A Sermon Delivered by THOMAS SHILLITOE at Spandau Prison, 1824.
The Friend (Philadelphia), Vol. 12, No. 29 (4th Month 18, 1840,) pages 229-320.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 3: The 19th Century.
Was it not a want of disposition on your side, to direct yourselves into the paths of divine love?
Was it not disobedience to the convictions of this pure light, which searches into and makes
known the depths of the human heart? Truly these were the reasons, my dear fellow men, why
you, who were created for freedom at present find yourselves in imprisonment and separated from
your dear relatives. But let me pray you not to regard what I say, as if I were come to reproach
you--No,--this is by means my design; I will rather willingly confess, that I also am not without
fault;--that I can be secure from falling only so long as I continue inward watchfulness and prayer,
and further, that I have nothing whereon I can rely with greater confidence, than upon the mercy
of God in Christ Jesus my Redeemer. I can with truth say, I pity your condition whilst I speak to
you, and it is the supplication of my heart to the gracious and Almighty God that the time which is
past, in which you have not yielded obedience to the visitations of his love, may now be sufficient,
and that you may be strengthened in future to observe a greater watchfulness over your hearts; to
evince more obedience toward the divine law in your souls, and to behave yourselves better to
your superiors and one towards another. And O! do not allow yourselves by wicked and frivolous
conversation, to take delight in provoking one another to sins. Consider, that under the mild
government under which you live, you have it in your power, by good behavior continually to be
making your condition even more easy. May you know how rightly to estimate what a blessing it
is for you that you live under so good a regent, and under so mild a law, where time and
opportunity are allowed you for improvement, and for the advancement of your happiness. I have
often thought, and already have also expressed, that indeed some among you, if they had
committed in my land the crimes of which they have made themselves guilty, it would have cost
them their natural lives; and O! how awful must that condition be, in which I often know my
fellow country-men, who without proper, or not sufficient preparation, are hurried into eternity,
to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, where every one will receive the recompense of his
deeds, whether they be good or evil. Therefore it is the fervent supplication of my heart, and my
prayer for you, my dear fellow men, that you may rightly estimate and value to past prolongation
of the term of your lives, and the time for attainment of true repentance and conversion, which is
so graciously afforded you. Consider, what a serious and weighty matter it is, to be called from
works to rewards. But would we at any time experience true repentance and conversion, it must
come to pass here;--here in time, when we receive and experience the gracious visitation of God.
This is a work which every one must experience for himself; for no man can appear for his friend
or brother, or redeem him; but every one must give account for his own soul. And if this
necessary work make a just progress, it must come to pass through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is
"the author and finisher" of true faith. He must awaken the souls out of the dead sleep of their
trespasses and sins, and purify them for a blessed eternal life. O! how great is my desire that your
thoughts, all your expectations, yea, your whole souls may be subject to this most important
subject. Then, however great your temptations may be, however corrupt your natural
dispositions, and however strong their provocations to evil--all the temptations of the enemy will
nevertheless avail nothing towards him, in whose conquering and redeeming love you believe.
Yea, if you then must also confess, that sin has become exceedingly powerful in you, and that evil
still cleaves to you continually, and hinders your from good; you will nevertheless experience that
the grace and power of Jesus is still much mightier than the power of sin and of the tempter, if
your hold fast by him, "who has all power in heaven and upon earth." Now if your are earnestly
endeavouring in this manner to become other creatures, you will not only experience, that the
Lord can strengthen you by his grace, to overcome all temptations to evil; but you will also attain,
that you will no more murmur or trouble yourselves about your hard lot; yea, you will endure
with more patient submission, the chastisements which the Lord permits to overtake you. Then
your very afflictions will serve to advance your sanctification, purification, and justification.
It is still further my fervent desire that you may rightly comprehend and estimate the great blessing of being allowed to assemble for the worship of Almighty God, for this a Christian privilege which is not granted to all men. Now when you assemble together for this weighty and sublime object, so conduct yourselves that your hearts may be prepared to approach the Holy God, who sees the heart, and who knows our true inward condition--to approach him in a very acceptable manner, viz: with broken and contrite hearts and sorrowful spirits. As you thus appear before him, and address yourselves to him with prayer and supplication spirit, your meeting together will truly be blessed, and will conduce to your best interest. Then also will the instruction, which is thereby imparted, serve you for encouragement and strength to withstand, in the course of the week, the temptations to sin, and so will our seasons of divine worship be also the means to sweeten the bitter cup, which many among your have to drink. That this may now be our experience, is the sincere prayer of my soul! I do not believe that any one among you has reason to consider his condition as a lost, or a hopeless one; and should any of you be buffeted with such thought, I can tell you that this is a work of the wicked enemy of your souls, who, I have already often proved, never ceases to be a cruel deceitful enemy , whilst he at first tempts us and provokes us to do evil, and then, when we behold with pain how we have erred and committed sin in the pure sight of God, and with truly sorrowful spirits implore him for pardon--he appears as our accuser of the evil, to the commission of which he has seduced us and urged us on; he accuses us harshly and seldom fails to represent our sins so great that we may despair of their pardon; in order that we may give up, or be hindered from calling upon god for help and preservation, and may not obtain pardon for our sins, through sincere repentance and conversion. Therefore, I beseech you, that your watch over the false representations of the enemy in your spirits,, that no one may be thereby disappointed or deceived; and that you may not only be informed but may also believe that with God, "there is plenteous redemption." Then I trust you will experience that he is a God nigh at hand, and not a God afar off; a present helper in every time of trouble and affliction. It is from entertaining continued love to you, that I am come here once more for the purpose of seeing you again; and it is my sincere desire, that if we shall not see each other again in this world, it may be our lot to meet together again at a future time in heaven, where all trouble will be at an end, and all tears be wiped from our eyes; where we shall be employed throughout the whole of a boundless eternity, in the worship, adoration, and glorification of God, and his beloved Son Jesus Christ, who, by his salutary chastisements and corrections, has guided us into the narrow path of life. But before all, let me once more beseech you to be especially grateful that you enjoy the permission of taking part in the worship and adoration of God. For I can tell you, that the neglect of this sacred duty has already brought many in my native land, to a premature and unprepared for death. I wish therefore that you, as I also do, may accept this privilege with deeper gratitude from the hand of the Lord, form whom we receive all temporal and spiritual blessings. When you come together in such a temper of mind, for the purpose of divine worship, you will thereby obtain substantial advantage, then, also you will not pass the remainder of the day in useless and sinful conversation, but will much rather be endeavouring to promote the welfare one of another.