The Setting: The child has attended the house of God with his/her parents, and was dazzled by the fashionable outfits worn by the members. Upon returning home, the child enquires:
CHILD: Mother, did you see what handsome bonnet Miss Dressy had on at the chapel this morning?
MOTHER: Child, your mind runs upon nothing but pride and nonsense. Do you suppose that I have nothing to do at chapel but to notice what people wear? Did you ever ask yourself what you went to chapel for?
CHILD: Indeed, mother, I never thought of such a thing? What do people go for?
MOTHER: Child, it is not a very easy thing to say what ends people have in view. Some go because their parents go; some go to see and be seen; some go, like you, to notice people’s dress; some go because they conceive it will be better for their worldly circumstances; some go because it has a decent, respectable appearance; some go to be thought religious, and to gain the applause of men; some go in order to merit God’s favour; and some from custom, because they were brought up to go; and though it is incumbent upon all human creatures, where the gospel comes, to attend upon the public ministration of the gospel, none of the above have right ends in view in going.
CHILD: Why, then, mother, what should people go for?
MOTHER: Love, those whom the Lord has taught to have right ends in view, go to worship God; to hear his precious word preached; trace the footsteps of the flock of Christ; hear their own case described, and partake of and enjoy the blessings that God, in rich mercy, has bequeathed unto them in his precious gospel; to learn God’s holy will; and to receive wisdom, grace, and strength, for the practising of those things which are pleasing in his sight, that they may be enabled to live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world, and be growing up into Christ Jesus in all things, sweetly living in him, leaning upon him, and enjoying his lovely presence from day to day. A mind thus solemnly engaged with God, has something of greater importance to attend upon than that of minding people’s dress.
CHILD: What do you mean by worshipping God?
MOTHER: I mean to pray unto the Lord, with the spirit and understanding also, for mercies needed, and to bless and praise his holy name for mercies received and promised; and when this is done under the teachings and unction of the Holy Ghost, it is worshipping God in spirit and in truth; and no worship short of this can be acceptable in his sight.
CHILD: Why, mother, you know it is the minister who prays; and what has any body to do with it besides him?
MOTHER: Ah, child! You are a total stranger to the life of God and holiness, or you would not talk so. It is possible for the minister to utter words in the form of prayer, and for the people to profess to unite with him, and neither he nor they pray in spirit and in truth. But, when a minister utters words in the form of prayer, before a congregation of people, he professes to address the eternal God as the mouth of the people, and the people profess to unite with him in his addresses to Jehovah. Now, if either the minister or the people, or any of them, should thus profess to speak to Almighty God in prayer, at the same time that they are thinking about people’s dress, and have their hearts engaged in something else, what can such worship be better than solemn mockery and hypocrisy; and must not a holy God abhor such worship? But both minister and people, who are spiritually engaged, feel a solemn pleasure in supplicating the throne of mercy for blessings needed, and blessing and praising the precious name of God for blessings received; and such worshippers know what it is, at times, to feel sweet union unto, and hold holy communion with the Lord, as their God and Saviour.
CHILD: Why, mother, what blessings do we need? I do not know that I need any thing but food and raiment, health and strength, and such like things, that make people rich and comfortable.
MOTHER: Child, these are good in themselves, but there are things of greater importance than these; nevertheless, not to acknowledge the hand of God in these common mercies is to live more brutish than the brute creation; for the ox knoweth its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but human beings daily partake of the bounties of God’s providence, and all the time live in enmity to, and rebellion against, Him who feeds and clothes them; and I fear, child, that to this moment this is your case.
CHILD: Indeed, mother, I cannot conceive what we can need more than what you call common mercies.
MOTHER: Ah, child! that is owing to the blindness of your heart.
CHILD: Well, then, what do I need more than those things which make people rich and respectable in the world?
MOTHER: Ah, child! if ever the Holy Ghost should, in the riches of his grace, convince you of your lost condition, and teach you what you are before God, you will find yourself to be a poor, miserable, blind, and naked sinner, and that you need every thing that can render you acceptable to God, and give you a title unto, and a meetness for, the enjoyment of him in the world to come; without which you must suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
CHILD: Dear mother, how you talk! Whatever can those things be which are so necessary?
MOTHER: My dear child, whether you know it or not, you stand in need of spiritual life, for, by nature, you are dead in trespasses and sins: that is, you are dead to God, and dead to holiness, and every thing that is spiritual and divine, and alive to nothing but sin and vanity. There can be no real enjoyment of a holy God, either in this world or in the world to come, without a life suited to the nature of God; and this life is in Christ Jesus, and no sinner can possess this life till the Holy Ghost communicates it to him. “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins,” is the language of God to the saints at Ephesus, and when a poor sinner is quickened by the Holy Ghost, he begins to feel his guilt, ruin, and misery, and to cry to God for mercy. You also need the light of God; for, in nature, you are darkness, and so neither see nor feel what you really are as a sinner against God; nor what God is in his holy law, nor what he is in his precious gospel; and the Lord solemnly declares, that those who know not God shall be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.”
CHILD: Why, mother, I cannot be dead, nor blind either, for I can walk, and talk, and think, and feel, and see too.
MOTHER: Dear child, the life and light which I mean are of a spiritual nature, and this you cannot be really acquainted with till the Holy Ghost teaches you; ”for the natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
CHILD: Well, mother, what else do I need?
MOTHER: You are a guilty sinner, and need a pardon of your sins; you are an unholy sinner, and need purity of heart; you are an unrighteous sinner, and need a righteousness to justify you before God; you are an ignorant, foolish sinner, and need divine wisdom; you are a proud, self-righteous sinner, and need true meekness and humility before the Lord; you are a hard-hearted and unbelieving sinner, and need repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; you are a filthy sinner, and need washing in the fountain that is opened to the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness. In a word, you need every thing that can render you truly righteous, holy, and happy; and without these things you must be miserable for ever.
CHILD: Indeed, mother, I cannot believe that I am such a wretched creature, and need such things as you speak of.
MOTHER: Ah, my dear child, my heart aches for you! for your ignorance of your real state, is a striking proof of your living without God and a good hope in the world. If you will read the 3rd chapter of the Revelation, you will there see that the Lord speaks of some who say they are rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Be assured of this, that unless the Lord teach you what a poor, needy creature you are, and give you repentance towards God, even repentance unto life, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, your portion must be to dwell in everlasting burnings.
CHILD: Why, mother, if I need these things, and can have no real happiness without them, how am I to obtain them?
MOTHER: My dear child, they are all the gift of God’s rich grace to poor, sin-burdened sinners; and so gracious is the Lord Jesus Christ, that he sweetly encourages all poor guilty souls, that feel what they are, and what they need, to cry to him for mercy, and call upon him in the day of trouble; and he assures them that he will hear them, and answer them, and they shall glorify him. Hence he says, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water;” that is, however great or many the blessings are which the soul needs, however many disappointments the sinner may have met with in seeking for supplies, and however many difficulties may still be in the way, the Lord will graciously appear, and in a wonderful way grant rich supplies, and satisfy the poor, needy soul with the blessings of salvation; and for this end and purpose Jesus Christ is preached for the remission of sins; neither is there salvation in any other; “for there is no other name given under heaven among men whereby we can be saved, but the name of Christ;” and whosoever liveth and believeth in him shall live with God in endless bliss; so that there is no way of obtaining these blessings but through faith in Christ Jesus. But, my dear child, it is time to go to chapel again, so we must dismiss the subject for the present. May the Lord have mercy upon you, and teach you what you need, and lead you to himself!
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist.