John Kershaw

The Life And Death Of John Kershaw

The Sower 1895:

The Conversion Of A Sinner To Christ

John Kershaw was born in Lancashire, August 25th, 1792. His autobiography gives an interesting account of his early life, call by grace and to the ministry; also of his fifty-two years’ pastorate at Hope Chapel, Rochdale, and the Jubilee meeting, 1867, when handsome presents were made to Mr. and Mrs. Kershaw, by their loving and beloved friends. After speaking of his early convictions Mr. Kershaw says:—

“I was for a time shut up as in despair, wishing I had never been born,—shut up to the faith in Christ, or, as the Apostle hath it, “unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed’ (Gal. 3:23).

“In this perplexed state of mind I went to Bacup, and heard Mr. Hurst preach from Isaiah 45:22: ‘Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else.’ Under this sermon I was led to see the ability of Christ to save unto the uttermost the chief of sinners; that the law of God they had broken He had fulfilled for them; that He had ‘redeemed them from the curse of the law, being made a curse for them,’ and finished the work ‘His Father gave Him to do’; and that there was everything done by Him, and treasured up in Him, that I stood in need of. As I sat and heard these things opened up, there was such light, life, and power attended the Word that I said within myself, ‘I shall never forget what I have heard this day.’ I went home rejoicing that there was a new and living way, whereby God could be just and save poor guilty sinners. The name, blood, and righteousness of Jesus Christ became precious to my soul; so that I could not forbear saying, ‘This is the Christ and the salvation my soul stands in need of.’ It did my soul good to see that the whole work was finished by Christ upon the cross, and that there was nothing left for me to do, as the ground of my acceptance with God. I had proved that I could do nothing but add sin to sin, and make the rent worse.

“My soul now began to hunger and thirst after Christ and His finished, free-grace salvation. I read my Bible as with new eye!, and heard preaching as with new ears. I had a confidence wrought in me that Christ was able to save me; but the question arose in my mind, ‘Is He willing to save me?’ I could now say with the poor leper, ‘Thou canst, if Thou wilt, make me clean.’

“In this state I was held for months, growingly persuaded of the ability and all-sufficiency of Christ Jesus, but waiting, longing, and praying for a manifestation of my personal interest in His salvation by the remission of sins. Under preaching, when the minister described the feelings of a truly convinced, sensible sinner, who was a mourner in Zion, and a hungerer and thirster after Christ and His righteousness, my soul was encouraged. I felt a great love to the brethren; the tabernacles of the Lord were amiable to my soul, my Bible was my chief companion; a throne of grace was often resorted to, where I had sometimes a little encouragement, while at other times I was shut up in my soul, and could not come forth, but in soul-pantings and breathings, with sighs and groans. I could not keep from the prayer-meetings that were held at different friends’ houses in various parts of the neighbourhood; dark nights and dirty lanes did not prevent me from going. When I had no company, I went by myself. My heart and soul were following hard after God, the living God, even the God of salvation.”

After describing many deep exercises of soul, as a seeker, he speaks of Romans 7:24, coming home to his heart as though spoken by an audible voice, and such was the effect that he hastened home to read their connection, when the subject of the whole chapter was so opened to him that he felt, as he had never felt before, the sweet comfort of the truths contained therein, and he says: “So pleased and blest [was I] in my soul that I began to read the next chapter, commencing thus: ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.’ As I read these precious words, their blessed contents were brought into my soul with power and glory. I saw and felt that I was in Christ Jesus, saved with an everlasting salvation. The burden of sin was removed, my conscience cleansed by an application of the precious blood of Jesus Christ. I felt the sealing testimony of the Holy Spirit of God that I stood complete and accepted in the Beloved. I read the chapter through with a joy I cannot describe. I now knew my election of God, and that no charge could ever be brought against me, because Christ had died for my sins, and was raised again from the dead for my justification; that He ever lived to make intercession for me, and would receive me into His kingdom of glory. The love of Christ was shed abroad in my heart; I saw and felt that nothing could separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. How precious and glorious were the truths contained in this chapter to my soul on that memorable evening; and often, in reading and preaching, when I have cited portions of it, I have felt a little of the same sweetness and savour. Thanking the Lord for the great deliverance He had wrought for me and in me with the joy of salvation in my soul, I retired for the night, but so ravished was I with the beauty and glory of Christ as my Saviour and Redeemer that sleep departed from me. Many restless nights had I previously endured with a guilty conscience, a broken law, an evil heart, a tempting devil, crowds of doubts and fears and carnal reasonings; but all had now departed. The year of jubilee was come, the prisoner was brought out of the dungeon into the banqueting house, and the banner over him was love. I well remember this question passing across my mind: ‘Where are all my sins, that have so long been a burden and plague to my soul?’ I saw by faith that a precious Christ had put them all away by the sacrifice of Himself, and made an end of sin; as it is written: ‘In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none, and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found; for I will pardon them whom I reserve” (Jer. 50:20). My sins had appeared as scarlet and crimson, but were all washed away in the blood of atonement. As I stood in Christ, I was white as snow or as wool. Such was the joy of my heart in the dead of the night, the family asleep around me, that I sang in my soul-feelings—

“‘See, here an endless ocean flows 

Of never-failing grace:

Behold, a dying Saviour’s veins 

The sacred flood increase.

“‘It rises high, and drowns the hills, 

Has neither shore nor bound;

Now, if we search to find our sins, 

Our sins can ne’er be found.

“‘Awake, our hearts, adore the grace,’ &c.

Bless the Lord, this song has been sweet and precious to my soul many times since the memorable night of my deliverance, and I hope will be until I join the everlasting song, ‘Unto Him that hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.'”

The Passing Of A Saint To Heaven

Mr. Kershaw began to fail after his return from London in May, 1869, He was enabled to preach a few times, and was much favoured in doing so, but felt his work was well-nigh done. During his illness he was greatly blessed of the Lord, and triumphantly rejoiced in Christ whom he had so long loved to preach. And a little while after, after saying, “God is faithful,” he calmly breathed out his spirit to Him who loved, and bought him with His own blood, January 11th, 1870, in the seventy-eighth year of his age. The funeral was largely attended by loving friends from many parts. We well remember hearing Mr. Kershaw preach, at Coventry, soon after his Jubilee meeting. His text was Mark 16:20. He very sweetly described how the Lord prepared, called, and sent forth His ministers into the work; what and how they preached Christ Jesus the Lord, and how the Lord worked with them, and honoured them by confirming the Word with signs following, by which testimony our heart was greatly strengthened. The Lord having, after several years’ exercise, sent us forth into the work, some little time previously, we felt as though we were taken by the hand by a father in Israel, whose pleasure it was to give us confirming words and weighty yet encouraging counsel. Often, as we think of that evening, the circumstances, the surroundings and the sweet savour that attended that sermon, and the kindly, tender words spoken to us by this aged ambassador for Christ, as he grasped our hand and bid us adieu for the last time, the whole comes so fresh to our mind that we can hardly think they are among the things that are past.

John Kershaw (1792-1870) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was appointed the Pastor of Hope Chapel, Rochdale, serving this position for fifty-three years. John Hazelton wrote of him:

“His autobiography is one of the best books of its kind and one striking incident we will quote. It is his account of his interview in Edinburgh with Dr. John Duncan, often called "Rabbi" Duncan, because of his profound knowledge of Hebrew. Dr. Duncan (1796-1870) was Professor of Hebrew in New College, Edinburgh, and was a man of the most acute and profound intellectual powers, and at the same time a deeply spiritual and Scriptural preacher. In learning and associations he was at the antipodes of plain John Kershaw. In November, 1861, Mr. Kershaw preached in Edinburgh, arrangements having been made through Lady Lucy Smith, who was desirous that his original and powerful ministry should be exercised there. He writes:—"Another of my visitors was Dr. Duncan, who I was told by one of the ministers understood fourteen languages and that there was only one in the City who surpassed him in learning. He told me he had heard me preach three sermons, and he quite agreed with me in every statement that I had made, both in doctrine, experience and practice, save one, and that I had not fully entered upon, namely, 'the extent of the call of the gospel.' He candidly told me that his human learning had for years past been a great hindrance to his coming to a saving knowledge of the truth, and he had proved Paul's words, that the world by wisdom knew not God; and referring me to 1 Cor. 1:21,22 said he was for a long time like a wandering star or a ship at sea without a compass, ready to settle in every 'ism'—sometimes Arianism or Socinianism; and sometimes his mind was bordering upon infidelity. He declared himself much ashamed of many of his theological productions. When it pleased the Lord to work in his soul by the power of the Spirit he was for a long time in a distressed state, not knowing what to do to get peace and comfort. A conversation with another minister was made useful to him and he was enabled to go to the feet of Jesus as a little child and beg Him to teach him, a poor ignorant sinner, by His Spirit and His Word. The Lord graciously heard prayer and revealed Himself as his Saviour and Redeemer. We spoke of Scott's 'Force of Truth,' in which the author confessed he had been priding himself on his human attainments, opposing the doctrines of grace, and despising his neighbour, that dear man of God, John Newton, who eventually was made a blessing to him; also of John Berridge, who preached some years before the Lord stripped him and caused him to flee to Jesus for refuge. The conversation I had with this man I hope never to forget."

John Kershaw Sermons