William Gadsby Sermons (Complete)


It is one of the griefs of my life that I had not more of my dear father’s sermons taken down. It is true that in his day sermon reporting did not flourish as it did afterwards. With two or three exceptions, none of his sermons in Manchester were ever reported. A few “Scraps” I took down in 1835 and one or two following years; and that was nearly all. When he visited London, Mr. Justins, Mr. Paul, and others took a few; and all these I have, excepting one from Isaiah 63:1, which I once had, and for which, as is well known, I have offered £5; but it is not to be had. Thinking I could easily meet with another copy, I sent it, with a lot of others of which I had duplicates, to Mr. Brider, Soldiers and Sailors’ Mission, Salisbury.

It is a wonderful blessing to the church of God that Mr. Philpot was not only frequently reported in London, but that one of his hearers at Stamford was a reporter, and took down numbers of his sermons.

The two main features of my father’s ministry were the depths of the Fall and the depths and heights of Sovereign Grace,—the Two Deeps, as he termed them; the laying of the sinner and his self-righteousness in the dust and the exalting of a precious Redeemer. Few, if any, were ever enabled to live a more exemplary and Christian life than he, or, at the same time, experienced more of the depravity of the human heart. As Mr. Philpot said of him, “One point we have often admired in his ministry,—he would touch upon such spots as no other minister that we know ever dare approach; and this he did in a way peculiar to himself.” But I must refer to his Memoir for particulars. There may be expressions here and there which some, in this polite age, might have wished had been toned down; but as I do not belong to that class, I have given the sermons as I found them, or heard them. The word “piety” was so much used by professors as the foundation of their religion, that he hated the very sound of it, and whenever he used it in his ministry it was to show its utter unmeaningness and absurdity. This in why I have put the word as a quotation.

The apostle Paul was evidently not what the world would call an orator; for the people said his speech was contemptible; but O how weighty are his epistles! It was somewhat otherwise with my father. His preaching was more effective than his writings. “His voice,” as Dr. Halley, the Principal of the Congregational College, London, said of him, “was wonderful.” He heard him, on one occasion (about 8,000 persons being present), and he says, “The voice of the old man, though seeming to speak in a pleasant, conversational tone, rolled like an equable wave of sound, and filled every ear.”

But it was not merely his voice. The sermons were from his heart, what he had himself tasted, handled, and felt of the good word of life. In reading them, very little idea can be formed of the power attending the preaching of them. His heart went, as it were, direct into the hearts of the Lord’s people. I now and then meet with some good old friends who testify to the truth of this, they having many times heard him.

As dear John Newton said of Whitefield, “Many may say the same things; but they cannot say them in the same way. If I were asked who is the second-best minister I ever heard, I could not say; but if I were asked who was the best, I should say Whitefield.” And as another good man said: “Whatever these sermons were, some of those few spirits which you found in hearing will be missing in the reading of them. It is as easy to paint fire with the heat, as with pen and ink to commit that to paper which occurs in preaching.”

His prayers, too, were singularly his own,—from his very heart; unlike those of any other man I ever heard, and I have heard many. I must mention also, he never quoted verses of hymns in his prayers. Far be it from me to say it is wrong to do so, as some good men do. I merely state the fact.

It is not unlikely that in the sermons there may be repetitions; that is, sometimes in one sermon there may be figures, illustrations, or sentiments which also appear in others; but in no such case will any be found misapplied or strained.

Of some of the “Fragments of Sermons” I had two manuscript copies and of others even three. One was by Mr. T. Player, a minister and reporter, and another by Mr. W. Hudson, but who the other was I could not discover.

I have, however, worked up all into one, as far as I was able, as one manuscript gave some portions of the sermons and another other portions. This was particularly the case with Isaiah 1:18; Lamentations 1:12; Malachi 1:6. Yet, after all, they, as well as most in the volume, are only “Fragments.”

As sermons from the following texts appear in my father’s “Works,” 2 vols., I shall not insert them here. They are also published separately: Psalm 86:15; Isaiah 23:20; Matthew 5:32; Luke 18:13; Ephesians 1:6.

I have now before me a letter from Mr. Hudson, dated “Manchester, Aug. 8th, 1870,” in which he says, “I was hearing Mr. Taylor last night, and opening my uncle John Greenhough’s Bible in their pew, I read the following, written in the margin opposite Isaiah 63:2, and marked Jan. 21st: ‘Mr. Gadsby preached this sermon with very great fervor, but with very great difficulty of breathing, especially in the evening, when it took him four minutes to ascend the pulpit, having to stop upon every step. But the Lord was very gracious to him in supporting his mind, although suffering in body. He was got home with much difficulty, and kept getting worse until Jan. 27th [1844]; when he fell asleep in a precious Jesus.’“

But, though dead, he yet speaketh; and may the Lord bless his printed speeches to the hearts of His people for generations to come.

Oct 17th, 1884. J. GADSBY.

I have in my possession a list of various texts from which my father preached in 1840, 1, 2, 3, and Jan., 1844. They are in his own handwriting; and it is not a little remarkable that even the last from which he preached (Isaiah 63:2) is given in the list, with the verse in full; and the writing quite equal to any I ever saw him write.

Tuesday evening, Nov. 14, “read part of Acts 2, and baptized five men.” His usual plan was to baptize on the Lord’s day morning, after sermon; but at this time his strength was not equal to it; so he took the Tuesday evening.

Lord’s day, Nov. 19th, morning, 2 Corinthians 6:2; evening, Isaiah 33:23. Tuesday, 21st, 2 Corinthians 12:9—26th, morning and evening, 2 Corinthians 6:2—28th, Psalm 63:1,2—Dec. 3rd, morning and evening, Habakuk 3:4—5th, Psalm 63:1,2, continued—10th, morning and evening, Psalm 17:8—12th, Psalm 63:1, 2, concluded—17th, “at Saddleworth.”— 24th, morning and evening, 1 Timothy 3:15 (latter part), 16—26th, 1 Timothy 3:16, concluded—31st, 1 Peter 4:7—1844, Jan. 2nd, Hebrews 13:8.—7th, morning and evening, 2 Corinthians 5:1—9th, Hebrews 13:8, concluded—14th, morning and evening, Isaiah 63:1—16th, Titus 2:1—21st, morning and evening, Isaiah 43:2.