The following statement was read by Pastor G. W. Shrimpton
after the afternoon sermon on Sunday 2nd June 1963, the first
Lord’s Day of his pastorate. The texts that day were Luke 24:29:
“Abide with us” and Deuteronomy 8:2: “And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.”
I feel that it is due to you for me to give you an outline of the way the Lord has led me in connection with my call by grace, my call to the ministry, and my call to the pastorate of this church.
From my earliest days, I was brought up to attend chapel, but do not remember to have had any serious impressions until about the age of ten years, when three circumstances occurred that left their mark on me. A close schoolfriend died from scarlet fever; a fellow Sunday School scholar died from peritonitis; and a sermon preached by Mr. E. Brooker of Tunbridge Wells at Shaw’s Corner Chapel, Redhill, brought me face to face with the solemn issues of
death, eternity and judgment to come. I felt to be unprepared for these, and from that time, coupled with the prayer, “Prepare me, gracious God, to stand before thy face”, was the nightly prayer to be spared through the night lest I should awake in hell. Instead of saying the form of words, I began to pray. How often serious thoughts were aroused by the hymn, “When thou, my righteous judge, shalt come”.
When about the age of fifteen, I had been feeling very unsettled and dissatisfied with the ministry at Station Road Chapel, Redhill. So much was incomprehensible, and there seemed to be nothing for me. I wanted something, and I knew not what. I resolved one wintry December Sabbath to walk over to Jireh Chapel, Meadvale. The minister for the day was a Mr. Licence. I could follow his setting forth of the Word and, being made to feel at home, I continued to attend on Lord’s Days and afterwards in the week.
I believe the next seven years were years in which the Lord was at work, opening my heart to give attendance unto his Word. While with some the work is deep and severe, others learn in the length. This is illustrated in the experiences of the Philippian gaoler and
Lydia. There was no questioning as to the truths of the gospel, but
the great question was: “Was it for crimes that I had done he hung upon the tree?” Without realising it at the time, I believe that I was experiencing that truth that “it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
In September 1930 I commenced my three years’ teacher training course at Borough Road College, Isleworth, and on Lord’s Days worshipped at North Road Chapel, Brentford, and profited much under Pastor Robert Mutimer’s ministry and his opening up of the
scriptures in his young men’s Bible class. Time and again the cry went up, “Say unto my soul, ‘I am thy salvation'”. The ministry was such that I was encouraged to hope that one day this blessing would be mine. Two sermons in particular stand out in my memory. The first was from Habakkuk 2:3: “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” The second was on the subject of the Vine and the branches (John 15.1-10).
Some while later, I returned to college after the Sabbath Day’s services and retired to bed and began to pray, using the opening words of the Lord’s prayer: “Our Father …” – when suddenly the relationship so impressed itself upon me that God was my Father. How many times before I had prayed with Anne Steele:
My God, my Father, blissful name!
O may I call thee mine?
May I with sweet assurance claim
A portion so divine?
Now with the assurance came the realisation of my saving interest in Christ. The sweetness, power, and preciousness of gospel truths were then greatly enjoyed, and the peace resulting from this revealing continued for some days. In due course I applied for baptism, because the Lord had so commanded. The church received my testimony, and I was baptised by Mr. Mutimer in October 1932 and received into church fellowship on the first Lord’s Day in November.
This leads me to the steps that led to my going forth to preach in the Lord’s name. I began to teach a class of boys in the Sunday School, and in the following summer assisted in the open-air services held after the Sunday evening services. More and more frequently I felt a longing “to tell to sinners round what a dear Saviour I had found”. But these thoughts of going to preach were stopped as I considered how young I was. I was then only 22. In the words of Jeremiah, I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak:
for I am a child. But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child:
for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 1.6-8).
Soon afterwards, in June 1933, special services were arranged to commemorate Mr. Mutimer’s fortieth anniversary as pastor at Brentford. Mr. Ben Warburton preached in the afternoon from the words in Acts 26:22: “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing.” In the evening, the late John Hazelton, then pastor at St. Neots, was called on to pray, and in the course of his prayer prayed as follows: “Lord, is there a young man here, anxious and troubled about the work of the ministry, yet feeling his own utter insufficiency and helplessness? Show him that the God who has helped Pastor Mutimer all these years can and will help him.”
I was that young man. Having gone to the services begging that some word of direction might be given concerning the Lord’s will for me in this matter, these words of John Hazelton came home with solemn, soul-melting power. When I returned to college, I prayed thus: “Lord, thou hast spoken through thy servant. Do confirm it with thine own Word.” Then on reading through Jeremiah 17 I was arrested by these words in verses 19 and 20: “Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people… and say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD”. I then inwardly resolved that if ever invited to preach I must accept, but that I would not do or say anything myself to bring this about.
I commenced teaching on the last Tuesday in August 1933, and at the close of the prayer meeting on the previous evening, Mr. S. H. Rose asked me: “Have you been exercised about the ministry?” I had to answer, “Yes.” He then said, “I was at Horsell Common yesterday and they are without a minister next Sunday. If you are invited, will you go?” Again, I could only answer, “Yes.” The invitation came, and I preached my first sermon on the first Lord’s Day of September 1933 from the words, “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine” (Isaiah 43:1). From that time onwards doors were opened, and having obtained help of God I have continued to this day witnessing.
I come now to speak of the way in which I believe the Lord has led me to undertake the pastorate of this church. At the end of 1954 we moved to St. Neots, and in the eight and a half years since then we have been given three more little ones. During these years I found my thoughts turning more and more to the subject of pastoral ministry. As I went about among the churches, I saw the shepherdless condition of those without a pastor, and realised more clearly than ever before that itinerant ministry could never take the place of true shepherding. We longed to be able to bring up our growing family under a pastor’s care, but all our efforts to move to some other place were unavailing. I had to rest patiently upon several Scriptures. Among them were the following: “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not” (Isaiah 42:16); “Neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon thee” (2 Chronicles 20:12); “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD” (Exodus 14:13).
During 1962, the words of Paul to Timothy became more and more insistent: “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” While having an overwhelming sense of my own insufficiency, I had to pray again and again that if this was the Lord’s way for me He would direct me to the people of His choice.
I had felt an increasing union of heart to the friends here, since receiving the intimation that the Lord had prospered his Word through me in August 1961, and when requests were received for more Sundays for 1962 and 1963,1 began to wonder if the Lord was making a way for me to come to Lymm. I was determined to give no indication of the exercises within nor say any word that might in any way reveal what I felt. My concern was that if I was to become your pastor that the Lord Himself would bring it about in such a way that I had no hand in the matter and so I should be able to say, “It is the Lord’s doing and wondrous in my eyes.”
During my visits in 1962 I learned that there was much prayer in public and private for divine direction concerning the pastorate. In November I received the hearty invitation of the church to become its pastor, and in my reply referred to the overwhelming sense of my own insufficiency for the office, yet felt encouraged through the words, “Our sufficiency is of God.” My one concern then and since has been, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”
Resort was continually made to the throne of grace and if this was the Lord’s way for me He would make all crooked places straight and rough places plain and this I believe He has done. I found that I could heartily endorse the doctrinal basis and practice of the church as laid down in the Trust Deed, and that I stand in that central position among Strict and Particular Baptists which I believe you as a church have sought to maintain. I further had confirmation that the undertaking of a pastorate was no impediment to continuing to teach in a State school.
While sitting in the home of the deacon at Northampton on December 23rd and trying to think and pray about these things, I looked up and saw a framed text: “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength”; and in the same frame were the words, “Go forward in the strength of the Lord. Then thou shalt have good success.” This coming at such a time was very confirming to me. For some weeks previously my wife and I had been waiting upon the Lord, earnestly asking that we might be preserved from making any mistake or acting in merely human wisdom in so important a matter, and there was increasingly borne in upon us both a sure conviction that this matter proceeded from the Lord.
On December 27th I wrote to the church as follows: “Since I received your invitation to the pastorate many a cry has gone up to the Lord that I might know what He would have me do in the matter. As I review the circumstances of recent weeks, and more particularly the answers to prayer of the past few weeks, there appears to be a working together of outward events and inward feelings that indicate the way for me to take. I feel that I can do no other than accept your invitation, assuredly gathering that the Lord has called me to preach the gospel unto you.”
The letter was written and sealed, and then together we prayed most fervently that if this thing was not of God, He would blow upon it and bring it to nothing. Only then was the letter taken to the post.
When I look back now and think of the wondrous goodness of the Lord, in providing me with a congenial teaching post in Warrington, a suitable house at Statham, and a purchaser for our house at St. Neots, I have to ask, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” I had in all the matter been acknowledging the Lord, truly seeking His permission, guidance, glory and blessing, and proving Him to be faithful to His promise: “And he shall direct thy paths.”