A Sermon and Prayer Delivered by JOSEPH JOHN GURNEY At A Public Meeting At The Friends' Meeting House, Liverpool, 5th month 10th, 1832.
Sermons and Prayers, Delivered by Joseph John Gurney, In The Friends Meeting House, Liverpool, 1832. Second Edition. Liverpool: Thomas Hodgson; London: Whittaker, Treacher, & Co., 1832., pages 21-37 (sermon), 65-66 (prayer.)
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part Three: The 19th Century.
"The Lord is my Shepherd!" and I have thought, my beloved friends, that it was indeed a wondrous proof of the tender mercy of our God, that he condescended to be our guide. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want: he maketh me to lie down in the green pastures: he leadeth me beside still waters: he restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." And our blessed Saviour's words are surely peculiarly precious; "I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." And may we all know him to be our Shepherd; and may we ever be found building our hopes of salvation on the unmerited goodness of our Shepherd, who gave his life for the sheep; for it is indeed the foundation of true religion, and .the only rock on which we can raise a superstructure of true holiness for our own salvation, for the welfare of man, and for the glory of God, even that the good Shepherd hath given his life for the sheep; hath given his life a ransom for us, to redeem us out of the hands of our enemies, and to obliterate the hand-writing of the law which was against us, because of transgression; to deliver us from the curse of the law: blessed be the name of our ever adorable Redeemer. And now, friends, if we are believers indeed, we are not our own; but bought with a price--the precious price of the blood of Christ; and it is our delightful privilege to belong to the flock which he hath purchased, and to enjoy all those privileges which are bestowed on his followers; on his servants; on all those who are redeemed unto God through the blood of the Lamb. And I think it was in the character of a true believer in the Redeemer, that David was made to say, "The Lord is my shepherd;" and we may compare with this language, the declaration & our Lord respecting his own flock; "My sheep hear my voice; and I know them, and they follow me, and I will give unto them eternal life, and no man can pluck them out of my hands. My Father who gave them me is greater than all, and no man shall pluck them out of my Father's hands."
And let us not forget, my beloved friends, what are our privileges, if we indeed belong to the flock of Christ, and truly believe in the Saviour of men. The Lord is our shepherd; the Lord condescends to be our guide. Do we bring the doctrine home to our practice? do we really feel that he is our guide ? are we still following him, as the sheep follow the shepherd, when they hear his voice ? or are we still leaning to an arm of flesh, and to our own understanding? and are we still guided by the light of our own speculations, instead of being guided by the Shepherd of Israel, who knows what is best for us; and, as we are concerned to follow him, will undoubtedly provide for us according to our need? And I have been led to think this morning (all this subject has arisen very unexpectedly to myself,) in what a variety of ways the Lord our God condescends to guide us, and to go before his people, and to be also their rear-guard; under a feeling whereof, my soul is bowed in gratitude unto that God who is indeed "good to all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works;" who would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of his truth. And those who belong, through a living faith, and through the baptism of the Holy Ghost, to the flock of Christ, O! how great is their security in the midst of the dangers and changes of this world of sin, and all those clouds of darkness wherewith the enemy of souls envelopes the minds of those who believe not, lest the glorious light of the gospel of Christ, who is the image & God, should shine unto them.
My beloved friends, God guides us by his providence. And how delightful it is to con. template that especial care of Divine Providence which is over the Lord's children; for not a hair of their heads falls to the ground without him. "Behold the lilies, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is east into the oven, will he not much more clothe you; O! ye of little faith?" And I think we ought, more than we do, to commend ourselves with prayer to the special providence of our God and Saviour, and to the guidance of that holy Guide, under whom all things are placed, "in heaven and in earth;" for our blessed Saviour said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth ;" and he remains to be God over all things, both temporal and spiritual, to his own church. And if the Lord's children, although often sorely tried and perplexed, do commend themselves in faith and prayer to the Shepherd of the flock, and make their requests known to God in faith, they will not want a protector, they will not want a guide even in outward things; but the Lord will condescend to go before them, and make a way for them where they see none, as it was with the children of Israel in the days of old, when they were escaping from the hand of Pharaoh; and when the king, with all his chariots and his mighty hosts, and his powerful army, were closely pursuing them, the mountains on either side of them, and the Waves of the sea before them, the command was, "Stand still, and see the salvation of God;" and a pathway was made for them through the ocean. O friends, they had even then to walk by faith; for the waves roared and tossed themselves about, but they could not prevail over those who had faith to follow their guide; for then a passage was made through the deep of the ocean: and my firm belief is, that the same glorious God doth condescend, from season to season, to make manifest his goodness to those who love and follow him, even in the order of an outward providence; of that especial care which is over the Lord's children; for, "not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father;" and, my beloved friends, "you are of more value than many sparrows."
My soul has been bowed in thankfulness, in the remembrance, at this time, that the Lord condescends to guide us by the light of Scripture, my brethren; and I trust we increasingly feel the value, the inexpressible worth, of the light of an outward revelation; of which the divine origin is made abundantly clear, by evidence which enlightened enlightened reason cannot resist. O! friends, are we diligent in making a right use of this blessing? do we endeavour to follow the guidance of the light of Scripture, in all our ways, and in all our works ? are we satisfied with the superficial perusal of the book, or do we endeavour to go down into the depth of it ? is it our daily study ? is it our daily delight ? are the Scriptures our evening friend and companion? O friends, how diligently did some of our forefathers, in the early period of our Society, study the holy Scriptures; how deeply were many of them imbued with their holiness; how many long hours did they spend in the perusal of them; of which We find a clear account written in manor instances. They dared not lay the book on one side; they knew it from beginning to end; they studied deeply, many of them, of which you will find plain proofs, and clear records, in their history; and they were not afraid of applying to the sacred Volume, as the sure, safe test of their religious doctrine; and they invited their hearers, on all occasions, to follow the example of the Bereans, who "searched the Scriptures daily, that they might know whether these things are so." And I long to encourage my young friends to make a more diligent, watchful, careful use of the light of Scripture, whereby the Shepherd of Israel condescends, as by one main, important means, to guide the children of God out of darkness into light; lo bring their fellow men out of this blindness and ignorance to a knowledge of the truth, even into marvelous light; and I believe, friends, the more diligently, the more humbly, the more earnestly, we devote our minds to the study of the sacred pages, the more we shall know of the fulness which is in Christ; the more we shall know, from our own experience, that he is a wonderful counselor, an almighty friend; that in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And, my dear friends, we are not to look for Christ, as our shepherd, in the disuse of the Holy Scriptures, but in the use of them; we are stewards, my beloved friends, and deeply accountable in the sight of God for a right use of all his gifts and talents bestowed upon us; and how shall we stand in his sight, if we do not make a right and diligent use of this invaluable, most precious gift and talent, the light of an outward revelation, bestowed upon us in free mercy from our God. And therefore, my beloved friends, "The Lord is our shepherd," and he guides us by the order of an especial providence, and by a plain light of an outward revelation, recorded for our instruction in the holy scriptures.
My dear friends, I trust we can, with one heart and one mind, set our seal to these truths; for they are plain, simple, and indubitable, as the noon-day light. But doth any man suppose, that the belief of them does in any degree weaken our esteem of the work of God's Holy Spirit? God forbid, my dear brethren; for on what does our value for the scriptures rest, but on the firm conviction that they were given forth under the immediate influence of God's Holy Spirit? and who is there amongst us who dares to believe that the contents, even of the scriptures, will benefit us for the great purpose of salvation, unless they are unfolded to our spiritual minds an impressed on our hearts, by that same Spirit which gave them forth? for there is no one principle more clearly declared in scripture than this; "What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." And I do beseech my beloved friends, of every age and class, more and more earnestly to seek for the gift of God's holy Spirit, that they may know the Comforter to take of the things of Christ, and shew them effectually and savingly to their benighted souls; for thus, and thus only, can we so believe in a crucified Redeemer as to live for ever; thus, and thus only, can we experience Him to be our resurrection and our life, and our sure and certain hope of immortal glory. And this, friends, is the work whereby the Holy Spirit brings us to Christ; the Spirit of the Father leads us to the Son; and when we are thus brought to the Son by a living faith, the Lord is our Shepherd, because he guides us by the immediate influence of his Holy Spirit; "for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God ;" and unless we are so led and guided, we cannot be sons. O! friends, what a glorious privilege, that there is an access open for us all to the Father, through the Son, by one Spirit; and that God, in his matchless condescension, is pleased to make known his will to us by his Spirit, not in the disuse of the means appointed, but in the use of them. Friends, let us not deceive ourselves; let us be the children of prayer; let us wait upon God in true silence; let us devote some of our private hours to the patient perusal of scripture, with meditation and supplication; and then we shall know more of the guidance, even the immediate guidance of the Spirit of our God; and we shall realize our doctrine in our own experience.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." O! my beloved friends, here is the light of true Christian piety, very plainly to be distinguished from man's imagination, which, although it may assume the appearance of reality for a season, will only mislead into some miry marshes, where all will be misery and certain destruction, unless we make our escape from it. And I have felt a very earnest desire for us, that we may be brought down into the depths, into real humility and simplicity; I believe this is what we want, my friends,--to be brought down from the airy height of our own imagination, and to come down into the valley of humility. You know, friends, that the most abundant waters are ever gathered into the low valley of humility; and there let us be broken before the Lord, and there let us renew our covenants with him by sacrifice, and let us give ourselves over to his immediate guidance and government; not in our own lofty imaginations, but with childlike simplicity; that our's may be the rejoicing of an eminent servant of God,.who in his day said, "This is my rejoicing, with simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, I have had my conversation in the world." And if we are brought down into this humble state, and are favoured to come to this simplicity and godly sincerity, I fully believe the Lord our Redeemer, who bought us with a price, will preserve us from mistaking the voice of a stranger for his voice; we may trust him, dear friends: and you need not be afraid of following that still small voice of the Spirit of Christ in your own hearts, which leads you into the path of self-denial; and I believe, friends, we are seldom in danger of walking in the wrong way, if we walk in that way which crosses our own lusts and vanities, our own pride and folly, our own worldliness, our own self-righteousness, and our own stubborn wills: and when, my beloved friends, we are favoured to hear the still small voice of Israel's Shepherd, even the immediate guidance of his Spirit in the soul, if we find that it leads into self denial, and into the crucifixion of the old man, with all his lusts and devices, we need not fear to follow him; for verily "the tree is known by its fruits ;" and I do apprehend that there is no doctrine, more clearly stated in the holy scriptures, than that the children of God, who are brought to a living faith in his Son, are favoured with the immediate influence of his own Holy Spirit, to govern, guide, and instruct them in all things, according to our Lord's blessed promise; "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will send him unto you; and when the Comforter is come unto you, he will guide you into all truth." "The world knoweth him not, and cannot receive him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
O! my beloved friends, we do not want a surer guide within us; we want more
humility, and more simplicity, and more zeal, that we may follow our guide in
the path of obedience; for "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than
the fat of rams." And nothing, according to my apprehension, can be more
explicit than the description of the same guide, (instructing and governing in us,)
given by the apostle John, where he speaks of the anointing; "The anointing
which ye 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 ;" mark the
comprehensiveness of the language, friends; "but as the same anointing teacheth
you of all things, and is truth, and no lie, abide in Him." And I do believe, my
dear friends, that this may truly be said to be the very wellspring of a life of real
Christian piety; it is no matter of human invention; and is ever to be
distinguished from the enthusiasm of the creature. Friends, Satan will attempt to
imitate it; he will try to guide us out of the right way, by a false light, which
appears to have the true light, for a sign of true religion, by raising up
speculative powers, when our real duty, and our real safety, lie in simple
obedience; and thus he raises a mist round about us, and we think we descry a
light, which is the mere work of our own imagination; and if we examine its
tendency impartially, we shall find that it does not lead to true happiness; and in
his own vanity, and in his own stubborn will, takes him by the hand, and sets
him in the seat of the scorner; and then he is mightily wise in his own eyes, and
begins to judge his brethren; and he judges himself, by taking the mote out of
their eye, forgetting the deadly beam which is in his own. But, my beloved
friends, how different is the operation of the pure Spirit of our God in the heart
of man; for it leads into humility, brokenness, tenderness of mind; the old man is
slain by it; the old man is nailed to the cross of Christ; the pride of man's heart
cannot stand by it; the rock work of the heart is broken to pieces; and, in our
humility, in our reverent waiting on the Lord, we are favoured (I am bold to
assert it,) we are favoured, from season to season, distinctly to hear a word
behind us, saying, This is the way, walk thou in it. If, friends, you would walk in
it, notwithstanding the cross which is in it, notwithstanding the slaying of the old
man, with all his imaginations, and all his vanity, and all his pride, you would
find the pure light of truth abound more and more in your hearts. And those who
follow the still small voice of Israel's Shepherd in faith, will find that their
consciences will become more and more enlightened, and they will not be
condemned by their consciences, but will be led along for a season, like persons
blindfold, following on in faith, making gentle, careful, steady steps, on their
way to Zion.
Ours is the duty of little children, friends, to follow our Father's voice, to follow our shepherd's voice; but if we do follow on in faith, we shall soon have abundant cause to bless the Lord our God for his gracious goodness, and for that wisdom which cometh from above, and which is imparted to the souls of the believers in Jesus, in unmerited mercy and tender compassion. And, friends, I beseech you not to be guided by your earthly and carnal wisdom, which is sensual and devilish in its very nature, but to humble yourselves, and pray for the guidance of that wisdom which cometh from above, and which first of all is pure.
Now, friends, you want a characteristic; some of you want to know how the Spirit of God is to be marked and characterized. Why it is first of all pure. My beloved young friends, mark the words; it will never fail to lead you in the path of purity. "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." And when, in the smallest degree, you depart from purity, your access unto God is barred at that very moment; and some of you know it: do not all of us know, from our own experience, that the wisdom of God is first pure? And do you want another characteristic, friends ? it is next peaceable. O! do not be afraid of following that pure witness for truth in your own bosoms, which leads you to make peace amongst others, and to keep peace yourselves; which leads you to give up your own ways; which leads you. to suffer wrong; which spiritually tells you that you must not be easily provoked; which whispers in the secrets of your hearts, that you must "hope all things, believe all things, bear all things, endure all things." O! this is a safe and holy guide indeed. Mark its characteristic, friends. And not only peaceable, but gentle, and easy to be entreated. O! that we might be easily entreated, friends; that we might seek for that wisdom which is from above. But there are those who make a high profession, and set up a light of their own imagination, which they call by very high names; and there is very little mercy in them; and they do not understand the words, full of mercy and good fruits. But O! friends, the tree is known by its fruits; and the guidance of the pure spirit of the Lord Almighty is ever found to be accompanied with that blessed attribute, mercy; and its fruits are good. O! friends, there are some, who speak as if they were guided by an infallible light, whose fruits are not good; their fruits are harsh, bitter, unripe, unwholesome; and they never will promote such fruits as these, the spread of true religion in the world, or the glory of God. But humble yourselves, my dear brethren; come down into that deep valley of humility; drink of that pure stream; submit yourselves to the guidance of your holy Head, who dwells in you by his Spirit; and then ye will have mercy, and not sacrifice; and then your fruits will be ripe, and sweet, and pleasant to the taste, for the welfare of man, and the glory of God. Well, it seems as if the whole subject was clearly set forth by the apostle James, that most practical writer; and I wish, friends, we were more endued with the contents of these epistles, from beginning to end. Without partiality; this is another characteristic. Do you want to know how the pure guidance of the divine Spirit is to be distinguished, friends ? there is no partiality in it; it leads away from all party spirit; and we know, friends, that party spirit is natural to man. And there are those who think themselves in possession & what they call an infallible guide, who shew forth party spirit; and they are laden with many prejudices; and they do not come forth into the enjoyment of Christian liberty. O! friends, theirs is not the guide of whom we read in Scripture; for as we come under the pure government of the Prince of Peace, dwelling in us by his Spirit, it will divest us of all partiality, and bring us into the broad blaze of gospel liberty, wherein our very souls will be filled with love to all, of every name, who love the Lord Jesus Christ; and at the same time, friends, it will not lead us to sacrifice one tittle or one particle of the law of our God. And here is a point which requires caution; it arises before me; all that is of a party spirit, all that is of the prejudice of man, must perish; and the sooner it perishes the better, in order to free us from this bondage. Let' us take care, friends, that we do not sacrifice one jot or one tittle of the law of our God; and I do believe that the more we come under its influence, the more we shall feel ourselves constrained to bear, in all respects, a consistent and living testimony to the true spirituality and perfection of the glorious gospel dispensation. And finally, my beloved friends, the wisdom which cometh from above is without hypocrisy. O! friends, may we be preserved from hypocrisy. But the eye of my soul seems to be anointed to the view of a possible condition, a condition which we know was pointed out of a sect in days of old, that of the "whited sepulchre, full of dead men's bones ;" and in such a state as this there is no religion at all.
Well, my beloved friends, may we all know that the Lord is our shepherd
;--may we know that he hath a right to be our shepherd, because he hath bought
us with his blood;--may we know that he guides us by his special
providence;--may we know that he instructs us by the pure, abounding light of
scripture;--may we know that he dwells by his Spirit in our hearts, according to
the repeated testimony of scripture; there to illuminate--there to instruct,--there
to guide us,--there to subdue all our evil propensities,--there to slay the old
man,--there to triumph over the serpent,--there to carry forward his own work,--
there to make us meet for our heavenly inheritance. And may we all experience
this, friends; for we have need to come home to the principle, so often advocated
by our fore-fathers, that the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
Enable us, we pray thee, O! Lord God Almighty, to humble ourselves in thy presence, under a feeling that we are indeed poor, blind, ignorant, and erring creatures; and that all our hope of life and of light is in thee, our God, through Jesus Christ.
O! send forth thy light, thy truth, and thy love; let them lead us, let them guide us unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacle.
Deeply impress on our spirits, we pray thee, that it is not in vain man that walketh, to guide and govern himself; but let us know, in the abasement and true reduction of the creature, that thy beloved Son, our only Saviour, is to us the Wonderful Counselor, who guides his children into all truth.
And we beseech thee, O! Lord, to bring us all under the immediate government and teaching of our holy Redeemer, that we may indeed sit every man under his own vine, and under his own fig-tree, where none shall make us afraid. O! bring us down, we pray thee, from every lofty height, and from every airy height, into the valley of deep humility, where the pure waters of life are known to flow; and there grant, we pray thee, that the day of thy power, of thy glory, may be on all that is proud and lofty, on all that is high and lifted up, on all the towering cedars, and on the sturdy oaks of Bashan, and on all the ships of Tarshish, and on all pleasant pictures drawn by the lively pencil of man's distempered imagination; that the day of thy glorious power may be upon them all; that we may be guided by pure truth, even by thine own wisdom, which cometh from above, and which doth lead into all that is virtuous, lovely, and true.
Thou most glorious God, we commend our souls to thy keeping; and we acknowledge, with reverent gratitude, that thou art our shepherd ;under a living sense whereof we crave ability, now to return thanks for thine unutterable mercies towards us in Christ Jesus our Lord; and to acknowledge that unto thee alone, through our only Mediator and Redeemer, and in one eternal Spirit, belongeth, and must be ascribed, the praise of thine own works.
And we pray, O .t Lord, that our works, even in the things of religion, may be
brought down to nothing; and that in us all thine own work, thine own pure
work, may more and more praise thee, O Thou who art over all, God blessed for