Tuesday 21 January 2014

William Gadsby - Bitesize Biography

William Gadsby represents all that is best in the 'Gospel Standard' wing of High Calvinist Baptists.
In this book historian Dr Ian Shaw outlines the basics of Gadsby's life, but clearly draws upon his fuller study of Gadsby and Manchester to concentrate more on the character of the man and his pastorate in the context of the period of the industrial revolution.  It is a great pity that that previous study of his contained in 'High Calvinists in Action: Calvinism and the City, Manchester and London 1810-1860,' first published by OUP in 2002, now costs a scandalous price new or secondhand.  But at least some of the material is reworked in this bitesize offering. It is recommended reading. As fair an assessment is given of Gadsby as can be expected from an author not of the same theological persuasion.  Many anecdotes are borrowed from B. A. Ramsbottom's major biography, and so we meet and cannot but like Gadsby for his generosity and respect him as a pastor fighting for his people.  He did not set out to be an activist, but when the welfare of his church was at stake he was willing to speak out and engage with the issues of the day.
Notably little is mentioned of Gadsby's writings, which filled two volumes - not bad for a man who could scarcely read his Bible when converted as a young man!  These writings reflect how fiercely he was assaulted by the adopters of Andrew Fuller's duty faith doctrine, and by 'antinomian-sniffers'.  Hopefully his Works will be reprinted in full in due course, but in the meantime CBO Publications have made some important portions available via our bookshop, and Gospel Standard Publications have produced a book of his sermons plus his very useful catechism.  I have blogged on this before.
At the very least this book gives a balance to much of the anti-Gadsby propaganda that has been put out over the years, and a new generation can benefit from an account of this godly man and perhaps come to appreciate his sovereign grace message - still preached today.

William Gadsby by Ian J Shaw is published by EP Books in their 'Bitesize Biography' series.  Cost £6.99. From us £6.

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