A Sermon Delivered by JOSEPH JOHN GURNEY at the Arch-Street Meetinghouse, Philadelphia, 1st Day Evening, 2nd Month 25th, 1838; Taken in shorthand by Edward Hopper.
Sermons and Prayers Delivered in the City of Philadelphia by Joseph John Gurney. Philadelphia: Kay and Brother, 1838.
This is The Quaker Homiletic Online Anthology, Part Three: The 19th Century.
And truly, my dear friends, as Christ was the great promise of the law, in whom
the types of the law were to be terminated, and the prophecies fulfilled, so the
Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is the great promise of the-gospel of Christ, enjoyed
by all who know, love, and serve him, all the world over, and in all ages. For
here it is expressly declared, that he should abide with the church forever; that
he was not to come for the benefit of the early disciples alone; he was not merely
to pour forth the gifts wherewith the apostles and evangelists were gifted in their
day, proportioned to the pre-eminent and most important services to which they
were called; but he was to abide with the Lord's people forever. And this
declaration agrees with the words of the apostle Peter, when he spake of the
fulfilment of the promise of the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was so
gloriously poured forth upon the ancient church, both upon men and women; his
language was, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that
are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." And very memorable
were the words addressed in ancient evangelical prophecy, to the Messiah
himself; "My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy
mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor
out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and forever."
So that all who are of the seed of the Messiah, who belong to his family among
the children of men, enjoy a blessed portion of that holy influence of the Holy
Ghost, wherewith Jesus in his human character was anointed without measure;
for God gave not the Spirit by measure unto him.
And, beloved friends, that glorious and blessed gift is obtained for the children
of men, according to the counsels of Infinite Wisdom, through the meritorious
death and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life; for,
when he led captivity captive, and ascended up on high, he received gifts for
men, yea, for the rebellious also; that the Lord God might dwell amongst them.
And were we required to furnish a practical, living, and perceptible evidence of
the truth of the doctrine of his propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of men, that
evidence is furnished by what we know, what we feel, and what we are assured,
respecting the influence of the Holy Ghost, the operation of the Comforter, upon
the understandings and upon the hearts of men; even that Comforter whom the
crucified, risen and glorified Jesus, sends unto us from the Father, even when he
baptizes his people with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
And, beloved friends, may we ever take a comprehensive view of the operation
of the Holy Spirit upon the minds of mankind; may we ever adhere to the
doctrine of its universality, in a measure, though in many instances that measure
may be very small; may we not be afraid of facing the declaration, that Christ
who died for the sins of all mankind, is, by his Spirit, the light, that lighteth
every man that cometh into the world. That light which shines in the consciences
of men, is it not the light of the Spirit of our Holy Redeemer ? When we consider
the utterly degraded state of man in the fall, dark, dead, depraved, without any
good thing, as carnally minded, - must we not rest assured that this light, so pure
and heavenly in its character, however faint, and however weak in its operation,
when received by a rational man, is the gift, the supernatural gift of God to
mankind, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ ?
"Accepted be the boon of light divine That our Redeeming God has given to shine In every human breast, else wholly dark; Tho' often Weak, yet pure the vital spark: Call it not "Conscience" - Conscience is the eye That spark illumines - or the soul must die."
And beloved friends, mind the light of the Spirit of Christ, which shines in the
dark corners of man's heart, and points out the way to holiness, to happiness, and
to heaven; and no longer disregard or trample upon the witness for the Lord
Almighty, in your own minds; and mark in the checks, rebukes, and strivings of
this inward Teacher, one evidence among many others, of the efficacy of that
propitiatory offering which was made for the sins of mankind. Though be it
always remembered, that with God, there is no tense, and whatsoever was
known of the true heavenly light before, as well as after, the coming of Christ in
the flesh, must be ascribed to the Lord's plan of redemption through him, who
was foreordained before all worlds to be the one sacrifice for sin, and in whom
alone we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.
But, my beloved friends, the Christian believer, the true convert, the follower of
the Lord Jesus Christ, is made an abundant partaker of this precious gift of the
Holy Ghost. And here we come to the Christian doctrine of the inhabitation of
the Spirit in the mind of the believer; "And I will pray the Father, and he shall
give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit
of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither
knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with yon, and shall be in you."
And here, friends, is the coming of Christ by his Spirit, for the instruction, for
the refreshing, and for the cleansing of his own people. "I will not leave you
comfortless; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no
more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also." Can any man deny, that
these are the plain doctrines of primitive Christianity ? Can any man deny, that
they are written with a finger of light, in the pages of the New Testament? Is it
not there plainly revealed that the Comforter was to guide the Lord his people
into all truth ? And have we not our part in the blessed and glorious promise,
even unto the present day ? Was it for the primitive church alone, or for the
church in all ages, that the apostle John, in his epistle, wrote these words? "The
anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you; and ye need not that
any man teach you," - mind this, my friends, you do not absolutely stand in need
of the ministry of any man - " but as the same anointing teacheth you all things,
and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."
And my belief is, that we are called upon, as a religious Society in the present
day, to rally round this doctrine of the immediate and perceptible teaching,
guidance, and government of the Lord's anointing; and that if we would arise in
the strength and beauty of original principles, we must come to a more practical
experience of this truth, and learn to be spiritually minded; for, "to be carnally
minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."
The subject is one of infinite importance, aud I dare not withhold from this
assembly, that which arises respecting it. We know that all Scripture is given by
inspiration of God, and that the Holy Scriptures are able to make wise unto
salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. There never was a period when this
religions Society, did not conspicuously set its seal upon this truth; and we
rejoice, may we not rejoice, in the accumulation of evidence, which has been
poured age after age upon this subject; even evidence that proves to a moral
demonstration, the divine origin and authority of that blessed book. I apprehend
it cannot be denied that our primitive Friends were remarkably diligent in the
perusal of the Holy Scriptures; those who know their history, will not venture
upon denying this. But, beloved friends, it was their doctrine, and it is our
doctrine, that the truths revealed in the Holy Scriptures, can never be effectually
or savingly opened to the understanding, except by the immediate influence of
the Lord's Holy Spirit. "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the
spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but
[by] the Spirit of God." And those things are spiritually discerned. And if we
would have a right, wholesome, and saving view of those truths, we must come
down from every airy height. "Thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose
habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the
ground? Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest
among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord."
It is in the low valley, it is in the humiliation of the pride of man, that we are to
expect effectual instruction. It is the babes who shall be taught, it is the little
ones who shall learn the deep mysteries of the kingdom of God. It is those who
are willing to be fools, who shall be made truly wise. And, beloved friends, there
is one great secret in this matter which is far too much disregarded among
professing Christians; the path of obedience is the path to knowledge. "If ye love
me, keep my commandments; and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you
another Comforter." "He that loveth me, keepeth my commandments; and I will
love him, and will manifest myself unto him." And if, my beloved young friends,
you desire to attain to solid substantial knowledge in the things of God, while
indeed, you ought to be encouraged in the unquestionable duty of a diligent dally
perusal of the Scriptures, you must remember that your very capacity for
receiving truth is connected with the state of your disposition, and that those
only will ever be made truly wise in the things of God, who are given up to the
teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit in tho path of obedience. "For to obey is
better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." And the Lord grant,
that our young people may be humbled under his own power, may be made very
tender, may learn to believe in the inshining of the light of the Spirit of Christ,
and may prove their faith therein, by their obedience to those dictates and
manifestations of truth.
And now, friends, the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit not only develops
to the mind, the truths of our religion as they are revealed in the Scriptures, but
this immediate influence guides in the path of duty, according to those beautiful
expressions of ancient prophecy; "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I
will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I
took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; (which my
covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord.)"
Alas! for them now present who have broken the Lord's covenant; may they be
brought to timely repentance - "But this shall be the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel; after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in
their inward parts;" - so that it shall he engraved there in legible characters of
light and life - "and write it in their hearts;" - so that it shall be the law of love -
"and [I] will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no
more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, know the
Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of
them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their
sin no more."
Now, beloved friends, I beseech you not to disregard this, practical teaching of
your inward Monitor, when you find that it leads you in the way of the cross, and
into many mortifying little sacrifices directly opposed to the spirit of the world.
It is the very nature of the thing; it will guide after this sort; some of us do know
it from experience. And it is of no use to give way to reasoning, and to form a
web of plausible excuses under the influence of Satan, the father of lies. The
thing we want, is, simple childlike obedience to the teachings of the Comforter.
And, dear young people, will you not listen with delight to the glad tidings of
salvation by Jesus Christ? Will you not hear with joy and approbation, of his
coming down from the height of his majesty and his glory, to live and die for
sinners? And will you not be smitten with a sense of his love, and shall not the
love of Christ constrain you to bid defiance, for the future, to the false,
dangerous, plausible suggestions of the world, and sin, and Satan, and to follow
the Lord Jesus in the path of self-denial, under the perceptible guidance and
government of his Holy Spirit? O, I hope good things of you; ye beloved youth,
and things which accompany salvation! I hope we shall see more of the practical
working of those great and undeniable principles, that we may point to the
christian indeed, in a younger brother, in a younger sister, and to the Quaker
indeed, one who knows what it is to tremble under a sense of the power of the
Lord God Almighty, one who knows the meaning of the language in the day of
conviction of sin; "When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the
voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might
rest in the day of trouble.'' For, beloved friends, it ever was, and it ever will be, a
primary office of the Comforter, to convince the children of men of sin, and thus
to make them sensible of their need of a Saviour. O, dear friends, my very soul
recoils at the view of those dangerous notions abroad in the present day, which
tend to the denial of the Lord who bought us; even of Jesus of Nazareth, who is
"man to sympathise, and God to save." But sure am I, that the radical cure for all
such dangerous departures from fundamental truth, is, to come under the
convincing power of the Holy Ghost, that we may be made to tremble before
God, under a sense of our iniquity, to humble and abhor our own selves, and take
refuge in the Rock of ages.
Rock of ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee; Let the water and the blood, From thy riven side which flow'd, Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and power!"
O, surely it is high time for some poor deluded wanderers who have been taken
captive in the webs of desperate heresy, to return to the fold of Christ, and to
behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world.
Well, my dear friends, we do know that the testimony of Scripture is abundantly clear, that the living members of the church of Christ, have individual duties to perform for the benefit of the body, for the good of the whole. One is called to one line of service, and another to another, according to the distribution of the gifts of the Spirit, which are put forth according to the need of the church, and according to the circumstances under which she is placed from age to age, by him, whose sole prerogative it is to rule and govern his universal church, according to his own will; him who ascended up on high, who led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And shall we venture, any of us, to restrict the gifts of the Spirit to any particular sex, or to any particular individual in a congregation? Shall we forsake the broad, noble ground that was taken by our forefathers in the truth, upon this subject? Shall we forget the prophecy of Joel? "And it shall come to pass in the last days, (saith God,) I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants, and on my handmaidens, I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy." No; my dear friends, nothing but the immediate guidance and government of the Holy Spirit can point out to any man living, what is the particular function which it is his individual duty to occupy, and perform in the church of Christ. And nothing but the same immediate influence, can truly qualify for the performance of this function; though, of course, the remark chiefly applies to those gifts which are for the instruction and religious edification of the church, in connexion with christian worship. O, friends, what a blessed and holy privilege is that of the Lord's anointing! When the early Christians were gathered in their assemblies for worship, one was called to one act of the ministry, another to another, and a third to a third, according to the various administrations of the gift; and the operation of it was not confined to a pulpit, but it was congregational in its nature. And surely in maintaining the same view and the same practice, it must be acknowledged, that as a religious Society, we are acting on plain Scriptural grounds.
And may we never, never turn our backs upon the testimony, which from generation to generation, has been borne among us, to the spirituality of Christian worship. And say the world what it may, may we never dare to break in upon the silence of our assemblies for worship except under the immediate putting forth of the Holy Spirit of our divine President, our Holy Head, the Lord Jesus Christ; who remains to be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty to the residue of his people. And though our patience may, at times, be tried, may the dear young people learn to value this solemn silence; and be ye gathered, as our forefathers were, to the free and immediate teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ himself; who yet teacheth by his Holy Spirit, as never man taught, or will teach.
And, my beloved friends, is it not upon a plain, broad, Scriptural principle, that we have always maintained the spirituality of true baptism, and of the supper of our Lord? Shall it be said that there is a refinement of reason and speculation in our views upon this subject, when we can point to certain broad statements like this? - when our blessed Saviour said, after speaking of the eating of the bread which cometh down from heaven, partaking of the true communion, - "It is the Spirit that quiekeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing;" evidently showing that that which appertains to the mere body of a man, profiteth nothing, in the worship of the Christian, when he comes to see these things; though we must always feel very charitably to those who do not see so far, and should be far from condemning others. And again; when we look at a contrast like this; "For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence;" and above all, when we take a plain view of the doctrine of the New Testament, that those things in the worship of God, which were carnal and figurative in their nature, types and shadows of good things to come, were fulfilled in point of authority, both fulfilled and abrogated, when Christ by one sacrifice, perfected forever them that are sanctified. I say abrogated in point of authority because we do know that in point of fact, many such things were practised by the early believers, and even by the apostles themselves, for a season; their Lord and Master dealt very gently with them; but he threw as into their lap, the great and undeniable Christian principle of the spirituality of divine worship, under the glorious gospel, of which the practical result is, our coming home to the one baptism with the Holy Ghost, and to the one, true, vital, saving, necessary supper of the Lord, when by an act of faith, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we appropriate Christ to the soul, as the atonement for our sins, and eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood. And O, beloved friends, may we come to enjoy more and more of this blessed communion; may we sit down together, even here, at the table of our Lord, that our souls may be refreshed with the bread and wine of the kingdom of God; and that in blessed communion in spirit with our Holy Head, and one with another, we may call to living and effectual remembrance, the dying love of the Saviour of men.
Dear friends, my mind is closely exercised; and I dare not take my seat without expressing my belief, that it was under the same immediate guidance, that our forefathers in the truth were led to bear their practical testimony against the carnal warfare of the world; and against all swearing; because, while they read plain things in Scripture, upon this subject, they had given themselves over to the government of an inward Monitor who will make no compromise with the spirit of the world, and will not permit any man to sacrifice the plain precepts of our Lord Jesus Christ, upon the shrine of expediency. O, beloved friends, what a blessed principle of action is this, worthy of all acceptation, of all admiration, worthy of being heartily adopted by every rational soul in this assembly.
And, friends, in proportion to the practical importance of those Christian testimonies which this religious Society has been led to uphold for the welfare of the church at large, and of the world - in proportion to this importance, have been the restless attempts, and ceaseless controversies of the old Serpent, the enemy of God and man, to lay waste our Christian profession, and to lead us astray, on the right hand and on the left. We know that we have had mournful proof of it in this very land; we know that there are many, who, under the pretext of spirituality, have forsaken the very foundation on which all true spirituality is built. The Lord gather them home.
And now, there are more than a few, I trust not in this land, but elsewhere, who are betrayed into what I believe to be the opposite error, and are virtually sacrificing the testimony which hath always been borne in this Society to the uninterrupted spirituality of the worship of God; and to the immediate and perceptible guidance, government, and teaching of his Holy Spirit; at least this is the practical tendency, of which I have myself been a sorrowful witness; for I have marked the effect of it, and have mourned over it. But, ye beloved young friends, I beseech you to turn a deaf ear to the charmer on the right, and to the charmer on the left, "charming never so wisely," and gather home to the shelter, gather home to the clefts of the Rock, gather home to the peaceable habitation, and to the quiet resting place, and to the sure dwelling, and learn, once more learn the lesson, of reverently and patiently waiting on an ever-present Lord and Saviour, in the silence of all flesh. "Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord, for he is raised up out of his holy habitation."
Beloved friends, there are young ones here, in the early vigour and approaching maturity of their intellectual faculties, who, being brought under the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, and under the immediate guidance and perceptible touches of the Lord's anointing, will arise, and show themselves to be noble warriors in the army of the Lamb, who shah go forth, conquering and to conquer; and shall wage a blessed warfare against alt the powers of death, hell and darkness; and shall, in the end, have their share in the blessed promise; "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever."