The Truth is Timeless
A Sermon preached at the Quakers’ Meeting-House, in Wheelers-Street, London, Jan. 27, 1694.
BY WILLIAM PENN.
THE great end for which God hath in all ages and generations visited the sons and daughters of men, hath been to bring them home to himself; to make man and woman sensible of that duty which they owe to God, to their neighbors and to themselves. And in order to effect this, great hath been God’s love, and manifold have been his mercies: he hath not taken man at his word, neither would he be put off at once, twice, or thrice, but repeated have been the visitations of God, and the calls of God in every age and generation of the world, according to the various administrations thereof; yea, the Lord hath waited to be good and gracious to mankind from the beginning.
And now, my Friends, we have not only the testimony of the holy records of the scriptures of truth, but we have our own experience to exalt God’s love by : we in our day, we mankind in our age and generation; we can say that God is good, we can say that God is a long suffering God, and that God is a God of patience, and that he is a God of mercy, and that he hath waited long to be gracious to us, or we had been cutoff long ago, and taken out of the land of the living. I would have all those that have not laid hold of the long suffering of God, but have made light of it, not to do so any longer, but that the long-suffering of God might lead them to repentance, and bring salvation to them; that they would lay hold of the time and blessed opportunities which God giveth them, and hearken to the voice of the Charmer, and give ear to the voice of God, and seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near to hear them, while he is near to help them, while he is near to save them. This is the experience we have bad, the Lord hath visited us and touched us, and made us sensible of his love and kindness to us, in his gathering of us; and that he hath made us nigh, that were afar off; and that those that are not convinced, may be made sensible of their sin ; and those that are convinced, may be converted; and those that are converted, may persevere to the end, and receive the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls, is our travail.
Let all that are really convinced of the evil of their ways and doings, of their wantonness, worldliness, malice and bitterness, strife and envyings and animosities, and those things that the light of Christ in their own consciences condemn them for; let all that lire in such a state of conviction turn from that evil they are convinced of.
But here is the sin, and misery, and ruin of many men and women, they flatter themselves into hell, with their false hopes of heaven: They hope to live eternally happy by the death of Christ, and yet they will not leave one sin for the love of Christ; so that sin and death reign over them. They that will not mortify sin, and die to sin here, must die for their sins hereafter. It is only unpardoned sin that will sink men into perdition. They that have a mournful sense of sin, and a true contrition for it, they will humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, who will exalt them in due time. They breathe forth holy desires, and lift up their hearts to God. and say,’ Lord, I am as clay in the hands of the potter, O fashion and shape me, that I may be an honourable vessel in thy house, that I may be fit to glorify thee, and shew forth thy praise:’ ‘Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, for they will be still praising thee;’ they offer praise and glorify thee here for a short time, and thou wilt glorify them to eternity. God called Abraham, the father of the faithful, out of his own land, a land of idolatry; he obeyed the voice of God,, went into a strange country and followed the Lord, not knowing whither he went: So God calls the sons and daughters of men out of their sin and transgression, that they may come to a land that flows with milk and honey; that after all their wearisome labours and travels, through the wilderness of this world, they might come to an everlasting rest, and obtain salvation for their immortal souls. They that come to be convinced of the evil of their ways, and turn from them, that bitterly bewail their sins, and lament and mourn for their transgressions, and turn to the Lord with all their hearts; it may be said concerning such, these have learned that divine arithmetic, of numbering their days, and applying their hearts to true wisdom: These are the persons that take heed to their ways, and turn their fact to God’s testimonies. They take more care, and are more concerned for their souls, than for all the perishing things of this world. Such an one will say, my soul is more worth, than ten thousand worlds: ‘What will it profit me to gain the whole world, and lose mine own soul? Or what shall I give in exchange for my soul?’ What is this world but an empty bubble, a shadow that flies away? All its glittering profits, and charming pleasures, and delusory honours, that appear great to a carnal eye, how quickly do they vanish and disappear, and afford no true satisfaction to them that admire them, and pursue after them? ‘Vanity of vanities (saith the wisest of men). Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, and vexation of spirit!’ But worldly minded men, that set their hearts upon this world, they are not for these holy reflections; but the truly convinced men and women, that are touched with a deep sense of their misery, and of their own erring and straying, and wandering from God’s holy ways, that fear to sin and provoke the Lord, and stir up the indignation of the Almighty, they love to reflect upon themselves, and to consider their ways, and turn to the Lord, and to set their faces Zionward: I say to all such persons, travel on, the Lord hath been gracious to you.
O improve your precious time! You know not how few days you have yet remaining to run your great race in. ‘To day, while it is called to day, if you will hear the voice of God, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness.’ Let none of you be careless and black, but let every one of you consider your latter end, consider how far you have done the work of God and whether you have been working out your own salvation, with fear and trembling, and give all diligence to make your calling and election sure; that when you come to lay down your heads, it may be as conquerors that have fought the good fight, and overcome the enemy of your souls.
O Friends, we have a great and subtle enemy: If we be secure, and keep not our watch, he will surprise us and overcome us; but if we resist him, and fight against him, we shall overcome him, through Christ that hath loved us. ‘O wretched man that I am, (saith the Apostle) who shall deliver me? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord;’ He will deliver me from this great Goliah, that hath led me captive at his will. It is Christ that stands at the door of my heart and knocks, and bids me open to him that will be my deliverer: It is he of whom, David was a type, he will deliver me, and enable me to overcome that Goliah, that grand enemy of my soul. When the sons of Jesse came before Samuel, one of whom God had appointed him to anoint king over Israel, the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature, because I have refused him, for the Lord seeth not as man seeth: for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart: and Jesse, made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel, and he said to Jesse, the Lord hath not chosen these: then he sent and brought David, his youngest son, a keeper of sheep, and he was anointed king.’ He was little in stature, and ruddy, and withal of beautiful countenance and complexion; yet was strong in heart, and of great courage; of a wise and heavenly mind, that lived in the fear of the Lord, and also a man after God’s own heart. When he came to fight Goliah, that monstrous giant, that defied the armies of the living God, king Saul armed young David with his own armour, and put an helmet of brass upon his head, and also put on him a coat of mail, and he girded his sword upon his armour. And David put them off him, and said to Saul, I cannot go with these, for I have not proved them. David fights Goliah after his own manner, out of the road of the mighty, and of the great ones of the earth: ‘he took only his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, and his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine: and when Goliah saw David, he despised him, for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance; then said David to the Philistine, thou comest to me with a sword and a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, whom thou hast defied; this day will the Lord deliver thee into my hand: and David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone and slang it, and smote the Philistine in the forehead, and the stone sunk into his forehead, and he fell upon his face to the earth; so David prevailed over Goliah, with a sling and a stone, and smote him, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.’ Thus he conquered that great giant, though he was little and despised. So our Lord Jesus Christ (of whom David was a type) when he came into the world, he was rejected and despised of men; but notwithstanding, there were many that beheld his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
My Friends, it is Christ that hath conquered the devil, that Goliah and great enemy of our souls: he hath spoiled principalities and powers, and overcome death, and hell, and all the powers of darkness: we also obtain the victory and are made more than conquerors, through the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Captain of our salvation. We are a people of his setting up: it is not by strength and human wisdom, not by arts and parts, and academical acquirements; not by power and might; but by the Spirit of the Lord, that we are enabled to overcome the enemies of our salvation, sin, hell, and the grave, and to triumph in the power of God, and sing the song of Moses, and the song of the Lamb, a song of deliverance. But before we come to sing this song of Moses, there must be first a mourning state, an humbling of ourselves, and a bowing down before the Lord ; we must say with the returning prodigal, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son:’ and we may say, as the centurion, ‘Lord I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof.’ The power of divine truth must lay us low, and sink us into a deep humility; they that come not to hear the voice of judgment, can never enjoy mercy of the Lord, nor know the working of God upon their souls effectually to salvation. Yet he will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, till judgment break forth into victory. Where judgment hath not victory, nor patience its perfect work, people will not be patient, under God’s judgment. But ‘ Zion must be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. This is promised to the citizens of Zion, and Jerusalem shall be the praise of the whole earth. Then they shall sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, a song of deliverance and redemption. The Apostle Paul sung this song, after he was sensible of his miserable state. ‘O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death! I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death.’
All are in a condemned state out of Christ; but when once in Christ, there are new thoughts, new desires, and new will and affections. Then we shall shake; off every weight and burden, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is before us, and deny ourselves, and take up the cross of Christ, and follow him, and learn of him a holy resignation to the will of our heavenly Father; and say with him, ‘Not my will but thy will be done.’ Thus God gathered a people in the beginning, and thus he reacheth people now, and is gathering a people to this day.
Blessed are they that live and walk according to the ministration of the grace of God in their hearts, and that come, by Christ, to be made free from the law of sin and death. It is Christ alone that giveth grace and truth in the inward parts, to make us free; and that giveth us power against the enemy: And though the devil our enemy be too mighty for us, he is not too mighty for Christ, who is mighty to save, and to save to the uttermost too, all that come unto God by him. Our Lord Jesus foiled the enemy in all his assaults, and conquered him by his divine power, even then when he ‘ was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.’ The tempter knew he was hungry, he knew he wanted sustenance: ‘If thou be the Son of God, (said he, ‘command that these stones be made bread.’ But he answered and said, ‘It is written, man liveth not by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ Then he attacks him, and ‘taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written he shall give his angels charge concerning thee, lest at any time thou shouldst dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’ Then again the devil assaulted him, ‘ and taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee behind me, satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.’ Thus our blessed Lord overcame the devil, and vanquished him in all his assaults and temptations. ‘Then the dev.il leaveth him, and behold angels came and ministered unto him.’
This is an emblem of what Christ will do for all his followers, that open the door of their hearts to him: He will enable them to overcome the devil when he does attack them; and to conquer that enemy that hath sometimes overcome them. He will put upon them the whole armour of God, and they shall be able to stand in the evil day, having their loins girt about with truth, and having on tie breast-plate of righteousness, and having the shield of faith, wherewith they shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; and the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God ‘Pray always, with all prayer and supplication in the-Spirit, watching thereunto, with all perseverance. ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ will preserve his people under his pavilion, and cover them under the shadow of his wings, all those that make their applications to him, and obey him, and submit to him, when he reproves them for sin. If they turn from their evil ways, they shall know his power that overcometh the world, and all the powers of darkness, and obtain salvation from sin, and from the wrath to come. Take away the cause, and the effect ceaseth: Can you hope to escape the wrath of God, while sin, that is the cause, remains? This is as great a contradiction as the doctrine of transubstantiation, that a thing is, and is not, at the same time. O that people would come to be wise, and in this their day consider the things that belong to their eternal peace, before they are hid from their eyes!
God hath given Christ to be a Redeemer to us, to finish transgression, and make an end of sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness; and behold Christ stands at the door and knocks; if you open the door of your hearts and let him in, he will bind the strong man, and spoil him of his goods, and cast him out, and take possession for himself. My Friends! you that have heard the call of God, and obeyed the voice of your Maker, and known the operation of his divine hand; you that have known the work of conviction and conversion, and do persevere to the end, happy are ye. You do not know how soon God may call you. The time past is gone, only the present time is yours. Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation, let none harden their hearts, now is the time wherein we are to act for eternity. Now we have time and opportunity, for the saving of our souls; we are shortly to go out of this world, and the Lord will call us to account for our time, and all the talents which he hath given to us. O that we may so live as to give up our account with joy! It is the desire of my soul that all the opportunies and seasons of grace we now enjoy, may bring us nearer to God, and bring us to a better frame of spirit; that we may acquaint ourselves with God, and be at peace. Thus saith the Lord by the prophet, ‘Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you.’ As men come to turn from their sins, and from the evil of their ways and doings, they shall come to know the mystery of God’s salvation revealed to them. ‘The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant.’ O keep yourselves from iniquity, and say when a temptation presents itself, ‘How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?’ Do not rush into sin, as a horse into battle, with a brutish violence; not considering that death is before him. Do not indulge yourselves in any sin; do not gratify your lusts, and passions, and appetites, but keep them under government. Be of a considerate heart and mind, having the fear of God before your eyes, that you may say with the Psalmist, Psal. Xvi. 8, ‘I have set the Lord always before me, he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.’ The enemy shall not move me, not hurt me, nor prevail against me; he cannot ensnare me. If I set the Lord always before me, I shall not want power and ability to resist the devil and overcome him. Those that have set the Lord before them, he will be at their right hand, and they shall know and experience his preserving arm and power in the time of affliction and distress, and losses, and crosses, and disappointments: And in time of great calamities, God will be present with his people; even in the night season, he will sweetly refresh them, with the sense of his love, and lift up the light of his countenance upon them.
‘Take therefore,’ Friends, ‘no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,’ Matt. vi. 34, whether they be moral evils, or providential evils; the evils we do, or the evils we suffer; the evils and sins we commit, or the evils that God by his providential hand inflicts upon us. Upon our repentance God will graciously pardon the one, and assist us by his grace to bear the other. God will help us by his grace and Spirit to overcome moral evils, to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. What hope is that which the apostle there mentions? (Tit. ii. 15,) It is the hope of the glory of heaven and eternal happiness: That we shall come to ‘ Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born, who are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel.’
This world is but an inn, and we must not think to dwell here. We are travelling in the way to heaven, the undefiled way; and glory, immortality, and eternal blessedness are our mark we aim at; the recompense of reward, and the eternal inheritance. Christ the forerunner, that shall be the desire of all nations, is gone before us, and we cannot be followers of him, if we walk in pride, envy, covetousness; we must learn of him to be humble, meek. and lowly, and bow to the name and authority of Jesus; to submit to his sceptre and government. Let us walk in the way of holiness, humility, self denial, and take up the cross, and be crucified with Christ, and glory in the cross of Christ by which we are crucified to the world, and the world to us; and then we walk in the way that leads to heaven and glory; and look up to the things which are not seen, which are eternal.
Dear Friends, take heed of visible things have a care that you stumble not on things below, that are temporal; but look up to the things that are invisible and eternal, and lay up treasure above, against a stormy day. There are many that build upon a sandy foundation, and not upon Christ, the rock of ages, the chief corner stone. Such are likened by our Saviour to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. and the rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. These were among the foolish virgins, they had lamps and made a profession, but a mere profession will not do. The graces of the Spirit of God, and the life of the Son of God, leads ta a life of righteousness and holiness; that is the oil of the lamp which they wanted. Blessed are they that have this oil in their lamps; they that have it not, let them make haste to buy before it be too late, when time shall be no more. And you that have it, see that your lights continue to shine before men, and thereby glorify your heavenly Father. It is the desire of every honest hearted Christian, that this light may shine and cover the nations, according to the prayer of the royal Psalmist, that ancient servant of God, ‘Lord send forth thy light arid thy truth.’ Where must this light go forth? It must shine forth of your hearts, and lives and conversations, that people may say concerning you, God is with them, of a truth. O Friends, answer the love and kindness of God, in this day of your visitation! If ever God appeareth in any age, he bath hath eminently appeared in this of ours. He called, and qualified, and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel, a company of poor, unlearned, and illiterate men, and he hath given them power, and they have gone out in the name of the Lord; without academical education, without logic and philosophy, arts and acquired parts, and they have declared the whole counsel of God. I wish that every one may know the day of their visitation. They that will not bow to the mercy of God, shall bow to his judgments. Dost thou think, O man, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God, if thou despisest the riches of his goodness? No; God will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, that obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doth evil: of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile; for there is no respect of persons with God.
When the Pharisees sent out men to ensnare and entrap our Lord Jesus Christ, they were astonished at his doctrine, and declared to those that sent them, ‘Never man spake like this man.’ He had reached their hearts and spoken to their consciences. When our Saviour had declared himself to be the bread of life to believers, John vi. 51, many of the disciples departed from him. ‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever: and the bread that 1 will give him, is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world. Then many of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is 4 hard saying, who can bear it? As the living Father bath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me even he shall live by me. It is the Spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life. From that time many of bis disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, will ye also go away? And Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life?’ We did not want words, we wanted life. Thou hast living words, the words of eternal life dwell with thee. ‘In him is life, (saith the Apostle John) and the life is the light of men.’ And our Saviour says, Mark x. 29, ‘And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life. Peter said unto him, Behold we have left all and followed thee, what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ I have sometimes told you, that man’s travel in this world is like Jacob’s ladder; we ought to ascend every day one step towards heaven: Every day is a step towards our latter end, and towards the grave; let then every day be a step towards God and heaven.
O you young ones! It is my heart’s desire and prayer, that you may be saved in the great day of the Lord Jesus; that you may now have an holy tenderness and brokenness of heart, and that you ‘may receive the truth in the love of it; and love ‘the truth as it is in Jesus, and serve the Lord in your generation. It is not the faith of your parents will save you, nor will their well-doing recommend you to God. You must walk in the same path of life, and take up your cross also, and follow Christ, and then God will take delight in you, and consecrate you vessels of honour in his house; and you shall declare and tell of the goodness and loving kindness of God, and of his wonderful works, to the generations that are to come after, when your parents’ beads are laid in the grave.
O you young ones! I tell you once more, it is my hearty desire and prayer to God for you, that ye may be followers of them who through faith and patience do inherit the promises; that you may receive the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I speak to you all, that make a profession of the truth as it is in Jesus. Let all that converse with you behold your holy walking, be witnesses of your watchfulness and tenderness, and observe with what a holy fear, and awe, and reverence of God, you carry yourselves; that their consciences may witness for you and say, Well, these people are such as truly fear the Lord, and have religion not only in their mouths, but at their very hearts: These are Christians indeed, Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile. This, Friends, is the way to approve yourselves to God and men, and to your own consciences. God will then bless you in your trades and callings, and in your basket and store, when you do all you do in the name of Christ, and to the praise and glory of the eternal and ever-blessed God.
O my Friends, have a care that none out-live that tender state that God brought them into in the beginning, but let every one of you stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free: I speak both to you and your children; stand fast in this liberty: ‘If ye be circumcised, (saith the apostle,) Christ shall profit you nothing.’ So I say to you, if ye go back again to the spirit of the world, and be conformed to the world. Christ shall profit you nothing. Let none look back, as Lot’s wife did, lest they also become a standing monument of God’s judgments. O take heed of the accursed thing, the lusts of your own hearts, these enemies of your own peace, that would not that Christ should reign over you; ‘Bring them forth, (saith Christ,) and slay them before me.’
Blessed be the Lord, that hath given us the liberty that we see this day: God is pleased to renew his mercies every day, from one season and opportunity to another.
It is the most ardent desire of my soul, and I earnestly beseech the Lord, that you may all here present feel and enjoy the blessing of our great High Priest before you go. O you that know the Lord Christ Jesus to be your high priest, come and be anointed of him. The ointment that was on Aaron’s head ran down to the skirts of his garments. O bring your lamps to Christ your blessed high priest, and he will give you oil to fill them: Yea, he will sprinkle you with his blood, and bring you into the holy of holies. He is a good Shepherd, that will feed you, and bring you into green pastures; and when you are filled and satisfied with the fatness of his house, he will make you drink of the rivers of his pleasures, and bring you to the fold of eternal rest. But to the wicked he will say, ‘Depart ye cursed:’ here is no room for you in these mansions of glory. He will cast them into utter darkness.
O my Friends, let your souls bless the Lord, and all that is within you praise his holy name. Let your hearts and tongues extol and magnify him; and let your lips and lives show forth his praise; and say with the Psalmist, ‘Holiness becomes thy house, O God, for ever.’ I will adore and worship Thee in the beauties of holiness, with the lowest humility, and highest admiration: For thou are worthy of all honour, glory, praise, dominion and thanksgiving, who art God over all, blessed for ever and ever. Amen.