John Paton's Spiritual Upbringing

If you have never heard of John Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides, I think you will really enjoy Piper’s presentation of him, it takes about an hour, and is well worth the time.

Piper on John Paton (64 minutes):

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Almost all of Piper’s materials are freely available here.

38 minutes into this talk, Piper claims the following about the origin of Paton’s spiritual character:

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His courage came from his father … And his father—I tell you after the first eighty pages of this, if you had taken it from me and ripped it to shreds and said; “See, you’ve wasted your $25.00,” I would have said; “I didn’t waste a nickel.” Five pages in this book are worth $25.00 to me. I have four sons and one daughter and I wept over these pages, and I wept last night as I read them again because I want to be a daddy like this daddy was. To produce a John Patton—he did not come out of know where—he came from a daddy and a mommy.

I also found those early pages to be exceptionally inspirational to me as a father and so I am going to post the first twenty pages of Paton’s autobiography after the jump. But first, here are some excerpts to whet your appetite:

Excerpt #1

The “closet” was a very small apartment betwixt the other two, having room only for a bed, a little table and a chair, with a diminutive window shedding diminutive light on the scene. This was the Sanctuary of that cottage home. Thither daily, and oftentimes a day, generally after each meal, we saw our father retire, and “shut to the door”; and we children got to understand by a sort of spiritual instinct (for the thing was too sacred to be talked about) that prayers were being poured out there for us, as of old by the High Priest within the veil in the Most Holy Place. We occasionally heard the pathetic echoes of a trembling voice pleading as if for life, and we learned to slip out and in past that door on tiptoe, not to disturb the holy colloquy. The outside world might not know, but we knew, whence came that happy light as of a new-born smile that always was dawning on my father’s face: it was a reflection from the Divine Presence, in the consciousness of which he lived. Never, in temple or cathedral, on mountain or in glen, can I hope to feel that the Lord God is more near, more visibly walking and talking with men, than under that humble cottage roof of thatch and oaken wattles. Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, or blotted from my understanding, my soul would wander back to those early scenes, and shut itself up once again in that Sanctuary Closet, and, hearing still the echoes of those cries to God, would hurl back all doubt with the victorious appeal, “He walked with God, why may not I?”

Excerpt #2

I must, however, leave the story of my father’s life—much more worthy, in many ways, of being written than my own—I may here mention that his long and upright life made him a great favorite in all religious circles far and near within the neighborhood, that at sick-beds and at funerals he was constantly sent for and much appreciated, and that this appreciation greatly increased, instead of diminishing, when years whitened his long, flowing locks, and gave him an apostolic beauty; till finally, for the last twelve years or so of his life, he became by appointment a sort of Rural Missionary for the four nearest parishes, and spent his autumn in literally sowing the good seed of the Kingdom as a Colporteur of the Tract and Book Society of Scotland. His success in this work, for a rural locality, was beyond all belief. Within a radius of five miles he was known in every home, welcomed by the children, respected by the servants, longed for eagerly by the sick and aged. He gloried in showing off the beautiful Bibles and other precious books, which he sold in amazing numbers. He sang sweet Psalms beside the sick, and prayed like the voice of God at their dying beds. He went cheerily from farm to farm, from cot to cot; and when he wearied on the moorland roads, he refreshed his soul by reciting aloud one of Ralph Erskine’s “Sonnets,” or crooning to the birds one of David’s Psalms. His happy partner, our beloved mother, died in 1865, and he himself in 1868, having reached his seventy-seventh year, an altogether beautiful and noble episode of human existence having been enacted, amid the humblest surroundings of a Scottish peasant’s home, through the influence of their united love by the grace of God; and in this world, or in any world, all their children will rise up at mention of their names and call them blessed!

Excerpt #3

My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene. For the last half-mile or so we walked on together in almost unbroken silence,—my father, as was often his custom, carrying hat in hand, while his long, flowing yellow hair (then yellow, but in later years white as snow) streamed like a girl’s down his shoulders. His lips kept moving in silent prayers for me, and his tears fell fast when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain. We halted on reaching the appointed parting place; he grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly and affectionately said :

“God bless you, my son! Your father’s God prosper you, and keep you from all evil !”

Follow the link for the first 26 pages of Paton’s autobiography.

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