JOHN GIBSON PATON (1824-1907). Scottish missionary to the New Hebrides (Vanuatu).


One morning at daybreak I found my house surrounded by armed men, and a Chief intimated that they had assembled to take my life. Seeing that I was entirely in their hands, I knelt down and gave myself away body and soul to the Lord Jesus, for what seemed the last time on earth. Rising, I went out to them, and began calmly talking about their unkind treatment of me and contrasting it with all my conduct towards them. I also plainly showed them what would be the sad consequences, if they carried out their cruel purpose. At last some of the chiefs, who had attended the Worship, rose and said, "Our conduct has been bad; but now we will fight for you, and kill all those who hate you."

Grasping hold of their leader, I held him fast till he promised never to kill any one on my account, for Jesus taught us to love our enemies and always to return good for evil! During this scene, many of the armed men slunk away into the bush, and those who remained entered into a bond to be friendly and to protect us. But again their Public Assembly resolved that we should be killed, because, as they said, they hated Jehovah and the Worship; for it made them afraid to do as they had always done. If I would give up visiting the villages and praying and talking with them about Jehovah, they intimated that they would like me to stay and trade with them, as they liked the Traders but hated the Missionaries! I told them that the hope of being able to teach them the Worship of Jehovah alone kept me living amongst them; that I was there, not for gain or pleasure, but because I loved them, and pitied their estate, and sought their good continually by leading them to know and serve the only true God.

But my enemies seldom slackened their hateful designs against my life, however calmed or baffled for the moment. Within a few days of the above events, when Natives in large numbers were assembled at my house, a man furiously rushed on me with his ax; but a Kaserumini Chief snatched a spade with which I had been working, and dexterously defended me from instant death. Life in such circumstances led me to cling very near to the Lord Jesus; I knew not, for one brief hour, when or how attack might be made; and yet, with my trembling hand clasped in the Hand once nailed on Calvary, and now swaying the scepter of the Universe, calmness and peace and resignation abode in my soul. Next day, a wild Chief followed me about for four hours with his loaded musket, and, though often directed towards me, God restrained his hand. I spoke kindly to him, and attended to my work as if he had not been there, fully persuaded that my God had placed me there, and would protect me till my allotted task was finished. Looking up in unceasing prayer to our dear Lord Jesus, I left all in His hands, and felt immortal till my work was done. Trials and hair-breadth escapes strengthened my faith, and seemed only to nerve me for more to follow; and they did tread swiftly upon each other's heels. Without that abiding consciousness of the presence and power of my dear Lord and Saviour, nothing else in all the world could have preserved me from losing my reason and perishing miserably. His words, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," became to me so real that it would not have startled me to behold Him, as Stephen did, gazing down upon the scene. I felt His supporting power, as did St. Paul, when he cried, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." It is the sober truth, and it comes back to me sweetly after twenty years, that I had my nearest and dearest glimpses of the face and smile of my blessed Lord in those dread moments when musket, club, or spear was being leveled at my life. Oh the bliss of living and enduring, as seeing "Him who is invisible!"

One evening, I awoke three times to hear a Chief and his men trying to force the door of my house. Though armed with muskets, they had some sense of doing wrong and were wholesomely afraid of a little retriever dog which had often stood betwixt me and death. God restrained them again; and next morning the report went all round the Harbor, that those who tried to shoot me were "smitten weak, with fear," and that shooting would not do. A plan was therefore deliberately set on foot to fire the premises, and club us if we attempted to escape. But our Aneityumese Teacher heard of it, and God helped us to frustrate their designs. When they knew their plots were revealed to us, they seemed to lose faith in themselves, and cast about to circumvent us in some more secret way. Their evil was overruled for good.




Yet dangers darkened round me. One day, while toiling away at my house, the war Chief and his brother, and a large party of armed men, surrounded the plot where I was working. They all had muskets, besides their own native weapons. They watched me for some time in silence, and then every man leveled a musket straight at my head. Escape was impossible. Speech would only have increased my danger. My eyesight came and went for a few moments. I prayed to my Lord Jesus, either Himself to protect me or to take me home to His Glory. I tried to keep working on at my task, as if no one was near me. In that moment, as never before, the words came to me-- "Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, I will do it;" and I knew that I was safe. Retiring a little from their first position, no word having been spoken, they took up the same attitude somewhat farther off, and seemed to be urging one another to fire the first shot. But my dear Lord restrained them once again, and they withdrew, leaving me with a new reason for trusting Him with all that concerned me for Time and Eternity.


The Story of John G. Paton Told for Young Folks or, Thirty Years among South Sea Cannibals by James Paton. New York: A. L. Burt Company, Publishers, [1892].




One day he received information that he and his Aneityumese teachers were destined to be the victims of a feast which the natives were planning. They looked out of the window and saw a band of armed killers approaching. Knowing that they were cut off from all human hope, they turned to prayer. For many hours they heard the savages tramping around the house, threatening to break in or set the place on fire. As they prayed, their hearts were quieted with the assurance that He who was for them was greater than all their foes. Says Paton: "Our safety lay in our appeal to the blessed Lord who had placed us there, to whom all power had been given in heaven and on earth. This is strength, this is peace -- to have sweet communion with Him. I can wish my readers nothing more precious than that."

The indomitable herald of the Cross was thinking of Matthew 28:18-20 and the reassuring Presence it vouchsafed to him: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go, therefore ... and lo, I am with you."

The Hand that reassured the missionary restrained the enemy, and at length the killers departed without accomplishing their design.

Paton kept several goats as a source of milk supply. One day he heard an unusual bleating among the goats, as if they were being killed or tortured. He rushed to the goathouse. Instantly a band of armed men sprang from the bush, surrounded him and raised their clubs. He had fallen into their trap! "You have escaped from us many times," they said, "but now we are going to kill you!" Lifting his hands and eyes toward heaven, Paton committed his cause to the Lord whose servant he was. As he prayed, the Divine Presence overshadowed him, his heart was filled with a tender reassurance and the cannibals slipped away one after another. "Thus," affirms the missionary, "Jesus restrained them once again. His promise is a reality; He is with His servants, to support and bless them, even unto the end of the world!"


The promise that was ever on his lips!

The Presence that was ever in his heart!

The promise that held him! The Presence that reassured him!

"Lo, I am with you all the way!"


On one occasion when Paton was preaching in one of the villages, three sacred men stood up and declared that they could kill him by Nahak or sorcery, if only they could get possession of any piece of fruit or food of which he had eaten. Being thus challenged, he resolved, with his Lord's help, to strike a blow at the tremendous power for evil wielded by the sorcerers. After taking a bite out of three plums, he handed one of them to each of the sacred men. The natives were astounded at his action and momentarily expected to see him fall over dead, as the sorcerers proceeded with their incantations. With many gesticulations and mutterings, they rolled up in leaves the three plums, kindled a sacred fire and burned them. "Stir up your gods to help you," urged Paton. "I am not killed. In fact I am perfectly well."

At length the sorcerers said that they would call all the sacred men together and that they would kill Missi before the next Sabbath arrived. Paton told the people he would meet them at that same place the next Sabbath morning. Great excitement prevailed on the island. Every day messengers came from different quarters inquiring if the white man was ill. Sabbath morning he appeared before the people in sound health and said: "Now you must admit that your gods have no power over me and that I am protected by the true and living God. He is the only God who can hear and answer prayer. He loves all human beings, despite their great wickedness, and He sent His dear Son, Jesus, to save from sin all who will believe and follow Him." From that day two of the sacred men were very friendly but the others were his bitter enemies and incited the natives to new animosity.


Heroes of Faith on Pioneer Trails by E. Myers Harrison. Published by Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois, c1945.




Due to the frequent attacks upon their lives and the murder of one of their number, all the Aneiyumese teachers, except Abraham, returned to their own island. This dear fellow, formerly a blood-thirsty savage, was a true hero of the Cross. In the face of imminent death he determined to stay with the missionary at the post of duty and of danger. As hundreds of furious cannibals shouted for their death, the two knelt in prayer. "0 Lord," prayed Abraham, "make us two strong for Thee and Thy cause, and if they kill us, let us die together in Thy good work, like Thy servants, Missi Gordon the man and Missi Gordon the woman."

The savages encircled them in a deadly ring and kept urging each other to strike the first blow or fire the first shot. Presently a killing-stone, thrown with great force, grazed Abraham's cheek. The dear old saint turned his gaze heavenward and said, "Missi, I was nearly away to Jesus."

"In that awful hour," writes Paton, "I saw Christ's own words, as if carved in letters of fire upon the clouds of heaven: 'Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.'" As he stood praying, he saw the Lord Jesus hovering close by, watching the scene, and an assurance came to him, as if a voice from heaven had spoken, that not a musket would be fired, not a club would strike, not a spear leave the hand in which it was held vibrating to be thrown, not an arrow leave the bow, or a killing-stone the fingers, without the permission of Jesus Christ, who rules all nature and restrains even the savages of the South Seas. How were the savages prevented from carrying out their murderous design? It was a miracle, emanating from the protecting presence of his Lord. "If any reader wonders how they were restrained," says he, "much more would I, unless I believed that the same Hand that restrained the lions from touching Daniel held back these savages from hurting me."

In closing the account of this remarkable episode, he comes back for the thousandth time to the text that sang and sobbed and shouted its way through all his days. He writes: "I was never left without hearing the promise in all its consoling and supporting power coming up through the darkness and the anguish, 'Lo, I am with you alway.'"


The text that supported him!

The promise that consoled him!

The Presence that protected him!

"Lo, I am with you alway!"


Heroes of Faith on Pioneer Trails by E. Myers Harrison. Published by Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois, c1945.




On several occasions ships called at Port Resolution and the missionary was urged to sail away to safety. In each instance he declined, hoping that he might yet win the Tannese for Christ. But, finally, when the mission house was broken into and everything he had was either stolen or destroyed, he realized that to stay longer meant the direst of fates -- namely, to be killed and eaten by the cannibals or else to die from slow starvation. Having decided to leave Tanna for a season, he made his way across the island, amid indescribable hardships and countless perils, to the mission station occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Mathieson.

Completely worn out with long watching and fatigue, Paton fell into a deep sleep. About 10 o'clock his faithful little dog, Clutha, the only thing left of all his possessions, sprang quietly upon him and woke him up. Looking out, he saw that the house was surrounded by savages, some with blazing torches, the rest armed with various weapons. Quickly they set fire to the church close by and then to the reed fence connecting the church and the dwelling house. In a few minutes the house, too, would be in flames, while infuriated men waited to kill the missionaries when they attempted to escape. Humanly speaking, their lot was hopeless. Kneeling, they committed themselves, body and soul, to the Lord Jesus, pleading His presence and His promised deliverance: "Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver thee."

Opening the door, Paton rushed outside to cut the reed fence. Instantly he was surrounded by a company of savages with raised clubs shouting, "Kill him! Kill him!" "They yelled in rage," says Paton, "but the invisible Lord restrained them and delivered me. I stood invulnerable beneath His invisible shield."


The presence of the invisible Lord!

The protection of the invisible shield!

The deliverance of the Divine Presence!


Just at this juncture, a rushing, roaring sound came from the south. An awful tornado of wind and rain was fast approaching! If it had come from the north, the flames from the church would have quickly reached and burned the mission house. Instead, the wind blew the flames away from the house and soon a torrent of rain was falling. Terror stricken, the natives fled, shouting: "This is Jehovah's rain! Truly their God is fighting for them and helping them."

Their fright was short-lived, however. Early the next morning, they returned to complete the bloody work they had commenced the preceding night. With wild shrieks they drew near the house. Presently, amid the rising crescendo of shouting and excitement, the missionaries heard the cry, "Sail 0! Sail 0!" They were afraid to believe their ears but it was true: a vessel was sailing into the harbor just when all hope seemed lost. The missionaries were soon rescued and taken to Aneityum.


"In joy we united our praises," says Paton. "Truly our precious Jesus has all power. Often since have I wept over His love and mercy in that deliverance."


Jesus -- the source of all power!

Jesus -- the fountain of love and mercy!

Jesus -- the author of every deliverance!


Jesus claimed, "All power is given unto Me" and promised, "Lo, I am with you." On the basis of manifold miraculous experiences in the life of John G. Paton, Christ's claim and promise were abundantly established.


Heroes of Faith on Pioneer Trails by E. Myers Harrison. Published by Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois, c1945.