John Paton John Gibson Paton was a passionate evangelist, Presbyterian Church leader and advocate for justice. A compelling speaker, he raised the profile of mission work in Australasia and the British Isles. Born on 24 May 1824 in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, he worked at various trades before studying theology at the Free Church Normal Seminary. For ten years he was an evangelist in the Glasgow City Mission. In spare time he studied at the University of Glasgow, the Andersonian (Medical) College and the Reformed Presbyterian Divinity Hall. He was licensed to preach on 1 December 1857 and on 23 March 1858 ordained as a minister and missionary to the southern New Hebrides.
His stay at Port Resolution on Tanna from November 1858 was brief and tragic. In March 1859 his wife Mary Ann (Robson), their infant son and a missionary colleague died of malaria and he was very ill. Tannese opposition to Christianity increased when a measles epidemic caused the deaths of a third of the population and three devastating hurricanes left many starving. In 1861 intertribal fighting broke out and the sickly Paton and colleague Matheson hastily withdrew to Aneityum.
These sad and painful experiences had positive results. An excellent propagandist and story-teller, Paton toured the Australian colonial Churches with graphic descriptions of his experiences in mission work, Over the next forty years he raised thousands of pounds and obtained the permanent support of Sabbath schools and congregations for the mission and its ship Dayspring. When he went to Scotland in 1864 to recruit more missionaries, he was inducted as moderator of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland. There he married Margaret Whitecross. In 1865 he stirred up missionary enthusiasm in the newly united Presbyterian Church of Victoria and was appointed as its first missionary to the very small island of Aniwa. Between 1865 and 1872 Aniwa became almost entirely Christian. Margaret’s illness caused their withdrawal in 1872 but John continued regular visits for another thirty years and in 1899 presented them with the complete New Testament in Aniwan.
Paton rapidly became an international figure. From 1881 as Presbyterian Mission Agent, and as Moderator of the Victorian Church in 1886, he continued mission promotion and toured extensively in the Colonies and Britain. He was a political activist, making vigorous representations to Colonial premiers, British Prime Ministers and American Presidents. He opposed the “Melanesian slave trade”, and its recruiting irregularities; He opposed the expansion of French colonial interests and begged Britain to annex the New Hebrides, the Solomons and New Guinea and to ban arms and liquor for “the native races”. In 1891 Edinburgh University conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Divinity.
In 1891 the interdenominational 'John G. Paton Fund' was founded in Britain to support some New Hebrides missionaries including John’s son Frank H L Paton at Lenakel. John’s wife Margaret Whitecross Paton was also involved mission support and the PWMU. She died in May 1905. John died in Melbourne on 28 January 1907. Both rest in Boroondara cemetery after lifetimes of dedicated service.
Contributed by Malcolm Campbell
26 Stephen martyr Stephen is regarded as the first Christian martyr. His story is to be found in Acts chapters six and seven. We first come across him when there is a dispute among the disciples between the Hellenist or Greek speaking disciples and the Palestinian or Hebrew speaking disciples. The Hellenists complain that the Hellenist widows are not being looked after. The twelve apostles call a meeting and seven believers, who are men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, and who all appear to be Hellenistic believers, are set apart to care for these widows. Stephen is the first named of these men. We are told that he was someone who was filled with grace and power, who did great wonders and signs among the people.
It would appear that Stephen was also an evangelist, one who spoke with others about who Jesus was and how he had fulfilled the prophecies in the Scriptures. Stephen and Philip, who is also an evangelist, are able to talk to the Hellenistic Jews in a way the Palestinian believers are not able to, because they share the same background.
Some men from the Synagogue of the Freed Slaves, who were also Hellenistic Jews like Stephen, began to question him. They were unable to defeat his arguments, so they arranged for some men to say that they had heard him blaspheme against Moses and God. They then stirred up the people and the religious leaders who brought him before the High Council. It is not clear if all of the council were present or only some.
The accusations were that he spoke against the Temple and the Law. Stephen was accused of saying that Jesus had claimed he would destroy the Temple and would throw out the Laws of Moses.
Stephen rather than giving a defence against the charges gives a defence of Christianity by retelling the story of how the people came into the land God gave them and how they had turned away from God. Stephen starts with Abraham in Mesopotamia thereby impressing on them that God’s presence is not confined to the Temple or the land.
He tells them that they have killed the one God sent, the one who was to come. At this point they cannot hold themselves back and they rush him, take him from the city and stone him to death. As this is happening Stephen tells them that he sees Jesus, the Son of Man, standing at the right hand of God. In this he is claiming Jesus, who they had tried and had put to death, had been the Messiah. Stephen dies asking God to forgive them.
Saul (Paul) was there and held the coats. Paul and others then start to persecute the believers who are scattered. Jesus words before he ascended that they were to take the Good News to the ends of the earth, is now to be fulfilled. If there hadn’t been a Stephen, the Gospel might have been lost or have stayed as a Jewish sect. Through Stephan’s martyrdom the whole world came to hear of the Messiah.
Rev Peter Welsh 27 John witness to Jesus
28 The Innocents martyrs
31 Josephine Butler renewer of society Josephine Butler was born on 13 April 1828 in Northumberland. Her father John Grey was a strong advocate of social reform and a campaigner against the slave trade. His cousin was Earl Grey, British prime minister between 1830 and 1834.
John Grey’s family were members of the Church of England, and strong supporters of the anti-slavery campaign. The Grey children learned early about the horrors of slavery and Josephine’s first feminist instincts were aroused by the terrible stories of female slaves made pregnant by their masters and then forced to give up their babies. The girls were educated at home by their mother, and Josephine had only a few years of formal schooling. Despite that, as an adult she was a prolific writer of books and pamphlets, and became a competent speaker of both French and Italian.
The Grey siblings remained close throughout their lives, even when marriage took two of the sisters to live abroad. Their political and Christian commitments inspired them to become involved in a number of philanthropic campaigns, but Josephine was the most dedicated and the most persistent. Her faith was also an overwhelming motivation for all she did – at 17 she had an experience of conversion which led her to prioritise daily prayer and bible study throughout her life.
Josephine married George Butler in 1852. He was an academic with similar political views to her own. Together they had four children but in 1863, their six-year old daughter died. In an attempt to cope with her grief, Butler threw herself into charity work, particularly related to the rights of women. Amongst the issues on which she campaigned was child prostitution. She was part of a group which forced parliament to raise the age of consent from 13 to 16.
In 1869, Butler began her campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts. These had been introduced in the 1860s in an attempt to reduce venereal disease in the armed forces. Police were permitted to arrest women living in seaports and military towns who they believed were prostitutes and force them to be examined for venereal disease. Butler toured the country making speeches condemning the acts. Many people were shocked that a woman would speak in public about sexual matters. But in 1883 the acts were suspended and repealed three years later.
Butler also took a great interest in women's education. She pressured the authorities at Cambridge University into providing further education courses for women, which eventually led to the foundation of the all-women college at Newnham. She was appointed president to the North of England Council for the Higher Education of Women in 1867.
Butler's writing - promoting social reform for women as well as education and equality - was widely distributed. Her most famous publication 'Personal Reminiscences of a Great Crusade' was written in 1896.
Butler died on 30 December 1906.
Peter Gador-Whyte READINGS AND COLLECTS FOR OTHER COMMEMORATIONS
APOSTLES Isaiah 62:1-7 I will not keep silent Psalm 48
Joshua 1:1-9 The Lord your God is with you Psalm 44:1-8
Isaiah 49:1-6 The Lord called me from the womb Psalm 139
Ezekiel 3:16-21 You are a sentinel for Israel Psalm 18:19-27
Isaiah 49:7-13 The Holy One of Israel has chosen you Psalm 122
Isaiah 6:1-8 Here am I, send me Psalm 46
Acts 1:1-8 You will be my witnesses
Romans 10:11-17 Faith comes from what is heard
1 Corinthians 12:14-28 God has appointed apostles in the Church
Philippians 1:1-11 I thank God for you
1 Thessalonians 2:2b-8 We have courage to declare the gospel
1 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 Be a good servant of Christ Jesus