Not a Book Review

John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides 

Paton, James, ed. John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides. Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002 (reprint). 524 pp. $23.99.

Disclaimer: Bret has been educating me on how I know nothing about book reviews. So, I’m not writing one. This is my opinion of a book that I just read.

The Sovereign Lord has used John Paton’s autobiography as a great encouragement to me. Paton consistently recounts the faithfulness of the Savior, and shows by his life God is worthy of obediance and sacrifice. The first sentence of the book is: “What I write here is for the glory of God” and I see in the pages a life lived for the glory of God. Mainly, I want to share with you what the Lord has taught me through this book, not give you an outline of the story. I am, however, going to VERY briefly summarize Paton’s life to give you a context for the lessons I was given.

Paton was born in a poor, godly family in Scotland. He went to Glasgow to study and became a missionary with the the Glasgow City Mission. The Lord gave profitable labor among the slums in Glasgow, but Paton heard “the wail of the perishing Heathen in the South Seas.” He, therefore, became a missionary to the New Hebrides. He spent the rest of his life laboring in the islands, or traveling internationally telling of the Lord’s labor through him to gather funds for missions in the New Hebrides.

Here are some of the things that the gracious Father taught me:

1. The lasting effect that godly parents can have upon a son’s life: Paton says, “In my earlier years particularly, when exposed to many temptations, his [Father’s] parting form rose before me as that of a guardian angel. It is no Pharisaism, but deep gratitude, which makes me here testify that the memory of that scene, not only helped, by God’s grace, keep me pure from the prevailing sins, but also stimulated me in all my studies, that I might not fall short of his hopes, and in all my Christian duties, that I might faithfully follow his shining example.”

2. God’s providence even in VERY difficult and dangerous situations: Paton lived four years in almost constant danger, and he continually testifies of the Lord’s protection, guidance, grace, and strength throughout each dangerous encounter. In one situation, he is forced to spend a night hiding in a tree. This is what he says about it: “The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the Savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among these chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Saviour’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship.”

3. The necessity of joyful, willing obedience, even when the commission is against natural desires: After Paton is rescued from Tanna, he desires to wait at a near island, work on translating the Bible, and return as soon as possible. However, the Lord constrains him to go to Australia and endeavor to raise awareness and funds for the mission in the New Hebrides. This begins a vital segment of Paton’s ministry, as the Lord uses him to convict hearts of the commands to all Christians to be involved in making disciples. In this labor, Paton travels all over Australia, England, Scotland, and the U.S. and Canada, and many people’s hearts are changed to care about what God cares about, which is His glory displayed in salvation. 

(John Piper did a biographical talk over John Paton; you can read or listen to it here.)

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One Response to “Not a Book Review”

  1. brsquared Says:

    Very helpful, sister. I enjoyed reading your OPINION on the book! It is so affirming to hear of God’s provision for his servants.

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