68 The Breaker Passed Before Them
A Sermon Preached By William Gadsby On April 13th, 1843.
(This is but a fragment of the sermon. The reporter which recorded the spoken word could not keep pace with the preacher. This accounts for some broken sentences, missing parts and an unfinished ending)
“The breaker is come up before them; they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it; and their king shall pass before them, and the Lord on the head of them.”—Micah 2:13
In all God’s dealings and dispensations with the Jews, he kept a constant eye on the well-being of his elect people. You find frequently, when God is giving, by the prophets, solemn admonitions, warnings, and threatenings to the Jews as a nation, or teeming forth awful denunciations and curses against them, they suddenly break off to drop a word of comfort and encouragement to God’s spiritual family. I believe that the world was created for the elect’s sake; that the Bible is given for the elect’s sake; and that if God had not had an elect people, there would never have been a Bible; for when God is speaking concerning it he says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;” and it is that “the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” And again: “Whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.” Perhaps some one may say, “Well, then, if I am not one of the elect, it is of no sense praying, no use reading, no use repenting.” There never was a man in the world that ever did pray spiritually, there never was a man in the world that ever did repent evangelically, but God’s elect, nor ever will be. Therefore, if you are brought really and spiritually to cry, to pray, and to repent before God, that is a proof that you are one of his elect; and the Lord says, “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.” Some of God’s dear family, after long waiting and crying before him, begin sometimes to be cast down, and even think that God will not hear them; but shall he not avenge his own elect?
I believe that the idea of a kind of universal salvation, universally offered to all men, is one of Satan’s engines, in order to eclipse the glory of God’s salvation, and is something like a lottery, to give to all what is called a chance of being saved. I believe that the salvation of God is a certain salvation; and that the redeemed of the Lord shall have a chance of being saved is a parcel of lumber. “The redeemed of the Lord shall come” (not have a chance), “they shall come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away;” and this shall be the result and the effect of the Breaker having come up before them.
Perhaps you will say, “Who are the men intended in the text?” Well, now; let us just look. “I will surely assemble Jacob; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel,” &c. Well, then, it is this remnant before whom the Breaker is gone up. And do not you know what the Lord says in one place? “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved;” and in another place he says, “Except the Lord of hosts had left us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.” Nothing is more common among men than to take it for granted that they are among the Lord’s people, because they are so numerous and so respectable. If the Bible is a lie, they are right; but if the Bible is true, they are not; because God says it is a “small remnant.” And again: “Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” And again: “Broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat; and strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Say you, “How strait is it?” I will tell thee, poor creature. It never did, nor ever will, let one sinner enter with one rag of his own. It tears every rag off the bones, and the sinner is obliged to go as a poor, naked, destitute creature; and if you are never made to go that way, you will never go, as sure as there is a God in heaven. It is common for a mercer to cut off from a piece of cloth fragments of it, which are thrown aside; and when it is a fag- end, he throws it under his feet. And God’s people, in all ages of the world, have been a kind of fag-end people, considered as useless and worthless, and fit only to be trodden under foot by the men of this world.
“The Breaker is come up before them.” Now I consider that the Lord Jesus Christ, who is their King, that is gone before them, is the character here intended; and I shall just attempt to glance at the movements of this Breaker in the two following senses:
I. In his going up before his people in his meritorious work.
II. In his going up, and breaking down all before him in their hearts and consciences.
I. Let us, then, first, dwell upon the movements of this Breaker in his going up before his people in his meritorious work. From everlasting his delights were with the sons of men. His solemn Majesty saw what sin would do for us; he saw it would ruin us, he saw it would bring us into everlasting misery and render it as impossible…for any sinner in himself to be just before God as it would be for God himself to cease to exist. He saw that sin was against his law, his justice, and his goodness; and yet he breaks forth, in solemn covenant bonds, to espouse his people’s cause. “And do you think that he did?” Nay, I am beyond a think, for I am sure he did; I know he did. And so we are told that in the appointed time “he was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” He was made, poor child of God, all thy pride, all thy unbelief, and all the abominable workings of thy heart. All was charged to him, placed to his account; and I believe he drank into his holy soul the whole of the hell we had merited; and when he had done, he had put out hell’s flames with his own blood, that his people might be saved with an everlasting salvation. He entered into covenant for his people. Hence, long before his appearance in our nature, it is said, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not; then said I, Lo! I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God.” And Paul tells us roundly that the will he came to do was the will by which we are sanctified. So that, in the book of God, Christ’s eternal purpose was to come to do the will of God, and to bring about an eternal salvation. He came and “was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, fall of grace and truth.”
“O,” say you, “we don’t believe Christ to be God.” Then, if you die in that state, you will be cast into hell, as sure as there is a God in heaven. This blessed Person is Immanuel, God with us, God in our nature; and he came forth in this blessed and solemn capacity to break down every mountain that should stand between God and the sinner. And thus, in his solemn breaking, he has broken down, the power of sin. He has honoured the law, magnified it, satisfied justice, and brought in an everlasting righteousness for his people.
To enter upon particulars would serve us as long as we live, and what rejoices me is, I shall not have done with it when I die; for then it will be, “To Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion, for ever and ever. Amen.”
II. We shall pass on to notice the movements of this Breaker in his going up and breaking doom all before him in the hearts and consciences of his people. We have a whole host of professors in our day who talk about having been pious ever since they were born. They had a pious education, went to a pious school, entered into a pious society, were piously instructed from an infant, and when they got to years of maturity they became decidedly pious; and their minister tells them they have no need to experience any particular convictions, w to experience any particular alarm, like notorious sinners. If that minister bad made up his mind to carry you to black despair comfortably, he could not have set about doing it in a better way. “Except a man be born again, be cannot see the kingdom of God.” All this beginning to be pious, and becoming decidedly pious,is the devil’s holiday dress, to deceive men’s souls and to blind their minds an to their real state and condition before a just and holy God; for when God is pleased to take a sinner in hand there will be a solemn breaking up of that sinner’s hard heart, a solemn breaking in of light and life…look at the poor sinner when this great Breaker breaks into his conscience. I remember when the Lord began to break into my heart. I was a youth between 17 and 18. I had been up to nine years what many in our day call pious; but I lost all my piety in a moment, and have never recovered it since. Up to 17 I became dreadfully profane, and was notorious for nearly all kinds of wickedness. There was one sin which I was preserved from, into which many young persons fall, that of uncleanness. I was never suffered to fall into that; but in others I went to an awful degree. By and by God solemnly broke into my conscience, and although 1 had awful convictions before, they were not like those…
Here I would notice the difference there is between natural convictions and spiritual convictions, when the great Breaker breaks into the hearts and consciences of his children. I believe men may have natural convictions till they are almost distracted, and may even put an end to their existence by committing suicide; but there is nothing like this in it,—a solemn feeling of the awful disparity there is betwixt a sinful worm of the earth and a holy, just, and good God…when the great Breaker breaks in, he reads aloud in the sinner’s conscience God’s holiness, goodness, and justice; so that, instead of quarrelling with God and saying he cannot be just without giving him a chance of being saved, he is at a loss to know how God can be just without damning him. Now, have you ever been there? If you have, there is ground for hope that the Breaker has broken with divine light into your soul.
The poor sinner, finding himself in this dreadful predicament, attempts to do something to please God. O how he charges his eyes from seeing, his ears from hearing, yea, and his heart from thinking! He makes up his mind that, if it is possible, he will do something to appease the wrath of God. And he is permitted to try, for many days and sometimes for many months, to go on in this straightforward course, until he begins to hope that he is really getting on in the divine life, and to gain a little self-importance. And then the poor soul falls into some sin which he thought he had gotten complete victory over. But yet he does not despair. And so to work he goes again, until he becomes weary and begins to grow faint; but he will try all means till the Breaker comes, and leads him, as a guilty, ruined sinner, to the feet of Jesus, and, as a condemned criminal, leads him to Acknowledge what a ruined, helpless, undone sinner he is. “Ah,” says some poor soul, “I don’t know what will become of me.” He hears others say how they can repent, and love God, and do their duty; but, as for himself, he is led to feel that he can do nothing; and lie finds that all his attempts to do anything only throw him in the background, like the woman with the issue of blood, who, after she had spent all that she had, was nothing better, but worse. Is there a poor sinner of this description here to-night? If there is, I bless God for thee, poor soul. “Why, man,” say you, “you terrify me. I am ready to wish I had never been born.” Well, if them art really broken up, I thank God for thee again. Thou shalt find that whatever a poor sinner attempts to do, or to be, this Divine Breaker will break it all to pieces like a potter’s vessel, and he must be brought at last to be entirely saved by the matchless, unmerited grace of God. All other things mast be entirely put out of sight; so that there may be nothing but a precious Christ and a guilty sinner. And this will make the sinner rejoice and put no confidence in the flesh.
Now do you know anything of this? Has God ever broken into your heart? Sometimes this Immortal Breaker breaks in with a little melting down of the soul, and you experience it to be sweet to draw near to God. At other times you feel so dark and dead, you are nearly at your wits’ end; you think it would be an insult offered to bow your knees before him, and you are ready to come to the conclusion never to attempt to pray again. But, somehow or other, you are obliged to bow your knees; somehow or other, you are obliged to bow to the Lord, and to sigh, and groan, and cry before him. By and by you feel a little breaking down of unbelief, a little breaking in of light, love, and liberty, and a little breaking out of freedom before a holy God. But again all is shut up, and you think it is all a delusion. When you are meditating upon your woeful state, a little divine light will break in, accompanied with a text of Scripture, something like this: “Jesus Christ, “the Saviour of sinners, “saves to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.” This gives you a little hope; but again you are cast down, because you say you cannot come, you do not know how to come. But again the Lord breaks in with such a passage as this: “I drew them with the cords of love, and with the bands of a man;” and the soul breathes out, “Draw me; I will run after thee.” And by and by he pauses, and wonders what has been going on, that he has had such holy familiarity with the Lord, and has been asking the Lord that he would draw him that he might run after him. All this is the blessed effect of the Breaker’s breaking into the hearts of his dear children. In his own blessed time, he will break in with a full and free manifestation of pardon. O the blessedness when he breaks in with divine life, and says, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are all forgiven thee;” and to confirm it, breaks in with such a text as this: “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth from all sin.” “What! All sin?” Aye, the whole of it. You are led to bless his name, and to say, “How? Is it all?” And he tells you that “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of ns all,” and he bore it all; and having broken down all before him, he now breaks into your heart, and brings the blessedness of hi« salvation to your conscience, and makes you know you have redemption through his blood. And by faith the man receives Christ, and, believing in him, rejoices, and has no confidence in the flesh…our blessed Lord, speaking of his people, says, “When he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” But very often the sheep is so nimble footed that he sets on and runs before him, and gets into some labyrinth or other, till he does not know where he is. And in this state of backsliding he will wander on, like the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, till he falls among thieves, and the poor creature is in a sad plight. They stripped him and wounded him, and they would have taken away his life, if it had not been “hid with Christ in God.”
There are some people in this country who say that a child of God never does backslide. It is the very spawn of the devil; it is insulting to God, and insulting to the feelings of one who knows what it in for God to restore him from such a condition. And as such a doctrine is beginning to gain ground, and especially in Manchester, I wish with my whole soul to proclaim against it as the devil’s own doctrine, and that it will produce nothing but disasters in the professed church of the Lord. But I know that the great Head of the church will break down this infernal doctrine, and if any of his people drink into it he will break it down, and make a way to restore them from such a delusion, and lead them sweetly on in the mysteries of his blessed truth.
Again, the Lord breaks into the hearts of his people when they are brought in straits and difficulties, when their way seems to be hedged up, and every avenue shut…
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.”