A Sermon and Delivered by JOSEPH JOHN GURNEY, at the North Meeting-house, New Street (Philadelphia) First-day Afternoon, Second Month, Eighteenth, 1838.
Hopper, Edward. Sermons and Prayers Delivered in the City of Philadelphia by Joseph John Gurney. Philadelphia: Kay & Brother, 1938

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

"As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."

Seeing, beloved friends, that all our hope of true peace in this world, and of eternal happiness in the World to come, depends upon our being sons and daughters of God, in the sense in which the expression is here used by the apostle, it may surely be worth our while to enquire somewhat particularly, what it is, to be led by the Spirit of God. We are all of us sons and daughters of God by creation, in common with all our fellow-men the world over. But here there is a still nearer relation alluded to, which is described in Scripture as adoption. And those only who are sons and daughters of God by adoption, are heirs of that glory which is laid up in the world to come, for all them who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. And here the apostle marks and selects one general characteristic, by which the sons of God by adoption, may be distinguished. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."

These words arose with me, since we have been sitting together in silence. I have brought them not hither; for I can truly say that it was only under an impression of duty, and under a feeling of gospel love, that I was led to invite our neighbors on this occasion; not knowing what word or work would here be required of me.

Now I would address this question to the inquiring mind, for it lies at the very threshold of our subject; What does the apostle here mean by the Spirit of God ? Does he mean the influence of the natural mind? Does he mean the conclusions of human reason? Does he mean the dictates of the conscience, that faculty whereby we judge of right and wrong? No: he means an influence by which that faculty is directed; the influence of the Holy Ghost, which is God. God with the Father, and God with the Son. A supernatural influence, an influence which forms no part whatever of the constitution of the human mind; an influence which is as distinct from the soul, as the wind which meets us when we are walking or riding, is distinct from the body. A sober, plain, unquestionable reality, Although not subjected to the natural sense of man, and although utterly despised by the wise men after the flesh, by the philosopher and speculator who know not God, by those who delight themselves in fine--spun theories in religion, without coming home to the practical and vital truth; but an influence known by the babes in Christ, an influence perceptible to the rational mind, an influence felt beyond expression, by all who are awakened to a real solicitude for their eternal welfare.

The mind or soul of man is a spirit, an immaterial, immortal spirit, which dwells for a season in these tabernacles of clay, the two being united together by mysterious bands which human philosophy cannot scrutinize; and the Holy Spirit of God exerts its power on this immortal spirit of man, penetrates into its deepest recesses, examines and scrutinizes its dark holes and corners, insinuates itself into its motives and springs of thought and of action, and pervades by degrees the whole being, and subordinates it, if indeed the work goes on as it ought to do, -to the will of that infinite and incomprehensible Being, who is the Author both of nature and of grace, Yes, friends, the Author and Maker of that boundless universe which gives, from its unspeakable magnitude, the sublimest conception of which the mind of man is capable, is the God of Israel, the God of his believing and obedient followers, the God who made the immortal mind of man, and communicates to the creature of his holy hand, the influence of which I speak----the supernatural influence of the Holy Ghost. And this is the influence which the apostle evidently means by the Spirit of God; and that in his view it had no connexion with the depraved nature of man, is evident from his saying, "For I know that in me (that is in my flesh,") my carnal mind, "there dwelleth no good thing." Whereas all the while, the very best of all things was dwelling richly in him, so that he was indeed fruitful in the field of offering, and joyful in the house of prayer.

And I have thought of another question. Through what channel is this supernatural influence bestowed upon the children of men? The answer of Holy Scripture to this question is equally clear. It is bestowed upon the children of men, through the channel of Jesus Christ, and him crucified. O, friends, can any person in the present day dare to insinuate, that we as a religious people, and that our forefathers in the truth, ever denied or doubted the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and him crucified; when we are in possession of abundant evidence, that in this Society from its first rise to the present day, the gift of the Holy Ghost was always ascribed to the free mercy of God our Father through Jesus Christ, and him crucified, and was always held to be in consequence of the propitiatory death and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ without the gates of Jerusalem? You know, friends, that this principle of our faith is as clear as the day. For we do believe, not only that Christ died on the cross for the sins of all man- kind that we, poor guilty, wretched, lost sinners might have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, and that he was thus wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities,--but this people have always held that it was in virtue of this propitiatory death and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we obtained the blessed gift of the influence of the Holy Spirit; that our Lord Jesus Christ led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, even for the rebellious also, that the word God might dwell among them. And therefore, friends, the testimony of Scripture is abundantly clear, both as to the origin of this influence, as flowing from God himself, the fountain of all good, and as to the appointed channel through which it flows, as well as respecting the nature and character of the influence itself.

And now, my beloved friends, the great point lies here; to come under this influence, and to know its power; to experience its cleansing efficacy; and to be ourselves guided thereby in all our life and conversation in the world. Then we shall "be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world." And I apprehend that the minds of christians, of every name, are increasingly alive and awake to the importance of this vital subject. I think it is increasingly known and acknowledged, that unless we come under this influence, and are guided and led thereby, all our profession of religion is less than nothing, yea, less than nothing and vanity. "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

Now, beloved friends, the professing church of Christ stands in need of greater purification than it has yet attained to; there are many blots on her escutcheon, even in this land; there are many spots on her garments; she is defiled by the dust of the earth; and her garments are very much tattered. But when the professing church of Christ under every name, comes under the baptizing influence of the Holy Ghost, and comes to be led and guided in all things, by the uncompromising principle of life and light, then she will arise and shake her garments from the dust, then she will appear in her beauty, and there shall no more pass through her borders, the uncircumcised and the unclean.

It is plainly the doctrine of Scripture, that the Holy Spirit has been given through Christ to be our guide in life, our guide in duty, our guide to heaven. And why will ye not follow that guide? For it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps; the Spirit must lead us, if we would live forever. But I apprehend there are those who sit down to reason and speculate on the subject, and who are prone to perplex themselves with the question, How am I to distinguish the voice of the Spirit of God, from my own imagination, or from the delusion of my soul's enemy? But, dear friends, the believer in Christ who is brought into a humble dependence upon the Lord of life and glory, and who walks by faith and not by sight, is enabled to distinguish the voice of the Shepherd, from the voice of a stranger. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." There is a spiritual eye, and a spiritual ear, opened by the Lord's Spirit, so that with the intellectual ear of the soul, the voice of the true Shepherd is clearly heard and distinguished, by the watchful believer, from the voice of a stranger. But there are tests by which we may try these things; there are certain proofs which are very clear and very Scriptural; and it is well for us to examine ourselves, to prove ourselves, whether we be in the faith. "Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates ?"

Now, friends, the guidance of the Spirit of truth, which leads into all truth and into all virtue, will never lead any man, either in opinion or practice to any thing which is Contrary to Holy Scripture. And it was a noble testimony of our early Friends, that if any man pretended to be led by the Spirit into any practice contrary to Holy Scripture, it was to be accounted a delusion of the devil. And the Spirit of truth will always lead us to exalt and accept those blessed truths which are plainly declared to mankind in the Holy Scriptures of truth; for those Scriptures did emanate from that very Spirit, and the Spirit of truth can never by any possibility contradict itself. Therefore here is a very merciful provision for you and me; and may we all be diligent in the fear of the Lord, in the perusal of the Holy Scriptures, always remembering, that we cannot savingly understand their contents, unless they are brought home to the understanding and to the heart, by the very same influence that gave them forth. And blessed be the Lord, the testimony of this religious body has always been abundantly clear, to the great truth, that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.

Then, to advance another step in this subject; it is certain that the true guidance and influence of the Spirit can never, by any possibility, lead any man living, to deny the Lord who bought him. That is impossible; for the words of our Saviour are clear; "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proeeedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me. And ye shall also bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." And when the Jews came to our Saviour and said, "What shall we do that we might work -the works of God?" he said, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." And, friends, when the true Spirit of grace and of supplication, is poured into the mind of unregenerate man, it breaks him down into tenderness and contrition, and he looks upon him whom he hath pierced; even the crucified Jesus, who was nailed to the cross by the wicked hands of his enemies, and who died for the sins of all mankind; whom therefore we all have pierced by our sins, and should mourn for him as a man mourneth for his only son, and should be in bitterness for him, as a man who is in bitterness for his first--born.

And it was the doctrine and the preaching of the early members of this religious Society, "Mind the light;"----mind the light of the Spirit of God which shines in the heart, that it may show you your sins, and bring you to the Saviour who died for them. And, friends, if you will mind the light, it win make manifest your degraded and lost condition by nature; it will make you sensible of your need of a Saviour; it will bring you to the feet of Jesus, that you may behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.

Then, my friends, there is another test to which we may bring this matter, of no small practical importance. There is according to the doctrine of Scripture, a conflict, a warfare between the flesh and the Spirit. And the Spirit of God, when truly felt and known, will ever be found to counteract the corrupt passions of our fallen nature, and to lead the believer in Jesus in the way of the cross; and those who come under that guidance and under that influence, shall be taught of the Lord to say, as Paul said, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." And here is the true reason, I believe, why so many who profess the name of Christ, are unwilling to be guided by the unflattering and uncompromising voice of the Spirit of God, which dictates a straight-forward course of unbending holiness, without turning to the right hand or to the left; they are displeased at the cross; they cannot bear the mortification of their heart's lusts; the world, the world is their God; self is their idol; and they will not renounce the world; they will not renounce self, and walk in the narrow way. Light has come into the world, verily; but men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. But O, friends, the folly, the madness, the desperate danger of such a course! Permit a stranger, and yet a brother, to implore you, as you value your eternal happiness, not to trample upon the cross or Christ, but to give up to it, and bear your cross, that you may be followers of a crucified Lord. For except you take up his cross, you cannot be his disciples. professing christians must come to a higher standard of action; they must discard the notion of expediency, and cast it as to the winds; and with straight and steady step, they must follow on to know and serve the Lord in obedience to the unflattering witness for God in their own bosoms. And then they will be led to a higher degree of virtue, and a more complete emancipation from the spirit of the world. For if the Son of God make you free, you shall be free indeed. And though it is a narrow way, it is a way of peace. Although it is a way in which the mind of man is kept down, and all its passions subjected to the cross of Christ, it is nevertheless, a way of freedom; it is the law of liberty; "Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed."

And it will not do for any of us to cry peace, peace, to our souls, when we have no peace. There must be an- unconditional surrender, an unqualified obedience, There must be a faithful following of the blessed Lord and Saviour, who endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God. We must follow him in the path of self-denial; we must follow him in his walk of holiness; we must follow him in his course of ever -abounding charity; we must, though at an immeasurable distance, imitate his patience, his meekness, his forbearance, his subjection to his Father's will, his love for his enemies; and in all the blessed and glorious traits of his character, if we would follow him and partake of his glory in the world of spirits. "For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him." And would to God that every one of us could say with Paul; "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

And, friends, if we come to know the matchless working of the Spirit of God on the mind of man, even to will and to do of his own good pleasure, then when we say, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," it will not be a mere unmeaning tribute of the lips, but a deep, heart-felt prayer, corresponding with our practice. O, how very often does this prayer glide from the lips of christian professors, who are not brought to an adequate sense of the depth of its meaning. May it be your heart-felt prayer indeed, and may you prove the sincerity of the petition, by your obedience to all his commandments. "For ye are my friends," said Jesus, "if ye do whatsoever I command you." "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him. If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." Blessed and glorious privilege of the believer who proves the reality of his faith by his works! For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Now, my dear friends, if we come to experience the guidance of this influence, in bringing us to suffer, and subjecting us to his holy will as obedient children, then is there another evidence of the influence and guidance of the Spirit; and that is, that it speaks peace to the troubled soul. Yes, it is to the troubled soul, what the personal presence of Jesus was to the poor tempesttossed disciples; when the deep seemed about to swallow them up, when the boisterous winds and waves were about to overwhelm them, Jesus rose, and rebuked the winds and the waves, and them was a great calm. Now I have always observed that the working of man's fancy and imagination, in the things of religion, leads to storm, tempest, disturbance and confusion, to a tumult of notions and feelings; but the influence of the Spirit, when truly felt, and carefully followed, leads into quietness, into stillness; yea, there are times under that immediate influence, when the language seems to be proclaimed with power; "Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord, for he is raised up out of his holy habitation." "Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength." O how precious is this quietness, friends! It is a wholesome, sober frame of mind. "God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Cultivate this quietness, seek after this retirement of spirit. "In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength."

Surely, my friends, there are evidences enough by which we may satisfy our minds. But remember that the light of the Spirit of Christ speaks for itself. It emanates from him who is the fountain of light, and it comes with its own native force, power, dignity, and authority, to the rational mind of man. It is the work of God, and it stands on his own authority, and ye need not doubt, ye need not question, but come to the light, that your deeds may be reproved. For whoever cannot bear the light of the Spirit of Christ as it shines in the heart, will be condemned by the awful light of the terrible countenance of God in the day of judgment, when he- shall finally declare, Depart from me all ye that work iniquity, depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

Therefore, beloved friends, now is your time; now is the day of salvation; now is the hour of tender mercy. Now let the light shine without obstruction; now bring all your deeds to it; now let it lead you to Christ the crucified One, that your past sins may be washed away in the fountain of his blood, and that you may be prepared, under the immediate guidance and government of God's Holy Spirit, to grow from strength to strength, and from grace to grace, even unto the perfect day. That you may enter and pass through the pearl gates of the city of God, there to enjoy the repose of victory; there to join the count-less company gathered out of every kindred, tongue and people, who have palms in their hands, and are clothed in white robes; who have come "out of great tribulation," and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the, throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them into living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.