The following is a copy of the first letter in my possession by my father to the Church:
To the Church of God, meeting for the Worship of our glorious Trinity in the Chapel, George’s Road, Manchester.
Beloved of the adorable Jehovah, and of me, his poor Servant and your Servant, for His sake,—Through the matchless kindness of the Lord, I arrived safely here on Saturday afternoon, and preached on Lord’s day to the largest congregation I ever preached to before in my life; and I believe the Lord was there. One of the deacons tells me they let 2,300 sittings; and the chapel was quite crowded, aisles and everywhere, so you may guess what the numbers present were. God willing, I have to preach again this (Tuesday) evening, and they say it will be as full to-night as it was on Lord’s day; but, be there more or less, if the Lord is there, all will be well.
I wrote to my family yesterday, and did not intend writing to you till next week; but the friends tell me that a letter has been sent to you, asking you to allow me to stop here six weeks. As soon as I heard that, I thought it best to write, lest you should think this was by my desire; but I assure you it is not; nor do I wish you to consent to any such thing, unless you do it cheerfully, with a view to serve them, considering the situation they are in. If you refuse them, you will not in the least hurt my mind.
The friends at Bath wanted me to promise to stop there one Lord’s day; but I told them I could not do so. They said they would write to you; and I told them if they did you would not let me stay, I believed. So you have, perhaps, a letter from them also.
Now I want you in that case also to act for yourselves. If you agree to let me stop six weeks, and I must have my choice in it, I would rather be five here and one at Bath; for it is a long journey to take in one week, it being about 330 miles; and we have to stop one night at Exeter, another at Bath, and another at Birmingham; and what with having to get up so early in the morning this winter time and other circumstances, it would be very trying. But, observe; I do not desire you to grant me any more time than my month that you agreed to at first. O that the Lord of the harvest would send more laborers into his harvest; for if I were two men I could have plenty of work. But the Lord can raise up more and send them forth.
I hope Brother Franklin is well, that the Lord is with him and you and that his visit will be made a lasting blessing to you and to him. Give my love to him, and tell him I wish him well, in the name of the Lord; and ask him if he will object to come to Plymouth Dock in the summer, if I should mention him to the people. They are not Baptists.
My dear brethren, and the flock of my charge, I can assure you you are in my heart, and I never feel more union to you than I do, at times, when I cannot see you. In my right moments I hope and pray that nothing but death may part us; and sure I am that death itself will only draw a curtain between us for a short season. Strictly speaking, it cannot part us; for Christ and his beloved bride are but one, and shall ever be one; and all circumstances must unite, under the divine management of our ever-to-be-adored Guide, and work for our real good. To be blessed to live and walk by faith in Christ is to live in eternal life and walk upon safe ground. Bless his precious name, he is all and in all unto us. Part with us he never will; do us harm he never can. It will ever be his honour to do us good and to bless us. May you be directed by his wisdom to settle all the matters of the church which may come before you, with a view to his glory and your welfare; and each and all of you walk in the world, in the family, and in the church as it becomes that blessed gospel which has made you free; and then you will have no cause to fear any circumstance, from any quarter whatever.
May God support you, night and day,
And make you steadfast in his way;
Direct and guide you in that path,
Which leads from bondage, guilt, and death.
May the Eternal Paraclete,
Upon each conscience Jesus seat;
His matchless beauties thus unfold,
And make you humble, meek, and bold.
May love divine cheer every heart,
And make you with all idols part.
May you have intercourse with God,
By faith in Jesu’s precious blood.
May you on Christ cast every care,
Nor death, nor world, nor devils fear;
But his dear name and words revere,
So prays your Pastor, worthless I,
Known by the name of William Gadsby.
O my dear brethren, may you pray for me and mine. I hope you will not forget my dear wife. The Lord lay her upon your hearts, and hear and answer your prayers. O what a jubilee it would be to me to see my dear wife restored to her reason. The Lord bless her and my family in my absence; and bless you all with wisdom and grace from above. My heart is with you, and, in my very soul, I can, in the best sense, say, Fare ye well!—Plymouth Dock, Jan. 29,1822.
[There were no railways in those days; and 330 miles by coach in the winter must indeed have been very trying.]
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist.