Jesse Kersey

Philadelphia: Emmor Kimbor, 1815. Pages 28-39.

This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.

Made in Linux. Best Viewed in Any Browser. Lynx Tested.

[P. 28] As it was the practice of the primitive believers in Christ to meet together for the purpose of worshiping him, so we believe it remains to be a duty enjoined upon all his followers down to the present day. They were formerly instructed on this important occasion and encouraged to believe by the promise of Christ, that "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matt. 18:20. We therefore believe that it is our indispensable duty publicly to assemble in order to Worship the living God. But our manner of sitting in silence, has been spoken of as being no where warranted by the example of primitive believers, or the testimony of the Holy Scriptures. But as the Gospel [P. 29] dispensation is purely spiritual, and as no formal acts without the Spirit can constitute Divine Worship, we therefore are satisfied that we ought to wait for the needful qualification to Worship the Father in Spirit, and in Truth; and this we believe may be done without the aid of the human voice. For if the Worship of God depended upon the organic powers of our nature, and could not be performed without them, then it must be in part a natural and not purely a spiritual Worship. We are informed on this subject, by the Head of the Church, that "the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, for the Father seeketh such to Worship him. God is a Spirit, and they that Worship him, must Worship him in Spirit and in Truth." John 4:25-24. It therefore appears to us that no well founded objection call be raised against our silent meetings; and that the form itself correctly agrees with that kind of Worship to which Christians are called. And although we do not deny that the Spirit of Christ may sometimes accompany vocal acts of Worship, yet we believe many may be deceived by complying with outward forms without the Spirit. We confess also that it [P. 30] is possible for an assembly to be gathered into outward silence, and not experience the mind to be separated from the influence of the natural wanderings and desires of the creature. In either case, pure and spiritual Worship may fail to be performed. But in the former, where an assembly are collected, and without waiting for the mind of the Spirit, immediately proceed to outward and formal acts; there appears to us a danger of departing from the will of God, and fulfilling the will of man alone. To wait upon God, requires a state in which we are separated from all the acts of the creature. But such a state is not obtained while any thing of our own commands our attention. Hence we infer that were we to enter our religious assemblies, and pursue the first emotions, and ideas, we should be liable to be active in the first nature without the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit; and all such acts, however specious, we believe will fail to be acceptable to the Father, who is a pure and Spiritual being, only known and worshiped in that manifestation of the Spirit which he has been pleased to grant to all them that wait upon, and Worship him in Spirit and in Truth. Many are the instances mentioned in [P. 31] the Scriptures of the faithful waiting upon God. The prophet Jeremiah says, "The Lord is good unto them, that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." Lam. 325-26. David saith, "I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry." Psa. 401. Isaiah saith, "And it shall be said in that day, lo, this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us. This is the Lord, we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." Isaiah 259. One more instance I will add in confirmation of leaning upon and waiting for the aid of the Spirit. "But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered." Rom. 825-26. In this doctrine of the Apostle, it is evident that he believed in the necessity of waiting in the Spirit, and that there was a sensible devotion in the joint influence of the Spirit itself, with [P. 32] the soul of man, where words were not necessary or even competent to the occasion.

"As there call be nothing more opposite to the natural will and wisdom of man, than this silent waiting upon God; so neither can it be obtained, nor rightly comprehended by man but as he layeth down his own wisdom and will, so as to be content, to be thoroughly subject to God. Therefore it was not preached, nor can it be so practiced, but by such as find no outward ceremony, no observations, no words, yea not the best and purest words, even the words of Scripture, able to satisfy their weary and afflicted souls. Because where all these may be, the Life, power and virtue which make such things effectual may be wanting. Such I say were necessitated to cease from all externals and to be silent before the Lord, and being directed to that inward principle of Life and Light in themselves, as the most excellent teacher which can never be removed into a corner; come thereby to be taught to wait upon God in the measure of Life and grace received from him, and to cease from their own forward words and actions, in the natural willing and comprehension, and feel after this [P. 33] inward seed of Life, that as it moveth, they may move with it, and be actuated by its power, and influenced whether to pray, preach or sing. And so from this principle of man's being silent and not acting in the things of God of himself, until thus actuated by God's Light and grace in the heart, did naturally spring, that manner of sitting together in silence." (Apology, p. 353.)

"Yet I do not so much commend and speak of silence, as if we had bound ourselves by any law, to exclude praying or preaching, or tied ourselves thereunto; not at allfor as our Worship consisteth not in words, so neither in silence, but in an Holy dependence of the mind upon God, from which dependence, silence necessarily follows in the first place until words can be brought forth, which are from God's Spirit." (Apology, p. 360.)

The reader will from the foregoing have some idea of our reasons for assembling in silencebut they only can be competent to in this weighty matter who have come to the Light of Christ in themselves, and are sensible of those joys, which spring from an  [P. 34] inward and spiritual knowledge of his presence. Friends believe that all true worshipers in Spirit and in Truth, must walk in the Spirit, and not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. Neither are we alone in our belief, that Divine Worship is a spiritual act and to be known and performed in silence.

"Devotion considered in itself, is an intercourse between God and us, between the Supreme, Self-existent, Inconceivable Spirit; which formed and preserves the universe, and that particular Spirit, with which, for awful reasons, he has animated a portion of matter on earth, that we call man. It is a silent act in which the soul divests itself of outward things, flies into heaven and pours forth all its wants, wishes, hopes, fears, guilt or pleasure, into the bosom of an Almighty Friend. True devotion doubtless requires a considerable degree of abstraction from the world; that we hear little of it is not wonderful. It makes no noise in the circle of the learned, or of the elegant. Under a heap of worldly care, we smother the lovely infant, and will not let it breathe. Vanity, ambition, and avarice quench the celestial fire, and these, alas, are too much god of mortals. Writers have been amusing us only [P. 35] with shadows of this piety, instead of giving us its soul and substance. Superstition has placed it in opinions, ceremonies, austerities, pilgrimages, an august temple, or splendid imagery, which has little connection with sentiment or Spirit. Enthusiasm has swelled with unnatural conceptions, and obtruded a spurious offspring on the world instead of this engaging child of reason and Truth; whilst the lukewarm have rested in a few outward duties which have had no vigor, and as they spring not from the heart, never entered the Temple of the Most High. Real piety is of a very different, and of a much more animated nature; it looks up to God, sees, hears, feels him in every event; in every vicissitude, in all places, in all seasons, and upon all occasions. It is theory verified by experience, it is faith substantiated by mental enjoyment, it is heaven transplanted into the human bosom, it is the radiance of the Divinity, warming and encircling man. It is a spiritual sense gratified by spiritual sensations; without this, all ceremonies are inefficacious; books, prayers, sacraments, and meditations, are but a body without a soul, or a statue without animation. That man is capable of such an intercourse [P. 36] with his Maker, there are many living witnesses to prove. It may be proved to spring from natural and philosophical causes;--God is a Spirit, so is the mind; bodies can have intercourse, so can souls. When minds are in an assimilating state of purity, they have union with their Maker. This was the bliss of Paradise; sin interrupted, and holiness must restore itto a soul thus disposed, the Creator communicates himself in a manner, which is as insensible to the natural eye as the falling of dews; but not less refreshing to its secret powers than that is to vegetation. The primitive saints are described thus, when they speak of their transports. David felt it when he longed for God, as the hart panteth after the water brooks. St. Paul, when he gloried in his tribulations. It was embodied in him when he was carried up into the third heaven, and heard things impossible to be uttered. St. Stephen was filled with it, when he saw the heavens open, and prayed for his murderers. By it, martyrs were supported when they were stoned, and sawed asunder, and till we feel it in ourselves, we shall never fully know how glorious the Lord is." London Review, December 1791. "It follows," (says the learned [P. 37] Howe,) "that having formed this his more excellent creature, according to his more express likeness, stamped it with the more glorious character of his living image, given it a nature suitable to his own, and thereby made it capable of rational and intelligent converse with him, he hath it even in his power to maintain a continual converse with this creature by agreeable communications, by letting in upon it the vital beams and influence of his own Light and love, and receiving back the return of its grateful acknowledgements and praises, wherein it is manifest he should do no greater thing than he hath done. For who sees not that it is a matter of no greater difficulty to converse with, than to make a reasonable creature? Or who would not be ashamed to deny, that he who hath been the only Author of the soul of man, and of the excellent powers and faculties belonging to it, can more easily sustain that which he hath made, and converse with his creature suitably to the way wherein he hath made it capable of his Converse." The memorable John Hales, in his Golden Remains, expresses himself thus, on the subject of spiritual Worship. "Nay one thing I know more, that the prayer, which is the most forcible, [P. 38] transcends and far exceeds all the power of words. For St. Paul, speaking unto us of the most effectual kind of prayer, calls it sighs and groans, that cannot be expressed. Nothing cries so loud in the ears of God, as the sighing of a contrite and earnest heart." From all which, and many other testimonies that might be produced, it must be evident that a spiritual devotion is believed in, and has been acknowledged by others as well as the Society of Friends. Although this Divine and spiritual devotion may be experienced when our hands are employed in the business of this world, and we doubt not many pious souls are poured out before God in secret, by gratefully owning his mercy and his grace, yet we are satisfied that such will be glad often to assemble together, that they may unite in Spirit in this duty. And we have often had experience that it is acceptable to our Holy Head, that we meet together to wait upon and Worship him. He has owned our silent and solemn assemblies, and in them united us in the fellowship of his dear Son. Therefore we believe that it is our indispensable duty, and that they who sincerely attend to it will know the promise fulfilled, "Even the youths shall [P. 39] faint, and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but they that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint." Isa. 60:50-51. Therefore, we are concerned to practice the exhortation of the Apostle, "I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifices Holy, acceptable unto God; which is your reasonable service." Rom. 12:1. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is." Heb. 10:25. But concerning those who think of his name, the prophet Malachi has said, "Then they that feared the Lord, spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared the Lord and thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day, when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." Mal. 3:16-17.

Next: Of Prayer and Spiritual Singing to the Lord.