“The Gospel Brings Tidings,” by William Gadsby (1773–1844), was one of my favorite hymns during the Berkeley years. It is, I admit, obscure. It’s not on Cyberhymnal or any of the hymnals indexed on hymnary.org. Far as I can tell, its only recent publication is by Red Mountain Music, in one of their albums drawn entirely from Gadsby’s Hymns.
Gadsby’s Hymns is mainly used by Strict Baptists in England and Primitive Baptists in America, but it contains many gems worthy of a broader audience. It was compiled by Gadsby for his congregation; he sought to form a collection “free from Arminianism,” so the hymns would match the preaching. It was not free of contributions by Arminians, however, as Charles Wesley hymns are set alongside ones by John Newton, Joseph Hart, and himself. It was published in 1814 and expanded in 1838. It was further supplemented by J.C. Philpot after Gadsby’s death. It contained no music, like most older hymnals, so a Companion Tune Book was made for it in 1927.
Gadsby was a minister with the Strict Baptists, an old hyper-Calvinist denomination in England. I’m not using that term in the common sense, where “hyper” is effectively a stand-in for several swear words. (Or maybe it means, “Mark Driscoll right after downing two Red Bulls.”) The Strict Baptists denied faith in Christ to be a universal human duty. The gospel call is only truly offered to the elect. Happily, this doctrine did not infect most of his hymns.
“The Gospel Brings Tidings” is based on Isaiah 61:1-3:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
Jesus read from this passage in the synagogue and said of it, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)
The gospel brings tidings, glad tidings indeed,
To mourners in Zion, who want to be freed
From sin, and from Satan, and Mount Sinai’s flame,
Good news of salvation, through Jesus the Lamb.