William Gadsby loved children which led him to become a strong proponent of Sunday Schools. However, he abhorred the custom of parents and teachers training up children to believe they were Christians without having actually experienced the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Although he generally assented to the Baptist Catechism (written by Benjamin Keach and published in 1677), he felt there were answers which misled the unbeliever. Gadsby gave an example of this by referring to the 38th question: “What is adoption? Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.” He then asserted: “Here the child is taught to consider itself a child of God, and to have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God; therefore, is nursed up in a false confidence.”

As pastor of a Strict Baptist church for almost 20 years, I share Gadsby’s concern. Even today children are often persuaded by a parent or teacher that they are Christians, without having experienced the new birth. Not only are these ‘vain’ conversions, but they also prove to be counterproductive in the later years of youth. Having been forced to believe on Christ without receiving the ability by God to do so, the false professing children nurture great resentment towards their well-meaning yet ill-working parents and teachers. There is a way to instruct children in the teachings of scripture, without forcing or manipulating them into “making a decision for Jesus”. I believe Gadsby’s Catechism strikes a good balance.

B. A. Ramsbottom has written a wonderful biography on William Gadsby. In fact, much of the information in the first paragraph above is resourced from the eleventh chapter of his book. He also wrote a preface to a new publication of Gadsby’s Catechism from which I quote:

“In reprinting this catechism over 180 years later, the purpose is not so much for children – though it will be valuable for children. But here is a small body of divinity, couched in the simplest of terms. Here we have clearly stated “the things most surely believed among us.”

“We hope that the republication of Gadsby’s catechism, under the blessing of the Lord, will be a means of establishing both young and old in “the faith once delivered unto the saints.”

Jared Smith, Bethesda Chapel



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