A Sermon preached at the Quakers’ Meeting-House, in Devonshire-Howe, London, January 20, 1694.
BY WILLIAM PENN.
IT was the blessed encouragement that our Lord Jesus Christ gave to his disciples, and all his followers (when he took on him the nature of man, and was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us) and therein to all the sons and daughters of men, who should follow him through the many and great tribulations, and give up their names and hearts to him, to be witnesses of his truth, and of that holy testimony which he should communicate to them near his farewell, and a little before his being offered up, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me: in my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also; now my Friends, these mansions they are the recompences of reward that are set in the view of the righteous, and promised of God by Christ Jesus. These many mansions are the manifold rewards, diversities of rewards, that refer to the diversity of states, and conditions and persons, unto whom these many mansions do belong. As all are not of the same stature and growth, neither are all these mansions of the same degree of glory and felicity. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory; yet all these stars shine with a lustre and glory, and the least star hath a beauty and excellency in it; and so the least of these many mansions hath a marvellous light and glory in it. This refers to the state of every man and woman here below. All members are not the hand, all are not the head, but every member of the body hath its service, and will have its reward. This is that which did spring up in my soul this morning, as I sat here among you O that all here present may become the living members of Christ Jesus our blessed head, and live the life they live in the body, by the faith of the Son of God. He that made us, knows our frame; He that created us, and formed and fashioned us after his own image, and gave us power and faculties to glorify and serve him, that we may come to enjoy him for ever, he requires of no man or woman more than he hath given them power and ability to perform. It concerneth us all therefore to live in the exercise of that divine gift, and grace, and ability which our Lord Jesus Christ hath distributed and communicated to every member of his body, that we may come to shine as stars in the firmament of glory. We should do good in our several places and station?, according to our different powers and, capacities. And as every member is by the circulation of blood made useful and beneficial in the natural body, so the divine life and blood of the Son of God circulates through his whole mystical body, and reaches life to every living member. Here is no obstruction through unfaithfulness, or inordinate love of the world, or any temptation from without us, or corruption from within us. Here is a free channel, here is an open passage for life and quickening influences from Christ our glorious head, to all his members. There is in Christ (in whom the fulness of the god-head dwells bodily) a river whose streams make glad the city of God: a fountain to supply and refresh the whole generation of the righteous, that desire to be found in him, (as the Apostle speaks,) not having their own righteousness, but clothed with the robe of his righteousness, which is the garment of salvation. Therefore wait this day, my dear friends, to have your hearts filled with the love and life of the Son of God, that you may appear with joy at his tribunal, where all mankind must appear, and every one give an account of what he hath done in the body, whether it be good or evil. Let every one of you be careful to live according to what you know, and improve the talents that God hath given you, and you shall find that in keeping his commandments, there is great reward, and that God is good to Israel, to them that are of a clean heart. Had not the Lord been on our side, may Israel say; had not the Lord been on our side when men rose up against us, may we say, they had swallowed us up, and the temptations of the devil would have prevailed over us, and we had fallen long ago. It is not we that have stood firm in times of trial and trouble, but it is the Lord that hath stood by us, and made us to stand: and the love of God to his people now, is as great as ever it was: his arm is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear; therefore travel on and feint not, and you shall come with joy to the end of your journey, and you shall be satisfied with the fatness of God’s house, and say with the Psalmist, ‘blessed are they that dwell in thy house, they shall be still praising thee.’ It is the faithful and sincere that shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, and enter into his everlasting kingdom. O my friends, live as a people bowed down in the presence of the great and holy God, and walk humbly, with him: be humbled under his mighty hand, and you shall be exalted in due time.
The God of heaven hath visited your souls with his divine power and grace, and given you a refreshing sense of his love, that you may perceive and feel a daily renewing of your strength. O wail upon the Lord for his divine power to enable you to conquer the power of Satan, that you may go on conquering and to conquer, till you come to the New Jerusalem, the city of God, and land of peace and rest. Beware of idolatry! bow not down to the work of your own hands : for though you may not be guilty of gross idolatry, yet there is a secret, and more hidden idolatry, that too many are guilty of, who set their hearts and affection, on low and earthly things: this sticks but too near to many. Let the word of exhortation of the Apostle enter into your hearts; ‘little children keep yourselves from idols.’ Let this be the cry of your souls. Lord preserve and keep me this day, every day, and to the end of my days, that I may not only be convinced of the truth, but really converted to it, and walk in the truth and persevere therein to the end, that I may be saved. Remember Lot’s wife; look not back to Sodom: walk in the light as children of light, with your faces Zionward; and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. ‘Ye were sometime darkness, but now (saith the Apostle) ye are light in the Lord’ O shine as stars in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. Shine in the beauties of holiness, and walk in the light of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, who was given for a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of his people Israel. He shall be the desire of all nations; the mighty Saviour, upon whom God hath laid help. Believe in him, cleave to him, and follow him. and you shall be saved, both from your sins, and from the wrath to come. ‘God is light (saith the Apostle John) in him is no darkness at all; if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we shall have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin;’ we know him to be the true Bock and the foundation of God, which standeth sure, and which will stand sure, in stormy and tempestuous times: blessed are they that build upon this foundation which God hath laid.
Blessed be God, which hath opened your eyes, and given you to see this sure foundation, which we must build all our hopes of salvation upon: and not upon any other foundation whatsoever. Not upon men’s arts, and parts, and human acquirements. O the unsearchable riches of Christ! that we may, and are only to covet and seek after; then we shall inherit substance indeed,,and may say of a truth, the Lord is good unto his people; He will satisfy them with his loving kindness, which is better than life, and surround them with his almighty arm, and be unto them as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Be not discouraged, notwithstanding the furious and impetuous assaults of your spiritual enemies; when God is pleased to arise for your help, your enemies shall be scattered. ‘In the world (saith our Saviour) ye shall have trouble, but in mo ye shall have peace; be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ Our Lord Jesus Christ conquered and triumphed over the world, and over principalities and powers, and death, and hell, and we shall overcome through him that hath loved us; his grace will be sufficient for us; let us wait for his salvation, and in order to it, wait to know, and then do his mind and will, and so redeem our time, and double our diligence, that we may improve our talents, and give up our account with joy And then if we are under doubts and fears, we may say with David, ‘ why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, for the help of his countenance.’ God is pleased to exercise his people many times with divers troubles, trials, and afflictions, to wean them from this world, and from an inordinate love to the pleasures and enjoyment of it, that their minds may not be drawn away by the things that are seen, which are temporal, from the things that are not seen, which are eternal. Let us take straight steps towards the glory that shall be revealed; that as every day we are a step nearer the grave, we may be also a step nearer to a blessed eternity. It was the voice of Moses the man of God, and that which he had in charge from heaven concerning the children of Israel, in their march towards Canaan, say unto the people, go forward ; there is a good land before you; a land flowing with milk and honey. The Lord was with them and wrought great things for them, and he hath also wrought great things for us. Let us all press therefore forward towards the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, till we come to that city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God; and that kingdom that cannot be shaken, which God hath prepared for them that love him. O that every one of you, upon a serious examination of yourselves, may find yourselves in a good state and condition towards God: travelling through the wilderness of this world, your eyes upon heaven. Let your prayers and strong cries be to the Lord for his help; for we are not sufficient of ourselves for any good word or work. It is his almighty arm and power only that can enable us to overcome our spiritual enemies, and to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; yea and to work in us, ..both to will and to do of his own good pleasure. And pray let us, with Moses, choose rather to suffer afflictions with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin fur a season: and turn our backs upon this world, and the glory of it; and live so, as seeing him that Is invisible. Let us follow them who, through faith and patience have inherited the promises. There are thousands of faithful witnesses gathered to their eternal rest; let us follow the foot-steps of the flock; that little flock, for which God hath prepared a kingdom. Take a prospect of heaven by the eye of faith, in the light of Christ Jesus; and behold the glory of God shining upon you in the face of Jesus Christ. Suffer not your hearts to cleave to this world, nor to any pleasure or enjoyment in it, that may be a snare and temptation to draw your minds and affections from the Giver to the gift. Live a self-denying life: keep your dominion, you that have it, over that which hath dominion over you, and then you may say, thy kingdom is come, and thy will is done, on earth as it is in heaven. Then the power of sin shall be subdued in your souls, and the body of sin, and death shall be destroyed; and as you have had cause to cry out, with the Apostle, ‘O wretched man that I am. who shall deliver me from the body of sin and death!’ so each of you will be able to rejoice, and say with him, I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord, I am made free from the law of sin and death. And my friends, when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be set a top of all the mountains, then shall you rejoice and praise his holy name.
O that the nations round about might come to the saving knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, which is life eternal. O look for the appearance and manifestation of the Son of God in your hearts, then you will admire and adore the mercy, justice, holiness, goodness, patience, and long suffering of God, which will lead you to repentance, then you will cry out and say God is just, God is merciful, God is holy, and abundant in goodness and truth; He hath made us sensible of the riches of bis goodness, and of his forbearance, patience, and long-suffering: I will bless and praise his holy, great and excellent name; and say,’ whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee; in thy favour is life, and thy loving Kindness is better than life,’ and that which I esteem above all tilings on the face of the earth. O friends, be you thankful to God for the manifestation of his love and mercy to you!
Take heed of an ungrateful spirit. Trust in the Lord and he will deliver you, and wound the hairy scalp of your enemies. Many have outlived their youthful greenness, and that tenderness they had when God first awakened them to consider their ways, and to seek after him with their whole heart. ‘I remember, saith the Lord by Jeremiah, the kindness of thy youth, and the day of thy espousals.’ God will remember you, if you remember his loving kindness, and have it ever before your eyes, and walk in his truth. When there was nothing but darkness in Egypt, there was light in Goshen, ‘ we (saith the Apostle) were sometimes darkness, but now we are light in the Lord:’ Let us walk as children of the light, and hate the works of darkness.
We that are made living witnesses of the power, and wisdom, and goodness of God, let us sink down into self abasement, and humility, and we shall feel the living openings of the spirit of truth in our own hearts, and receive with meekness that ingrafted word, in which is light and life, that is able to save our souls; and submit to the authority of God therein; and the word of Christ may dwell richly in us, and become the power of God to our salvation.
‘Now the God of peace which brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of his sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work, to do his will; working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, to whom be glory, praise, and thanksgiving, who alone is worthy, who is God over all, blessed for ever and ever.’ Amen.