William Gadsby's Dialogues

An Example Of A Father Explaining The Gospel To His Child

The Setting: As expected, the child is very excited about the prospect of Christmas holidays, and so is singing over a little nonsense that he/she has picked up amongst his/her companions. Henceforth, the Father observes:

FATHER: Child, what frothy nonsense are you running over? What can induce you to be so childish and foolish.

CHILD: Why, father, I was only pleased to think what sport I shall have at Christmas.

FATHER: Pleased, indeed! and what sport do you expect to have at Christmas.

CHILD: Why, father, do you know that next week we are to break up the school, and have a parting for Christmas holidays?

FATHER: But what sport is there in that?

CHILD: Why, father, there will be fiddling, and dancing, and such work you cannot think, and I hope you will be so good as to let me go.

FATHER: Now suppose I were to let you go, and when you were all making your sport, as you call it, the Lord were to strike you dead; what do you think would become of you then? It would be an awful sport to be called to the bar of a holy God, in the midst of such wickedness, would it not?

CHILD: Dear me, father, you quite terrify me; for you always talk about death and judgment when I wish to have a little sport, and you know I do not like to hear you talk so.

FATHER: Child, do you not know that you must appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to give an account of the deeds done in the body, and that every idle word that men shall speak they shall give an account thereof in the clay of judgment? and do you think that what you call sport is any thing better than idle words?

CHILD: But you are so very nice, father; for Mr. Polite lets his children sing songs, and dance, and play at cards, and sometimes he takes them with him to see the play; and Mr. Professor lets his children dance, and he has brought them a pretty little pack of cards to play with, and he goes to the chapel, and takes the sacrament too; and would he pay for his children’s learning to dance, if it were wrong?

FATHER: My dear, the Scripture tells us to bring up our children in the way they should go, and in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and I am sure I should not like you to go in the way of dancing, card-playing, and playhouse visiting; and if I were to instruct, or cause you to be instructed, in such ways, what could I expect but that you would go in the same ways when you were grown up? And then, if instead of attending to your business you were to idle your time away in such wicked amusements, how could I reprove you, seeing I had brought you up in this way? Surely none but an infidel, or a madman, can think that such a bringing up is bringing up the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. So that how Mr. Professor means to account for his conduct, God only knows; but I am sure I should tremble to bring you up in such a way. As for Mr. Polite, his whole conduct proves him to be a stranger to God, an enemy to the way of holiness, in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity, heaping up wrath against the day of wrath; and as he is bringing up his children to walk in his steps, if grace prevent not, everlasting torment will be their portion.

CHILD: But Mr. Professor is a good man, is he not, father?

FATHER: Good men do wrong too frequently; but I am at a loss to know how Mr. Professor can suppose himself a Christian, while he can lead his children into such dangerous paths. I know well that, no parent can give his children the grace of God, nor quicken their dead souls; no; this is the Lord’s work, and his glory he will not give to another; nor can a parent make his children do in all things as he wishes them; but when professors of the religion of Jesus Christ can sanction and encourage their children in such vain paths, I think they will find, it difficult to prove that they themselves have not wandered out of the way of understanding, and so dwell among the congregation of the dead; and if they are found at last to have had only a form of godliness, while they denied the power, or, in other words, have a name that they live while they are dead in sins, the greater will be their damnation.

CHILD: But, father, Mr. Professor reads and prays in the morning and evening, the same as you do, and does not this prove him a good man?

FATHER: No, child; men may pray and not be taught by the Spirit. Hence Jehovah brought a dreadful charge against some of old, saying, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouths, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” With such worship God is not pleased. But does Mr. Professor ever pray that the Lord will, in tender compassion, for the dear Redeemer’s sake, condescend to teach Master John and Miss Maria to be dexterous in playing their cards, and that he will also grant that they may be well instructed in all the genteel motions of the dance, that so they may be well qualified to join the fashionable world in their flesh pleasing, God-dishonouring amusements? Does Mr. Professor pray for these things?

CHILD: Dear father, how you talk; how could a man for shame pray for these things?

FATHER: Then how can he for shame encourage them? I know of no authority the word of God gives us to bring np our children in any thing we cannot pray for the blessing of the Lord to attend. We are exhorted in “every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, to let our requests be made known unto God,” (Phil 4:6) and “whatsoever we do, to do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31) Therefore, I conclude that if we cannot bring up our children in the arts of dancing and card-playing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, it must be wrong. It is an awful fact, that there are professors, and oven Baptists, who bring up their children in the art of dancing; but of all men, I think a Baptist ought to set his face as a flint against such a practice; for if you will open your Bible and read the 6th chapter of Mark, you will find that John the Baptist lost his head through this wicked practice; so that one would be ready to suppose that they would tremble at the thought of bringing up their children in this way, lest they should be a means of dancing off the head of some poor Baptist.

CHILD: But, father, what do we have holidays for, if they are not to be kept in this way? You know there are Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter holidays, and many more; will you have the goodness to inform me how they should be kept?

FATHER: Child, the whole appears to me to be a piece of superstition, not founded upon the word of God; but I can tell you what people profess to keep them for. They profess to keep Christmas in commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ; Good Friday in commemoration of his death; and Easter in commemoration of his resurrection; and they call these days holidays; and if they are holy days, they ought to be kept in a holy way.

CHILD: I did not know that they considered them holy days, and professed to commemorate such holy events; I am sure they do not keep them right, if that is what they mean.

FATHER: Right! no, love; for Jesus Christ came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost; that is, poor, perishing, lost sinners; and ho died the Just for the unjust, to bring them to God; and such was the importance of the work, that in the agony of his holy soul he sweat great drops of blood.

CHILD: How came he to sweat blood, father?

FATHER: My dear, God the Father laid upon him the iniquity of all his people, so that he bore all the burden of their sins, with all the dreadful consequences connected therewith; hence all the wrath of Jehovah due to his people fell upon him. Yes, almighty vengeance, like floods of indignation, rolled over his holy soul. In this dreadful state of misery, he cried out, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” Indeed, the agony of his soul was beyond description, and under this dreadful pressure he sweat great drops of blood; and to complete his misery, wicked men made long furrows on his back with knotted whips; yea, they spat in his face, smote him on his checks, plucked off his hah, and tore his temples with a mock crown of thorns. They then made him carry his cross on his back, which was already covered over with blood, and then, in the most wicked and barbarous manner, they stretched his mangled body upon, and nailed it to, the accursed tree; and when they had put him to all this cruel pain, and he cried, “I thirst,” they gave him vinegar, mingled with gall, to drink. They also pierced his side with a spear, and having thus cruelly abused and exposed hint to open shame, they mocked or laughed him to scorn ; and in this dreadful state he hung, until he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and he gave up the ghost, saying, “It is finished.”

CHILD: Why, father, I have heard you say that Jesus Christ is God over all; and if he is, how came he to let them put him to so much pain?

FATHER: Ah, child! he did it out of love to poor, perishing sinners; if he had not suffered these things, we must have gone to hell, for we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. But God the Father so loved the world, that ho gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life; and Jesus so loved them, that he laid down his life for them. Yes, he was wounded for their transgressions, bruised for their iniquities, the chastisement of their peace was laid upon him, and with his stripes they are healed.

CHILD: But was it not very wicked in those men to put him to so much pain?

FATHER: Yes, love; they did it out of hatred and malice against him and his ways; and men are just as wicked now as they were then, or else they could never think that fiddling, dancing, playing at cards, or going to balls and plays and the like, was keeping holydays, or a proper way to commemorate such grand and awful scenes as the birth, death, and resurrection of the holy Jesus. So blind and wicked are men, that there are thousands who roll in drunkenness, cursing, swearing, and every wicked device that their carnal minds can invent, and call it keeping Christmas holydays.

CHILD: But, father, there are many people that go to church and chapel on Christmas day; do not they keep it right?

FATHER: My dear, there are but few among all the worshippers, when compared with the balk at large, that worship God in spirit and in truth. Some will go to a place of worship and appear to be very devout in what they call the worship of God: in the morning, but are reveling in drunkenness and other dissipations before night is over; numbers more put on an outward show of religion, and think Jehovah ought to save them for their goodness, or because they have done what they call their duty. In fact, almost all the world are living in enmity against God; and where the name of Christ is mentioned, they are keeping holydays or commemorating the life, death, and resurrection of the Saviour in such a disgraceful, profane, or hypocritical way, that a heathen might be led to suppose that Jesus was the most profane monster out of hell. Yea, if he were the very prince of devils, men could not honour him in a way more dreadfully base than they do. How they expect to stand, when he shall descend in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, God only knows; but sure I am, that all such holyday keepers, if grace prevent not, will be tormented with devils and damned spirits for ever and ever, however light they may now make of it.

CHILD: Why, father, do you suppose that the people ever think that the Lord Jesus Christ is a holy God?

FATHER: Child, if they think upon him at all, they must think he is just such a man as themselves, viz., a wicked, vain, dissipated being, or else they would tremble at the thought of such holyday keeping. I am sure you would not like such homage done to you.

CHILD: Father, I do not know what you mean about me not liking such homage done to me.

FATHER: Why, suppose there were many people to come to you and tell you they were come to honour you on your birthday, and after a few compliments paid, some began to call you a wicked tyrant, and say you were worse than Satan, as some professors have said of Christ, and tho rest began to swear, get drunk, and fight, and vomit their shame all over you, so that the whole of them mock, deride, and contemn you; what should you think of such honour done to you?

CHILD: Think! why I should think they were worse than mad; and I am sure if it were in my power I should turn them out of my presence.

FATHER: Mad, indeed, child! There are many poor creatures in lunatic hospitals that are not half so mad as the greatest part of our holyday keepers are. Hence, when Jehovah speaks of such men, he says, “Mine enemies reproach me all the day, and they that are mad against mo are sworn against me.” (Ps 102:8) But the time is fast approaching, when the wicked shall be turned into hell, with all the nations that forget God, and then their madness will be fully explained.

CHILD: But, father, will you tell me how holidays should be kept?

FATHER: As I told you before, so I tell you again, that I consider them altogether superstitious; nevertheless, the thing people profess to commemorate thereby ought to be remembered at all times.

CHILD: But, father, who can do that?

FATHER: None can do it but the people who have been brought to see and feel what poor miserable sinners they are, and how just and holy the Lord is, and so have been led by God the Spirit to cry from their very souls, ”God be merciful to me a sinner,” and have been enabled to come to the Lord Jesus Christ for life and salvation, and to believe in and rest upon him as the Lord their righteousness and strength; yea, such as worship God in spirit and in truth, and put no confidence in the flesh, or anything they themselves ever have clone, do now, or ever will do.

CHILD: But, father, how do they remember these things?

FATHER: Why, love, they remember the birth of Christ, inasmuch as they feel the sweetness of that truth, “Unto us a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given.” This Child born and Son given, they know was the Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, for their sake became poor, that they, through his poverty, might be rich; for he was born on purpose to save them from wrath, guilt, sin, death, and hell; and when they are led to consider that the great God who created all worlds condescended to take upon him their nature, to be born of a woman, made under the law, to live a life of matchless holiness, and yet a life of pain and sorrow, for such hell-deserving sinners as they know and feel themselves to be, they think upon his birth with holy wonder; and the oftener and the more they think upon and realize these things, the better they are pleased.

CHILD: Dear me, father, these people must be happy, I am sure; but how do they think upon his death and resurrection?

FATHER: Ah, love: whenever God the Spirit leads them to realize the death and resurrection of Christ, by a precious faith in him, they find a solemn pleasure in gazing upon that grand scene, to know that the Lord of life and glory, in their nature, for their sakes, did not only live a life of pain and sorrow, but weltered in his own blood, was overwhelmed, or baptized, in the floods of almighty wrath, and endured all the just vengeance of Jehovah’s righteous displeasure. Yea, he was tormented, afflicted, and abused by the creatures he had made; and was at last nailed naked to the cross, exposed to shame, while his holy soul was filled with cries, agonies, and pain, the righteous law of God, which we all have broken, being a magazine of vindictive indignation, emptying all its vials in tremendous showers of infinite wrath, due unto them, upon the dear Redeemer, that they might go free; until he said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and at last, with a voice that rent the rocks and awoke the dead, exclaimed, “It is finished!” and gave up the ghost. Then to behold him rising from the dead, an almighty Conqueror over death, hell, and sin, for their justification; I say, to think upon this, and to know that he did it all for such poor helpless sinners as they, that they might escape eternal burnings, and be taken to immortal glory, to be for ever with the Lord, and bathe in the ocean of Jehovah’s everlasting love for ever and ever, is pleasure that none but saved sinners can know; therefore, to adore, magnify, and praise the great Author of this salvation is the way, and the only way, to commemorate these days aright.

CHILD: Dear father, if none remember these things aright but such people, I think their number is but small, compared with the rest; and what will become of the rest?

FATHER: All who die out of Jesus Christ will be turned into hell, to be tormented for ever and ever.

CHILD: Dear father, do pray that the Lord will have mercy on me, and save me.

FATHER: Ah, child, that I shall do; but unless God leads you to pray for yourself, you must perish for ever. But I think your mother calls you.

CHILD: Yes, father, she does.

FATHER: Then go and see what she wants; for it becomes you to obey your mother’s just commands; therefore, for the present, farewell.

FATHER: Well, child, have you been and done what your mother wished you to do?

CHILD: Yes, father; and I have been thinking that I have heard you say that all Christians will go to heaven.

FATHER: I do not question but you may have heard me say so, and I say the same now; but what of that?

CHILD: Why, father, if all Christians go to heaven, we shall all go, for you know we are all called Christians; and I have seen it advertised to-day, that next week there is to be a grand hall, and grand dancing, and a grand dinner, and grand fireworks, to commemorate the late victories that have been gained over the French.

FATHER: Well, child, and what makes you introduce this subject now?

CHILD: You know, father, that they are all called Christians who are at the head of these wonderful things; and if all Christians go to heaven, how is it that you arc not willing for me to dance, &c, when such a vast number of Christians sanction it, both with their presence and purse? Besides, father, you know they do it to show their gratitude and thanks to God; and if such things arc pleasing to God, I am astonished that you should attempt to hinder me from practising them.

FATHER: Indeed, child, you may well be astonished ; for such professors of Christianity, as are capable of supposing that the eternal God can be pleased with, balls, dancing, excess of wine, and such like things, as an acceptable sacrifice of thanksgiving, for his wonderful kindness in granting us victory over the common foe, must be dissipated indeed; for before ever they can imagine that such things can he acceptable to God, they must persuade themselves that Jehovah is no higher in dignity, nor purer in nature, than a common strolling fiddler; but the issue will prove that such characters are strangers to the true God, and enemies to his righteous nature. If the money spent in such dissipated ways were given to the poor and distressed, it would be more acceptable to God and confer greater honour upon the giver; but such rejoicings as balls, dancing, excess of wine, and the like, can be calculated to no better purpose than the encouragement of vice and dissipation; consequently, must incur the displeasure of Jehovah, and at last sink the promoters and encouragers of it into infamy and disgrace. But, my dear child, you must not suppose that all who profess to be Christians arc in reality what they profess to be. We read of some who have a name that they live while they are dead, and of some who blaspheme, and say they are Jews and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan; so that to be called a Christian is one thing, but to be a Christian is another thing.

CHILD: Then, father, what is it to be a Christian?

FATHER: To be a Christian is to be a real disciple of Christ, and is one that is anointed of God, and set apart for himself. Every Christian is the temple of the Holy Ghost. God lives in them, and they live in him, and of them the Lord says, “This people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise.” They arc made partakers of a divine nature, and are said to be like Christ.

CHILD: Dear me, father, how can they he like Christ?

FATHER: Why, love, they are decked with his righteousness, made partakers of his holiness, and are conformed to his image. They are quickened by his Spirit, and raised from a state of death, darkness, and slavery, and brought into a state of life, light, holiness, and liberty: and thus, through the grace of God, are translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Christ dwells in them the hope of glory, and they dwell in him, as members of his body, or as living branches of him, the living vine; and are rooted and grounded in him, for they are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones; (Eph 5:30) “and of his fulness they receive, and grace for grace.”

CHILD: What do you mean by receiving of his fulness, and grace for grace?

FATHER: They receive every spiritual blessing from him, their Living Head. He gives them faith in himself, and by faith they receive him as the Lord their righteousness and strength, which makes them sing, “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh hut after the spirit.” (Rom 8:1) From him they receive strength to go out of themselves into him, and rest solely in him for life and salvation. His love is shed abroad in their hearts, by the Holy Ghost, which is given to them, wherewith they love him, his word, his worship, his ways, and his people. From him they receive real meekness and humility, with which they are clothed as with a garment. In a word, all holy thoughts, and holy desires, flow from him; and all the holiness they have, or ever will have, they receive from him, as their immortal Head; and they are encouraged to come boldly to a throne of grace, that they may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 6:10)

CHILD: Why, father, and are none real Christians but such as are made partakers of a divine nature, and receive grace out of the fulness of Christ?

FATHER: No, my dear; there is no real Christianity short of union to Christ, and being made partakers of his holiness; so that a real Christian is a partaker of the love of Christ, the truth of Christ, the holiness of Christ, the wisdom of Christ, the power of Christ, the grace of Christ, and the meekness and patience of Christ. All his springs are in them, and all their fruit is found in him. Christ and his people are united together, by the bonds of everlasting love, and this union is manifested to them, through faith in him, and the spirit of adoption received from him, whereby they cry, “Abba, Father.” (Rom 8:15)

CHILD: And are none Christians but those who know that they are united to Christ, and can call God, Father?

FATHER: Yes, love. God has many lambs in his fold, and many babes in his household. Some are weak in faith, and some are feeble-minded. Some are overwhelmed with fear and confusion, and are ready to conclude their way is hid from the Lord, while others are strong in faith, giving glory to God. And, indeed, it is not the case with God’s people that any of them enjoy the same degree of grace and strength at all times. The Lord’s promise is, that his grace shall be sufficient for them, and his strength shall be made perfect in their weakness; and that is enough for faith when we have faith enough to confide in it.

CHILD: But, father, how may what you call babes and lambs know that they are real Christians?

FATHER: By the Spirit of Christ, which is in them. Everything is according to its own nature. It is the very nature of that soul where the life of God is communicated, to be thirsting, panting, and hungering after God. Where the soul is feelingly dissatisfied with its own righteousness, and is made sick of itself, and is hungering and thirsting after the righteousness of Christ, and cannot be satisfied with any thing short of real personal union to and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Lord its righteousness and strength, that soul is alive to God, and the blessing of God is upon it, though it may not have faith enough to say, “He loved me and gave himself for me ;” for thus saith the Lord, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled;” (Matt 5:6) and if the blessing of God rests upon them, they cannot be the people of his curse. It is not a soul being brought to experience a sweet sense of its union to Christ which unites it, but that gives it the comfort of it. For a soul may be united to Christ, and be made a partaker of his holiness, before the Lord gives it faith and strength enough to realize its own interest in the blessings of God’s house.

CHILD: Then, father, what must such poor creatures do, who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and yet dare not say that they are interested therein?

FATHER: The Lord says it is good for them to hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord; to be sighing, groaning, crying, and praying to God for a manifestation of his everlasting love in the redemption by Christ, that they may obtain a sense of the pardon of all their sins, and the complete justification of their persons, through the blood and righteousness of Christ Jesus the Lord.

CHILD: But, father, is there any mercy for sinners who feel them selves such guilty, wretched rebels, that they scarcely dare cry for mercy, and who cannot find words to pray to the Lord, who find they are shut up in a dark and dismal prison, and can only sigh and groan?

FATHER: Yes, love; through the riches of God’s grace there is even for them mercy with God, that he may be both feared and praised; for “the Lorn looked down from the height of his sanctuary, from heaven did the Lord behold the earth: to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to loose them that are appointed to death.” There never was a poor wretched soul, who thirsted and panted for the living God, who earnestly sought mercy and pardon, from a feeling sense of his guilty, needy, ruined state, that ever was left to perish in his sins, nor ever will be; for he satisfieth the (broken-hearted) poor with good tilings, hut the (self-righteous) rich, he sendeth empty away. But what makes you cry?

CHILD: Why, father, if that be the case, there is hope for such a rebel sinner as I.

FATHER: God grant, if it be his holy will, that you may never rest till you have found him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote, that is, Jesus Christ; and may it be your happiness to be waiting and watching at wisdom’s gates, till the dear Redeemer is graciously pleased to remove guilt from your conscience, by a precious application of his blood to your soul, that henceforth you may serve God in newness of the spirit and not in the oldness of the letter; that whether you live you may live unto the Lord, or whether you die you may die unto the Lord, that whether living or dying you maybe the Lord’s. But I must be gone, as I have an engagement to attend to.

CHILD: Father, pray for me.

FATHER: The Lord teach you to pray for yourself, for eternal things arc solemn realities, and personal matters.