“I will bring the third part through the fire.”—Zechariah 13:9
Our God is a God who loves us as well when he hides the light of his countenance as when he shines upon us; as well when he suffers us to grope within as when he raises our hopes and expectations to himself; as well when he chastens us as when he smiles upon us; as well when he afflicts us as when he comforts us; as well when in the fire as when on the mount. It is easier to talk about God’s love than always to believe in it. The third part will be brought through the fire; not merely made to look at it, but be brought through it; the other two-thirds—the carnal profane and the dead professor, will be Left.
God’s word is called a fire: “Is not my word a fire, saith the Lord?” And I believe no man was ever yet sent to preach whose ministry was not a fire; for wherever the word is faithfully dispensed, there is sure to be a burning up of our hay, wood, and stubble,—all our false hopes, false zeal, &c.; but the true gold sustains no loss. Christ is compared to a fire, and it is said he shall sit as a refiner, &c.
Many of God’s children have a deal of fleshly love, fleshly charity, &o.; but Christ will purge them, and refine them. Nothing shall stand in his sight but what comes from him, stands in him, and leads to him. He will burn it up; and it must be Christ alone for salvation and every thing connected with it. Right eyes, right arms, right hands, dearest friends, must all go, that wish to stand in his way. When God brings Christ and the sinner together, there is an alarming blaze of the whole of the sinner’s lumber.
I have heard it said that as soon as a refiner can see his own image distinctly in the silver, he considers it pure. So God removes every thing from the sinner but his own image; that is, he views him in Christ. We never prayed spiritually till we were put into the fire. Saul of Tarsus thought he had prayed many a time; but when God put him into the fire he found he had never prayed before; and even God himself then said to Ananias, “Behold! He prayeth.” Bless you, it is more wonderful for a sinner to be made to pray than it is for a king to be made a beggar; because natural circumstances may bring and have brought that to pass; but God the Spirit must take possession of the man and bring him into the fire before he can pray. We cannot even rightly think of prayer without; for the Spirit helpeth our infirmities with groanings. When God was blessedly pleased first to put me into this fire, one of the first things he did was to burn up my prayers. I formerly was so regular in them that I durst not go to sleep till I had said what is called the Lord’s Prayer; and very often I went off in a doze before I had done; just like the poor Papist counting his beads. But now I could not even begin it. I dared not to call God, Father. What right had I to say, our Father? I felt there was something more in prayer than I was possessed of. Pretty words would not do now. I felt I stood before God as a lawbreaker.
You know it is very often the case, when you are called upon to go to prayer before a few friends, that you study more how to place your words prettily than to express the feelings of your heart; and sometimes God puts you in the fire in the midst of it, and conscience Bays, “You don’t feel that, nor you don’t feel that,” till you are obliged to groan out, “O Lord. I am vile! Lord, teach me to pray! Come down, dear Lord, and support me, wretched man that I am!” There is more prayer in a few broken, unconnected sentences, sighs, or groans, from a poor soul in the fire, than in all the fine words that can be used by the greatest orators in the world; for theirs is only like a knife with two backs, as it were, and no edge; there is nothing to cut. Now, God will bring His people through this tire— not leave them in; and they shall be brought out as monuments of his discriminating mercy and shall show forth his praise to all eternity, that ever he separated them from the world, and put them into the fire.—Manchester, Oct., 1837.
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist.