A Prayer and Sermon Delivered by WILLIAM SAVERY, 7th month 31st , 1796, at Borough New Market, London.
Five Sermons and a Prayer, Delivered at the Meetings of the Society of Friends in England, by William Savery. Taken in Short Hand by Job Sibley. Newtown, PA: Printed by William C. Coale, 1804.

This is The Quaker Homiletic Online Anthology, Section 2: The 18th Century.

The Prayer

O thou great adorable Being, who art exalted in goodness, and majesty, and in power, beyond all finite comprehension, who dwellest in the light whereunto none can approach thee, but as thou art pleased in thine adorable mercy to open an access to us; and though heaven is thy throne, O God, and earth is thy footstool, yet we remember that thou hast promised that thou wilt condescend to look down upon the poor, and the contrite, and those that tremble at thy word.

O thou, unsearchable in holiness, and glorious in power, we pray thee to look down upon the present congregation this evening, with an eye of compassion and divine pity. Thou beholdest all men wheresoever thy are scattered upon the face of the whole earth, with an equal eye of mercy, and thou hearest the prayers of all those who draw nigh unto thee with sincerity. Be pleased, O God, to cause thy animating presence to be with us, to bring the minds of all the people into a holy solemnity before thee. We know, O God, that no man can promote thy glorious cause, of truth and righteousness in the earth, but as thou art pleased to be with him, and to furnish him with the necessary qualifications for the great and important work whereunto thou art calling thy servants and ministers. O blessed Father, forsake them not, but be pleased as in generations that are past, to pour forth thy spirit upon thy ministers, that, in that wisdom which thou art pleased to grant from season to season,, they may go forth in thy name, with the word of reconciliation and faith.

O Lord, thou hast many souls that are wandering up and down this great and populous country, who are seeking after thy glorious and blessed rest, which thou alone canst lead them into the enjoyment of. We humbly and reverently pray thee, O God, to draw the minds of the people more and more off from thy ministers to thyself. O gracious God, unseal the fountain whereat thy Prophets, thy Apostles, thy servants, in all generations, have so freely drank and been filled. Cause those that hunger and thirst after righteousness to be more and more filled at thy bountiful table; that so, Father, there may be among all ranks of the people more of the knowledge of thee, and more of an increase in following after thee in the way to everlasting rest.

O God, thou seest how weak we are; how surrounded with infirmities, how blinded with prejudices, how turned aside by a variety of fluctuating opinions; cause, we pray thee, thy holy uniting word to be read more and more in the hearts of the people. Sound the alarm, we pray thee, yet louder and louder to them that are at ease and forgetful of thee: that so, Father, there may be many more brought to drink at the fountain of thy goodness and mercy, and with reverence of soul to acknowledge that thou art good, and worthy to be worshiped here, and to be obeyed and served by all the workmanship of thy hands. O gracious Father, proclaim a sign in this assembly, while with one accord, in humility of soul, which thou has granted us, we may draw nigh unto thee, and offer up at this time for all thy former mercies, and for thy present mercies; and gather us together in this manner, O Father, ascribing unto thee glory and honour, thanksgiving and praise, which are thy due, both now and for evermore.

The Sermon:

There are some weighty and interesting expressing which we find in the Revelation of John, that appear to be my duty, since I last took my seat, to mention in this assembly.

"And I (John) saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, FEAR GOD and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him that made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters."

Now John, we find, calls this the everlasting Gospel ; which seems to be comprised in a very short and compendious manner; which no man in all this congregation, I trust, can be at a loss to understand. And though, my friends, we may be something various in our opinions concerning modes, manners and forms of worship, yet I believe there are very few of God's rational creation any where, either amongst those who are professing the name of Jesus Christ, or those that have not been favoured to be acquainted with the gospel as we are, but are sensible, that to God belongs glory, honour, and worship; who behold him as the great and universal Parent, the glorious, blessed, and all-wise Architect of the universe, and all things that are therein, and that sustains all things by the word of his invincible power; for the same almighty creating Word that brought all things into the glorious order in which we see them, that said, let there be light, and there was light -- no man can dispute but he at his pleasure also could again say, let there be darkness, and there would have been darkness: -- again, let the heavenly luminaries depart from their appointed spheres, and let all things resort to their primitive rest, and it would undoubtedly have been done. So that he is not only the cause of all things, but the gracious supporter, daily and hourly sustainer of all that he has made, without whose blessed providence there is not an ear of corn nor blade of grass could possibly have been produced. So that, my friends, a daily dependence upon that God who created us - all his creation calls for, and with every solid and reflecting mind it will naturally produce an offering of worship, adoration, and praise; and I am glad in believing, my friends, that there are in this large multitude a considerable number who worship God in spirit and in truth; though differently educated, and of various opinions in things of little importance, but in the great, important, and essential point of every man's duty, speak the same language; and I believe, my friends, this is the case both with the nations that are called refined, and with those that are termed barbarians. God has placed his law in the hearts of all men; he has written there the great essential duty which he requires at our hands, and under every name and in every nation, "they that fear God and work righteousness" (so said the Apostle) "are accepted of him." (Acts 10:34.) So that, my friends, he makes no such distinction as many of us poor, finite and weak creatures are apt to make; he does not confine acceptable worship to this nation, to this particular sect or opinion, nor to this particular island; but I believe there are prayers that ascend to him as sweet incense before his holy alter, both in the wilderness of America, and in the dark abodes of Africa, and in all the corners of the earth, wherever there are sincere and upright souls.

Well, my friends, this must certainly arise from some extensively and universally diffused principle in the souls of men, that with one common consent they agree in the great fundamentals of all religion; this must be something more -- even the infidel, if he considers, must allow it is something more than human policy. Well, what is it then? What is it that prepareth the heart thus acceptably to offer unto God? - What is it that teacheth all men He ought to be worshipped? Why, it is nothing more, nor anything less than the same eternal all-creating Word, who filleth all things, and is as intimately near to and independent of us, as the very air we breath; "for" (said the Apostle,) "He is not far off any one of you; neither can he be; for in him we live, move, and have our being." (Acts 17:28.) Therefore it was that he exhorted them to "seek the Lord, if haply they might find him." (Acts 17:27.) Well, my friends, this is the great business of every gospel minister; to labor to bring people here -- to seek for themselves; to seek the Lord, if haply they may find HIM -- who is not far off any one of you; who is both with you, and in you, and without whose animating power thou couldst not exist one moment; neither could any man think a good thought or do a good action, except the Lord be with him. This is my faith. So that, my friends, it has taught me to get rid of all those narrow distinctions which many have been making, and which some are yet industriously endeavoring to build up between even the followers of the blessed Jesus; who ought always to be united -- always in harmony -- always ONE IN HIM. But, for my own part, having now for a number of years endeavoured to seek the Lord impartially for myself, I have known him in this way; I have learned the Gospel in this way. For I have been clear in my opinion, that all the inventions and works of men, by their fallen wisdom, have only scattered the spiritual sheep in Jacob and divided them in Israel; and have split the Christian church into so great a variety of names, and so great a variety of forms. For indeed we find many of them are rooted in prejudice one against another. Therefore the inquiry of this day seems to be, not so much, is it THE TRUTH that these men hold; but is he of my name? -- or what name does he hold? this seems to be the foolish inquiry of many, who can accept little or nothing except it comes from those who are established in the same opinion, and within the bounds which they have built, and called after their own name among men. But, my friends, my belief is, that the Lord is arising in the earth, to put an end to these divisions and distractions in his church; to bring down all those who have been exalted in their imaginations; in supposing that they only were the people of God in their form and in their manner and reject all others.

Oh! how far off from that benevolence of soul which the Christian religion inspires, appears faith of this kind! And yet there are some remaining even in this enlightened day, who suppose and believe, that without the pale of their particular church there can no man be saved.

But whence cometh these opinions? Why I believe the Lord originally sowed good seed in his church, but while men have slept in carnal ease and security, an enemy has entered, scattered and divided them, and sown tares among them. Now, for my own part, it appears to me to be the great work of every diligent shepherd of our Lord Jesus Christ, to labour to bring all men back to the foundation, -- to the one true and everlasting fold. To remove all those opinions that have kept the world at variance so long -- even in those that have loved God with sincerity of heart, in their different professions among Christians. Oh! how shy they have been of one another, how afraid of coming into the company of one another -- how they have shunned one another! Aye, my friends, can this be agreeable to the glorious and dignified gospel of Jesus Christ that we profess? No: I trust no man will believe it can. Well then, the great inquiry ought to be, is there not one universal guide - one holy, divine, and unchangeable principle, by which we may all again be gathered into unity? Is there no such things as TRUTH in the earth?

I believe there is; and that all men may find it too, who are studiously desirous to do so - who prefer the knowledge of the truth to all things else - who are making every secondary consideration give way to their obtaining it: and when they have found it, to live in obedience to it. This is the sincere heart's inquiry among all the various names; that GOD will be pleased to teach them the way of TRUTH, and establish them in it. So that they shall all speak the same language, that there may be no diversity of opinion in the ground and foundation of their belief. For this holy principle is one -- it teaches plain, simple, and easy doctrine; comprised within a narrow compass; it does not confound and confuse the world with a variety of mystical opinions, which are hard, or which it is impossible to comprehend. But the TRUTH upon which glory, immortality, and eternal life depend, is plain, free, and simple: "To know THEE the only true God, and JESUS CHRIST whom thou hast sent, is life eternal." (John 17:3.)

Well, my friends, how shall we know this? where shall we find it? -- How shall we be assured that we are really in this knowledge, and in this faith? Why, I think, if men -- I speak now in much charity, for I do not boast of my own attainments, but what I feel and believe to be true from my own experience, and which appears to me to be consistent with the doctrines both of the Old and New Testaments, that I am not ashamed to declare, though it were to thousands and ten thousands; for I say from the very beginning there was an ETERNAL PRINCIPLE -- there was a holy, unflattering and unchangeable GUIDE placed in the souls of men, which if they had attended to, all men would have been led safe. "It is shown to thee," (says the prophet) "O man, what thou shouldst do, and what the Lord thy God requireth at thy hands; to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." It is shewn to thee what is good. -- These are the forcible expressions -- to "DO JUSTICE, to LOVE MERCY, to WALK HUMBLY WITH THY GOD." (Micah 6:8.)

And here, I believe, is the ground-work and foundations of all religion. Can any man say it is not shown to him without the assistance of ministers or any human learning, without the assistance of men learned in the schools, men of science, men of many languages, or men of profound education? We can attain the knowledge of these saving truths, which are so essential for us to know, believe and practice. So that no man has any occasion, by any means whatever, to go inquire of his neighbor or his brother concerning these things. So that, my friends, though indeed we have invited you here, and are glad of your company to sit down in this manner, we seek not anything that is yours, but you only to GOD, not to ourselves, not to this and that opinion, but that all men may come to the divine, eternal, and unchangeable principle in themselves, that would teach us in all things, the same that is spoken of in a variety of passages in Scripture, and yet in this day so much neglected; the same that our Saviour promised should be with his followers to the end of the world, even his own eternal Spirit, the Spirit of GOD and CHRIST. This is the Ruler, the Director, the glorious and blessed Regulator of all things. Without it the Scriptures could never have been given; because by it all the men of God were inspired to behold the light God had granted them concerning the things thereof, and by it all men are enlightened more or less, for JESUS CHRIST is "the true LIGHT that enlighteneth," (John 1:9) not only those who have read the history of his life, death, and sufferings, his glorious and unparalleled miracles and divine doctrines, but also those that have never heard the name of CHRIST.

So enlarged is my opinion concerning the equality of God's ways, and the Scripture amply and fully justifies this opinion, for Christ is called not only the light of his own followers who believed on him, but the true "light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world," be they of what name, of what distinction or nation they may. (John 1:9.) And this light (says the evangelist John) is come into the world; but the reason why men continue under condemnation is this, says he, "light is come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil;" (John 3:19) they are not willing to bring their deeds to this glorious touchstone, this test that would try all manner of actions, Christ in you, the hope of everlasting glory, in which the primitive believers were settled, and found here their rest.

Here from the beginning the Church of Christ was built, upon this holy of holies, and everlasting word of Christ and of God, speaking, directing, teaching, and leading them wheresoever they should go. And if men had abode under this it would have taught them all the same thing, it would have preserved those that have called themselves Christians, as well as all other men, in harmony and unity. It could have made neither rents nor divisions. No, no such thing. It would not have told thee one thing and me another; by no means. But this is the language it would have proclaimed in thy heart and in mine, that "The work of righteousness is peace," and the effect thereof is quietness and assurance forever. Now, is not this written upon every man's conscience? Yes, I am persuaded it is. And I have heard the wild inhabitants of America declare this was the truth, and they found it inscribed upon their hearts (according to their own expressions) by the finger of God's sprit himself, namely, that the work of righteousness is peace, and the way to be happy in this present life, and to be eternally happy in the world to come, is to obey his voice; to work righteousness, to be upright in heart; to do those things which by this law written in them he had made known to them what they ought to do, and this divine principle I want more to come unto. But men have been too long bewildered in following one another in darkness and confusion. This is my faith, and I believe no one man among us can say but this is the case.

We must (if ever we are brought back) come to the foundation and corner-stone whereon the first church was built. We must go to Christ; we must leave our dependence upon man and come to the fountain; for the same declaration may indeed be put to thee, and the expression will hold good with respect to far too many in this day that was expressed concerning the Jews -- "My people have committed two great evils, they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and they have hewn out to themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water." (Jeremiah 2:13.) Well, my friends, I am assured that many of you assent to this; that of all the systems and inventions of men, be they ever so specious or maintained with ever so much pomp or eloquence, these do not, nor cannot, bring one soul to Christ. It must be something beyond all the powers of men; it must be by his own eternal power if ever we are brought to experience the glorious and blessed rest prepared for those that love him; for no man can come to the Father but by Christ, and "no man" (said he) "can come to me except my Father draw him." (John 6:44, 6:65.)

If Noah, Job, and Daniel were here they could save neither son nor daughter's life; they could only, through God's grace and attention to his inspeaking word, be instrumental to save their own souls. For no man can either do the work for another, or by any means direct him after safety, but this holy, internal, unchangeable guide alone. Are there any persons present who say "this is a strange doctrine?" Well, my friends, if it is strange doctrine, it has this to recommend it at least, that it is not new: it is as old as the Apostles' days, and as old as the Prophets' days in former dispensations. But I believe life and immortality were in a more marvelous manner brought to light by the revelation of God through Jesus Christ. Therefore we need go no further back than the New Testament, for by the doctrine therein contained we hope and believe we are to be saved. Is not this the case? Yes, I believe it is. Well, then, my friends, let us see whether we live up to this doctrine; let us see whether we really are what the primitive churches were; let us find whether out belief is rightly founded, or whether we depend merely upon hear-say. 'Tis not upon the hear-say opinions of men; 'tis not from the works of the learned nor from the speeches of eloquence, but upon something that we feel within; for I believe this must finally be the case, if ever we are prepared to join the host of heaven, the redeemed and saved of God. We must know the truth in ourselves. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, (John 14:6) and he told us this before he left the world. He told us plainly that he that is with you shall be in you. Is there any doctrine more clear than this?

"He that is with you shall be in you: and lo I am with you to the end of the world. (Matthew 28:20.) And if I go away I will pray the Father, and he shall send another comforter:" that is, in another form, He shall send the Spirit of Truth, who shall lead and guide you into all truth. (John 14:16.) Well, here is a safe direction, and an unchangeable directory too. He shall send you another comforter, even the Spirit of Truth, who shall lead and guide you into all truth; who shall take from me and show it to you, and shall bring all things to your remembrance. Can there be any plainer doctrine than this?

I believe many of you, my friends, assent to the truth of this, and that this is the way in which we ought to inquire after the truth as it is in Jesus; we ought to come to him himself; we ought to retire to that holy uniting word which we have received: "for" (as said the Apostle) "ye have no need that any man teach you." (1 John 2:27; see also Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 8:11.) Why, then are there so many teachers in the world, and maintained at so vast an expense? Why do so many take so much pains to qualify themselves to be teachers of the flock of Christ, if this is really the case? And I trust, my friends, you will be candid enough to say, certainly it is. You have no need that any man teach you, but as this same uniting word teaches you, which is Truth. I trust I am surrounded with many tender hearts, and many charitable Christians, who have been seeking the truth for many years. Why, then, my friends, you must come to this divine teacher before ever you can be favoured with a knowledge of the truth.

I verily believe no man will ever come to the knowledge of the truth in any other way. Thou mayest explore volumes after volumes, and spend much time in reading of many pious books and experiences of many favourite men of God. I do not despise inferior helps. The Scriptures are excellent. They are much more so and worthier to be held in greater estimation than all the books in the world. But the Scriptures point only to that holy, all-powerful Word, which indeed gave all the Scripture. The whole tenor of the Gospel doctrine is to bring men there -- to settle them up that foundation, where they may build with safety -- to the teachings of the holy and blessed spirit of God within them. I know this is a doctrine too much exploded. How unjust! How derogatory to the goodness and mercy of God to send thousands and millions of thousands into this world, with powers and faculties to conceive that there is immortality and to believe that there are glorious rewards in the world to come, if he had left us not other guide to go by.

Now, some will say, "We have the Scriptures to go by." Do we not see enough of this? Truly the Scriptures do direct us to this glorious principle within us, yet how do men turn them to every purpose! One learned man starts up in one quarter of the nation, and he says, "here is a portion of Scripture, and I assure you it mean so and so;" and another declares with equal learning, with a great deal of study, [and with an abundance of eloquence, "my friends, it is so and so, this way you must believe ;" and there is one even gone over to the country of my nativity, who, with the New Testament in his hand, is laying the axe by his arguments as much as is in his power to the very root of the Christian Religion. This is my faith, that he is destroying the foundation whereon it is built, and yet pretending to bring his doctrine from the Scripture. But what will not sophistry do? What has it not done? Oh! the evils it has produced in the world. But I trust neither this man, learned and wise as he may be in the world's estimation, nor any other, will ever be able to sap that foundation which God has laid in Zion, nor to rob you or my own soul of that glorious hope and blessed consolation in the redemption and mediation of our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. God forbid it should, and I trust it will not. The Lord will, by his own light and power dispel every cloud and darkness that shall arise to cast up a mist before the eyes of the professors of Christianity.](38)

But to return. I want you, my friends, it is my most earnest labour, wheresoever it may please God to take me, throughout his vineyard, to get people, if possible to build upon a foundation that these various opinions of men will not be able to shake. I know that there is a foundation where all those various and contradictory opinions of men may butt against the honest and sincere-hearted pilgrim's dwelling and not be able to shake it. This I am persuaded of. Verily there is a rest for the people of God. There is something whereon we may build safe, that is, in Christ -- "CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory."(Colossians 1:27.) Oh! that you may seek to him! God is no respector of persons. He will teach all men himself; he will manifest his mercy equally to all men; he rejects none; he makes none of the distinctions of high and low, rich and poor, that we poor weak beings do. No; he is equal in his ways and just in all his doings, and those that come to him he will in no wise cast out; for "there is no difference" (says the Apostle) "between the Jew and the Greek, for one God over all is rich unto all that come unto him," (Romans 10:12.) and so he remains to be.

Oh! my friends, were you to adhere to these plain and simple truths it would prevent a great deal of confusion in the world; it would bring about a different face and appearance among the professors of Christianity from what we now behold in Europe; it would put an end to all dissensions; it would put an end to all envying one another; to all false, to all evil speaking, and even evil thinking one of another. This I am confident of, if it was adhered to; for Christ and his glorious dispensation is not a dispensation of strife and dispute, for when he came there was even uttered by the songs of angles,

"Peace on earth and good-will to men." (Luke 2:14.)

And he declared that "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." (John 13:34-35.) And so we may as reasonably conclude that by this shall all men know that ye are not Christ's disciples, if ye hate, devour, and destroy one another. It is as clear to me as the sun that shines in the firmament. He was the Prince of Peace, of whose government the Prophet Isaiah declares there never should be an end. (Isaiah 9:6-7.)

Oh! My fellow Christians, let us with all our souls draw nigh unto and seek for his holy power to influence our hearts; that he many bring us into the bond of Christian charity, and of holy and blessed union one with another; that he may destroy all that seeks to blow up nations and kingdoms into confusion, and that seeks to bring distress upon individuals, nations, and countries! Do not we behold the ravages of WAR? What has it done even in this nation, where the sound of WAR has only been heard? How many weeping widows, how many tender parents has it lately deprived of their support? It never would have been so, I am persuaded, if the professors of Christianity had kept to their first principle. No man can believe it, I think, with the Bible in his hand, which forbids in our Lord's express words our saying in this glorious day, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." (Matthew 5:38; see also Exodus 21:23-24, Leviticus 24:20.) Yet, alas! Is it not the language too much used among us? "Thou hast injured me, and therefore I will injure thee; thou hast spoken evil of me and I will speak evil also of thee." But ought it to be so? Ought we not rather to suffer injuries, as the primitive believers did, without murmuring, without complaining? They received them all with meekness, as their holy and blessed Redeemer did before them; who, even when he was about to quit the body by the hands of cruel men, did not he set us a glorious example, he that had power to call legions of angels at his command, when meekly in this manner he addressed his Father towards his last moments, "Father, forgive the, for they know not what they do?" (Luke 23:24.)

"Well," (but some may say) "is it really possible to come into this spirit of forgiving of injuries, to bear insults without even returning and retorting again?" Why, yes; I verily believe the Gospel Spirit would lead us into all this. "Why, then," (some may say) wouldst thou have men to be cowards?" No, by no means. Cowards where thou ought to cowards, to be sure, afraid to do evil; but magnanimous heroes under the service and in the service of our glorious king, the Lord Jesus Christ! Because the LAMB and his followers will finally obtain the victory. Oh! Then, my friends, let us with one accord add to our faith, works. It is a glorious and blessed faith; but if thou add not to thy faith works, it there a probability that thou will reap the glorious reward? What is it that our blessed Lord pronounced to those that distinguished themselves with works of mercy, with works of benevolence, and works of peace, who lived in the peace of his divine and holy religion, which he had given them to observe: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world. I was sick, and in prison, and ye visited me; I was hungry and ye fed me; I was naked, and ye clothed me; I was a stranger, and ye took me in to comfort me. Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matthew 25:35.)

Now, it is this kingdom that I want you, my friends, all to inherit. To be so prepared against the awful summons which is approaching to us all, that we may look forward without dismay; that we may be favoued with that hope which will be as an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast, for whatever we may have promised to ourselves, in a moment that thou knowest not "the Son of Man cometh."(Matthew 24:44, 25:13; Luke 12:40.) Thy days here may be few. Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return." (Genesis 3:19.)

Earth's highest station ends in, "here he lies:"

"dust to dust" concludes her noblest song.