In the December, 1835 “Gospel Standard,” under the head, “The Pool of Bethesda,” is the following:
“Through your valuable ‘Standard,’ an impotent body, who is hungry and thirsty, and whose soul, at times, fainteth within her for a ray of hope in the manifestation of an interest in a precious Redeemer’s blood, is desirous of having a few words from ‘A Lover of Zion,’ on Jn 5:7. Does he, as a valiant soldier of truth, who has experienced the workings of God the Holy Spirit upon his own soul, think it possible for a poor, weak, feeble sinner to come to that pool, – waiting there for the moving of the waters, who is walking in darkness and having no light, and who, feelingly a dog, would gladly eat of the crumbs which fall from the children’s table; and living and dying in that state, does he think there is any hope for such a soul?”
Then, in the Dec. No., is the answer by Mr. Gadsby:
“Dear Friend,—I apprehend that an explanation of John 5:7, would not enter into your real desire; because the disease of the impotent man there referred to was not of a spiritual, but of a natural kind. Nevertheless, there are some things connected with his ease which may very properly be brought forward to illustrate the methods of God’s grace to his people; for, though he had lain at the pool for a very long time, yet he was not cured by the pool, but by the almighty, sovereign word and power of the Lord. And so some of God’s people lay at the pool of outward means, with a grievous disease of sin and guilt, and lay there a long time. Sometimes, perhaps, they hope this or the other means will prove a cure; but the disease still remains, yea, rather increases than otherwise, and they often fear they shall die in their sins at last. Very frequently “they think of giving it up as a lost matter, or a desperate case, thinking the Lord will not stoop to relieve them. But, though the Lord appears to put them back, he still secretly keeps them to the point, panting for mercy, longing for a cure; and at length is graciously pleased to send his word by the power of the Holy Ghost, and heal them (Ps 107:20); and this most frequently at a time and in a way they little expected.
“If, my dear friend, I understand you aright, you wish to know whether a poor, impotent, hungry, and thirsty sinner, whose soul, at times, fainteth within her for a ray of hope in the manifestation of an interest in a precious Redeemer’s blood, who is waiting on the Lord in the means of grace, yet walking in darkness and having no light, feeling herself a dog, and one which would gladly eat of the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table, can, after all, die in her sins; or whether such a character can exist, and yet be dead in trespasses and sins. Now, in reply, let me tell you, if you have truly described your case, I have no hesitation in saying, no, I believe it is not possible for such a character to be dead in sin.
“But we will, for a moment or two, attempt to try it by the Word of God. To be impotent, spiritually, I consider, is to be so far made alive by the Holy Ghost as to feel the awful disease of sin, yet so feeble and weak as to be without power to help oneself, and to be really made to feel that such is the disease that no natural medicine can heal it; so that we are ready to fear the grievous wound is incurable. (Jer 30:12,13) All our sighs, and groans, and cries, only tend, according to our then feelings, to sink us deeper in our miseries; for it is as though the Lord said, “Why criest thou for thine affliction? Thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity. Because thy sins are increased, I have done these things unto thee.” Thus the poor soul imagines that his case is desperate. But mark the wonders of God’s grace! When all other lovers and all nature fail, the Lord brings health and cure: “For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord.” Bless his precious name, the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. While the self-righteous Pharisee goes dancing about, Gallio-like, with the laurels of his own imaginary piety and goodness, God brings his own family to feel that all flesh is grass, and that all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field, which withereth and fadeth away when the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it; and his blessed Majesty gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. The lame take the prey; and it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. The Lord’s poor worms Jacob may have a thousand fears and faintings too, for hope deferred maketh the heart sick; but deliverance shall come: For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument, having teeth; thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them; and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel. He satisfieth the longing soul with good things, while the rich he sendeth empty away.
“If the above be really your case, you have abundant cause to be thankful. You are just suited to Christ, and Christ is just suited to you. A more blessed fit cannot be pointed out, nor a more blessed match made, than a glorious Jesus and you being brought manifestively together in one sweet bond of covenant love, by the precious power and energy of God the Holy Ghost. He shall glorify Christ, and shall glorify the saints in Christ. You are, you say, feelingly impotent; Christ is the great Physician, who brings health and cure, without money or price. Bless his adorable name, with his own stripes he heals us.
“But perhaps you may say, ‘I am such a sinner.’ So was David; but a feeling sense of it made him cry, ‘Lord, be merciful unto me; heal my soul for I have sinned against thee.’ ‘He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.’ Were his people not a diseased people, he would not be a suitable Healer; but one part of the sweet song of the psalmist was, that the Lord forgave all his iniquities, and healed all his diseases. And if you really be a hungry and thirsty sinner, that is, one that is thirsting for God, the living God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, you shall, in God’s own time, eat the flesh and drink the blood of the blessed Redeemer; for he is the Bread of God and the Water of Life. ‘He will pour water [the water of life] upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.’ ‘He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive.’ But mind, the disciples did not receive this blessing immediately that the promise was made; they had to wait for it, and met with many perplexing disappointments before they experienced the promise in the power of it. Their dear Lord was put to cruel tortures, even in their presence; was crucified, and buried, and all their hope appeared almost to be buried too. Nevertheless, it was through this dark, strange, mysterious method that the promise was to be fulfilled; and after the resurrection of. their dear Lord, the blessing was fully made manifest at the day of Pentecost. It is the privilege of the poor sinner to wait patiently for the Lord; for the Lord will not be hurried. He makes no better haste than good speed; for the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come; it will not tarry.’ Our ever-glorious and blessed Christ came both to seek and to save that which was lost; and he is such a precious Saviour that he is all a sinner can. need, law require, justice demand, or God give. This is God’s unspeakable Gift; and his glorious Majesty gives this Gift of gifts to. those who have no worth or worthiness in themselves, entirely without money or price.
“The poorer the wretch, the welcomer here.”
“But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel. Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt-offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense. Thou hast brought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices; but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins; thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth; for the Lord hath done it! Here we have a description of wretches, without anything to recommend them to God; nay, worse than that, they have made God to serve with their sins, and wearied him with their iniquities; yet matchless grace blots out all their transgressions, freely and fully, for the Lord’s own Name’s sake. Come, poor broken-hearted sinner, put the Lord in remembrance of such a gracious declaration. Plead with him for his Name’s sake; he will surely hear thee, and answer thee in mercy. God’s Name, in the full blaze of its glory, is in Christ. There all its honours harmonize and rest for ever; and with him the Father is well pleased. May you be well pleased with him too, and daily plead him at the divine footstool; for, whatsoever ye ask in the blessed name of Jesus, he will do it,, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
“Are you indeed a broken-hearted sinner? Are you indeed hungering and thirsting after righteousness? Are you indeed feelingly a dog? Does your soul indeed faint within you for a ray of hope? Then you are a blessed character. God’s Word cannot be true and you perish in your sins. When the Lord the Spirit has opened the heart of a sinner and, as it were, broken it in pieces; discovering to the sinner the filth and loathsomeness of its contents, and brought him to tremble at the Word of God, and to be a stench in his own nostrils, and to abhor himself before the Lord, crying feelingly, “Behold, I am vile,” he will never forsake him, but will accomplish the work he has begun. A broken and a contrite heart God will not despise. A poor, broken-hearted sinner appears to have more of the attention of Jehovah and to be more his special care and charge than, all the works of nature put together: “For all those things bath mine hand made, and all those things hath been, saith the Lord; but”—but what? Why, as if the Lord were about to say, But my eye of special grace, care, and favour is fixed elsewhere—“but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Yes, bless his precious name! He not only looks to him, but dwells with him; not merely to look on, but to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
“The blessed Lord of the house is both anointed and sent for the express purpose of binding up the broken-hearted. Poor, brokenhearted sinners may and will find that they often walk in darkness and appear to have no light; but from whence do they discover the loathsomeness of their disease? How came they to hunger, and thirst, and pant for a ray of hope in the precious Redeemer’s blood, &c.? This cannot be in a mind which is at enmity to God; and the carnal, unrenewed mind is enmity to God; and enmity to God cannot produce a desire after the sweet enjoyment of him, and a panting for the manifestations of his love. This springs from the life and light of God, and, in the Lord’s own time, it shall be more fully made manifest. Clouds and darkness are sometimes round about the Lord, and we cannot perceive him. “Unto the upright, there ariseth light in darkness.” But if the upright were never in darkness, there could not arise light unto them in darkness. One promise of the Lord to his people is, he “will make darkness light before them.”
“The Lord enable thee, poor, broken-hearted sinner, by faith and in feeling, to use the language of Micah: “Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy. When I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.”
I will conclude this epistle in the language of the Lord by Isaiah: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” If anything I have written be made a blessing to you, or to any other poor, broken- hearted sinner, may the Lord enable us to give him the glory.
November 3, 1835
A Lover Of Zion
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist.