A Beacon to the Society of Friends/Sermon V
"None can worship him [the almighty Creator] till all these unruly passions, all these disturbances and troubles, that naturally attend men and women in their natural state, are all brought down into entire subjection to the divine will, and until there is a complete sense of his greatness, and of our nothingness.—And it is my earnest desire that we may individually labour after this stillness; for this is the travail that ought always to attend our minds when thus assembled together." pp. 106, 107.
To imagine that silence and stillness are essential to true worship, would be a great error. Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles give no support to such a doctrine. Whatever advantage there may be in this mode of worship, we must remember that in the declaration, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth," our Lord neither prescribes nor intimates any particular mode.It is of great moment that we should be aware, that the incapacity to worship God lies not so much in the disturbed state of the mind, as in the unregenerate state of the heart, in which state neither stillness nor activity avail any thing.
What saith the Scripture?
"My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word." Ps. cxix. 25.
"I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice; for thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.—When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came in unto thee into thine holy temple." Jonah, ii. 2-4, 7.
"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me." Ps. cxvi. 3-7.
"The father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief." Mark, ix. 24.
"Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Matt. xi. 28, 29.
"Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Rom. x. 13.
"The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come, And let him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Rev. xxii. 17.
Instead of waiting until the mind is freed from troubles, the sense of their burthen is the very ground of our Lord's invitation to come to him: for every sincere cry of the believing, yet tossed soul, is acceptable to God.
On Quietism as the means of Redemption.
"What seemed at first to break in upon my mind was so complete, that it seemed as if it were all that need be said,—a being still, and entering into quiet and rest. The Jewish nation had an outward covenant,—but now what is the Christian to do? What is man that desires redemption from sin to do?—'Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the Heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.' So we must now not only be gathered together, but we must set to work in good earnest, and do what the Lord has furnished us with ability to do; and as he has given us the means to exercise, we ought to use all our mental powers to get our bodies quiet, under a consideration that we are now in the presence of the almighty and merciful God, who will distribute unto us according to our wants and necessities. We are to do all that we can, to be humble, and to show ourselves humble, by stilling our bodies, and keeping our minds clear of agitation and unprofitable thoughts." p. 117, 118.
"What is man that desires redemption from sin to do?—Be still," &c. Is this the Gospel of Christ, or is it another Gospel? It is indeed "not another" Gospel, but (said the Apostle) "There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an Angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." Silence and stillness are valuable in their place; but where in Holy Writ does the Spirit teach Quietism, as the means of our redemption? Is there one single word from Christ or his Apostles, that supports the doctrine?
What did the disciples do while "tarrying at Jerusalem?" Did they labour to get their bodies and minds quiet, &c.? The Scripture informs us that they "continued with one accord in prayer and supplication," but it says nothing about their silence and stillness.
Will not unprofitable thoughts be best excluded, and the desire fulfilled, "My soul, wait thou upon God only, for my expectation is from him," when the heart is drawing near unto God, through faith in Christ Jesus?
"Mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me, my wounds stink, and are corrupt, because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.—I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.—In thee, O Lord, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God." Ps. xxxviii. 4-6, 8, 9, 15.
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness;—Wash
me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin: For I acknowledge my transgression; and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." Ps. li. 1-4.
"He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and save them." Ps. cxlv. 19.
"He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it he will answer thee." Isa. xxx. 19.
"Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I
|will hearken. unto you, and ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." Jer. xxix. 12, 13.
"I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place." Ps. cxviii. 5.
"God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine
|which was delivered to you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.—But now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Rom. vi. 17, 18,
See under Ser. II. Ex. 7; Ser. VI. Ex. 1; Ser. VII. Ex. 1 & 2.
Some will get so into the popular current, that they will go to work the work of God, by the help and command of man. And I have known some say to a brother, pray! Now, what presumption! It is taking the seat of God immediately, and presuming to be God, and to be exalted above all that is called God, and worshipped. 'If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth," and not man. Should man undertake to do a single thing in God's work, without the command of God? If he does he is a fool.—My desire therefore is, that we may so sink down in this meeting, as to come to a right view of these things, and be delivered from any attempt arising from the contrivance of the creature, whether to promote religion, or any thing else, till we are convinced that it is from the will of our heavenly Father. We must feel his power; we must have an evidence of his light to shew us the way." pp. 114, 115.
The Bible teaches us that it is by the power of the Holy Spirit, that man is made willing and enabled to perform his duty to God and to himself; but if the reader will give his attention to the doctrine of our Lord and his Apostles, upon the all important subject of prayer, he will see how evidently the foregoing sentiments are in opposition to them. In the simple command of our Lord, we have not only a warrant for private prayer, but an imperative obligation to that duty; no preparation is enjoined, nor is any implied, but a sense of need and absolute impotence, on the one hand; and on the other, faith that God is able and willing to supply our wants, when we ask in the name of Christ. This sense of destitution, and every degree of living faith, are from the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. And where are we told to wait for a further preparation?
Observe how the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, exhorts his fellow believers to pray for him and his co-workers, and for the success of their labours. It would be well for us to consider, how far we feel the obligation, to help true ministers of theGospel with our prayers.
"Brethren, pray for us," 1 Thes. v. 25.
"Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you; and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men." 2 Thes. iii. 1, 2.
"Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner." Heb. xiii. 18, 19.
"I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea; and that my service which I have
for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; that I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed." Rom. xv. 30-32.
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit; and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints, and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel,—that therein I may speak boldly as I ought to speak." Eph. vi. 18-20.
"Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ." Col. iv. 2, 3.
Observe how the Apostle expresses his confidence in the help of their Prayers.
"I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you." Phile. 22.
"In whom we trust that he will deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer
for us." 2 Cor. i. 10, 11.
"I know that this shall turn to my salvation, through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." Phil. i. 19.
And how the Apostles, speaking by the Spirit, exhort to the duty in a more general way.
"I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty; For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour." 1 Tim. ii. 1—3.
"I will, therefore, that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." 1 Tim. ii. 8.
"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known
unto God." Phil. iv. 6.
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much;" James, v. 16.
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering." James, i. 5, 6.
"Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them,—as heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered." 1 Pet. iii. 7.
The Apostle declares how constantly the believers are remembered by himself and his co-workers, in their prayers.
"I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy." 2 Tim. i. 3.
"I make mention of you always in my prayers;
making request [that] I might have a prosperous journey, by the will of God, to come unto you." Rom. i. 9, 10.
"I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers." Eph. i. 16.
"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment." Phil. i. 9.
"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always, in every prayer of mine for you all, making request with joy for your fellowship in the Gospel." Phil. i. 3, 4, 5.
"We give thanks to God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus." Col. i. 3, 4.
"For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." Col. i. 9.
"Epaphras—saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers." Col. iv. 12.
Observe how the Holy Spirit encourages to the duty of prayer, assuring us that Prayer ascends to God.
"The four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints." Rev. v. 8.
"And another Angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given
unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the Angen's hand." Rev. viii. 3, 4.
And observe the great encouragement held out by our Lord Jesus Christ, to persevering Prayer in Faith.
"Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, friend
lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing
to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend; yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish
give him a serpent? or, if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him." Luke, xi. 5-13.
"And he spoke a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint."—The parable of the unjust judge and the widow." Luke, xviii. 1-8.
"If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." John, xv. 7.
"Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." Matt. xxi. 22.
Some directions by the Lord Jesus, with regard to the duty of Prayer.
"Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet; and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret." Matt. vi. 6.
"When thou prayest thou shalt not be as the hypocrites; for they love
to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men." Matt. vi. 5.
"When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the Heathen: for they think that they shall be heard
for their much speaking. Be not ye, therefore, like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him." Matt. vi. 7, 8.
"When ye stand praying forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father—forgive
you your trespasses."—Mark, xi. 25, 26.
"Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Matt. v. 44.
"Pray ye—the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." Matt. ix. 38.
"Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation." Matt. xxvi. 41.
In conclusion, we would advert to the following important passage,—"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what to pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." Rom. viii. 26 and 27.
This passage has been much misunderstood,—it has even been converted into a stumbling block, and kept many from the threshold of the closet,—But how animating is it to the humble believer, who, cast down at times with the feeling that he is destitute of the spirit of prayer,—knowing not what to pray for as he ought, and even without a right sense of his spiritual want, that he is thus encouraged to persevere in presenting himself before God, resting on the assurance that theSpirit helpeth our infirmities.
But if we accept not the direction of our Lord, as a warrant for prayer, Luke, xi. 5-13, and put not ourselves in the way to receive the help of the Spirit, must we not remain in dryness and darkness?
It is to be expected that Satan will offer every suggestion, and strive to keep us from so great a blessing as communion with God in prayer; and experienced Christians often find, to their deep humiliation, the remains of their natural aversion to this duty, and feel the need of guarding against it, by constantly approaching the throne of grace to obtain the help of the Spirit, and the knowledge of what to pray for.
We would by no means discourage the frequent aspirations of the soul towards God, of which the awakened mind is susceptible. On the contrary, we believe private prayer will induce these aspirations. But we would affectionately guard every one against the idea, that he may neglect private prayer, and trust his intercourse with God to occasional aspirations; because they will by this means become faint, and less frequent; and perhaps by almost imperceptible degrees, die away altogether.
On the use of a form of Prayer.
"We may learn a form of prayer, and it may be very good in the expression of words, and at the same time our hearts be filled with vain thoughts; and the creature may be excited to put this form into execution, by proposing to pray, while it is a mere outward thing. What an affront this to the majesty of Heaven! To pray by a form of words! It is a great affront to the majesty of Heaven!" p. 119.
|"After this manner,—pray ye, Our Father which art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us||our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." Matt. vi. 9-13|
On the name of Jesus. True ministers preach the Gospel.
"The name of Jesus is nothing but the power of God, and the wisdom of God. And that it is so, we find from abundance of testimonies in the Inspired Writings: but the translators were not inspired men, for they declared against inspiration. Here then, as we have been told, we must come to a revelation in our hearts, to assure us what is right or wrong; and the Scriptures in their fullest extent, can go no farther than to recommend us to God, the one thing needful. And no true minister ever attempted any further, than to recommend to this light and spirit of God. It was the ultimatum of Jesus Christ in his outward manifestation." pp. 131, 132.
"The name of Jesus is nothing but the power," &c. This assertion is wholly unwarranted, and is made in order to support the dangerous error, that the inward light is the primary rule of faith and practice; and to get rid of the incarnation and atonement of the Son of God;—for Hicksism sets itself above the authority of the Holy Spirit in his revelation by the Scriptures.
Cruden, shows that the word name, as applied to Christ, is used in Scripture in various senses. It signifies his deity and perfections, that which he really is, and is in the Scriptures acknowledged to be.
"His name shall be called Wonderful, The mighty God." Isa. ix. 6;—that is, he is wonderful, he is the mighty God.
"Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel: which being interpreted is, God with us." Matt. i. 23.—that is, he who is prophesied of, is, God with us.
Many of the phrases in Scripture, are adapted to the usages and common sense of mankind; and the consideration of such usages, may often help us to ascertain the meaning of words. When we apply for a favour to any one in the name of his friend, the name implies a permission to avail ourselves of the friendship existing between the parties, as a claim on the favor of him to whom we apply. Here name is a symbol of friendship. When a person is arrested in the king's name, name is a symbol of power and authority. Is not the name of Jesus used in both these senses also, in Scripture?
"Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you." Jno. xvi. 23.
"In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." Acts, iii. 6.
"No true minister ever attempted any further than to recommend to this light and Spirit of God."
What saith the Scripture?
|"We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." 1 Cor. i. 23, 24.
"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1 Cor. ii. 2.
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye
stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain: For I delivered unto you, first of all, that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures." 1 Cor. xv. 1-4.
"Though we, or an Angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that we have preached, let him be accursed." Gal. i. 8.
Did the Apostle tell the Corinthians they must come to a revelation in their own hearts? Did he direct the people to a light within themselves? Did he tell them to "gather into stillness,"—to "wait for the heavenly Pilot,"—to be very careful not to rely too much on an outward sacrifice? Nothing like it. It is unquestionably necessary in the ministry of the Gospel, that the offices of the Holy Spirit, as well as the offices of Christ, as they are revealed in the Scripture, should be brought into view. True ministers "preach the word," they are "ministers of the word," i.e. bearers or declarers of the message,—See Acts, xiii. 32,—and their desire should be to set forth that word of life and salvation in all its comprehensiveness.
Order itself no sufficient Bond.
"If we keep to the order established, and which we believe to have been set up under the guidance of truth, we shall never be broken to pieces, we shall always be united." p. 133.
What reason has any man to suppose, that order established by a body of people, can keep them together acceptably to God, unless the bond of their union consists in the acknowledgment of the Holy Scriptures,—the attested revelation of the Spirit, as the rule of their faith and practice? We see infidelity itself lays claim to the guidance of truth: by what means then are unjust claims to be set aside, and false pretensions to be exposed, if the Scriptures be not the ultimate standard of doctrine, on the truth and authority whereof we confidently rely?
- Contrivance of the creature—see under Ser. VI. Ex. 1.
- "Come to a revelation in our own hearts."—See under Ser. II. Ex. 3; Ser. IV. Ex. 1, 4.
- See under Ser. II. Ex. 6.—"It was the ultimatum, &c."