John Kershaw (1792-1870) was pastor for fifty-two years of Hope Chapel, Rochdale. He exercised a powerful ministry among his flock, and became an influential preacher across the country. Few ministers remain faithful to a single congregation for an extended period—Kershaw committed himself to the same church he attended as a boy. His autobiography, “Memorials of the Mercies of a Covenant God while Traveling through the Wilderness”, is one of the best written of its genre. The following excerpt from this book (third edition) is selected in order to highlight the joy of those that sat under his ministry.
Lines to the Memory of Mr. Kershaw, Fifty-Two Years Pastor of the Church at Hope Chapel, Rochdale, Who Died on the 11th January, 1870, in the 78th Year of His Age.
“A Sinner Saved By Grace”
Robe in black weeds, ye Rochdale saints,
Pour out your wail in sore complaints;
Let sorrow trickle from your eyes,
And ease your hearts in sobs and sighs.
Your comforter, your joy is fled!
Your Pastor s gone,—JOHN KERSHAW’S dead.
Full many heav’nly blasts he blew,
With Gospel trumpet, sound and true;
And many hearts made glad, through grace,
While sobs and tears besmear’d each face.
But now, alas! the times are sad;
His work is done,—JOHN KERSHAW’S dead.
How oft he sobb’d and sigh’d in turn,
While seeking, on a Lord’s day morn,
For food to feed the weary saints,
For well he knew their sore complaints.
But, now, from anxious cares he’s freed;
His soul’s at rest,—JOHN KERSHAW’S dead.
While handling those memorials dear,
Those symbols rich, the saints to cheer,
The Bread, the Wine, that feast of grace,
How love has shone on his dear face;
But now to brighter worlds he’s sped,
And left us here;—JOHN KERSHAW’S dead.
When sin besmear’d the church’s pride,
How John his honest face would hide,
And sigh, and mourn a brother’s fall,
And pray for one who grieved them all;
Seek to restore, and grace would plead,
And weep, and love; but now HE’S dead.
How fond to hear the stamm’rer’s tongue,
In infant, aged, feeble, strong.
If John saw roots, the case was his;
He knew that sighs would turn to praise.
He sought to feed with living Bread,
But now it’s past;—JOHN KERSHAW’S dead.
A hearty friend to God’s own poor;
Would carry bread from door to door.
Was cheerful in affliction s cell;
Soothing the sick, sweet truths would tell.
His kindly visits now are fled,
Alas! He’s gone;—JOHN KERSHAW’S dead.
If John a favour would obtain,
The church’s voice he soon could gain
By signs and look, which well they knew,
His logic powerful, strong, and true.
“Come, my dear friends,” then stroke his head;
The case was won;—but now HE’S dead.
In days of health how pleased he stood
Before the saints, in cheerful mood;
Declaring how the Lamb was slain,
Till pews and gall’ries rang again.
While holy raptures raised that head
That’s now laid low. Ah, me! HE’S dead.
When wading deep in Gospel tides,
His hands he’d prop against his sides;
And when his faith reach’d o’er the ford,
How dust would fly from Bible board.
Elated saint! The truth he spread
Both far and near; but now HE’S dead.
Full many quaint good tales he told
Of things well cast in Gospel mould;
While peace sat brooding on his face,
And heart right full of mirth and grace.
And many a trickling tear he shed
O’re subjects sweet;—but now HE’S dead.
Dead! Yes, but still he lives to God,
Bought with atoning, precious blood,
And, mingling with the ransom’d choir,
Each vying note still rising higher.
That state eternal pleasure gives;
There our late friend, JOHN KERSHAW, lives.