William Grimshaw of Haworth by Faith Cook
Another gem from the Great Awakening
I love reading about the figures of the 18th century Great Awakening. The best known, of course, are George Whitefield and John Wesley, as well as Jonathan Edwards in America, but there were dozens of men who who were mightily used by God at the time, and William Grimshaw is one of them.
Grimshaw went to Cambridge, and then entered the ministry as a Church of England minister, all without having been converted. A current of the awakening began to swirl around him, as a book came into his hands (Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices), and men who had believed the gospel began to cross his path. Before long, he himself was converted, and his parish, based in Haworth, began to feel the effects.
Grimshaw was tireless in his efforts to bring the gospel to everyone in his parish. He would sometimes pull unusual stunts to get the attention of his congregants. One time, a group of young people were playing a game instead of attending church on the Sabbath. Grimshaw disguised himself, and hid amongst them, until finally one of them noticed him, and they all fled in fear. Grimshaw later gathered the whole group in church, rebuked and admonished them, and then preached Christ to them, to great affect.
Grimshaw was a preacher, and cared passionately for the souls to be saved. His was an example of An Earnest Ministry, and under the influence of the Wesleys, he also circuited miles and miles around his own parish, preaching the gospel, gathering groups of believers together in to “societies” and then traveling back to them to help their spiritual growth.
John and Charles Wesley preached often in his church, as did Whitefield. John Newton was his friend, and visiting him, and later writing a biography of him. Henry Venn, and the Countess of Huntingdon were also his friends and fellow-laborers.
There are fascinating examples of how he dealt with differences in his day. He tried to find a position between the calvinism of Whitefield and the arminianism of Wesley. He had dealings with many outside of the Church of England – baptists, dissenters, moravians – though he himself resisted strongly any attempts for the methodists to pull out and become dissenters themselves. He is a good example of charity with brethren who differed from him on these points. To one man, who started a baptist church in his own city, and pulled away members from Grimshaw’s church, he said, “God bless thee, James; God bless thy undertaking! Perhaps God has given thee more light than he has given me – God bless thee!” (231)
His life is an example of a man who wore himself out spreading the gospel to everyone he could. Faith Cook is an excellent biographer (see also Selina: Countess of Huntingdon), and she gives Grimshaw the treatment he deserves.
I highly recommend this biography, as well as any others you can find from the Great Awakening. J.C. Ryle’s Christian Leaders of the 18th Century is the place to start, and then branch out to Whitefield, Wesley, Huntingdon, Daniel Rowland, and Jonathan Edwards in America.
Oh that we might see an awakening like this today!