A Sermon Delivered by SAMUEL FOTHERGILL, at York, the 30th day of 6th Month, 1769.
Fothergill, Samuel. Eleven Discourses Delivered Extempore, at Several Meeting-Houses of the People Called Quakers. Mostly Taken Down In Characters, by a Member of the Church of England. Wilmington: Coale and Rumford, 1817.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 2: The 18th Century.
I have no sort of doubt of this caution being from divine inspiration, recorded as a lasting watchword to all that would run so as to obtain, and persevere without fainting, to a peace and happy conclusion; and I apprehend it not either unseasonable, or out of the line of my present duty, to renew the caution to each individual within the audience of my voice; inasmuch as he that betrays and deceives, is not ranked under the character of a liar and murderer from the beginning, (John 8:44) exercising those destructive offices upon the unguarded, unwatchful, and deceived mind: for even where the fountain of light and understanding hath been opened to a discovery of those things essentially necessary to salvation, there he hath not been wanting to present himself, amongst these sons of God, (Job 1:6) the immediate production of his enlightening and enlivening power. Satan also has endeavoured to introduce the powers of darkness, and his endeavours remain too successful. He exercises every power of deception in various respects, according to the various states and conditions of minds, and prevails with many to become like the Felixes and Gallios, who defer repentance to a convenient season, (Acts 24:25) and that care for none of these things, (Acts 28:17) to shut up their minds against religion and religious impressions; and to bring them more and more into the list of those fools who make a mock of sin, (Proverbs 14:9) and are offending the God that made them; who live in this world without the fear of God before their eyes, (Psalm 36:1) or a reverence towards him; and these he endeavours to fortify in the paths of skepticism and infidelity; and to bring them under the influence of corruption.
He has suggested, and been too successful in the suggestion, that there is not superior power to whom we are accountable, adapted to the desires of some who would gladly have him divested of those attributes which are painful to their view; and here the enemy has been too much suffered to prevail with some unhappy minds, to depart from the joyous, lightsome, pleasant and delightful paths of true Christianity an godliness, into the devious paths of error and deception: and to be sustained in that unhappy state, I confess appears to me, a compendium of misery without hope, and without God in the world; but as it is productive of present ease, they have lost sight of future happiness; as it proposed immediate gratification, and presents the flowery paths of pleasure, it has many votaries, and been adopted by numbers of poor deceived mortals, who endeavour to confine their prospects to present things, without looking towards that of futurity, and the boundless abyss of eternity which awaits them!
I would gladly hope there are not many, if there are any, of the number (within the sound of my voice) of those fools; who have said in their heart, There is no God; that have so far suffered themselves to be drawn into the power of deception, as to say or think, or even imagine, that there is no first moving cause, no rest for their feet, no God, no Lord of all the world; but it is evidently the production of a delusive spirit, who attempts to insinuate a disbelief in the reality of a divine existence. All creation proclaims a God, and presents such a testimony to man, as renders it impossible to hesitate in point of belief, that such a Being exists, whose power and goodness is eminently displayed throughout the whole extent of his creation; and notwithstanding this acknowledgment, there is a necessity to caution some not to be deceived, who though they own a superintendency, and care over the works of God in the external creation, yet, such is their gross infatuation, as to deny that certain providential regard and care over the far nobler part of the visible creation, his creature man. They proceed even so far as to acknowledge the circulation of the sense, the productions of the earth, with a variety of external parts of created nature, to proceed from a fixed appointment of infinite wisdom, and are supported by an Almighty Hand; but yet are unwilling to admit the certainty of his immediate providence, care, and regard towards that constituent part, the human creation; which is of infinitely greater importance than those tabernacles of clay, which are but for a season, and in the course of nature cease to exist. This has been one of the effects of gross deception, imposed upon the understanding of mankind, and wich an unwearied enemy has from age to age endeavoured to propagate upon the earth, thereby to withdraw the soul from the source of true happiness, whereby it might be enabled to resist every evil instigation, which may be laid to ensnare the unguarded mind.
There are some, who, though they acknowledge the glory of his providence, propounded and
proclaimed in the external manifestation of his greatness and goodness, but yet are not sufficiently
convinced, nor sufficiently apprised, or willing to admit the grace of God, or his divine and
powerful word, as necessary to influence their conduct, and preside over the will of man in its
spiritual race towards everlasting glory. They are ready to applaud the sufficiency of human
reason, the faculties of reason and rational powers, which infinite Wisdom has seen meet to give
us for government and direction, with regard to things simply pertaining to the moral rectitude of
our conduct in the common concerns of this life, and where divine Bounty has seen necessary, for
the promotion of his own glory, and happiness of his creatures, to provide a further assistance in
the exercise of those faculties and reasoning powers, which the Creator of mankind sees meet in
mercy to favour us with for our advancement; and by which alone we are made capable of an
admission into the kingdom of God.
Be not deceived.
But there has been a loss sustained by all people, of all names and distinctions, to religion, who have endeavoured to intrench themselves within an imaginary security, within the bounds of natural powers and natural religion, and the exercise of those reasoning faculties of their own minds; there has been reason fixed with the commandments; and, the laws of nature maintained as a sufficient guide in our religious duties.
It is a partial leaning to our own understandings, thus to advocate our own cause from the reasoning faculties of the human mind, unassisted by that enlivening efficacious principle of light and truth, derived from the grace and love of God, which is of a higher nature, and of far greater excellence than all the powers of reason; and would open upon the view of the attentive mind, those divine essential truths, which it is impossible for the abstracted rational faculties to penetrate into. It is by the light of grace, we discover the necessity, the absolute necessity, of a daily communion with the God of our lives, a walking in holiness and purity, in self-denial, that we take up the cross of Christ, and follow him in the regeneration. (Matt. 19:28)
Be ye holy, for I the Lord your God am holy, has been the language of that unchangeable eternal
God, by virtue of which alone we are capable of laying up a good foundation against the time to
come, by laying hold on those durable riches, the provision of God for the faithful, far beyond
every temporal acquisition, whereby we are admitted to that within the veil, being redeemed from
all corrupt inclinations and undue affections, withdrawn from the world, and engaged to concur in
that invariable proclamation evidenced in every heart, in every mind, and in the though of all, the
absolute necessity of holiness, without which, no man can see the Lord to his comfort: it has
called sons from afar and daughter from the ends of the earth, from under the power of deception,
to discern the necessity of thus coming out of the arms of self-love, self-will, the partial
approbation of deluded minds, whence many have been led into a persuasion of the sufficiency of
human reason; they would have more liberty than the straight gate and narrow will admit of; in
this, have me excused, has been the frequent language of many, and a cause of departing from the
consecrated paths of holiness, and whereby many have deviated from a circumscribed walking in
the paths which lead to beautiful realms of light, and to an inheritance with the family of God,
whose infinite and unbounded love is diffused throughout every part of his triumphant church; and
extended to his militant on earth, for he would still beautify the place of his sanctuary, within the
glorious realms of everlasting day, the habitation of his holiness, and the city where his honour
Be not deceived.
Let not the minds of any professions the Christian name, be deceived by the partial representation of natural affection and natural choice, a love of ease, or the pleasing prospects of temporal enjoyments; for that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and is terrestrial, there is a glory terrestrial, and a celestial glory, but the terrestrial glory is apt to withdraw the incautious mind into a visionary dependance upon the earthly, and uncertain happiness; which deprives of a portion in the glory celestial. And there is made, in the provision of God, an ample sufficiency for us completely to attain a right in the spiritual creation of his Son on this side of eternity; and by which we now can say, The Lord is with me, because he is at my right-hand, therefore I shall not be moved.
It is the sufficiency we receive from his divine aid and assistance, whereby I am enabled to guide my steps consistent with his holy will; let us then confess with the apostle, I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. We ought even to acknowledge, O Lord! righteousness belongeth to thee, but unto us blushing and confusion of face!...There is a graduation from the lowest order of animated creation; for, as no man knows the things of man, save the spirit of a man that is in him, so no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God. As the fruit cannot with any propriety be good from a perverse root, by deviating from the bounds prescribed by the Former of heaven and earth, continued throughout the superior order of created beings, no more can we judge of divine matters by a mere knowledge derived from human power, and the natural understanding faculties of our own minds; but we must enter into that within the veil; and be cloathed with a superior light and understanding, from that power which has brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel: therefore, let no man deceive you, be ye not deceived; for such as every man sows, such shall he reap.
1. There is another species of deception, that it seems necessary to aprize and warn you of, who profess the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the various names and distinct professions we may make in the world, amongst those who lay too much stress upon their various professions, and upon a belief of truth, by giving the bare assent of our judgment to the testimony of others; this has been of species of imposition too much pursued and depended upon, whereby names have passed for things, and a profession of religion has passed for religion itself; a rectitude of sentiment has often been deemed a sufficient atonement for irregularity of life; but it is impossible for us to adopt a life of religion, and yet retain a life to the world, as the Christian religion, which is of the highest authority and dignity, enforces the irreconcilable contrariety of these natures; but it is possible to adopt a dependance upon notion and in tradition, and yet be utter strangers to the life of true Christianity. I know not scarce a greater instance of deception amongst professors of the Christian name, than with those who would contend for orthodoxy of system, and strenuously support the superior importance of their own opinions, which has often proved a means of stirring up hated and persecution own towards another, and that under the specious pretext of being for Christ's sake; but it abundantly discovers, that all the powers of deception, hath surrounded and fortified them in a dangerous security, which it is very difficult ever to be extricated from. But let no man deceive you, or be ye not deceived: what signifies a persuasion or assent to truth, if we live not a life consistent with the purity and holiness of its nature, and correspondent with the precepts of the gospel?
2. If the mind was properly engaged to pursue the genuine effects of the spirit of truth, (a disposition which ought ever to be prevalent and cultivated amongst us,) we should then abundantly demonstrated a being born not of corruption, but of the incorruptible seed, through the Word of God, which liveth and abideth in you forever, whereby we are made partakers i the essential virtue of the Christian religion. It matters not to me by what name I am called, or however distinguished amongst men, if I am but admitted into a fellowship with the church of the first born; the provision of God, for those who are called by his Spirit, that are influenced and guided in wisdom, and finally intended to be received into glory.
Unto these two classes stands the bulk of the Christian world, and no these two natures depends the final, decisive sentence of, come ye blessed, or depart ye cursed.
To you that lay more stress upon human inventions, and orthodox systems; who hold a reverence for names, and external appearances, be not deceived; inasmuch as the spirit of true religion remains the same, under every name, it lives in every form, and is confined to none, being one in itself, unchangeable and powerful in its energy, sanctifying the soul, and whereby the heart is made pure in the sight of God; and then the fruits will be unto holiness, and the end life everlasting.
But there has been a lamentable deception prevalent over the minds of many, who are dead to
religion and religious impressions: these would acknowledge and assent with the tongue, though
perhaps their judgment proceeded no farther than from the reasoning faculties of their own minds,
without regard to the powerful motives contained in that excellent description of Christianity, or
the efficacious tendency of it, with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the
tongue, confession is made unto salvation; for where a confession is made, there is great need for
a concurrence with the heart, from a feeling sense of the powerful principle and life of religion in
Be not deceived.
There is another sort of people under all names and distinctions of religion, to whom also this caution seems exceedingly necessary, and amongst whom the precepts of the Gospel have lost the force; these would imagine, that the way to the Kingdom of God is varied from that prescribed by the holy Author of the Christian faith. It is a straight and narrow way; they would plead no possibility of living up to the truth, but pursue the general practice of mankind; and plead that, as truth itself is lost, it must now be fetched from the land of general practice, and the general conduct of themselves and others: but God is unchangeable in nature, and his relative attributes remain the same throughout every dispensation of the world, and the foundation of God standeth independent of all deficiency (in whom is no variableness or shadow of turning) of all the deceivable inventions of such sons of formality, and deceived souls of all ages, that have been unwilling to submit to the inflexible law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus; these would endeavour to acquit themselves with the more flexible law of general practice, and general conduct; varied according to their inclinations, indulging every sensuality, and spending their time in the pursuit of earthly pleasures. These would build their expectations upon the merciful attributes of the Being whom they offend: and neglect to consider that a time will come, when justice as well as mercy, will be recompensed to every man according to his deeds, whether they be good or evil.
It is an endless commandment, and can never be abrogated; That the soul that sins shall die; and remains over the heads of all mankind, who yield themselves to present pleasures, and give up their minds to follow after lying vanities; who, nevertheless would have a portion in the unspeakable enjoyment of an endless futurity, and an admission within the consecrated mansions of eternal glory; but I would caution these not to be deceived, for God is not mocked, and we shall certainly find it so, when every human aid, with the powers of deception, shall disappear; or it will prove a fatal witness against all the pleasing expectations of a deluded hope.
But such is the progress of the work of that liar and murderer, to introduce a concurrence of that government, with disagreement into the affairs of Providence; that some have imagined he looks not with that vigilance towards the work of his hand, which revealed religion teaches us to expect from the powerful effects of his divine notice and regard, whose mercy is great, or else we should not be able to stand before him; but he is righteous as well as merciful, in all his way, and will by no means allow uncleanness to enter his holy habitation, but will hasten the punishment of guilt upon the impenitent soul; and those who obdurately proceed in a course of deviation from their morning light, whereby they love the capacity of distinguishing betwixt light and darkness, or the disagreement of happiness and misery.--These, notwithstanding, would gladly look at the glorious light of heaven, and hope at large for an admission into the sacred mansions of everlasting day; but the purity of his nature will admit no uncleanness to enter his kingdom; all those attributes of God, of justice as well as mercy, remain immoveable,and fixed in the righteous appointment of unerring wisdom; and therefore let no obstacle hinder our approaches before the throne of his holiness, to render every attribute of praise to him, whose infinite and adorable perfections, are eminently manifested, in the uniform and glorious establishment of his sacred church and family: therefore, be not deceived, by any of the powers of darkness, or led to rely upon the strength of external performances, what is called divine service, or the frequent performances of religious duties, so called; all these, when under a proper government and in season, proceeding from a proportion of grace and strength given, are profitable, and we become engaged to join in that universal song of praise arising from every heart, of the spiritual creation of God.
But when the minds of any become divested of this animating qualification, by which alone we are
enabled to approach the Father of Spirits in spirit and in truth, our dependence upon exterior
performances will only prove a witness against us, and be ranked among the catalogue of our sins,
in the day when the secrets of every heart shall be divulged, and a righteous recompense is given
to each: therefore be not deceived by a seeming sanctity, or the frequent performance of religious
duties, so called, without a co-operation with the object of faith and practice, and a mental assent
to the force of those truths most surely believed and received among us; for it is from the inward
frame and disposition of our minds, in which alone an acceptable sacrifice can be offered to the
Author of our being.
Be not deceived.
I would, in a few more expressions, endeavour t assert the power of God unto salvation.
God is not mocked.--We may, and it is to be feared, sometimes do, mock ourselves, by depending upon riches, and the delusive prospects of earthly pleasure,--by external appearances,--by the false traffic in unfelt truths;--with a name to religion and a resemblance to truth. But it is impossible to mock God; he is not mocked by the most specious appearances of regular pretensions; we can never impose upon the sagacity of that infinite Eye, which penetrates the utmost secret recesses of the human heart.--Our most secret thoughts are ever exposed to his omniscient view--God is not mocked.
Let us beware lest we mock ourselves, by delusive appearances of transient happiness, and a peace, short of that peace of God which passeth the understandings of men; for, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth who are his--and let all those that call upon the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.(2 Timothy 2:9)
Such as every man sows, such shall he reap. If his conduct is correspondent with the spirit of the world, if his demeanor and walking be after the rule of the flesh, of the flesh he shall reap corruption, from that miserable crop. To be carnally minded is death;--a death to religion, and an alienation from the light of his countenance: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.--The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; being ever at contrariety, in its own nature, to that purity and holiness, the requisite effects of genuine Christianity, diffused throughout every part of his sanctified church and family.
I would therefore recommend to each individual within the audience of my voice, let their name and profession of religion be what they may, seriously to weigh the importance of these considerations, and to make these momentous enquiries:--What am I sowing to? What spirit is predominant? Under what power do I live? In what service am I engaged? Do I properly regard the assertion of our Lord Jesus Christ?--He that loves any thing more than me, is not worthy of me. If I am sowing to the flesh, I am in a state of deception, moved and turned from my purpose of being; I have met with something more amiable and engaging, and better adapted to my natural inclination, than the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And, finally, to you of all names and distinctions of religion, whatsoever degree of temporal happiness, whatsoever advantages any may derive from the praises of the world, or the profession of transient glory, any soul may possibly enjoy, in the estimation of mankind. The righteous God has fixed, as an invariable decision,--that if you sow in the flesh, you shall of the flesh reap corruption; but, if you sow to the spirit, however painful, however exercised, or despised, secretly surrounded with distress and anxiety, within and without, mourning, lamentation and woe; trodden underfoot, or despised amongst men; under whatever difficulties we may have to pass, however mournful or painful our allotment in life may be, lift up thy head in hope: for, if we sow t the spirit, of the spirit we shall finally reap the glorious crop of life everlasting.