A Sermon Delivered by SUNDERLAND P. GARDNER, at the Funeral of Demaris Hoag, Macedon Centre, N.Y., 11th of 8th Month, 1860.
Memoirs of Sunderland P. Gardner. Philadelphia: Friends Book Association, 1895.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 3: The 19th Century
I do not suppose that the confession "that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" is based upon a historical or traditional knowledge derived from the Scriptures, for a great part of mankind from the commencement of the Christian era to the present day has had no knowledge of them, and of course no historical knowledge of the outward manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Jews, but it would not do to say that none of those, who have not had the Scriptures, were the children of God, for Christ is" the true light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world," and as many as are obedient to the will of God revealed by that light, love Him and work righteousness in "every nation, kindred, tongue and people," and are accepted. There are those who wrought righteousness before any of the Scriptures were written, and the existence of these writings does not exclude any from being righteous because they have no knowledge of them. For it is by works of righteousness, and not by words or profession merely, that we confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: not his outward coming only, but his coming in a spiritual relation to the souls of men.
"Know ye not, your own selves, how Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates." His outward coming was more particularly to the Jews, to fulfil their law and to redeem them that were under it, for the literal observance of that law never made the comers thereunto perfect as pertaining to the conscience, and why? Because God has never given any external thing to take precedence in point of importance over the Living Light in the conscience, for in that book is where He appears as a witness against every thing that is evil, unjust or unholy, and although we may endeavor to hide what is recorded there, even from ourselves, yet the time will come when that faithful record will be unfolded clearly-to our view, and we shall be judged according to what is written there. Blessed, yea, thrice blessed are they, who are willing that all in their hearts opposed to truth should be brought to judgment--a present judgment, and bring their deeds to that light that giveth sight, that the sight may give sense, and the sense bring sorrow for sin. If we are patient under such a dispensation, it will lead us through the baptism of repentance.
But what is repentance? Is it merely sorrowing for our sins, or shedding many tears under the sense of them? No. These things alone do not constitute repentance: but it is a change of purpose, a ceasing to do evil, a radical reformation of life, a taking up the cross in ourselves against every impure desire, against everything that would injure us were we found in the practice of it. The cross lays no further restraint. When we come to this state of experience, we shall know the meaning of the declaration which Jesus made to his disciples, "Ye are the salt of the earth," and adding as an incentive to faithfulness, "But if the salt have lost its savor wherewith shall it be seasoned?"
The disciples constituted a part of the church militant, and in their united efforts in bearing the testimonies of truth against the corruptions of the world, were likened to a city set on a hill, which city could not be hid.
It appears to me that we, who are making a profession of religion of Christ, need to look to our calling and make ourselves sure that we are the salt of the earth, that others seeing our good works may have cause to glorify God, confessing by the righteousness of their own lives that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh in his spiritual relation to their souls.
The disciples of Christ have conflicts and trials, often very severe: so had Jesus, but if they continue faithful with him, he will appoint unto them a kingdom. This attained, they will see that their trials and temptations have been useful to them, and that in their proving they have grown stronger and more firmly grounded in the truth.
Thus man comes to understand the state shown to John which he describes as "A great wonder in Heaven: a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." This is the highest figure that can possibly be drawn of anything known to man. Among rational beings, woman, when maintaining the place assigned her by creative Wisdom, occupies a position which man has not the ability to fill. God has given to her peculiar qualities of mind, an exalted affection and tenderness of feeling, calculated to mould and instruct the young mind, bringing it along in innocence to maturity; hence hers is an office of superior importance to the human family.
Clothed with the sun. Here again is taken the highest and most glorious orb in our system to represent the garments with which this state is clothed. And what does this portray? Evidently the light of God's spirit, which clothes the souls of his children wherever found; and these constitute the church.
The moon under her feet. Here again is taken one of the most beautiful and attractive of changeable images to represent the alluring things of time as being placed under the feet of the saints. Thus there can be no eclipse, no shadow of darkness, nothing to prevent the continual shining of the Sun of Righteousness upon the faithful, redeemed soul.
Upon her head a crown of twelve stars. Those stars represent the twelve apostles, who by taking up the cross were enabled to overcome evil, having their spirits clothed upon by the spirit of God; under the direction of this power they were sent forth witnesses to the important truth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and the kingdom of Heaven is not afar off but at hand. Thus they occupy a prominent position as instruments in promulgating and reflecting the gospel. The whole is a representation of the church triumphant, of which Jesus Christ is the head. He begins the work of regeneration by the moving of his love in our hearts, and if we are faithful, he continues his assistance until a victory is gained over all sin and temptation.
Though glorious, yet we see that the stars occupy a subordinate position, for they are useful to us only as they reflect that which they receive; thus bearing witness to a greater light. Here we see the real value of the Scriptures of truth and of the truly anointed gospel ministry. The Scriptures testify of and direct us to the light of God which is ready to shine forth in our hearts, while a gospel ministry can go no farther than to warn and persuade men. Jesus and the apostles went no farther. Hence the Scriptures and the ministry, though valuable auxiliaries, are things for which we have no more need when that which is perfect is come and obeyed. "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."
Whatever Jesus declared, I receive as coming from the highest authority, and he turned the attention of the people on several occasions away from himself unto God, as when he was addressed as "Good Master," he replied, "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God;" and, "That which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's, who sent me;" "The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works;" "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God:" and he is represented as continuing "all night in prayer to God."
As I said before, I receive what he declared as from the highest authority, for the power of God which was in him took vocal sound and through him spake His will, and truth to the people. His life was in submission to God and an example to men, while his authority as a minister of the gospel was from the same source as that of other ministers of the same gospel. But whence was this authority? Let him answer, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord," This he applied as being fulfilled in himself, which shows clearly how and for what purpose he was thus qualified.
I now commend you to this same anointing power, "the grace of God that bringeth salvation and hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." If we attend to this grace, it will bring salvation. We ought not to look without for that which can be found only within our own hearts, for the greatest good that we can know in this state of being is there to be found, and the greatest evil with which we are afflicted originates there: but if we keep our eye single to the light of truth, we shall be enabled to walk in the path of righteousness, which that light makes plain. This path will also be found not only more clear but less difficult as we advance, until we come to that state in which all figures and, all changeable things occupy their proper places under our feet, and our souls in their triumph over sin are clothed with the light of the Sun of Righteousness. Is not this a state worth all the cost? Is not the religion of Jesus, dear youth and children, worthy of your deepest devotion, worthy of all the sacrifice necessary to attain it?
Jesus Christ in his revelations to John concerning the church and things relating to individual experience, declared himself to be "Alpha anti Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." But what are we to understand from this? He takes the extremes of the Greek alphabet, in and within which are contained all the elements of that language, a figure denoting that within himself are contained all the principles of salvation. He begins the work by leading us to repentance, continues it by assisting our progress in reformation, and finishes it by giving us the victory over all sin.
Jesus was particular in pointing out to his disciples how they should become ministers of the gospel, for he told them to tarry until they should become "endowed with Power from on high," which Power he called the Spirit of truth, which "should lead them into all truth." When this was received, or, in other words, when they were anointed for the purpose, they should go forth as that directed. He did not tell them that by and by there should be established theological seminaries or schools of divinity, where they might become qualified to preach, after the manner of teaching the sciences among men: no, for that which sustains the relation between the soul and the Creator cannot be reduced to a science. The religion of Jesus when it becomes ours is experimental, nor can it be learned save in the school of Christ, of which he is himself the head.
With regard to the qualification for the Gospel ministry, I know of no change by Divine authority, no change but that which has been made by man. But when in the third and fourth centuries the majority had ceased to depend upon that light and life in which the early Christians rested, the church lost her garments of the sun, men perverted reason, learning supplanted revelation, and the result soon became manifest. Contentions about doctrine and articles of faith arose, sometimes one party prevailing and sometimes another, as each in turn got the assistance of the secular power, which by means of fire and sword forced the woman into the wilderness, leaving a form without life; the moon got the ascendency, and the real stars of the crown became hidden from the world. Very much of the state of religion in the succeeding ages originated in that dark era of the church, and has become modified only in degree by the various leaders of the different sects of a later day. The church is not composed of Friends, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, or any other sect exclusively as such, but among them all and everywhere those who are obedient to the Father's will, and are clothed with His spirit, constitute the sons and daughters of God and members of the church of Christ.
We are taught that we are laboring under disadvantages not originating in ourselves, and that because of the disobedience of our first parents, the seed of sin has been transmitted to us, their posterity. The Jews held the same doctrine, but mark the language of the Almighty through His prophets to them: "What mean ye that ye use this proverb saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge? but as I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth it shall die." Likewise through another prophet: "In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape and the children's teeth are set on edge; but every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge." "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the Father bear the iniquity of the son." Here we see that the doctrine of sin being original only in the first of the human race is set aside by the highest authority, and the contrary being taught by less authority cannot make it true; yet in opposition to the commands of God, most of our modern religious teachers have taken this doctrine of original sin, and thrown it broadcast upon the world. Now the truth is clear: all that we have received from Adam is the outward man, which is of the earth earthy, but the spirit, that which is created after the image of God, and that alone which is accountable to Him, has no farther connection with Adam than that of having taken up its abode in the outward tabernacle during its probation. Hence our spirits are not derived from Adam, and there can be no transmission of the leaven of sin to us; therefore sin must be original in every soul that sinneth, nor can the consequences be otherwise to that soul even though Adam had not sinned.
Are any in doubt with regard to the origin of sin, or any who charge the stealing away of their hearts from God to an agency out of themselves? I think we need not necessarily be in the dark concerning these things, for they are not so mysterious in their nature but that all may comprehend them, if they will throw away tradition, and give the book of their own lives an unprejudiced perusal. Here we may see whence the evil comes; every propensity which God has implanted in our nature is good, and would remain so were we true to the light He gives us; nor would they produce other results than such as tie intended in their creation; the desire of gratification in pleasure in these is right if kept within the limits of the laws of our physical, moral, and spiritual being, but when any appetite or desire is carried beyond the limits set by these laws, the soul consenting, it becomes sin.
Now, cannot every one of us who has sinned trace our errors back to the perversion or abuse of one or all of the gifts of God? According to the declaration of James, "Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts." If there be any other source of sin, I have not known it. But there is a sense in which the sins of the fathers in many cases affect their posterity. "And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth." "Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation." But these are evidently physical sins, for it is to a great extent the sad experience of mankind that in consequence of the indiscretion of parents in regard to the laws of nature, physical and mental diseases are transmitted to posterity, but no stain of soul.
Many go so far as to say that Adam through his transgression brought death to the world? But what death? That of these outward bodies? If so, the very principles of nature must have acted under different laws than now, or these laws must have been governed by miracles, or could not have been followed by effect. These truths may be easily perceived by bringing the subject fearlessly to the light. If death could not have touched man, had Adam not sinned, the elements themselves must have been powerless with regard to the laws of their several natures; fire could not consume, the waters could not drown, the earthquake could not swallow up, and the tornado must have been powerless to harm man's dwelling; nay, even the very laws of gravitation must have been suspended so that in falling to the earth he should not be broken.
But it was said unto Adam, "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." The fact, however, of his having lived physically hundreds of years after his transgression, proves that the death of the body was not the penalty intended.
It is held by many that all that was lost by Adam was gained by Christ; but as man has been subject to death since the coming and suffering of Jesus the same as before, all has not been restored, or the death of the body was not the consequence of Adam's sin. But there was a death experienced by Adam in the day that he sinned as the effect of his disobedience, a death which every individual since has known who, like him, has sinned.
When the soul has lost the covering of the Holy Spirit, it feels itself enveloped in darkness, and instead of peace, joy, and the light of God's countenance, death and remorse rest upon it. The covering of fig-leaves will neither hide us from ourselves nor from the all-seeing eye of eternal wisdom; nay, it cannot conceal the fact of our spiritual nakedness, nor soothe the pain of the soul's hunger and thirst. We have left our Father's house, we can no longer partake of the tree of life; hence James tells us that "sin when finished bringeth forth death."
Jesus, in his affectionate and instructive parable of the prodigal son, makes the subject sufficiently clear, and when the Father was represented as saying, "For this my son was dead and is alive again," it is evident that the death of the body was not alluded to, but a spiritual death from which this son had lately experienced a resurrection. He hungered after the bread which in his innocent state he had freely partaken of in his father's house; but his return was hailed with great rejoicing. His father went forth to meet him while yet he was a great way off, the fatted calf was killed, and the best robe, a covering of the Father's love, was placed upon him,
Cannot some who are now present measurably appreciate this parable from what they have known in their own experience? The parent having prescribed just and equitable rules for the government of his household, finds that so long as those rules are observed, peace and contentment reign in the family circle; but when one of the members, refusing to be thus governed, takes a course resulting in his own injury, all are grieved; and when he returns again and becomes obedient, they all rejoice with a joy which cannot be felt over those who had never gone astray. It is so measurably in the family, it is eminently so in the church, and I believe it is perfectly so in Heaven. "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance."
Now we perceive in the case of the prodigal that no outward sacrifice was required to appease the father and reconcile him to his son, but that his gracious reception and welcome to the riches of the father's house were the result of repentance and reformation of life. Now can experience bear testimony to any other way of reconciliation with God ? No. All external things combined are insufficient to redeem and save the soul. The subject of redemption has been clothed with much of mystery, but the mystery is the work of man, belonging neither to truth nor the light of God. Truth is ever plain and simple when error is kept from it, and the very nature of light is to make truth manifest by taking away mystery and dispelling darkness.
It is clear to my mind that if we were to depend less upon tradition and the teaching of men and more upon that great good which is to be truly and savingly known only in our own hearts, we should be at no loss in regard to the nature and means of man's redemption. It is a subject of experience, and those who are redeemed can bear witness to the simplicity of the work. "The bread that I give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." By the term bread he evidently meant the Spirit, the life of God which was in him, for he also said, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood ye have no life in you."
The Jews could not understand how these things could be, and called them "hard sayings." He therefore made this explanation: "It is the spirit that quickeneth, the (my) flesh profiteth nothing." Here he makes it clear that he used the terms bread, flesh and blood as figures to represent the life that was in him, which he would give for the life of the world; hence it was not the life, or flesh, or blood of the outward body, but the spirit of God that dwelt in him. And what is the life of the world which must be given in exchange? It is a life of sin, impurity of soul, envy, hatred, revenge, covetousness, idolatry, and all things which are opposed to that standard of righteousness exhibited in the life of Jesus. Now when we are willing to open our hearts and suffer this life to come in (for flesh and blood cannot enter the soul) it will cleanse, wash and purify the soul from all its defilements, becoming the renewed circulating medium of life in the soul. Here we can see that man's redemption does not consist in or depend on anything external, visible or tangible, but simply upon giving up that which separates him from God; his spirit must become purified by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, and by the blood or life of Jesus Christ, which cleanseth from all sin. As I said before, redemption is a thing of experience, and we who have sinned all stand in need of it, for it is a work that must be done in each individual.
We know the skillful physician applies his remedies directly to the patient who is sick, and not to another person, in order to heal the one diseased, neither do men, when one has been convicted of crime, punish an innocent man, letting the criminal go free. No: the sense of justice which God has placed in all rational beings would cry out against it. Can man be more just than God? He that hath ears to hear let him hear.
The tastes and tendencies of the minds of men differ as widely from each other as do the shades of the bow in the cloud: some appear to be so evenly balanced in themselves that scarcely an effort is required in pursuing the right, while others seem almost enveloped in moral turpitude. To the latter the cross must indeed be very great as they seek to overcome the world, yet I cannot believe this to be the result of Adam's sin as its original type (for all are Adam' s descendants),--rather the consequence of attending circumstances. These circumstances however do not affect the soul to defile it until it ceases to depend upon its Creator, consenting to the will of the flesh by which it separates :itself from God. It turns away of its own choice and becomes impure, to which state God cannot be reconciled. state of corruption rests not upon children before they sinned, though they have in their nature all they receive from Adam. Impurity cannot enter into yet Jesus said: "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven." "Verily I say unto you, that except ye be converted and become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven." How this emphatic declaration of Jesus strikes against the absurd doctrine of infant perdition, a doctrine which has been held by many zealous professors, but which like many other errors has come up with the smoke from the bottomless pit of man's imagination, the inexhaustible storehouse of the mysteries of Babylon. Children knowing no law can transgress none: and would it not contravene justice to make them responsible for wrong which they never did? And the fact of their being in a state of acceptance with God, also makes it clear that every soul since Adam (for all have been children) has been in a state wherein his sin did not affect them. Therefore as about one-half the human race die in infancy, a state of Divine acceptance, and as Jesus made no exception, we may therefore safely conclude that none are or ever have been reprobated in consequence of Adam's transgression or by any foreordination of God.
The preparation of the heart in man is of the Lord, hence unless he prepares our hearts to do him reverence, no sacrifice will avail anything in his sight. What though we should carry out to the very letter the creeds that men have formed, what though we should obey every rule sanctioned by religious custom or untempered zeal, would God draw nigh to us for this ? Though our lip~ should move in prayer and our tongues should chant the prescribed songs of praise, yet our hearts might be far from Him. In this state we might act under an authority which we had not received from God, might utter precepts which we did not feel or teach doctrines which we did not understand; yea, if we should depend on a religion which we had learned only of men on the authority of tradition, we might still be in an unregenerate state, warriors, covetous, idolatrous. But this is as far from the religion of Jesus as was the religion of the priest and Levite from that of the good Samaritan; the former were religious traditionally, the latter experimentally, practically and effectually.
There is a vast difference between a religion of the head and a religion of the heart; the latter was the religion of Paul, which he had learned in the school of Christ, the former that of the sons of Sceva, who when they attempted to cast out devils by Jesus, whom Paul preached, failed because the power which wrought through Paul was not in them. Their state truly represented a religion which may be practiced by a prescribed form without life, which above all other things has stood most in the way of the spread and success of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead, and there is no true effectual faith but that which works by love to the purifying of the heart; and when the heart is thus purified it has become an altar on which acceptable offerings may be made to God.
I often feel in my poverty of spirit the necessity of bowing in prayer asking for Divine assistance, and it is clear to me that were our petitions rightly directed, we should be greatly benefitted by the exercise; for our prayers are ever answered when they are put forth by the working of the Father's spirit in us; he alone knows what is best for us and what we stand in need of, before we ask him. Is it not a reason why men are so little profited by the multitude of prayers daily offered, because they are too much the judges of their own wants and conditions, independent of Divine direction, often seeking to accomplish selfish or unjustifiable ends? The prayers of the greatest saints could not be answered, however zealously put forth or carefully written, were they not in accordance with the Father's will; even the prayer of Jesus, that faithful son of God, that the cup might pass, was not granted for this reason. Will not the circumstances warrant us in supposing the following answer of the Father to his petition?--"Son, although thou hast not finished the work which I gave thee to do, yet I will give thee the strength that thou mayest maintain to the end the testimony that thou hast already borne. For this cause came thou into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Thou may not yet receive thy crown, lest there be no example left to the world of man's gaining the victory over the powers of darkness, therefore be thou faithful to the end, that through suffering thou may be made perfect and become the captain of salvation to all who will follow thee."
Mark with what human submission the prayer of Jesus was offered: "O my Father, if this cup may not pass except I drink it, Thy will be done." "Thy will be done," the greatest evidence of a Christian on earth or of a saint in heaven. And I desire to encourage all classes as they feel the moving of the Father's Spirit thereto to pour out the desire of their souls unto Him. And especially to you, dear youth and children, now in the days of your innocence and purity of spirit, I would say, Put your trust in the arm of Divine Power and Love which, as the Scriptures bear ample testimony, will be revealed in your own hearts, if you will receive it, that you may grow stronger and stronger in the truth, becoming instrumental in producing the reformation so much needed in this our day; and should you dedicate the morning of your lives to the cause of righteousness, you will never have reason to regret the step, for in no other way than by obedience to the truth as declared in yourselves, can you become the disciples of Jesus Christ, and in no other way call you gain an entrance into the kingdom of Heaven but by overcoming as he overcame. And what is Heaven? It is a state which may be measurably known in this life, consisting in "Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost," and to all who, holding out to the end, shall reach this state the promise will hold good," "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in His throne." But remember, this great and encouraging promise is only made to those who overcome as he overcame. He that hath ears let him hear.
If any of you, dear young men and young women, are conscious of having done wrong and still feel the effects of your error resting upon you, be not discouraged nor cast down, for it is the nature of the office of the gospel of Christ to seek after those who have strayed from the path of rectitude, and extend to them the power of redeeming, restoring love. Such was the mission of Jesus. "I am not come but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." It is then in love and not in anger that he continues to extend the hand of his merciful regard to us for our good. Men have given to our Heavenly Father a character which He does not possess. We are taught that He is angry with men because of sill, but is it so? I see no evidence that He has ever manifested Himself in any character opposed to love. But here some one seems to object, saying, He is a God of anger, for the Bible says, "God is angry with the wicked every day," to which I reply that if by anger there is meant the exercise of the passion as we use it, it asserts too much, for we know a being that is angry every day is an unhappy being,--that he must lose his dignity and alienate himself from that which is good, and every day would be making work for repentance; so we see that if God is angry with the wicked every day, according to our acceptance of the term, he must have experienced more unhappiness than has any man since the transgression of Adam. But it is not true,--He is neither an angry nor revengeful being, and men have formed their judgment of Him from the state of their own hearts. Now I understand the expression that "God is angry with the wicked every day," to mean simply this: He is himself a standard of Purity, Holiness, Truth, Love and Mercy, unchangeably the same; and while we live up to this standard we are in a state of reconciliation with Him, but when we sin we separate ourselves from Him by our own choice. We see that as He is good and unchangeable, he cannot reconcile Himself to our corruption, and on the other hand a great change must be wrought in us if we would again become reconciled to Him after we have opposed ourselves to His purity by becoming impure, to His holiness by becoming unholy, to His truth by choosing error, to his love by becoming hateful and hating one another, and to his mercy by becoming unmerciful. And is it not as much to be expected that these opposing states should be unable to unite, as that fire and water should disagree ? for when these opposing elements of nature are brought together there is war, not in consequence of malignity, but because of the inherent differences of their natures. Thus we see that our Heavenly Father is opposed to sin because purity cannot be reconciled with impurity, holiness with unholiness, nor truth with error: hence He is opposed to sin without auger, and is ever ready without revenge to assist the transgressor in recovering his lost state. "He that hath ears to hear let him hear."
There was a period in John's life, before he had an experimental knowledge of the Father, when he supposed Him to be revengeful, and on one occasion when the people of a certain village refused to receive them, he queried with Jesus if they should call down fire from Heaven and destroy them. Now mark the answer of Jesus: "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of, for the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." But through faithfulness to the unfolding of light in his own mind, John experienced a change of heart, and as the work of grace advanced he became possessed of the knowledge of the true nature of God; and was qualified understandingly to bear the most important testimony ever borne by man, that "God is love." Were men fully prepared to acknowledge this truth, and act under the influence of love, a reformation would soon pervade the nations of the earth; oppression would cease, every unjust yoke would be broken, that the bruised captive might be set at liberty; the sword would be beaten into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks; nation would not lift up sword against nation, neither would they learn war any more. But, alas! these effects of love and the religion of Jesus are too little apparent; for the results of the religion and works of men in a general way do not produce peace, quietness, nor assurance. The ambition of the so-called Christian nations is best satisfied when they have achieved a victory on the field of battle, over-reached in diplomacy or outgeneralled by strategy; their highest glory to conquer. Thousands of human lives are annually sacrificed to the spirit of war and to the ambition of aspiring men, who, adding blasphemy to cruelty and wickedness, dare presume to invoke the assistance of a just God in their work of blood.
Jesus said, "My servants cannot fight," and this nation, blest though it has been with liberty and a fruitful land, seems to have been most unmindful of its Christian duty; and except like Nineveh it repent and reform will soon be left to the consequences of its own wrongs. A dark cloud is gathering over the land, there is a confusion of tongues, men call evil good and good evil, and effects will follow their causes. "Men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles."
The exercise of my mind now seems to be drawing to a close. I had nothing to lay before you when I took my seat in this meeting, but a calmness of feeling, a poverty of spirit was my clothing; in this state I prayerfully looked unto Him, who thus far has been my never-failing helper, and I now bid you all an affectionate farewell in the Lord.
It is important that all classes be prepared to receive the final summons of the pale messenger, for
none are exempt; the wheel of time, that in revolving has released our aged sister, will not cease
to turn till one after another have all been dropped into the silent grave. Let us then, as rational
and accountable beings, carefully examine our accounts page by page, so that if anything be found
there which has not the seal of truth, it may go to judgment, for the judgment seat is in every soul,
and blessed are they who are willing that all things in their hearts bearing not that seal should be
cast out. We shall then be prepared to offer with grateful hearts praise, honor, and thanksgiving to
God for giving us the victory through the assistance of his own spirit, known to us as "Christ the
power of God and the wisdom of God." We shall then be permitted to take our places as stars
with the apostles of the Lamb, in the crown which is upon the head of the woman, the church
triumphant, the church of Christ. Amen and Amen.