He embraced a system of doctrine known as Socinianism, which among other things, included a denial of the Trinity and a works-based approach to salvation. Nevertheless, he was ordained for the ministry and began preaching, first at a church in Stapleford near Cambridge, and later at the Everton vicarage.
Consistent with his Socinian beliefs, his preaching was largely moralistic and lacked any gospel substance. He prayed for God to show him whether he had a proper understanding of the faith or not, and God answered his prayer one day as he was meditating on Scripture.
This event changed Berridge forever. This decision revolutionized not only his own life, but the lives of his hearers. All of a sudden he had people coming to him inquiring about salvation, and Berridge saw that his preaching started to have a positive effect in his church. Berridge described what happened:.
I preached up sanctification by works of the law very earnestly for six years in Stapleford, and never brought one soul to Christ. I did the same at Everton for two years, without any success at all. But as soon as I preached Jesus Christ, and faith in his blood, then believers were added to the Church continually; then people flocked from all parts to hear the glorious sound of the gospel; some coming six miles, others eight, and others ten.
And what is the reason why my ministry was not blessed, when I preached up salvation partly by faith and partly by works? It is because this doctrine is not of God, and because he will prosper no ministers but such as preach salvation in his own appointed way; namely, by faith in Jesus Christ. The gospel had transformed his ministry! He found himself preaching in fields, and barns, and under trees; and his ministry extended to several counties throughout England. In many of the places he went, he found himself to be opposed and persecuted by other Anglican ministers, but he would not be deterred from the great task of preaching the gospel.
John Berridge ( –) - Owen Spencer-Thomas
He was committed to preaching Christ crucified for the rest of his life, and he faithfully preached the gospel for 37 years, until he died in Everton in Yet, what has always impressed me about John Berridge is that he not only lived in a manner worthy of the gospel, he also died in a manner worthy of the gospel. Berridge was buried in the Everton churchyard; and in keeping with his own request, he was buried in the part of the cemetery that had previously been used only for those who had lived and died in a dishonorable way.
The Works of Mr. Berridge now offered to the public, will comprise many curious anecdotes, and a great number of letters, written in a style of singular originality, and peculiarly interesting, which I have obtained from various quarters. This circumstance I must plead as an apology for delaying so long the appearance of the publication now sent forth.
Desirous of availing myself of every possible information respecting Mr. Berridge, as well as of every letter he wrote, I have made application to every one, who, I had any reason to conclude, could subserve my wishes.
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This step has occasioned the loss of much time; but it has been the means of obtaining what could not otherwise have been realized. I do not, however, suppose that all the letters Mr. Berridge wrote though he was not very fond of letter-writing have been procured: some may still be in the possession of the descendants of some of his friends and correspondents.
John Berridge (1716 – 1793)
Every search, however, has been made amongst his relations, and amongst others, with whom he had any connexion, as far as my knowledge extended, and the direction given me by others; but not one letter more do I know of than what now appear. The number of letters, which I have procured, will sufficiently show the peculiarity of his manner of corresponding with his friends, and will be read, I doubt not, with no common emotions. Berridge's farewell sermon preached at the Tabernacle, and outlines of many sermons, which he gave to me before his death, with observations on passages of scripture, are added.
He did not compose his outlines in a very complete manner; but only wrote the leading ideas without much of introduction, or application. These he left to be uttered at the time of preaching his sermons.
Inspired by his faith
With respect to the work entitled " The Christian World Unmasked,'" some alterations have been made in it, in strict accordance with what he himself would have made had he republished it. The reason for so doing, appears in the advertisement prefixed to the work which I published, some years ago, and which is retained in the present volume.
The Hymns which he composed during a cessation from public labours occasioned by illness, are perfectly original; and, though they may not in general please some fastidious readers, they contain most important instruction on the essentials of Christianity, embracing every trait of Christian experience in the commencement of a religious course, and during its continuance here below, and frequently animating the hearts of the truly pious by descriptions of the heavenly state.
May the Lord, who by the powerful influences of his Holy Spirit, inspired his faithful servant, John Berridge, with such uncommon zeal in the cause of true religion, and rendered his ministry so abundantly successful, vouchsafe his effectual blessing to those, who may read his works, that their hearts may be enlivened, and that they may be deeply impressed with the importance of more fully serving and glorifying God, and showing forth his praise! Potion Vicarage, Nov.
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