The following treatise is the substance of eleven sermons preached at the Baptist Chapel, St. George’s-Road, Manchester.
If the author know his own heart, his design in publishing this tract is not to gratify the curious, to amuse the carnal mind, to bolster up the self-righteous in a false hope, nor yet to encourage an Antinomian presumption. He hopes that he has not so learned Christ as to be pleased with anything so opposite to the honour of the dear Redeemer. His design is, to glorify God in the real comfort and edification of his blood-bought family, and to clear the blessed gospel of those blasphemous aspersions which men have cast upon it. How far this end may be answered, he must leave to the righteous judgment of his Divine Master, and to the household of faith.
It is an awful fact, that we live in a day when the best name which the truth, as it is in Jesus, can obtain among the bulk of the professing world, is that of “Antinomianism;” and whoever dare be bold to declare, in the language of Scripture, that the believer is “dead to the law by the body of Christ,” is sure to be published, far and near, as an enemy to holiness and a propagator of licentiousness, unless, after he has so said, he be dexterous enough to make the Scripture speak what it never thought of; and if he can do this, he may go through the world without being besmeared with religious slander; but if he be not able to do this, his name must be cast out as evil; and whatever malicious lie is forged, and is fathered on such a character, it is received with the greatest glee, as being a real truth.
It is certain that the old trade of “Report, and we will report it,” never was in a more flourishing state than at this time. Indeed, could government only hit on a plan to fix a duty on this trade, it is not to say what an immense revenue it would produce.
Within these few months, there is scarcely a frothy tale that has been heard of for the last century but what has been fathered on me. and that without the least foundation. To name the whole of them would seem absurd; nevertheless, the religious world receives them with the greatest satisfaction and pleasure, and is very active in publishing them abroad, as undeniable facts. Yea, there are “Perfectionists”‘ in the town of Manchester, that have openly declared they have heard me say things which, God knoweth, never entered into my head before this holy tribe fathered them on me.
But these are not the only class of pious (not to say impious) souls who are engaged in this trade of scandal-bearing. No, Sirs; be it known to the honour of gentlemen of the cloth, who profess to be Calvinists, that numbers of them are as industrious as most men in this business.
There is a story fathered on me, concerning comparing the dress of the ladies to a pound note, which story, vulgar as I am, I have too much modesty to explain; nor does it need any explanation: and if any person should read this, who is a stranger to the story, and to others equally false and ridiculous, I can assure him it will never do him any good to know them. But false and fulsome as the tale is, it has been a delicious meal for gentlemen of the cloth; a sample or two of which I will give you.
A minister in Yorkshire came lately to Manchester, to preach one Lord’s Day, and, somewhere or other, he picked up this ridiculous lie; and in full glee he returned to Yorkshire, and there spared neither time nor pains to make it known; the recital of which, it seems, gave no small pleasure to many; and so in a very short time it was spread far and near.
Another minister, from a different quarter, had been, if I mistake not, to Blackburn, to a meeting professedly designed to promote the interest of Christ. While there among his brethren, or elsewhere, he too picked up this malicious untruth, and off he sets to the far end of Lancashire, where, after expressing a deal of modesty, as though he could scarce put on a face to tell what William Gadsby had said in the pulpit, he took care not to let the favourable opportunity slip, and so he made it known in those parts. “And what will be the end thereof?”
But let it be understood that these two are not the only industrious gentlemen concerned in this wonderful traffic. No, Sirs; 1 only mention these as a sample; and would advise them, and all that follow their calling, to read the 59th chapter of Isaiah, the 4th and 14th verses.
Some may be ready to ask, “What end can these gentlemen in black have in view, in thus propagating such lies?” It is hard to say; but if 1 may venture to speak their thoughts, I will freely tell you what it is. They say I am an Antinomian, and they think they do God service in holding me up to contempt. Besides, I am in the habit of going to preach the word of life far and near, as far as my strength and circumstances will admit; and there are many people, in different places, that are so weak as to come and hear me, and some of them profess to have the word blessed to their souls. Now this, you must know, gives great offence to some of the ministers, especially if the people dare venture to evidence any dislike towards Half-way Arminianism, and want Christ and him crucified set before them at all times. This is an intolerable crime, and, of course, ought to be withstood. I am not going to say that all who profess to be attached to the things which God enables me to deliver are men of God. No; this would be saying more than the Lord of the house himself could say when he was upon earth; but one thing I can assure you of, there have been no less than nine members cut off at once from one church, and the only crime brought against them was, they would not promise not to hear me preach in that town; so that the old craft of putting out of the synagogues is not yet given up. But with all they can do, the people do hear, and will hear. Well; if even excommunication is not gospel sufficient to satisfy the hungry soul and put a stop to this Antinomianism, as it is called, what method can next be so likely as a heap of scandals cast upon the preachers and the hearers thereof? This appears to be the last shift, by which means they seem to entertain a hope of blunting the edge of the truth, and of keeping their flocks peaceably at home.
Whether this tribe of scandal-bearers ever expect to appeal before the judgment-seat of Christ, is not for me to determine; but one thing I know, if they are to be judged by their only ride of life, they will be in a poor state when they that have borne false witness against their neighbour shall receive according to their deeds.
I doubt not but this will fall into the hands of many who must, of necessity, blush, if they have any conscience left unseared. May the Lord have mercy on them!
It has been by some remarked that, though they cannot gainsay what 1 preach, they believe I have something behind which 1 keep back. To such 1 reply, 1 have no private sentiments in divine things, nor have I any very favourable opinion of those who have. I preach, as far as God gives me ability, all that I believe; nor have I made the least reserve in the following work, but have freely stated my views of both the law and the gospel; and, God is my witness, 1 have not designedly kept anything back relating to the subject, but have endeavoured to state my views as clearly as I am able.
I believe that the gospel is the perfect will of God in Christ Jesus, as Head and King in Zion; and that this, in its various branches, is the believer’s rule of life. If this can be overturned, I am wrong; if not, I am right. For this I contend, and shall feel myself obliged so to do till I am convinced that I am in error, and am taught a better way.
I can assure the reader that 1 am no enemy to the precepts of Christ, as may be seen in this work, nor do I consider them enemies to me. Through the riches of God’s grace, I can bless God for precept as well as promise, for 1 am under a great mistake if they have not been of great use to me; and, through the sweet teachings of the blessed Spirit, I hope to endure all the malicious slanders of a professing as well as of a profane world with Christian resignation and cheerful fortitude, having tasted a little of the sweetness contained in the following passage ofthe Word of Life:—”Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12.)
Into the hands of a covenant God I commit this work; and should it be found, in the end, that it contains errors, I have proved too much of the kindness of God, on the one hand, and the enmity of man, on the other, not to prefer David’s choice, viz., to fall into the hands of God rather than man. At the same time, 1 am not aware of any errors which it contains; but as I do not profess perfection in the flesh, it may be, that imperfections may be found in the production of an imperfect mortal; but, God is my witness, I have a view to his glory, and the welfare of Zion, and, as such, I must do violence to my conscience not to maintain the things herein recorded.
That the Holy Spirit will make bare his arm, and, as far as it shall please him. make known the truths of the Gospel in the hearts of those who read this work, is the prayer of the servant of Christ, and of the Church of God for Christ’s sake,
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist. John Hazelton wrote of him—
“[Gadsby’s] labours extended to well-nigh every part of the country, and who by his sermons, hymns, and other writings, exerted a wide spiritual influence, and his interest in the poor and needy in Lancashire and elsewhere rendered his public advocacy of their cause of great value. In him we have a man of eminent public spirit, as well as of originality and spiritual force…The first time he preached was in 1798, in an upper room in a yard at Bedworth, from the words, "Unto you therefore which believe, He is precious." His Hymn Book, now so widely known, was first published in 1814, his desire being "to have a selection of hymns free from Arminianism and sound in the faith, that the Church might be edified and God glorified.” He removed to Manchester in 1805, and while over the Church there he travelled over 60,000 miles and preached nearly 12,000 sermons.”