A Sermon Delivered by EPHRAIM O. HARVEY, 10-8-1913, at Western Yearly Meeting of Conservative Friends, held at Sugar Grove, Indiana.
Previously Unpublished Material Transcribed from Archival Manuscripts by Tom Roberts, Made available to the editor by Edsel Burdge.

This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 4: The 20th Century

I am aware that a wrong understanding of Christian doctrine very often entangles us in our Christian experience. A wrong teaching often confuses the mind, so that we become confused and fall short of the spiritual evidence we long for. For the lack of understanding I have sometimes thought it would be better for people not to have much theory, if they do not get the impression of the spirit, and thus go along in life seemingly happy. The manifestations of life as presented by the Holy Spirit to any one shows that some of the most happy people I have known had but little knowledge of the plan of salvation. I have felt then, to impress a line of doctrine or teaching for the people to live right. Persons who have a living concern that people may live right is a very satisfactory exercise, because it can be done in simplicity, in a simple manner that it is almost impossible to make a mistake on this line, if they have a proper concern for the welfare of the church. I felt as we gathered here this morning a feeling coming over my mind, that every thing was most beautiful and favorable for a good meeting this morning. Our outside surroundings so inviting and pleasant, besides almost all present are Christians, coming together to join in the glorious worship of our Father in Heaven. A most excellent exercise a man can be engaged in. Very early in the meeting I felt that I had realized this precious feeling in my spirit, that God in his love and mercy was overspreading my soul and felt that I had already received a reward and blessing, and with it I felt the words of our Saviour coming before the view of my mind in a forcible manner, "Ye must be born again." Our Saviour goes on and says in connection with these words, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." He is saying to every one of us that we must "be born again," before we can see the Kingdom of God. I believe the full expression of the Saviour, that "except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."

It is from this expression of the Saviour that some people have the idea that we must be baptized in water before we see the Kingdom of God. I have no such idea in my mind. While our Saviour in uttering this expression has no reference to double work, or literal baptism, but a baptism of the Holy Spirit, before we would be able to see the Kingdom of God. We sometimes hear the application of this term "Water" applied to the Holy Spirit. The water was used as a type of the Holy Spirit and was only symbolical. We find all through the Holy Scriptures, the water that was used in the laver that stood at the door of the Tabernacle in the Israeli worship was a type of the Holy Spirit, to purify the Priest before entering the sanctuary to officiate before God, or between God and the people. He had to stop at the door to purify himself before entering into the Holy of Holies. And I have no doubt in my mind that our Saviour really had reference to elemental, when he used this expression to Nicodemus, but he did not intend it to apply to our Christian experience, to that work in our hearts called the "New Birth."

He reproved Nicodemus because he was a ruler and teacher in Israel and did not know these things. Under the old Jewish law the Kingdom of Israel and did not know these things. Under the old Jewish law the Kingdom of Israel was recognized as the Kingdom of God in the world, and when a child was born in that Kingdom by Jewish parents, it gave him the right to all the privileges of the law of Moses, but when a Gentile became converted to the Jewish faith, before he was allowed the full benefit of that law he had to be brought into that Kingdom by baptism. The baptism of that child was the same to him as the natural birth of the Jewish child, and gave him all the privileges and rights of the laws, and thus our Saviour reproved Nicodemus of these things.

Our Saviour here refers to the outward Kingdom of Israel, and the inward Kingdom of Christ; so he issues the double expression that a man cannot see the Kingdom without being "born again." First, we have to get into that Kingdom, before knowing the glory of that Kingdom; we have to experience a change, before we can enter the Kingdom of God. Our Saviour has reference to a change of heart that takes us out of one life and purifies our hearts and makes us a child of God.

As I look over this company and feel the assurance that there are very few who have not personally known something of this "New Birth." We know that in the natural birth, there is a beginning of a new life; so it is in a spiritual sense. When we are born again we are beginning a new life; a life of the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ; a life in which our Lord Jesus Christ has come into the dominion of the heart, and we have become a child of God, being born of the spirit. There are many figures that illustrate this change. I sometimes fear that people become confused on this great experience or subject.

The Apostle Paul speaks of this same experience in the figure of "Adoption." We know sometimes people will adopt children into their family, and make them legal heirs, according to the laws of our country, to a portion of their estate; so the Apostle, in speaking of this says, "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, "Abba Father." So it seems to me we can see the beauty and simplicity of this illustration. When a man takes a child and adopts him into his family as his child, he becomes an heir of that man's estate, as thus being born into the family, we have the same experience as shown in this figure. When we are born again we receive the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, "Abba Father."

Such a relationship to our Heavenly Father we feel our dependence upon Him, and the cry of the soul is natural for protection and support for our future as the natural cry of the new born babe. Many of these children having known that adoption in our hearts and made to feel our dependence on the God of Israel for support and help. If you have not cried aloud, you have cried in the secret of the heart, "Abba Father." Cried for the things you need in your spiritual work. The Apostle Paul has reference to this when he says, "And not Only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, (to wit) the redemption of our bodies. His plan of redemption in dealing with us, is by sending the Holy Spirit into the heart as a reprover of sin. The Apostle has reference to this fact, when he says, "We who have received the first fruits of the spirit await for the adoption;" await for God to own as His children. He does not have reference to the resurrection of these bodies in time to come, when he speaks of the redemption of the body from that bondage who feel they have no condemnation. It is then as the Apostle experienced, "For the good that I would, I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do." Evil is always present. I have no doubt there are many here who have the same experience, "I died daily in the law of God for sinful man." The Apostle also says, "But I see another law in my members, warning against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members." But we should have received the first fruits of the spirit awaiting for adoption with the Lord Jesus Christ, and then go forth and do that which we long to do. Jesus Christ is the only power through which we can be free, and do the thing we long to do.

In closing the Apostle Paul says, "Thanks be unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord," so he meant, "With the mind I, myself, serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin." For there be no other way to this who feel that they are encased in this bondage of sin, and have an experience of the first fruits of the spirit. Let me entreat you to surrender and obey Him, and deliverance will come instead of the groanings spoken of by the Apostle, there will be joy, and peace. The grace of our Lord is stronger than the power of Satan, and sin cannot have dominion over us. The Apostle again says in the same connection, that we are not under the law, but under grace, and there never was this virtue under the law of Moses. Under the law of Moses the High Priest had to enter the Holy of Holies every year, for the sins of the people, but under the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no need of this annual coming to God with sacrifice in remembrance of our sins. Jesus Christ, we are told entered into the Holy of Holies and bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might be free from this bondage of corruption.

There is a grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we experience; of redemption of our bodies while here on earth. I love to dwell on this experience; a wonderful freedom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And by this adoption we become a child of God. The Apostle goes on afterwards and says, "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." We are made proof of heirship by adoption into His family, and I do not believe there are many who go back from the real adoption, because our Heavenly Father is free to care and feed His children. Of course, we might, through disobedience. But the Apostle declares, "Who shall be able to separate us from the life to come in Christ Jesus," and when he undertakes our cause, we have a strong arm upon which to lean. He who spared not his own son, but gave him as a sacrifice that we might live, so shall He not give us freely all things?

I have felt this morning in the silence of this meeting that His Holy Presence has filled my heart, and desire that we may have a full enjoyment of our privilege in the Lord Jesus Christ. We would then be a strong body, and no doubt could accomplish great things, if we come to the full measure in the truth, and be willing to go forth, and work in His vineyard at His bidding.