Subscribe now

John G. Paton: Missionary to the Cannibals of the South Seas

By Paul Schlehlein
January 2019 | Review by Paul Mackrell
  • Publisher: Banner of Truth
  • ISBN: 978-1-84871-765-7
  • Pages: 188
  • Price: £6.00
Buy this book »

This is an excellent book. John Paton left his native Scottish soil and set sail with his wife and infant son for the mission field 160 years ago. His destination was the New Hebrides: a cluster of islands in the Pacific discovered by Captain Cook in the previous century.

Tragically, one of Paton’s first tasks was to bury his wife and son, both of whom had succumbed to tropical fever. Such afflictions were endemic in the low-lying swampy region he had unknowingly selected as a place to settle.

Made clear by the book’s title, the tribespeople were cannibalistic. Other missionaries had died in that most grotesque manner, sacrificing their lives to shine gospel light into such darkness. John survived and later became an ambassador for the cause of Christ: travelling, preaching and raising funds. His moving autobiography, written at the end of his life, became a best-seller.

Purists might question the need for another book when we have John Paton’s own account of his life. The point is that these accounts need to be retold for a modern audience. We need to be gripped anew by the dedication and selflessness which motivated previous generations of God’s servants.

Paul Schlehlein, himself a missionary, tells Paton’s story extremely well. He also gives it context and perspective. A good section of the book is devoted to addressing issues such as cannibalism. When, for example, does the risk of being a local presence for the sake of Jesus Christ venture into recklessness?

Schlehlein also gives detail about Paton’s marriage and family that were omitted from the autobiography. Perhaps in an overly modest approach, Paton had deemed such details to be of insufficient interest to merit inclusion.

This book is faithful to the legacy of John Paton and will hopefully serve to make him better known among us. We have much to learn from his example.

As John MacArthur says in his commendation of the book, ‘In this age, when giving a trophy to everyone is standard, and when minimal Christian dedication is celebrated, all believers need to go back to the past to see what true devotion to Christ and the gospel really looks like. You will see it in John Paton’.

Paul Mackrell,

West Sussex

Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
The Pastor’s Soul
Brian Croft;Jim Savastio

On the basis that pastors live and work under considerable pressure, this short and lucid book aims to offer them some of the help they so greatly need. The authors are both Baptist pastors in Louisville, Kentucky. They write with…

See all book reviews
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Strength for the Weary
Derek W H Thomas

Are you weary, fellow pilgrims? Then let the ordained writer, Isaiah, speak to you in graphic terms through Dr Thomas, especially from chapters 40-46. Upon receipt of this book, I soon became engrossed. In keeping with its title, my own…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
In the Footsteps of King David: Revelations from an Ancient Biblical City
Yosef Garfinkel

Until the publication of In the footsteps of King David, the prevailing approach to biblical archaeology has often been denial of the factuality of biblical texts. From 2007 to 2013, a team of archaeologists (led by the authors of this…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
What is Man?
Edgar Andrews

In this book, Professor Andrews (see article on page 3 of this ET issue) distils a lifetime of meditation on the titular question into 14 rich and readable chapters. He unpacks the issues behind what scholars have called ‘hard problems’…