Monday, October 25, 2010


William Gadsby once preached at Rochdale from the text, "Lord, help me!" Having read his text, he took off his spectacles, and, in his usual, deliberate way, looked round on the congregation, and said, "Friends, by way of introduction, I will tell you how I came by my text."

"Before I was fully in the ministry, I was in business; and, as most business men do, I worked a little on credit. When I gave up business and settled as a preacher and pastor of a congregation, I owed several sums of money; but much more was owing to me, so that I had no fear of being able to pay my creditors. One of these creditors, to whom I owed twenty pounds, called upon me for the payment. I said to him, 'I will see what I can do for you next Monday.'

He called on the Monday, but I had not the money. He was rather cross with me, saying I had no business to promise except I intended to perform. This observation roused my pride, and I told him I would pay him on the coming Monday. He went away in a rage, saying he hoped I would.

I set out the following day to see some of my debtors, not fearing but that I could raise the twenty pounds; but I did not get one farthing. I tried others, but with the same success. I then put down on a sheet of paper the names of several of my friends, certain that I could borrow twenty pounds from anyone of them; but to my utter amazement I was mistaken. All of them could sympathize with me a deal better than lend me anything; and I began to find out that if a man wants to know how many friends he has, he had better try to borrow some money.

The next day I made out another list of names of those not so well able to help me as the former; for I thought if I can get five pounds here and five pounds there, I shall be able to raise it all. I travelled many miles on my errand, spending a whole day, but returned in the evening without one penny. I began to ask myself, 'How is this, that I, a respectable man and, as people say, a popular preacher, cannot in the whole of my acquaintance borrow twenty pounds? I thought I had as many friends as most men, but now I cannot find one that will trust me twenty pounds.' My pride got a terrible shake, and I felt very little indeed.

Friday came, and my spirits were sinking. I could not tell which way to turn. I had promised to pay, and was very anxious to fulfil my promise for good reasons - my honour and veracity as a minister of the gospel were at stake. I feared that if I did not pay the man, he would send me the bailiffs; and for a person to have the bailiffs would be a terrible disgrace. I read the seventy-third Psalm that morning at family prayer, for I thought it was nearest my case. The mournful portions of God's Word best agree with the feelings of God's mourning people. I began to look out texts for the Sunday but I could find none, for I could think of nothing but twenty pounds. I tried to read, but it was of no use; the twenty pounds covered all the letters. Twenty pounds seemed written on everything - on the ceiling, on the walls, in the fire, on my dinner-plate, on the faces of my wife and children; and the whole of that day was one of morbid depression of spirits. I was really miserable.

Saturday morning came, and I rose from a sleepless bed. I ate very little breakfast, and when at prayer I was so overcome with my feelings that my wife asked me if I was poorly or in trouble. 'Yes,' I replied, 'I am in trouble enough'; and I then told her all about the cause of my sorrow.

She was silent for a few minutes, and then said, 'You have often talked and preached about the power of faith; I think you will now need some yourself.'

Having said this, she rose from the chair, and went rattling amongst her pots and kettles. She was evidently mortified because I had been refused the money by those she had considered our friends.

'My wife,' I said to myself, 'is a good Christian woman; but she thinks works are the best evidence of faith, both in preacher and people.'

Saturday was spent much as Friday had been. I was in a state of torpor until evening. I then went upstairs into a little room I called my study with a heavy heart, for I had three times to preach on the Sunday and no text - twenty pounds to pay on the Monday and no money.

What was I to do?

For a long time I sat with my face buried in my hands; and then I fell on my knees, and I believe I said, 'Lord, help me!' a hundred times, for I could say nothing else. While praying, I felt an impression that these words might serve me for one text, and as Sunday came before Monday. I began to prepare as well as I could for Sunday's work, but no other text could I think of but, 'Lord, help me!'

While preaching on the Sunday morning, I had so many thoughts and illustrations arising out of the subject that I felt very great liberty in preaching. One of my illustrations was about a man I well knew, who was a deacon of a church, and had been an executor for two orphan children. He was tempted to make use of the money, and much of it was lost. This so preyed upon his mind that he began to drink. He lost his character, lost his peace of mind, and died with the reputation of a rogue. 'Now,' I said, 'had this man, the executor, when he first thought of taking the children's money been enabled to resist temptation, and to call on God to help him to be honest, help him to do nothing but what a professing Christian ought to do, instead of losing the money, his good name, his peace of mind, and, perhaps, his life, God would have heard his prayer and delivered him.'

Noon came; but my sermon was not half done. I preached from it again in the afternoon, and again in the evening; and I felt that I could have preached from it for a week. So, you see, the Lord helped me through my work on the Sunday, and I believed he would, some way, on the Monday.

After finishing the night's service, when I got to the bottom of the pulpit stairs, a young man stood there with his hat in his hand, wishing to see me in private. I took him into the vestry and requested his errand, expecting it would be something about his soul. For several minutes we were both silent, but at length he said, 'You knew my mother, Mr. Gadsby?'

I looked him in the face, saying, 'Surely I did; but I did not know you at first sight.'

'Well, Sir, when she died, she left me some money; in fact all she had, except two small sums she wished me to give - one sum of five pounds, to a poor old woman of her acquaintance; and, speaking of you, she said, 'Our minister needs help, and I wish you to give him twenty pounds.' I paid the five pounds to the poor woman but, thinking no one knew, I resolved never to give you the twenty pounds. But while you were talking about the roguish executor this morning, I felt thunderstruck; and I have now brought you the twenty pounds. Here it is. Do take it, and forgive me.'

It was now my turn to be thunderstruck. I was amazed; and while the young man was putting the twenty sovereigns into my hand, I trembled all over. God had heard my prayer; he had helped me through the Sunday, and sent me the twenty pounds for the Monday.

It was mine, and I took it. I shook the young man by the hand and, without putting the money into my pocket, I went home quickly, spread it out on the table before my wife saying, 'Here it is. I see now how it was that I could not borrow the money. God knew where it was, and he has sent me the twenty pounds, and delivered me out of my trouble. He has heard my prayer, and helped me; and I will trust Him and praise Him as long as I live.'

Ah! my dear friends, when that little prayer, 'Lord, help me!' comes from the heart of one of God's children in distress, neither men, devils nor angels can tell its power. It has brought me thousands of blessings, besides the twenty pounds.

By William Gadsby

Thursday, October 21, 2010


William Gadsby's Broken Leg - His own account, 1840.

I had for some time fixed that I would spend a few days at Buxton, having before proved that the waters and air of that place had done my poor body much good. I had fixed to go on Monday, September 14th, and to return on Saturday the 19th; and so determined was I to go that I had made up my mind, let me have invitations from wherever I might to go to preach that week, after Lord's day, I would reject them all; for I was fully bent on having a few days' holiday, as we usually call them.

The issue has proved that the Lord and I were both in a mind, as regards my having a holiday; but we had not agreed upon the place where, and the manner how. I had fixed upon the water and fresh air of Buxton; but the Lord had fixed upon my being confined, with a broken leg, to my bed at home; and such have been the kind dealings of the Lord with me that though my affliction has been trying to flesh and blood, I have at times been enabled to bless and praise the dear Lord for His choice.

A friend and I had agreed to go to Buxton together; and, having to fulfil an engagement on the Lord's day (September 13th) at Oldham, a town about seven miles from Manchester, I left it to my friend to take our places in a coach which was to leave Manchester for Buxton at two o'clock on Monday.

I arrived from Oldham about 11 o'clock on Monday morning, and was told that my friend had sent to say that there was no room in the coach. I instantly sent the servant to inform him that there was another coach, which left a little later from a different office, and wished him to take our places in it, if he could.

When the servant had gone, I thought that if the places in this coach were all taken up, I should consider that the Lord did not mean me to go.

But, to make the matter as short as I can, I went into the garden, when my right foot slipped and, stopping against an edging stone, I fell with the whole weight of my body upon my leg, and I heard the bone crack, like the breaking of a stick. I was carried into the house, and when the servant came back, she told me that my friend had taken our places by the coach which was to leave at half-past two; but there was I upon the sofa, with a broken leg.

I sent her back immediately to give my friend the painful information, which, of course, much surprised him.

When the bone was set, and I was laid upon my bed, the Lord was graciously pleased to break into my mind with a sweet and solemn manifestation of His love; and that blessed portion of God's Word, "But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting" (Psalm 103:17), came to my soul with such glorious power that it almost broke my heart.

I felt ashamed and abashed at my negligence and vileness, and was overcome with the matchless mercy of a Three-One God. Such love and such mercy shown to so vile a wretch made me feelingly say, "Goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life," and my very soul magnified a covenant God for the riches of His grace.

At length I began to reflect thus. There are many poor creatures with broken limbs, without home, without friends, and worst of all, without a covenant God; while I, a poor, vile, filthy, forgetful, ungrateful wretch, quite unworthy of any favour, have a comfortable home, with many of my family and friends around me, sympathising with me, and best of all, a glorious and covenant God revealing His love to my poor soul, and enabling me to rejoice in Him as my glorious All and in All.

So gracious did the Lord appear to me, pouring into my soul such a sweet and glorious measure of His precious love, through the rich atonement of Christ, that I really felt my soul bathing in everlasting love and sin-atoning blood; and the
solemn and heavenly breezes of the Holy Ghost did so blessedly revive, cheer and strengthen me, and waft me up into the blessed enjoyment of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, as one blessed covenant Jehovah, that I felt my soul wrapped up in wonder, love and praise.

Here I found heavenly breezes and bathing infinitely excelling all that could be in the air and waters of Buxton; nor could I, for some time, trace a single cross or trial that I had to endure. In very deed I could feelingly say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted" (Psalm 119:71).

These, my dear brethren, were sweet and solemn moments; and to enjoy such indescribable blessings bestowed on so vile a reptile, in glorious harmony with all the perfections of the Triune Jehovah, fully demonstrates that salvation, in all its bearings, is of God's rich, free, sovereign grace; and in my very soul I could give God all the glory.

But this blessed season was not of long duration; for by and by the Lord, in great measure, began to withdraw His lovely presence; my sweet feelings began to decline, and I tremblingly wondered where this change in the frame of my mind would end; for some sad degree of peevishness and discontent of soul began to work.

At length my attention was wonderfully arrested with Hebrews 12:11.

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."

This passage of God's Word quite staggered me. I thought, there are tens of thousands who are afflicted in a variety of ways, and yet no peaceable fruit of righteousness is yielded. But then, said I, this is spoken of the children of God only; yet still I could not get into the text, and if it had got into me, it only appeared to be rooting up my foolishness and exposing my ignorance. I really felt quite fast with the text; for I well recollected that I had been afflicted myself in a variety of ways, and had known others of God's people who had been severely afflicted, and yet at times I had felt no proof in myself, nor seen it in others, that the peaceable fruit of righteousness had been yielded; yet the text speaks positively, "Nevertheless, afterwards it yieldeth."

I was, therefore, led to cry to the Lord that His gracious Majesty would condescend to lead me into the true meaning of the text, and I searched other parts of God's Word to see if I could find a key to this; but instead of finding a key, one in Job 5:17 staggered me almost as much as the other:

"Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth."

So that I was still fast. Thought I, "If all are to be cut off from having any proof of being real Christians who are not happy in being in affliction, and do not yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness in or after the chastisement, what a solemn sweep this will make."

At length I believe the Lord led me to see that a great deal of the marrow of the text lay in the last two words, "exercised thereby."

If we are not properly and truly "exercised" by chastisements, there
is no peaceable fruit of righteousness yielded, and there is no real and true exercise if the Lord Himself is not the Exerciser. So that when He is graciously pleased to exercise by corrections, chastisements and afflictions of various kinds, there will in the end be the peaceable fruit of righteousness yielded. Thus I was led to see that the Lord must be the divine Exerciser, the great Commander-in-Chief; yea, that His gracious Majesty must condescend to come down to the capacity of a drilling-sergeant, and drill and exercise His people by chastisement, or they will remain unfruitful.

A man may put on or have put upon him the dress and armour of a soldier, and wear them for a while; but if he has never been drilled, never been exercised, when he takes off his garments he is just what he was before. So even a child of God may have a variety of afflictions laid upon him; but if the Lord the Spirit does not drill or exercise him thereby, they will leave him where they found him, or more dead, dark and barren; and if anything is yielded, it is awful rebellion against the dispensations of God; and in his feelings he will be ready to say with Job, "O that I might have my request, and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! even that it would please God to destroy me; that He would let loose His hand, and cut me off!" (Job 6:8-9).

And though, when the Lord is truly exercising us, pride, unbelief and carnal reason, with all the powers of corrupt nature, will at times rise up in rebellion, and lustily roar against the Lord's proceedings, still the Lord goes on with His work; nor does He spare for our crying (Proverbs 19:18).

Now, my dear friends, through the unparalleled grace of God, I have been, in some measure, enabled to walk a little in the above path, in its various bearings, in this affliction; for, after I had been blessed with some solemn peace and joy, as above stated, and had, as I thought, got in at the right end of Hebrews 12:11, and had felt a measure of what appeared to be couched in it, I began to have some dreadful workings in my mind; and though I trembled at what I felt, I could not subdue it.

On one occasion, this text came very powerfully to my mind; "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." It came with such power that I was instantly brought down, and replied, "Ay, Lord it is; and especially with a broken leg." Then, for a while, I had some some sweet calm and peace of conscience, and felt that I could recline on the bosom of Jesus, and hold sweet converse with Him.

But in a short time, I got into such a dark, cold, deadly frame of mind that I almost dreaded any friends calling upon me lest they should want me to say something about the things of God.

I can reckon up that since I have been in Manchester (which is more than 36 years) I have travelled, one way or other, more than 60,000 miles; and, though I have had many narrow escapes, I never had any serious accident, as we call it, before.

And for this to take place in my own garden, and under the circumstances that it did, has often staggered my reason.

But, when the Lord has favoured me with His sweet presence and love. I have been enabled to see that it is all right and all in mercy: for, had I been a great distance from home, what a trouble and burden I must have been both to myself
and to others. Therefore the Lord has wisely ordered it; and at times, I can say that He has done all things well.

By William Gadsby


If William Gadsby honoured the Lord in his life, the Lord honoured him in his triumphant death.

He was able to preach on his last Sabbath on earth, thus fulfilling a desire not to be laid aside for long. One present made a note in his Bible opposite the text
(Isaiah 43:2: "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with
): ...Mr. Gadsby preached this sermon with very great fervour, but with very great difficulty of breathing, especially in the evening, when it took him four minutes to ascend the pulpit, having to stop upon every step. But the Lord was very gracious to him in supporting his mind, although suffering in body. He was got home with much difficulty."

The trouble was inflammation of the lungs.

On the Tuesday he had to remain in bed. He was at times harassed by Satan, his poor wife was especially trying, and he suffered much. But now he proved the blessed support of the things he had long preached.

Just before the end, when it was felt his voice was gone, he most solemnly and affectionately prayed for the church and his family. Shortly afterwards he said, "There is nothing too hard for Christ; He is the mighty God - from everlasting to everlasting. He was precious; He is precious." Then raising his left hand, for his right was cold and motionless, he exclaimed, "Victory! victory! victory!" Then after a short sleep, he testified that he was on the Rock.

"Is he precious to you?" asked his friend and fellow-member, John Ashworth, who was constantly with him.

"Yes," he firmly replied. "King, Immanuel, Redeemer, all glorious!"

"You will soon have done here."

"I shall soon be with Him, shouting Victory! victory! victory!" raising his hand, "for ever."

Shortly afterwards he said, "Free grace! free grace! free grace!" and fell asleep in Jesus.

It was Saturday, January 27th, 1844.

So lived and died William Gadsby.

In his desk was found a slip of paper on which he had written his own epitaph.

"Let this be put on my stone," it read. And surely nothing could be more

"Here rests the body of a sinner base,
Who had no hope but in electing grace;
The love, blood, life, and righteousness of God,
Was his sweet theme, and this he spread abroad."

By B.A. Ramsbottom

Bicentenary of William Gadsby

William Gadsby (1773-1844)

A small tribute to this honoured servant of God on the occasion of the bicentenary of his birth.

When God has a work to do, that work must be accomplished; yet how mysteriously and by what unlikely means does He work!

Who would have thought that a small, ragged, barefooted boy, receiving hardly the bare essentials of education, and growing up "as far from God as sheep can run," would one day be one of the most honoured ministers in the churches of truth-indeed, the founder, instrumentally, of forty churches-and that his name
and work would still be honoured two centuries later?

Yet so it was with William Gadsby.

It was just two hundred years ago, on January 3rd, 1773 (or thereabouts-the exact date is uncertain), that a ninth child was born into the family of a poor Warwickshire roadman, John Gadsby. The child was named William. The cottage in Attleborough, near Nuneaton, where he was born, has long since been demolished, but an interesting pen sketch may be seen in the chapel at Attleborough.

We know little of William's early days-just sufficient to catch a glimpse of a lively little boy, full of mischief and frolic, running almost wild about the village, or nursing a younger child almost as soon as he is able to hold it in his arms; a little boy being punished for throwing away a piece of bread, or, feeling he is badly treated, fleeing from home disguised as a hunchback.

Yet already a fallen nature was manifesting itself, especially in dreadful swearing.

At the age of thirteen, he was apprenticed to a ribbon weaver, and ran to great lengths in sin. Already he was a leader among his companions, entertaining them for hours together to their great amusement and delight. As he put it, "I was the life of their society, and they seemed as if they could not live without me."

But "the appointed time rolled on," and about the age of seventeen, the Lord began to work in his heart. He strikingly describes this:

"When the set time came, He arrested me, broke my heart and brought me to stand before His throne as a guilty criminal, brought me to sign my own death warrant. I gave God leave to damn me if He would. I had nothing to offer, and I could do nothing to save myself."

Some of his workmates tried to force him to go with them as formerly, but he so spoke to them of hell and damnation that they were glad to be rid of him.

The Independent Chapel at nearby Bedworth ("black Bed'orth" as it was known on account of its wickedness) was where he now began to attend. His mother soon had to warn him that he would have to go without shoes as he was wearing out his only pair by the constant journeying there and back!

There was a godly zeal in William Gadsby's religion from the beginning.

It would appear that his soul was brought into gospel liberty after a few months of deep and sore spiritual distress. Speaking of this in after years, he said:

"But O! God's peculiar love that was shed abroad in my heart by His blessed Spirit, and which brought me to feel the love and blood of Christ, led me to trace something of the wondrous work of His wonder-working grace! Then how my hard heart was melted! I was brought to His footstool with all humility, simplicity and godly sincerity; filled with gratitude and thanks for God's unspeakable mercies in opening these great mysteries to my poor soul. I was then solemnly and blessedly led to believe in God's free mercy and pardon, and could look up and say, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." I recollect the time when God was graciously pleased to reveal pardon in my poor soul at first. O! what sweetness and solemnity and blessedness there were in my poor heart! I sang night and day the wonders of His love."

By B.A. Ramsbottom (1973)