William Gadsby’s Broken Leg (His Own Account)
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