A Sermon Delivered by ABRAHAM LOWER, at Green Street Meeting, Philadelphia, November 18, 1827.
The Quaker, Vol. II No. 6 (December, 1827)
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 3: The 19th Century.
If I can think one thought, of myself, as a man, as a creature,--by my own powers as a rational intelligent creature, simply, which will have a tendency to save my soul, I can think two thoughts, and so on--I can think and devise for myself, and in this way effect my own salvation. Grant this position as to the one, and all the rest follows as a necessary consequence. I have bee persuaded of the impotency of man, of the inefficiency of his own powers, splendid as they are, to save himself; and the testimony of the experienced apostle of Christ has appeared to me a striking illustration of the weakness of man, and of his incapacity to help himself. For we generally conceive that he was a dignified apostle, a man of learning, an eloquent man, and one who had great powers of mind; and yet he makes this declaration of himself--and true it was, and it will remain true of every other man and woman: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God."
Now, my friends, this position being granted--and why shall we not grant it? for we have the testimony of an experienced apostle, and if we are attentive to our own experience, we shall find thou our own thoughts, our cogitations, and our inventions tend very much to self, that they are very much of a selfish character; and hence the necessity of the preaching of the cross of Christ. And wherefore? Because "it is the power of God unto salvation, to all them that believe."
So the great unhappiness is, and it has ever been so, that men and women have placed the stress of the matter, with regard to the salvation of their own souls, upon the possibility of the acquirement of a true and saving knowledge by external means--we have placed, as men and creature, the stress of the matter upon that kind of information, which we receive through the medium of our senses, as rational creatures; than which, a greater delusion could not possibly infatuate mankind.
If the testimony of the apostle be true--and I am fully persuaded of its truth myself, and I trust my brethren and sisters, that you are disposed to grant the truth of the position, that "we are not sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves; but that our sufficiency is of God"--away, then, with a dependance on any or all of our own contrivances and our own inventions.
This, then, leads to the important doctrine, it leads to the discovery of the important doctrine which the Evangelist has recorded concerning Christ. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." The same took flesh and dwelt among men. This Word, this living eternal Word of God, which was from the beginning, the creative energy, and power, and wisdom of God, the same took flesh in that body prepared of the Father to do his will in--appeared in the blessed Jesus. And of its fullness the apostles were made witnesses. "In him"-the creative Word--"in him was life, and the life was the light of men; and that was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
Here, my friends, seeing our own insufficiency of thinking--our own incapacity of thinking, or doing any thing for ourselves, without this divine life, agreeably to the Scriptures, let us give up to the turning of the Lord's hand upon us--that we may "have comfort of the Scriptures" in reading them; and we may have hope, by our own minds becoming quickened to an understanding of what holy men of old wrote as they were moved of the Holy Spirit.
And hence, if the word, and power, and wisdom of God, was in that body prepared of the Father to do his own blessed will in; and if that word was life, and that life the light of men--that "light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world,--then, my friends, we ourselves are made partakers of that heavenly gift: and the same eternal, almighty, invincible principle and power, is necessary to illuminate our understanding to see the things that belong to our peace. But there are no powers wich we possess as men and creatures,--splendid as our attainments may be, and although our researches into the wisdom and learning of men may be such, that we can understand all sciences, and attain to the wisdom of words to the greatest extent,--yet none of these can minister to the salvation of our souls. Because this can only be done by that life, that divine life which is the light of men--which I conceive to be synonymous; the light is the life--and which every man and woman is furnished with a manifestation of this light.
Here we see the individual responsibility which we are placed under; each and every one being favoured with a manifestation of the spirit; corresponding with the testimony of the apostle: "But the manifestation of the spirit is given to every man to profit withal." And you know for want of this, men have gone into many inventions. "God hath made man uprights; but they have sought out many inventions."
Well, my friends, the importance of the matter is, to attain to the truth of the testimony of the holy men of old: for how can we be instructed by their testimonies, unless we have the influence--unless we have the same inspiring influence of God which inspired their minds; than which, nothing can give us an assurance that what is there written, was written under the influence of the Spirit of God.
Oh! then dear friends, and dear young friends, whose minds, whose tender minds are very susceptible of the influences of truth; I am desirous that every one, both young and old, may attend to the influence of this inspiring gift. It will be found to be an instructor which can an will teach us what the will of God is; and there is nothing else that can do it. It never was meant that man should attain to heaven "by strides of human wisdom." No, my friends. We are to seek God, and a knowledge of him, and his will concerning us, in his word; that word which is nigh, in the heart, and in the mouth. And mark the testimony in the records of truth: "Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven, to bring Christ down from above; or who shall descend into the deep, to bring Christ up again from the dead?" But what saith it? "The word is nigh thee, even in thy heart, and in thy mouth;" that thou mayst do it; and this is "the word of faith which we preach."
This, my friends, is the faith which is true and saving, the faith "of the operation of God;" for we may remember the concurrent testimony: "For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Then, my friends, let us abandon ourselves to the care and protection of our Heavenly Father. Let us be willing to be considerate--let us be satisfied with this consistent, rational practice of assembling ourselves together, and sitting down in solemn silence, each one turning as much as possible, by abstracting our minds from external considerations--turning inward to the gift of God in ourselves. Here we shall find an instructor, here we shall find, if we are in a state of purity of thoughts, by a prevalent influence predominating our minds--here we shall find the comforter, comforting and consoling us for obedience, however it may be under the influence of the cross, and the mortification of our wills as men and creatures. And here every man and every woman will find it as a fire: for it is the same comforter, spirit, principle, and power, which, if we are disobedient and rebellious, will operate as a fire and as a hammer. And they are brought into great desolation by it; that is, its influence operates upon their hearts, and shows men and women their transgressions, and their lost and undone condition, without the saving influence of the Spirit and Power of God.
Then let each and every one attend to it, and we shall find it a reprover for our sins. Children will find it so; and we shall find it a comforter for every righteous thought that we permit to be conceived in our hearts. Because we have the power of choice, and we are to give up our own wills and our own passions to its influence: because, though they are in themselves innocent--though these propensities which we have were originally good, they become perverted and bad by a wrong indulgence of them; and hence they become, when indulged, lusts, "and lust, when it is conceived, brings forth sin," and "all unrighteousness is sin."
Ye see, my dear friends--and I am desirous to make my communication as short as I can, consistent with the peace of my own mind--ye see the importance of seeking for divine instruction; and may we endeavour to center down, not only when thus gathered together, but when we are engaged in our daily pursuits--may we endeavour to accustom ourselves to a state of introversion, to feel after, according to the apostolical exhortation, t feel after im who is nigh to every one of us: the one supreme, eternal, invisible, and only "God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." And if we are thus engaged to seek after him, we shall find him. "Seek, and ye shall find:" for he is nigh to every one of us.