The Law, When it Knows Not the Gospel… Or, Judgmentalism vs. Grace

repenting-sinnerMay I tell you of a minister who loudly preached the law and sternly pronounced the judgment of the Lord against what he considered every form of evil?

He had a beautiful daughter, who was lured into forbidden ways. A more simple-minded, trustful child never blessed the fireside of any home. But she was led away. Not all at once did she take the great leap into the terrible darkness; she traversed a gently inclined plane. Could she have spoken freely to her father, she would never have gone so far; but when she did speak to him, he received her at the point, the cold sharp point, of the law. He did not understand her tears! He knew not that righteousness must be merciful if it would be complete. He was stern, hard, upright man who weighed and measured everything by law, and turned the gospel itself into redemption of arithmetic.

This child left him.

She soon felt the cold and the darkness, the bitter hunger and the sharp pain of those who are the servants of sin. In much suffering –such suffering as tears the heart in secret and goads the brain to madness,” she turned her steps towards her father’s house, and asked me on the way to plead for her. I cannot forget her woe-worn face; there were great red rings round her beautiful eyes,” eyes which should have been full of light, of young hope and girlish merriment. She was old too soon; she had drunk of the cup of which if any woman drink she can never be young again.

She came to me. The night was darkened by great rains, which fell through a keen north wind, and yet she had but little on to keep out the sharpness of the harsh night. She stammered out that she was tired and sad and penitent, and that she longed to tell her father so, and die in her mother’s chair.

I hastened to him. I never went so quickly anywhere in my life–to tell him that he might rise at once almost to heaven, for his child, so long-lost, was at the door.

“I cannot see her, sir; no wicked person shall dwell in my sight.”

“But she is penitent.”

“She must prove that before I can receive her.”

“Sir ! do you talk so about your poor, weary, shamed child? See her but for a moment, and you will pity her misery.”

“Sir,” said he in a hard legal tone, “the way of transgressors is hard.”

“Sir,” said I, “am ashamed of you. Such hearts as yours never knew the gospel of Jesus Christ; you were never in Gethsemane” you were never on Calvary. Your poor, wronged, sinning, broken-hearted child will be in heaven, upon the breast of the living God, and you yourself will be justly thrust down to hell.”

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

–Dr. Joseph Parker.


Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Joseph Parker (9 April 1830 – 28 November 1902) was an English Congregational minister.  In the revolutionary years from 1845 to 1850 young Parker as a local preacher and temperance orator gained a reputation for vigorous utterance. He was influenced byThomas Cooper, the Chartist, and Edward Miall, the Liberationist, and was much associated with Joseph Cowen, afterwards MP for Newcastle upon Tyne.

At the time, he was wooing a local girl — Ann Nesbitt, daughter of William Nesbitt, a farmer of Horsley–on–Tyne. He referred to her as “Annie, the soul I loved, the girl that saved me, and made me a man”. Horsley was about ten miles from Hexham, and he became acquainted with the Nesbitts through his preaching there, and Mr Nesbitt, a trustee and deacon of Horsley Congregational Church was especially interested in the young preacher, who, on Sunday nights, brought them the news of the town and slept in a “snug little chamber” in the old farmhouse.

In the spring of 1852 Joseph Parker. wrote to Dr John Campbell, minister of Whitefield Tabernacle, Moorfields, London, for advice as to entering the Congregational ministry, and after a short probation he became Campbell’s assistant. He also attended lectures in logic and philosophy at University College London. From 1853 to 1858 he was pastor at Banbury. His next charge was at Cavendish Street, Manchester, where he rapidly made himself felt as a power in English Nonconformity. While here he published a volume of lectures entitled Church Questions, and, anonymously, Ecce Deus (1868), a work provoked by Seeley’s Ecce Homo. The University of Chicago conferred on him the degree of D.D.

In 1869, he returned to London as minister of the Poultry church, founded by Thomas Goodwin. Almost at once he began the scheme which resulted in the erection of the great City Temple in Holborn Viaduct. It cost £70,000, and was opened on 19 May 1874. From this centre his influence spread far and wide. His stimulating and original sermons, delivered with a ready command of vigorous English, made him one of the best known personalities of his time