William Gadsby by Ian J Shaw

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Bitesize Biography

Author Ian J Shaw

ISBN 9780852349311

Pages160

Most people encounter William Gadsby through singing the small number of his hymns that are still in general use. In Strict Baptist circles his name continues to be held in high esteem for his work as a preacher, for his hymn book, and as founder of the Gospel Standard magazine.

Although Gadsby is perhaps not so well known as many others of his time, Ian Shaw reveals him to be a unique but clear, earnest preacher who had the gospel at the centre of all he did. His ministry was shaped by his own poverty as a child, and he was able to touch people of all social backgrounds, preaching and ministering extensively to those both inside and outside the church. Yet his desire above all was to point people to Christ and he humbly did that, earning him the apt title of ‘The Apostle of the North’.

‘For most evangelical Christians, William Gadsby is known, if at all, for a few particular hymns, notably: “O what matchless condescension” and “Immortal honours rest on Jesus’ head”. Ian Shaw has set this significant Strict Baptist preacher in his context of the industrial north during the tragic and turbulent years of social unrest in the early nineteenth century. Gadsby’s thriving congregation in the very heart of Manchester’s poverty and squalor, his vigorous voice against injustice, and his passion for the “free grace” of the gospel meant that across the north of England his name was so well known and respected that the Manchester Times wished him a speedy recovery after an accident. Gadsby’s theological convictions, political courage and social commitment are vividly told and reveal him as far more than the author of a few Strict Baptist hymns. This is a book every Baptist should read — strict or not.’

Brian Edwards author, lecturer and preacher

‘This brief treatment of the life and labours of William Gadsby manages to be both frank and fair, highlighting the strengths of Gadsby’s ministry without neglecting the contentions and weaknesses, stirring us by the former and warning us by the latter. Pastors and preachers wrestling with the opportunities and demands of ministry in our day — especially in cities — would be well served carefully to consider and learn from the example of this earnest man.’

Jeremy Walker co-pastor of Maidenbower BC, Crawley

Dr Ian J. Shaw served as a pastor, before undertaking a PhD in Church History at the University of Manchester. He then lectured in Church History at International Christian College, Glasgow, and is currently Director of the Langham Scholarship Programme in the UK, which supports the training of Christian leaders from the Developing World.