A Beacon to the Society of Friends/Sermon X
Emptying the mind.
"He made it an ultimatum with his disciples to wait in deep humiliation of soul, till all creaturely things were swallowed up in oblivion in their minds. For till the vessel is empty, it is not fit to entertain the Holy Ghost, the light, life, and Spirit, of God Almighty. It must be first emptied of all combustible matter before man can be brought into a state to be taught true knowledge." p. 231.
Where did the Lord Jesus make this ultimatum; or teach the doctrine of the necessity of thus "emptying the vessel?" Is it not by the reception of the Spirit and the word, that the mind becomes enlightened; and filled with the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus? The light and truth of the Gospel, must chase away darkness and error from the mind of fallen man. The carnal mind is enmity itself, against spiritual light and truth; and it is only by the influence and power of the Holy Spirit, that the enmity is done away, and inclination for the light and truth of revelation is produced.
See under Ser. II. Ex. 7; Ser. V. Ex. 2; Ser. VI. Ex. 1; Ser. VII. Ex. 1, 2.
Translation of the Bible.
Those holy men, who, we acknowledge, wrote the Scriptures of truth, did it under the inspiring influence of God. — It is now generally considered that the translators were not inspired men, how then could they give the true meaning of those Scriptures, which were written, and never could be written through any other means, than by the aid of divine revelation? And nothing else is a recipient for divine revelation, but the rational souls of the children of men. Now we see how these translators destroy each other's work, and continue to worry one another, in respect to what was written, and about what language they are to give it in, to us who know not the languages? Now under this view of things, should we put any confidence in the writings of these men, who deny revelation, wholly so, except as it is said to be written? By which they criminate the Almighty, and cast an indignity upon him, declaring that he is a partial God; that he is so inconsiderate and cruel, respecting his rational creatures, that he does not yet reveal his will to them; but that all the revelation he affords was collected and given to view, several hundred years ago; and that now we being in the dark, are to receive all instruction in heavenly things from without!" p. 232.
The purpose of a faithful translator of the Bible, is to convey in another language, the same ideas which were conveyed by the language of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the "holy men of God, [who] spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." How well the translators of our version have accomplished this object, the most learned Christians, have abundantly shown. But the point aimed at in these extracts, is by any means, to undermine the Scriptures. A little while ago we were told, that better Scriptures could have been written; now, that the Scriptures were written under the inspiring influence of God, but their efficacy is lost to us by the translation.
What do we know of God, beyond that which he has been pleased to reveal to us in the Scriptures? The proud curiosity of man is not gratified by having it declared to him, in what manner God deals with those, to whom his testimonies have not been given: nor has it pleased God to shew us, the reason why men are employed to open the eyes of their fellow men, and diffuse the knowledge of salvation, — to sow, to plant, and to water, — rather than that this knowledge should be communicated immediately from himself. But we are told, in Scripture, that when Christ "ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And he gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ."
Unscriptural views of divine influence.
"We may know more by this gift within us, than we could have from all the books and men on the face of the earth, for in this little gift, which has been compared to a mustard seed, is the fulness of God." p. 238.
How insidious! how pernicious! What fearful delusions are the consequence of unscriptural views respecting divine influence! We earnestly desire that the exhibition of such sentiments may afford a salutary warning. When a man sets up a rule of his own above the attested revelation of the Spirit, there is no knowing into what extravagancies he may be carried. Is it not perfectly obvious, that if such a sentiment as this be once fully received, the very flood-gates are thrown open to the wildest fanaticism.
It is not, however, to be forgotten, that believers alone have the gift of the Spirit abiding in them. For although our Lord declares, that, when he [the Spirit of truth] is come, he shall reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, it is equally plain, according to the same authority, that the Holy Spirit dwells only in believers. — "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." For want of observing this important distinction, which our Lord so plainly makes, between reproving only, and dwelling with or abiding in; and also between the world, and believers in him, great confusion has arisen. Many other passages also incontestibly prove the same thing.
"Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts." Gal. iv. 6.
"Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you Now if any man have not the Spirit
of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up
Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." Rom. viii. 9-11.
"How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Luke, xi. 13.
"This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive" Jno. vii. 39.
"I will dwell in them." [believers] 2 Cor. vi. 16.
"I dwell — with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit." Isa. lvii. 15."That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." Eph. iii. 17.
"Repent, and be baptized — in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts, ii. 38.
"Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith." Gal. iii 2.
"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: — neither can he know them." 1 Cor. ii. 14.
See Ser. VI. p. 118.
The primitive disciples disparaged.
"As soon as the primitive disciples turned away from the true source of instruction, — the Spirit of truth in their own souls, — they set up another rule, and began to make creeds and confessions of faith; and every one who would not bow to their creed was to be banished or destroyed." p.p. 244, 245.
"The true source of instruction" to the Apostles was immediate, except as regards the Old Testament. — Our Lord declared "I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them," Jno. xvii. 8. And again, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." Jno. xvi. 12-14. But to us it is mediate. Again our Lord says, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." Nevertheless it is by the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, that we are disposed to receive that instruction. — See under Ser. IV. Ex. 4; Ser. II. Ex. 2; and likewise Ser. II. Ex. 3, where the case of Cornelius is adverted to. And consider also the case of Apollos, Acts, xviii. 24-28, where it is clearly shown that Aquila and Priscilla conveyed to him the knowledge, by which he was more perfectly instructed, and whereby he became an able minister of Christ. — See also the case of Timothy, 2 Tim. ii. 2; i. 13; iii. 14.
But an attempt is here made to disparage the primitive disciples, by charging them with the spirit of persecution. It might with truth be said, that errors and sects multiplied, when professors turned from the Gospel, mystified Christianity, and mixed with it the systems and traditions of men; putting their vain attempt of self-annihilation, for self-denial, and substituting the works of man, for the redemption purchased by Jesus Christ.
Wherever the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith, is neglected, the spirit of popery appears in some form or other. In proportion as Scriptural truth is embraced, the church will be brought into "the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God"
Papist and Mystic decry the study of Scripture.
"So it may be with every profession, — even among the Quakers; they may get so fixed in their judgments as to be deceived, and brought into a situation, through education and tradition, as to go back to the letter which killeth, and so as to become as much established in their view as the Romanist is, that it is not right to believe this or that, or to do this or that; and it would be a sin against God, if they acted thus, before their judgment had come to be informed right by the Spirit of truth; for nothing else can bring them off from their views, but that Spirit which makes them feel conviction for going counter to what they have set their judgments down in, by reading the letter, which none are to depend on; for the letter, if depended on, will kill the soul." pp. 246, 247.
Popery is often disclaimed, whilst the spirit of Popery is cherished. The Papist and the Mystic are more nearly allied than perhaps either of them imagines. They alike decry the free and diligent search of the Scriptures, and for the same reason — their dominion is alike supported by ignorance, and falls before "the truth." They resemble each other also in unwarrantably setting up the authority of the fathers, not to be sure the same fathers, but each their respective fathers; and in this they are akin to the Pharisees of old, who with regard to this very thing, received the severe reprehension of our Lord.
- See under Ser. VIII. Ex. 4. — "The letter killeth."