A Sermon by JOSEPH JOHN GURNEY at the Arch Street Meetinghouse, Philadelphia, 1st day evening, 3rd month 11th, 1838.
Sermons and Prayers Delivered in the City of Philadelphia by Joseph John Gurney. Philadelphia: Kay and Brother, 1838.
This is The Quaker Homiletic Online Anthology, Part Three: The 19th Century.
Well, friends, as the Word was in the beginning, and from everlasting, so all created things came into being by his intervention and power. For God made the worlds by his Son; "all things were made by him;" saith John, "and without him was not any thing made that was made." And again; "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not." And the testimony of the apostle Paul, is very explicit and comprehensive, when speaking of Christ; "In whom" saith he, "we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature: for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him and for him." And again; "Unto the Son he saith, And, thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands." And therefore it does indeed seem a wonderful and strange circumstance, that any person should, on the one hand, acknowledge the divine authority of the Scriptures, or pretend so to do, and on the other hand, deny our blessed Lord's eternal divinity.
And truly, beloved friends, he was no stranger to the patriarchs and prophets in days of old; they knew the Word of God, in whom we have always, as a people, professed our firm belief. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day;" said Jesus, "and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am."
And, is there not abundant reason to believe, that even to the patriarch in days of old, God was made manifest by his Son, when the Lord condescended to converse with Abraham, face to face, and when Abraham plead for the inhabitants of Sodom, for the ten righteous men? And, do we not read that when Abraham was about to lay the knife upon his son Isaac, and to sacrifice him to the Lord, that the angel of God, he who spake to him in the name and in the character of God, cried out himself, out of Heaven, and said, "Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me." And when that mysterious Messenger, the Sent of the Father, spake unto Hagar in the wilderness, her language was, - she called the name of him who spake unto her, "Thou God seest me." And how was it with Moses, when the Angel of the Lord, the Angel of the covenant, the Son and Sent of the Father, spake unto him, from the bush that burned with fire, and was not consumed? "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." And so, beloved friends, when Isaiah the prophet was favoured with the glorious vision of Jehovah in the temple, the seraphims who covered their faces with their extended wings, with twain they covered their faces, with twain they covered their feet, and with twain did they fly, and cried out, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts;" and after the unclean lips of the prophet had been touched by the live coal from the altar, when he said, "Here am I; send me;" in answer to the question, "Whom shall I send, and who, shall go for ns ?" - he was commissioned to the people, respecting the blindness of their eyes, the deafness of their ears, and the fatness of their heart; - and when the apostle John speaks of this message, he says, "These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him;" - that is of Christ. And we know that Job, in very ancient time, did freely acknowledge his Redeemer, who should stand in the latter day upon the earth as the living One. "Oh that my words were now written ! Oh that they were printed in a book ! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever. For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth." And David also, from whom he was to descend, according to the flesh, in the Spirit did call him Lord. O that every poor soul in this assembly, under the influence of the same Holy Spirit, might call him Lord! "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." And very remarkably doth this language correspond with the words of Jesus himself, in the Revelation; "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star;" and also with those prophecies of the coming of Christ in the flesh, which at once declare his human birth, and his divine nature. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" - JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. And again; "The Lord himself, shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," which you know, being interpreted is, God with us. And again; "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God." So, friends, when the child of Mary was born, the Son of God was given; and in that mysterious union of the divine with the human nature in Christ, there is indeed a comment on his name Wonderful; a union infinitely beyond the compass of man's intellectual scrutiny, not contrary to reason, but beyond reason. And how many things there are, even in nature, beyond reason. Do we not all acknowledge the union of body and soul in the one man; yet who can scrutinize the mode of their union? Who can fathom the depth of the secret? "Without controversy, great is the mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh."
O, friends, there is a vast difference between that which is mysterious, and that which is mystical, in religion. There is nothing mystical in the holy religion which we profess. It is simple food, for simple minds, it is plain and perspicuous in its practical bearing; but there is much that is mysterious, beyond the utmost scope of intellectual inquiry; the mode of these things is forever hidden from the wisdom of man; but the things themselves are revealed upon divine authority, and are proposed to our simple faith, that we may accept them, that we may imbibe them, that we may grow thereby; and that under the matchless working of the principle of the faith once delivered to the saints, we may do all the words of the law of God. "Secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law;"-even the law of love. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and thou shalt love thy neighhour as thyself. And the more we understand the nature of these mysterious truths, the more we shall find that they bear with a divine and peculiar force upon the affections of the mind, upon every motive and spring of action; and therefore are of paramount importance to the formation of the christian character; because we love him who first loved us. "Here in is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
Well, can any thing be more express, than the doctrine of the incarnation of the Word, as declared in the Scriptures; "But when the fulness of the time was come" - yes, the very time pointed out by the words of the prophecy - "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law." "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same;" "Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people."
And, O friends, how wondrously, under the veil of holy, but humble humanity, did the glorious beams of his divine power and nature, burst forth on many occasions! Was it not so, when his disciples beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father; was it not so, when, on the mountain's height, his countenance shone as the sun, and his garments were white as the light; when Moses and Elias came to minister unto him; those holy ones, whose immortal spirits were made perfect in heaven - were made perfect through the mediation of this Redeemer - and now with all the glorified saints of the Lord, they encircle his throne in heaven? And behold they came to minister unto him, and to speak of those things which pertained to his death; and the glorious clouds overshadowed them, and the voice of the Father was heard by John, James and Peter, - those three unquestionable witnesses - saying, "This is my beloved Son; hear ye him." And, friends, the same holy language must be proclaimed even in this assembly; This is the beloved Son of God; hear ye him; bow under his mighty power; bow under his righteous sceptre; give up all for Jesus; take his yoke upon you, and freely acknowledge that he is Lord of all, to the glory of God the Father. And then, they beheld his glory, when by his own word of power, he reversed the very order of nature, of which he was the Author; when he walked on the top of the calmed wave; when he gave the word of command to the boisterous billow and raging storm, and there was a great calm; when he said to the poor prostrate leper, "I will, be thou clean," and immediately his leprosy was cleansed; and when, at the grave of Lazarus, who had lain in the grave four days already, and was becoming putrid in death, he said, "Lazarus, I say unto thee, arise;" and immediately the dead man arose. And O, that some now present, who have long been dead in trespasses and sins, and are almost putrid, may hear the same emphatic words of Eternal Power, "Lazarus, I say unto thee, arise," that there may be a resurrection from good works, to the newness of life and virtue, by the changeless power of the Word of God. And, friends, did he not say, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up;" and we know he spake of the temple of his body. "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will." And it was not possible that he should be holden by those strong cords of death; he broke those bonds asunder, he triumphed over the grave, he rose in the native dignity of his changeless power, breathed upon his disciples, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost;" that very Jesus, who was in his spotless humanity made subject to death, for the sins of all mankind, "that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life time subject to bondage."
And you know, friends, how it was with half believing, and half unbelieving
Thomas. O, there is such an one in this very assembly, I am led to believe,
sometimes having a little faith, and sometimes none at all, sometimes a little
willingness to acknowledge the Lord that bought us with his blood, and
sometimes shut against the light of heaven and buried in darkness. And, my
brother, if the light which is in thee be darkness, O, how great is that darkness!
Well, when he appeared to the disciples a second time, and Thomas was with
them, he said unto Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and
reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but
believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, "My Lord and my God."
And Jesus said, "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed
are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." And though now, we see not
the Lord Jesus, after the flesh, blessed shall we be, if, by the power of the Holy
Spirit, we are brought to a living faith in him, as he was manifested in the flesh,
to be the Saviour of mankind, and to die upon the cross for the sins of our whole
fallen race, in all ages, all the world over.
And now, behold the risen Saviour has ascended up on high, and is enthroned in glory at the right hand of God the Father, in boundless inconceivable majesty and glory, "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." And his name is still called The Word of God; and upon his head there are many crowns which he hath won victoriously, and gloriously. And, friends, I beseech you to cast down all your crowns at the feet of Jesus. "Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him."
And friends, there was a sharp sword going forth out of his mouth, that with it he should smite the nations. And the Lord grant that he may smite many, very many here, with that sharp sword; because this Jesus "is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel." And, if ye would rise again in the newness of life, ye must be smitten down by the .sharp sword, that goeth out of his mouth for the smiting of the nations; according to another very important apostolic testimony; "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him," - mark, of him, even The Word of God - "of him with whom we have to do. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession;" and let us draw near in full assurance of faith.
Now, friends, here is the manifestation of Christ by his Spirit; even as the sharp two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the joints and the marrow, of the soul and the spirit, even the rational soul and its affections; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And therefore, while we reverently believe in the coming of Christ in the flesh for the sins of all mankind, we do proclaim, we will proclaim, as ability is afforded, the coming of Christ by his Spirit, for the cleansing of the evil heart, for the piercing asunder between the joints and the marrow, the soul and the spirit; for making a discernment and a separation between the thoughts a~d intents of the heart, between that which serveth God, and that which serveth him not.
And, beloved friends, whatever may be your name to religion, come under the
searching, dividing power of the sharp two-edged sword, and let that which is for
the sword, be given to the sword, and that which is for the hammer, be given to
the hammer, and that which is for the fire, be given to the fire, that you may be a
believing people, and a clean people, holding fast the faith, once delivered to the
saints, in the Lord who bought you with his own blood, and also walking in the
way of holiness before him, under the immediate guidance and government of
his Holy Spirit. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the
flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin
condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in
us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
[After taking his seat for a few moments, the speaker rose, and added]
And, beloved friends, when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels with him, and when he shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations, and when he shall separate them, one from another, as the shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; when he shall say to them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; and when he shall say to them on his left hand, Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, - O then, ye shall be found on the right hand, if now ye come in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ; if now ye are found in him; if now ye walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; - then shall ye be found on the right hand.
O, friends, there is no middle state spoken of here; either on the right hand, or on the left! Awful thought! terrible to the sinner, terrible to the unbeliever, terrible to all who turn their backs on the Sun of righteousness, who would rise upon them with healing in his wings ! But joyful beyond expression, to the poor, the needy, the sorrowful ones, who, through all theirs tribulations, through all their exercises, and through all their conflicts, keep hold of the faith once delivered to the saints; and in the path of simple dedication, follow, follow, follow the Lamb, whithersoever he goeth.
And now, friends, away with the lingering remnants of the hard heart; away with the disobedient mind; away with the pride and vanity of this world; away with the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life; and come ye, and follow Jesus in the regeneration, that when your frail mortal tabernacles shall become food for worms, your immortal spirits, washed and made white from every stain in the blood of the Lamb, may ascend with acceptance into his holy presence, there to become partakers of the fulness of joy; for, in thy presence, O Lord, there is fulness of joy; and at thy right hand there are pleasures forever and forever more.