John Shaw

The Life And Ministry Of John Shaw

Gospel Standard 1840:

As Mr. John Shaw, late of Nateby, near Garstang, was well known to many of God’s family, the following short narrative of part of his life and latter end may be interesting to those who knew him; and it may not be uninteresting to others, as he is another striking instance of God’s wisdom confounding the wisdom of this world by foolish things, weak things, base things, and despised things, but things which God hath chosen to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Cor. 1:27,28.) He was a plain, unlettered, country farmer; so much so, that he could not read many passages in the Bible properly; and if the success of his ministry, and power of his speech had depended on his human learning, he would have cut as poor a figure in the church of God as some academy and college-taught poor creatures do in natural churches, who are void of all natural talent for teaching. But he was taught and instructed in his soul’s experience by God the Holy Ghost, concerning the things of the kingdom of Jesus; his speech, therefore, stood not in words of man’s wisdom, out in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (1 Cor. 2:4,) commending himself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God; (2 Cor. 4:2;) and the gospel came by him to the hearts of the people, not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, (1 Thess. 1:5) that their faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:5.) God took him, rough and unpolished as he was, there and then, (for he could not spare him to serve four years at the academy to learn the art of man’s wisdom,) and sent him to gather and feed his people Israel. And though the herd of Satan-deceived Pharisees hated him, and heaped upon him, his doctrine, and his people, calumnies without measure, yet “the pleasure of the Lord prospered in his hand;” and though he was thus spoken against for truth’s sake, yet, as a man, he had a good report of them that are without, and was much respected by his neighbours.

In the beginning of his religious life he was a strenuous advocate for Arminianism, though at the same time his experience bore direct testimony against free-will, he being deeply ploughed up in his conscience by the force and spirituality of God’s most holy law; but being ignorant in his judgment of the harmony of divine truth, he endeavoured to appease and satisfy the demands of the law and of his guilty conscience by his own righteous obedience and holy and pious living, but always came short. He was even promised considerable property, if he would become a staunch churchman; but, to use his own expression, “The Lord drove him away in spite of his teeth.” After this he joined the Independents, but their dry, dead, empty, chaffy sermons, and their milk and water, yea-and-nay puddle, wearied, sickened, and killed his soul, till he was forced out of their assembly. Still he held the invitations of the gospel as indiscriminate, till Mr. Gadsby’s work entitled, “Gawthorn brought to the Test,” was published. This work opened up his understanding to the subject, and swept away his false ideas respecting it. About this time he became a decided advocate for truth. He was satisfied as to the mode of baptism, but as he said, he “remained as stupid as an ass” about the subject fit for baptism, till that passage struck his conscience with power; “for he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the “letter.” (Rom. 2:28, 29.) Again; “No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.” (Exod. 12:48.) And again; “Now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees; therefore, every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” (Matt. 3:10.) Thus he was made willing to submit to be baptized by immersion in water. Then he said to one of his friends, who is still in the path of tribulation, “I am ready and willing to meet you any where now.” After this, three or four of us met together, first in one friend’s house, and then in another’s, hobbling on as well as we could in reading and praying, and sometimes he spoke a little, and at other times he could say nothing. About this time, we appointed him pastor over us, and the Lord was with him, and blessed him, and honoured him, as a ram’s- horn trumpet in his hand, to gather in and build up some of his elect family. His doctrine “dropped as the rain, and his speech distilled as the dew.” (Deut. 32:2.) For many years we met in an old, low, clay, thatched cottage, more like an old cow-house than the house of God; but God is not confined to houses made with men’s hands, for even here the glory of the Lord has filled the old clay building many a time. (2 Chron. 5:14.) He often stood behind the old chest which he had for his pulpit, with his soul filled with the glory of God’s sovereign salvation, his eyes sparkling, and his arm stretched out at full length, and with heavenly glee he would exclaim, “Saved! saved! the church of God is saved with an everlasting salvation.” He frequently used to say, “Friends, it is not fine words well adjusted that qualify a man to be a minister of Jesus Christ, but it is the Holy Ghost applying his speech with power to the conscience:” He was taught well the plague and deceitfulness of his heart, and would sometimes say, ”I have rebellions of every kind, and a thousand unbelieving fears; but under all, and in the midst of all, I have a something which I would not part with for a thousand worlds, and I believe all will end well.” During the latter end of his days, he was blessed with a strong confidence and firm hope that he would land in glory, particularly the last year of his life. He had suffered many years under the disease which ended his life, and the pain which he suffered at times was unutterable; but, as he said, it was overruled to bring him down into the dust of self-abasement, and make him cry to God, and he considered it a just chastisement from the Lord for his sins. Like Micah, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him;” and Jeremiah, “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” As the complaint advanced towards its fatal stage, he often said, if he could get a comfortable place erected for his brethren to meet in before he died, he did not care how soon he was taken away, and this he saw completed only a very little time before he died. He saw a neat little chapel built, with a good burying ground, and preached in it a few times, before he died, and was buried there. The last time he preached, it was deeply impressed upon his mind that his “departure was at hand.” In the morning he preached from Matt. 26:13, and in the afternoon from John 21:17; and in one of his discourses he said, “I thought I would preach the gospel today, lest I should never preach it again.” So he did preach it, and it was his last time. The disease rapidly advanced, till it resisted all medical efforts, and he felt death upon him, and would say, “I am a dead man;” but his brethren still entertained hopes of his recovery, and many a prayer was offered up for him to that effect; but the Lord of Hosts was of one mind, and who could turn him? He was determined to take him whether they could give him up or not, and who can stay the hand of the Almighty? The first Lord’s day that he was confined to the house, several of his brethren visited him, and engaged in reading and prayer, and he exhorted them to meet together, and to walk in love, and the Lord would bless them, and be with them; and to one of his brethren present he said, “The Lord has blessed you with no little talent, and I nope you will make use of it,” and added, “You all know that it is not fine words that God will bless.” Then he gave orders respecting his funeral. He wished them to sing a hymn by Mr. Gadsby, called, “Christ the Christian’s sweet Home,” the first part to be sung at the house, the second part to be sung at ‘the chapel. To two of his friends who called to see him, he said, “Come near, and learn a lesson of me (alluding to his disease and death). I am going to die, but I am not afraid to die; I want nothing but the passport; but my pain is now indescribable.” One observed to him, that it was very well salvation was finished, else what should we do in such extreme cases as these? He said, with energy, “Aye, the Lord Jesus Christ is my hope and my refuge; he only can help me. Good night, and God bless you.” At another time, he wished his friends to sing part of a hymn as he sat on the bed side. As they sung it, his eyes sparkled, and he said, “There, it is quite refreshing, and makes me forget my pain.” One of his neighbours, an Arminian, called to see him, and questioned him about his principles, and the foundation of his hope, and he said to his friends, “I gave him enough, poorly as I was.” To a friend he said, “I shall soon be away, and free from this body, and I shall be as light as a feather, and mount up and meet the Lord in the air.” At another time he said, “I am going a little before you, and you will lose a friend and well-wisher, but you have a comfortable place to meet in, and you may consider yourselves blessed of the Lord.” One said to him, “Can you read at all?” He said, “No, but the job is done with me, (meaning his salvation was finished and settled) it is settled; my hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you know it says, ‘Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is;’ (Jer. 17:7;) and if love be a mark, I have it, for I love God’s people, and his ways.” Shortly before he died, a friend called to see him, and said to him, “Arminianism won’t do for you now, John.” With energy he replied, “No, nor ever would.” Soon after this, he was no more able to speak. During his life he had a great attachment to his people, and would often say, “Meeting with my brethren is all the little comfort I have.” In his last illness he was blessed with a sweet confidence and a hope that anchored within the vail on the Lord, and it never failed him, for he rode by it through the vale of the King of terrors in peace. Thus, “the righteous hath hope in his death;” (Prov. 14:32;) and his “flesh rests in hope, and God will show him the path of life; in his presence is fulness of joy; at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psa. 16:9-11.) Amen.

Following On

January, 1840

John Shaw (?-1840) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He served as pastor for a church meeting at Nateby, Lancashire.