Copyright
William Evans.

The Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) online

. (page 45 of 105)
Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) → online text (page 45 of 105)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


to be borne.

Fourthly, What is the great work and busi-
ness of the cross. In which the sins it cruci-
fies, with the mischiefs that attend them, will
be at large expressed.

Fifthly and lastly, I shall add many testi-
monies from living and dying persons, of great
reputation, either for their quality, learning, or
piety, as a general confirmation of the whole
tract.
J To the first, What is the cross of Christ ?

1. The cross of Christ is a figurative speech,
borrowed from the outward tree, or wooden
cross, on which Christ submitted to the will of
God, in permitting him to suffer death at
the hands of evil men. The cross mystical
is that divine grace and power, which crosses
the carnal wills of men, gives a contradiction
to their corrupt affections, and constantly
opposeth itself to the inordinate and fleshly
appetite of their minds; and so may be justly
termed the instrument of man's holy dying
to the world, and being made conformable
to the will of God. Nothing else can mortify
sin, or make it easy for us to submit to the
divine will, in things otherwise very contrary
to our own.

2. The preaching of the cross in primitive
times, was fitly called by Paul, that famous
and skilful apostle in spiritual things, the
power of God, though to them that perish,
it was then, as now, foolishness. That is, to
those who were truly weary and heavy laden,
and needed a deliverer, to whom sin was
burdensome and odious ; the preaching of the
cross, by which sin was to be mortified, was
the power of God, or a preaching of the divine
power, by which they were made disciples of
Christ, and children of God : and it wrought
so powerfully upon them, that no proud or li-
centious mockers could put them out of love



with it. But to those who walked in the broad
way, in the full latitude of their lusts, and
dedicated their time and care to the pleasure
of their corrupt appetites, to whom all yoke
and bridle were, and are, intolerable, the
preaching of the cross was, and is, foolishness.
To which I may add, in the name but of too
many now-a-days, and the practice of it ridicu-
lous ; embraced by none, if they may be be-
lieved, but half-witted people, of stingy and
singular tempers, affected v/ith the hypochon-
dria, and oppressed with the power of melan-
choly ; for all this, and more, is bestowed upon
the life of the blessed cross of Christ, by the
very professors and pretended admirers of it, in
the persons of those who truly bear it.

3. Where does this cross appear, and where
must it be taken up ?

I answer, within : that is, in the heart and
soul ; for where the sin is, the cross must be.
Now, all evil comes from within : this, Christ
taught. " From within, out of the heart of
man proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, forni-
cations, murders, thefts, covetousness, wick-
edness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye,
blasphemy, pride, foolishness : all these evils
come from within, and defile the man."

The heart of man is the seat of sin, and
where he is defiled, he must be sanctified; and
where sin lives, there it must die ; it must be
crucified. Custom in evil hath made it natu-
ral to men to do evil ; and as the soul rules
the body, so this corrupt nature sways the
whole man : but still, it is all from within.

4. Experience teaches every son and daugh-
ter of Adam an assent to this. The enemy's
temptations are ever directed to the mind,
which is within : if they take not, the soul
sins not ; if they are embraced, lust is
presently conceived, that is, inordinate de-
sires; "lust conceived, brings forth sin; and
sin finished, that is, acted, brings forth death."
Here is both the cause and the efllect, the
genealogy of sin, its rise and end.

In all this, the heart of evil man is the
devil's mint, his work-house, the place of his
residence, where he exercises his power and
art. And therefore the redemption of the soul
is aptly called, the destruction of the works of
the devil, and the bringing in of everlasting
righteousness. When the Jews would have
defamed Christ's mii-acle of casting out devils,
by a blasphemous imputation of it to the power
of Beelzebub, he says, " no man can enter
into a strong man's house, and spoil his jioods,
till he first bind the strong man." As this
shows the contrariety between Beelzebub, and
the power by which he dispossessed him ; so
it teaches us to know, that the souls of the
wicked are the devil's house, and that his
goods, his evil works, can never be destroved.



204



NO CROSS, NO CROWN.



until he that wrought them, and keeps the
house, be bound. AH this makes it easy to
know, where the cross must be taken up, by
which alone the strong man can be bound, his
goods spoiled, and his temptations resisted :
that is, within, in the heart of man.

5. In the next place, how, and in what man-
ner, is the cross to be daily borne ?

The way, like the cross, is spiritual : it is
an inward submission of the soul to the will
of God, as it is manifested by the light of
Christ in the consciences of men ; though it
be contrary to their own inclinations. For
example ; when evil presents, that which shows
the evil does also tell them, they should not
yield to it ; and if they close with its counsel,
it gives them power to escape it. But they
that look and gaze upon the temptation, at last
fall in with it, and are overcome by it ; the
consequence of which is, guilt and judgment.
Therefore, as the cross of Christ is that spirit
and power in men, though not of men, but of
God, which crosseth and reproveth the fleshly
lusts and affections ; so the way of taking up
the cross is, an entire resignation of soul to
the discoveries and requirings of it. Not to
consult worldly pleasure, or carnal ease, or
interest, for such are captivated in a moment,
but continually to watch against the very ap-
pearance of evil, and, by the obedience of faith,
of true love to, and confidence in God, cheer-
fully to offer up to the death of the cross, that
evil part in themselves, which not enduring
the heat of the siege, and being impatient in
the hour of temptation, would, by its near re-
lation to the tempter, more easily betray their
souls into his hands.

6. This shows to every one's experience,
how hard it is to be a true disciple of Jesus !
The way is narrow indeed, and the gate very
strait, where not a word, no, not a thought
must slip the watch, or escape judgment. Such
circumspection, such caution, such patience,
such constancy, such holy fear and trembling,
give an easy interpretation to that hard say-
ing, " flesh and blood cannot inherit the
kingdom of God ;" those who are captivated
with fleshly lusts and affections ; for they can-
not bear the cross ; and they that cannot en-
dure the cross, must never have the crown.
To reign, it is necessary first to suffer.



CHAPTER IV.

1. What is the great work of the cross] The
answer to this of great moment. 2. The work
of the cross is self-denial. 3. What was the
cup and cross of Christ "! 4. What is our cup
and cross 7 5. Our duty is to follow Christ as
our captain. 6. Of the distinction upon self, a



lawful and unlawful self. 7. What the lawful
self is. 8. That it is to be denied in some cases,
by Christ's doctrine and example. 9. By the
apostle's pattern. 10. The danger of preferring
lawful self above our duty to God. 11. The
reward of self-denial, an excitement to it. 12.
This doctrine as old as Abraham. 13. His obe-
dience of faith memorable. 14. Job a great in-
stance of self-denial; his contentment. 15.
Moses also a mighty example; his neglect of
Pharaoh's court. 16. His choice. 17. The rea-
son of it, viz., the recompense of reward. 18.
Isaiah no inconsiderable instance, who, of a cour-
tier, became an holy prophet. 19. These in-
stances concluded with that of holy Daniel, his
patience and integrity, and the success they had
upon the king. 20. There might be many men-
tioned to confirm this blessed doctrine. 21. All
must be left for Christ, as men would be saved.
22. The way of God is a way of faith and self-
denial. 23. An earnest supplication and ex-
hortation to all to attend upon these things.

Fourthly, What is the great work and bu-
siness of the cross respecting man?

1. This indeed is of such mighty moment
to be truly, plainly and thoroughly answered,
that all that went before seems only to serve
for a preface to it ; and miscarrying in this,
to be no less than a misguidance of the soul
about its way to blessedness. I shall there-
fore pursue the question, with God's help, and
the best knowledge he hath given me, in the
experience of several years' discipleship.

2. The great work and business of the cross
of Christ, in man, is self-denial ; a word of
much depth in itself, and of sore contradiction
to the world ; little understood ; but less em-
braced by it ; which yet must be borne. The
Son of God is gone before us, and, by the bit-
ter cup he drank, and the baptism he suffered,
has left us an example that we should follow
his steps. This made him put that hard ques-
tion to the wife of Zebedee and her two sons,
upon her soliciting that one might sit at his
right, and the other at his left hand, in his
kingdom. " Are ye able to drink of the cup
that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with
the baptism I am baptized with ?" It seems
their faith was strong ; they ansAvered, *' We
are able." Upon which he replied, " Ye shall
drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with
the baptism I am baptized whh ;" but their
reward he left to his Father.

3. What was the cup he drank, and bap-
tism he suffered ? I answer ; they were the
denial and offering up of himself by the eter-
nal spirit to the will of God, undergoing the
tribulations of his life, and agonies of his death
upon the cross, for man's salvation.



NO CROSS, NO CROWN.



205



4. What is our cup and cross that we should
drink and suffer ? They are the denying and
offering up of ourselves, by the same spirit, to
do or suffer the will of God for his service and
glory. This is the true life and obedience of
the cross of Jesus ; narrow still, but before,
an unbeaten way. When there was none to
help, not one to open the seals, to give know-
ledge, or to direct the course of poor man's
recovery, He came in the greatness of his love
and strength ; and though clothed with the in-
firmities of a mortal man, being within forti-
fied by the almightiness of an immortal God,
he travelled through all the straits and diffi-
culties of humanity ; and, first of all others,
trod the untrodden path to blessedness.

5. O come let us follow him, the most un-
wearied, the most victorious captain of our
salvation ! to whom all the great Alexanders
and mighty Csesars of the world are less than
the poorest soldier of their camps could be to
them. They were all great princes of their
kind, and conquerors too, but on very differing
principles. Christ made himself of no repu-
tation to save mankind ; but these plentifully
ruined people, to augment theirs. They van-
quished others, not themselves. Christ con-
quered self, which always vanquished them.
Of merit therefore, he is the most excellent
prince and conqueror. Besides, they advanced
their empire by rapine and blood, he by suf-
fering and persuasion : he never by compul-
sion, they always by force, prevailed. Misery
and slavery followed all their victories ; his
brought greater freedom and felicity to those
he overcame. In all they did, they sought to
please themselves ; in all he did, he aimed to
please his Father, who is God of gods, King
of kings, and Lord of lords.

It is this most perfect pattern of self-denial
we must follow, if ever we will come to glory.
To do this, let us consider self-denial in its
true distinction and extent.

6. There is a lawful and an unlawful self,
and both must be denied for the sake of Him,
who in submission to the will of God counted
nothing dear, that he might save us. And
though scarcely any part of the world has got
so far as to need that lesson of the denial of
lawful self, since every day it most greedily
sacrifices to the pleasure of unlawful self: yet
to take the whole thing before me, and because
it may possibly meet with some who are so far
advanced in this spiritual warfare, as to receive
benefit from it, I shall at least touch upon it.

7. The lawful self, which we are to deny, is
that conveniency, ease, enjoyment and plenty,
which in themselves are so far from being
evil, that they are the bounty and blessings of
God to us : as husband, wife, child, house.



land, reputation, liberty, and life itself. These
are God's favours, which we may enjoy with
lawful pleasure, and justly improve as our
honest interest. But when God requires them,
at what time soever, or is pleased to try our
affections by our parting with them ; I say,
when they are brought in competition with
him, they must not be preferred, but denied.
Christ himself descended from the glory of
his Father, and willingly made himself of no
reputation among men, that he might make us
of some with God. From thinking it no rob-
bery to be equal with God, he humbled
himself to the poor form of a servant ; yea,
to the ignominious death of the Cross, that
he might deliver us an example of pure hu-
mility, and entire submission to the will of
our heavenly Father.

8. It is the doctrine he teaches us in these
words : " He that loveth father or mother, son
or daughter, more than me, is not worthy of
me." Again, " Whosoever he be of you, that
forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be my
disciple." He plainly told the young rich
man, that if he would have eternal life, he
must sell all, and follow him : a doctrine sad
to him, as it is to those who, like him, not-
withstanding all their high pretences to reli-
gion, love their possessions more than Christ.
This doctrine of self-denial is the condition to
eternal happiness : " He that will come afl;er
me, let him deny himself, and take up his
cross and follow me."

9. This made those honest fishermen quit
their lawful trades, and follow him, when he
called them ; and others, who waited for the
consolation of Israel, to offer up their estates,
reputations, liberties, and also lives, to the dis-
pleasure and fury of their kindred, and the
government they lived under, for the spiritual
advantage that accrued to them, by their faith-
ful adherence to his holy doctrine. True,
many would have excused themselves from
following him, in the parable of the feast.
Some had bought land, some had married
wives, and others had bought yokes of oxen,
and could not come; an immoderate love of the
world hindei'ed them : their lawful enjoyments,
from being servants became their idols ; they
worshipped them more than God, and would
not quit them, to come to God. This is re-
corded to their reproach ; and we may herein
see the power of self upon the worldly man,
and the danger that comes to him by the abuse
of lawful things. What, thy wife dearer to
thee than thy Saviour ! and thy land and oxen
preferred before thy soul's salvation ! O be-
ware, that thy comforts prove not snares first,
and then curses. To over-rate them, is to
provoke him that gave them, to take them



206



NO CROSS, NO CROWN.



away again : come and follow him that giveth
life eternal to the soul.

10. Woe to them that have their hearts in
their earthly possessions ! for when they are
gone, their heaven is gone with them. It is
too much the sin of the greatest part of the
Avorld, that they stick in the comforts of it ;
It is lamentable to behold how their affections
are bemired, and entangled with their conve-
niencies and accommodations in it. The true
self-denying man is a pilgrim ; but the selfish
man is an inhabitant of the world : The one
uses it, as men do ships, to transport them-
selves, or tackle in a journey, that is, to get
home ; the other looks no further, whatever
he prates, than to be fixed in fulness and ease
here, and likes it so well, that if he could, he
would not exchange. He will not trouble
himself to think of the other world, till he is
sure he must live no longer in this : then
alas! it will prove too late. Not to Abraham,
but to Dives, he must go ; the story is as true
as sad.

11. On the other hand, it is not for nought,
that the disciples of Jesus deny themselves ;
and indeed, Christ himself had the eternal joy
in his eye : For the joy that was set before
him, says the author to the Hebrews, he en-
dured the cross ; that is, he denied himself,
and bore the reproaches and death of the
wicked : and despised the shame, the dishon-
our and derision of the world. It made him
not afraid nor shrink ; he contemned it ; and
is set down on the right hand of the throne of
God. To the encouragement, and great con-
solation of his disciples, when Peter asked
him, what they should have, who had for-
saken all to follow him? he answered, "Verily
I say unto you, ye which have followed me in
the regeneration, when the Son of man shall
sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall
sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve
tribes of Israel," that were then in apostacy
from the life and power of godliness. This
was the lot of his disciples, the more imme-
diate companions of his tribulations, and first
messengers of his kingdom. But the next
that follows is to all : " 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." It is this recompense of reward, this
eternal crown of righteousness, which in every
age, has raised in the souls of the just an
holy neglect, yea, contempt of the world. To
this is owing the constancy of the martyrs,
as the triumph of the truth is, to their blood.

12. Nor is this a new doctrine ,* it is as old
as Abraham. In several most remarkable
instances, his life was made up of self-denial.



First, in quitting his own land, where we may
well suppose him settled in the midst of plenty,
at least sufficiency : And why ? Because God
called him. This should be reason enough ;
but such is the world's degeneracy, that in
fact it is not : and the same act, upon the same
inducement, in any now, though praised in
Abraham, would be derided. So apt are
people not to understand what they commend ;
nay, to despise those actions, when they meet
them in the people of their own times, which
they pretend to admire in their ancestors.

13. But he obeyed: the consequence was,
that God gave him a mighty land. This was
the first reward of his obedience. The next
was, a son in his old age ; and which height-
ened the blessing, after it was in nature, past
the time of his wife's bearing children. Yet
God called for his darling, their only child,
the joy of their age, the son of a miracle, and
him upon whom the fulfilling of the promise,
made to Abraham, depended. For this son,
God called : A trial which one would think,
might very well have overturned his faith, and
stumbled his integrity ; or at least put him
upon this dispute in himself: this command is
unreasonable and cruel ; it is the tempter's,
it cannot be God's. For, is it to be thought
that God gave me a son to make a sacrifice of
him? That the father should be the butcher of
his only child? Again, that he should require
me to offer up the son of his own promise,
by whom his covenant is to be performed, is
incredible. Thus Abraham might naturally
enough have argued, to withstand the voice of
God, and indulge his great affections to his
beloved Isaac. But good old Abraham, who
knew the voice that had promised him a son,
had not forgotten to know it, when it required
him again. He disputed not, though it looked
strange, and perhaps with some surprise and
horror, as a man. He had learned to believe,
that God who gave him a child by a miracle,
could work another to preserve or restore
him. His affections could not balance his
duty, much less overcome his faith ; for he
received him in a way that would let him
doubt of nothing that God had promised of
him.

To the voice of this Almightiness he bows,
builds an altar, binds his only son upon it,
kindles the fire, and stretches forth his hand
to take the knife : but the angel stopped the
stroke. " Hold, Abraham, thy integrity is
proved." What followed ? A ram served for
the sacrifice, and Isaac was his again. This
shows how little serves, where all is resigned,
and how mean a sacrifice contents the Al-
mighty, where the heart is approved. It is
not the sacrifice that recommends the heart,
but the heart that gives the sacrifice acceptance.



NO CROSS, NO CROWN.



207



God often touches our best comforts, and
calls for that which we most love, and are
least willing to part with. Not that he always
takes it utterly away, but to prove the soul's
inteo-rity, to caution us from excesses, and
that we may remember him, the Author of
those blessings we possess, and live loose to
them. I speak my experience : the way to
keep our enjoyments, is to resign them ; and
though that be hard, it is sweet to see them
returned, as Isaac was to his father, with
more love and blessing than before. O
stupid world ! O worldly Christians ! Not
only strangers, but enemies to this excellent
faith ! and whilst so, you can never know the
reward of it.

14. Job presses hard upon Abraham: his
self-denial also was very signal. For when
the messengers of his afflictions came thick
upon him with one doleful story after another,
until he was left almost as naked as when he
was born; the first thing he did, he fell to the
ground, and worshipped that power, and kissed
that hand, that stripped him. So far from
murmuring, he concludes his losses of estate
and children with these words ; " Naked
came I out of my mother's womb, and naked
shall I return : the Lord gave, and the Lord
hath taken away, blessed be the name of the
Lord." O the deep faith, patience, and con-
tentment of this excellent man ! one would
have thought, this repeated news of ruin had
been enough to overset his confidence in God:
but it did not : that stayed him. He tells us
why ; his Redeemer lived. " I know (says
he) that my Redeemer lives." And it ap-
peared he did; for he had redeemed him from
the world ; his heart was not in his worldly
comforts ; his hope lived above the joys of
time, and troubles of mortality ; not tempted
by the one, nor shaken by the other ; but
firmly fixed, "that when after his skin worms
should have consumed his body, yet with his
eyes he should see God." Thus was the heart
of Job both submitted to, and comforted in, the
will of God.

15. Moses is the next great example in
sacred story for remarkable self-denial, before
the times of Christ's appearance in the flesh.
He had been saved, when an infant, by an
extraordinary Providence, and it seems by
what followed, for an extraordinary service :
Pharaoh's daughter, whose compassion was
the means of his preservation, when the king
decreed the slaughter of the Hebrew males,
took him for her son, and gave him the edu-
cation of her father's court. His own gx'ace-
ful presence and extraoi'dinary abilities, joined
with her love to him, and interest in her
father to promote him, must have rendered
him, if not capable of succession, at least [



of being chief minister of affairs under that
wealthy and powerful prince. For Egypt
was then, what Athens and Rome were
afterward, the most famous for learning, arts
and glory.

16. But Moses, ordained for other work,
and guided by a better star, an higher princi-
ple, no sooner came to years of discretion,
than the impiety of Egypt, and the oppressions
of his brethren there, grew a burden too
heavy for him to bear. And though so wise
and good a man could not want those gene-
rous and grateful sentiments, which became
the kindness of the king's daughter to him ;
yet he had also " seen that God who is in-
visible," and did not dare to live in the ease
and plenty of Pharaoh's house, whilst his
poor brethren were required " to make brick
without straw."

The fear of the Almighty taking deep hold
of his heart, he nobly refused to be called
the son of Pharaoh's daughter, and chose
rather a life of affliction with the despised and
oppressed Israelites, and to be the companion
of their temptations and jeopardies, " than
to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ;"
esteeming the reproaches of Christ, which he
suffered for making that unworldly choice,
greater riches than all the treasures of that
kingdom.

17. Nor was he so foolish as they thought



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) → online text (page 45 of 105)