A Sermon by JESSE KERSEY Delivered at Cherry Street Meeting House, Philadelphia, on the afternoon of First-day, Fourth month 14th, 1834; at the time of Friends' Yearly Meeting.)
Friends' Intelligencer, Vol. XXVII, No. 48 (First month 28th 1871), pages 761-764.

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

It cannot be denied, that in this religious body, particularly in this city, there have been many very interesting testimonies borne to the power and excellency of the gift of God to man. But I am aware that all that is past when justly considered in its application to the time that is past, cannot constitute an acquittal from the duties of the present.

On this occasion, I wish to call the attention of this large assembly, to some views with which my mind has been seriously affected. I have remembered this city and many of its inhabitants for many years; and when I call to mind those faithful servants and handmaids that stood dedicated to the great cause of universal righteousness, who have finished the work of their day and are placed in another state of existence, I am impressed with the recollection of the number of honorable fathers and mothers that took a deep hold of the concerns of the church, who in their individual capacity furnished an important example, and that in an especial manner, in their own houses. If we entered into the society of these in their particular habitations, and observed the conduct of their offspring, we could distinctly discover that there was a warm and powerful attachment between parents and children. It gave evidence of the existence of that state which, it was declared by the prophet, should accompany the gospel: "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers." It was observable that there was in the families of this society, a respectful deference on the part of children to the concern and judgment of their parents; and we were not witnesses [P 762] to conduct very different from this in many families of the society. We could plainly observe, too, an abundant harmonious respect to that kind of order that stood in agreement with the nature of our religious profession. And in sitting down in the families of these, there was a peculiar satisfaction in witnessing the quietude, the stillness, that would frequently prevail in family circles. Yes, my friends, my mind is tendered in the recollection of many precious opportunities of this kind, in the days of my apprenticeship, when living in this city. Retiring to the families of my friends for the purpose of spending an evening, we were often drawn together in a state of solemn quietude. And it would sometimes occur, that parents of families would open to our view, what they had experienced of the goodness of God; what they had known and enjoyed of the tender visitations of his love; and I very well recollect a respectful conformity on the part of many bright sons and daughters, to the views and wishes of their respectable parents. In contemplating that state of things, and in recurring to scenes that have past between that period and the present, my mind has been, this afternoon, particularly humbled. I have remembered that many of these heads of families were suddenly summoned away from time. I hold in solemn recollection, the awful visitation of '93, which spread over the city of Philadelphia, and clothed its inhabitants in mourning. In that period we parted with many valuable members of society, young and old. The generation now upon the stage of active life have no personal knowledge of many of them. The ardent testimonies of a William Savery -- the deep-felt concern of a Thomas Scattergood--the lively and energetic communications of a Nicholas Waln--the solemn testimonies, demonstrating the excellency and power of the gift of a Peter Yarnall--and the labors of many other dignified ministers of the gospel, are not forgotten by some, though the knowledge of them may not be possessed by the greater portion of the present company. I say, that when I look back and reflect upon those who are removed from the church militant, and contemplate the awful events, which have transpired between the early periods of my life and the present, my mind is bumbled and deeply affected; and a concern has pressed upon it, which I will endeavor to open in gospel love to this assembly; a concern which embraces the welfare of every family and individual now within the audience of my voice. It is a concern for the establishment of a regular system of government, in the families of my dear friends. I have no idea of a stern or tyrannical system of government, in the families of any who are professers of the name of Christ; but it is clearly my sentiment, and in accordance with the example of those who have gone before, that heads of families should hold the reins of government in their own hands. It should be understood in every family, to be the duty of sons and daughters, when about to take a step of importance, that they should consult their parents, obtain their sentiment, and pay a dutiful respect thereto, when received. This doctrine is not new. It was inculcated among the Israelites of old. "Honor thy father and mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." And in the apostles' time they spoke language perfectly in agreement with this view. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." This is in accordance with the evidence furnished to every rational mind. I address you, my young friends, in the full confidence that you are not only willing to hear, but to deliberate upon the sentiments just offered. It is in the natural order of things to be believed -- you have a right to suppose that your parents must possess an extent of knowledge, superior to the knowledge that you have acquired, when in correspondence with their experience, they caution you relative to the abundant and various snares abounding in this city. I take it to be your duty, to pay a respectful attention to their commands and wishes. There should be a positive surrender of your wills to that of your parents. I have witnessed in my day and time what has been the mournful consequence which has attended those who have been disobedient to their parents. I call to mind a long list of the names of those of that character, who before they reached thirty years, were involved in disease and corruption, and landed in an untimely grave, They lad been rebellious children -- had grieved a tender-hearted father, distressed an affectionate mother, refused obedience to their plain and reasonable charges, went on in their own way, and the result was a termination of life before they were thirty years of age. One poor young man now comes up, whom I saw on his way home from this city. He said to me,"my parents gave me an interesting charge; they told me when they placed me in the city, that it was attended with many corruptions and snares, and most affectionately charged me to devote my leisure evenings to profitable pursuits, and spend them in good society, and to take care of myself. I have disregarded their advice -- I have not chosen good society -- their admonitions I have set aside -- and am now going home with a constitution wholly shattered and destroyed." In a few months he died.

Certain it is, that if children, who know they have honorable [P 763] parents, will listen attentively to their counsel, a blessing will be the result. Can you suppose that there are any other characters in the world, that feel an interest in your welfare equal to that of your tender parents ? If you look at their kind attention, their carefulness, and the advantages which they are daily putting in your possession, you must become convinced of their affection, and solicitude that you may grow up men and women of honorable character in the world, and hold a dignified rank in civil and religious society. Let it be your practice to listen attentively to the counsel of your pious parents. With you who are blessed with fathers and mothers, it will be a circumstance of deep regret indeed, if, when they are taken away, you are obliged to reflect that you have grieved them. You will find an irrecoverable pang in the thought of having pained your grey headed parents. I charge you in the fear and love of God, honor your parents, regard closely your duties to them.

I do not mean an implicit obedience to unreasonable requisitions, but you are aware there are a number of valuable views spread before you by your concerned parents. They have solicited you to shun the causes of evil so abundant in this city. It is incompatible with the duty. of a Friend's child, to go to the various departments of amusement and entertainment calculated to destroy the moral character, and to lay waste all habit of serious reflection. And when you depart from this correct course of obedience to their kind admonitions, you must lay your heads upon your pillows in bitter anxiety, in sorrow and in grief. It is a clear case, that in order to sweeten life, it is necessary to pay a devotional regard to the concerns of. your parents. Don't disobey their pious solicitations. Don't turn a deaf ear to their counsel and entreaty.

It would be my special desire, to urge you to a consideration of the propriety of loving the society of your parents, to be glad to spend your leisure hours in their company. Our stay in time will soon be cut off, many will soon part with their parents. Love their company, and above all, pay a dutiful respect to their kind and reasonable counsel. It will clothe your minds with sweet satisfaction in the latter period of life.

My friends, I am glad to witness such dignified attention on the part of many dear young friends now assembled. I do not look towards being capable of relieving my mind of the weight of concern that presses upon it. I am willing to take upon me, and to bear the burden in secret, of an affectionate solicitude for the salvation of my dear young friends. And I feel particularly solicitous as it regards those of my own sex, that are to constitute the main stay and support of civil and religious society. This you cannot be, short of becoming subject to the gift of God, mercifully furnished to each of us. If you will thus take example of the illustrious Paul, confer not with flesh and blood, but give up to the heavenly vision, the convictive power of God, I say if you will give up to this luminous principle, it wilt establish you in the world, enable you to preserve a dignified consistency, and you will be as lights to those around you. What is then to be expected, when the religious character of a people is different -- when it is wavering and inconsistent ? I say, what is then to be expected, but disorder, confusion and corruption ? As it regards myself merely, I have but little cause to indulge in any ardent concern, whatever may be the delusions and absurdities existing in the privileged land of North America; I shall soon be away from them all. Not so with you, my young friends. And if your weight of character does not go to support right practice, you may justly be called upon to sustain the burden of an afflictive state of things. Once more I call upon you to recur to the solemn duties of honoring your parents. Remember, if you should ever have families to take charge of, you will expect those about you to pay a regard to your judgment, and not turn a deaf ear. If this is what you would look for, you must evince the same disposition towards your parents, that they may enjoy your society, and thus have a flow of happiness on both sides. I close this communication in the humble and consoling belief, that I have been attended to on the part of many, who will not abandon this weighty concern, but carry it along with them and cherish it. Other subjects have presented themselves to my view, but I shall feel best satisfied not to introduce them now. We are furnished with line upon line, and precept upon precept, and the opportunity for silence seems to be more limited than it should be; at the same time I have no wish to call in question the labors of my brothers and sisters, but wish myself not to take up time unnecessarily.

My dear children, I can tell you, that I believe the views I have attempted to lay before you, if adhered to will preserve you from the vain customs of this large city. There is a wide range of opportunity for you to be led astray. Consult your own feelings as to what is the safest and best course of life, and you will be led to the conclusion, that our predecessors took the right ground in preserving a plain, regular system. They set the example of a plain people, and possessed a happy, regular, tender and glowing respect for one another, and thus enjoyed the sweets of life; and I have no doubt, are gathered to [P 764] the mansions of rest, where I hope all of us may be landed.

Shake off, shake off the folly and frippery of the world, and it will work right.