A Sermon Delivered by WILLIAM SAVERY, 7th month 19th , 1796, at Houndsditch Meeting, London.
Five Sermons and a Prayer, Delivered at the Meetings of the Society of Friends in England, by William Savery. Taken in Short Hand by Job Sibley. Newtown, PA: Printed by William C. Coale, 1804.

This is The Quaker Homiletic Online Anthology, Section 2: The 18th Century.

"I therefore, Prisoner of the Lord, beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called: with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love. Endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism: One God and Father of all: who is above all, and through all, and in you all." -- Ephesians 4:1-6.

These words, or nearly these, were the expressions of one of the apostles, which have taken hold of my mind since I last sat down, and they have brought with them the remembrance of the unwearied labours of the primitive believers for the preservation of the unity of spirit in the bond of peace; that there might be no rents or schisms found among us, and that being called with the same hope as they were called, we all might be found one in him in whom they have believed. And I believe, my friends, that it ought to be the concern of every Gospel Minister this day. Indeed I can say when my mind is most encouraged with hopes; the most ardent desire that I feel is, that notwithstanding there have many divisions taken place, yet the Lord may again so reveal himself to his professing visible Church, as to bring us all back into unity of spirit in the bonds of unspeakable peace. And I have no doubt at all in my mind, but that every jot and tittle of the prophetic declaration of the Lord's Servant will in due time be fulfilled; that the Church will at length be one, and her name one; they will all speak the same language, and the watchmen all see eye to eye. (Paraphrased from Isaiah 52:8.)

And it may, my friends, be brought about by a variety of circumstances, unfathomable to human wisdom; for indeed all human wisdom is confounded in searching the things of God. But the glorious dispensation wherein we live, whenever and wherever it is submitted to, produces the same effect as it did in the beginning; it confounds the wisdom of the wise; it brings to nought the understanding of the prudent; so that no flesh shall glory in the Lord's presence; that no man might say that others teach him; but that, by God's Holy Spirit, he was enabled to search the deep things of the mystery of his glorious kingdom. (1 Corinthians 1:19.)

This is my faith; and it remains to be very evidently so. Human wisdom is sufficient in many respects for our accommodations through this temporary abode; it may keep us in some degree of rectitude; and amongst men it may also conduce greatly to the happiness of individuals; and if closely attended to, it may be of service to nations and kingdoms. But when we speak of it, as fathoming the everlasting mystery of God's kingdom, I believe we shall always be short.

It is not - it cannot be, that through the fallen wisdom of man, he can take in the knowledge of things divine and spiritual. It was not so in the primitive Church, though Paul was a great man, who was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, (Acts 22:3) and was skillful in all the learning of his times; it was not this learning that made him a minister of the Gospel; for by this, and while he continued merely subject to, and under the dominion of this wisdom, he was a persecutor of those that preached, and lived in the faith, as it is in Jesus Christ. And what made him minister then? Why; when it pleased God, said he, in revealing his Son, Jesus Christ, he was not disobedient, he was not gainsaying to the will of God; but when he believed himself called in this manner, he went forth, but not with the enticing words of man's wisdom; but in the foolishness of the cross.(1 Corinthians 1:18.) For though he was a great and learned man, he was first, before he could be a great man in the promoting of the truth of the Gospel upon earth, he was first to be reduced, he was first alarmed; and the first lesson which all ought to learn is, if any man will be wise, let him first become a fool. If a man believe, or say, he knows anything, he knows nothing as he ought to know; for so says the Apostle.

Now my friends, it may appear very extraordinary doctrine, at this time of day, but it was such as the apostles preached, such as they had approved, and by means of which they obtained the ministry of reconciliation, which they had received, and first were taught; that no man could know the things that God had sent, but by the sprit of God, who revealed it to them; this was the foundation of this learning in the school of Christ, and other foundation can no man lay than that which has been already laid. (1 Corinthians 3:11.) This I am persuaded of in my own mind, that we must all, not only the ministers, but all those that would have a part in Christ, that would indeed enjoy an inheritance with him - they must all be taught of him and learn of him, they must lean upon his arm, the glorious and blessed deliverer of his people; they must have their exalted imaginations cast down; they must know and feel the power of his word, to bring them into humility, that they may be taught of him. And I believe there is an assent to the truth of this in many sold seeking minds that are now present. Though human learning and science in itself, when properly applied for the purposes which it is fitted and designed for, are by no means to be despised; nay, when those who are qualified with what is called a liberal education, are, by the influence of the spirit of Jesus Christ, brought down into a true Christian state, they may be eminently qualified for the promoting of truth and righteousness in their day. So that I would not have you mistaken, we make a distinction it is true: but when the Lord unites them, when he lays his hand upon those that have many advantages in the world, he may make them greater instruments in his hand. But I may also say, that some of the greatest ornaments that ever I have known in the Church of Christ, who I believe were qualified for the preaching of the gospel in the demonstration of the spirit and power, have been even those that have had little advantages of this kind. As it was in the beginning, the same eternal power reigns; (John 1:1-2.) the God that commanded light to shine out of the darkness having shown in their hearts, (John 1:9) they dwelled and abode in those vocations wherewith they were called, and they have become ornaments in the church, and dignified ministers of Christ. But, my friends, what I most want is, to see people brought back again in essential matters; I believe that many of all denominations believe in the revelation of the spirit of the God of peace and to instruct them in the way to everlasting peace, and to wait for it, and to receive it. There are many sheep, as Christ said, who hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, though they may be little known of the world. "My sheep they hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I will give them eternal life, and none shall be able to pluck them out of my hands. My father who gave them to me, is greater than all, and none shall be able to pluck them out of my heavenly Father's hands." (John 10.) Oh! that you my dear fellow pilgrims and Christians of every rank, and of every name, may experimentally know that you have need of Christ, then though you may be hidden from the world, yet the Lord knoweth, the Lord heareth your prayers, the Lord will magnify his power for your redemption and deliverance; and no other arm can deliver you from the power of death and hell. This I believe: and let us, my friends, be laying aside all controversies about those things which have so long oppressed Christianity by contention, needless and unprofitable contention. I think you will unite with me in saying this have been the case. Oh! how much needless and unprofitable contention there has been in the church of Christ, in the professing church of Christ; for if had been true and solid -- the foundation in Christ -- there would have been no such contention; this is my faith; they would have been united in the bonds of peace and union forever; they would have harmonized; the same divine sprit would have spoken nearly the same language in all; there would have been no room for contention; there would have been no necessity for contention, if the Church of Christ had kept hold of the foundation which God laid in Zion; and if they had remembered the rock upon which he declared he would build his Church, there would have been a very different appearance. Now I believe the same divine Lord is offering, in everlasting mercy to all men, to bring them back again into this bond of fellowship, to put an end to all rents and divisions, to all contradictions and persecution, to the end of the world. And what I desire very much, is, that all people may have faith in God, and the revelation of his spirit, so as not to let us depart from the ancient doctrine. It is here the Church of Christ has been erring; by departing from this ancient doctrine which never was, by all that we can find in the whole New Testament, designed to be changed. There never was to be another way, nor another dispensation to after ages, than was granted and given to the primitive believers. This I am bold to declare.

There was to be no new way unto the sheep-fold, but the way that Christ himself declared. "I am the door into the sheep-fold. By me, if any man enter, he shall go in and out and find pasture." (John 10:7.) Well then, it is for this we sit down and wait in silence, that we may know the promises which are yea and amen forever; that we may know the fulfilling of that which Christ has promised, to be with his Church to the end of the world. "Lo I am with you always - to the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20.) And for the fulfillment of this promise there are many, I am persuaded, that not only wait seriously in silence, but are waiting and meditating upon God, and that be of the same opinion that I am, it being the way, the most effectual way, to be taught of this glorious mystery, which God, in the riches of this mercy, teaches to all those who love him. But men are carried away too much with the practices they have long been accustomed to; we are more filled with prejudices; and we have a great deal less charity about us than some would suppose themselves to have. We do not judge with that candour and impartiality we ought; nor think of things even of the highest importance as we ought to do; as wise men and wise women, as heirs of immortality and eternal life. Now I believe here is a large number present, who really are enquiring after the truth, and who are solicitous that they may know the truth, and be established in it, more than they are to be of any names of forms.

Well, I believe these are those who are God's favourite children, under a variety of forms and observations, that I for my own part feel by no means to be essentially necessary to believe of any importance, nor positively commanded to be continued. For when the soul is in love with God, has found the living and eternal substance of all the shadows, and all the figures that ever were in the world, it has no need of elementary things; why, my friends, there were may types and figures in former dispensations that were commanded for a time, and they are said to be a school-master to bring to Christ, who nailed the hand writing of ordinances to the cross.

But let every man be persuaded in his own mind; let every man attend to the light of Christ in his conscience; and follow the dictates of it fully and faithfully. If thou believest with all thine heart that it thy duty in the sight of God to be plunged into water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, according to thy faith so be it to thee; let no man condemn thee. Nevertheless, I believe that when the substance of all types is fully found and felt, when he reigns in his kingdom of the heart, when he seats himself there, and when we have to partake of that bread which came down from heaven, we have no need of elementary things; for that is sufficient for the soul to nourish it up to eternal life.

There were in the beginning many of the primitive believers who continued for a season in abundance of observations; they were even loth to renounce the dispensations that were passed away by the coming of Christ; and even when Christ's Kingdom was come into the hearts of them that received it, and when he had finished his work his Father had given him to do, and brought in the glorious dispensation, by which men might draw nigh to God; even then, there were some of the Apostles that thought it was necessary to use circumcision; they could not leave off education, they could not leave all at once those forms they had been accustomed to. Not so when it was brought to the Council at Jerusalem; they, according as they felt and understood matters, reasoned concerning them; they heard one another in the great council of Jerusalem. But what was the result of this council? Why it clearly came to almost an end of all these things; and the day of Christ, it appeared, was advanced; they did not think these necessary. They said, it seemeth good to lay upon you no greater burden than that ye abstain from fornication; from things offered to idols, from things strangled, and from blood; (Acts 15:20) these were all the council at Jerusalem laid upon believers - to observe no greater burden; and some of which at this day are not accounted to be any more necessary than the washing of one another's feet was; though our Saviour did do this to manifest though he was Lord of all, he was even in the form of a Servant of all, and condescended in the depth of humility to was his disciples' feet. Here was a great example and pattern. "And he commanded them strictly (if we take literally the expression of Scripture) as I your Lord and Master have washed your feet, so wash ye one another's feet." (John 13:5-15.)

Nevertheless, I believe these were outward signs, and manifested Christ's humility, which he wished them to pattern after in the whole of their conduct, and tenor of their lives; not confined to washing of feet only, but that they might be servants to one another. "Let him that will be great amongst you be the servant of all." Oh that ye, my friends, may set aside all the contentions concerning these things; let every man be persuaded in his own mind. But let us come to essential things, those things without which no man can be saved; let us search more after things that are certain, great, and fundamental points of doctrine, which I believe not only those that profess a faith in Christ, but that all men, of all nations, of every kingdom, tongue and people -people that have the fewest advantages amongst the race of mankind, yet they have had this one advantage. The Lord has written his Law in their hearts, he has fulfilled his promise that he declared to his prophet, "I will write my law in their hearts, I will place it their inmost parts;" (Jeremiah 31:33; see also Romans 2:15 and Hebrews 10:8, 16) so that when we talk of men as of different nations, we shall find that they all agree, if they are men really seeking after the truth, and after that foundation which will bear them out when the come to part off mortality.

All men will acknowledge that the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness, is quietness to the soul, and assurance forever. All men acknowledge this. I have been amongst some men that have been called the most barbarous names, as savages. I have spent a great deal of time with them, aye, some months, and I found they had not been instructed, they had not had the great advantage that we have. The preaching of the Gospel was little known amongst them; yet clear outlines of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ requires, were written upon their hearts; they could say in terms of equal importance, verily there is a reward to the righteous, verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth, verily we are accountable beings; verily there is a state of immortality; there is a blessed and happy one for those that, according to the best of their knowledge, serve the great Spirit in this world; who do no wrong to their neighbors, who live in God's fear, who lift up their hearts to him and implore his assistance. These are the sentiments the wild inhabitants of America are taught, whom we are pleased to call barbarians; so that (I believe) if men would keep to the foundation, if they would not scatter hither and thither after a variety of nonessential things, they would sooner be brought into greater harmony and union. For there is but one GOD over all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all! (1 Corinthians 8:6.) Aye, may some say, is he in us all? Why, there is nothing more continually enforced upon us, in all the Doctrine of the New Testament, than God and Christ in us the hope of Glory; (Colossians 1:27) and I believe this is not a time for those who have the benefit of reading the Scriptures to deny this; it is a great benefit, a peculiar advantage which God has favoured us with, who profess the name of Christ; it would be a great advantage to some of you, my young friends, were you more acquainted there with, if there was more delight in reading the Scriptures than there is in the present generation, and less delight in reading those things that make a jest of heaven and hell, of GOD, and all things serious; I believe it would be a great advantage to many of the rising youth.

I know that I for many years so abused my time in reading novels, romances, plays, and a variety of trumpery of this kind, that I had no relish for the Scriptures; and when I was brought to read the words, they were a sealed book to me, I saw nothing in them, I had no delight in them; I would take them up and lay them down, and knew nothing of their value. -- So it is with many; it is so with an abundance, both in Europe and America; much time is spent on trifles; upon those things that, instead of giving any real solid enjoyment, only tend to banish all those rational and well-founded pleasures and enjoyments which the Christian experiences.

This is my testimony, because I know what I say. I was for a number of years a slave to them; I know where they lead me to, and I know where they led me from. But thanks be to God, there is something which all men may experience, that will set their souls at rest; that will relieve them from an anxiety after every burden of the passing hour.

A man that loves to contemplate, (and it is truly consistent with the dignity of a rational being, that is here for a few years, and presently makes his exit and is seen no more) a man that can devote his leisure hours, to contemplate the nobility of his rank in creation, the majesty and greatness of that adorable Being who created all things by the word of his power, and who can contemplate that glorious scene that waits the righteousness, has more real enjoyment than all the pleasures ushered into the world. And this I am persuaded of, that a private sober meditation, and an evening's walk of a wise man, thus informed, is indeed the highest gratification that noble and rational beings, as we are, can enjoy. And this is wherein I want you, my young friends, to set out right. In the early part of your youth, search the Scriptures; they are books of inestimable value. One of the great men of this nation, who some ages ago was preparing to die, when he came to lay down his head upon his bed of sickness, and saw the awful hour of death was come -- what were his lamentations and expressions? Why he said, Oh! that I had served my God as faithful as I have served my king; it would have been better for me now! He had been a great and famous statesman. Now, my friends, this was his experience, and it may not be incompatible with the Christian. Another of the same kind, whom I do not now recollect, but was another man of eminence, that said, if he had his time to go over again in the world, he would spend much of it reading David's psalms and Paul's epistles. And I wish you, my young friends, in this employ. Then you would find for yourselves that the doctrine therein contained would lead you to God's kingdom. You would find indeed that was God nigh unto you. "He is not," says Paul, "afar off from any one of you, for in him ye move and have your being." (Acts 17:27.) This was their constant testimony. Nay, before the coming of Jesus Christ, they acknowledged his divinity. And shall we go back and say it is no such thing? -- Did not Socrates and Seneca, and many others, acknowledge the divinity was he that led them, that showed them they were immortal, and caused them to aspire after those things that would recommend them to the notice of God, and to great and everlasting peace? Oh! my friends, there is a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) from generation to generation that the Lord has raised up in this manner to declare to the people, that he it was, and he it is, who is the true teacher of all wisdom, of all that wisdom which cometh down from him, which is pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy, full of good fruits; (James 3:17) and it is by this wisdom that we should be brought into the harmony that I have been speaking of. Oh! That men would wait for it, that they would ask for it, and that there were more who practiced retirement in the world, and more sincerity of heart even in our prayers! For what is it to be saying "Lord, Lord" from the cradle to the grave? If we are not desirous to be taught of him, and to do his will, what will it signify? Many in the hurry of life do not consider him sufficiently, but when they are brought to lay down upon a sick bed, Oh! how changed do things appear, in how different a point of view. I have been before many at death; I have visited the chambers of those that have been penitent; I have heard their expressions; many a time have I seen the work of the Lord upon them: How it hath changed them! One of the brightest young men that ever I knew, I may say, the delight of his acquaintance; yea the pride of all gay company, who was the life, or as some may, the soul of every place he visited; for his gaiety, humour, and wit - Oh! the Lord in his wisdom did not suffer him to remain in this way, but laid his hand upon him; and laid him upon a sick bed, and when he was there, such was the state of this bright young man, that, when he was brought to see he had not many days to continue in this stage, he required to see some whom he thought were religious, and when he saw them, Oh! how his heart was tortured! And what were his expressions? Why upon this wise, "I," (says he) "have seen abundance; I know men and things, I have passed through and been at different courts, I have tasted a great deal of what the world calls enjoyments in this earth; I have been educated in some religious principles; but I saw that they were too narrow for me, they confined me too much; there was not room and liberty enough for me; I read Bolingbroke, Hume, and Paine,(34) and had almost encouraged myself therein. But now it has pleased the Lord to bring me upon this bed of sickness; I know I have a physician, but no medical aid can help me now, my friends." I went to him, I found him wet with tears; he told me his former companions neglected him; and he said, if they had not neglected me, they would have yielded me no comfort; they would have been stings to my conscience, and as daggers to my heart, because I have been in their state. Now, said he, what would you do in this situation? Oh, said he, I want to believe, but I have been so dark, and encouraged these principles so long, that I cannot believe as I ought to do. Well, this was truly a sorrowful and affecting scene to me, and so it would have been to many if they had been present. The Lord, no doubt, is rich in mercy, and I trust he visited his soul, even the last few days of his life; and to him I commit it. I cannot say that infinite Love did not even at that late hour accept him. But Oh! friends, let us, while we have strength and liberty, let us with all our hearts apply them to those things which will be something to lean upon in such an hour! For this indeed is the end of all Religion, talk of it as long as we may: so to live as not to be afraid to die; that we may so die when it shall please the Lord to separate us from this body that we may live before him forever!