William Evans.

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

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him ; he had reason on his side : for it is
said, " Pie had an eye to the recompense of
reward:" he did but refuse a lesser benefit for
a greater. In this his wisdom transcended
that of the Egyptians ; for they made the
present world their choice, as uncertain as
the weather, and so lost that which has no
end. Moses looked deeper, and weighed the
enjoyments of this life in the scales of eter-
nity, and found they made no weight there.
He governed himself, not by the immediate
possession, but the nature and duration of the
I'eward. His faith corrected his affections,
and taught him to sacrifice the pleasure of self
to the hope he had of a future, more excellent

18. Isaiah was no inconsiderable instance
of this blessed self-denial; who, of a courtier,
became a prophet, and left the worldly in-
terests of the one, for the faith, patience, and
sufferings of the other. His choice did not
only lose him the favour of men ; but their
wickedness, enraged at his integrity to God,
in his fervent and bold reproofs of them,
made a martyr of him in the end ; for they
barbarously sawed him asunder in the reign
of king Manasses. Thus died that excellent
man, commonly called, the Evangelical pro-

19. I shall add one example more, from



the fidelity of Daniel ; an holy and wise young
man, who, when his external advantages came
in competition with his duty to Almighty God,
relinquished them all. Instead of being soli-
citous how to secure himself, as one minding
nothing less, he was, with the utmost hazard of
himself, most careful how to preserve the hon-
our of God, by fidelity to his will. And though
at the first it exposed him to ruin, yet, as an
instance of great encouragement to all, who,
like him, choose to keep a good conscience in
an evil time, it at last advanced him greatly
in the world ; and the God of Daniel was made
famous and terrible, through his perseverance,
even in the eyes of heathen kings.

20. What shall I say of all the rest, who,
counting nothing dear that they might do the
will of God, abandoned their worldly com-
forts, and exposed their ease and safety, as
often as the heavenly vision called them, to
the wrath and malice of degenerate princes,
and an apostate church ? More especially
Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Micah, who, after they
had denied themselves, in obedience to the di-
vine voice, sealed up their testimony with their

Thus was self-denial the practice and glory
of the ancients, who were predecessors to the
coming of Christ in the flesh ; and shall we
hope to go to heaven without it now, when our
Saviour himself is become the most excellent
example of it ? And that, not as some would
fain have it, viz., " He for us, that we need not;"
but for us, that we might deny ourselves, and
so be the true followers of his blessed exam-

21. Whoever thou art, therefore, that
wouldst do the will of God, but faintest in
thy desires from the opposition of worldly con-
siderations; remember I tell thee, in the name
of Christ, that he who prefers father or mother,
sister or brother, wife or child, house or land,
reputation, honour, office, liberty or life, before,
the testimony of the light of Jesus in his own
conscience, shall be rejected of him, in the
solemn and general inquest upon the world,
when all shall be judged, and receive according
to the deeds done, not the profession made, in
this life. It is the doctrine of Jesus, that if thy
right hand offend thee, thou must cut it off";
and if thy right eye offend thee, thou must
pluck it out ; that is, if the most dear, the
most useful and tender comforts thou enjoyest,
stand in thy soul's way and interrupt thy obe-
dience to the voice of God, and thy conformi-
ty to his holy will revealed in thy soul, thou
art engaged, under the penalty of damnation,
to part with them.

22. The way of God is a way of faith, as
dark to sense, as it is mortal to self. The
children of obedience, with holy Paul, count

all things dross and dung, that they may win
Christ, and know and walk in this narrow
way. Speculation will not do, nor can re-
fined notions enter it ; the obedient only eat
the good of this land. They that do my Fa-
ther's will, says the blessed Jesus, shall know
of my doctrine ; them he will instruct. There
is no room for instruction, where lawful self
is lord and not servant. For self cannot re-
ceive it ; that which should, is oppressed by
self; fearful, and dares not. What will my
father or mother say ? How will my husband
use me ? Or, what will the magistrate do with
me ? For though I have a most powerful per-
suasion, and clear conviction upon my soul,
of this or that thing, yet considering how un-
modish it is, what enemies it has, and how
strange and singular I shall seem to them, I
hope God will pity my weakness, if I sink ;
I am but flesh and blood ; it may be hereafter
he will better enable me ; and there is time
enough. Thus selfish, fearful man.

Deliberating is ever worst ; for the soul loses
in parley : the manifestation brings power with
it. Never did God convince people, but, upon
submission, he empowered them. He requires
nothing without ability to perform it : that were
mocking, not saving men. It is enough for
thee to do thy duty, that God shows thee thy
duty ; provided thou closest with the light and
spirit, by which he gives thee that knowledge.
They that want power, are such as do not re-
ceive Christ in his convictions upon the soul ;
and such will always want it : but such as do
receive him, receive power also, like those of
old, to become the children of God, through
the pure obedience of faith.

23. Wherefore, let me beseech you, by the
love and mercy of God, by the life and death
of Christ, by the power of his spirit, and the
hope of immortality, you whose hearts are
established in your temporal comforts, and
are lovers of self more than of these heavenly
things, let the time past suffice : think it not
enough to be clear of such impieties, as too
many are found in, whilst your inordinate love
of lawful things has defiled your enjoyment
of them, and drawn your hearts from the fear,
love, obedience, and self-denial of a true dis-
ciple of Jesus. Turn about then, and hearken
to the still voice in thy conscience ; it tells thee
of thy sins, and of misery in them. It gives
a lively discovery of the very vanity of the
world, and opens to thy soul some prospect of
eternity, and the comforts of the just who are
at rest. If thou adherest to this, it will divorce
thee from sin and self: thou wilt soon find,
that the power of its charms exceeds that of
the wealth, honour and beauty of the world,
and, finally, will give thee that tranquility,
which the storms of time can never shipwreck



or disorder. Here all thine enjoyments are
blest : though small, yet great by that pre-
sence which is within them.

Even in this world the righteous have the
better of it, for they use the world without re-
buke, because they do not abuse it. They see
and bless the hand that feeds and clothes, and
preserves them. Beholding Him in all his
gifts, they do not adore them, but him ; so the
sweetness of his blessing who gives them, is
an advantage such have over those who see
him not. In their increase they are not lifted
up, nor in their adversities are they cast down;
because they are moderated in the one, and
comforted in the other, by his divine presence.

In short, heaven is the throne, and the earth
but the footstool, of that man, who hath self
under foot. Those who know that station will
not easily be moved ; they learn to number
their days, that they may not be surprised
with their dissolution ; and to " redeem their
time, because the days are evil ;" remember-
ing that they are but stewards, and must de-
liver up their accounts to an impartial Judge.
Therefore, not to self, but to him they live,
and in him they die, and are blessed with them
that die in the Lord. Thus I conclude my
discourse of the right use of lawful self.

1. Of unlawful self; it is twofold; 1, in religion;

2, in morality. 2. Of those that are most for-
mal, superstitious and pompous in worship.

3. God's rebuke of carnal apprehensions. 4.
Christ drew off his disciples from the Jewish
exterior worship, and instituted a more spiritual
one. 5. Stephen is plain and full in this mat-
ter. 6. Paul refers the temple of God twice to
man. 7. Of the cross of these worldly wor-
shippers. 8. Flesh and blood make their cross,
therefore cannot be crucified by it. 9. They
are yokes without restraint. 10. Of the gaudi-
ness of their cross, and their respect to it. 11.
A recluse life no true Gospel abnegation. 12.
A comparison between Christ's self-denial and
theirs : his leads to purity in the world, theirs
to voluntary imprisonment, that they might not
be tempted of the world. The mischief which
that example, followed, would do to the world.
It destroys useful society and honest labour. A
lazy life the usual refuge of idleness, poverty and
guilty age. 13. Of Christ's cross in this case.
The impossibility that such an external applica-
tion can remove an internal cause. 14. An ex-
hortation to the men of this belief, not to deceive

K 1. I AM now come to unlawful self, which,
more or less, is the immediate concernment of
Vol. I.— No. 6.

the greater part of mankind. This unlawful
self is twofold. First, That which relates to
religious worship : Second, That which con-
cerns moral and civil conversation in the
world. They are both of infinite consequence
to be considered by us. I shall be as brief as
I may, with ease to my conscience, and no
injury to the matter.

2. That unlawful self in religion, which
ought to be mortified by the cross of Christ,
is man's invention and performance of wor-
ship to God, as divine, which is not so, either
in its institution or performance. In this great
error, those people take the lead, who attribute
to themselves the name of Christians, and are
most exterior, pompous and superstitious in
their worship. They do not only miss ex-
ceedingly, by a spiritual unpreparedness, in
the way of their performing worship to God
Almighty, who is an eternal spirit ; but the
worship itself is composed of what is utterly
inconsistent with the very form and practice
of Christ's doctrine, and the apostolical exam-
ple. That was plain and spiritual, this is
gaudy and worldly : Christ's inward and men-
tal ; theirs outward and corporeal : that suited
to the nature of God, who is a spirit ; this ac-
commodated to the carnal part. Instead of
excluding flesh and blood, behold a worship
calculated to gratify them : as if the business
were not to present God with a worship to
please him, but to make one to please them-
selves. A worship dressed with stately build-
ings and imagery, rich furniture and garments,
rare voices and music, costly lamps, wax can-
dles and perfumes ; and all acted with the
most pleasing variety to the external senses,
that art can invent or cost procure : as if the
world were to turn Jew or Egyptian again ;
or that God was an old man, and Christ a lit-
tle boy, to be treated with a kind of religious
masquerade, for so they picture him in their
temples ; and too many in their minds. Such
a worship may very well suit this idea of God;
for when men can think him such an one as
themselves, it is not to be wondered, if they
address him and entertain him in a way that
would be most pleasing from others to them-

3. But what said the Almighty to such a
sensual people of old, upon the like occasion ?
" Thou thoughtest I was such an one as thy-
self, but I will reprove thee, and set thy sins
in order before thee. Now consider this, ye
that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and
there be none to deliver. But to him that or-
dereth his conversation aright, will I show the
salvation of God." The worship acceptable
to him is, " To do justly, love mercy, and
walk humbly with God." He that searcheth
the heart, and tries the reins of man, and sets




his sins in order before him, who is the God
of the spirits of all flesh, looks not to the ex-
ternal fabrick, but the internal frame of the
soul, and inclination of the heart. Nor is it
to be soberly thought, that he, who is "clothed
with divine honour and majesty, who covers
himself with light, as with a garment, who
stretches out the heavens like a curtain, who
layeth the beams of his chambers in the deep,
who maketh the clouds his chariots, and who
walks upon the wings of the wind, who
maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers
a flaming fire, who laid the foundation of the
earth, that it should not be moved for ever,"
can be adequately worshipped by those hu-
man inventions, the refuge of an apostate
people, from the primitive power of religion,
and spirituality of Christian worship.

4. Christ drew off" his disciples from the
glory and worship of the outward temple, and
instituted a more inward and spiritual worship,
in which he instructed his followers. " Ye
shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jeru-
salem," says Christ to the Samaritan woman,
" worship the Father. God is a spirit, and
they that worship him, must worship him in
spirit and in truth." As if he had said : for
the sake of the weakness of the people, God
condescended, in old time, to limit himself to
an outward time, place, temple and service, in
and by which he would be worshipped : but
this was during men's ignorance of his omni-
presence; they considered not what God is,
nor where he is. I am come to reveal him to
as many as receive me. God is a spirit, and
he will be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
People must be acquainted with him as a
spirit, consider him, and worship him as such.
It is not that bodily worship, nor these cere-
monious services, in use among you now, that
will serve, or give acceptance with this God
who is a spirit. You must obey his spirit
that strives with you, to gather you out of the
evil of the world ; that by bowing to his in-
structions and commands in your own souls,
you may know what it is to worship him as a
spirit. Then you will understand, that it is
not going to this mountain, nor to Jerusalem,
but doing the will of God, and keeping his
commandments. Commune with thine own
heart and sin not; take up thy cross, meditate
in his holy law, and follow the example of him
whom the Father hath sent.

5. Stephen, that bold and constant martyr
of Jesus, told the Jev/s when a prisoner at
their bar for disputing about the end of their
beloved temple, and its services, (but falsely
accused of blasphemy) " Solomon, built God
an house, howbeit God dwelleth not in temples
made with hands ; as saith the prophet, heaven
is my throne, and the earth is my footstool ;

what house will ye build me, saith the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest? Hath not
my hand made all these things?" Behold a
total overthrow to all worldly temples, and
their ceremonious appendences ! The martyr
follows up his blow upon those apostate Jews,
who were, of those times, the pompous, cere-
monious, worldly worshippers : " Ye stiff-
necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears,
ye do always resist the Holy Ghost ; as did
your fathers, so do ye." As if he had told
them, no matter for your outward temple,
rites and shadowy services, your pretensions
to succession in nature from Abraham, and,
by religion, from Moses ; you are resister^s of
the spirit, gain-sayers of its instructions : you
will not bow to its counsel, nor are your hearts
right towards God : you are the successors of
your fathers' iniquity; and, though verbal ad-
mirers, yet none of the successors of the pro-
phets in faith and life.

The prophet Isaiah carries it a little farther
than is cited by Stephen. For, after having
declared what is not God's house, the place
where his honour dwells, these words imme-
diately follow : " But to this man will I look,
even to him that is poor, and of a contrite
spirit, and trembleth at my word." Behold,

carnal and superstitious man, the true wor-
shipper, and the place of God's rest ! This is
the house and temple of Him whom the
heaven of heavens cannot contain ; an house
self cannot build, nor the art nor power of
man prepare or consecrate.

6. Paul, that great apostle of the Gentiles,
twice expressly refers the word temple to man :
once in his first epistle to the church at Corinth :
" Know ye not that you are the temples of the
Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have
of God ?" &c. and not the building of man's
hand and art. Again, he tells the same peo-
ple, in his second epistle, " For ye are the
temple of the living God, as God hath said ;"
and then cites God's words by the prophet,
" I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and

1 will be their God, and they shall be my
people." This is the evangelical temple, the
Christian church, whose ornaments are not
the embroideries and furnitures of worldly art
and wealth but the graces of the spirit; meek-
ness, love, faith, patience, self-denial, and
charity. Here it is, that the eternal Wisdom,
who was with God from everlasting, before
the hills were brought foi'th, or the mountains
laid, chooses to dwell, rejoicing (says Wisdom)
in the habitable part of his earth, and my de-
lights are with the sons of men ; not in houses
built of wood and stone. This living house
is more glorious than Solomon's dead house ;
of which his was but a figure, as he, the
builder, was of Christ, who builds us up an



holy temple to God. It was promised of old,
that " the glory of the latter house should
transcend the glory of the former ,•" which
may be applied to this: Not that one outward
temple or house should excel another in out-
ward lustre ; for where is the benefit of that ?
But the divine glory, the beauty of holiness
in the Gospel-house or church, made up of
renewed believers, should exceed the outward
glory of Solomon's temple, which, in com-
parison of the latter days, was but flesh to
spirit, fading resemblances to the eternal sub-

But for all this, Christians have meeting-
places, yet not in Jewish or heathen state, but
plain ; void of pomp and ceremony ; suiting
the simplicity of their blessed Lord's life and
doctrine. For God's presence is not with the
house, but with them that are in it, who are
the Gospel-church, and not the house. O !
that such as call themselves Christians, knew
but a real sanctity in themselves, by the
washing of God's regenerating grace, instead
of that imaginary sanctity ascribed to places;
they would then know what the church is, and
where, in these evangelical days, is the place
of God's appearance. This made the prophet
David say, " The King's daughter is all glori-
ous within, her clothing is of wrought gold."
What is the glory that is within the true
church, and that gold which makes up that
inward glory ? Tell me, O superstitious man !
is it thy stately temples, altars, carpets, tables,
tapestries ; thy vestments, organs, voices, can-
dles, lamps, censers, plate and jewels, with the
like furniture of thy worldly temples ? No
such matter ; they bear no proportion with
the divine adornment of the King of heaven's
daughter, the blessed and redeemed church of
Christ. Miserable apostacy that it is ! and a
wretched supplement for the loss and absence
of the apostolic life, the spiritual glory of the
primitive church.

7. Yet some of these admirers of external
pomp and glory in worship, would be thought
lovers of the cross, and to that end have made
to themselves many. But alas 1 what hopes
can there be of reconciling that to Christi-
anity, which the nearer it comes to its resem-
blance, the farther off it is in reality ? For
their very cross and self-denial, are unlawful
self: Whilst they fancy to worship God
thereby, they most dangerously err from the
true cross of Christ, and that holy abnegation
which was of his blessed appointment. It is
true, they have got a cross, but it seems to be
in the room of the true one : and so mannerly,
that it will do as they will have it, who wear
it : Instead of mortifying their wills by it,
they made it, and use it, according to them :
so that the cross is become their ensign who

do nothing but what they list. Yet by that
they would be thought his disciples, who never
did his own will, but the will of his heavenly

8. This is such a cross as flesh and blood
can carry, for flesh and blood invented it ;
therefore it is not the cross of Christ, which
is to crucify flesh and blood. Thousands of
them have no more virtue than a chip ; poor
empty shadows, not so much as images of the
true one. Some carry them for charms about
them, but never repel one evil with them.
They sin with them upon their backs ; and
though they put them into their bosoms, their
beloved lusts lie there too without the least
disquiet. They are as dumb as Elijah's mock-
gods ; having no life nor power in them : and
how should they, whose matter is earthly, and
whose figure and workmanship are but the in-
vention and labour of worldly artists ? Is it
possible that such crosses should mend their
makers 1 Surely not.

9. These are yokes without restraint, and
crosses that never contradict : a whole cart-
load of them would leave a man as un mor-
tified as they find him. Men may sooner
knock their brains out with them, than their
sins : and this, I fear, too many of them know
in their very consciences who use them, in-
deed, adore them, and, which can only happen
to the false cross, are proud of them too, since
the true one leaves no pride where it is truly

10. For as their religion, so their cross is
very gaudy and triumphant : but in what ? In
precious metals and gems, the spoil of super-
stition upon the people's pockets. These
crosses are made of earthly treasure, instead
of teaching the hearts of those who wear them,
to deny it : and like them, they are respected
for their finery. A rich cross shall have many
gazers and admirers : the mean, in this, as
other things, are more neglected. I could ap-
peal to themselves of this great vanity and
superstition. Oh ! how very short is this of
the blessed cross of Jesus, that takes away the
sins of the world !

11. Nor is a recluse life, the boasted righte-
ousness of some, much more commendable,
or one whit nearer to the nature of the true
cross : for if it be not unlawful as other things
are, it is unnatural, which true religion teaches
not. The Christian convent and monastery
are within, where the soul is encloistered
from sin. And this religious house the true
followers of Christ carry about with them,
who exempt not themselves from the conver-
sation of the world, though they keep them-
selves from the evil of the world in their con-
versation. That is a lazy, rusty, unprofitable
self-denial, burdensome to others, to feed their



idleness ; religious bedlams, where people are
kept up, lest they should do mischief abroad ;
patience per force ; self-denial against their
will, rather ignorant than virtuous ; and out
of the way of temptation, than constant in
it. No thanks if they commit not, what they
are not tempted to commit. What the eye
views not, the heart craves not, as well as
rues not.

12. The cross of Christ is of another na-
ture. It truly overcomes the world, and leads
a life of purity in the face of its allurements.
They that bear it, are not thus chained up,
for fear they should bite ,• nor locked up, lest
they should be stolen away. They receive
power from Christ their captain, to resist the
evil, and do that which is good in the sight of
God ; to despise the world, and love its re-
proach above its praise : and, not to offend
others, but even to love those who offend them,
though not for offending them. What a world
should we have, if every body, for fear of
transgressing, should mew himself up within
four walls ! No such matter; the perfection of
the Christian life extends to every honest labour
or traffick used among men. This severity
is not the effect of Christ's free spirit, but a
voluntary, fleshly humility; mere trammels of
their own making and putting on, without pre-
scription or reason.

In all which, it is plain, they are their own
law-givers, and set their own rule, mulct and
ransom : a consti'ained harshness, out of joint
to the rest of the creation : for society is one
great end of it, and not to be destroyed for
fear of evil ; but sin that spoils it banished,

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 46 of 105)