The Sure Foundation by William Penn (Click to enlarge)
[Editor’s note: I am adding these sermons by William Penn, not only for the historical context, but also, because they could very well have been preached by the ministers I have listened to all my life, same spirit, same messages. Truth is truth. no matter what time in history we live.]
A sermon preached at the Quakers’ Meeting:-House in Grace-Church Street, London, Oct. 10, 1694.
BY WILLIAM PENN, WITH HIS EXCELLENT PRAYER.
THE foundation of God standeth sure; and they that build sure, must build upon it. This hath been God’s great love to us, in this day, age and generation, that he has laid for us this sure foundation, that which in all ages the people of God have been built upon, and have been preserved in all the storms and tempests that have been raised, both from within and without. They who are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, are built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, ‘Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;’ in whom all the building fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord, Ephes. 2:20.
Friends, I exhort you in the name and power of the living God, mind this foundation, upon it do you build all your hopes of salvation. The living power and truth of the living God, is that which visited us in the beginning, and gathered us out of that which is evil, into that which is holy, pure and precious: blessed are you that feel, and experimentally know this visitation of the Lord, within you, from day to day, and from one season to another: this is that wherein stands your refreshment, your consolation, your succour and relief in all the times of temptation wherein the enemy of souls goes about, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.’ This subtle enemy is always waiting how he may break into God’s vineyard, and lay waste and spoil the heritage of the Lord; but by his divine Light and Spirit, and the Word of his Grace, they shall be preserved. This is the word which you read of in Rom. 10:8 and mentioned by Moses, Deut. 30:14. ‘The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart:’ that is, the word of faith which we preach, that is that word of God by which you and all God’s people have been preserved in all ages and generations. Here is the foundation of peace and love, of purity and holiness; they that come to build on this foundation, they see it to be a sure foundation, by the brightness of Christ’s appearance, by the manifestation of the son of God. For ‘God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.’ This is the foundation; in building upon which, our souls can find peace and satisfaction. This is revealed and made known by the sovereign almighty arm, and power and wisdom of the Eternal God. This is that which I would leave among you; build upon the right foundation, even upon the Lord Jesus Christ, the blessed Son of God. God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh; that you may all come to be justified freely; by his grace, and led by the spirit of God as the children of God: that you may walk in the spirit, and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, for ‘if ye live after the flesh (says the apostle) ye shall die; but if you through the spirit mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live’ Rom. 8:13. The spirit of God is a spirit of purity, holiness, righteousness and self-denial; that will lead you through the straight gate, and in the narrow way, that leads to life.
Friends, this is the work that God hath called you to, even to build upon the right foundation; this is the day of God’s love, the day of his power, wherein you are to be a willing people that this work may be carried on in your hearts, the knowledge you have in religion, it must be experimental; for historical knowledge only, will not do; for that is a knowledge of the concern of others, and not our own. Let us highly prize and value the saving knowledge of God, and Jesus Christ, which is life eternal: let us look unto Christ within us, who is the light that discovers the works of darkness, and leads us out of them. Know God’s foundation, and build well upon it, not hay and stubble, which will be consumed by fire. I beseech you, in the name of the everlasting God, build upon the true foundation, Christ within you, the hope of glory, which is a mystery hid from ages and generations. Our Lord Jesus Christ said to his disciples a little before his departure; ‘If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.’ It is he, that dwelt in the hearts of the primitive Christians of old, and it is he, that dwells in his people now; he can open in our hearts a living fountain, a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. The Lord Jesus Christ is the great physician, that can cure all our spiritual maladies, and he is willing and ready to help us: come under his teaching, and guidance, and he will show you the path of life, and lead you in the way everlasting. Behold, he stands at the door and knocks; do you open your hearts to him, and he will come in, and sup with you, and you with him. He is calling you to repentance, to turn from sin, and come to Him that you may have life; he will lay judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, and bring down the man of sin in us, and raise us up to the love of God, and faith in God; that we may deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts , and everything that is contrary to the mind of God, that so we may love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul. And if we love God with all our minds, we must not give our minds to anything else; and if we love God with all our might and strength, we must love nothing but in subordination to him: we must love all things in God, and love God above all things, then we shall come truly to know that the Lord is our God. Matt. 7:24. Our Saviour speaking of building upon the right foundation, ‘Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doth them; I will liken him to a wise man that built his house upon a Rock, (and this Rock is Christ himself,) and the rains decended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon the House, and it fell not; for it was founded on a rock.’ Such an one, that heareth Christ’s sayings, and doth them, he builds upon Christ the Rock of our salvation: upon this foundation did the holy patriarchs build; and upon this Rock and Foundation did the holy prophets build.
God told Elijah, 1 King 19:18. ‘Yet have I left seven thousand in Israel, that have not bowed unto Baal.’ Have a care of idolatry, of spiritual idolatry of loving any sin or lust: let Christ have your hearts, and the strength and flower of your love and affections, and build upon him alone who is the true foundation. Do not content yourselves with an external possession; labour to come and experience the work of regeneration, that you may know you are born again, born of the spirit, and are passed from death to life, and live in obedience to the commands of Christ, for he is the Author of eternal salvation, to all them that obey him. Have you known the terrors of the Lord? ask yourselves, am I so terrified, as to be persuaded to turn from that which would turn me from God? am I turned from that; which would eclipse God’s light in my soul? If thou art turned from sin to righteousness, thou art not a canter, thou art not an enthusiast; thou art a true child of God; and a work of regeneration is not only begun in thy soul, but thou art going on to perfection, and thou hast laid the foundation of repentance from dead works, and repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, our great mediator and redeemer, who is the way, the truth and the life: and if thou be faithful to death, he will give thee the crown of life.
Let us take heed to ourselves, and watch against the enemy of our souls, that he may not seduce us and bewilder us, and make us wander and lose our way, while we are travelling through the wilderness of this world, toward the heavenly Canaan. The same almighty arm, that brought us out of Egypt, will conduct us through the wilderness, and bring us safe to Canaan: our heavenly Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ, will be our captain and leader, and after all our labours and dangers and conflicts with potent enemies in our way, he will bring us to the good land, to that kingdom that cannot be shaken; that inheritance, that is incorruptible, and undefiled, and fadeth not away: then we shall know our lot, and sing praises, living praises, with joy in our hearts, and harps in our hands, and worship Him that liveth forever and ever, saying, ‘blessing, honour, and glory, and power, to him, that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever! worthy is the Lamb, that was slain, to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honour, glory, and blessing; who hath redeemed us to God by his blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;’ and hath made us to our God kings and priests.— We must now believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, with a faith that worketh by love; we cannot be saved by a dead faith, but by a living faith : and as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved from sin, and from the wrath to come: ‘unless you believe in me (said our Saviour to the Jews) ye shall die in your sins.’ They that live in their sins, will die in them: blessed are they that mortify their sins, and that die to sin, that they may die in the Lord, and live forever with the Lord! happy are they, that are found in Christ (in a dying hour) not having their own righteousness, they shall be accepted of God; not for any righteousness of their own, but for the righteousness of Christ, who hath all righteousness to justify us, and will by his spirit work righteousness in us, and will be sanctification to us, ‘ he that knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him ;’ and the apostle tells us, that Christ is made to us of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption: O glory, and honour, and eternal renown, be to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is all in all to us!
O friends, you that are an humble people, that mourn for sin, that are merciful, meek, and lowly, and poor in spirit, and pure in heart; our Lord Jesus Christ in his sermon on the mount hath pronounced a blessing on you: ‘blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven: blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted: blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth: blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy: blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ Matt. 5. O friends, you that have tasted, that the Lord is gracious, come unto Christ, as the true and sure Foundation : come unto him, as a Living Stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious; you also as lively stones, shall be built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ: unto you (saith the apostle) that believe, Christ is precious. Wherefore it is written, Isa. 28:16. ‘Thus saith the Lord God, behold I lay in Zion for a Foundation Stone, a tried Stone, a precious Corner Stone, a sure Foundation.’ He that believeth, shall not make haste: trust in this sure Foundation, you know that it hath never failed you. O lay not a new foundation, depart not from this sure Foundation, the Lord Jesus Christ; but say unto him, as Peter, when many disciples went back, and walked no more with him ; ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.’ Thus, by believing in Christ, and building upon this sure Foundation, you will bring honour and glory to his blessed name, and obtain salvation for your immortal souls.
Blessed is he that overcometh,(not he that is overcome,) he that overcometh, shall inherit all things. Blessed is he that overcometh the world, that overcomes the devil, and that overcometh sin, that overcomethh is lusts, his concupiscence, and all ungodliness and unrighteousness. Rev. 2:7. ‘To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.’ It is the desire of my soul, that you may overcome, and be more than conquerors, through Christ, that hath loved you and washed you from your sins, in his own blood: and that you persevere, and continue in well doing to the end of your days, and then lay down your heads in peace, and enter into an everlasting rest, where there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, nor mourning; but God shall wipe away all tears from your eyes. And you that have been mourners in Zion, shall sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty! just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints ; who shall not fear thee and glorify thy name, for thou only art holy!’
Thus, my friends, you will bless the Lord forever, that hath visited your souls, when you come to obtain, through our Lord Jesus Christ, salvation and eternal glory; and join in the innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, in celebrating the praises of his great and excellent name: who alone is worthy; who is God over all, blessed for ever more! Amen.
HIS PRAYER AFTER SERMON.
MOST Blessed, Glorious, Eternal and Incomprehensible Lord God, we desire to worship, and humbly adore thy excellent Majesty, whose gracious and favourable presence is with all thine, that wait upon thee, and desire to serve thee in the beauties of holiness. Thou hast mercifully made known thyself in this day of thy power and love, to a willing people, that delight to worship thee in spirit and in truth; the desire of whose souls is to thee only, and to the remembrance of thy name, that hunger and thirst, and look, and long for thy appearance.-— Blessed God, thou hast appeared, and thy appearance is glorious: Thou hast wonderfully appeared in the beams of gospel-light and grace, and caused not only the blessed gospel to dawn upon us, but thou hast been pleased to make thy glory to shine upon us, in the face of Jesus Christ, the dear Son of thy love; and by the mighty and powerful working of thy Holy Spirit, thou hast enlightened us with the saving knowledge of thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent, which is Life Eternal. The desire of our souls is after thee, more than after all things besides thee: Lord thou hast raised these living desires in our souls, and fervent breathings after thee, the living God. It is the most sincere and earnest desire of our souls to draw nigh to thee, that thou mayest draw nigh to us, and bless us; and that our services may be accepted, and well pleasing to thee through Jesus Christ. Lord, be graciously pleased to bow down thy people by thy mighty power, to a holy submission and resignation to thy heavenly will; and lift up the light of thy countenance upon all those, that breathe after communion with thee, that are thy peculiar people, and whom thou has set apart for thyself, and whom thou hast raised up to be monuments of thy mercy, and instruments of thy praise. There are many here present can say, that thou hast been very good unto them; thou hast caused joy to spring up in their souls in all the sorrows and troubles that have attended them. O how liberally hast thou distributed of thy light and love! thou hast opened a living fountain, and with living streams thou hast consolated and refreshed their souls, under their many trials and temptations. O God of my life, I beseech thee, bless all thy people, all that have believed in thy dear Son, Jesus Christ; draw nigh to all those that desire to come into the fellowship of thy truth; open thy hand, and dispense thy mercies liberally to us, that every one of us may know, that we receive from thy infinite fullness, and have all our supplies from thee. Let us be abundantly satisfied with thy loving kindness, which is better than life; and fed with the hidden manna; and eat of the bread that came down from Heaven, that whosoever eats of it shall never die, but live forever. Let thy mighty arm and power, O Lord, be revealed, and thy love shed abroad upon our hearts! preserve us and all thy people in the hollow of thy hand, and under thy Pavilion, from the fury and rage of the enemy, and from the strife of tongues. Compass us about with thy favour, as with a shield, and surround us with thine everlasting arms, that the enemy of our souls nay not approach us. O Lord, frustrate the designs of that adversary, that like a roaring lion goes about continually seeking whom he may devour. Lord hear all those that cry to thee in the depth of their distresses and afflictions, and help, and succour, and comfort, and support them, and deliver them in the needful time: show them the path of life; keep them from every evil way, and lead them in the way everlasting; and let them walk therein, and not be weary and faint in their minds; looking up to Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith; who for the joy, that was set before him, endured the cross, and despised the shame; who is a merciful high priest, that cannot but be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; that was tempted as we are, that he might succour those that are tempted. Let us follow the Captain of our salvation, who was made perfect through sufferings, having the kingdom of grace in our hearts, and kingdom of glory in our eyes; and by a patient continuance in well doing, seek after glory and honour, immortality and eternal life. Let thy kingdom come in power, and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven! we pray thee, sanctify all such opportunities, as these, unto thy people, and teach them to profit, and so to hear, that their Souls may live.
We cannot open the hearts of men; it is Thou, O Lord alone, that canst open their hearts: Thou hast the key of David, that canst open, and none can shut; and shut, and none can open. Man can do nothing of himself; it is thou, O Lord, that dost all. Prosper the labours of thy servants in the ministry of this nation, and in all the nations that are nigh, and afar off, where any are gathered to wait Upon thee: Lord, be thou in the midst of them; let every plant of thine own planting, grow, and bring forth fruit to thy praise. Send forth thy light, arid thy truth, and let thy glorious gospel have a free course, and be glorified. Be with those that cannot come to the solemn assemblies of thy people, let them be taught of God: those that lie upon beds of languishing, do thou heal and recover them; let them near the voice of thy rod, and not only receive correction, but instruction, and be taught by thy Spirit to improve their afflictions, that they may thankfully and joyfully say, it is good for us that we were afflicted. Pity “those that are wounded with the sense of their sin, and pour oil into their wounds and speak peace unto them, and pardon, and wash them in the precious blood of Jesus, which cleanseth from all sin; and prepare them for the everlasting enjoyment of thyself in the region of blessedness, where all tears shall be wiped from their eyes, and sorrow and sighing shall be no more. Let the knowledge of the Lord cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea: finish transgression, and make an end of sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness! Lord, let the fear and dread of thy blessed majesty fill the hearts of all the inhabitants of this land, that thou mayest delight to dwell in the midst of us, and bless us. O Lord God Almighty, be pleased to go along with us, to the respective places of our abode, and let thy presence abide with us; and let salvation be for walls and bulwarks round about us! Lord, sprinkle the posts of the doors of thy servants, and sprinkle our hearts and consciences with the blood of the Immaculate Lamb, that the destroying angel may pass by: and preserve all thy people in the hollow of thy hand, and under the wing of thy love, that they may lie down in peace and safety, and extol and magnify thy great and excellent name, who hast extended thy favour to them and preserved them, when they have passed through the great waters, and mighty deeps, where thou hast showed them thy wonderful power, and great salvation: let their souls magnify thy name, and their spirits rejoice in thee, their God and Saviour, who didst preserve thy people Israel at the sea, even at the Red sea, and caused the waters on the right hand and on the left, to stand up as a wall, while they passed through the sea on dry land, and made their hearts glad, and to rejoice in thy great salvation, and triumph in thy praise. Honour and glory be ascribed to thy great and holy name, for that, thou hast of late delivered thy people as in days of old. Let them not go back again into Egypt; but be travelling on to the heavenly Canaan; and in thy good time do thou give them rest, after all their labours, travels, distresses and troubles; and let them sit down under their vines and fig-trees, and eat the fruits of their own labours; and of thy bounty and beneficence, and glorify thy name* with solemn praises, and heavenly conversation. And, blessed God, satisfy the desires of their souls, with respect to their inward, and spiritual state and condition, whose minds are exercised, about making their calling and election sure; that they may at last obtain life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Those that have been gathered, and brought to the knowledge of the truth, let them be continued in it, and enjoy heavenly fellowship and communion with thee, and the openings of divine life and love, while they are in their pilgrimage; that they may lay down their heads in peace, and render to Thee, through thy dear Son, Christ Jesus, thy Lamb, and our Light and Leader, (who is both our priest and sacrifice,) glory, honour, dominion and praise, who alone is worthy, and is God over all, blessed forever and ever! Amen.
Reference: The Harmony of Divine Doctrines: Demonstrated in Sundry Declarations on a variety of subjects. Preached at the Quakers’ Meetings in London. By William Penn