14. The Lord’s Supper
John Gadsby—The following meager scraps are all I have been able to meet with as to my father’s observance of the Lord’s Supper. If there were any one part of the services of God’s house in which he was more solemn and impressive than another, it was at this ordinance, and every time, month after month and year after year, he was always favoured with something new to lay before the people.
On leaving the vestry and reaching the table, he first gave out a suitable hymn, which was sung. He then, if any persons were to be received into the church, they having previously taken their seats in the tablepew, he requested them to stand up; and he then frequently addressed them collectively after the following manner:
“My dear Friends (or Brethren), you have to-day professedly put on the Lord Jesus Christ. God help you to be circumspect in your walk and conversation! Angels will watch you; the church of God will watch you; the world will watch you; your friends, who are now in the galleries, some of whom, perhaps, do not approve of the step you have taken, will watch you; enemies to the truth will watch you; and devils will watch you. God help you to watch yourselves, and to look up to him to keep you, to support you, and to succour you. In the name of this church, I give you the right hand of fellowship. May the Lord make you a blessing to the church and the church a blessing to you, for his Name’s sake.”
He then quoted from 1 Cor 1:23,24: “In the same night in which the Lord was betrayed he took bread; and when he had given thanks he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me. Let us call upon the Name of the Lord.” He then engaged in prayer.
A friend, an old member of the church, has favoured me with the following recollections of part of an introductory prayer on one occasion, which was so impressed upon her mind that she has it still in her memory and in her heart:
“Precious Jesus! Look down, in mercy, upon a few poor sinners. We are out of hell, Lord; and some of us now and then have the assurance that we never shall be there; while some who are there deserve it less than we, as we are in and of ourselves; for we have sinned against light; we have slighted thy mercies; we have gone after idols; our eyes have gazed on forbidden objects; we have cherished and nourished in our hearts the vile affections of our carnal natures. O presence thyself with us this afternoon, and help us to praise and magnify thy glorious name, that thou hast not dealt with us after our sins; that we are here to celebrate thy dying love! Put us in mind of it. Let us discern thy body as broken for us, and thy blood as shed for us, that we may not partake of these symbols unworthily; but O do enable us to eat thy flesh and drink thy blood by precious faith; for thy great Name’s sake. Amen.”
He then began to break the bread, and addressed the members while he was doing so. This occupied some time; not only because the number of members was large, but also because he often paused while he enlarged upon some particular point. He then gave the plates to the deacons, repeating the words, “This do in remembrance of Him whose body was broken for you.” He then sat down, and perfect silence prevailed while the deacons were handing round the bread.
This surely is the right course; for how can any secretly meditate while another is addressing them?
Next he quoted from 1 Cor 11:25,26: “After the same manner also, when he had given thanks (Mark 14:22), he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show the Lord’s death till he come. Let us try to give thanks.” He then, after prayer, gave the cups to the deacons, saying, “Drink ye all of it. This do ye, as oft as ye do it, in remembrance of Him whose blood was shed for you.” There was again perfect silence, while the cup was being taken round.
Before concluding, he generally suitably addressed the persons in the galleries, as none but members sat below. And then said, “After supper they sang a hymn.” Another hymn was sung, which was followed by a short prayer, or the Benediction.
The ordinance was always administered in the afternoon, as an independent service. The chalice was never used; it is a Romanist innovation. The cups had (and have) two handles, for passing from member to member.
The following are a few scraps from his addresses:
Through the kind providence of God, we are assembled together this afternoon, to commemorate his love in sending his Son to redeem such vile wretches as we are, and in Christ’s suffering and dying on our behalf. We are invited, my brethren, to drink freely, for his blood was freely shed for us. O for faith freely to enjoy this! Will this lead us to sin—to licentiousness? O no; but it will humble us in the dust before God, and fill us with wonder and gratitude that ever he should stoop to pick up such hell-deserving sinners.
God mostly manifests his love to us when we least expect it, and at those times, and under those circumstances, that prove to demonstration that it is all free, matchless, and unmerited. If we take a solemn survey of the way God has brought us, we shall find that he has often appeared unto us, and shed upon us the light of his countenance, when we have been filled with rebellion against him, murmuring and fighting against his will. When was it that he showed himself most conspicuous on behalf of the Israelites? Why, when they were fit to stone Moses for bringing them out of Egypt, and wishing they were at their flesh-pots again. Then God came down, as it were, and delivered them, working miracles on their behalf. But he took care to let them know that it was not for their sakes, but for his own name’s sake, and that his glory he would not give to another. O how great was his mercy towards such rebellious undeserving worms!
I copy the following from a MS. by Mr. Hudson, already named: I recollect the time when I first went to see what I then called a dipping. I went with as much levity of mind and purpose as any one. The chapel was a great distance from our house. I went in, and soon found out the baptistery. I placed myself as near to it as possible, that I might have a full view of the scene; for my only object was to satisfy my fleshly mind. The minister preached upon the subject; but I remember not a word he said, for I paid no attention, but longed for him to have done that I might see how he managed the dipping. At length he concluded the sermon and approached the baptistery; and then, O what a solemn change took place in my mind! The minister spoke of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, of which that ceremony was emblematical. And it pleased the Lord then and there to melt my hard and stubborn heart; and from that moment I have been a Baptist, and, if God keeps me in my right mind, I believe I ever shall be. For in that ordinance I saw figuratively the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; his death in delivering the soul from the power of the law, his burial in baptizing it in his blood, and his resurrection in raising it to newness of life. Then O! What a banquet of love is here! To you who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, what a feast of fat things you have here!
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist. John Hazelton wrote of him—
“[Gadsby’s] labours extended to well-nigh every part of the country, and who by his sermons, hymns, and other writings, exerted a wide spiritual influence, and his interest in the poor and needy in Lancashire and elsewhere rendered his public advocacy of their cause of great value. In him we have a man of eminent public spirit, as well as of originality and spiritual force…The first time he preached was in 1798, in an upper room in a yard at Bedworth, from the words, "Unto you therefore which believe, He is precious." His Hymn Book, now so widely known, was first published in 1814, his desire being "to have a selection of hymns free from Arminianism and sound in the faith, that the Church might be edified and God glorified.” He removed to Manchester in 1805, and while over the Church there he travelled over 60,000 miles and preached nearly 12,000 sermons.”