William Grimshaw was born in rural England in 1708, educated at Cambridge, and ordained to the ministry in 1731 without knowing Christ. Three years later while pastoring in Todmorden, he felt deep concern about his soul. He ceased his hunting, fishing, card-playing, and merrymaking, and began pleading with God for light. After several more years, the scales completely fell from his eyes. The gospel became real and the Bible came alive. He told a friend that “if God had drawn up his Bible to heaven and sent me down another, it could not have been newer to me.”
He moved to Haworth in Yorkshire and began a 21-year ministry. Had he been in London, claim his biographers, he would have become one of the most famous preachers of the eighteenth century. As it was, Haworth was rough and uncivilized, a long narrow village of brown stone. The main street was so steep that carriages traveled it at their own risk. Here Grimshaw labored in obscurity, but with great zeal. He gathered listeners wherever he could, in barns, fields, quarries, and pressed on them the gospel.
He once said, “When I die I shall then have my greatest grief and my greatest joy—my greatest grief that I have done so little for Jesus, and my greatest joy that Jesus has done so much for me.”
But William Grimshaw’s heart was broken by his son John who, rejecting Christ, lived a careless, intemperate life. When William lay dying, John visited him. “Take care what you do,” said William, “for you are not fit to die.” Those words evidently haunted the young man, for one day he met a Haworth inhabitant who said, “I see you are riding the old parson’s horse.”
“Yes,” replied John. “Once he carried a great saint, and now he carries a great sinner.” But not for long, for John soon heeded his father’s dying pleas and gave his heart to Christ. He died shortly afterward on May 17, 1766, saying, “What will my old father say when he sees I have got to heaven?”
How about “Hallelujah!”
If any of you has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, what will you do? Won’t you leave the ninety-nine in the field and go look for the lost sheep until you find it? Jesus said, “In the same way there is more happiness in heaven because of one sinner who turns to God than over ninety-nine good people who don’t need to.” (Luke 15:4,7)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). May 17.