By Cliff Wade
December 2004

Dear Friends,

I am currently reading the autobiography of John Kershaw (1792 - 1870), who was a preacher of the Gospel in England . ("John Kershaw - The Autobiography of an Eminent Lancashire Preacher", Gospel Tidings Publications, 1968.)

I highly recommend the book to you if you have not read it, and I have personally been both exercised yet encouraged by what he writes therein.

I thought you may the find the following extracts of interest and encouragement, on that great doctrine of election and how Kershaw himself initially hated it, battled against it, and yet became convinced of it, and came to love the truth of it.

I will give a running commentary, with all Kershaw's words in bold.

John Kershaw on Election

Kershaw's account first begins after a meeting at Rochdale . As he returned home, he writes of his companions whom he went to the service with "As we returned home, these two old pilgrims were wonderfully pleased with the sermon...election was evidently the joy and rejoicing of their souls ; sweeter to their taste than honey or the honeycomb."

The next day, intrigued by what this "election doctrine" was, he asked his cousin about it. His cousin replied thus ; "The elect are God's people that he hath loved and chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and ordained them unto eternal life and salvation through Christ, and He has done this according to His good will and sovereign pleasure, as He said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and compassion on whom I will have compassion. Thus you see, it is those whom He has loved and chosen and ordained to eternal life that will be saved, and none else ; as Paul says in Romans 11:7 'But the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. '"

Kershaw's first reaction against this doctrine was one of pure hatred. "I shall never forget the hatred and indignation that rose up in my carnal heart against it." However, he stopped short of speaking against it, as he realised some of the most godliest people he knew held to this doctrine. He knew he needed time to consider this new doctrine he had heard. Of this he writes ; "Thus was I mercifully prevented from lifting up my voice against the God-glorifying, soul-humbling, and heart-enlarging doctrine of election."

His cousin saw that Kershaw was much confounded and perplexed in his mind, and spoke "very kindly" to Kershaw, realising his inner struggles. His cousin added that he had heard William Gadsby preach on the doctrine recently, and that Gadsby had "proved it from the Word of God."  He added that Gadsby had also said in that sermon that "there were thousands of God's elect unborn...that must be brought into existence, called by grace, and landed safe in glory."

Kershaw himself battled with the doctrine for a good period, simply praying to God that He would lead him into all truth. Eventually, he came to see it,as one taught of God ; "Like the noble Bereans, I searched the Scriptures daily, and found that election was the solemn truth of God, and can never be overthrown, either by men or devils. Election shone like a sunbeam from Genesis to Revelation."

Ironically, one evidence for it was something he had once experienced ; "And one strong proof of its divine authenticity is, the carnal proud heart of fallen sinful man hates it, and fights against it, as mine did."

Over time, Kershaw embraced election for what it is - the truth of God. He writes such things as "I am a witness for God that election made known to a poor sinner will never lead him to sin, but to love, honour and obey the Lord" and also "I have proved that had it been left to chance, as they call it, upon the ground of free will, I should have been lost for ever."  And againspeaking of the error of free will, "Not one soul would have been saved. It is the eternal purpose of God in our election, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, that inevitably secures the salvation of countless millions of Adam's fallen race."

Later in his book, Kershaw says "Christ must see the travail of His soul...not a soul that Christ shed His precious blood for shall ever perish."

What of us today ? Such truths such as election only come by revelation. Maybe you have embraced and have enjoyed reading this account, or maybe like Kershaw (and for the record, myself initially) you had no time for this doctrine of election. But even when you come to see the truth of it in Scripture, you must still ask the following question for yourself...the conclusion Kershaw came to  : "Finding that election was the truth of God, the question then with me was ; 'Am I one of them that the Lord hath loved with an everlasting and electing love ?"

Only you can answer that for yourself. No-one else can tell you. But guidelines do you know you are a sinner to the core ? Do you realise that if it was left to "free will" we would have all spent eternity in hell ? Do you know you must have Christ alone as your Saviour ? Do you have a real and sincere interest in his blood ? Have you sincerely "called upon the Name of the Lord" for mercy and salvation, knowing you have no hope other than him ?

Finally, I personally found this statement by Kershaw to be very encouraging "Christ must see the travail of His soul...not a soul that Christ shed His precious blood for shall ever perish."