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John G. Paton: You Will Be Eaten By Cannibals!

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It wasn't until 1606 that Spanish explorer Fernandez de Quiros discovered a chain of eighty islands stretched across 450 miles in the South Pacific. Later named the New Hebrides, the islands were inhabited by peoples whose existence had been unknown to the rest of the world for centuries. It would be another 230 years before two London missionaries made the first earnest at It wasn't until 1606 that Spanish explorer Fernandez de Quiros discovered a chain of eighty islands stretched across 450 miles in the South Pacific. Later named the New Hebrides, the islands were inhabited by peoples whose existence had been unknown to the rest of the world for centuries. It would be another 230 years before two London missionaries made the first earnest attempt to bring the gospel to these unengaged and unreached peoples in 1839. But they were killed and eaten by cannibals only minutes after going ashore. John G. Paton and his wife set sail to the islands in 1858. But this decision didn't come without criticism. On one account before leaving, a respected elder chided the couple, "You will be eaten by cannibals!" To which Paton responded, "Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms." Paton didn't play. He was a courageous man who understood how to do missions when dying is gain. God is sovereign, and Paton knew it. He endured one threat after another and put it all on the line for the glory of Christ. Originally a message delivered at the 2000 Conferecne for Pastors, John Piper's biography of Paton is now available as the eBook, John G. Paton: You Will Be Eaten by Cannibals!


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It wasn't until 1606 that Spanish explorer Fernandez de Quiros discovered a chain of eighty islands stretched across 450 miles in the South Pacific. Later named the New Hebrides, the islands were inhabited by peoples whose existence had been unknown to the rest of the world for centuries. It would be another 230 years before two London missionaries made the first earnest at It wasn't until 1606 that Spanish explorer Fernandez de Quiros discovered a chain of eighty islands stretched across 450 miles in the South Pacific. Later named the New Hebrides, the islands were inhabited by peoples whose existence had been unknown to the rest of the world for centuries. It would be another 230 years before two London missionaries made the first earnest attempt to bring the gospel to these unengaged and unreached peoples in 1839. But they were killed and eaten by cannibals only minutes after going ashore. John G. Paton and his wife set sail to the islands in 1858. But this decision didn't come without criticism. On one account before leaving, a respected elder chided the couple, "You will be eaten by cannibals!" To which Paton responded, "Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms." Paton didn't play. He was a courageous man who understood how to do missions when dying is gain. God is sovereign, and Paton knew it. He endured one threat after another and put it all on the line for the glory of Christ. Originally a message delivered at the 2000 Conferecne for Pastors, John Piper's biography of Paton is now available as the eBook, John G. Paton: You Will Be Eaten by Cannibals!

30 review for John G. Paton: You Will Be Eaten By Cannibals!

  1. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    This short volume may either spark or deepen a life-long love of missions if you are a Christian. It will at least convict you of God's ability to provide and protect in the face of extreme adversity right where they are. John G. Paton suffered through years of service to Christ in the last half of the ninteeth century, including the loss of his wife and child, loss of all earthly possessions, and frequent violent attempts on his life by cannibal tribes in the New Hebrides (known as Vanuatu toda This short volume may either spark or deepen a life-long love of missions if you are a Christian. It will at least convict you of God's ability to provide and protect in the face of extreme adversity right where they are. John G. Paton suffered through years of service to Christ in the last half of the ninteeth century, including the loss of his wife and child, loss of all earthly possessions, and frequent violent attempts on his life by cannibal tribes in the New Hebrides (known as Vanuatu today, an island chain 2/3 of the way from Hawaii to Australia). As he brought the gospel to these vicious and violent unbelievers, Paton stood firm in God's love and sovereign care. Read the footnotes, even if footnotes are not your thing! They are treasures of encouragement for Christians. If this book sparks your interest, there are a few good full-length biographies available, as well as an autobiography of John G. Paton. This short volume is available as a free download in ePub, Mobi, and Pdf format here: http://www.desiringgod.org/books/john... .

  2. 5 out of 5

    Shorel

    We are called to faithfulness. But how do you define faithfulness? At its most basic, it means "having tenacity" or "sticking with it." John G. Paton stuck with the call God had given him. Even when losing his wife and child during his first term, he came back. Even when threatened time after time. He stuck with it. It doesn't mean he didn't experience tremendous pain and suffering, but that God used those experiences to grow Paton's faith. Faithfulness to the task that God has given...until God We are called to faithfulness. But how do you define faithfulness? At its most basic, it means "having tenacity" or "sticking with it." John G. Paton stuck with the call God had given him. Even when losing his wife and child during his first term, he came back. Even when threatened time after time. He stuck with it. It doesn't mean he didn't experience tremendous pain and suffering, but that God used those experiences to grow Paton's faith. Faithfulness to the task that God has given...until God gives new marching orders... will result in greater relationship with God. Faithfulness does NOT guarantee greater ministry successes. Several names listed in the book were only faithful to reach the mission field before being martyred. I do not expect God to do amazing things through me. I only want to remain faithful so as I (and I pray my family and those I encounter) might grow to see and savor God more. "Had it not been for the assurance that…in every path of duty He would carry me through or dispose of me therein for His glory, I could never have undertaken either journey." ------ Excerpts: Excerpt:Their worship was entirely a service of fear, its aim being to pro- pitiate this or that Evil spirit, to prevent calamity or to secure re- venge. They deified their Chiefs… so that almost every village or tribe had its own Sacred Man…. They exercised an extraordinary influence for evil, these village or tribal priests, and were believed to have the disposal of life and death through their sacred ceremo- nies…. They also worshipped the spirits of departed ancestors and (john-g-paton-en, p.7) Excerpt:heroes, through their material idols of wood and stone…. They feared the spirits and sought their aid; especially seeking to pro- pitiate those who presided over war and peace, famine and plenty, health and sickness, destruction and prosperity, life and death. Their whole worship was one of slavish fear; and, so far as ever I could learn, they had no idea of a God of mercy or grace (72). (john-g-paton-en, p.8) Excerpt:Paton admitted that at times his heart wavered as he won- dered whether these people could be brought to the point of weaving Christian ideas into the spiritual consciousness of their lives (74). But he took heart from the power of the gospel and from the fact that thousands on Aneityum had come to Christ. (john-g-paton-en, p.8) Excerpt:So he learned the language and reduced it to writing (319). He built orphanages (“We trained these young people for Je- sus,” 317). “Mrs. Paton taught a class of about fifty women and girls. They became experts at sewing, singing and plait- ing hats, and reading” (377). They “trained the Teachers… translated and printed and expounded the Scriptures… min- istered to the sick and dying… dispensed medicines every day… taught them the use of tools…” etc. (378). They held worship services every Lord’s Day and sent native teachers to all the villages to preach the gospel. (john-g-paton-en, p.8) Excerpt:What Did His Courage Achieve? The entire island of Aniwa turned to Christ. Four years of seemingly fruitless and costly labor on Tanna could have meant the end of Paton’s missionary life. He could have remembered that in Glasgow for ten years he had had unprecedented success as an urban missionary. Now for four years he seemed to have accomplished nothing and he lost his wife and child in the process. But instead of going home, he turned his missionary heart to Aniwa. (john-g-paton-en, p.17) Excerpt:And the awakening was not just in Australia, but in Scotland and around the world. For example, he tells us what the effect of his home tour was on his own small Reformed Presbyte (john-g-paton-en, p.18) Excerpt:rian Church after his four years of pain and seeming fruitless- ness on Tanna. “I was… filled with a high passion of grati- tude to be able to proclaim, at the close of my tour… that of all her ordained Ministers, one in every six was a Missionary of the Cross!” (280). Indeed the effects at home were far more widespread than that—and here is a lesson for all churches: Nor did the dear old Church thus cripple herself; on the contrary, her zeal for Missions accompanied, if not caused, unwonted pros- perity at home. New waves of liberality passed over the heart of her people. Debts that had burdened many of the Churches and Mans- es were swept away. Additional Congregations were organized. And in May, 1876, the Reformed Presbyterian Church entered into an honorable and independent Union with her larger, wealthier, and more progressive sister, the Free Church of Scotland (280). In other words, the courageous perseverance of John Paton on Tanna, in spite of apparent fruitlessness, bore fruit in blessing for the mission field and for the church at home in ways he could have never dreamed in the midst of his dangers (john-g-paton-en, p.19) Excerpt:There was a small room, the “closet” where his father would go for prayer, as a rule after each meal. The eleven children knew it and they reverenced the spot and learned something profound about God. The impact on John Paton was immense: Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable ca- tastrophe to be swept out of memory, were blotted from my under- standing, 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?” (8) (john-g-paton-en, p.21) Excerpt:How much my father’s prayers at this time impressed me I can never explain, nor could any stranger understand. When, on his knees and all of us kneeling around him in Family Worship, he poured out his whole soul with tears for the conversion of the Hea- then world to the service of Jesus, and for every personal and do- mestic need, we all felt as if in the presence of the living Savior, and learned to know and love him as our Divine friend (21). (john-g-paton-en, p.22) Excerpt:My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting jour- ney are fresh in my heart as if it had been but 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 togeth- er in almost unbroken silence—my father, as was often his custom, carrying hat in hand, while his long flowing yellow hair (then yel- low, 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 fa- ther’s God prosper you, and keep you from all evil!” (john-g-paton-en, p.22) Excerpt:Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted. I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncov- ered where I had left him—gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I rounded the corner and out of sight in an instant. But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for a time. Then, rising up cautiously, I climbed the dike to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dyke and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he gazed eagerly in my direction for a while, he got down, set his face toward home, and began to return—his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me. I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as he had given me (25–26). The impact of his father’s faith and prayer and love and disc (john-g-paton-en, p.23) Excerpt:He said in his Autobiography, “I am by conviction a strong Calvinist” (195). For him this meant, as we have seen, a strong confidence that God can and will change the hearts of the most unlikely people. His Reformed doctrine of regenera- tion was crucial here in maintaining his courage in the face of humanly impossible odds. Commenting on the conversion of one native, he said: Regeneration is the sole work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart and soul, and is in every case one and the same. Conversion, on the other hand, bringing into play the action also of the human will, is never absolutely the same perhaps in even two souls” (372)… Oh, Jesus! To Thee alone be all the glory. Thou hast the key to unlock every heart that Thou has created (373). (john-g-paton-en, p.25) Excerpt:His courage came through a kind of praying that sub- mitted to God’s sovereign wisdom. How do you claim the promises of God for protection when your wife was equally faithful but, rather than being protect- ed, died; and when the Gordons on Erromanga were equally trusting in those promises and were martyred?9 Paton had learned the answer to this question from listening to his mother pray, even before he learned the theology that sup- ports it. When the potato crop failed in Scotland, Mrs. Paton said to her children, “O my children, love your Heavenly Fa- ther, tell him in faith and prayer all your needs, and he will supply your wants so far as it shall be for your good and His glory” (john-g-paton-en, p.28) Excerpt:After one harrowing journey he wrote, “Had it not been for the assurance that… in every path of duty He would carry me through or dispose of me therein for His glory, I could never have undertaken either journey” (14 (john-g-paton-en, p.29) Excerpt:Near the end of his life he wrote about the joy that carried him on and about his hope that his own children would undertake the same mission and find the same joy: Let me record my immovable conviction that this is the noblest ser- vice in which any human being, can spend or be spent; and that, if God gave me back my life to be lived over again, I would without one quiver of hesitation lay it on the altar to Christ, that He might use it as before in similar ministries of love, especially amongst those who have never yet heard the Name of Jesus. Nothing that has been endured, and nothing that can now befall me, makes me tremble— on the contrary, I deeply rejoice—when I breathe the prayer that it may please the blessed Lord to turn the hearts of all my children to the Mission Field and that He may open up their way and make it their pride and joy to live and die in carrying Jesus and His Gospel into the heart of the Heathen World! (444, emphasis added). (john-g-paton-en, p.30)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Paton’s reply to an elder’s exclamation “The cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals!” - Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honouring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer. Paton’s ref Paton’s reply to an elder’s exclamation “The cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals!” - Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honouring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer. Paton’s reflection on the effects on his home church, following his decision to leave the ministry for mission work - Nor did the dear old Church thus cripple herself; on the contrary, her zeal for Missions accompanied, if not caused, unwonted prosperity at home. New waves of liberality passed over the heart of her people. Debts that had burdened many of the Churches and Manses were swept away. Paton recounting the last moments of Kowia, a Tanna tribe chief and the power of the Gospel to convert the hardest heart. Kowia, Tanna tribe chief - “Farewell, Missi, I am very near death now; we will meet again in Jesus and with Jesus!”… Abraham sustained him, tottering to the place of graves; there he lay down… and slept in Jesus; and there the faithful Abraham buried him beside his wife and children. Thus died a man who had been a cannibal chief, but by the grace of God and the love of Jesus changed, transfigured into a character of light and beauty. What think ye of this, ye skeptics as to the reality of conversion?… I knew that day, and I know now, that there is one soul at least from Tanna to sing the glories of Jesus in Heaven - and oh, the rapture when I meet him there! Paton on the courage inspired by his father - Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, were 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?” How much my father’s prayers at this time impressed me I can never explain, nor could any stranger understand. When, on his knees and all of us kneeling around him in Family Worship, he poured out his whole soul with tears for the conversion of the Heathen world to the service of Jesus, and for every personal and domestic need, we all felt as if in the presence of the living Savior, and learned to know and love him as our Divine friend. Paton on the day he left his family for missionary training - 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 but 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!” Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted. I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him - gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I rounded the corner and out of sight in an instant. But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for a time. Then, rising up cautiously, I climbed the dike to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dyke and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he gazed eagerly in my direction for a while, he got down, set his face toward home, and began to return - his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me. I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonour such a father and mother as he had given me. His parents words to Paton on his decision to serve as a missionary - Heretofore we feared to bias you, but now we must tell you why we praise God for the decision to which you have been led. Your father’s heart was set upon being a minister, but other claims forced him to give it up. When you were given to them, your father and mother laid you upon the altar, their first-born, to be consecrated, if God saw fit, as a Missionary of the Cross; and it has been their constant prayer that you might be prepared, qualified, and led to this very decision; and we pray with all our heart that the Lord may accept your offering, long spare you, and give you many souls from the Heathen World for your hire. Paton on true joy - Oh that the pleasure-seeking men and women of the world could only taste and feel the real joy of those who know and love the true God - a heritage which the world… cannot give to them, but which the poorest and humblest followers of Jesus inherit and enjoy! My heart often says within itself - when, when will men’s eyes at home be opened? When will the rich and the learned… renounce their shallow frivolities, and go to live amongst the poor, the ignorant, the outcast, and the lost, and write their eternal fame on the souls by them blessed and brought to the Savior? Those who have tasted this highest joy, “The joy of the Lord,” will never again ask - Is Life worth living?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

    This book was really good! Let me say quickly why it lost a star with me though. Piper has to shove Calvinism into everything he writes and yes it’s a bit obnoxious. Other than that it’s a worthy read! Great stories and quote from Paton who was greatly used by God in the islands.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joy Harris

    Excellent review of his life and a focus on important issues.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John Brackbill

    This a very short primer on the life of John G. Paton. As Piper draws heavily from Paton's autobiography he raises and answers the following three questions: 1. What kinds of circumstances called for courage in Paton's life? 2. What did Paton's courage achieve? 3. Where did Paton's courage come from? This would be a good little book to hand out in order to wet an appetite for reading John Paton's autobiography. I read that work over 10 years ago, but reading this short primer has enticed me to p This a very short primer on the life of John G. Paton. As Piper draws heavily from Paton's autobiography he raises and answers the following three questions: 1. What kinds of circumstances called for courage in Paton's life? 2. What did Paton's courage achieve? 3. Where did Paton's courage come from? This would be a good little book to hand out in order to wet an appetite for reading John Paton's autobiography. I read that work over 10 years ago, but reading this short primer has enticed me to pick it back up to read it again in the near future. Piper very predictably highlights the delight that Paton had in the Lord. He does so through this last sentence before one last quote from Paton: "He began his Autobiography with the words, 'What I write here is for the glory of God' (2). That is true. But God gets glory when his Son is exalted. And his Son [is] exalted when we cherished him above all things."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Duane

    A rather short biography but meaningful. I can only stand in awe at Paton's faith and trust in God. I pray for such faith. A fast but excellent read. What I only wish is for more of Paton's interpretation of the Bible. But a really inspiring book to read, especially for those who are called to fulfill the great commission.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Markus

    Found this free online and I'm a sucker for missionary books. This one left me wanting more, a little short and a little lacking in details and stories. But got me interested in learning more about the man.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    A great introduction, now I want to read the full biography.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Nice introduction to the life and ministry of John Paton. I would like to read his autobiography now. Thank you Desiring God for making this free!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

    Very short biography on John Paton but we see the major things that drove him to be a missionary in modern day Vanuatu.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marguerite Harrell

    This short Biography book of John G. Paton is a great short book that will make you want to read the Autobiography of John G. Paton.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Great read, very inspiring. I now want to read his autobiography.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    Very short biography of a missionary from Dundee, but nonetheless a very good read and a good reminder of what really is important in life. I'd like to read his full biography one day.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Winner

    A great introduction to Paton's life. A very short summary that only leaves you hungry for the actual autobiography.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bayeta Mulato

  18. 4 out of 5

    James Blanchard

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Cook

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Lukens

  23. 5 out of 5

    Trace

  24. 4 out of 5

    Donna Burke

  25. 4 out of 5

    Heather Patridge

  26. 5 out of 5

    James Sheets

  27. 5 out of 5

    Honza Pokorny

  28. 4 out of 5

    David Morrison

  29. 5 out of 5

    Breck Brigham

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ely

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