The Setting: It is morning and the family is busy preparing for work and school. Though the hour is running late, the father insists on reading a portion from the Bible before leaving the house:
FATHER: Come, my dear, bring me the Bible.
CHILD: Father, it is now nine o’clock, and if I stop while you read and pray I shall get scolded, for I ought to have been at school before now.
FATHER: True, child, you ought to have been at school by this time; but I have been detained this morning, and I am not willing you should go before I have read part of God’s word, and taken up a little time in prayer and thanksgiving to the God of all our mercies.
CHILD: But when I tell my master and mistress what I stop for, they say they do not know what I mean; and some of our scholars say their father never reads and prays with them; and what is the reason, father, that you cannot let me go to school as well as they till you have read and prayed?
FATHER: My dear child, do you not recollect reading in your Bible, that God will pour out his wrath upon the kingdoms and families that call not upon his name? Now, if we should be found of that number, what an awful thing it will be! Do you think you can endure everlasting burnings?
CHILD: O, father, do not talk so! I do not like to hear you; you quite frighten me.
FATHER: Yes, love; and a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God; but if the mere mentioning of it terrifies you, I ask you again how you can endure God’s just wrath for ever?
CHILD: Pray read, father, will you?
FATHER: Yes, by and by; but I have something more to say first, and that is, that the blessed Bible contains the mind and will of God; and, through mercy, I and your dear mother are brought to see that, we are interested in the precious things it contains, and therefore love to read it; nor would we be deprived of it for all the world; and it is an awful evidence of a wicked heart, when people hate the word of God.
CHILD: You say, you and my mother are interested in the precious things the Bible contains; what things do you mean?
FATHER: Child, it is impossible for me to tell half the things; but I will just mention a few. We read in the Bible that God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believed in him might not perish, but have everlasting life. And again we read, that Jesus Christ came to seek and save that which was lost; and that his name is called Jesus, because he saves his people from their sins.
CHILD: Well, father, how can you and my mother be interested in these things?
FATHER: Why, my dear, I hope, through grace, we can say that the Lord has brought us to feel our lost condition; in which state we felt ourselves condemned as rebels against God, breakers of his law, and despisers of his authority; and indeed we expected to be sent to everlasting burnings.
CHILD: But do you think the Lord would have done right if he had sent you to everlasting burnings?
FATHER: Yes, child, that he would, considering us as sinners; for God is justly angry with the wicked every day.
CHILD: Well, father, and what did you do to please the Lord?
FATHER: Why, my dear, we found we were so lost as not to be able to do anything to please him, for all we did only seemed to aggravate our misery, while the thought of dying in the state we were in was horrid beyond description; and yet we were quite at a loss to know how to escape; the wrath to come, or what we must do to be saved. It is true, we heard there was a way to obtain God’s favour, to escape everlasting burnings, and to get to heaven; but we were so lost that we could not find it.
CHILD: O, my dear father, you make me quite unwell! Whatever did you do to get out of that state?
FATHER: Why, love, we did not know what to do; but at last were led by the good Spirit of God to cry from our very souls for mercy, saying, God be merciful to us sinners. Lord, save us, or we perish.
CHILD: And did the Lord come and save you?
FATHER: Yes, child; it was the Lord who taught us thus to cry, (though we did not then know it was he,) and, in great love, the Lord Jesus Christ came, and sought, and found us, and delivered us from going down into the pit, and saved us, for his own name’s sake.
CHILD: And did you see the Lord Jesus Christ coming to save you?
FATHER: Not with our bodily eyes, but with the eye of faith he enabled us to see him, as our only Saviour; and, by his good Spirit, he caused us to cast ourselves at his feet, and to trust in, and believe on him, as the Lord our righteousness and strength; yea, he told us, and enabled us to believe him, that our sins were all forgiven us; for his blood had cleansed us from all sin; and thus we were made very happy indeed, and began to be merry.
CHILD: Why, father, you bring to my mind a chapter I have read in my Bible, of a man having two sons, and one of them spent all that he had, and brought himself into a very miserable state indeed; but when he came home to his father, they began to be merry; and I think it says, he was lost and was found again; that was not you, was it, father?
FATHER: If it was not me, it was one very much like me; and do you not recollect, that when he was a great way off his father ran and met him, and kissed him, and brought him home, and then ordered his servants to bring forth the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet, and bring forth the fatted calf, and kill it, and eat and be merry?
CHILD: Yes, I remember it very well; I have often thought I should like to have been there.
FATHER: Ah! child, you do not understand it, for it was not such a feast as you think it was; it was not a worldly feast, such as you would like to be at; but it was a heavenly one, and none could be happy at it but those who have a heavenly mind.
CHILD: But how can you tell what kind of feast it was, if you were not there?
FATHER: My dear child, there have been many such feasts since then. When Jesus Christ found your dear mother, and saved her, he took her to one of them; and I trust I can say, that when he found me, and saved me, he took me to one; and called it a feast of fat things, full of marrow; and indeed we were all very merry, but it was a spiritual mirth; and this you do not understand.
CHILD: But if you tell me what it is, father, I shall understand it then, shall I not?
FATHER: No, child, it is not in my power to make you understand it, for it is spiritually discerned; and unless God, in rich mercy, gives you his Spirit, you cannot understand spiritual things; and yet, if you die without knowing them for yourself, you will be lost for ever.
CHILD: O, father! you know not how it makes me feel when you talk about being lost for ever. Pray do not, mention it again.
FATHER: My dear, you may endeavour to put such thoughts away, but you must be brought to feel yourself lost and undone, and be enabled to believe in Christ, and obtain these blessings through him, or you will be lost for ever.
CHILD: What do you mean by knowing these things for myself?
FATHER: I mean, you must feel and enjoy the power of them in your own soul, and be blest with the Spirit of God enabling you to say, “He loved me, and gave himself for me.”
CHILD: Can you and my mother say he loved you, and gave himself for you?
FATHER: Yes, I hope we can.
CHILD: What! and are you sure of going to heaven when you die?
FATHER: Yes, child, I trust we are; for they who believe in Christ cannot be brought into condemnation; and with Christ, the Father of mercies freely gives us all things; so that all the precious promises in the Bible are yea, and in him amen; and thus, by faith in Christ, we are led to see that eternal life, with all the blessings connected therewith, are freely given to us. God, in his Word, or in the Bible, for that is the Word of God, has promised to be with us in all our troubles, and has farther said he will never leave us nor forsake us, but will be our God and our aide, even unto death; and a thousand precious things besides, that I cannot mention now. Therefore, seeing that the Bible contains all these things, do you not think that your mother and I should be wicked if we did not love it, and worship the Lord, and love him, and all that are his?
CHILD: Yes, father, I think you would be wicked indeed! But, then, you pray as well; why do you do that?
FATHER: Ah! child; we should be worse than brutes if we did not pray.
CHILD: Why so, father?
FATHER: Why so? Do you not know that in God we live, move, and have our being? It is he who gives us the food we eat, the raiment we wear, and every good thing we enjoy.
CHILD: Why, father, I thought you worked for these things; do you not?
FATHER: Yes, love; but it is the Lord who gives me health, strength, and wisdom, to conduct myself; and who prospers the work of my hands. Have you never seen a poor idiot, that was unable to help himself; and others that are lame, blind, or sick; and have you not heard of some being deranged, or mad?
CHILD: Yes, sure I have, and have been very sorry for them.
FATHER: Well, it is of the Lord’s mercy that we are not the same; and do you not think we ought to pray that the Lord will continue these mercies unto us? For, if he thought well, he could take them all from us, and leave us to be as miserable creatures as any in the world; and, as sinners against him, we could not say he did wrong.
CHILD: O, father, do pray, that the Lord will not afflict me, and leave me to be such a poor creature as some I have seen.
FATHER: Well; but these are not the only things that your mother and I are indebted to the Lord for. No; it is he that gives us faith, hope, love, and all spiritual blessings; and we need daily supplies of these for the support of our souls, as much as we need food and raiment for our bodies; and we think it a great mercy that there is a throne of grace, and that the Lord will hear his people when they call upon him. Therefore, do you not think we ought to be thankful for all these favours?
CHILD: Yes, truly, you ought to pray, and be thankful too.
FATHER: Yes; and besides, all who are living without prayer are enemies to God, and, dying in that state, will be banished from the presence of the Lord, into the pit of destruction.
CHILD: Then, father, why do you not teach me to pray?
FATHER: Child, I might teach you a form of prayer, but saying that would not be praying with the spirit and with the understanding also. None but the Lord can teach poor sinners to pray aright; and unless you feel the need of mercy, you will never pray for it aright. Now, there is such a thing as praying and never being heard to speak a word.
CHILD: Nay, I can scarcely believe that; for I remember going up stairs with my mother, to make the bed, and she kneeled by the bed side, and prayed, and I am sure I heard her.
FATHER: Yes, child, that may be true; but your mother has prayed before now when no one could have heard her voice; have you not, mother?
MOTHER: Yes, through mercy, I have; and I think the Scriptures call it the Spirit itself helping our infirmities, with groanings that cannot be uttered.
CHILD: But how can the Lord hear you, when you do not speak?
MOTHER: My dear, the Lord knows the thoughts of the heart, and real prayer is nothing less than unbosoming the soul unto the Lord; and sometimes the Christian can do it with freedom of mind and liberty of speech; and frequently he finds it to be sweet work indeed to commune with God in prayer; and at other times he experiences very great contraction of spirit.
CHILD: Really, mother, I cannot think what you mean; for I have learnt a prayer at school, and I can always say it and speak it too, only when I am very sleepy, and then sometimes I go to sleep before I have done.
MOTHER: Yes, love; but is not that mocking the Lord, think you? and God says he will not be mocked; so that such praying as that must be an abomination to the Lord.
CHILD: Well! what must I do then?
MOTHER: If ever God, in rich mercy, convinces you of sin, makes you acquainted with your lost condition as a sinner, and brings you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as your Saviour, you will then know what true prayer is; but if you die without this, you cannot go to heaven.
CHILD: Dear mother, you talk just like my father.
MOTHER: It is truth; for except you are converted and born again, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
CHILD: Pray, mother, ask my father to read, will you?
MOTHER: Yes, your father shall read, and I doubt not but he will pray that the Lord will have mercy upon you, and teach you what you are, and lead you to Christ for a refuge.
FATHER: Well, my dear, if you will be still, I will read the 32th chapter of Isaiah, verses 1-6, which, though but short, is a sweet one. Thus it reads:
“And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee; though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song, he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that, day ye shall say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things; this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.”
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist.