SCRIPTURE TRUTHS DEMONSTRATED
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Quaker ministers, such as Stephen Crisp, served without pay and never spoke from a prepared text or notes. All Quaker ministers were like Stephen Crisp, having no particular meeting to which they attended, but rather traveled from meeting to meeting to deliver their messages of encouragement, exhortation, and reproof. Steven Crisp is reputed to have visited almost every meeting in England and Scotland. Most meetings were without anyone able to speak a sermon with words supplied by the Spirit; rather several members would be prompted by the Spirit to stand in turn and present a specific teaching. The Quaker ministers only spoke and prayed under the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit of God. All sermons were unrehearsed and completely extemporaneously inspired. Although George Fox methodically had several of his sermons recorded by a Friend, Quakers one hundred years later shunned records of sermons, believing they were only meant for a particular time and audience. For that reason, there are very few recorded sermons preserved. These sermons were recorded in shorthand at three different meeting houses in London. This book of thirty-two sermons by Stephen Crisp was published by a non-Quaker in 1707. These sermons were never republished for Stephen Crisp had fallen out of favor with the 18th Century Quakers, probably because his message so plainly shows those having fallen short of the rest.
From the anonymous transcriber of these sermons, with initials N. C. :
Note, the above anonymous author of this book was not a Quaker, yet he heard such profound truths declared, he went to the trouble of recording each word, and then publishing this book — in hopes they may be useful to the world. And so they most definitely are.
When you read these sermons, realize he was speaking to those who had already been convinced that hearing the word of God from within their hearts and that obeying it was basic to salvation; that salvation came with cleansing, purity, perfection, and holiness through the power of God worked by God in a man; that self-denial with obedience to the commands of God was the cross; and that with the true hope, and thinking on the name of Jesus, silently listening for the voice and watching for the light's revelations, with resulting obedience to all commands heard and understood, was the basis of spiritual progress. To those content outside the Kingdom, Crisp's words are strong exhortations to renew their energy given to the good fight of faith, to seek God with all their heart and soul.
Preached at Grace-Church-Street [meeting house], April 25,1688
How should we all admire the workings of the Holy Ghost. You may know from your own experience, that all the operations of the Holy Spirit, from the beginning, have been for the cleansing, and purifying, and preparing you for the kingdom of God. This experience is given to a little remnant, to know that the manner of his working, that the end, aim and design, of all the operations of his power, is for our good, and in order to our eternal happiness.
Now, this is a great engagement upon the minds of the people of God, diligently to wait upon him, that they may be shown more and more into the mystery of life and salvation, that has been hidden from ages and generations, and is now revealed by his spirit.
And those who are thus exercised with the measure of grace given to them, grow and increase in holiness and righteousness, by the working of it; and they increase in knowledge in the great things of the law, and the mysteries of the kingdom of grace. By the eye that God has opened, they discern that the working of his power in all ages has been for the extirpating, rooting out, and destroying of that root of iniquity, which has brought forth such a crop of sin and wickedness, which was not of his planting, nor of his creating.
For, from the beginning of the creation of God, unto this day, God has had a singular love and favor to the sons and daughters of men, as being (as, I may say) the masterpiece, or greatest piece of the creation, most nearly related to himself, created in his own image, in righteousness and holiness; and in that they now are not so, but marred, and spoiled from bearing the heavenly image, is not the Lord's doing, but has been wrought by the enemy both to God and man. Yet the Lord continuing his love to the work of his hands, has from age to age revealed and made known his power, for the restoring and bringing back again lost man, fallen man, sinful man, to be reconciled to him who he may, as was intended, enjoy and possess the love and favor of his Maker; but there was no profitability found for his reconciliation with the holy God, except by making him holy. For as the making him unholy, separated him from his Maker, so the making of him holy again, would unite him again unto his Maker. So that there must be a way and means for the reducing of him to his primitive state, before he could enjoy and obtain his primitive enjoyments; that is, the love and favor of God. And there has been a general universal sense upon the sons and daughters of men of this alienation and estrangement from God; and they have put themselves upon many ways and methods to obtain reconciliation, and to try if they could restore themselves. They have sought ways and tried and proved the inventions and imaginations of their own minds, in their fallen wisdom, what they might do to please God, and be reconciled to him.
We are sinners, and we will sacrifice, we will bring a sacrifice for our sins; and when men have brought a sacrifice, it has not been accepted because there has not been a Mediator known, who might mediate for them with the Lord; so that all the sacrifices they have offered, have never being accepted with him, in order to obtain an atonement and reconciliation. Now only those who have a relation to the Mediator by faith in him, does he intercede for, so that he might present them again to God; and this has been the difference between sacrificer and sacrifice, from the days of Cain and Abel to this day. Some have had a relation to the Mediator in all their services and sacrifices, and some have had a relation only to the thing offered and the service performed; but they have not in all ages been alike. Those whose service and worship was performed to God with a relation to the Mediator, have found acceptance; and those whose worship and service was performed only with a relation to the thing offered or done, which was simply their own act and was only their will-worship, were always short and it was turned back again upon them for there is no name given under Heaven, by which any can be saved, but only the name of Jesus Christ; who is the Mediator of the new covenant, for which the old one was broken. When Aaron was set up to be an high-priest to God, he was appointed to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, and he who committed a sin, was appointed by the law to bring a he-goat of the flock to the door of the tabernacle and to deliver it to the priest; and he was to make an offering for the sin committed after such and such a manner, and it was to be an atonement with God for him. So here was seemingly, a reconciliation by a sacrifice; and some saw no further than the bringing of a goat, and a ram, and the performance of the priest's office, and they counted all was well. And others saw further, long before the apostle spoke or wrote it, that it was not the blood of bulls or goats, nor the blood of a ram that could purge away sin from their consciences. And after the apostle had opened the mystery of divinity, who had a divine and spiritual skill, in unfolding the restoration of mankind, he declared plainly, that when the offering was made by Aaron for sinners, even then there remained still a consciousness of sin; for it was not profitable that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. So that their outward performances, and their outward services, only pointed out the Mediator; they had a pointing finger, as it were, to the real, true and everlasting Mediator, Christ Jesus, who is made a Mediator between God and man; so that by and through him, man might be again reconciled to God.
So that it comes plainly to pass, according to that short and confident assertion of the author to the Hebrews, that without faith it is impossible to please God. But it is possible to offer sacrifices without faith, and possible for people to perform religious services without faith, as woeful experience has taught us in our days, that many have been exercised in a kind of religious service, who never in their lives had faith enough to believe the things that they prayed for; and so they were without faith. When people pray to God to send his Holy Spirit into their hearts, so that they may keep his commandments to their lives end, and do not have faith to believe it, and when they pray, Your will be done on earth, as it is done in Heaven, it is only a religious performance; and if it is not done in faith, it is only an increase in sin and an addition to sin. Where is the man who is exercised in praying to God who believes that what he prays for is ever likely to come to pass? Go where you will in this or another nation, and inquire of people about their faith; they believe there is no possibility of extirpating and rooting out of sin while they live upon the earth; therefore all their prayers for it are vain, and their faith is a vain faith. And it is high time in such a day as this, when men are faithless and unbelieving, to preach up the object of faith, the Lord Jesus Christ. People are of many faiths, and of many beliefs; but we have found by experience, that they do them no good, they do not bring a thing to pass, that of necessity must be brought to pass, before they can be reconciled to God; their faith does not cleanse the heart, nor extend so far as to believe that they ever shall be cleansed; in all the worship and religion that they perform, they do not come to this faith: that they shall be made clean. All they do is done only in sin and uncleanness; they cannot bring a clean sacrifice out of an unclean vessel. And our Lord Jesus Christ said concerning this subject: an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit; but there must be good fruit brought forth; how must we do it? Make the tree good, and the fruit will be good. When men’s vain talk about religion and religious presumption come to an end, then all this religion will appear to be in vain, and will not answer the end for which it is performed, until men believe that it will make the tree good, and cleanse the heart, and transform men by renewing the spirit of their minds. So that religion must begin within; and it is not our changing of forms of worship, from one form to another, and taking up this and the other opinion, that results in the change of our hearts. Sad experience teaches us, that men may carry over their old lusts into a new religion; we can carry over our old inclinations into our new opinions. For though the form of worship is changed, the heart remaining unchanged and the lusts unmortified, their religion is in vain whatever their persuasion.
This great calamity has overspread all sorts of people, for there is no sort of people, but that there are those among them who are under this great calamity, of holding the profession of god useless with an ungodly mind, and the profession of truth with a false and treacherous spirit. The remedy to this great calamity is the single way that all men are brought off from having their eye to their performances, and to the doctrines and tenets that they hold, and do, as the apostle said: fix their eye upon Christ, and look upon Jesus. This is the first thing that must begin our religion, for Christ must be the Alpha of our religion, as well as the Omega of it. If I do not begin there, let me begin where I will, I begin wrong. If I should begin at the most serious and sound doctrine, and at the most apostolic religion; if Christ and his apostles were here upon the earth; if I walked among them; if I believed all they said and did, I would begin wrong, unless I fixed my eye upon Jesus Christ, who is the taker away of sin, and is the sanctifier of the soul by his Spirit. There must be the beginning, and there must be the conclusion; he is the author, and the finisher of all true faith. There are authors of other faiths. Men have their different faiths, and creeds, and articles, and they have exposed and imposed them too; but this is the worst of it, none of them are right. Let them be exposed and imposed with ever so much force and violence, none of these will cleanse the heart; but that faith which is delivered over by Christ Jesus, who has the quality of cleansing and purifying; that is the faith when all is done, that will do the work; that is it that will save and sanctify, and do the business that all the world is about. Everyone would have a reconciler with God, and sin rooted out, and be as God would have them be; this is the public profession of Christendom; at least they would wish to find out something by which it might be done. Although many are willing enough to continue in sin and drunkenness, whoredom, lying, and hypocrisy; these are a sort of fools, who make a mockery of sin, and who swim in the streams of pleasure; and what worry do they have, so long as they make a profession of Christianity?
But I am speaking about a people who are struggling under their corruptions; who would mortify sin, and serve God in holiness and righteousness, and do God's will on earth as it is done in Heaven; and do it not in form, but would have power to do it; and they have tried several ways to do it, and it is not done; and many have been at this work until gray hairs are upon their heads, and it is still not done. Now God has given Christ to make reconciliation. How can we, who have the love of God extended to us, but extend our goodwill to our friends, and signify to them that all the travail and pains they are at, and all the prayers they make, will do nothing until they have their faith fixed upon Jesus, who is able to save and deliver them, and save to the uttermost all that come to God by him.
But here some will object and say, it is true what you say, but is it not needful to preach such doctrines to us for we all believe in Christ, that is, the only Mediator and Savior. We know that Christ Jesus is the only Mediator, and that unless he commends us to God, we cannot be accepted by him. This is our general doctrine; therefore what need is there for your urging and pressing upon us, who have come into the faith already.
Let me search into the matter; it is of greater importance than to search into a bargain of worldly things. Men would willingly have others open and discover to them in what they may be cheated, to prevent their being imposed on in a worldly bargain. I hope then they will listen to know how, and in what they may be deceived by themselves, and deceived by others in matters of eternal concerns. There are no Protestants, but they reject any Mediator except Jesus Christ, and believe that no Mediator can reconcile them to God, but Christ alone, and they say he is the object of their faith. I would ask them this question, whether they believe in Christ at a distance, or as present, really present with them? Is their faith historical and at a distance, that they believe in Christ, as one born of the Virgin Mary and was crucified and dead before they were born, and arose again, and ascended into Heaven, and is set at the right hand of God? If the reason of my belief is: that I have heard of this history of Christ; or whether the reason is: because by his Spirit, he has visited me in this age. The one is, I believe, because good men have told me so; but the other is, I believe, because, by his Spirit he had promised to send, to lead me into all truth, he has visited me. Now let me examine whether I am aware of such a spiritual visitation, by this quickening Spirit, which is the Lord from Heaven, and not only the Lord in Heaven. Whether I am aware of such a quickening power and virtue, which I have received upon my spirit, that he is not only at the right hand of God on high in Heaven, but has now come to knock at the door of my heart, and has raised in me a life; as opposite to sin, as his was. Let me consider if I am aware of a secret touch of his quickening virtue upon my soul, by which he has begotten me into a life opposite to sin; so that if sin remains, it remains as a burden, and oppression upon me, so that I am a sufferer; for as much as I am quickened, and made sensible of a better life, of a godly life, I would willingly be at it, and live in it, but iniquity, lust, and corruption lie in the way. He who has quickened me so far, as to bring me to a sense of the burden of sin, and my faith tells me that he will take the burden off, else my faith will do me no good, if corruption still prevails upon me. If my faith tells me this, it will tell the wickedest man in the world as much; but if my faith tells me I am a sinner, and my sins consist of this and the other evil thing I do, and am inclined to do, it tells me again that he that has quickened me, and brought me to a sense of sin, so he can take the burden off from me.
Here now is a true faith that begins in conviction, and ends in true conversion; this is the word of faith, delivered to the saints, and which we are to preach. They said of old, that the word of faith, they had to preach, was that which was near in their mouth, that they might receive it, and do it. I have something near that reproves me for sin; if I am obedient to it, then faith gives me victory over that which is sinful, for which the world reproves me; and I see faith gives me victory over any corruption, which I have been struggling under, I am encouraged to fix my faith upon him who has thus quickened me. So that this is the difference between faith in Christ at a distance, and faith that quickens [makes God's spirit come alive in me] me by God's Spirit; which Spirit has been so much slighted in our days, by the highest notionists in our age; they supposed it to be a mere fiction; some have mocked and derided, and others have been discouraged from speaking of the Spirit of Christ and his operation upon their souls. Some have declared both in the press and pulpit, that they have had no experience of the touches of God's Spirit upon their souls. But our experience has brought us to another degree of knowledge. We know, and you may know if you please, and that before you sleep, that there is a way opened; God has made way for his Spirit to reach the spirits of men, to signify immediately to their spirits without another instrument: in this you do wrong, and in this you may have life, and seek after it. Now the Spirit that thus works is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit that proceeds from the Father and the Son, which voice in men tells them they might believe and be saved. When he comes, faith, Christ, he will lead you into all truth. How shall the world know this is he? He shall convince them of sin. If there is any convincement that arises in man of this and that sin, it must be from the way the Holy Spirit has upon their spirits; he has a way to speak to men, and everyone that is a lover of his own soul, is bound to hearken to that voice.
In the latter days, said the Lord, when I shall raise a prophet in the midst of you, whoever will not hear that prophet, shall be cut off. All commentators agree on this text, that that prophet was Christ Jesus; it was not John the Baptist, nor Paul, nor Peter; but Christ who was promised to be raised. There was such an absolute command that went along with that prophecy, that all should hear him, and it had a threatening at the end of it, that all that who will not hear him shall be cut off. Are they not whoremongers, and drunkards, and liars, who will not hear this prophet? They will not hear him, because they love their sins. What becomes of them? They are cut off from the enjoyment of the love and favor of God, and when they draw near to God in prayer, and other religious exercises, it is with them, as it was with Cain, sin lies at the door. When they come into a storm at sea, or are arrested with sickness, and death looks them in the face, they would have peace, but there is distress, and trouble instead. What is the matter? Were you not baptized in the Christian faith? Did not the minister tell you that you are a child of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven? Alas! My sin lies at my door. O! That I had time to live a better life! What ails your life, man? My life has been a life of deceit, lust, and vanity, corruption and hypocrisy. Did your teacher not teach you, that a believer has no guilt upon him, but that all his sins are pardoned from the day he became a believer? This doctrine will not hold in a storm, though it will do in fair weather; when men are swimming in their pleasures, it will serve them; but when they come to deal with their Maker, no faith will serve them, but that which purifies the heart, and that which makes a change from the earthly image to the heavenly.
It would be better for you and I, and every one of us, to take these things into consideration while we have health and strength, and while some sand (as I may so speak) is in our glasses [hour glasses - time], to consider what is my faith? What is the object of it? Have I a dependency upon my duties, and alms, and good deeds? They will fail me. But if my dependency is upon Christ as a savior, and a sanctifier; and if my sanctification is carried on gradually, he who has begun a good work in me will perfect it. And if the reason of my going to meetings, and going into my room, and bowing myself before the Lord, is to keep close to him who carries on the work of sanctification, I cannot expect to live in the world, except I shall meet with temptations; the devil will tempt me, but my Savior will be near me, as near to me as the Devil can be; if I will keep close to him, he will keep close to me. My Father, said Christ, is greater than I, and none is able to pluck you out of your Father's hands. I must expect to be tempted; for the adversary, the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Alas, said one, though I have made some progress in the work of sanctification, yet for all that, he may one day betray me. Have I grown strong enough to resist his temptations? Am I wise enough to foresee all his tricks and traps, which he leaves to ensnare me? But I know who can see them, and defeat them. I have my faith fixed upon one who can bind the strong man, and cast him out. The life that I now live, is not in my own parts, and by my own understanding and sense; but the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God. This is that faith that gives me victory. The apostle had a battle for it; I have fought the good fight; and henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, and not for me only, but for all those who love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; and who come to have familiarity with Christ, with his Spirit and truth, with his grace and word, in their hearts. Though these are several expressions, they all signify one immortal seed of life, by which men are united to God. It is a leaven there, to leaven them into the divine nature.
Whenever such a one is tempted, he does not resist the tempter in his own power, but he waits to feel the risings of that life, and power, and virtue that was in Christ Jesus, and is in him still. He waits for that power, that in the name of Christ, he may say, get behind me Satan. Being fortified by Christ's name, and armed with his power, what is it that a Christian cannot do? What valiant, noble and wonderful things have they done, who have been shielded with this faith? See the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. All the repetitions of that chapter, from one end to the other; in all of them the apostle ascribes all the bravery and courageousness of those noble acts, to the power of faith. They looked to Jesus, before ever the Virgin Mary brought him forth out of her body. The prophets did earnestly seek to know those things, which the Spirit of Christ that was in them, did signify unto them, that there was to be this great Prophet, before ever the Virgin Mary was born. So that Christ was always the object of a true believer's faith. Though under the law, they had a high-priest, and he was placed at the altar, and they had offerings burnt upon it, yet they had an eye to Christ, they had an undervaluing of all that their sacrifices could do for them. If you would have had burnt offerings, said David, I would have given them; I would not have withheld them from your altar; you should have had enough of them. He was bold to say, in respect to acceptance and reconciliation, burnt offerings and sacrifices you did not desire; but a body you have prepared me; for it is written in the volume of the book, I come to do your will, O God. He had an eye to Jesus who was to come, upon whom help was said to come, that there was a Redeemer who would come from Zion, and a law-giver from Jerusalem. They had an eye beyond sacrifices, to Christ. In all ages the people of God have had the answer of their souls, which is reconciliation, and the favor of God. Those who had this answer, never had it except by Christ. No man can be accepted with God, can ever have the desire of his soul answered in peace and reconciliation with God, until his faith is placed on Christ Jesus. Neither can any man have faith in Christ at a distance, and by this be reconciled to God, but must know his Spirit. I must have an experiential knowledge of his power and wisdom, and I cannot have this without his Spirit. Let me believe ever so traditionally, unless I have the Spirit of Christ, it will do me no good, it will be no advantage to me.
This is the word that was in my heart as a well-wisher to the souls of all men. As God has given goodness to my soul so I cannot but wish well to the souls of others; that, as he has found a way for my redemption and salvation, so likewise I wish the same for others who are bondmen and bond-women, and under the power of their corruption. God's work has been to destroy the bondage and the oppression, and to destroy the tyrant that reigns over the souls of people; God having made them for his glory, and the devil has stolen them away, so that they do not do what pleases God. But God's good pleasure is, that all men may be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. And God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him would not perish, but have everlasting life. And he is called, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. He can take away sin; if my sin does not obstruct my faith and confidence in him, he will take it away; and if he takes that away, then he makes the tree good. Nothing hinders us from the enjoyment of God, but sin; and if Christ will take it away by the blood of his cross, no matter for all the scorn, contempt, hardship, reproach and persecution of this world; no matter, for he has not deceived us, but told us beforehand, if we would be followers of him, and be led by him, we must expect these things; sufferings, reproaches, persecutions, disdain and envy. These things do not come uncertainly upon us for the world loves its own, and cannot love those who are not of it; but those who are not of the world, may be brought to the terms of God, and they may not be any longer in the world. Christ did not pray that his disciples would be taken out of the world, but kept from the evil. So that Christ is a Mediator, and a propitiation for all men, and he is working by his Spirit for the redemption of all men, that to as many as believe in him, to them he gives power to become the Sons of God.
The sum of all this is, that we have an opportunity put into our hands; we cannot deny it; you must all upon search, confess, that the grace of God often works in your hearts against any corruption, against any evil. Let not this price be put into your hands in vain, as into the hands of fools. If I knew that this and that was a sin, I would leave it; let us be of that mind, and we shall soon know it; and then say, if I knew such a thing to be a sin, and could get a thousand pounds [sterling] by it, I would not do it. Why should you love sin for profit or pleasure? I am sure it is an ill bargain when it is done. Whatever I am convinced is a sin, I will not do it.
Resolve upon this, and then the grace of God will be at work; we shall soon see that we must leave sinning. There is such a thing I must leave; God has set up a judgment in my mind against it; though it brings profit and pleasure, away it must go. Here is a step, a following step to follow Christ. He who will deny himself will follow Christ. My Redeemer shows me this to be an evil; I will not do it, but follow him, and imitate him. Here the soul is led step by step, even by Christ, the Captain of our Salvation, until it is gradually cleansed from sin, and reconciled unto God; and this can be done by no other means, for prayers and alms will not do it, all that can be done by us will not do it; none can do it but Christ alone, whom God has commanded to be your help, so that you may all wait for the divine operation of his grace in your hearts. That is what we labor and travail for, as knowing that God has wrought wonderfully by it, for the redemption of all those who love him more than they love their pleasures, more than they love their sins. It must be concluded, that following of him, and leaving father and mother, husband and wife, children, brethren, and sisters; all these things as they stand in competition with him, and the obedience of his Spirit, must be looked upon as nothing to him. Then above all things, I must not displease him. He can speak peace, and none can take it away; and if he takes it away, none can give it. If we follow Christ, when this is done, then all is done according to the will of God; then the blessing descends upon the whole creation; then every man will speak truth to his neighbor, and every man will govern his family with discretion; so God is glorified, and his name comes to be exalted; who is worthy to be beloved, adored, and exalted above all blessings and praises. To him be glory, who is God over all, blessed forever and ever. Amen.
His Prayer after Sermon
Most glorious God of Life and Power! and of everlasting kindnesses; a God of long-suffering and patience, else we would not be here this day.
Lord, we are monuments of your mercy. You have spared us lovingly and have called to us in a day when we turned away our ear from you. You have stretched forth your hand all the day long, and you have gathered a little remnant of the lost sheep of the house of Israel to partake of your pastures of life; and now all our souls have been greatly refreshed and comforted since we came to understand and comprehend with the rest of your saints the height and length and breadth and depth of your love, which in the Son of your love, you have revealed to us.
And blessed Father of Life! Our souls do breathe and cry unto you on the behalf of strangers, who are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, who are still breathing and inquiring after you, asking the way to Zion.
O Lord! Remember them and hear their cry, and let their sighing and complaining enter into your ears; that all they in whom you have begun to kindle holy desires after you, may have them grow into flames to burn up all enmity to you; that so they may be purified by your judgments and receive of your heavenly grace. This is the way which you have used with your children; you have commanded them to worship you in your dwelling-place; you have taken them into your house, and fed them with your finest wheat; refreshed them with your loving kindness, and filled them with your Holy Spirit.
Dearest God of Love! This is the design and purpose of our meeting together, that we may enjoy the presence, and feel the operation of your word, and have communion with you and your Son Jesus Christ, through your Holy Spirit; the way into rest and life is with you. You can open and no man can shut. Lord, open the hearts of this people to receive of your goodness and receive of your blessing; so that everyone may be sensible that you are at least knocking at the door of their hearts, so that you might have an entrance and bow the hearts and wills of all to receive what you give and have to offer; to receive the word of life, by which you are quickening them and kindling holy desires after yourself that everyone may receive the truth in the love of it. That, so blessed God of Life, your glorious work of redemption may be carried on, and we may all feel it carried on in our souls.
Hear your poor people who are crying to you, the God of Gods in Zion; those who are sensible of their weakness and selfishness and how unable they are to overcome the enemies of their souls. Arise in your power, Lord, and these enemies shall all be scattered; let the souls of your people be raised from the dust, and delivered from their sin, that they may rejoice and praise your name for their deliverance.
Righteous God of life! Our eyes are to you, to set forth your glory, for you have made bare your arm for the salvation of the poor and needy souls, and you have been stretching forth the cords of your love to gather them that were scattered; and have been bringing home to you those who were scattered away in a dark and cloudy day.
You have made us sensible of your operations; and have constrained your servants to labor in the word and doctrine for the gathering of such home; so that they and we may enter into your holy covenant, and may sound forth your praises to the ages and generations to come. That it may be so, Holy God of Life and Love! You who saved us with a marvelous salvation, may receive for all your mercies, and blessings to your children, praises, glory, honor, and thanksgiving; for you alone are worthy, who are God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
Heart Preparation for Receiving the Gospel
Preached at Devonshire-House, February, 12, 1687
IT is in my heart at this time, to desire that everyone's heart were prepared to be made a partaker of the blessings of the gospel; for there is a certain preparation that everyone must witness in themselves, before they are capable of receiving divine blessings. For in all ages of the world, the blessings of the Lord have been manifold, and his arm has been always stretched out in all ages, to the sons and daughters of men, who are sensible of the love he has to them; and where these tenders of the love of God have met with prepared hearts, they have received it to their eternal welfare. But this has been the lamentation that has been taken up upon the greatest part of mankind, that they have not been prepared to receive the love of God; their hearts and minds have been so filled with the love of visible things, and carnal objects, that they have not been truly sensible of the riches of the grace, mercy, and love of God to them
Now, it was laid of old by the prophet, that the preparation of the heart is of the Lord, and there is something that belongs to us in our part, that we may attain this preparation, that we may be brought into this spiritual frame of mind; and that is, by returning to the Lord, for people to think upon his name, and have regard to his appearance. And although this is not the work of nature, for by nature the minds of people are abroad, and they are crying out as the Psalmist speaks, who will show us any good? Yet to help that defect, the Lord has been pleased to send forth his grace and his truth, and to call to the sons and daughters of men, that they might seek after him, that they might seek the Lord while he is to be found; and those who hearken to his voice, they will readily confess, that nothing so well satisfies an immortal soul, as to be gathered into fellowship with its Maker; and that one time or other, it is the desire of all men and women, that they might attain peace with the Lord. And they know there is no peace to the wicked; they know wickedness will remain until it is abolished and destroyed; and they know it is not in their power to destroy it; and therefore of necessity there must be a waiting upon the Lord, who is Almighty, that he may reveal his power in our weakness.
And those who are thus prepared in their minds, meet religiously together, with expectation from God; that he, according to his promise, will appear, and reveal his arm, and do in them, and for them, what they cannot do for themselves; this is a fit way for people to meet together, and to have their expectation from God, and say: Lord, you know my weakness, and you know the enemies I have to deal with; you know I am not able to overcome them. Therefore we are now met together, in the presence of the Lord, to wait to receive at his hands, that power, that life, that virtue, by which we may be made more than conquerors. Such a religious meeting thus gathered together, has a promise; I will be in the midst of them, said the Lord; and therefore, having a promise, we may reasonably expect that we shall be made partakers of the living virtue and power, by which we may do that, which of ourselves we cannot do.
And, friends, it is my souls desire, that you were all thus qualified, that everyone had an evidence in himself of this right preparedness; for where the eye is abroad upon any visible thing, that it seeks satisfaction in anything below the Lord himself, it will wear away and grow old. All those objects that people fix their mind upon, they will grow old; but those whose desires, and the breathings of whose souls are, that they may grow into acquaintance with their Maker, this will never grow old. When peoples’ minds are fixed, as the people of the Lord of old were, when they made a companion between the state of their minds, and the minds of others, and signified it in these words, they are saying; they are crying (that is, these who are of the world) who will show us any good? But for our parts, our cry is. Lord lift up the light of your countenance upon us, and we will be more glad of that than they can be with all the increase of corn, and wine, and oil.
Now those who feel in themselves that the reason of their meeting together is to enjoy the light of God's countenance, and to partake of the blessings of God, they have their expectation from God, their minds are retired into God; knowing right well, that if the tongues of men and angels are moved to declare the heavenly and divine mysteries of the kingdom of God, they cannot be edified or benefited by them without the divine help and assistance of God's Spirit; for there is a seal upon them, and none can open that seal, but the Lion of the tribe of Judah; he only is found worthy to unseal the mystery, and unseal the divine blessings that are with the Lord. So people must come to that retiring of spirit, to that resignation of soul, to be like a little child waiting upon the Lord, crying out unto the Lord, that he will prepare them, that he will make them hungry, and then feed them, that he will raise a thirst in them, and then satisfy them with those divine springs of life, which through the Lord Jesus Christ are opened to every one that believes. As far as your minds are stayed and settled in waiting for the Lord, so far you will feel in yourselves an openness and readiness, that if the Lord speaks, you are ready to hear him, ready to submit to his word, ready to obey him; there will be such an openness in the mind, not to the words of any man, but to the word of God, to receive that; for where the words of men are received, though ever so excellent, they do not convert the soul, but the word of the Lord is pure, converting the soul. And this Word is what is able to quicken those who are dead in sins and trespasses, and bring them to be made partakers of life. For it is not an increase of knowledge that will do the turn, but it is the increase of life and virtue, the increase of godliness, and submitting our wills to him who made us. It is this that will do the turn, this will bring peace to the soul, and bring us into the favor of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, that you may all feel what prepares the heart for this resignation, and quietness, and subjection, you must wait upon the Lord, that you may be made partakers of the blessings of his everlasting gospel, and of his divine presence. This is what is most profitable and most advantageous. And then the Lord will open to you the windows of heaven, and rain down the blessings upon you, by which you will be comforted and refreshed, far beyond all the works that we can do, for it is an inward work that must be done upon the soul, to convert people who have been alienated and estranged from God, and bring them to a reconciled state, through the Lord Jesus Christ, by which they may partake of the divine virtues, which sanctify and justify the soul in the light of God.
His Prayer after Sermon
Just, glorious, and powerful Father! Your arm of power is made bare in this our day, to bring salvation to the poor.
Lord, you have lifted up the light of your countenance upon a people who have waited for your glory and your salvation; a little remnant whom the god of this world could not satisfy; but O Lord, in an acceptable time, you have brought your salvation near; and the light and brightness of the everlasting gospel you have commanded to shine into the hearts and souls of the mourners and bowed-down ones, who are seeking the living God, not among the outward forms and ways of men.
But, O blessed Father of Life! You have now brought us to the day of your power, and bowed our wills, and made us a willing people in which to serve you and to do your will on earth, as it is done in Heaven; and for that end, O Lord, you have put it into the hearts of your people to wait upon you, in whom all our fresh springs are, that from you we may receive the renewing of power from day to day.
In all the hours of our temptations and trials, our eyes, O Lord, have been to you and to your power; and we acknowledge, to the glory of your power and goodness, that you have been a God near at hand, when we have been seeking you, and trusting in you, so that we are a people sensible of your power and presence with us; for that eye which you keep open to your children brings your gory to our view and shows it breaking forth over the nations. And we have great joy and satisfaction in beholding the progress of your mighty power in our day, how you have broken down and confounded and are still breaking down and confounding, all the dark imaginations and devices of the sons and daughters of men, who have conspired to hinder the breaking forth of the glory of your Son, Christ Jesus.
O powerful God of Life! Arise more and more in the greatness of your power and love, and make known your counsel and your will among the inhabitants of the earth; and bow their minds, Lord! Bow their wills, that none may dare to withstand your appearance, lest they are found fighters against God and destroyers of themselves.
O powerful Father! For this end, make bare your arm to the rulers and governors of these nations, that they may know your counsels, and bow to your heavenly will, and may promote your law of righteousness in their own hearts, and the hearts of others; that by your power, a blessed reformation may be wrought, and a stop put to iniquity; so that it may not run down in a mighty stream, as it has done in time past; but that truth and righteousness, and sound judgment may be known in the earth; that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, may have their soul’s desires satisfied; and so praise and thanksgivings shall arise from their souls to you.
O powerful Father of Life! Preserve and keep your children, whom you have gathered, and purged, and purified, and to whom you have made known the way of life, and made them a willing people in the day of your power, to do your will, and to wait for the coming of that kingdom that you have promised to establish under Christ Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; and that it may grow, and increase and be spread abroad upon the earth, and let everyone's desire to be the subject of this.
Powerful Father of Life! The arm of your power and invisible strength has been revealed, that nothing has been able to resist or stand against and prevail, by which you are planting Zion and building Jerusalem and establishing it. By the same power let your work be carried on, and let many be brought in to be subject to Christ, for the good of their immortal souls. As you have multiplied your blessings upon us, so from day to day then have made us sensible of your love to us, acknowledging us to be your children and peculiar people by your presence in the midst of us whenever we meet in your name to wait upon you, that so, Living Father, all yours, both here and everywhere, may be encouraged to attend upon you, and to be faithful to your power. That waiting for the opening of your counsels, and the enlightening their understandings, they may be able to comprehend with all saints the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of your love in Christ Jesus; that in the sense of the freeness and greatness of it, all your children here and everywhere, whom you have gathered in an everlasting covenant of grace to yourself, may have communion with you and your Son and Spirit; and may return you the honor, glory, and praise of all your love, and mercy, and grace; for you alone are worthy, who are God over all, blessed forever and ever. Amen.
THE FIRST AND GREAT COMMANDMENT
Delivered by Stephen Crisp, at Devonshire House, May 27,1688
WHEN God gave forth his law on Mount Sinai, which Israel was to hear and to obey, the first and great commandment was: You shall have no other gods before Me. Here is the sum and substance of all true religion that ever was upon the earth to this day; all the commandments, all the precepts, prophecies, and all the dealings of God with his people from that day to this, have been all contained in this short precept: You shall have no other gods before Me.
And as long as Israel stood in obedience to this command, their blessings were multiplied upon them, their good things were increased from day to day. The Lord was with them as long as they were willing to be his people. He appeared as their God, and as their defender; wrought their deliverances, fought all their battles for them, gave them dominion and strength, courage and wisdom; ministered out of his treasury all good things to them; for the great care of God Almighty was with all his people. He had regard to them, and visited them at all times, to keep them from idolatry: I am, said He, a jealous God; take notice of Me to be so; I am jealous of my Name; if you will be mine, You shall have no gods but Me.
And all the precepts about offerings and sacrifices, and making atonement for sinners, and the divers services and worship, the various offices in the temple and sanctuary, they were all outward means appointed of God, to keep this outward church in an inward conformity to the command of God. This command was written on tables of stone, and these tables were laid up in the Ark of God, and all this pertained to the first covenant, and typed and figured out the dispensation of the new and everlasting covenant, that God would make with his people, not like the old. How was it not like it? Not like it in the outward shadows, the types and shadows of things; but He would bring forth the substance of all those shadows and types, and would alter the form and outward appearance of things. For, as God is unchangeable, so is his law unchangeable.
Moses said, the first and great commandment is: You shall have no other gods before Me. This was put onto the stone tablets. Christ Jesus said: The first and great commandment is, You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, and with all your mind. Matt 22:37. This is put into the tablets of the heart. So here is a difference between the first commandment by Moses, and the first commandment by Christ. They both acknowledge the first and great command to be the subjecting of the creature to him who made him, as his God, that he may serve only the Creator, and may love Him with his whole heart. The Jew could prove this by his stone tablets, and Christ proves this by the fleshly tablets of the heart; for there the creature is bound to love the Lord with his whole heart, and to serve Him only: Him only shall you serve.
Now here the Jews' law is brought over to the Christians, in the greatest point of religion that was ever preached. It shuts out all idolatry, all superstition, all variety of religions - all is shut out by this commandment; and the Christian who has the law written in his heart, according to the New Covenant, he can go as readily to his heart and read it, as ever the Jew could go to his stone tablet, and read the law there. You cannot deny that if there is a thing written and engraved in my heart, I can go as readily to it as I can go to any book or tablet, though I have the keeping of it; but the Jews did not have the keeping of the law because generally it was laid up in the Ark of God.
Now friends, what lies upon my mind to speak to you at this time, and that out of the great love that I have to all your precious and immortal souls, as God has had love to mine, is, that you would all consider and weigh in the fear of the Lord, whose presence is among us, which of you, and how many of you, have come to the obedience of this commandment! I do not doubt that most of you can say all the commandments; but you are happy people if you can obey even one. I dare pronounce that soul, a blessed soul, that can perform this one commandment, that can or dare stand before his Maker and say: "O Lord! I love you with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my might; my love is withdrawn from all other things in comparison to you; there is nothing in this whole world that has a place in my mind, but it is in subjection to the love of you."
Here is the first and great commandment the unchangeable law, the law that was good in Moses’ days, and good in Christ's days, and it holds good in our days; and indeed it is such a definitive law, that the breakers of it can neither be good Jews, nor good Christians. There is an absolute necessity that lies upon us, of abstracting and drawing away our minds and souls from all other gods, from all images, and other dependencies and trusts, which people are naturally liable to trust to; and to have their whole confidence set upon the Lord. But alas! With grief of heart I speak it, there are very few who as yet have known the right giving forth of the law; and there are fewer who are subject to it. This law was not given forth at first without thunder and lightning, and a terrible noise, and the mountain smoking, (he who has an ear to hear, let him hear,) so much that Moses himself said, he feared greatly, and he quaked exceedingly because of the thunder of the Almighty, and of the mountain that smoked and burned with fire, so that Israel could not draw near.
Now I say, there are only a few today who have come to the knowledge of the giving forth of this law, who have certainly known those thunders, and that terrible work that the Lord of the whole earth [within a man] makes, when he comes to get up his law [into the heart of a man]; for a great many who have come near to it, and mightily have heard and received the words of the law of God, they have gone backward. They have done like the Jews of old; though they had suffered much, and gone through much, and had seen the wonders of the Lord, how he had led them and delivered them, yet when it came to this, that they must bear the voice of God, they said: We cannot bear it; we cannot endure it; we have devised for ourselves an easier way; for the voice of thunder and dreadful noises put them into terror, and quaking; and trembling, and great dread came upon them. But we have found an easier way, they said. What is that easier way? You go near, they said to Moses, and you hear what the Lord says, and you come and tell us; you shall be a mediator between us; let God speak to you, and you repeat the same to us, and we will hear you.
Thus the Jews, who had not come beyond the law of God written on tables of stone, would not come to receive it in their hearts, as the Christian must. So Moses received the law from the mouth of God. He was faithful as a servant in the house of God; and he ministered forth the law of God, his precepts, statutes and judgments, and testimonies. He wrote the Jews a book of laws for all of them to walk by, from the highest to the lowest; showing how they should act in criminal matters, and do justice between man and man; and what they should do in the worship of God; and what they should do towards the priest, whose lips should preserve knowledge for them. So he brought up a form of religion, but his work was according to the precepts of God; and he brought them into the form of national religion, and government, and national laws. So Moses and the priests ruled over them, and the priest offered sacrifice for them, and made atonement for them; and Moses inquired of the Lord, and asked counsel for them, and taught and instructed them.
What became of all this at test? When this was done, the priest made, atonement for sin, but he could not pluck away the guilt of one sin. After the priest had made his offering for sin, there remained the consciousness of sin. Moses taught them the counsels of God and the commands of God, but he could not bind their hearts to the obedience of them; for he declared openly against them, that they were a rebellious and stiff-necked people, despite the fact that they had an outward law.
Indeed time would fail me to run through the manifold miscarriages of the church of the Jews, in respect to their idolatry, in respect to their contempt and rebellion, both to God and his servant Moses, who was to teach and to guide them. I say, the time would fail me to mention the manifold miscarriages that happened among this people, who had an outward law and religion without them, and an outward teacher without them.
Now, in the fullness of time it pleased God to send his Son Christ Jesus, to raise up a Prophet like Moses, in respect to faithfulness, though higher in respect of dignity. For Moses was faithful in all his house us a servant, but this man was faithful as a Son in his own house; in the house that He was heir to; that house in which He was a King, a Priest, a Prophet, and a Ruler. When the Lord signified, by the spirit of prophecy, the coming of the Righteousness One, he signified to the people that his ministry should not be like that of Aaron. The people should not have their religion without them, and their laws and precepts without them, and their priests without them, and their worship and church without them; but that they should have it all within them. I will write my law in their hearts, I will put it into their inward parts; then they shall be my people, and I will be their God, and they shall not forsake me.
Your fathers broke my old covenant, but I will make a new covenant in the latter days; a new covenant, not like that your fathers broke. They broke the law without them; but I will write my law in their hearts. This Prophet who is like to Moses, he shall teach my people, he shall be a leader to them, and guide them in the way they are to go, and shall be a captain for them, to lead them to salvation; and it shall come to pass, in the day that I do this, if there be any that will not hear him, he shall be cut off from among the people. That is the judgment that comes upon the condemners of the Gospel, upon those who will not hear Christ Jesus; they shall be cut off from the people. From what people? From the people of God; they shall have no part of the privileges that are enjoyed through Christ; they shall be cut off from the benefits that others reap by their faith in Christ.
So that now we are to expect the operation and working of a ministry, that leads people to an inward religion, a heart-religion; where the heart is fixed entirely upon the true and living God, as the object of their dependence and trust, and they have no other. This is a strange word to flesh and blood. What! no other dependence but on the invisible God? Flesh and blood, and sensuality, can never come to this: this is a religion that has been hidden from ages and generations, and will be hidden from all ages that ever shall be in the world, where sensuality prevails. What! Will you have me place my whole dependence for the comfort of my life here, and of the life that is to come, the other life—to have my dependence upon an Invisible God—that invisible power that made me, and created the world? How is it possible for me to sequester myself, and draw myself off from all visible objects? I must trust to this, and trust to that. Flesh and blood can never attain to this, with all the intelligence and reason it has. It can never separate itself from idols. They are little children, they are children-of another birth, born of another seed, that keep themselves from idols.
Friends, idolatry is a great deal more common, I find, than most are aware of. Am I commanded to love the Lord with all my heart, and soul, and mind, and might? What is left when the whole is taken away? If God has my whole heart, what have I to bestow upon the world? What love, what affection, what eagerness, what fervency can I bestow upon the world, or any object in the world, when my whole heart, and soul, and mind, is gone before, is gone toward the Lord?
This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like it, that is: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Here it is that the law and the prophets, faith, creeds, prayer, religion, and worship, all that ever was in the world, all are comprehended in this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. So what need is there for us to be disputing about religion, about this tenet and the other tenet; this text, and the other text? For my part, I should only desire for you to understand this text; for if you do, I have no doubt about your going to heaven. Here is the sum, here is all at once, here is the quintessence of all religion, of all types, shadows, figures, ceremonies, and priesthood, and all that ever was or could be named and practiced in the world. All is brought to this: The heart given up to God — our love set upon Him.
What! Is this sufficient? Some will say: this will make you a good moral man, but what is this to the Christian religion? You might be led into error and become a heretic for all this.
How could this happen, that I should not be of a sound faith, but led into error and heresy for all this? When people let in error, and heresy, and unsoundness of faith, where do they let it in? Do they not let in the principles of error and heresy into their hearts? I believe this, and that, and the other error; it all comes into the heart, and has a seat in the heart. But how can we let it into the heart, when the heart is given up to God? Cannot I keep out error and heresy, if I give up my heart soul to Him? Cannot I trust Him with all?
This kind of talk of error and heresy, has come among men who have had the keeping of their own souls. They have taken their own souls into their own hands and have ordered their religion themselves, or have employed somebody to order it for them; and a great many of them have met together to make creeds and catechisms, and confessions, and orthodox doctrines that might certainly be professed and subscribed to. So afterwards some have come and found fault with them; and then they create a council to try them. Then these doctrines are cast off and are laid aside, and others are created to replace them. All these doctrines are what men have set up for themselves. They would not be under the government and prescription of God, as children under the government of a father; instead they will set up religions themselves, and say to the rest of the world: If you own anything contrary to our principles, you are a heretic, and being a heretic you are to be rooted out and cut off. Do you not read in the scriptures, that whoever does not hear the prophet (who was recognized to some into the world) shall be cut off? What! Will you not hear Christ speak in the church? Will you not hear Christ speak? The church cannot speak without a head; if you will not hear the church, you shall be cut off.
All their barbarous and inhuman cruelties, martyring and imprisoning people, comes from their creating faiths themselves; and of all things, nothing is more desperately wicked; and they did not know it. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it? Men do not know how proud and arrogant they themselves are, and yet they attempt to order the hearts, and minds, and consciences of others. Out of this has sprung all superstition and idolatry, because men would not give up their hearts to God. You shall have no other gods but Me. This commandment is great in itself, strict in the terms: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself. Their neighbors could not see with their eyes; therefore they would be destroying one another.
But, blessed be God, who is now bringing forth true Christianity upon its old basis and foundation, on which it was placed at first; for Christianity has been jostled off from its first foundation. For instead of loving God with all their hearts, and loving their neighbors as themselves, they hated them. Now this is the day, O friends! The weight of it is great; this, I say, is the day in which God is bringing Christianity upon its old foundation.
I would not have you think that I am here judging our forefathers, who have fallen asleep; that therefore they have gone to perdition, because they did not see this day, and did not live to see that benefit of it which we enjoy. I am far from it. This was the thing that they believed and prayed to God for; they did not see this day outwardly, but they saw it by faith. When I was a child, I remember the people of God, when they met three or four together, they would rejoice in the hopes of what they foresaw. They gave thanks to God for the blessed days that He would bring forth, though they could not tell when. They did say and believe that God would scatter the fogs and mists, and bring forth a happy day, in which his people should have the gift of his Spirit. When they saw the impositions and persecutions of those times; that when those who did not conform and comply, they were cast into prisons, dungeons, and jails, well, it will not always be that way, they said; there is a day corning in which the Lord will set his people free from all the yokes of oppression, and from the oppressors.
Indeed my soul rejoiced in hearing the prophetical sayings of those good men. I thought I might live to see that day. Blessed be God, who has preserved my life to this day, and to this hour, to enjoy what they prayed for! They prayed to God to scatter the mists and fogs, that they might no longer cloud and darken men's minds, and hinder them from enjoying God's teaching. Blessed be God! That we are now in the enjoyment of the prayers of the faithful, who left the world before we were in it. Now the day has come that they prayed for, and inquired after.
How strangely does the man talk, some will say, concerning the Christian religion! The Christian religion is all over England. Go to any meeting in London, except one, and they will tell you they are Christians. I wish to God they were; that is the worst I wish for them all. But why should we talk of the Christian religion, without the Christian life? Except we find Christian life among them, what good is the name and profession of it? And the Christian doctrine is lacking in many places too. There are many in this city urging this very command, of loving God with all their hearts, and their neighbors as themselves, as fervently as I can do, or anybody else; and yet they will tell you, in the next breath, that no man in London, or in the world, can do this. No man can possibly love God with all his heart; a man cannot be found who can perform such an act, as to love his neighbor as himself. Not every neighbor, but some one choice associate he may pick out, that he can love, and bear with his infirmities and affronts, and love him as himself. Love your neighbor, that is, everybody, that there may be a good-will for all people throughout the whole race of mankind. Peace on earth, good-will towards men. This is the fruit of the Gospel. Christian words will not make the Christian religion, there must be a Christian life; but where shall we find that, or seek it?
I know not, I have nothing to do to judge anybody; but there is One that judges, who lives the Christian life, and who does not? Who is this? I answer: The head of the Christian Church. Why, is He here? Yes, the Head of the Christian Church is here, and He speaks and gives sentence. If you have an ear, you may hear Him. If you will turn your mind inward, for He is an inward minister. Every one of you, if you will turn your minds inward, He will tell you whether you live a Christian life, and what kind of a life it is you live. If there is a drunkard here, let him ask whether his life is a Christian life. Will a man go away ignorant from this place, and have no answer? If there is a drunkard here, let him ask inwardly in his own bosom, Lord! is my life a Christian life? I dare affirm on God's behalf, he will hear an answer: "No! my life is not a Christian life, but a shameful, beastly life, a brutish one."
Who told you that the Head of Christians, Christ Jesus, is present —Christ Jesus, is He present?— How did He get here? He ascended up into heaven such a day, say they, how could He be here? Let Him be ascended up into heaven, yet He is not so ascended into heaven as not to be here also. How should He fulfill his promise, if He is limited in presence to heaven or earth? How should He make good his promise, if, when two or three are met together in his Name, He is not in the midst of them. Here are now many more than two or three met together in the Name of Christ, and that hope for acceptance with God, through the Mediator, Christ Jesus. If you think that there are two or three met together in this place in the name of Christ, it follows that Christ is in the midst of them.
I do not know what you are experiencing and enjoying now. Some may possibly say, I do not find any such presence of Christ; I hear of the presence of Christ in the sacrament, and I have heard talk of the presence of Christ at a meeting; but I have been at many meetings, and I never found such a presence of Christ.
Can you read the scriptures? Yes, I can read the scriptures as well as you, but that cannot give me a sense of it; I do read the scriptures and believe it; but what signifies my reading the scriptures concerning the presence of Christ, if I do not have a sense of it? I have been at many a meeting, but never had the sense of such a divine presence as you talk of - nor it may be at the sacrament either. What is the reason you have no sense of it? If you will accept my counsel, and turn your mind inward, and inquire whether the thing I speak of is true, whether there is such a voice as I speak of, that will tell you what your state is. If you will be true to yourself, you may know the divine presence, and you may hear Christ speak.
The soul has eyes, and ears; just as the body does. What eyes does the apostle mean when he says: The god of this world has blinded the eyes of those who do not believe, so that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine in them? If the soul has eyes and ears, as well as the body, it can hear and see like the body. As the bodily eye can see visible things, so the eye of the soul can see things that are invisible, and heavenly. You can hear my voice outwardly, and you may hear the voice of Christ inwardly. I have known some who have been so afraid of hearing something bad about themselves, that they would not inquire. Some have been so guilty in their own consciences, that they have been afraid of hearing something bad, that they would not inquire about themselves. So it is inwardly; some have been so conscious that their life and conduct is not what it ought to be — that their life is a sinful life, that they do not dare bring it to question. It would certainly have been told them: "Your life is not a Christian life, you must mend your life, before you can ever come to have peace with God." If this should be your portion and mine, that upon search we should find our condition bad, what harm is it?
I would put one question to you; be serious in considering of it. We are all children of wrath by nature, none of us differ about that, and that unless we are born again, we cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The question is, whether I am one of those or not? Suppose upon inquiry it is discovered to me that I am not, that is bad enough; this is hard, but not so hard as it is true. This is the thing that I would have you consider:— Is it not better to know that I am still in a natural state, than to go on and perish to eternity? As long as there is life, there is hope; as long as a man is upon the earth, and taking care for his soul, and inquiring about the state of his immortal soul. If his soul is not in a good condition, is it not better for him to know it, and to seek for a cure? For no greater infirmity and misfortune can be upon man, than to have some occult and hidden disease, that he cannot be made sensible of; for this wastes and spoils him, and he cannot be persuaded to look out for a remedy. So it is inwardly; if a man is ignorant of his condition, and goes on to his dying day and hour, and does not seek after a remedy, this man perishes without any doubt.
When you are in this inquiry, be content to be controlled; be willing to have the truth spoken, though it is against yourselves. I could give many examples of what I have spoken of. If a man is satisfied that his life is not a Christian life; I say, if the swearer or liar, if the proud person, or the effeminate, as soon as they come to be satisfied that their life is not a Christian life, that they now live, what can this man expect? What counsel should we give him, and what counsel should he take? I will continue in the way that I am in. What! After you know your life is not a Christian life? God forbid. Will you go on and perpetuate sin upon sin, and heap up wrath against the day of wrath? I am a sinner, my life is unchristian, I make account to live in sin, and die in sin. Is this good policy? Consider another text which our Lord spoke: If you die in your sins, where I go, you cannot come.
O Friends! lay these things to your hearts. What have I to do but to tell you that the love I have in my soul for you all, makes me desire in my heart that you may be saved? This is the will of God, that you might all be saved, and come to the knowledge of the Truth. Blessed are those who know the Truth; the Truth as it in Jesus. Truth in the inward parts, has a speaking voice; and if you hearken to it, it will tell you your state is not what it ought to be. Can you believe the Truth when he tells you so, that you state is bad, and that you are likely to go to eternal destruction, unless there is repentance and regeneration to prevent it? Can you believe this doctrine, when it sounds in your own heart? If you cannot believe it, unbelief will be your ruin.
The Spirit of Truth has come to convince the world of sin, because they do not believe in Christ; He tells them their condition, and they will not believe Him. The Spirit of Christ convinces men of sin, and they do not believe Him. The Spirit of Truth convinces you of your sin, but you do not believe Him. You love your pleasure and your profit, and you honor; then you do not love God with all your heart, and then you are not a Christian, but out of covenant with God. Are you sensible that your condition is bad; is it not best to get it changed? After we are convinced of our own sinful state, is it not our best course to seek to have it mended? Who shall mend, it? One person says— I have done all I can to mend my life, and I cannot mend it.
I had concluded so in my younger years; I had fasted, and prayed, and spent time in hearing, reading, and meditation, and did all in my own power, and all to mend my state; but I could not mend it. As I grew up in years, sin and corruption prevailed even more, and there was no help. I came so far as to believe there was no help, and that if God did not help me, I was undone to all eternity. I many times wished that I had never been born. I went to ministers and meetings, and to all sorts of separate people, and to all manner of ordinances, and to all manner of means, to mend this bad heart of mine, to see if I could obtain a power that would get me victory over my corruptions; but my arm was never so long as to reach to it; it was far out of my power and reach.
Many have sought to get this power of reforming their hearts and lives, to attain it by their own hands, by their own endeavors, that they could never do it. They could never better their condition, nor bring forth fruit worthy of amendment of life. I wish that every one would have come to that impasse, that they did not know which way to turn them, that they had at last come to their wits' end. They will come to it sooner or later—the sooner the better. I have done all I can, I can do no more. I am at my wits' end, and I do not know what to think concerning my eternal state, I do know what to judge of it. I strive against my lusts and corruptions, but, for all that, they prevail upon me. Temptations come before me, but I cannot conquer them. O! I am glad when people have come to that impasse; that they do not know what to do, but despair of their own arms’ abilities, of their own strength, and their own wit, and despair of all other help in the world; I am glad of that.
But I am not preaching up despair of God's grace and mercy; for let me tell you, when men despair of their own doings, and of all outward means and helps, then they are fit objects for the mercy of God, and not till then. When the Lord looked, and saw that there was none to save and deliver, then His own arm brought salvation. God will not save until then. God will not reveal his power until men have finished with their own power. They will never trust God, while they think they can do something for themselves. All the forms of religion, of the several people of this nation, will do them little good without the power.
What is the meaning of that principle, to have such masses, and prayers, and performances? What is the meaning of it? Let us search to the bottom. They say we are sinners, when we pray to God for his blessing and for salvation by Christ. There is this at the bottom: they think these duties and performances will be very helpful to their state, helpful towards the knowledge of it. To speak plain English, these are their gods. If I speak of profane and wicked people, I would say their lusts are their gods; but when I speak of [so called] righteous people who are mere formalists, then I say their duties, as they call them, are their gods. When all is said and done in their duties, their duties have done nothing for them; and then they have no gods at all. Then they are godless; and if God does not help them, they are undone to all eternity.
When poor creatures are cast out, as it were, into the open field, to the loathing of their persons—When I passed by you, said the Lord, and saw you polluted in your own blood, I said unto you, live. When I passed by you, and looked upon you, behold, your time was a time of love, and I spread the corner of my robe over you, and covered your nakedness; yes, I swore unto you, and entered into covenant with you, said the Lord God, and you became mine. What! Was it a time of love when I was such an object in my own eyes, that I thought I was the most miserable creature in the world, one who could not make a good prayer, nor dispute for religion, nor perform any duty; a poor creature cast out into the open field, to the loathing of my person, having lost all that I had gained. My name was not among the living; my days were passed over in sorrow; and I said: "There is nothing but darkness, and death, and misery for me." I used all means, and tried all things, except a living trust in God, a trust in God alone, and that flesh and blood cannot do. Flesh and blood cannot know Him, therefore flesh and blood cannot trust in Him. Alas! I said, I cannot trust in the Lord, I cannot cast my soul, and all my concerns, my fame and reputation in the world, I cannot cast all upon the care of the Almighty; I cannot know Him, nor trust in Him. How can I do it? Nobody can do it! Those who know my Name, said the Lord, they will put their trust in Me. Never a truer word was spoken. But how does one know God, and trust in Him, says someone, I do not know.
When you once come to this impasse, to be at your wits' end, and not know which way to turn, nor to whom to run for help, or to ask counsel for your soul's welfare; when you have come to the end of all, and without hope, then God reveals himself by his son Jesus Christ. Christ, the Son of God, is known by our coming to Him; but none can come to Christ, except the Father who has sent Him, draws him. When you have finished with your gods, and thrown away your idols to the bats and moles, then you will find the Lord, and you will cry out: "O that God would have mercy upon me, and lift up the light of his countenance upon me! I am a poor miserable creature!"
There are many who make such a whining and complaining, that they take pride in their very complaints, their hypocrisy is so great. I have known some who have prided themselves in wording their condition, and expressing their miserable case before the Lord. But suppose you cannot speak at all, but find yourself miserable, you cannot express your condition. At such a time as this God was drawing your soul to Christ Jesus, the mediator of it. I have heard of a mediator, and that there is balm in Gilead for me, that there is a physician there, that there is one physician, even Jesus Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant. You have sinned against Him, and grieved Him, yet he stands with open arms for you, ready to receive you, and embrace you. Where does He stands? He stands at the door and knocks; it is a small matter, one would think, to let Him in: (Rev 3:20) Behold, I stand at the, door and knock, and if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with Me. Here is good news for a hungry soul, if there are any such here. Christ the mediator, stands at the door and knocks. He will come in and sup with you, if you open to Him. Then we shall meet with the Lord's Supper. This is the Lord, I will wait for Him. He will bring his bread with Him, the Bread of Life, and the Wine of his kingdom; and the Lord's Supper will be celebrated without irrelevant distinctions and doctrinal arguing.
[Some say] No! that, says flesh and blood, I cannot accept. I cannot consent to have Him for my savior. I will not let Him in, for He is like Micaiah to Ahab, He never spoke good concerning me. For, if I have Him for my savior, I must part with my lusts and pleasures. If there is any other savior, I will try that, and not meddle with Him. He will spoil all our merriment and good friendships. He will tell me that every idle word that I shall speak, I must give an account for in the day of judgment. What! do you think that I can like such a savior? That I can live with such a one as will call me to an account for every word I speak? And that, if I speak one idle word, judgment will come upon me? No, I will try one and another, rather than accept Him upon such terms. I am one who is joined to such a church, and enjoy such and such ordinances, and such helps. I am in covenant with God and under the seals of that covenant; I am baptized, and partake of the Lord's Supper, which is another seal of the covenant. I hope it will go well with me.
From the Word of the Lord within: "Those reluctant to look at their slavery say, 'Church me.'"
I will go one step further. Another said he must have a mediator:"I will go to the Virgin Mary, and offer something to her, and pray to her." Another says, "I will go to Saint James, and Saint John, and other Saints to intercede with God for me." They must have some mediator. This is the twisting and twining of the sons and daughters of men, to keep out Christ the great mediator, who came into the world for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. Alas! I have nothing left but my bare life and living in this world. I have nothing left me but some little desire I had to please God; and he will never judge and condemn me for that. But my false dealing, and buying and selling with deceit, He will judge this, and condemn me; and my discoursing of things without me; all my carnal friendship of the world, and my vain fashions; all this is corrupt and defiled; these He came on purpose to destroy. He came to destroy both the devil and his works.
What! can a man live in the world and never join with the devil? Never sin at all? Never do anything that the devil would have him to do? There is no perfection in this world; no living without sin here. Then I am sure there is no unity with Christ here; and if there is no unity with Christ, then there is none with God the Father. What will become of you now? What will all the pleaders for that opinion say now? There is something that stands between God and me, and I shall never have peace. And what is that? It is sin. I would have my sin taken away, else I had better never have been born. Can you remove sin out of your heart? I have tried, but I cannot do it. I have heard of Christ the Mediator of the New Covenant. He said, He came into the world, and that for this purpose He was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Now sin in my heart is the devil's work, I will see if He will destroy that for me, I will trust and rely upon Him, and see if his great power can destroy it in me.
Here people come rightly to believe in Him whom God has sent, and to trust in Him; and He will take them in, and like a surgeon He will open their hearts, and let out their corruptions, though there has been ever so much rottenness; and He will heal them, and purify them, and pardon them, though they have been ever so wicked, if they come to Him. When your sins are set in order before you, then you cry out: "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" Is it God that has thought about me, and waited to be gracious, and has put up with my sins so long? How wonderful is his patience towards me! All these things working in the soul, tend to beget a love to God, and fervent desires to be cleansed and purified from sin, and earnest prayer to the Lord, to kindle the holy fire, that would burn it up. The more the soul trusts in Christ, the more this heavenly fire burns up our lusts; and then a man feels a great change in his mind. The things, he said, that I delighted in, are now grievous to me! I hope I shall never be found in those things again; my mind is now taken off them. Who took it off? Did you not strive before to take it off? I did, but I could not do it.
There are many, I believe, in this assembly before the Lord, who are my witnesses in this matter, that when they came to Christ the mediator, He changed their minds, and He untied the devil's fetters. They were tied to their sins and lusts; but He has unloosed them. They are ashamed of those things that they formerly took pleasure in. What benefit, said the Apostle, did you have in those things, of which you are now ashamed? So I say: "What pleasure do you have in sporting, and gaming, and drinking, and company-keeping? What pleasure do you have to think on your unrestrained conversations? What pleasure do you have in pride and vanity? What pleasure in wrath and bitterness of mind? And what pleasure in malice and envy? What pleasure do you have in these things of which you are now ashamed?" So far as you are convinced, you are ashamed to think of them. I am ashamed to think that the devil at such a time, by such a temptation, should prevail over me.
I wish to God you all would come to this; to be ashamed; that you might remember your past evil ways and actions, with sorrow and shame. There is a secret joy in this. Surely it is better to be ashamed than to continue in impudence. God has wrought this change at last; and who shall have the glory of it? God shall have the glory of it, for his own works will praise Him. What men do, many times they do for their own praise; but when they are at their wits' end, and do not know what to do, they cast themselves upon their Maker, to see if He will have mercy upon them. If not, they must perish. Then, for what He does, He gets the glory and the praise.
There are some here, who are bound to praise God while they have a day to live, for what He has done for them. They could never have loved God with all their hearts; but they would have continued strangers to God; and the devil would have led them captive at his will;—they would not have loved God with all their hearts, had not God first shed abroad his love upon their hearts, and constrained them to love Him. It is He that has first loved them, and wrought in them both to will and to do his own good pleasure. Whatever we are, we are by the grace of God. This grace is magnified in those who believe and obey the Gospel. My friends, we know there is so much peace and pleasure in the ways of God, so much soul-satisfaction in walking with God, and in loving Him with all our hearts, that I should be glad if every one of you were of the same mind, and had experience of it. We labor diligently for this purpose, and we would set before you these two things.
First, How we may come to know our miserable state by nature.
And, What a blessed and happy state they are in, who have been converted and changed; who have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
Consider your state by nature is evil; we hope that many of you believe the reports of the gospel, concerning the goodness of the Lord, his great love in sending his Son into the world, to seek and to save you who were lost; and that you believe in Him. And we are persuaded, that by the foolishness of preaching God will save some of you, that you may be his redeemed ones, and trust to no other savior. For there is not any name under heaven, but the name of Jesus, by which you can be saved. Only He can take away the sins of the world; his Spirit, which he promised to send into the world when He was leaving it, searches the heart, and tries the mind. Now I dare proclaim that Holy Spirit, to be the Spirit of the God of heaven, who now sees what resolution you are of, and what you are now proposing to do; whether to continue in sin, or to return to God. This I can speak without blasphemy; it is God's Spirit who searches the heart, and knows your thoughts and purposes, and convinces you of your sin. God has sent his Son Christ Jesus into the world to enlighten you, that by his light you may see Him, and that by his grace you might receive Him, and that by his grace you might be saved.
To Him I commit you all, and these words that we have spoken in the evidence are a demonstration of the Spirit, according as He wrought in us. Amen.
His Prayer after Sermon
MOST glorious, infinite, Powerful Father! Who has created us, and given us life and breath, and lengthened out our time to this day, and have long waited to be gracious to us, and are still waiting upon the sons and daughters of men, bringing forth the hand of your love, and offering your grace and tender salvation to them, and has brought a day of visitation upon the inhabitants of this city and nation.
Glory, praise and thanksgiving be to you, Lord, that by your power you have inclined the hearts and consciences of the sons and daughters of men, to submit to you, and bow their necks to the blessed and easy yoke of your Son Jesus Christ, that they may do your will on earth, as it is done in Heaven. They are travailing, and distressed, and afflicted in their souls because of their bondage; arise, living Father, and reveal and discover your power to them; show them the exceeding greatness of your power, that they may trust in it and be safe; make bare your arm for their salvation. Those who are slumbering in their profession, let them be awakened; and bring to your heavenly kingdom those who have passed through your refining fire, whom you have cleansed and sanctified.
Powerful Father of Life! Carry on your work among your people everywhere. Gather those who are scattered, and bring them back to yourself, those who are wandering and out of the way, and seeking the living among the dead. Lord, teach them and let them hear a voice behind them, and guide them to the holy mountain; that they may be brought to the path of life, and to the place which you have provided for your little flock to meet and feed together, offering unanimously the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, which you have ordained and appointed in your house.
Blessed and powerful Father! Be pleased to surround all your little ones with your Almighty Power; and wherever they are, let them feel your preserving hand, delivering them from the evil of the world. We do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but to preserve them from the defilements and pollutions of it, that holy people may serve you the holy God, and bear your holy name upon their hearts; that so it may be exalted and magnified above all, and humble thanksgivings and praises, may be given to you, through Jesus Christ, for all your love you have manifested, and for your abounding mercies, and renewed favors which we have received at your hands. To you, living Father, through Jesus Christ, your well-beloved Son, in whom you are well pleased, be all honor, praise and dominion rendered by us and all your people, from now on, and forever. Amen.
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