William Gadsby – A Sinner Saved and A Preacher Made

William Gadsby (1773-1844)

The LORD recorded the lives of many of His saints and in Hebrews 11 honours their memory. God honours those who honour him and honour His Son, and so I honour one of His saints in this paper. I love biographies, especially those in scripture. I love to read how the LORD saved such out and out sinners by His sovereign grace and power and what He did to them and through them. One such sinner saved and called to be a preacher was William Gadsby, born in the small village of Attleboro, England.

Born in great poverty, the last of nine children, son of a sinful and roaming father; William spent his boyhood running wild about the village, barefoot and ragged. He quit school at 13 (never to receive any more education), became a weaver, and ran to great lengths in sin; the ring leader of all his sinful companions. But God . . .

About the age of 17, he later said, “The Lord began to arrest me and bring me to see that I was a guilty criminal about to sign my own death warrant. I knew God could damn me if He would, and I could do nothing to save myself.” He then began to attend a little Baptist chapel in nearby Bedworth and heard the gospel. A short time later he said: “I was then solemnly and blessedly led to believe in God’s free mercy and pardon; and could look up and say that, ‘Christ loved me and gave Himself for me.’ O what sweetness, solemnity and blessedness there was in my poor heart! I sang night and day of the wonders of His love.”

About the age of 25, William preached his first sermon in an upper room. It was said that many were astonished that such a rough looking young man should attempt to preach. But preach he did, and began to preach regularly in on old barn in Hogg Lane, to good number of people on a regular basis. The Lord made quite a preacher of Gadbsy, who also wrote and promoted the singing of hymns; his book, Gadsby’s Hymnal we know and love.

Gadsby was called a strong Calvinist as opposed to John Wesley as a strong Arminian. He was slandered as being an Antinomian because of his strong belief that the law is not the believer’s rule of conduct, and so was despised, opposed and treated with contempt by many.

William Gadsby preached God’s sovereign electing, redeeming grace in Christ for many years; he lived to preached his last sermon on the LORD’s day and died on Saturday. His dying words were recorded. While on his death bed he said, “Christ is the mighty God . . . from everlasting to everlasting. He was precious, He is precious”. . . he then raised his hand and exclaimed, “Victory! Victory! Victory! . . . he slept briefly, awoke and said that he ‘was on the Rock.’ A short time later, his very last words were, “Free grace! Free grace! Free grace! . . . and fell asleep in Jesus.

In his desk, after his death, was found a slip of paper on which he had written his own epitaph. “Let this be put on my stone,” he wrote:

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.

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