A Sermon Delivered by CATHERINE PHILLIPS (A/K/A CATHERINE PAYTON), at the Westminster Meeting House, 17th of 5th Month, 1780.
Some Discourses, Epistles, and Letters, by the Late Samuel Fothergill. To Which Are Added, Some Discourses by the Late Catherine Phillips, Both of the Society of Friends. London: W. Phillips, 1803.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 3: The 18th Century.
We call ourselves Christians, we most if not all of us profess to be the disciples of Christ; but our taking upon us that name, that may portend to our having a belief on Christ, will do nothing for us, unless we are ingrafted into him by his living efficacious spirit: therefore it is necessary now for professed believers in him to examine themselves and try themselves, and see whether they are in this faith, as it was for those to whom the apostle wrote, with whom he queries, "What? know ye not your own selves; how that Jesus Christ is in you unless ye be reprobates!" This is the one point of the true Christian faith which many of the professors of Christianity are unacquainted with: some of them are in such a state of sorrowful ignorance that they even mock at it, and are not afraid to thin and speak contemptuously of those who have been better instructed; who are sensible (agreeable to scripture doctrine) that, "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his;" and who have been confirmed in the faith of the universality of the love of God to mankind through him, when they read that he "lead captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men;" he gave them (says the apostle when he recurred to this prophecy, which went before, of his coming, of his death, and of his work) for this purpose, "that the Most High might dwell among them," and even unto the rebellious he gave these gifts; so that other testimony of the apostle stands confirmed by this, that "the grace of God, which bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men:" and a third may be added to them, which is, "the manifestation of the Spirit given to every man to profit withal;" yea and many more wich time at present will fail me to cite. But this we may learn from them all, as well as from the nature of God, that unto every one of us is given grace for our help in time of need; which grace is the "true light which," we read, "enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world." Christ the light of the world, is certainly is us, unless we are reprobates; if we are reprobates the fault is our own, because we have sinned out the day of the Lord's of the Lord's merciful visitation unto our souls, and are therefore given up to a reprobate made, to work those things which are not convenient. You may observe, such of you as have been conversant with what is written in the Scriptures of Truth, that this was the case of some in former days, of whom the apostle writes, that they did not like to retain God in their thoughts: they had known him, he had manifested himself unto them, because what is to be known of God he manifested in them: he had opened their understanding by his free grace, his infallible grace, but "when they knew God they glorified him not as God; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened," insomuch, that they went on from one degree of rebellion against God to another, until they were given up to this reprobate mind, to work those things which are not convenient. The grace of God through Jesus Christ in universal; but it is not impossible that mankind may resist this grace against themselves, though it is a powerful, efficacious principle of light and life, and is able to effect the work for which it is given; even to effect our salvation through what Christ has done for us, without us;--this is what this holy principle of divine grace is able to do for us, within us. It will not force salvation upon us against our consent; we may resist it against ourselves, and do despite unto it, as we read in the scripture some did; and putting a flight upon so great a salvation brought to light through the gracious gospel of Christ, we may miss of it: and after having been endured with in much long suffering, as we read even the vessels of wrath had been who were fitted for destruction, the Lord may withdraw his good Spirit from us; "for," says he, "my Spirit shall not always strive with man." If this should be the case of any present, they will certainly drop into this unhappy, deplorable state of reprobation. My friends, as the will of God is our sanctification thro' the Spirit of his son, the manifestation thereof is given to every one of us to every one of us to profit withal; and every one of us who is acquainted with it, will not sit down satisfied in the bare profession if faith in Christ and in his holy doctrines, without being really in the true Christian faith. "Examine yourselves, I say again, try yourselves whether your are in the faith. What, know you not your ownselves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, unless ye be reprobates." Have you so long professed Christianity and been unaquainted with the glorious privileges of the gospel dispensation under which the Lord first teached his people himself; under which, blessed be his name, his children are taught of him, instructed by his free Spirit in their duty to him, have their understandings opened to the nature and importance of that work which is absolutely necessary to be wrought in them, and for them, by the powerful coming of the son of God; even the work of regeneration, without which none of us can (any more than mankind could in the days of our Lord) bear testimony to this truth;--to receive the kingdom of God we must be born again of the Spirit. My beloved fellow-professors of faith in Christ, if we are found in him who is truth, if we are acceptable unto God the Father, we must witness a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness; we must be changed in the spirit of our minds, and put off the old man with his deeds, by the cross, with the many deceitful lusts that are in the world, and be clothed upon with the new man, which is build up in righteousness and true holiness. This is the work of faith, true, living, operative faith, in the manifestation or revelation of the Son of God, in our own souls, whereby we become new creatures; if we are partakers of this faith we are new creatures. "If any man," says the apostle, "be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ." Examine yourselves my friends: and you who are here assembled to hear this doctrine, are you thus reconciled to God the Father, through Jesus Christ? If you are not, you are in a state of alienation from him, are strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, and have no well grounded hope of a part in the covenant of promise. My friends, is not this of the highest concernment? you will find it so in that solemn, awful, important season which is hastening upon every one of us; if we are not clothed with the righteousness of Christ, if we have not been so baptized into him as to put him on, if we are not in that disposition wherein he stood fully acceptable with the Father, we are not likely to be accepted of him, in and through his gracious mediation. Therefore see what your profession of faith and religion has done with you; examine yourselves, and see whether faith has worked by love, and whether the blessed effect of its operation upon your spirits have been the purifying of you, the cleansing of your consciences, and the making of your hearts fit tabernacles for the Lord to dwell in. "Know ye not," says the Apostle, "that ye are the temple of God;" and he will not dwell in an unclean temple. He condescends to tabernacle with men; the universal gift of his grace to men through Jesus Christ is, that they by experience may have God dwelling in the, and walking in them, and instructing them, and feeding them, (I mean their souls) with the bread of life, and replenishing them with the wine of his kingdom; and as this was heretofore the case, it continues to be the same unto this day. Shall we slight these glorious gospel privileges which are manifest under the gospel dispensation? Shall we be so blind to our souls interest? Shall we be so blind to our happiness, both in time and eternity, as to sit down contented without the experience of these things? Shall any of us rest in an unprofitable form, which we may call a form of godliness, and content ourselves with a name and profession of faith in Christ, without being brought into that disposition and state, wherein we can worship God in spirit and in truth, in the beauty of holiness, and walk before him in newness of life; which is a fruit of this living powerful efficacious Spirit.
My friends, I wish profession Christians under all names were better acquainted with these things, that they might be able to say as one did formerly, "blessed be God who has given me victory." He obtained this victory through his faith, and we shall never obtain it in any other way, or by any other means; therefore I say, believe in him whom God has sent, for this is the first work upon the soul: believe in him whom God has sent, not only in the outward and bodily appearance of his beloved Son, and what he did for you without you, but believe in his spiritual appearance, believe in his second coming unto the salvation of your souls, believe in the manifestation of his free spirit, and you will be instructed thereby if you are willing to be of the number of those who are saved; for that Spirit will instruct you, as it instructed the primitive believers, and has instructed a number through all ages to the present time, to deny all ungodliness and the world's lusts of every kind; it will make an end of sin, make reconciliation for in iniquity, and finish transgression, and in the room thereof everlasting life will be produced, which is the end proposed by the coming of the Son of God and his giving himself for mankind: he made an end of sin, and finished transgression, and brought in everlasting righteousness.
He "gave himself," says the apostle, "that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." This was the end proposed by his coming, and shall any dare to say the end shall not be answered? Shall any boldly affirm that hie is unequal to the work which God has appointed him to do? Shall any charge God with being so foolish as to appoint a means that will not accomplish this end? If this was the end of sending his Son into the world in the flesh and in the spirit, think you his end cannot be accomplished? do the means he has appointed fail? I hope none will boldly assert that thus it may be; or that it is impossible that sin should be put an end to and transgression finished in the present state, because it is further written concerning some of the Jews, that they should die in their sins, and "where I am," said Christ, "ye cannot come." Indeed, from the various texts of scripture, from the doctrine which dripped from the lips of the Lord Jesus, we may conclude that sin ever did and ever will make a separation between God and the soul of man; and if we die in our sins, our souls are not prepared for admittance into his glorious presence, because nothing that defileth, or that worketh abomination, or maketh a lie, can ever be admitted thereinto. We must therefore put off our sins be repentance, which is rendered possible through his beloved Son Jesus Christ, that we may cause our sins to go beforehand to judgment, that we may experience the body of the sins of the flesh crucified, through the operation of this word of living faith which I have testified of amongst at this time, and that we may experience the remission of our sins, and partake of an inheritance amongst all them who are sanctified, which was the end proposed by the apostle's ministry and labours. They preached this doctrine for this end, that they might turn people from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; that they might witness remission of their sins, and have an inheritance granted unto them amongst all them who are sanctified. This is possible in every age and every part of the world, and it is effected; for the divine power is not changed, nor his his kingdom altered; no unclean spirit shall ever be admitted thereinto.
The Lord can wash us and sanctify us through the powerful operation of his word in our hearts. Therefore my beloved friends, and you who are here present, let me intreat you to believe herein, and to wait for the operation thereof; that yo may be acquainted with the manifestation of this true light in your souls, that you may order your conduct and conversation agreeable thereto, and lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset; let us run with patience the race which divine wisdom has set before us, according to the manifestation of his grace, and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Oh! what a change would there be amongst professing Christians if they generally believed in this grace, and waited for the operation of it upon their spirits? How would this world be altered? All confusion would cease; peace on earth would take place, and good will toward men would be manifest. We hear of wars and rumours of wars; it would be manifested that all these wars and tumults come from the unbridles lusts of the creature: but the grace of God regulates the passions and brings the mind into them meekness of the gospel of Christ. This grace will put an end to the cause of wars, and where the cause is removed, the effect will cease. It would be seen under the gospel dispensation that men must beat their swords into plowshares; the words of the prophet must be fulfilled; and, blessed be God, it has been fulfilled, in some measure, that men shall "beat their swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, that nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more;" and, when the gospel shall cover the earth as the water covers the depths of the sea, this gracious prediction of the holy spirit will no doubt be fulfilled. We have reason to bless the name of the Lord that it has already been fulfilled (though in but a small number in the past age or ages); for there hath been some in the various ages of the Christian church, who have seen and testified that the spirit of Christianity; that if they were brought into the full government of the Spirit of Christ, the occasion of war would cease; that it would be their duty to testify against it in word and practice: this is but the beginning of the work. When men's minds shall be reduced into the meekness of the patience and kingdom of Christ, it will go forward in the earth. The Lord will yet open the understandings of many of the professors of Christianity, and show them how contrary the practice of the far greater number of professors is to the holy profession they make, to the nature of this pure, this heavenly, this renovating faith, that would so change the different natures of mankind, that though their nature be as different as the nature of the lion and the lamb, they should lie down and feed together, and there should be nothing to hurt or to destroy in all the Lord's holy mountain, because the knowledge of god will cover the hearts of his people in the earth, even as the water covers the depths of the sea; and we trust these prophecies will more generally be accomplished in the Lord's time. It is unexpectedly that I am led into these matters in this assembly. I had no foresight of it, till I stood upon my feet; but there was a testimony raised in my heart to the purity and spirituality of the Christian faith, which is only manifested to those who are concerned to hold the mystery thereof in a pure conscience, which the carnally minded man cannot comprehend with all his wisdom and learning; all his searches after it will be in vain, without he is possessed of this powerful efficacious faith; therefore my friends let me beseech you to seek to establish yourselves in the faith; if you seek it in this way, your understanding may be opened by that living word which divides between the precious and the vile, which will discover the thoughts of your heart, and, if they are evil, will bring judgment over your spirits for them.
This is the way for you to be well instructed in the kingdom of God. I say a carnally minded man cannot comprehend this faith; he has no part in it; it is not by wisdom that man can comprehend the things of God; by wisdom the world knew not God; it is not the wisdom world knew not god; it is not the wisdom of the world that can reveal these things, it must be revealed by the spirit of God, for as the things of a man are only comprehended by the spirit of a man, so the things of God are only known by the spirit of God. It is the glorious dispensation of the gospel under which people are effectually gathered to the Lord; for all who are brought under this dispensation know him from the least unto the greatest; they know him to be merciful to their unrighteousness, and that their sins and iniquities he will remember no more; they know him to be a father to them, and that they are his sons and daughters: as such, they can look up to him in every time of need, and breath their wants to him as a tender father who cares for them, who cares for them, who will supply them, and knows their circumstances altogether.
My friends, time will fail me to set forth these glorious privileges of the gospel. Oh! that men were better acquainted with them; and were pressing after and experience of them, that they might be turned from the paths of folly, from the paths of vanity and wickedness to seek after that holy way which has been manifested to the righteous of all ages, and which leads to the kingdom of God. There is no other way we ought to prize in the present state of being, or by which we shall be admitted int that rest which is appointed for the people of God; therefore let me beseech you, seek the Lord while he may be found; "boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth;" certainly there is a season appointed for all me to die, and after death to come to judgment. Oh! my friends, how deplorable will be the case of your immortal souls, if you are not prepared to stand with acceptance before the judgment seat of Christ, from whom we must all receive a reward according to our works. And as this work which I have been pointing out to you, is so absolutely necessary to be done, and can only be done in the day of the Lord's visitation to our souls; let me intreat it of you while it is called today, (and let me say to some of you the day is far spent and the night is at hand) thou knowest not what a day may bring forth, and how soon this alarming message may be brought to thee, "Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live." It seems as if I could not conclude without dropping a few remarks of this kind as they passed upon my mind while sitting in silence, though I did not know that I should stand up with them, or that they would be brought to my remembrance in the course of this meeting; but I wish to have people awakened (though I find it difficult to awaken them, they have such a stupified mind) to hear what the spirit says to the churches. Consider you state, you who make a profession fo these glorious gospel truths; see what you know of them, and what is the exercise of your spirits; do not clothe yourselves with the name, if you have a name to live, and are dead, if you profess the form of godliness, but deny the power of it, you will be in a miserable state, if you continue in this state to the end of time. Let me say to all who are not awake to righteousness, but deluded by the world, the flesh and the devil, "Awake to righteousness, and sin not;" for "some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame."