A Sermon Delivered by JESSE KERSEY at the Friends' Meeting Held at Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, July 1st, 1827.
The Quaker, Vol. II No. 2 (August, 1827) pages 60-68.

This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 3: The 19th Century.

It would seem extraordinary if the fountain of unlimited wisdom and power, who gave to man his existence, and all the faculties that he possesses, should have placed him under circumstances in which there would be an impossibility of coming to a knowledge of his duty to the author of his existence; or that he should have rendered it-so difficult and mysterious as to be scarcely attainable. I say it would seem extraordinary if this were the case, or if we could have any cause to believe that as it regards the great concern of our present and everlasting happiness, we were purposely left in the dark, or left subject to uncertainty and difficulty of attaining the truth. And it would seem extraordinary too, if we were placed under circumstances that should render it impossible for us to distinguish with satisfactory clearness, the way in which we should, go.

I have believed, and that for many years past, in agreement with the excellent testimony delivered by the apostle John, concerning the Almighty, that God is love; and that, in correspondence with the true nature of his being, it must have been his great design, in the formation of creation, and in the production of man, to have made wide and broad the means of enjoying rational and substantial happiness. And the more I have reflected on this view, the more I have taken into consideration the many proofs which we have of his benevolence and kind regard, the more I am convinced that God is Love. And if we examine the external objects with which we are surrounded, we shall find proof in abundance to confirm this view. If we look to the luxuriant productions adapted to every sense, we see it most clearly demonstrated, that they are prepared to please - that they are prepared to render us comfortable, that they are prepared to make us happy. We discover this in all the varieties of nature - in the flowers of the field, in the exquisite perfection of the fruits of the earth, they all go to convince my understanding, that God is love, and that man is the special object of his care; and that he has in the course of his wisdom, in the formation of things, seen meet to place us at the head of his creation. For we are informed in the scriptures of truth, that he gave to man "dominion over the beast of the field, over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." He placed him at the head of his visible creation; and having done so, he even goes further, he breathes upon him the breath of life, he inspires him with the being of immortality; and opens between his own eternal nature and the creature he has formed, a happy medium of communication. And it has appeared to me with an encouraging degree of clearness, in the present interesting assembly, that if we are brought to trace these views of our gracious Creator, and to contemplate him as the everlasting Father we shall see that he is graciously attentive to all our wants, and that he is disposed to lead us in the way we should go. If, I say, we were brought to contemplate him in this point of light, I believe it would have a powerful tendency to draw us from an improper devotion to other things. For as the soul of man becomes enlightened and enlarged in the comprehension of all the tender mercies and fatherly cares of a gracious Creator, it must necessarily be enlarged in a desire, that it may in all things become conformed to his own blessed will. And it appears to my mind, that the simple path pointed out for man is a devotion to his Creator's blessed will; and every soul that lives in devotion to the will of God, must be happy, both in time, and when time shall be no more. So that every soul that becomes subject to his government must be happy. And why? Because he that dwells in all his works can require nothing that shall go to destroy the foundation of happiness And although in becoming subject to his government, and becoming passive to the manifestation of his spirit, we shall be led from many of the customs and fashions of the world; yet we shall find that we are in duty bound to separate ourselves from the customs and habits which prevail, and that this separation will go to add to our happiness.

These are the consequences that must ever follow a devotion to his will; and this is the way in which man, from the beginning was to go. He was to live in subjection to the will of God, and to obey the light within, thus walking in the counsel and demonstration of this living and eternal principle. And there never was a solitary instance, where a devoted subject of this kind was ever rendered unhappy in time, or as I can believe, in eternity. The mind that becomes devoted to the clear conviction of feelings in the soul - to the impressions of duty, and to a sense of what God requires, must have a consciousness that it is pursuing an honest course, and laying a sure foundation, from which it will have nothing to fear; it is thus that the Lord's children become established, and thus every man "sits under his vine and under his fig-tree, and none shall make them afraid."

Now, my friends, if we look into the subject, and enter into ourselves, and become faithfully devoted to the convictions and evidence of truth in ourselves, and follow these convictions and these impressions, will it not do away [with] every ground of fear, and relieve us from every apprehension of danger? I have no doubt of it. But we have heard occasionally, that there is danger of being led off, and of our being carried away into visionary ideas, if we submit ourselves to this internal convicting principle - that we may be led into extremes, and that there are many great absurdities in our devotion to this convicting feeling, and the impressions made upon the soul of man.

It is true, my friends, there may be cases of delusion, but they are in consequence, not of the principle, nor of being devoted to it, but in consequence of the tendency of the heart, for there are a variety of ways in which it may be acted on - the mind of man may be stimulated, and influenced by various causes. But if we come under the precious government, and into true devotion to the spirit of God, as certainly as it is the perfection of wisdom and power, from which all things proceed, and by which all things are happily regulated that are regulated, so, truly, should we be regulated. For he that sustains the perfection of every plant in the field, and who sustains the perfection of every planet in its orbit, would by the same power sustain that kind of propriety in our conduct which would support us in every exigency. It is true, that the unthinking, worldly, and giddy classes of mankind will call in question the restrictions that they must be laid under when they come into subordination to this principle, but let them examine and critically decide, and they will perceive, that whenever these restrictions proceed from solid impressions upon the mind, made by the influence of divine power, they must necessarily result in preparing such individuals to be happy in themselves.

Now, if we go from this foundation where are we to land? As I said in the beginning, it is very extraordinary, if the great Creator, after having planned out our creation, should have left us in uncertainty, in respect to the way that we should go. I know that there is in Christendom a great deal said upon this subject, and a great variety of rules and opinions imposed, and attempted to be urged upon the notice of mankind, and I know to what extent they are called to an external, and outward test. But this society, in its commencement, appealed to the light of Christ within; and they bore ample testimony to this invaluable guide. They held it up as unequivocally proceeding, from unlimited perfection, and they had n doubt of the safety of being subject to its government, They believed, and so will every dedicated follower, that no doctrines were imposed on the mind through the medium of this principle, which were contradictory to the doctrines unfolded at any prior period of the world.. They believed that they would find a correspondence in the scriptures of truth, with the impressions which they felt in their own minds, and this correspondence was abundantly furnished, when the blessed Saviour told his disciples who were leaning upon him, and upon his outward communications "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go away, I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter."

Now, he saw that his disciples, though they had been so long in his company, that it would seem, they might have been prepared to understand; yet they were leaning upon outward, views - this was evident by the questions which they proposed to him: "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" They had an idea of being raised to power and importance in the world, and while in this state it was impossible that they should be brought into possession of the Comforter, of whom he had spoken. It was, therefore, necessary that all those outward expectations should be done away. But when they waited, in conformity to his instructions, at Jerusalem, to be endowed with power from on high they were so endowed; for the Holy Ghost came down upon them, and they were furnished with still deeper testimony, to the convincement of those who heard them. And no doubt at all they were satisfied that it was this Holy Spirit, from the character that the blessed Jesus himself had given concerning it - "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance."

When man calmly retires, and quietly sits down to contemplate himself, and to think of his own condition, the eternal light of the sun of righteousness bursts in upon his soul, opens a view of his condition, and brings all things to his remembrance. Therefore, a believer in this principle, and in the truth of the testimony that records this principle, must know that it will not do for him to rest in the outward testimony. For he feels that he is bound to come to the thing testified of - to come to the living power and spirit of truth in himself, and when he comes under its government, he will be taught all things, and all things will be brought to his remembrance, and hence he will be led to see what it is that contributes to his destruction, and what to his happiness; and thus he will be instructed how to pursue his passage through this world in order to be happy. He is taught by external testimony and has it confirmed by internal. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me," and he will experience the reality of this testimony, because he finds in the different tempers and tendencies of his nature, a liability to excess, therefore it is requisite that he be placed under a principle of restraint. And this holy and heavenly restraint is called the cross of Christ, because it applies to the various temperaments in man's nature, and seeing the truth of the testimony he is satisfied of its reality, because he finds it impressed with equal force in his own mind, and in his submission to it he is rendered happy. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls." And as we are brought under this constraining power and controlling influence of this heavenly Spirit, we shall find that his yoke is easy, and that its restrictions render us comfortable and happy in ourselves, and thus prepare us for the enjoyment of the society or one another.

How plain, beautiful, clear, and excellent, is the path that God has ordained for man to walk in. How sweetly might we enjoy the happiness of each other's society, and how cordially we might stand together, and reverence that ever blessed and glorious Being, who, in connection with our being; has associated with and breathed upon us the breath of life, whereby we have become living souls.

O, my friends! while I have been standing among you, and reflecting as I have been led to do upon the vast variety of dangers, of trials, and or difficulties, to which we are liable in our passage through this present probationary scene, I have been prepared to acknowledge that I know no guide, that I know no principle adequate to protect us on the right hand and on the left, but this all comprehensive and eternal principle, that embraces the past present, and future. Let us then become subject to the light of Christ, to this supernatural guide, a guide that has never yet deceived any of the sons of men.

I wish, for this rising generation, and in an especial manner, in this large city, where the means of deception are abundant, and where the fields of iniquity are extensive, that children would regard the light of truth in themselves.

When you retire, dear young people, to your bed chambers, from the busy buzz of society, before you lay your heads upon the pillow, and when the Lord deigns to visit you and to solemnize your feelings, and to open your eyes to see the world which lies in iniquity, be entreated of him to become his peaceful subjects, and in that case he will be graciously pleased to preserve you. But how many there are who are wandering, as it were, upon the mountains of naked profession, and who are fit subjects to be taken with every snare, and to be tossed and carried, along the tide of time, with most any thing that is held up to view, and without a sufficient degree of sober integrity for considering what will promote the peace of their own minds, and what will not! These must be left till some great sin overtakes them, and till they are taught by the things they suffer; for thus it is, that they are left to pursue their course, and we have an evidence of this in the testimony of the blessed Jesus, for he says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest." Many have gone abroad in the world and made experiments, and tried the consequences of indulging a tendency to evil, - who have tried all these mad experiments - to all these he says, come unto me, all you that are weary, who have learned that all is vanity of vanities, and vexation of spirit - who have made the experiment and are satisfied, that peaceable fruits are not to he found on this ground. Now try his yoke upon you, and learn of him, and I verily believe, that if this becomes happily the case with many in the audience of my voice, - if they become passive subjects under this heavenly yoke, they will find themselves established upon a foundation, against which, the various storms and conflicts of time will beat but in vain: for there is a foundation that stands sure, and the Lord knows them that are his.

I wish for the present company that this foundation may be individually attended to.

I had not a prospect for saying much, but I felt an opening and spreading of gospel love upon my mind, extending to the present society, and this simple testimony has been left with you. And it is consolatory to believe that God is love, and that he is continually mindful of us.