‘Perhaps this century has not produced another who could say with more justice and propriety to his hearers (if his great humility would have permitted him). “be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ”.’ — JOHN NEWTON
‘A few such as him would make a nation tremble. He carries fire wherever he goes.’ — JOHN WESLEY
‘Grimshaw’s unflagging energy and vigorous defense of the faith was matched by a charitable spirit that was a model of true Christlikeness . . . a surprising measure of what he said and wrote is germane to the times in which we live. This is a welcome addition to the rich treasure trove already available from the Banner of Truth. It is also a classic example of what a good biography ought to be.’ — JOHN MACARTHUR
GRIMSHAW, WILLIAM (1708–1763), incumbent of Haworth, Yorkshire, was born at Brindle, Lancashire, on 3 Sept. 1708. He was educated at the grammar schools of Blackburn and Hesketh, and at the age of eighteen went to Christ’s College, Cambridge. In 1731 he was ordained deacon, and became curate of Rochdale, but in the same year removed to Todmorden, which is a chaplaincy in the patronage of the vicar of Rochdale. At Todmorden he led at first a careless life; but in 1734 and the following years he passed through a long and severe spiritual struggle. The death of his wife, to whom he was deeply attached, is thought to have been the turning-point in his career. It does not appear that he was even aware of the similar change which was going on at about the same time in the Wesleys, Whitefield, and others. He was, however, much affected by the writings of the puritans of the preceding century, especially by Thomas Brooks’s ‘Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices’ (1652), and ‘Owen on Justification.’
Some time before he left Todmorden he became a changed man, and when in 1742 he was appointed perpetual curate of Haworth, he entered upon his work in his new parish with the fervour characteristic of the early evangelicals. Haworth is a desolate parish on the Yorkshire moors. It is now famous as the home of the Brontes. Grimshaw had become acquainted with the leading methodists, and joyfully welcomed in his pulpit the two Wesleys, Whitefield, Romaine, and Henry Venn. He also became intimate with John Nelson, the stonemason, one of the most remarkable of John Wesley’s lay-preachers. Grimshaw became in his own person a most successful evangelist.
The effects which he produced in his own parish were marvellous. He raised the number of communicants from twelve to twelve hundred, and acquired so much influence in the place that he was able to put a stop to Haworth races, to enforce the strictest observance of the Lord’s day, and bring his people to church whether they would or not. Though he was eccentric to the verge of madness, no one could help respecting ‘the mad parson.’ His earnestness, his self-denial, his real humility, his entire absorption in one great object, and the thorough consistency of his life with his principles, were patent to all. He was also most charitable, both in the ordinary and in the highest sense of the term. In the hot disputes between Calvinists and Arminians he lived in perfect amity with the adherents of both systems. Though he was a Calvinist, his friendship with John Wesley was never interrupted.