John Kershaw

At Lower Fold, Healey, in the Parish of Rochdale in the County of Lancaster, John Kershaw was born on the 25th August 1792.

His father did all in his power to bring up his children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”.

John went peacefully to the House of God at first, but as he grew in years so his native hatred of divine things grew too, the Chapel became a prison and often stopping his ears (literally) for most of the sermon, at last he would listen for the -to him- only welcome word “Amen” and then rush home at full speed. The rest of the Sabbath, and of other days, was spent sinning or “longing to have his fling in
sin”.

At the age of fourteen the Holy Spirit began to convince John of sin, though he rebelled again and yet again. Cock fighting and card playing attracted his natural inclinations, the latter bringing him into the company of an unscrupulous woman who got all his money out of him and left him to return home to one of the severest beatings of his life.

Yet God used this event to sicken him for ever of this enticement, and one of his party drank himself to death while John Was brought to the Lord.

Meantime he again defied his father and went off with evil companions later to receive so severe a beating that he could hardly “turn in bed”.

But God enabled him to perceive how richly he deserved the punishment and indeed he wondered at his father’s forbearance.

From this time he passed through one amazing providence after another until he was brought into deep conviction and exercise as to his election as a child of God, and at last the Holy Spirit brought him into glorious liberty by applying the words “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

The burden of sin was removed and his conscience cleansed by an application of the precious blood of Christ. His joy was indescribable for the love of God was shed abroad in his heart.

Led by the Spirit into the ministry he became pastor of Hope Chapel, Rochdale, and there preached for nearly 53 years.

During his last illness the Lord was so near to him that Satan was not often permitted to molest him. When at the end, his voice gone, they read to him hymn 51 (Gadsby’s Collection) at the last line of the first verse.

“Glory to the Lord on high”

and at the last line of the last verse

“Hallelujah to their King”

and in hymn 667

“Immortal honours rest on Jesus’ head.”

John Kershaw waved his arms triumphantly.

To the amazement of all he rallied, at which he was cast down, but he felt it was God’s will and was made both willing and able to preach again. It was like life from the dead. The text was “For me to live is Christ” taking only this first part of the verse in Philippians 1:21.

Yet again on January 2nd he preached for the last time, from the words “By them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven” – 1 Peter 1:12.

Soon after this he began to sink fast and at the end he repeated the lines

“Far from a world of grief and sin
With God eternally shut in.”

and added “God is faithful! God is faithful!” and his soul was taken on Tuesday morning January the 11th 1870. He was in the 78th year of his age.

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