William Grimshaw: A Great Pastor

He worked in Haworth, England, and was a pastor in the Church of England.

He preached to his country members in plain and familiar way, and followed up his preaching with visitation. Whenever he could get people together he preached to them, be it in their home, a barn, or outside. Wherever he went he took “His Master” with him, and always spoke plainly to people about their souls.

Preaching repentance toward God, and faith in Jesus were his constant subjects, except when he was preaching doctrinal sermons or there were special occasions.

He made visits around his parish twelve times each month, usually convening six to eight families together.

He happily invited like-minded pastors to also speak in his church. Among those who came were George Whitefield.

As a result of his intense interest in the people, a longing for spiritual things swept into his congregation. Speaking of this he said, “Souls were affected by the word, brought to see their lost estate by nature, and to experience peace through faith in the blood of Jesus. My church began to be crowded, insomuch that many were obliged to stand out of doors. Here, as in many places, it was amazing to see and hear what weeping, roaring, and agony, many people were seized with, at the apprehension of their sinful state and wrath of God.” He would meet with these people in smaller groups of ten to twelve people, where the blessings continued.

He was a “plain” preacher. His first aim was to preach the whole truth as it is in Jesus. His second aim was to preach so as to be understood. To accomplish this he was willing to make many sacrifices, including preaching with words that were below his education, but words, none-the-less, that communicated with his parishioners. John Newton, speaking of him, said: “The desire of usefulness to persons of the weakest capacity, or most destitute of the advantages of education, influenced his phraseology in preaching. Though his abilities as a speaker, and his fund of general knowledge, rendered him very competent to stand before great men, yet, as his stated hearers were chiefly of the poorer and more unlettered classes, he condescended to accommodate himself, in the most familiar manner, to their ideas, and to their modes of expression. Like the apostles, he disdained that elegance and excellence of speech which is admired by those who seek entertainment perhaps not less than instruction from the pulpit. He rather chose to deliver his sentiments in what he used to term ‘market language.’ … Frequently a sentence which a delicate hearer might judge quaint or vulgar, conveyed an important truth to the ear, and fixed it on the memory for years after the rest of the sermon and the general subject were forgotten…. But if his language was more especially suited to the taste of his unpolished rustic hearers, his subject matter was calculated to affect the hearts of all, whether high or low, rich or poor, learned or ignorant; and they who refused to believe were often compelled to tremble.”

His services were lively. There was a life, fire, reality and earnestness about them, which made the services seem completely different about other services. People described him as a man who had his feet on earth, while his soul was in heaven. Often there were few dry eyes in the congregation. Frequently he would leave the church building before the service began to see if there were any members outside. Those lingering outside were brought in. Sometimes he would walk into town. The people in the ale houses were know to have jumped out of windows in the rear of the building rather than face him. During the service he insisted that the people listening gave him their full attention, and he was not’t afraid of openly chiding them during the service. His sermons sometimes lasted two hours, his being concerned that he might not see some of his listeners again. Writing of this to John Newton he said, “I might not think it needful to speak so much. But many 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 explicit 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.”

In prayer, he refused to let go of God until he had obtained a blessing.

He also lived out his message, living earnestly and devotedly for the Lord Jesus. Most weeks he preached from twenty to thirty sermons across his parish. Accomplishing this meant wearying travel, simple food and rough accommodations.

He was not afraid to administer reproofs. For example, to an infidel nobleman who wanted to dispute with him, he responded: “My lord I do not refuse to argue because I have nothing to say, or because I fear for my case. 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.” To a lady who was admiring a pastor who had more talent than grace, he remarked, “Madam, 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.”

He also loved the people he worked with, “loving all who loved Christ, by whatever name they might be called, and was kind on both a temporal and spiritual basis. He was also very generous to the poor and frequently said, ‘If I die today, I have not a penny to leave behind me.’ But he was careful, for when he died, he was free of debt.

He was also a very humble man. He would say, “What have we that we have not received? Freely by grace we are saved. When I die I shall then have my greatest grief and my greatest joy, that Jesus has done so much for  me. My last words shall be, ‘Here goes an unprofitable servant.’”

He was very concerned about keeping his sabbath day holy asking his members not to work in the fields on that day. He also prayed that God would stop the horse races that were taking place in his town. In response to his prayer, such heavy rain came that the races were stopped—and were never scheduled again in his town.

He kept an eye on his members, particularly new members, making sure they were showing all the graces of Jesus, and maintained a very consistent walk with God.

Being concerned for people who were not hearing these precious truths, Grimshaw sometimes preached outside of his parish, which brought persecution. One of his fiercest opponents was another pastor who published sermons against him. Many in his district called him “Mad Grimshaw.” Taking advantage of such feelings and motivating a group of people with a pint of ale, the pastor whipped up a mob who attacked Grimshaw and John Wesley with clubs and dragged them before the opposing pastor. Not obtaining their promise to abstain from preaching, they were allowed to leave. Once outside, the mob began throwing them around and abusing them, and doing the same to the people who had been listening to them. All the while the enemy pastor looked on with pleasure. Not withstanding this treatment, he returned to that same location not afterwords, where he was again attacked.

When consecrating his life to God he wrote: “I desire and resolve to be wholly and forever Thine. Blessed God, I most solemnly surrender myself unto Thee…. From this day I solemnly renounce all former lords—world, flesh and devil—in Thy name. No more, directly or indirectly, will I obey them…. This day I give up myself to thee, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto thee; which I know is my reasonable service. To thee I consecrate all my worldly possessions; in Thy service I desire and purpose to spend all my time, desiring Thee to teach and to spend every moment of it to Thy glory and the setting forth of Thy praise, in every station and relation of life I am now or may hereafter be in. And I earnestly pray that whatever influence Thou mayest in any wise give me over others, Thou wouldest give me strength and courage to exert it to the utmost to Thy glory, resolving not only myself to do it, but that all others, so far as I can rationally and properly influence them, shall serve the Lord…. Nor do I only consecrate all I have to Thy service, but I also most humbly resign and submit to Thy holy and sovereign will all that I have. I leave, O Lord, to Thy management and direction all I possess and all I wish, and set every enjoyment and interest before Thee to be disposed of as Thou pleasest. Continue or remove what Thou hast given me, bestow or refuse what I imagine I want, as Thou seest good; and though I dare not say I will never repine, yet I hope I may say I will labour not only to submit but to acquiesce; not only to bear Thy heaviest afflictions on me, but to consent to them and praise Thee for them; contentedly resolving all Thy appointments, my will into Thine; esteeming myself as nothing, and Thee, O God, as the great Eternal All, whose word shall determine and whose power shall order all things in the world.”

By the end of his ministry there were close to 1,200 members in his church.

This is a summation of information gathered from J. C Ryle in his book Five Christian Leaders of the 18th Century.