Reviewed by: Larry Wilson
Date posted: 05/28/2006
King of the Cannibals: The Story of John G. Paton, by Jim Cromarty. Published by Evangelical Press, 2002. Paperback, 288 pages, list price $15.99. Reviewed by editor Larry Wilson.
John G. Paton (1824-1907) is one of those nearly forgotten pioneer missionary heroes "of whom the world was not worthy" (Heb. 11:38). A Reformed Presbyterian minister, Paton left his native Scotland with his wife to serve in the New Hebrides. The New Hebrides islands are now known as the Republic of Vanuatu, located about 1,400 miles northeast of Australia. "King of the Cannibals" was a moniker that Charles Spurgeon coined for Paton while raising financial support for his missionary work.
"The cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals!" was exactly the protest that an elderly Christian made to dissuade John Paton from leaving Scotland to serve as a missionary in the South Pacific. It was no imaginary fear. The islands were populated by people ensnared by the darkness of animism, cruelty, violence, and cannibalism. But John replied that the brother was himself an old man who could expect soon to die and be laid in a grave where his body would be eaten by worms. "If I can live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer" (p. 65).
Here is true adventure to stir our hearts and the hearts of our young people. In fact, several missionaries actually were murdered, and John Paton came very close to losing his life on numerous occasions.
Jim Cromarty, the author, is a retired minister of the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia. He also served for twenty-seven years as a school teacher. He writes in a clear, bright style. The book is copiously illustrated with photographs and drawings and has a good index. Cromarty clearly wants to reach young people with his book.
This book could make a great supplement to family worship, especially for Lord's Day afternoon reading. Each of its twenty-five chapters ends with a brief section called "To Think About," consisting of practical lessons and questions to pique self-examination and discussion. I recommend this book and the challenge it presents.