A Sermon Delivered by THOMAS LECHTWORTH at the Meetinghouse in the Park, Southwark, England, date unspecified.
Twelve Discourses Delivered Chiefly at the Meeting House of the People Called Quakers, in the Park, Southwark. Salem: Thomas Cushing, 1794.

This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Section 2: The 17th Century.

Arise, and go hence; for, this is not thy rest! We are abundantly instructed in the holy scriptures respecting the shortness of human life, the brevity of all terrestrial pleasures, and the vanity of all human pursuits, compared with the satisfaction which is found in a course of virtue, and the glorious hope with which it inspires its humble votaries of ultimately possessing an inheritance which is incorruptible, and fadeth not away.

It is the worthy purpose, or end, of real religion, to ennoble our nature, to raise our thoughts and contemplations from carnal to spiritual, from terrestrial to celestial, objects. Set your affections, says the apostle, on things above, not on things on the earth. If our affections be solely placed on things which are beneath, or on the pleasures derived to us from an intercourse with the objects of sense, our happiness, indeed, will be exceedingly short-lived and uncertain. Here we have no continuing city: every thing of a terrestrial nature is mutable. There is not any state or circumstance of life, however pleasing, that we can have any security will continue long.

A transition, from a state of opulence to a state of poverty, our own observations have instructed us, has sometimes been made very quick. We cannot either foresee or prevent those occurrences which may be productive in future of prosperity or adversity, of pleasure or pain. The fashion of the world, saith the apostle, passeth away, and we are indeed passing with it. Short is the span of human life: short the path we have to tread from the cradle to the grave, the house appointed for the reception of all living; for, dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return. Seeing, therefore, we have no continuing city, let us form the wise resolution of seeking one that is to come; a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. I have understood by this passage of scripture, which is figurative, that we are called upon, as rational creatures, by the voice of divine wisdom, feeling all the pleasures, or satisfactions, which arise from an intercourse with sensible objects, must terminate, to endeavour, by the best use or application of those powers, which Heaven has endued us with, to seek that species of happiness which will be permanent, and is adapted to the nature of a rational and an immortal spirit. This is the comment which I have made on this passage of holy writ: and I do most fervently wish that our minds may be disposed at this season seriously to reflect on the comparative folly of' all sensual indulgences, and on the vanity. of human pursuits; and be animated to seek the superior good, a habitation in the city of the saints solemnities, a city that hath foundations. Look, faith the text, upon Zion, the city of our solemnities, and thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation; not one of its stakes shall ever be removed, nor any of its cords be broken: there the glorious Lord is to its inhabitants as a place of broad rivers and streams. He is the source whence their happiness is derived; and, as he is immortal, the happiness, derived from an intercourse or communion with him will consequently be permanent.

We are instructed by what means we are to leek successfully this city that hath foundations. We are told, in the Revelations, in words somewhat of this import, Blessed is he who keepeth the commandments of God: he shall have access to the tree of life, which stands in the midst of the Paradise of God; [he] shall enter in through the gates into the city, and become a fellow citizen with the saints, and of the household of God. Here we learn, that, if we would possess a habitation in this city, we must seek it by walking in the commandments. Again, if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. There is no other way to become an inhabitant of this city than by obedience to the sacred commandments of Heaven, which are of universal obligation. Let us not, therefore, expect to climb up any other way, or to attain a state of felicity hereafter, by any other mode than obedience from the heart to the manifestations of the divine will; and, with respect to the commandments of God, we are also instructed by what means they are to be ascertained; at least by individuals for themselves: a manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. It is called light, because it hath a property which is analogous to that element. It illuminates the understandings of mankind, by instructing them in matters of the greater importance, - matters which respect their final acceptance with the Judge of the whole earth at the last day.

But, though the light shines, or a manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal, yet there are, comparatively speaking: but few who attend to its dictates, and pursue that course of virtue which the light of the Gospel of Jesus evidently points out. It is with many as it was with the multitude when our Lord was personally on earth. Light, says he, is come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light. He came, a divine messenger of heaven, to propose the terms, of reconciliation to fallen creatures. He came to enlighten their understandings, to correct the depravity of their' hearts, to purify them, and to make them meet for an inheritance which is incorruptible, and fadeth not away. He came to reveal to them the way which leads to this glorious city; but they turned a deaf ear to the instructions of wisdom; they would not attend to his counsel; nor be admonished by his reproofs: Light is come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light. They hate the light, neither come to the light, left their deeds should be reproved.

Perhaps, if we review our lives; if we look into the book of conscience, we shall find something recorded there which bears a resemblance, more or less, to the circumstance of those people in the days of our Lord's personal appearance on earth. There is not a being, arrived to years capable of serious reflection, who hath not had some secret convictions for doing wrong; who hath not had some compunction of conscience for having transgressed the laws and statutes of Heaven. But, as the pointing of the sacred finger leads to things contrary to the wish of the sensual heart, immersed in pleasures derived from terrestrial pursuits, we are not disposed to attend to the instruction of the sacred monitor. We are rather disposed to be flattered in our vices, to be soothed in our sins, than to have them corrected, and to be led into the just man's path, which is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

There is a circumstance on record concerning an ancient king, which may serve, perhaps, to illustrate the doctrine which I have in view to assert. He was about to lead out his army to battle, and was doubtful of the event of his intended enterprise. He was desirous, if possible, to know what should be the decision of the day; and, for that purpose, he intended to consult some seer; but he meant some person who should be capable of flattering his vanity and wishes. A prophet of the Lord was proposed to him - one who had never acted the part of a sycophant, but had spoken the word of the Lord faithfully: - but he was not disposed to consult this prophet. That, indeed, which would have recommended him to every judicious person, was the cause of his refusing to consult him. He knew he would not attempt to sooth his vanity, prophecy smooth things, or speak deceit: therefore he determined not to consult him. I hate him, for he doth not prophecy good concerning me, but evil. And thus, with respect to the divine monitor, the manifestation of the grace, of God in the human heart, which bears a faithful testimony to our consciences; we are not disposed to attend to its dictates, but we call upon our passions to sooth us, to flatter us, and to concur with our vain hopes, and, by this means, have neglected things which are of the greatest importance. We are rather desirous that we may be indulged in the pursuit of lying vanities, than to have our eyes effectually opened to see our own nakedness, the depravity of our hearts, and the way which leads to Zion. I hate him; for he doth not speak good concerning me, but evil. [This would be Ahab; see I Kings 22:8 -pds] Thus mankind hate the reproofs of the divine light in their own consciences, because it testifies against their darling passions, and thwarts them in their pleasing pursuits, intercepts their long-indulged prospects, and points out to them a road, the pursuit of which would afford them no pleasure though it leads to Zion. Their thoughts are engrossed by inferior objects; they have no taste, or relish, for things which are of a spiritual nature, but would, if it were possible, take up their rest in transient gratifications, and not be solicitous with respect to the conclusion of the scene, or what shall be their circumstance, or state, in the world, or life, which is to come.

They hate the light: Why so? Because it manifests their deeds of darkness. They do not like to take a view of their own hearts. Such is the depravity thereof, that a view of it is indeed humiliating to the pride of human nature. They had rather draw a veil over their sins than see them in their proper colours, as they really are; or pursue such measures of conduct as would ennoble their nature, rectify their judgments, and open to them prospects far more inviting than what this world can afford, even the prospect of an everlasting habitation in the new heaven and the new earth, wherein righteousness dwells.

But, though I am led to speak after this manner, I have no doubt that there are many in this audience who have weighed the worth of vanity; and estimated the insignificancy of all terrestrial things; who have seen that they are not adapted to satiate the thirst of an immortal spirit. They have contemplated, and have gathered from their own observations, that every thing is mutable; - that the finger of Omnipotence hath written on the face of universal nature, Thou shall perish. They have gathered, I say, from their own observations, that every thing, included in this system, is mutable; and that, in a short time, a period will be put to their existence on earth, when their connection with all sublunary objects will be dissolved forever. Under such a prospect of the uncertainty of terrestrial pleasures, they have been animated to seek a city which hath foundations; or, in other words, have been excited, by the purest motives, to pursue those means which will introduce that happiness into the soul which is not dependent on any elementary or secondary causes, but on an union of soul with the Author of its being; and have chosen, if it should be their lot in the course of the providence of divine wisdom, to suffer rather affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season. I salute these with the salvation of the love of the gospel of Christ. They are seeking a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God; and their hope will not be as the hope of the hypocrite, which will perish, but a hope that will terminate in an everlasting fruition of joys, which eye hath not seen, nor hath ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. Blessed are they who keep the commandments of God: they will have access to the tree of life, which stands in the midst of the Paradise of God, and shall enter in through the gates into the city, - become fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. For, having been redeemed from the bondage of corruption, they shall enjoy the glorious liberty of the sons of God; they shall enter into the city of the saints solemnities, the inhabitants whereof shall never complain that they are sick. Indeed, it affords the most enlivening species of hope, to them that seek this city, that, when the clouds shall gather blackness, darkness, and tempest - ,when the prospect of the future shall be exceedingly gloomy, - they can penetrate this gloom, and anticipate an everlasting habitation in purer skies, in the new heaven and in the new earth, wherein righteousness dwells. I wish, friends, we may be effectually animated by the consideration of these things: that, seeing every thing is uncertain, and that we may be deprived of the choicest of terrestrial blessings in an unexpected hour, let us seek a city that hath foundations, and lay up for ourselves a good foundation against the time which is to come.

It is, indeed, to be acknowledged, with reverent gratitude and praise, that many are the blessings we have received in the course of God's providence; and we ought to receive them in a humble, becoming manner - in a manner becoming dependent beings, who have nothing which, they have not received, and to use, or apply, them to the purpose for which they were given. But we are not to rest satisfied in those enjoyments which are to be derived merely from an intercourse with terrestrial objects. Arise, and go hence; this is not thy rest! But there is a rest prepared for the people of God; and that rest is to be attained by a reverent attention to his commandments. This is the constant doctrine of then holy Scriptures, both in the old and in the new Testament: let us, therefore, study the will of Heaven respecting us; and let it be our constant concern to recommend ourselves to the Author of our being, by manifesting the love we feel or possess for him, in a reverent attention to his statutes and his commandments. Were our hearts thus disposed heaven-ward to seek the superior good, we should be able to join with the royal Plalmist in saying, My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God! Again, as the heart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God! A contemplation of the divine law, to those who love it, would open a source of the most exalted pleasure, and they would indeed say with with the Psalmist, Thy statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. Now I understand, by songs in the text, that they were the chief, or principal, objects of his affections; that they were inscribed on the tablet of his heart, as well as written on the posts of his doors. They were the subjects of his meditation when he. last down and when he rose up.

May it please the Author of all good so to inspire our hearts with a noble contempt of all sensual indulgences, as that we may pursue those things which are most excellent; and, seeing the insufficiency of all terrestrial scenes to communicate to us permanent felicity, we may set our affections on things which are above, and, by a course of, practical virtue and obedience, lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven, where the moth nor rust cannot corrupt, nor thieves break thro' and steal. Then shall we ultimately attain that rest which is prepared for the people of God, in which there is fulness of joy!