anecdotes like these tell a tale that ought not to be over-
looked. The subject of them must surely have been no ordinary
man. When sayings and doings are so carefully treasured up
and handed down from generation to generation, the character
round which they cluster was one of no common mould. I repeat
the opinion that I expressed at the beginning of this biography.
There were not three greater spiritual heroes in England one
hundred years ago than William Grimshaw.

I will now conclude this paper with three short extracts from
men of approved characters in the last century, which serve to
show the high estimation in which Grimshaw was held by his

Romaine said publicly in a sermon preached at St. Dunstan's
in the West, shortly after Grimshaw's death, —


" Mr. Grimshaw was one of the most laborious and indefati-
gable ministers of Christ that I ever knew. For the good of souls
he rejected all hopes of affluent fortune, and for the love of
Christ cheerfully undertook difficulties, dangers, and tribula-
tions. He preached Christ and Christ alone ; and God gave
him very numerous seals to his ministry. Himself hath told me
that not fewer than 1200 were in communion with him, most of
whom, in the judgment of charity, he could not but believe to
be one with Christ. When some of his friends, in tenderness
to his health, would wish him to spare himself, he would answer,
— ' Let me labour now : I shall have rest enough by-and-by. I
cannot do enough for Christ, who has done so much for me.'
He was the most humble walker with God I ever met with ;
inasmuch that he could never bear to hear any commendations
of his usefulness, or anything which belonged to him. His last
words were, ' Here goes an unprofitable servant !'"

Henry Venn, who preached his funeral sermon, said, among
other things, — " It is hard to determine whether we have more
cause to lament his removal from our world, or to rejoice that
God was pleased to enrich him with divine knowledge in so
large a measure, to make him so long an eminent instrument in
his hand of converting sinners, and to enable him to persevere
with an unblemished character till he finished his course with
joy. Few have ever expressed so great ardency of affection to
the service of Christ as your late much-loved pastor.

" Never was there any sordid child of this world more en-
grossed by the love of money, and more laborious in heaping it
up, than your late pastor was in teaching and preaching the
kingdom of God, and tlie things concerning the Lord Jesus

John Newton says, — '*' I knew Mr. Grimshaw, and had re-
peated conversations with him for four or five years. I number
it among the many great mercies of my life, that I was favoured
with his notice, edified (I hope) by his instruction and example,


and encouraged and directed by his advice, at the critical time
when my own mind was engaged with the desire of entering
the ministry. I saw in him, much more clearly than I could
have learned from books or lectures, what it was to be a faithful
and exemplary minister of the gospel ; and the remembrance of
him has often both humbled and animated me."

These testimonies are weighty and powerful. But they are
not mere flattering words. They are well deserved, and they
are true.



Born at Hartlepool in 1714 — Educated at Houghton-le-Spring and Christ Church, Oxford
— Character for Learning at Oxford — Ordained 1736 — Curate of Lewtrenchard and
Eanstead — Lectures at St. Botolph's 1748, and St. Dunstan's 1749 — Troubles at St.
Dunstan's — Morning Preacher at St. George's. Hanover Square, 1750 — Loses his
Preachershlp 1755 — Gresham Professor of Astronomy — Morning Preacher at St.
Olave, Southwark, and St. Bartholomew the Great — Preaches before the University
of Oxford — Gives great Offence.

;HE true Church of Christ is curiously like a well-
appointed army.

The soldiers of an army all owe allegiance to one

Online LibraryJ. C. (John Charles) RyleThe Christian leaders of the last century; or, England a hundred years ago → online text (page 12 of 36)