A Sermon Delivered by JESSE KERSEY, at the Green Street Meeting, Philadelphia, April 19, 1827, During Yearly Meeting.
The Quaker, Vol. II No. 2 (August, 1827) pages 49-59.

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

It is a truth and doctrine, which I humbly hope will never be attempted to be invaded or limited in the church of Christ, that "If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace."

In this explanation, summarily given, of the views which obtained among the primitive believers and ministers, to the saints, we discover that they must have relied chiefly and closely upon a perceptive principle given to each of them; or otherwise, how could it be possible that be that should be standing and speaking, should become impressed with a conviction that the vision to him was closed, and that the spirit of inspiration was extended to another, or fellow labourer? In this simple view, my friends, there is made evident to my understanding the spirituality that was believed in and maintained, as fundamental in the Christian character. And it was under this blessed, this glorious and heavenly vision given to the soul, that there was clearly illustrated to the judgment of that eminent minister and witness to the truth, to wit, Paul, the nature of man.

He distinctly perceived in himself, that he was a being composed of three component natures, body, spirit, and soul. And if I comprehend him correctly, and of that others are as fully at liberty to judge as I am to think; if I comprehend him correctly, the whole of his doctrine having relation to predestination stands connected with this view, and he fully and clearly opens to my mind a conviction, that each of these natures in man has its proper station. The body of man is composed of matter, and is associated with this visible creation, and formed of its elements, being the seat of the natural spirit of man which is conjointly compounded with the soul immortal, and may be considered as the vessel of dishonour; while the soul of man stands foreordained of God to eternal life. And the great business which it appears to me we are called to, and the highest possible point of elevation is, the redemption of the soul from under the thraldom, into which, by transgression, it is liable to fall. And is there any thing that we can recur to, that can touch it, that can quicken it, that can give it a perception of its own condition, which is, in itself, a quality below the nature of the soul itself? Surely this view presents us with clear ground of conviction, that all means, however ingeniously devised that are not furnished with a power and principle capable of quickening the soul, and of giving it a clear perception of its own condition, must fall short of effecting the end, and so the apostle Paul believed: and the doctrines which he preached, and which had such a convincing effect upon the Gentile world stood connected with this consideration, of the nature of man's redemption, and of man's salvation.

In the views, into which his mind was led subsequently to his being renewed and changed from a spirit of persecution to a spirit of love - in the views which he was furnished with in this latter state, he perceived a quickening, invigorating, penetrating, all powerful principle, which he declares to be the word of God, and by which means, as through the medium of words impressions are made between man and man; so that term is used as a figure to point to a principle operating upon the soul of man. For as it regards spiritual subjects, it is impossible in speaking among men not to use such figures - we must necessarily recur to that kind of figure that comes nearest to the object designed to be unfolded. He calls this principle the word, and describes its nature - he says it is quick. Here is a most distinct and forcible illustration of it. "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword." How did he learn this ? Did he learn it from any outward or material cause? Or did he learn it"from any thing which he could have received at the hands of man'? Verily, no. He was taught it by the thing itself - by this very principle of which he had obtained a practical and experimental knowledge. He found that it was quick-~and how did he perceive this? He certainly knew it to be so when the interrogation arose, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Here he perceived a principle operating internally, and it was clothed with an irresistible power that penetrated the very depths of his soul, saying, "Why, persecutest thou me?"

I ask this assembly to think for themselves individually, whether they have ever known a principle thus quick, simple, immediate, internal and convictive? If we have, we have known the principle to which this illustrious minister of the gospel points. He found, and he has given his testimony, that it was a principle, capable, as it is recorded, of effecting a complete separation of the soul of man from the thraldom into which he may have sunk by the power or transgression. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing, even to the dividing asunder of soul and Spirit."

Now there is in man, and we perceive it in children, an animal spirit, which we may conceive to be of the nature of those spirits which are perceptible in other animated nature; but which, in the dignified subject man, is the seat of the rational understanding. The passions, appetites, and various tendencies becoming associated with this animal nature in man, go to cloud, darken, and bewilder the judgment in relation to the nature of the kingdom of heaven, and the glory of it. And there is no power, on earth - there is no principle within the command of man that can remove this veil, or that can separate the soul immortal from the company of its confused and disordered companions, and, the appetites, tempers, and inclinations to which we are individually liable. But the apostle found that this powerful word was amply sufficient to produce this all important result; and he gave his' testimony, that without faith in this principle it was impossible to please God.

Now when we feel its quickening effects, and are brought in our retirement - in moments when we are out of the sight of our fellow creatures; and when, through this tender mercy of a gracious God, we can look upon our own follies and see our condition; then it is that our duty calls to us, and it will unquestionably produce our happiness, that we yield to this quickening principle like the illustrious Paul; and confer not with flesh and blood, but give up to the heavenly vision. Thus our souls would be raised, - however low they may be depressed, - however much they may be degraded by vanity, and consenting to the various inclinations of man, - they would become raised, and brought into the liberty, the blessed and glorious liberty of the sons of God. And here we see with clearness, the correctness of the testimony; for this word is the spirit of God; and we all see the correctness of this testimony: "As many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God." And these have an evidence of it; "the spirit itself bearing witness with their spirit, that they are the children of God," and that they are not following any thing like an uncertainty and they thus become stable and settled, and are not carried away with every wind of doctrine. And it is requisite that man, if he be considered as justly an accountable being, should be furnished with such a principle; for as far as I have been able to trace the nature of man practically and experimentally, there appears to be no other clear, certain, and positive guide, upon which he may with unequivocal confidence rely. If we attempt to rely on our reasoning powers, independently of this quickening principle, we know that these powers are limited and incompetent to look into futurity. But a principle or, guide, adequate to protect us from all evil on the right hand and on the left, must be a principle capable of viewing futurity - it must look into the future and be able to determine what will be the result. We have an evidence, then, that reason is not a competent guide. Experience may be held up as equivalent to the all important end, of constituting a perfect and safe guide; and how often do we hear it spoken of as that which may be relied on with confidence and certainty; but, my friends, the whole weight of evidence, that is to be collected from a successive train of events, goes to demonstrate that experience itself is incapable - that it is an uncertain guide; because the change of circumstances, and a variety of causes are constantly operating upon us, and placing us in new relations, differing from any thing that is past; for no two links can be marked in a chain of events, which we can believe to be exactly and positively, in all things, the same. And experience, to form a proper and safe guide, must present an exact correspondence, and hence the imperfection of experience in our own power as men and creatures, for we reason by comparison of one thing with another. From both these, and every other view which we can take by the natural powers of man, it is evident that it would not provide us with a rule adequate to preserve us from all the errors to which we are liable. And were that our condition; unquestionably we could not be considered very accountable beings. But there is a rule above all rules which renders us accountable; and that is the quickening and powerful word of God; by which a consciousness man is kept alive; and there, has been and will be in all human probability, a variety of ideas operating upon the understandings of men; but impressions of consciousness throughout the general mass of creation, are similar. Now that which is universal must flow from a principle that is universal in its nature; and consciousness is always the same. Our ideas may vary, and our conclusions may differ, but our consciousness of our, own case is invariable, and in agreement with each other. And no man is happy who violates this; neither is any man miserable who faithfully regards it. But, my friends, I wish it not to be understood, that I hold up this consciousness as the word of God, that quickening, powerful principle to which the apostle alluded; but I consider this consciousness in relation to the mind, as feelings in relation to the body; the mind has feelings, capacities, and sensibility, as well as the body; and in this situation it is the consciousness through which the divine power acts, and it is always felt and perceived. And those who become devoted to its government, are instructed in feeling a sensibility of its presence, and when furnished with this, they mistake not its testimony, for that of another.

I am aware that objections have been raised to this view of the subject; and it is astonishing and surprising that even in these modern times, objections are attempted to be raised, with respect to the safety of being governed by, and relying upon this quickening and powerful word or manifestation of the spirit of God, and that is should be thought necessary to place its testimony under the examination of reason, and to compare it with the testimony given in relation to it - and that, if, on comparing our impressions with those testimonies given in relation to similar impressions, we find these not in exact accordance with the nature of the impression which we feel in the soul, we are to respect the written testimony, and to suspend our impressions in opposition thereto. But if this be the case, then the testimony of the divine word must be governed by something else: but I admit not this as a fact; for in all written testimony there must have been a degree of conformity in the mind of the writer to his own ideas and impressions; and though the impressions which he himself received were true to him, and though the revelation were true, still his mode of expressing or describing that revelation, would be in correspondence with his own opinions and prejudices.

It is a remarkable and important circumstance, that it pleased the Father of creation to give a revealed testimony to the world; and that, by the power of that word whereof the apostle speaks, many of the prejudices of education are broken up, as was the case with the apostle Paul. For prior to writing his epistolary testimony, he was brought under the power of this word; and the prejudices which he had entertained in conformity to the Jewish ideas, were removed by the power of this word. And now he became prepared to write in relation to his own experience of facts, which were obligatory upon himself.

Hence as it regards these testimonies recorded in the Scriptures of truth; they have come to us in a purer form than we have a right to expect of written testimony in general, and hence their superiority over other books which have been written. But however high they may stand, however justly they may be estimated by the enlightened sons of God, they never have been placed higher or above that eternal, quickening spirit of God, which is given to every man to profit withal; and they never will be in any clearly enlightened mind. And whatever quibbles or objections may be raised against these views, they are quibbles that may be, with the same propriety, raised against every blessing that an all gracious God has condescended to bestow upon his creature man. There is not a single blessing but may be abused by human beings; for many are influenced by ideas arising from the predominancy of passion, and may allege and dare to say, that those impressions are from the divine spirit, but are we to give credit to these as standing on the right ground, when they are in direct opposition to what we conceive to be a manifestation of the spirit of God to the soul? No, truly, I am not bound so to believe it, but I am bound to [be] compassionate [to] him as a fellow creature, who is liable, like myself, to be mistaken.

But to return to the very important and interesting work of man's salvation, as it has been opened in this assembly, in the preceding part of my testimony.

You have seen, and it was the apostle's experience, that we are called on to have implicit faith, not in the testimony of men, but in that quick and powerful conviction that we feel in ourselves, that is, that we are to have faith in the divine manifestations to the soul. Now when Saul was preached to, through the goodness, of God, by this blessed and heavenly principle, he took the direct course, he conferred not with flesh and blood, but gave up to the heavenly vision, and became a powerful ambassador in the cause of the Prince of Peace. And had he so much as continued with his men at that moment of time, he might have taken into consideration a variety of objections, - he might have said, I am entrusted with authority from the chief priests, and they may consider my not carrying into execution the object of my mission, an evidence that I am a traitor. He might, and he no doubt did, take into consideration, that by becoming a subject, and being connected with the most despised class of men, he would be rejected, despised, and turned aside from, by all his former acquaintances. But this illustrious, this precious, this valuable man, conferred not with flesh and blood. And when he came into the presence of the king, agreeable to the account, Festus and others met with great pomp to hear what he could say in relation to himself. And how beautifully he shows the grounds on which he had been induced to change his course. "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest." And I may now say to the present assembly, do you believe in the existence of this principle, this witness? I make a solemn appeal to what you yourselves have known. I know that you believe it, - then where is the difficulty? It is on the part of those who are not willing to become his happy subjects - it is the same difficulty that existed in the mind of king Agrippa when he said, "Almost thou persuadest me to he a Christian." And upon what was that almost founded? Was there any difficulty as to the evidence, or as to the ground which was proper to be taken? His judgment was reached, his understanding was convinced, but the world stood in his way. He did not possess at that moment of time, the happy independence of Paul, when he conferred not with flesh and blood, but gave up to the heavenly vision. This I take to have been the case with many of my poor fellow creatures down to the present day. And I am convinced that it has been lamentably the case, in the generation in which we live, and within the bounds of that religious society which has been dear to me for many years. I am convinced of the fact, because I have no hesitation in saying in this large and very interesting assembly, that had it been otherwise, we should have had sons and daughters qualified in their own experience to give testimony, and their testimony would have spread from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, with absolute certainty, on which the foundation of the church of Christ must be unquestionably built.

Now I ask of you, in all the tenderness which I think I have once more felt to clothe my tried mind which has gone through a great deal - no man knows the heights and depths that I have felt; but I have found this Principle to be a foundation to trust in, even in moments of the deepest anxiety, and in the bitterest stages of my life. Yes, I have known this principle to be an all-sufficient power underneath, which is capable of sustaining the soul that trusts in it, notwithstanding we may be disposed to cry out in despair, and however in the weakness of humanity, we may turn ourselves from it, and become darkened for a season. But I magnify the name of the invisible and all-Powerful God, that he has given to every one a portion to profit withal, and I ask it of you, my dear young friends, to regard this persuasive evidence of God; for the soul of man is foreordained of God to eternal life, and to rise above the inferior nature of man, through the medium of this evangelical and heavenly principle, and to belong to the society of that blessed company who surround the throne of God; and to he prepared, without alloy, to assimilate in the ever blessed and unfathomable amen of love, where, in the sight of angels, we shall be known to all those who have experienced the same lamb-like nature, who have been raised to heavenly spirits, and brought into the dominion of God, to triumph over all the powers of darkness, death, hell, and the grave.

He that knoweth his master's will and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. I desire that while I live in this state of existence, I may have an increasing evidence, that when the time of my departure may be near at hand, I may bear an unshaken evidence that there is a crown of righteousness laid up for me, and which my soul longs for: and which I believe all may enjoy by endeavouring to keep a conscience void of offence toward God and man. He that created us for the purpose of his own glory, has undoubtedly a right to call us to render up unto to him our hearts. And as we are concerned to give unto him our hearts, he will most assuredly wash and cleanse all our bodies from the corruption of our fallen nature, and forgive us our trespasses. Therefore, I desire that we may all become acquainted with him in our own souls, and settle down in our own hearts, and be still, and know that he is God.

I should be very thankful that the minds of this assembly should now be solemnized together, and that we might enter a little into ourselves, and know for ourselves that our God is at hand, and that he is disposed to bless us in solemn silence.