The Pastor To His Flock.
Letter of January 29, 1822.
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 tonight 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, [There were no railways in those days; and 330 miles by coach in the winter must indeed have been very trying.]; 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 honor 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, January 29, 1822.
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There are many letters in the “G.S.” to the Church, but I must leave them. The following is the last he wrote to them. It was written a few months before his death, after a certain minister in London, high in doctrine, had been propagating the sentiments that a child of God cannot backslide and that Sin can do a child of God no harm:
To the Family of God, meeting for the worship of their adorable Lord in George’s Road, Manchester.
Dear Brethren,—Through the tender mercies of the Lord, I am still in the path of life; and though I find it a path of tribulation, I am, in some solemn, and at times, sweet measure, enabled to unite with Moses, choosing “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season,” esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of the world. I would rather have my name cast out as evil to my dying moment by men who can boast of their high attainments, and who scorn the trials and troubles, groans and sighs, doubts and fears of God’s people, or by those who can deny the possibility of God’s people ever, in any measure, backsliding; I would rather suffer all that the scorn of such men’s hearts can bring forth, than be one with them.
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The wonders of the grace of a Three-One God surpass all our powers to comprehend, and his gracious Majesty takes the advantage of dark ways and proceedings to make more and more of the wonders of his grace known. I should never have known as much as I do, little as that is, of the wonders of God’s providence and grace, if it had not been for trials and some of them trials from false brethren; and I must say that I have had reason to bless God that he suffered them to take place. O the blessedness of proving, in the life and power of it, that God is a very present help in trouble! If trouble-makers knew the blessed advantage the Lord takes of their proceedings, for the purpose of making known his power, love, and glory to those whom they trouble, they would have but little room for gladness. But there must rise up erroneous men, who produce heresies among the people of God that those which are approved may be made manifest. I have proved the truth of this more than once. I hope the Lord will keep both you and me much in prayer, and at his dear feet, leaning upon his bosom, seeking wisdom, grace, and strength from him alone. The Lord only is able to direct us aright and to bless us, and keep us with a good conscience towards God and man. Remember, my dear friends, the Lord of the house has told us that “there shall arise false christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” And indeed, they shall deceive many professors.
Now, my friends, as all things are possible to them that believe, the man who can in his own view always believe, and can set at naught the fears and faintings, groans and sighs, pantings and mournings of God’s poor tried children, must be one of those wonder-working prophets; and the Lord says, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Again: “Take heed what you hear.” And again: “Take heed how you hear.” Now, my dear friends, in the name and fear of the Lord, I entreat you to endeavor to look to the Lord for wisdom to direct you, and do not trust your own hearts, nor lean to your own understanding; for however men may boast of faith and happiness, all faith and happiness that does not stand in the life and power of God is but delusion; and the stronger it is, the greater is the delusion. May God Almighty enable you to be watchful, prayerful, and cautious; and to pray for me, that the Lord may be with me and bless me with much of his sweet presence and love. I feel myself a poor fool, and wonder that the Lord will take so much pains with such a crawling worm; but “his mercy is for ever sure.” Bless his precious name he gave my soul a blessed lift on Lord’s day morning, with a sweet application of that text: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Honors crown his blessed brow, he is more than a match for men and devils, and his people shall prove that he will overrule all things for their good. His gracious Majesty takes advantage of the horrible workings of corrupt nature to show us how vile we are, and the ability of Jesus to save. Nevertheless, when men can trifle with sin, and say, “O, what is sin? It is a mere nothing,” &c., such men prove that, however high they are in doctrine, they have not had a solemn soul-visit to Gethsemane. They must be total strangers to fellowship with the sufferings of Christ. To have a true feeling sense of our vileness, and a precious application of the atonement to the conscience of such a vile sinner, is a path that such men are strangers to. May you and I be more deeply acquainted with that religion which sickens us of self, stands in the power of God, and leads us in very deed to give God all the glory of salvation; that religion which keeps us from self-boasting and leads us to glorify the Lord; then come what will, all must be well.
I hope the Lord is with Mr. Gorton, and that you and he enjoy some sweet moments in the love and fear of the Lord. God willing, I expect to be at home for the 18th of June, and I hope that the Lord will come with me, and enable both the church and myself to act in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Wishing you all the blessed teaching of the Lord, and much of his love and presence, I remain, Your loving Pastor.—London, May 27, 1843.