A Sermon and Prayer Delivered by JOSEPH JOHN GURNEY at Arch Street Meeting-house (Philadelphia,) First-day Evening, Second Month, Fourth, 1838.
Hopper, Edward. Sermons and Prayers, Delivered in the City of Philadelphia by Joseph John Gurney. Philadelphia: Kay and Brother, 1838.

This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Section Three: The 19th Century.

The Sermon:

"Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand before you whole." "And his name, through faith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all."

Such, or nearly such, was the language of the apostle Peter, in company with his anointed brother John, when he was examined, before the rulers of the Jews, touching the notable miracle which they had been instrumental in performing at the beautiful gate of the temple. And it seems to me, that it may be worthy of remark, that this remarkable miracle was distinguished like the other miracles of the New Testament, therein described, by certain circumstances which greatly enhance the value of the evidence thereof, as a credential of the divine authority of our holy religion, considered as a message from the Supreme Governor of the universe. That miracle was wrought in the presence of many witnesses in public. The change produced in the poor believing cripple was immediate, and could not possibly be accounted for by any secondary cause, for he had been a cripple from his very birth; and moreover, the fact was afterwards tested by a close public examination, and the rulers of the Jews were totally unable to find the least flaw in it. And I believe it would be well for some skeptical minds to observe the difference between the miracles of Christianity, and those false wonders wrought as it were, in secret corners, as some people assert, which have disgraced the annals of some modern religious professors.

Now, my dear friends, the more we examine the recorded history of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his apostles, the more we shall find that the evidence of the direct divine authority of the christian religion, rests on very sober, and very solid grounds; satisfactory to the most enlightened and profound of reasoners, satisfactory also to the simple in heart, who perhaps are the very best judges of plain truth. And I have been led during the very solemn silence which has prevailed in the early part of this meeting, to dwell a little upon this confession made by the apostle; and it seems right for me to remark that, not only have we here an evidence palpable and very plain, of the divine authority of the message of life and salvation which the apostles communicated to their fellowmen, --their words being confirmed by their works, as the words of truth - but it seems to me impossible to take a calm and fair view of this memorable event, without perceiving in it, one evidence among many others, of the true and proper divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ; of the omnipotent power in him, by which he controlled and suspended the very laws of nature according to his own will; because we plainly find that the marvelous change wrought upon that poor decrepit one, was not produced by any power whatever in the apostles; they were bare instruments of the introduction, as it were, of that event; it was by the name of Jesus Christ, even by him, that the poor cripple stood before the admiring multitude, whole; and not only stood, but walked, and leaped, and praised God. And it was by faith in the name of the Saviour, that he was restored to that perfect state of bodily strength in the presence of them all; just as the leper was, before many witnesses also, when he came in the true faith to Jesus, "and worshipped, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." And Jesus answered, "I will; be thou clean." So there was first an expression of the sovereign will or purpose, and then the act of divine power immediately follows. And we are expressly informed, that when the apostles went forth on their high, holy, and truly pre-eminent mission of promulgating the great truths of the gospel, in all their fullness, to a world lying in darkness, it is expressly stated, that the Lord, even the Lord Jesus, went with them confirming their words by signs following. And although the apostles were the appointed instruments by which these miracles were wrought, it is abundantly clear that it was the power of the risen and glorified Jesus, by which they were effected. As on another occasion, when Peter stood by the bed-side of the palsied Eneas; he said unto him, "Eneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole."

Now it may be remarked, and it does appear a very important circumstance, that the apostle expressly declares, that the miracle of this cripple from his birth, was wrought by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. We find it so in parts of the relation; Jesus Christ of Nazareth; the incarnate One, my beloved friends. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." Jesus of Nazareth, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, whose visage was more marred than any man, and his form more than the sons of men. Jesus of Nazareth, who took upon him the form of a servant, and washed his disciples' feet; and came not into the world to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus of Nazareth, whose sweat was as great drops of blood, when he was in agony in the garden of Gethsemane, and when the plaintive cry was heard to rise up, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." Jesus of Nazareth, who bowed under the weight of his cross, who was nailed to that fatal tree on Calvary's Mount, and who was hanging there in indescribable agony of body, for the space of about six hours; and you know friends that during these three noon-day hours, there was, the latter part of the time, a veil and a shroud of solemn portentous darkness upon the face of nature, and nature seemed to own her sovereign Lord! And O, the depth of the affliction of his soul, when under the inconceivable pressure of the sins of all mankind, in all ages, he cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And at length in the most solemn and important of all moments that have ever marked the course of time in the history of mankind, he said, "It is finished: and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost." Then, my beloved friends, was the great atoning sacrifice made for the sins of all mankind in all ages. Then were the shadows and ceremonies of the Jewish law fulfilled and abolished, as far as their authority went; then was the glorious gospel introduced in its fullness for the welfare of all men, of every name, of every country, of every colour. Then was the veil which separated between the sanctuary and the Holy of holies in the temple of God, rent asunder from the top to the bottom, and a way of entrance was opened for every poor believing sinner through the veil--that is to say his flesh, his body that was broken, and his blood that was shed for us -into the holiest place of all, where cherubims and seraphims dwell in their glory, and perpetually do cry, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts, and the whole earth shall be filled with his glory." Jesus of Nazareth, who burst the bands of death asunder, triumphed over the prison--house of the grave, breathed upon his disciples, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost;" and after forty days ascended up in a cloud of glory, to the mansions of the heavens above, and sat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, when the cry did indeed go forth to the gates and everlasting doors of the kingdom of heaven, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory." Yes, friends, it was by his name, by his power, a power unchangeable and eternal, that the decrepit one, the cripple from his birth, stood before the multitude in the condition of perfect soundness. He derived the strength of his limb in its new perfection, from the immediate operation of the creative power of the Son of God, one with the Father, who said, "I and my Father are one." Yes, that eternal Word who was in the beginning with God, and was God. Was himself God, not merely the word or spirit of God, as some pretend, dwelt in him when he walked among men, which may be said of every good man on the face of God's earth--but he was the eternal Word, and that Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and he was Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Jews crucified, whom God raised up on the third day, who in his divine nature, his eternal, unchangeable power, did restore the poor cripple to -that state of health and strength, energy and activity of body, in a moment.

O, my beloved friends, are there any persons here in this large and solemn assembly, who are numbered among the doubters and disputers of this world, and who elude the grasp of plain truth, by certain circuitous speculations of their own, which have no foundation in the plain testimony of Scripture? I believe, friends, the day is coming when many who have been numbered among the doubters and disputers and speculators of this world, will come bended before the extended scepter of the King of kings, and before the very same power by which the cripple was made whole. And they are cripples, they can feel it, they know it; their want of faith has crippled them. Alas! alas! what strong men some might have been in the camp of Israel, and in the army of the Lamb', and in the warfare of truth and righteousness, if they had not been crippled by the strong hand of that spiritual enemy whose existence they pretend to deny----through their want of faith deny the existence of the spiritual enemy of their souls; convert him into an oriental image and figure of poetry. I think I am addressing some one mind at least, who has harboured a view of this kind--for it seems brought before me by that which I do not hold it to be safe to resist. We know that this adversary of souls is described by our blessed Saviour as the father of lies, a liar from -the beginning. And amongst all the lies that he has palmed upon the -doubters and speculators amongst men, this surely is the most crafty, and most refined, by which he has persuaded them to deny that he has any existence at all; and therefore they are not wearing that panoply of God, by which we are instructed in Scripture to stand against the wiles of the devil. Of what use is the panoply of God to them that have no devil to contend with? According to their view, why should they wear the breastplate of righteousness and shield of faith? "We wrestle not against flesh and blood," said the Apostle, "but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." "Wherefore,"----mark the word,--"--wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, whereby ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."

And O, my soul is clothed with a very sweet hope, that there are individuals in this assembly, who having vilely cast away their shield, as if it had never been anointed with oil, upon the barren mountains of mere theoretical and speculative religion, will now in the tender mercies of their God, be permitted an opportunity of laying hold once more of the good old shield, and who, as I humbly trust, will embrace the opportunity in the life and light of eternal truth, that they may once more contend valiantly against the hosts of the Philistines, and against the antetype of Goloah, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; and although they have been miserably crippled, although their high and holy course has been impeded indeed, yet now in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,----mark ye,-----of Nazareth, not a Christ of your own phantasm --but now in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom the Jews crucified, and whom God raised from the dead, Rise up and walk ye, and leap for joy, and praise God for your deliverance from the power of darkness, and for your translation, as I humbly trust it may be, into the kingdom of God's dear Son, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and who is descending by his Holy Spirit upon this large assembly, gathered into deep solemnity before him, like showers upon the mown grass; blessed be his holy and glorious name forever more.

Yes, my dear friends, although we are beset with many difficulties, and have been, as a people, robbed and spoiled and peeled among the children of men, there is a living remnant, there will be, I believe, an increasing remnant, and the cords will be lengthened, and the stakes strengthened, and it shall be, yes, it is even now known, that the Lord, the risen, the glorified Redeemer of men, the reigning Saviour, shall be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, to the residue of his people; and for a spirit of judgment to them who sit in judgment, and for strength to them who turn the battle to the gate.

Is it said that we, as a people, we the Society called Quakers, we, deny the divinity of Christ? Is this asserted of us? We, deny it? We, of all others, whose testimony has ever been as clear as day, that we own no other President in our religious assemblies, but the glorified Head of the universal church, who ministers to all who need, of his people all the world over; an omnipresent Saviour who knows the plague of every heart, and can apply the remedy there; we, deny the divinity of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who profess and have always professed, and I trust always shall profess, that we own no baptism, but the baptism of Christ himself, which is With the Holy Ghost and with fire!----A divine attribute, a divine act; an attribute and act of Jehovah. "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me"----and who was it that came after him? the incarnate Word; the Word made flesh; Jesus of Nazareth; the man who dwelt at Nazareth; the man who died on the cross, and who in his divine nature is over all, God blessed forever----"He that cometh afore, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire."

And my dear friends, the Lord in his mercy grant, that we may no longer as a people, or as individual members of this people, be satisfied with moving on the mere surface of things; but may we be baptized, every one, with the Holy Ghost, and with fire, that our hard things, and our high -things, and all our idolatry, and our covetousness, and our speculations, and all our false glories, may be broken to pieces; and that we may know the eternal truth to rise into dominion amongst us, as it did amongst our forefathers in days of old; that we may know the shout of a Mighty King, even King Jesus, to be heard within our borders; and that our young people may flock and rally round the unfurled banner of Jesse's immortal Son. And then there will be evidence in abundance, in the practical result, of the truth of those religious principles which we believe it our duty steadily to maintain in the face of all nations say the doubters on the one hand, and the cavilers on the other, what they please.

O, my beloved friends, the faith which is in Jesus, gave to this poor man that perfect soundness in the presence of them all. And may we know that same faith to bring -us into perfect soundness spiritually. O, these unsound things, like the marshy, miry, places into which some have fallen, by departing from the plain truth! You know there is that which can heal them. It is the old power, and the ever new power of the risen Saviour, who bought us with his own blood, and who baptized us with his own Spirit. Come, then come; is there any thing which we can desire more than a state of spiritual soundness? It is the privilege of the true--hearted christian; "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

Come, my beloved friends, and bow under the mighty power of Jesus. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help." "Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel."

The Prayer.

Under an awful and solemn sense of thy presence, thou everlasting, all--glorious, incomprehensible, and infinite Jehovah! we would unite in glorifying thine ever-worthy, and excellent name. Whither can we go from thy Spirit, and whither can we flee from thy presence? Thou omniscient Searcher of all hearts, we acknowledge that unto thee, with thy well beloved Son, our Holy Redeemer, belong, and must be ascribed through the power of the Holy Ghost, all honor, glory, dominion and power, world without end.

We pray thee to look down upon these thy children, who are now gathered before thee in solemn worship; and if there be any whose minds have been clouded by the dark mists of unbelief, we reverently pray thee, that the bright beam of the Sun of righteousness may now illuminate their darkness, and give them to see the truth, the all--glorious truth, in its essential features, as it is in Jesus; that they may come to know him, our Saviour and Redeemer, to be made unto them, indeed, a Father who is wisdom to direct them, sanctification to cleanse them, and righteousness m save them in full and final redemption.

O Lord God! for thy dear Son's sake, may it please thee to deliver many young ones, especially such as may have become bewildered in the labyrinth of error, from all the powers of darkness, and to translate them into the kingdom of thy dear Son, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. And O, Holy One of Israel! we pray thee, that there may be preserved, and greatly increased among this people, a living, baptized remnant--baptized with the Holy Ghost, and with fire,--who shall, in the maintenance of their well known christian testimonies and principles, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in thy work, forasmuch as they know that their labour shall not be in vain in thee. If there are those who have entered into covenant with thee, and have made their escape as from the city of Gomorrah, and are ascending as it were, into the hill-country, that there, they may come to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, preserve them, most merciful Father, from looking back, lest they be turned like Lot's wife, into a pillar of salt, a useless, lifeless, motionless thing.

O thou Holy One of Israel! pour forth upon us, we reverently pray thee, the blessed influence of thy Holy Spirit, that we may be animated to go forward in our christian course, nothing fearing, nothing doubting, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, that so we may grow stronger and stronger, until every one shall appear before thee in the Heavenly Zion, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.

Most merciful God and Father, who hearest and answerest the cry of thy people, even the deep-felt sighing and groaning in spirit of the broken in heart, we are emboldened now to petition that this multitude who are now assembled in solemn worship in the church militant, may be permitted to re-assemble one with another, in league with all the innumerable company of saints and of angels, before the throne of thy Glory, there to cast every crown at thy feet; there to acknowledge that thou art eternally worthy of all our service, and of all our praise--Hallelujah! Hallelujah!--for thou, 0 Lord God! omnipotent reignest.