A Sermon Delivered by THOMAS SHILLITOE at Spandau Prison, 1824.
The Friend (Philadelphia), Vol. 12, No. 28 (4th Month 11, 1840,) pages 221-222.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 3: The 19th Century.
I wish that you may examine and inquire, what it is that has brought you into this sorrowful
condition, in which you must be deprived of that precious privilege, your freedom, and endure the
painful separation by which husbands are removed from their wive, parents from their children,
and children from their parents; which, as I am convinced, is not the will of our heavenly Father,
who certainly has no pleasure in our misery. He wills much more-our happiness, as well in this
world, as in the world to come. And in order that every man may attain thereto, and that he might
fulfill his gracious design, he has written in the heart, and placed in the soul of every one, his
divine law, which shows us what we are to do, and what we must avoid and leave undone, if we
would walk acceptably in the sight of God, and secure for ourselves the enjoyment of his present
and everlasting peace, which he has appointed for each one of us. When you enter into this
enquiry, and examine yourselves and ask, what was it then which brought me into my present
sorrowful condition, I am convinced that every one will find, that for want of attention to the
divine voice in his conscience, and from disobedience thereunto, he has fallen into such extreme
wretchedness. For this voice (which gently speaks to us in the secret of our hearts) clearly shows
us and all men, what is good, and what is evil; so that each of us may know and distinguish what
we should choose and do, or avoid and leave undone, as we are concerned to walk comformably
to the will of God.
It appears then very plain, that from want of attention to this inward witness in your breast, and
from disobedience to its secret admonitions, you have been brought down to the unhappy state in
which you now are; that I can with truth say, it is the prayer of my heart, that the time past, in
which you have not been concerned to regard the reproofs and chastisements of the Holy Ghost in
your heart, that this time that is gone by, I say, may be sufficient; and that in future it may be your
earnest endeavour to listen with greater attention and obedience, to the inward voice of the divine
law in your hearts.
This remains to be the means to obtain pardon for your sins and transgressions, which in truth is
of the greatest importance for each one of us, that at a future time the precious soul may come
from the troubles of this life into the land of eternal rest.
But you can only secure this pardon when you turn with sincerity to Jesus, the Saviour and
Redeemer of man, who has endured the cross for your sins, that he might produce in your hearts a
true sorrow, which works a blessed repentance, not to be repented of. Now the first step which
you have to make under a sense of this godly sorrow, is this, that you implore Almighty God, that
he would be pleased to grant you pardon, so that you may forgive from the bottom of your hearts,
those who were the cause of your imprisonment, and may cherish no hatred against the court of
justice which has passed sentence upon you. This is in truth a hard sacrifice to flesh and blood; but
you must remember it is the express declaration of our Saviour Jesus Christ himself, that we must
forgive is we would obtain forgiveness.
But hard as the sacrifice may be to you, I am notwithstanding convinced, that as you keep near to
the holy help and mighty power of our Lord Jesus Christ, you would, like myself, come to
experience, that he would strengthen and enable you to do all things through him.
Let it be far from you to cherish a feeling of dissatisfaction towards the law of your land. For, as
you examine yourselves impartially, you will find, that the cause of your misery is not in the law,
but that it lies in your having given way to the temptations of the enemy of your souls, by which
he has beguiled you into your past transgressions.
Let it therefore be much more your endeavour, through the co-operating power of the Holy
Ghost, to show forth a grateful disposition to your superiors, and consider it a great privilege that
you live under a mild government.
I am by no means disposed, and do not desire, that your should regard what I say to you as if I
would reproach you; no, I can truly say, that were it possible that the heart of man should bleed,
my heard indeed would bleed, whilst I seriously consider your condition.
O! then, yet once more I say, consider it a great privilege that your lot has been cast in this land;
for had you been in my native country (England,) and had been punished according to the law of
that land, it is very probable that it would have cost several of you your natural lives, and then you
might have been obliged, in a very unprepared state, to appear before the Lord in judgment.
I do not then give any you any temptation to say;--"It were perhaps better for me to have lost my
life, than to be deprived of my liberty and separated from my friends." Here I can perhaps united
with you in this opinion, or explain it when I say,--Yes, indeed if I were not to consider that after
this life yet another life follows, of eternal duration. When we rightly consider this, it must appear
clear to us what a privilege it is, to live under a government which knows how to estimate the
precious life of a man.
That it is now the supplication of my heart, that you may be disposed from what you suffer at the
present time, to listen in future more attentively to the law which God the Lord has written upon
the tablet of your heart. Then your afflictions will become from day to day more easy to bear; and
then will the godly sorrow which your are sensible of, produce in you a blessed repentance, not to
be repented of, and which can make you acceptable in the sight of a gracious God.
Perhaps you are at time tempted to make use of unbecoming expressions, or frivolous and wicked
words. O! then, seek the divine aid of your Redeemer to withstand them. By this means, as you
obey his voice in your souls, you would be enabled to go forward, and so to conduct yourselves,
that through your good behavior, you would commend yourselves to your governors and
superiors. Then you would occasion no more uneasiness to them, and the care and trouble which
they have to endure on your account, would be much easier to bear;--and when your hours of
labor are finished, do not give way to unprofitable conversation, but rather read in the Holy
Scriptures; for these serve us "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness." I cannot in words fully describe of what importance to mankind these holy records
are; but I am convinced that they can greatly contribute to your welfare; for it after your work is
finished you read therein with quiet attention, you will undoubtedly find greater peace in your
souls, and will not feel so uneasy as when you spend your leisure times in unprofitable and
frivolous conversation;--and in this manner, as it is your earnest endeavour always to seek God
for divine aid, and to walk in humility before him, you will daily experience his assistance, and
thereby will become more able to patiently endure the sever trial of separation from your dear
O! then, be kindly disposed one to another, and regard not one another for evil!
I believe that when god, who searches the heart, behold your sincere desire and earnest endeavour
to become acceptable to him, he will be pleased to effect for you an earlier deliverance than you
perhaps expect; for he is a God who has the hearts of all men in his power, and can turn the, like a
Obedience to his holy law, which he has written in your heart, is the means to become acceptable
Therefore, let no one think or say, that his condition is a hopeless one; for all that will be required
on your part, is a willingness to endeavour to preserve in your heart the fear of the Lord, and to
keep his commandments. He will give our the ability to do this; and as you follow his instructions,
you will find that your state is by no means hopeless.
And now I commend you to God, and the word of his grace, which, as you attend thereunto, is able to make you acceptable to him; for thereby you will also show, that a godly sorrow has truly taken place in our hearts. And that this may be your blessed experience, is my fervent prayer for every individual of our, who is now present.