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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by steady reproof, and a conspicuous example
of tried virtue. True godliness does not turn
men out of the world, but enables them to live
better in it ; and excites their endeavours to
mend it : " not to hide their candle under a
bushel, but to set it upon a table, in a candle-
stick." Besides, it is a selfish invention ; and
that can never be the way of taking up the
cross, which the true cross is taken up to sub-
ject. Again, this humour runs away by itself,
and leaves the world behind to be lost. Chris-
tians should keep the helm, and guide the
vessel to its port ; not meanly steal out at the
stern of the world, and leave those that ai'e in
it without a pilot, to be driven by the fury of
evil times, upon the rock or sand of ruin.
This sort of life, if taken up by young people,
is commonly to cover idleness, or to pay por-
tions ; to save the lazy from the pain of pun-
ishment, or quality from the disgrace of pover-
ty: one will not work, and the other scorns it.
If taken up by the aged, a long life of guilt
sometimes flies to superstition for refuge ; and,
afler having had its own will in other things,

would finish it in a wilful religion to make
God amends.

13. Taking up the cross of Jesus is a more
interior exercise : it is the circumspection and
discipline of the soul, in conformity to the
divine mind therein revealed. Does not the
body follow the soul, and not the soul the
body'/ Consider, that no outward cell can shut
up the soul from lust, or the mind from an
infinity of unrighteous imaginations? The
thoughts of man's heart are evil, and that
continually. Evil comes from within, and not
from without : how then can an external ap-
plication remove an internal cause ; or a re-
straint upon the body, work a confinement of
the mind 1 Less even than without doors : for
where there is least of action, there is most
time to think ; and if those thoughts are not
guided by an higher principle, convents are
more mischievous to the world than exchanges.
And yet retirement is both an excellent and
needful thing : crowds and throngs were not
much frequented by the ancient holy pilgrims.

14. Examine, O man, thy foundation, what
it is, and who placed thee there ; lest in the
end it should appear, thou hast put an eternal
cheat upon thy own soul. I must confess I
am jealous of the salvation of my own kind.
Having found mercy with my heavenly Father;
I would have none deceive themselves to per-
dition, especially about religion, where people
are most apt to take all for granted, and lose
infinitely by their own flatteries and neglect.
The inward steady righteousness of Jesus is
another thing, than all the contrived devotion
of poor superstitious man ; and to stand ap-
proved in the sight of God, excels that bodily
exercise in religion, resulting from the inven-
tion of men. The soul that is awakened and
preserved by his holy power and spirit, lives
to him in the way of his own institution, and
worships him in his own spirit, that is, in the
holy sense, life, and leadings of it ; which in-
deed is the evangelical worship. Not that I
would be thought to slight a true retirement :
for I do not only acknowledge, but admire
solitude. Christ himself was an example of
it : he loved and chose to frequent mountains,
gardens, sea-sides. It is requisite to the
growth of piety ; and I reverence the virtue
that seeks and uses it ; wishing there were
more of it in the world: but then it should be
free, not constrained. What benefit to the
mind, to have it for a punishment, and not a
pleasure ? Nay, I have long thought it an
error among all sorts, that use not monastic
lives, that they have no retreats for the afflicted,
the tempted, the solitary, and the devout ; where
they might undisturbedly wait upon God, pass
through their religious exercises ; and, being



thereby strengthened, might, with more power
over their own spirits, enter into the business
of the world again ; though the less the better,
to be sure. For divine pleasures are found in
a free solitude.


1. But men of more refined belief and practice
are yet concerned in this unlawful self about
religion. 2. It is the rise of the performance
of worship God regards. 3. True worship is
only from an heart prepared by God's spirit.
4. The soul of man is dead, without the divine
breath of life, and so not capable of worshipping
the living God. 5. We are not to study what
to pray for. How Christians should pray : The
aid they have from God. 6. The way of ob-
taining this preparation: it is by waiting, as
David and others did of old, in holy silence,
that their wants and supplies are best seen.
7. The whole and the full think they need not
this waiting, and so use it not : but the poor in
spirit are of another mind ; wherefore the Lord
hears and fills them with his good things. 8. If
there were not this preparation, the Jewish
times would have been more holy and spiritual
than the Gospel ; for even then it was required,
and much more now. 9. As sin, so formality
cannot worship God : thus David, Isaiah, &c.
10. God's own forms and institutions hatefld to
him, unless his own spirit use them ; much more
those of man's contriving. 11. God's children
ever met God in his way, not their own ; and in
his way they always found help and comfort.
In Jeremiah's time, it was the same ; his good-
ness was manifest to his children that waited
truly upon him: it was an inward sense and
enjoyment of him they thirsted after. Christ
charged his disciples also to wait for the spirit.
12. This doctrine of waiting farther opened,
and ended with an allusion to the pool of
Bethesda; a lively figure of inward waiting,
and its blessed effects. 13. Four things ne-
cessary to worship ; the sanctification of the
worshipper, and the consecration of the offering,
and the thing to be prayed for : and lastly, faith
to pray in: and all must be right, that is of
God's giving. 14. The great power of faith in
prayer ; witness the importunate widow. The
wicked and formal ask, and receive not; the
reason why. But Jacob and his true offspring,
the followers of his faith, prevail. 15. This
shows, why Christ upbraided his disciples with
their little faith. The necessity of faith. Christ
works no good on men without it. 16. This
faith is not only possible now, but necessary.

17. What it is, farther unfolded. 18. Who
the heirs of this faith are ; and what were the
noble works of it in the former ages of the just.

1. There are others, of a more refined
speculation and reformed practice, who dare
not use, much less adore, a piece of wood or
stone, an image of silver or gold ; nor yet
allow of that Jewish, or rather Pagan pomp
in worship, practised by others, as if Christ's
worship were of this world, though his king-
dom be of the other. They are doctrinally
averse to such superstition, and yet refrain
not to bow to their own religious duties, and
esteem their formal performance of several
parts of worship which go against the grain
of their fleshly ease, and a preciseness therein,
no small cross unto them : If they abstain
from gross and scandalous sins, or, if the act
be not committed, though the thoughts of it
are embraced, so that it has a full career in
the mind, they hold themselves safe enough,
within the pale of discipleship and wall of
Christianity. But this also is too mean a
character of the discipline of Christ's cross :
and those who flatter themselves with such a
taking of it up, will, in the end, be deceived
with a sandy foundation, and a midnight cry.
For, said Christ, " I say unto you, that every
idle word that men shall speak, they shall
give an account thereof in the day of judg-

2. It is not performing duties of religion,
but the rise of the performance, that God looks
at. Men may, and some do, cross their own
wills, in their own wills ; voluntary omission,
or commission. " Who has requii-ed this at
your hands?" said the Lord of old to the .lews,
when they seemed industrious to have served
him ; but it was in a way of their own con-
triving or inventing, and in their own time and
will ; not with the soul truly touched and pre-
pared by the divine power of God ; but bodily
worship only, which the apostle tells us, pro-
fiteth little. Not keeping to the manner of
taking up the cross in worship, as well as
other things, has been a great cause of the
troublesome superstition that is yet in the
world. For men have no more brought their
worship to the test, than their sins; nay, less;
for they have ignorantly thought the one a
sort of excuse for the other; and not that their
religious performances should need a cross, or
an apology.

3. True worship can only come from an
heart prepai'ed by the Lord. This prepara-
tion is by the sanctification of the Spirit ; by
which, if God's children are led in the general
course of their lives, as Paul teaches, much
more in their worship to their Creator and
Redeemer. And whatever prayer be made, or



doctrine be uttered, and not from the prepara-
tion of the Holy Spirit, it is not acceptable
with God : nor can it be the true evangelical
worship, which is in spirit and truth ; that is,
by the preparation and aid of the Spirit. For
what is an heap of the most pathetical words
to God Almighty ; or the dedication of any
place or time to him 1 He is a spirit, to whom
words, places and times, strictly considered,
are improper or inadequate. Though they be
the instruments of public worship, they are
but bodily and visible, and cannot carry our
requests any further, much less recommend
them to the invisible God. They are for the
sake of the congregation : it is the language
of the soul God hears ; nor can that speak,
but by the Spirit ; or groan aright to Almighty
God, without the assistance of it.

4. The soul of man, however lively in other
things, is dead to God, until he breathe the
spirit of life into it : it cannot live to him,
much less worship him, without it. Thus God
by Ezekiel tells us, in a vision of the restora-
tion of mankind, in the person of Israel, an
usual way of speaking among the prophets,
and as often mistaken, " I will open your
graves and put my spirit in you, and ye shall
live." So, though Christ taught his disciples
to pray, they were, in some sort, disciples be-
fore he taught them ; not worldly men, whose
prayers are an abomination to God. And his
teaching them, is not an argument that every
one must say that prayer, whether he can say
it with the same heart, and under the same
qualifications as his poor disciples and follow-
ers did, or not, as is now too superstitiously
and presumptuously practised. But rather,
that as they then, so we now, are not to pray
our own prayers, but his ; that is, such as he
enables us to make, as he enabled them then.

5. If we are not to take thought what we
shall say when we come before worldly
princes, because it shall then be given us ;
and if it is not we who speak, but the spirit
of our heavenly Father, that speaketh in us;
much less can our ability be needed, or ought
we to study to ourselves forms of speech in
our approaches to the great Prince of princes.
King of kings, and Lord of lords. For if
we consider his greatness, we ought not by
Christ's command : or our relation to him, as
children, we need not : he will help us, he is
our father ; that is, if he be so indeed. Thus,
not only the mouth of the body, but of the
soul is shut, till God opens it ; and then he
loves to hear the language of it. The body
ought never to go before the soul in prayer :
his ear is open to such requests, and his spirit
strongly intercedes for those that offer them.

6. But it may be asked, how shall this pre-
paration be obtained 1

I answer ; by waiting patiently, yet watch-
fully and intently upon God : " Lord," says
the Psalmist, " thou hast heard the desire of
the humble ; thou wilt prepare their heart ;
thou wilt cause thine ear to hear :" and, says
Wisdom, " the preparation of the heart in man
is from the Lord." Thou must not think thy
own thoughts, nor speak thy own words,
which indeed is the silence of the holy cross,
but be sequestered from all the confused ima-
ginations that are apt to throng and press upon
the mind in those holy retirements. Think
not to overcome the Almighty by the most
composed matter cast into the aptest phrase :
No, one groan, one sigh, from a wounded
soul, an heart touched with true remorse, a
sincere and godly sorrow, which is the work
of God's spirit, excels and prevails with God.
Wherefore stand still in thy mind, wait to feel
something divine, to prepare and dispose thee
to worship God truly and acceptably. Thus
taking up the cross, and shutting the doors
and windows of the soul against everything
that would interrupt this attendance upon God,
how pleasant soever the object be in itself, or
however lawful or needful at another season,
the power of the Almighty will break in, his
spirit will prepare the heart, that it may offer
up an acceptable sacrifice. It is he that dis-
covers to the soul its wants and presses them
upon it ; and when it cries, he alone can sup-
ply them. Petitions, not springing from such
a sense and preparation, are formal and ficti-
tious ; they are not true : for men pray in
their own blind desires, and not in the will of
God ; and his ear is stopped to them. But for
the very sighing of the poor, and crying of
the needy, God has said he will arise ; for the
poor in spirit, the needy souls, those that want
his assistance, who are ready to be over-
whelmed, that feel their need, and cry aloud
for a deliverer ; who have none on earth to
help, " none in heaven but him, nor in the
earth in comparison of him. He will deliver
(said David) the needy, when he cries, and the
poor, and him that has no helper. He shall
redeem their soul from deceit and violence,
and precious shall their blood be in his sight.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him,
and saved him out of all his troubles. The
angel of the Lord encampeth round about
them that fear him, and delivers them." He
then invites all to come and taste how good
the Lord is. Yea, " he will bless them that
fear the Lord, both small and great."

7. But what is this, to them that are not
hungry ? The whole need not the physician :
the full have no need to sigh, nor the rich to
cry for help. Those who are not sensible of
their inward wants, that have no fears and
terrors upon them, who feel no need of God's



power to help them, nor the light of his coun-
tenance to comfort them ; what have such to
do with prayer ? Their devotion is, at best,
but a serious mockery of the Almighty. They
know not, they want not, they desire not, what
they pray for. They pray that the will of
God may be done, and do constantly their
own ; for, though it be soon said, it is a most
terrible thing to them. They ask for grace,
and abuse what they have : they pray for the
spirit, but resist it in themselves, and scorn at
it in others : they request the mercies and
goodness of God, and feel no real want of
them. In this inward insensibility, they are
as unable to praise God for what they have,
as to pray for what they have not. " They
shall praise the Lord that seek him : for he
satisfieth the longing soul, and fiUeth the hun-
gry with good things." This also is reserved
for the poor and needy, and those that fear
God. " Let the [spiritually] poor and the
needy praise thy name : ye that fear the Lord,
praise him ; and ye seed of Jacob, glorify
him." Jacob was a plain man, of an upright
heart ; and they that are such are his seed.
And though, with him, they may be as poor
as worms in their own eyes, yet they receive
power to wrestle with God, and prevail as he

8. Without the preparation and consecra-
tion of this power, no man is fit to come be-
fore God ,* else it were matter of less holiness
and reverence to worship God under the Gos-
pel, than it was in the times of the law, when
all sacrifices were sprinkled, before they were
offered ; the people consecrated that offered
them, 'ere they presented themselves before
the Lord. If the touching of a dead or un-
clean beast then, made people unfit for the
temple or sacrifice, yea, for society with the
clean, untilfirst sprinkled and sanctified, how
can we think so meanly of the worship insti-
tuted by Christ in Gospel-times, as that it
should admit of unprepared and unsanctified
offerings? or allow that those who either in
thoughts, words, or deeds, daily touch that
which is morally unclean, can, without com-
ing to the blood of Jesus, that sprinkles the
conscience from dead works, acceptably wor-
ship the pure God ? It is a downright contra-
diction to good sense : the unclean cannot ac-
ceptably worship that which is holy ; the im-
pure that which is perfect. There is an holy
intercourse and communion betwixt Christ and
his followers ; but none at all betwixt Christ
and Belial ; between him and those who dis-
obey his commandments, and live not the life
of his blessed cross and self-denial.

9. But as sin, so formality cannot worship
God ; though the manner were of his own
ordination. This made the prophet, personat-

ing one in a great strait, cry out, " Wherewith
shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself
before the high God? Shall I come before him
with burnt-offerings? with calves of a year
old ? Will the Loi'd be pleased with thousands
of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of
oil ? Shall I give my first-born for my trans-
gression, the fruit of my body for the sin of
my soul ? He hath showed thee, O man, what
is good. And what doth the Lord require of
thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to
walk humbly with thy God ?" The royal
prophet, sensible of this, calls thus upon God:
" O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth
shall show forth thy praise." He did not dare
to open his own lips, he knew that could not
praise God : " For thou desirest not sacrifice,
else would I give it :" if my formal offerings
would serve, thou shouldst not want them ;
" thou delightest not in burnt-offerings. The
sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken
and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not de-
spise." And why ? Because this is God's
work, the effect of his power ; and his own
works praise him. To the same purpose God
himself speaks, by the mouth of Isaiah, in
opposition to the formalities and lip-worship
of the degenerate Jews. " Thus saith the
Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth
is my foot-stool, where is the house that ye
build to me, and where is the place of my
rest ? For all these things hath my hand made.
But to this man will I look, even to him that
is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth
at my word."

Behold the true worshipper ! one of God's
preparing, circumcised in heart and ear, that
resists not the Holy Spirit, as those lofty pro-
fessing Jews did. If this was so then, even
in the time of the law, which was the dispen-
sation of external and shadowy performances ;
can we expect acceptance without the prepa-
ration of the Spirit of the Lord, in these Gos-
pel-days, which is the proper time for the effu-
sion of the Spirit ? By no means : God is
what he was ; and none are his true worship-
pers, but such as worship him in his own spi-
rit : of these he is tender as the apple of his
eye : the rest do but mock him, and he de-
spises them. Hear what follows to that peo-
ple, for it is the state of Christendom at this
day : " He that killeth an ox, is as if he slew
a man ; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he
cut off a dog's neck ; he that offereth an obla-
tion, as if he offered swine's blood ; he that
burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea,
they have chosen their own ways, and their
soul delighteth in their abominations." Let
none say, we offer not these kinds of obla-
tions, for that is not the matter. God was not
offended with the offerings, but offerers. These



were the legal forms of sacrifice appointed
by God ; but they not presenting them in that
frame of spirit, and under that disposition of
soul that was required, God declares his ab-
horrence, and that with great aggravation.
Elsewhere, by the same prophet, he bids them
to " bring no more vain oblations before him :
incense is an abomination to me : your sab-
baths and calling of assemblies, I cannot
away with ; it is iniquity ; even the solemn
meeting. And when you spread forth your
hands, I will hide mine eyes from you ; when
you make many prayers, I will not hear you."
A most terrible denunciation of their worship.
And why 1 Because their hearts were polluted,
they loved not the Lord with their whole
hearts, but broke his law, rebelled against his
spirit, and did not that which was right in his
sight. The cause is plain, — by the amend-
ments he requii-es : " Wash you, make you
clean, put away the evil of your doings from
before mine eyes : cease to do evil, learn to
do well : seek judgment, relieve the oppressed,
judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
Upon these terms, and nothing less, he bids
them come to him, and tells them, that though
their " sins be as scarlet, they shall be white
as snow ; and though they be as crimson, they
shall be white as wool."

So true is that notable passage of the Psalm-
ist : " Come and hear, all ye that fear God,
and I will declare what he hath done for my
soul : I cried to him with my mouth, and he
was extolled with my tongue. If I regard
iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear
me. But verily God hath heard me, he hath
attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed
be God which hath not turned away my
prayer, nor his mercy from me."

10. Much might be cited, to show the dis-
pleasure of God against even his own forms
of worship, when performed without his spirit,
and that necessary preparation of the heart in
man, which nothing else can work or give.
Above all other penmen of sacred writ, this
is most frequently and emphatically recom-
mended to us by the example of the Psalmist,
who, ever and anon calling to mind his own
great slips, and the cause of them, and the
way by which he came to be accepted of God,
and obtain strength and comfort from him,
reminds himself to wait upon God. " Lead
me in thy truth, and teach me, for thou art
the God of my salvation ; on thee do I wait
all the day long." His soul looked to God
for salvation, to be delivered from the snares
and evils of the world. This shows an inward
exercise, a spiritual attendance, that stood not
in external forms, but an inward divine aid.

And truly, David had great encouragement
so to do ; the goodness of God invited him to

it, and strengthened him in it. " For," says
he, " I waited patiently upon the Lord, and l»e
inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He
brought me out of the miry clay, and set my
feet upon a rock." The Lord appeared in-
wardly to console David's soul, that waited
for his help, and to deliver it from the tempta-
tions and afflictions that were ready to over-
whelm it, and gave him security and peace.
Therefore he says, " The Lord hath establish-
ed my going ;" that is, fixed his mind in right-
eousness. Before, every step he took bemired
him, and he was scarce able to go without
falling. Temptations assailed him on all
hands ; but he waited patiently upon God ;
his mind retired, watchful and intent to his
law and spirit ; and he felt the Lord incline
to him. His needy and sensible cry entered
heaven, and prevailed ; then came rescue aiid
deliverance, (in God's time, not David's,)
strength to go through his exercises, and sur-
mount all his troubles. For which he tells us,
" a new song was put into his mouth, even
praise to our God." It was a song of God's
making and putting, and not his own.

Another time, we have him crying thus :
" As the heart panteth after the water-brooks,
so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My
soul thirsteth for God, for the living God ;
when shall I come and appear before him ?"
This goes beyond formality, and can be tied
to no lesson. We may by this see, that true
worship is an inward work ; that the soul
must be touched and raised in heavenly de-
sires, by the heavenly spirit, and that the true
worship is in God's presence. " When shall
I come and appear V Not in the temple, nor
with outward sacrifices, but before God, in
his presence. The souls of true worshippers
see God, make their appearance before him ;
and for this they wait, they pant, they thirst.

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 47 of 105)