A Sermon Delivered by THOMAS STORY at Grace-Church Street Meeting, date unknown.
Scripture Truths Demonstrated, Being Sermons or Declarations by William Dewsbury, Robert Barclay, George Whitehead, William Penn, Charles Marshall, &c. &c. Philadelphia: Benjamin and Thomas Kite, 1825.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 2: The 18th Century.
There were abundance of people in that day who saw the Lord Jesus, but not in that same light in which that great prophet and the true believers did see Him, and in which those who believe in Him now behold Him; he saw, and they now see, the exceeding excellency of Divine goodness and mercy m saving mankind, as the great end of his coming; it was to take away the sin of the world. As He comprehended the world in one word, including all mankind, so likewise in one word He comprehended all the sin of and in the world. There is no sin therefore (except that which is never to be forgiven) but what the Son of God is able to take away; and the whole world being here comprehended, it fairly implies that all mankind have sinned; and if all have sinned, there must be some law universally manifested which we have transgressed; for where there is no law there can be no transgression.
This cannot be any thing written without mankind, whether in tablets of stone, in rolls, in books, or verbally commanded: for there never was any law universally dispensed in any such way; and therefore it cannot be referred to any other than that which God mercifully promised he would write in the hearts of mankind. (Jer. 31:31, 33, 34. Heb. 8:8-12) which is the restoration of that very same law which all mankind had during the old world, (the neglect whereof brought destruction .upon them) the manifestation of the Holy Spirit of God, revealing and exerting Himself in the mind, at certain times and seasons, as it pleaseth Him.
And mankind being relapsed since the flood, and departed from the Spirit of God, as the old world did, it is necessary that we should be redeemed, and the same law restored and increased; which is accordingly done by the mercy of God, through Christ, in all who believe in Him. And it is proposed unto us, as our director and guide in the various vicissitudes of life, with regard to matters of religion, in things pertaining to the knowledge and worship of God, to moral conduct in tiffs world, and with respect also to those things which are eternal; that, being rightly conducted and governed thereby, in our duty to God and man, during our abode in this world, which is a time and place of probation for another, by adhering to this eternal law of God, the law of the Spirit of life restored by Jesus Christ,. believing therein, and acting, according to the openings, manifestations, and dictates of it, we may all be set free from the law of sin and death, Romans 8:8) reconciled unto God, and have holy communion with Him in this world, in such manner and degree, as the present mode of our being will admit; and, in that which is to come, in the full fruition of his glorious presence, and in, joy and consolation unspeakable in Him, without intermission, for evermore.
That we may be reconciled unto God, I say; for according to the testimony of Holy Writ, (Jer. 31:33) and the manifestations of this Divine Law in our own hearts, (Heb. 8:10.) we have, at one time, or in one thing or another, if not in many and often, missed our way, and acted contrary. to the Law of' God, and become transgressors of it: and yet we see, that notwithstanding this, the Most High is infinitely merciful unto us, as He is infinitely just: just to convince us of our sins by this law made manifest in our own hearts, and merciful to forgive us, as we believe in Him, and for the future obey his law.
The Almighty is absolutely perfect in all his attributes: perfect in wisdom, in power, in justice, in mercy, in goodness, in truth, righteousness and holiness. When therefore we act foolishly and willfuly, we sin against his Wisdom. When we distrust his power, we sin against his Omnipotence. When we do that which is unjust, we offend his Justice; and the unmerciful sin against his Mercy: and if we do no good the image of his Goodness is defaced in us. Whosoever is false and insincere, sins against his Truth. The unrighteous and unclean offend against the Righteousness and Holiness of God; for if we mortals do defile ourselves in any respect, in body or mind, we offend the Lord. And he that sinneth against any of the attributes of God, is guilty of the whole; for the same who is most merciful, is likewise most just and true. In a word more, there is no sin but it is against God; and he that.sinneth defaceth the image of God in Himself, and becometh unlike unto his Maker.
We therefore do want a Saviour; we want a powerful Redeemer; we want such an one to take away our sins, and here the Sou of God is He: "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh way the sin of the world!" Love towards the creatures of God affecteth the mind of man, being excited by his senses; and the images of the objects we affect being impressed upon our imaginations, our desires after them become inflamed, whereby our love towards God is lessened, and gradually alienated from the Lord, and wholly placed upon self and other creatures and things, so that we become dead to all sense of God, or real knowledge of him; as it is written: "Lust conceived bringeth forth sin; and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death." James 1:15. 1 John 2:16.
Again, according to the doctrine of Christ: "There is nothing from without a man that entering into him can defile him; but the things which come out of him defile him; for from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, false witness, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile the man." Matt. 15:11, 19. Mark 7:15, 21, 22, 23.
But some will say, How and by what means does the "Lamb of God take away the sin of the world?" The Son of God, knowing what is in man, begins at the thoughts of his heart, where sin is first conceived. And, as by his doctrine, so likewise by his Holy Spirit, the law of the Spirit of Life, He manifests and condemns it there. Every sin, from the greatest to the least, which we mortals are capable of committing, defileth the heart, and produceth impurity in the mind.
!n every sin there are two parts; first, there is the lust or desire conceived in the heart, and the consent of the will; and secondly the act of sin, which is contrary to the law and will of God; and the Saviour of the world taketh them both away. The act of sin, which is against the known law of God, is pardoned through faith in Christ, and sincere repentance amt amendment. And the defilement by sin is done away by tide operation of the Spirit of Christ, inwardly revealed or made manifest in the heart, where sin is; according to the doctrine of the Apostle John, where, writing unto them who at that time had believed in Christ, and were saved by him, he saith, "He is the propitiation for our sins ;" and immediately enlargeth the expression abundantly, and saith, "And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:2.
In what state was the unbelieving world at that time? It was dismal indeed; for the same Apostle also saith, concerning himself and the redeemed in that day; in the first place, We know that we are of God; but in the second place, That the whole world lieth in wickedness. I John 2:2. and 5:19.
Christ therefore was sent, in the love and mercy of the Father, to declare, by that one offering of himself once for all, the free pardon of the sins of the world, upon the reasonable terms of faith and repentance; and not only to declare the pardon of sin, but also to save the world from the power and defilement of it inwardly contracted and reigning; for saith he: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9. and 4:14. And again, "He hath, by one offering, for ever perfected those who are sanctified."
The power and virtue of the Holy Spirit of Christ is so communicated into the minds and hearts of all that believe therein, that all the inward defilements, all the impurities of the mind, are taken away; the heart that was defiled is sanctified, made holy, pure, and clean. The man that hath been unrighteous is now made righteous; he who hath been unmerciful is now made charitable and compassionate. The liar now is reformed, leaves off that wicked practice, that heinous sin against God and man, and is made just and true; speaks the truth to his neighbour, and praiseth God for so great a change, wrought in his heart by the grace of God, through Christ the Lord. The false accuser also repents of his false, malicious, detracting accusations; and the false witness of the wrong which he hath done. The envious man is healed of that destructive evil; his false, defaming, slandering, reviling tongue, which lie could not tame, is now become gentle and still, by the reformation of his heart by the same grace, to the glory of Him of whom is the power, and to whom also the praise. What sin, evil, depravity, or defilement is there, or can be in the children of men, but what the Spirit of the Son of God is both able and willing to take away and reform, in all those who believe in his power, as inwardly revealed or made known?
None of us have seen the Son of God at any time outwardly, as that great prophet did; yet we have believed his report as we find it written in the Holy Scripture; and through the grace of God, and the effectual operation of his Holy Spirit, we have an eye opened in us, by which we can see and have seen and beheld the Lamb of God to take away our sins; as many have, through the infinite wisdom, mercy, and power of God, from the foundation the world; and many yet shall to the last period of all time.
Behold, therefore, the Lamb of God, this morning, all you whose eyes are opened to see Him, who to every impure mind is invisible: blessed and happy are all they, who see the Lamb of God taking away their own sins, and easing them of a load so insupportable as the soul-sinking weight of sin; for He taketh away all sin and all the condemning effects and remembrance of it, out of the hearts and minds of all who believe and trust in Him.
And this faith is given into the hearts of mankind, through the motions, operations, and inward discoveries, of the Spirit of the Holy One, Jesus, to whom John the Baptist pointed, as with the finger, that all might go to Him who taketh away the sin of the world; who came not to condemn the world, for the world is condemned already; but that the world, through Him, might be saved.
Blessed and happy therefore, I say again, are all souls in this meeting this morning, or wheresoever they may be throughout the world, who see the Lamb of God taking away their own sins; and such also see Him taking away the sins of mankind every where, to the endless glory of his own wisdom and power.
Look into your own hearts and minds; abundance of you, I believe, have heard the everlasting Gospel of the kingdom of God preached freely, faithfully, and purely, and with his authority; and yet this will not save, unless you believe in Him who is preached. This is the first work of the heart, the first step in return toward God, to believe in Him whom God hath sent. Have you so looked into yourselves, as to behold the Lamb of God in this administration--as He is an Eternal Spirit, as He is the Eternal Word, Wisdom, and Power of the Father, according to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures? This is the true and living faith, and this is the only proper Object.
I doubt not but that you are all Christians by profession, and go under that holy Name; but have You known the Son of God so as to take away your sins! Have you received faith in Him by the work of his power in you, as He is the Word of God? I think it is worthy of your strict inquiry, every one for one: What have I seen? What have I known? What experience have I of the Son of God taking away my sins ? Or another question may arise: Have I ever at all found the weight of my own sins? Have I seen sin as become exceeding sinful? All who have thus seen sin in themselves become exceeding heavy and unbearable, will cry unto God, with strong cries, from the bottom of the heart, from the very centre of the soul, in true anguish and sincerity in the sight of God, unfeignedly, and not in formality or mockery: "A Saviour, O most merciful, true, and lively Lord God! a Saviour or I am undone and miserable for evermore."
Till it come to this it will not do. There will be no answer of prayer till then; and then the Lord will hear; this cry will affect his merciful ear, and he will then answer.
Mankind take the things of the highest importance by tradition only; by hearsay they are sinners; by hearsay there is a God; by tradition He is merciful. But this only will not do; we must become sensible of our sins; they must become extremely loathsome, and exceeding sinful unto us; and then we shall repent and forsake them, and cry unto God for mercy; and then we shall find Him merciful in Truth, by a happy experience; for He will open unto us the way of salvation and deliverance, and the eye of our understandings, to see and "behold the Lamb of God taking away our sins" and washing us clean from all our transgressions; being merciful to our unrighteousness in the time of ignorance, and remembering our sins no more, by the sanctifying and justifying work of the word of his power. And then we are saved and redeemed indeed; and then, according to the saying of Christi we bring forth the holy limits of redemption: "First make the tree good and the fruit will be good also. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. A tree is known by its fruit;" so are men by theirs.
We therefore, in a state of nature, in the first Adam, are opposers of the Spirit and will of God,. doing our own wills, and following our own spirit in its lusts and imaginations, contrary to the holy motions and discoveries of the mind of God in our own hearts; and thereby we become transgressors of the law of God, until the lord Christ be divinely revealed in ns, by whose power the tree is made good; and then tile fruits we brought forth in our first and natural state are done away: all those defiling, condemning evils are destroyed and at an end, and that saying brought to pass in truth: "Trees of righteousness they may be called, the planting of the Lord; that He might be glorified. And the old wastes shall be builded, and the former desolations shall be raised up; and the waste cities repaired, and the desolations of many generations." Isa. 61:3, 4.
Here men begin to experience what-the Son of God said in the days of his flesh, as we have it upon record in the Holy Scriptures, "except a man be born again, (or from above,) he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:5. See likewise I Pet. 1:23. The word man here is an indefinite term, comprehending all mankind, and admitting of' no exception; and as man cannot bring forth this work in himself by his own power, he must believe in and receive Christ, the power of God, who alone is able to effect this great and needful work, and bring forth this wonderful renovation.
It is by the operation of this power we are enabled to believe therein, as the immediate Object of the same faith in our minds, and to see Him who, to the natural mind, is invisible. This faith we may rely upon. In this there is Certainty; in this we See the Holy One; here we perceive Him near; and though He is not visible to the eye of the body, let the mind being of a spiritual nature, and created anew, or rather begotten of God, and purified from all corruption, she then sees the Holy One, and becomes enamoured with his Divine beauty, loves Him freely in his own holy love. There is wanting but purity of mind; nothing hinders us to see and enjoy Him who is invisible, and the only true good, but our own shadow, the gross darkness of our own corruptions, and carnal minds. For we may observe what the Lord Jesus saith, as we have it in the fifth chapter of the evangelical account of Matthew the Apostle: "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God."
It is the Lamb of God, as inwardly revealed, that takes away all our impurities, the sin of the world, and qualifies our minds to see, or perceive God. Perception, as alluding to the certainty of tile senses, being the same with the true knowledge of God, by the operation of his own power, as it is written, concerning all nations: "That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being." Acts 27:26, 27, 28. See also, Ephes. 4:17, 18, to 24, &c.
We cannot feel God with our hearts, for He is an eternal, incomprehensible Spirit; but when the mind, which is a spiritual being created of God, is sanctified, made pure and clean from its own innate corruptions, by the enlivening virtue of the Word of Life, then she can feel and enjoy the Divine presence in. the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator appointed of the Father of Spirits to that great and glorious end, and then we have communion with God through Him, and one with another in him; every soul according to the degree of purity attained.
I make no manner of question, nor am in any doubt at all this morning, but that there are a great many here in this meeting, sitting in holy silence who have a sensible inward communion with the true and living God, through the Spirit of Him whom God hath ordained and appointed, in whom we may draw near unto himself; and worship Him in a way acceptable; and in whom He is well pleased; and I could wish, with all my heart, that every soul here were now in sensible communion: with the Lord, and that not one might be destitute of a real testimony of his good presence, by the Divine influence of his grace in their own hearts.
Whatever the world may think of us who are called Quaker, or what we mean by sitting together its silence, professing at the same time, and from time to time under that circumstance, to worship God, we then wait for him, and upon Him, in the inmost of our hearts, that we may be made sensible of the pure incomes and influence of his living and life-giving presence; that we may all perceive and enjoy him, in a state of reconciliation with him.
This reconciliation is not an acquirement of our own, by any thing we have done, or could do, in our own wills or power; it is the work of God in our hearts, by his own wisdom and power, through his mercy and goodness, for the manifestation and illustration of Isis own glory, and the unspeakable consolation of the souls and minds of them who believe and obey his word, even Christ the Lord.
Man may, in his own will, oppose the work of God in himself; he may reject his grace, and the holy work and teachings of it in his heart--he may do and follow his own will, and the dictates of his own corruptions, to his final desolation and destruction ;--he may do his own works to his own honour, and self praise, and glory; but he can never, in his own will, time, or strength, acquire this state of regeneration and reconciliation, wherein alone there is, or can be, communion with God, or the enjoyment of' his presence.
This, I say, is the work of God by Jesus Christ: for this end was the Son of God made manifest, that He might destroy the works of the devil. By the works of the devil are commonly understood all defilement and filthiness of flesh and spirit, as lying, falsehood, hypocrisy, envy, hatred, malice, with all its evil fruits and consequences, gluttony, drunkenness, pride, vanity, with all the vain glory and other evils in the world, as arising from that secret root of evil in the hearts and minds of mankind.
But, in the love and mercy of the Father, the Son of God is cone, as well at this day os in that generation, and will, from age to age throughout all generations, while sin is in the world, still come, to destroy the work of the devil, and take away the sin of the world, and to bring forth mankind in his own nature and image, in righteousness and true holiness. As it is written, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself; of two making one new man, and so making peace. 2 Cor. 5:19, and Ephes. 2:15. And He is doing the same likewise now, and ever will do, till the whole work of redemption and end of his coming is fully accomplished; as it is also left upon record, as his own word: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." John 10:10. The aboundings of eternal life therefore come by the Son of God, as He hath said of old; "He that drinketh of the water that I shall give, the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto life eternal." John 4:14.
And therefore you who have thus believed in the Son of God, whose eyes are open to behold Him, march forward after Him, and with Him, under the banner of his power, in the way of regeneration, toward eternity, in that state and condition the Lord hath brought you unto; and He will increase your holiness, and finish the work of his righteousness in you, and clothe you therewith completely, in his own due time, to the glory of the Father, and his own due praise, and your ineffable consolation.
But to you who have not believed, I cry this morning in the Word of Life: open your hearts to
the Lord, for He is knocking at the doors thereof and give Him entrance, according to what is written concerning Him in the Book of the Revelations of John: "Behold I stand at the door and knock," Rev. 3:19, 20. What door does the Son of God knock at? Do you think is it at the doors of your houses? No, it is at the doors of your hearts; at the heart of every man: "If any man hear my voice and open the door, 1 will come in to hin~, and will sup with him, and he with Me."
The Lord knocks by his Eternal Word, which is a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces. And though he thereby reproveth, rebuketh, and chastiseth the transgressor, it is in fatherly love and mercy, that the sinner may be made sensible of his sins and repent; for he that sees not his sins can never repent nor forsake them, and therefore, in a gospel sense, cannot be a son of God. Take then the counsel of wisdom: "Despise not the chastenings of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him." Prov. 3:11.
And I recommend also to your consideration what the Apostle saith on the same subject: "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye not true born sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, who corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? for they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure, but He, for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness, unto them who are exercised thereby." Heb. 12:7, 8, 9, 10, 11.
You may here see the great advantages of a due attention and right use of the inward chastisements of the Holy Spirit of the Son of God, to which the churches were directed of old, and are so still: "He that hath an ear let him hear, what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Rev. 2:29. and 3:22.
Open therefore the doors of your hearts freely to the Son of God; believe in Him; bear his chastisements in you; forsake the evil of your ways; shew your zeal for his glory and your own salvation, by a sincere repentance, and a forsaking of every evil way; then, and not till then, shall you be admitted to the communion of the saints of God, the sanctified in Christ Jesus. Would you come to the holy Supper of the Lord; to the most excellent entertainments at his holy table--then open the doors of your hearts unto the voice of the Son of God, obey his powerful call there. "If any man hear my voice and open the door!" O the universal love, mercy and goodness of the Most High, through Jesus Christ, his Son, unto mankind!
When the Spirit of the Son of God is putting us in remembrance of any of our failures or offenses,--when he is reproving and convincing us of our sins in our own understandings, then is He knocking at the door of our hearts, and then is the time to receive him and let him in, by turning out and forsaking all his enemies for ever. This is the way, neighbours and countrymen, to let Him in, and to sup with him and He with us.
There is much talk of the Supper of the Lord, and of the holy communion; and many have obtained great power, worldly riches and honours, under pretences of it, who never knew the Lord, nor opened unto Him, nor have set at his table; but have set up idols of their own making, and have worshiped them as the true God, and Christ the Lord. They have worshiped they know not what; a piece of bread instead of the living God; and yet there is nothing to be done or required in order to partake of' the Supper of the Lord, but to hear his Divine voice, to believe therein; open the door of the heart, let him in, and forsake sin; these are the terms proposed by Himself, under which He hath thus promised, "He will come in and sup with us, and we with Him."
The voice of the Spirit of Christ is inward; he speaks to the understanding by demonstration: the Supper of the Lord is inward, in the heart and in the mind, where He Himself appears. And blessed be his holy Name, there are many here this day who know this by happy experience, through the mercy of God, that the promise of' the Son of God is fulfilled in them; "I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." You may observe that supping with the Son of God infers friendship and entertainment, liberty, and mutual conversation, and intimacy. And it strongly implies a real, and delightful, nourishing and supporting substance, to be partaken of and enjoyed. And the Lord cometh not empty handed, but bringeth with Him the delightful dainties of the Father's house and table, Divine grace, a feast of immortal love.
He brings with Him the soul-supporting bread of life eternal, and new wine of the kingdom, completely delightful to every soul who hath ever tasted that the Lord is gracious, and truly good. The Lord brings with Him that which is meat indeed, and drink indeed. The entrance of this word gives life; and all his words are spirit and life to the soul; for in them is a cogent, powerful, Divine virtue and life.
He bringeth Himself, and with Him, ail that is good, and desirable, and delightful; that Divine peace and satisfaction, which the world and all things cannot give.
There is a natural substance, and a substance likewise which is spiritual. He told his disciples of old, that "except they did eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man they had no life in them;" but said likewise, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing: the words which I speak unto you they are Spirit and they are life. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in Me and I in him. John 6:53, 56, 63.
The soft, gentle, yet powerful words of the Son of God are Spirit and life now as well as then, and ever will be throughout all generations: this is the Lord who standeth at the door and knocks, and enters the willing heart, but not without his divine and living substance.
Again, "I am the Bread of life," John 6:48. "This is the Bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die," ver. 50. "1 am the Living, Bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this Bread lie shall live for ever; and the Bread that I will give, is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." John 6:48, 50, 51.
And again, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing tip into everlasting life." John 4:14.
And also, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, Deut. 28:15, out of him shall flow rivers of I-riving Water; but this spake he of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." John 7: 37, .38, 39. Isa. 44:3.
Now all these Divine things the Son of God brings with Him in his Spiritual appearance, and in a Divine and Spiritual sense, into every heart which hears the voice of the Holy Spirit. Believe therein; open the door and receive Him.
The life of the Divine Eternal Word ariseth and springeth up in such a mind, as a living fountain for ever and ever, and "He is Eternal Life" in his own nature. And if we open the doors of our hearts thus to receive Him, He will come in, according to his promise of old, which is ever new unto all them who believe.
This is a real experimental thing; there are many living witnesses of it at this day, through the Divine goodness, and to the sole glory of the Lord, by whom and from whom this blessing of blessings is come unto his people. All these excellent things, I say, the Son of God brings with Him in his Spiritual appearance; and there are no other conditions imposed, or any other thing required to be done by man to obtain them, but to give ear to the voice of the Son of God, so as to open the door of his heart and let Him in. And he who thus receiveth Him, with him receiveth all things. Rom. 8:32.
The Spirit of Christ sanctifies and justifies the heart of man from all sin and impurity; and according to the degrees of holiness we perceive Him, and enjoy his Divine anti Living Presence, from time to time, as it pleaseth Him; as saith the Holy One: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Matt. 5:8.
But some there are who have come often to meetings, and gone from meeting to meeting, and place to place, to hear and learn one notion of religion after another, of men; and yet have not heard the voice of the Son of God, nor opened unto Him, and therefore are ready to conclude, "there is no such thing ;" and so sit down and rest for a time, in shadows and symbols only, in which life and virtue is not to be found; or proceed in the conduct of their own blind reason or imagination, until the time of the visitation of the Son of God come, and his call and invitation be heard in the heart; and then that soul begins to live, and can rest no longer there, where the living bread is not to be found, neither the living water, nor the wine of the wine of the kingdom; and therefore hungereth, thirsteth, and seeketh after the eternal, living Substance. To such I have this exhortation in the words of the Apostle: "Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap if we faint not." Gal. xi. 9. 2 Thess. 3:13.
And learn also with him, and of the same Master, "In whatsoever state we are, therewith to be content; how to be abased, and how to abound; both to be fill and to be hungry; both to abound and suffer need:" as in naturals, so in spirituals, "to do all things through the power of the Grace and Spirit of the Son of God." Phil. 4:11, 12, 13.
A sense of' want is an evidence of life, the dead know it not. There is certainty in sense, or else we know nothing; not even that we live or have any being. And if so in that which is natural, then how much more are we certain in that Which is spiritual. We are more abundantly so, by how muh the mind, quickened by the voice of the Son of God, and living in Him for ever, is more excellent than the natural body of flesh; in which, being aptly organized, the natural senses reside.
Sense of want therefore, of hunger and thirst, is a foundation for true desire; an evidence, I say, of a degree of life; that the soul is living toward God, though dying to itself, and to the inventions and traditions of men; and though it is without much formal knowledge or speculation, in the many, needless, and unprofitable things, by which true religion hath, through many ages, been loaded and obscured. For a little child in nature desireth the breast, and seeketh after it, though he cannot reason, or assign any cause why it is so; and yet, being obtained, is thereby nourished, and increased from stature to stature, and one degree of strength to another, till capable of stronger food, and thereby becomes able, in time, to do work and service. Thus in naturals, and so in spirituals.
The outward and visible creation, which revolveth and changeth, is, in that respect, a representation, as in a glass, of the various vicissitudes, revolutions, and states of the mind of man, in her progress through time, until she resteth in her peaceable habitation, in the immoveable and immutable eternity. For which she is fitted, in this life, by the invisible yet sensible operations of the eternal, invisible, all-forming Word of God.
I say again, That a sense of want is a sure evidence of life. A man naturally dead hath no sense of want or plenty, nor hath he any desire; but he who is alive, he who hath tasted of the goodness of God, as it is in Christ the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, sometimes suffers want. He does not always abound with the sensible flowings of Divine life in his heart and mind; and yet, continuing to desire after it, he is in a state of the blessed, and in due time, shall obtain the desire of his soul. He shall be more plentifully filled, and yet not in his own time nor way; for thus it is written, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Mat. 5:6.
So long therefore as a man believes in the Son of God, and desires his appearance in his heart, he is in a degree of blessedness, and shall be filled with the Word of Life, the righteousness of God; with the light and life of the Lord our righteousness, the Lord and giver of life, the Prince Of Peace, who ruleth and reigneth for ever, in eternal and never changing love.
Again, when we are under a sense of want, we have an opportunity to exercise our faith and hope toward God and our Lord Jesus Christ; not forgetting love, and the duties of social friendship one toward another, nor the acts of charity also toward mankind in general. In that state we reflect upon our own ways, and consider them, and wherein we may have missed the right path in any instance--or by any offence have given cause to the Lord to hide his face from us--or how we have unfitted ourselves for the sense or enjoyment of his blessed presence.
In this state of poverty of mind we may exercise all the graces of the Holy Spirit wrought in the heart, and especially patience; seeing that when we have done the will of God that is still needful. And then the Lord will appear again in his own time, with the increase of Divine life, and will give her the cup of blessings, the new wine of his kingdom, which cheereth and establisheth the heart above all other cordials.
And blessed are they who thus eat and drink in his presence; and yet more especially happy are they who continue to do so to their lives end. Then all our troubles will be ended for ever; and we shall rejoice in the blessed presence and open vision of God and the Lamb, and rest with the Son of God; behold his glory, and be entertained by Him with an everlasting feast and regale of things unspeakable; where all our tears shall be wiped away, our enemies seen no more, and our sorrows and travails here in this world forgotten for ever. As it is also written, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." I Cor. 2:9. Isa. 54 and 5:4, to the end.
And that you and I may so behave ourselves on the sight of God, through his grace, during our stay in this world, that we may all arrive at a happy eternity, is the full desire of my heart and soul, through the love of God in Christ Jesus this morning, among you.