A Sermon preached at the Quakers Meeting-House in Grace-Church-Street, London, January 16, 1694.
BY WILLIAM PENN.
THE life of man and woman is compared unto a race that is to be run; and unto a post, that makes haste: And our daily experience confirms, what the Holy Ghost hath lively set forth and expressed to us by the holy men of God in several ages and generations. We are all of us that are here this day, running our natural race; our time is speeding on, and we are every day a step nearer to the grave. God requires, that we will every day draw nigh to him: Blessed are all those, that are every day a step nearer to God, as well as a step nearer to the grave, and to eternity! If you draw nigh to God he will draw nigh to you, and turn every one of you from your iniquities, and keep you from returning to folly.
Friends, of ourselves we can do nothing, except the Lord be present with us, and strengthen and uphold us: Blessed are those, that live in an humble sense of their own insufficiency, and are in a true poverty of spirit, and as the light of every morning appears, are waiting upon God, as a watchman waits for the morning. I say wait upon him, for the lifting up of the light of his countenance: «They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not wax faint,’ while they walk in the way of holiness, that leads to eternal blessedness.
All those who are faithful and approved of God at this day, they will not want the presence of the Lord with them, and his hand to uphold them: He will be a God nigh at hand to all, that are true travellers with their faces Zion-ward. All that are travellers to a blessed eternity, to that world that shall never have an end. These shall never want the divine presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God; concerning whom God saith, ‘I will give him for a light and a leader, a king and lawgiver.’ Now all you, who obey his voice, and come under his holy conduct and teaching, and have denied yourselves, and resolved to take up his cross, and follow him, and will not be ashamed of his cross, but glory in it; I testify to you from the Lord, that God is with you, and will be with you if faithful. He is such a leader as will lead you in the way of righteousness, and in the midst of the paths of judgment: He will fill your treasures, and make you to inherit substance.
O my Friends! you cannot imagine, what peace and joy, and divine consolation, there is in such a good state and condition, when you have the witness within yourselves, that you give up your hearts to God! God will be always present with you, and withhold no good thing from you: This is my testimony to you this day. O gird up the loins of your minds; be sober and hope to the end. Take heed to your ways, and turn your feet to God’s testimonies, while you are in your heavenly race; turn neither to the right hand, nor to the left, but so run, that you may obtain. There is a running where people may miss the prize and fall short; and there is a running where they may obtain the crown. ‘Let us therefore lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth easily beset us; and run with patience that race that is set before us; looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, and despised the shame.’ Let us have an eye to Christ, the great Captain of our salvation, and we shall be sensible of his living presence and feel his everlasting arms, to uphold us. If we press forward, and strive to enter in at the straight gate, we shall receive the recompense of reward, after all our sufferings, afflictions, poverty, troubles, tribulations, scoffings, cruel mockings, reproach, buffetings, losses and crosses, and persecutions, that we have undergone in this world for Christ’s sake. O let none of us be dejected or discouraged, but wait for the salvation of God. Take no thought for the morrow, let the morrow take thought for the things of itself: Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Let your affections be set upon things above, and not carried after perishing things here below: When temptations do assault you, they shall not prevail; for you shall experience with the apostle Paul, that ‘the grace of God will be sufficient for you.’ Blessed be the name of the Lord for ever, who hath engaged by promise to support and fortify his people in the hour of temptation. While we live in this world, trials and troubles, temptations and tribulations will attend us; we shall not be out of the reach of them on this side the grave. ‘Your adversary, the devil, goes about like a roaring lion, continually seeking whom he may devour; whom resist, being steadfast in faith;’ and you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the devil, and be more than conquerors through Christ that hath loved you.
And when you come to the New Jerusalem, into the strong city of God, you shall sing songs of praise and thanksgiving to your great Deliverer, and have salvation for walls and bulwarks round about you, and triumph in his praise, who hath dealt bountifully with you, and by his mighty arm hath done wonderful things for you, and remembered you in your low estate; because his mercy endureth for ever.
Such was the infidelity, rebellion, and ingratitude of Israel of old, while they were in the wilderness, ‘fed with quails and manna from heaven,’ Psal. cv. 15, and supplied with water out of the rock, by a miraculous providence, yet they murmured against the Lord, and they entered not into the good land, because of their unbelief. Take heed of shutting yourselves out of the celestial Canaan, by your unbelief and disobedience. As in your natural race you are every day one step nearer the grave, so in your spiritual race, be every day advancing in your progress towards a blessed eternity; that when you come to die, and leave this world, you may live eternally, and be for ever with the Lord. O live now as an experienced and concerned people, that you may be of the number of the wise virgins, who have oil in their lamps and in their vessels; and that you may in all approaches to God be found \ spiritual worshippers, and offer up to him a pure offering, that your prayers may be as incense and sweet odors, most acceptable to him through the intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Mediator, who is the king of saints. Submit to his sceptre and government, as an obedient and willing people, that you may take sanctuary in his mighty name, who is called Jesus, the mighty Saviour, who will save his people from their sins and from the wrath to come.
When you are concerned deeply about your spiritual and eternal state, and cry out, ‘What shall we do to be saved?’ And when you are humble and afflicted for your sins, he will deal tenderly with you, and have compassion on you: For ‘be will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax:’ He shall bring forth judgment unto truth. But many are stopt in the way, because judgment hath not its perfect work. They are not yet humbled under the mighty hand of God, and will not submit to the Lord Jesus Christ, but say obstinately ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ But our Lord Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, saith concerning such, ‘But those mine enemies, that will not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.’ Matt. xix. 27.
O Friends, let us all be a willing people, and take Christ for our Saviour and Sovereign, who is our rightful Lord; ‘who died (saith the apostle) and revived, and rose again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.’ Let us live to Christ, that died for us; live to him here, and we shall live with him for ever. Let our souls praise the Lord, and all that is within us bless his holy name, that hath sent his Son from heaven to seek and to save us chat were lost, and to redeem us from all iniquity, that we might be a peculiar people zealous of good works. Blessed be God, who daily loadeth us with his benefits and blessings! And blessed be Christ, our Redeemer, the Lord of life, who hath invited us to come to him, that we might have life; that we may eat of the fruit of the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations: that we may sit under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit will be sweet unto oar taste. Our Lord Jesus will feed us with heavenly manna, and with honey out of the rock of our salvation, and the true and living bread, that came down from heaven: he will make us a ‘feast of fat things, and with wine on the lees well refined.’ O remember the loving kindness of God, let it ever be before your eyes, that you may walk in his truth, as the royal Psalmist speaks. And when the meeting is over, keep your watch, and let not the spirit of the world, nor the prince of the power of the air, that rules in the children of disobedience, hinder the good seed (the word) from taking root; and bringing forth fruit, that may abound to God’s eternal glory and praise, and your everlasting consolation.
O Friends, live for heaven and eternity, and labour abundantly in the work of the Lord; and you shall know to your joy and comfort, that your labour shall not be in vain. Do you now follow your works while you live, and your works shall follow you when you die. Rev. xiii. 7. Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, for they shall rest from their labours, and their works follow them.’ I would not have you think, that I put you upon any depending upon your own (best) works; for if we do any good work, it is by the help and assistance of the Spirit of Christ, by whose power alone we are enabled to do it. It is by the strength and power of Christ Jesus, in whom we believe: It is by that strength and power, that we derive from him, that we are kept faithful to the death, that we may obtain the crown of life. It is by Christ alone, the great Captain of our salvation, that we must conquer our spiritual enemies, resist the devil, and overcome the world, and be more than conquerors; that persevering in holiness to the end of our days, we may say with the apostle Paul, when we come to die, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also, that love his appearing.’
Therefore I beseech you all, to give all diligence, to make your calling and election sure, and so run in your heavenly race, as to press forward, towards the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, that you may obtain life eternal. ‘The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men; and God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life.’ And the invitation is made to all: ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth.’ Salvation is offered to all, and the means of obtaining it, is by faith in Christ Jesus, the dear and blessed Son of God, who was born of the Virgin Mary, and took our nature, as the son of David and the seed of Abraham. As he was made man, he was a confinable being; but he is also both God and man, so he is infinite and eternal, God over all, blessed for ever! Come then to Christ, that you may have life and quickening vital influence from him, and of his fulness, receive grace for grace: Come to the blood of Jesus, that purifying fountain, to wash you from all your sins, and wipe off all your old scores. Christ is made not only wisdom and righteousness, but sanctification and redemption to us: ‘We are justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption, that is in Jesus Christ.’
‘Walk in love (saith the apostle) as Christ also hath loved us, and given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. God offers salvation to us in Christ, the second Adam, who only can redeem us from that bondage and misery, which the first Adam by his fall and apostacy brought on all mankind.
Christ is the only Saviour of sinners, and the author of eternal salvation to all them that believe in him and obey him. This is the generation of them that seek the Lord, they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who came from heaven to show them the way thither, and came to seek and save them that were lost. ‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in: Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty’ in battle;’ the Lord Jesus Christ, who is mighty to save our souls, and to subdue all the enemies of our salvation.
‘Now unto him that hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to whom be glory and dominion, for ever and ever.’ Amen.