Historical texts  >  Early Quaker Sermons  >  Richard Ashby (1693)


A Sermon

Preached by

Mr. Richard Ashby,

St. Martin's-le-Grand, February the 16th, 1693.


The testimonies and declarations which are given forth in obedience to the Lord's requirings, are to bring everyone of you to a sense and feeling of the inward testimony of truth in your own bosoms, to the feeling of the work and operation of the Lord's Spirit upon your hearts, to give to everyone a clear sight and understanding of those things that tend to their souls profit, and to their spiritual advantage and divine growth in grace. If any of us are satisfying ourselves in sitting down in an outward gathering, and only exercising our natural faculties to hear and to understand, and come not to know and be acquainted in ourselves with the inspiration of the Almighty, the word of truth, we are strangers to it, and the good and excellency of it is hid from our eyes.

So that it is a matter of great concernment for everyone to know what it is to be inwardly retired, and to know the operation of God's gift upon their souls, and to be acquainted with the work of God's Spirit in their inward parts; else we shall be deficient in learning what we ought to know, and fall short of certainty in our knowledge, and we shall be among the number of those that are always learning and never come to any stability, and come not to the power, and to know the substance of all; such are in the dark, they are groping for a wall, they are at an uncertainty and tossed to and fro, and have not a stability of mind and Spirit attending them, and they come not to know a true exercise; though there may be some inward desires, yet, for want of keeping to that power by which they are begotten, their desires seem to fail.

O my Friends! That everyone of you may be ponderous and weighty, that in your minds you may feel the operation of that power, and the inward work of truth that is begun in the soul, as the foundation of eternal happiness that is laid; that we may know the instruction and feel the power of the Lord Jesus Christ in the heavenly Gospel, in which He is carrying on the work of our salvation; that we may have an eye unto Jesus and our expectations from Him, and be waiting truly upon Him for experience, to come to know Him that is the Author and Beginner of the work of faith in our souls, and lays the foundation of eternal felicity. These are such as walk on gradually and persevere to the end, they look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith, the great Searcher of their hearts and Manifester of the thoughts and intents thereof. They come to know Him in His offices, as He discovers and makes known to man, and shows to him what it is that does obstruct and prevent his enjoyment of peace. They that come to be sensible of this come to know an inward travail of soul, and are brought to a spiritual exercise that has a profitable tendency, so that now they discover those things that are pleasing to the sight of their minds, not those things that please the carnal desire and bring reproof to the soul.

Here is the proper effect of faith, when there is impressed upon the soul a sense of sin, and of the work of unrighteousness, and here is a foundation laid for true repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; for, says the Apostle, Him hath God exalted with his own right hand, to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins. He gives repentance to those that come to feel their need of a Physician to heal them, He makes such a discovery to their souls, such a sense He gives of their sin and transgression, as makes it appear exceeding sinful. These are such as come to reflect upon themselves and see their woeful state, this will lay low their minds, and bow down their spirits; these are they that come to self-abhorrence, and to have a travail in their spirits, and come down it to a lowly state, according to what the Prophet Jeremiah speaks, Lamentations 3:28, etc. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, he putteth his mouth in the dust. If so be there may be hope, wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? It is the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

They that come to be acquainted with the Lord as a Judge, and as a Reprover, experience a separation from sin, after it is discovered, and the judgment of God takes hold of the sin and transgression, and a man comes under reproof. Here is a time of suffering, and here is sorrow taking hold of him; here is that which affects his soul with grief and brings him into a state of mourning, and under a sense of good dealings with him, and he comes to know that sorrow that has an inward effect upon the soul, to take away iniquity and make the heart better; he submits to the discovery of that deceitfulness that is lodged in the heart. For, says the Prophet, The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give to every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. The Apostle, speaking to some of the heart being turned to the Lord, said, Then the vail shall be taken away; as God inwardly appears to a man, there must be an humble submission to His searching of the heart, therefore says the Psalmist, Psalm 19:12. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults; and he knew a cleansing work in his own hear, Psalm 51:10-12. Create in me a clean heart, O God! And renew a right spirit in me; cast me not away from thy Presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me; restore unto me the joy of they salvation, and uphold me with thy free spirit. The Psalmist was in a spiritual travail, and came to an experience of this work upon his soul, and he prays the Lord to uphold him, that what he had done might not be marred again; and therefore he begs of God to uphold him with His free Spirit.

You should all labor to go on in this inward travail that will bring you to a repentance not to be repented of, and to have a profitable evidence that there is a fruit brought forth, not the fruit of sin; What fruit have you of those things whereof you are now ashamed, for the end of those things is death. They that are sensible of this, know that the wrath of the Lord is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18. The work of repentance stands in this, not only in denying ungodliness, but in abstaining from all appearance of evil. Therefore stand upon your guard against your enemy, that he may not prevail against you by his assaults. If sinners entice thee, consent not to them, go not in the way of evil men, turn aside from it and pass away. Learn self-denial, which our Lord Jesus Christ does declare to be of necessity; Except a man deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me, he cannot be my disciple. You may appear to take up a cross and deny yourself, but there must be a daily cross, a denying yourself continually; not giving way to our carnal wills, to our own carnal minds, for to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life and peace.

Here is a work that produces profitable fruit, that will not bring reproach, and shame, and confusion upon us. The work of the Spirit of the Lord has not that tendency, but will bring the soul to possess virtue, to inherit glory; it is righteousness that exalts a nation, but sin is the reproach of any people. Sin brings a man to shame and confusion of face, because there is a sense that comes upon a man that God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil, Eccles. 12:14. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, says the Apostle, that everyone may receive the reward of the deeds done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. O! this brings shame and confusion of face over a man, many times the Lord appears in His displeasure, and the weight of His anger is let forth sometimes, so that it appears intolerable. Sometimes men are brought under great terror and affliction of soul and spirit because of it; God afflicts men sorely sometimes, and this in His mercy, that we may fear to offend Him, and be brought to the doing of our duty, and come up in obedience to what the Lord requires of us, He hath showed thee O Man! What is good. Micah 6:6-8. 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 LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? This the Prophet tells us is more effectual and efficacious than sacrifices under the law.

Be faithful, my Friends, to what God makes known, and give up in obedience to the works of righteousness, and live to the glory of God and in obedience to the truth. This tends to establish the soul in a divine hope and confidence, which made Solomon to say, The righteous is as bold as a lion. Why so? Because the Lord is his strength, he is strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Friends, see to this everyone in your own particular, that you put off, concerning your former conversation, the old man with his deeds which are corrupt, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Then you shall find the happy effects of this, the constraining effect and efficacy of the love of Christ, as the Apostle did, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. And therefore the Apostle comes to declare of those to this effect, He that is in Christ is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. How is he a new creature? He is the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus unto good works. O the work of the new creation! How precious is it to be witnessed to! All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation. And says the Apostle to the Ephesians, Ephesians 2:14-15. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace. Here is peace upon a sure foundation, upon a certain bottom. This is the peace that Christ leaves as a legacy to His Disciples, Peace I leave you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth give I unto you. What is the difference? The world's peace is uncertain and attended with pain and trouble, but the peace of Christ maintains itself, in those souls that are gathered into the sense of His power and under His banner. Isaiah 9:6-7. The Prophet says, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. And says the Prophet, Jeremiah 23:5-6. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Friends, it is the desire of my soul that you may come to know the pure effects hereof to your souls, that you may know Christ Jesus to be your Lord, and submit to Him and take His yoke upon you; for they that come to Christ must know what it is to be under His dominion, for He is a King, and shall reign and prosper and execute judgment; the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King, and He will save us. Therefore, my Friends, be everyone of you resigned in your minds and spirits, and live in a dependence upon Him, that you may feel His power overshadowing you from day to day: Then you will say as it is in the Revelations, Chapter 19:1…. Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God. The power of Christ is revealed to us; O Friends! That you may feel that you are gathered under His power, into His pavilion, that He may be a safe hiding place to you, and that you may experience and witness His power from day to day, then your peace shall be as a river. O! that you may everyone find this in your own particular, and not rest satisfied in outward forms, and in an outward profession, and have heavenly treasure in your earthen vessels: Then will you be Witnesses of immortal life, that is brought to light by the Gospel; then you shall be of the number of those that have fought a good fight of faith and laid hold on eternal life, and you shall be sensible of the visitation of the Lord giving spiritual life to the soul. Thus the Psalmist experienced and declared, All my springs are in thee: Here is an evidence and testimony of this life, O! labor to have a testimony of this life, that you may have fresh springs from the Lord, and draw water out of the wells of salvation. These are renewed in the soul from time to time: it may be said that the stream is but small to some; O! keep to the streams and partake of them, though but in the lowest degree, that you may feel the risings of them. When the Prophet Ezekiel was led into the temple, he said, Ezekiel 47:1-5. Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side. And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.

My friends, here are divine openings upon the soul, in feeling fresh springs of love and life, and you may come to know and witness refreshings from the Presence of the Lord. You are not strangers to the fruits of heavenly Canaan, and the fruits of the tree of life; when you come to partake of them, you will say, His fruit was sweet unto my taste: You will find that the Lord will abundantly open His bountiful hand, and satisfy the poor with bread. Let your waiting be continually upon the Lord, and bread will be given to you, and your waters will be sure; then you will see the King in His beauty, the King of Glory discovering Himself. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty; we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord. Here is a precious object indeed! O the beauty of holiness! How affecting is it to the soul? The soul is overcome with God. When the soul comes to the acting of its faith, and trusting in the Lord, and depending upon Him continually, to behold the glory of the Lord, which is of an affecting nature, this raises desires in the soul according to the testimony of the Psalmist, Psalm 17:15. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. The Apostle speaks of beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and being changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord. You that know the revelation of God in you, you will find this change from glory to glory, and a coming up to the beauty of holiness.

Then, my Friends, here is a pure communion with the Saints; the Lord reveals Himself and makes His spiritual Abode in the soul. These are those that come to know fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. They that come to know this know God to be with them, and do know God's power and Presence in the midst of them. Then though man may frown, the light of God's countenance shall be lifted up upon us, and if God be for us, says the Apostle, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all good things? The Lord will bless us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Wait upon the Lord and He will bless you, in turning everyone of you away from your iniquities, and He will encourage you, that you may know additional blessings in your soul.

This is the intent, design, and import of these declarations that are found among you, that you may all know a being gathered to the Lord, and may feel His power and know the Lot of your soul's inheritance; and know that the Lord will continue His mercies to you, and will make good His promise, That if you cast your care upon him, he will take care of you: They that do this may know the Lord to be their portion, and the lot of their inheritance to be in Him. In times of distress and tribulation the Lord will be with them. Israel of old, though they did all partake of an outward Canaan, yet all had not their Lot in Shiloh: They that come to sit with Christ in heavenly places have their Lot in Shiloh, in a Peaceable Savior, the Prince of Peace. Take a view of your inward state and condition, see, is the Lord Jesus your Lot and Portion, then you shall not want; but if you are strangers to this and live in a state of carnal security, sorrow will overtake you. The Prophet saw some to do so; it is as when a hungry man dreams of refreshment, but when he awakes his soul is empty and faint: If you have not the feeling of the power of God's Spirit, and are at ease, a terrible day will overtake you.

Therefore, Friends, while you have time give all diligence, while the manna falls about your tents, and you are humbled in the sense thereof, know that the Lord will preserve you from day to day, then your bread will be sweet and your water sure. O Friends! The great Prophet has been sent to you, Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come unto him, and will sup with him and he with me. Friends, He will bless you, in turning everyone of you away from your iniquities, and you shall know your provisions which are made for you, the Lord Jesus Christ will bless your store, for the treasures of heaven fail not, where moth and rust doth not corrupt, nor thieves break through nor steal. And therefore, Friends, have respect to the manifestation and spiritual appearance of the Lord Jesus, that you may feel His power overshadowing you from day to day, that you may be kept by the mighty power of God. We must wait upon the Lord from day to day, to be kept and preserved by Him, and be retired from the vanities of the world, and live that life we live in the flesh by the faith of the Son of God, that we may come to say with the Apostle Paul, not I live, but Christ liveth in me, that we may be united to Him: he that hath the Son hath life and hath power; to as many as receive him, to them he gave power: here is a divine ability, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. My Friends, if everyone of you do feel this in your own particular, you will come to a heavenly place, to a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and dwell in a sure dwelling, and have the candle of the Lord to shine upon your Tabernacles: Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart; they shall have peace, through Him that is the Prince of Peace. It is the desire of my soul, that you may feel this inwardly in yourselves.

Therefore, dear Friends, retire to that strength that is treasured up for you in Christ: Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, and let all self-confidence be laid aside, and trust in the Lord, for in the Lord is everlasting strength, and he changeth not, therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed: He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Let us take comfort in the unchangeable love of God, who has given us this promise, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper and I will not fear what man shall do unto me, Hebrew 13:6. Therefore wait to receive strength from Christ, from day to day. They that build not upon this power, are upon a sandy foundation; they make an outward profession of religion, and have a form of godliness, but that will not avail, Obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams: And our Savoir says, Matthew 7:26-27. And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine and doth them not, shall be likened to a foolish man that built his house upon the sand, and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof.

Wait upon the Lord, His strength has been revealed, and His power made known, and His Arm made bare: Therefore fix your confidence in Him, that so your minds may be established, Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, and take unto you the whole Armor of God, Ephesians 6:13. This is the Armor that God has made known for His Christian Soldiers, that are making war against sin and unrighteousness, who are fighting the good fight of faith. It was the experience of the first believers, We are more than conquerors through him that loved us; therefore feel your strength fixed upon the Lord, retire and wait upon Him, and be in a watchful frame. The Prophet Habakkuk, when he saw distress was coming upon the Jews, says, Habakkuk 3:16. When I heard, my belly trembled and my lips quivered at the Voice, and rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself that I might rest in the day of trouble: Then says he in the second chapter verse 1. I will stand upon my watch and set me upon the tower, and I will watch and see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.

Now, my Friends, if you are sitting down in outward forms without feeling the operation of God's power and Spirit upon your souls, and be not brought to an inward conformity, the dreadful day will come, that the Lord will search Jerusalem with candles; that God before whom all things are naked and bare, is taking a view of the imperfections of His people, he is the searcher of the heart, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of it; whether you fall short of that power and Spirit of true religion, or if there be only an outward conformity and not inward obedience. The trumpet of the Lord has been blown in Sion, Lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and tell the House of Judah of her transgressions, and the House of Israel of her sins. Where there is only an outward conformity and not an inward subjection, there distress will overtake you; which I have seen in the vision of the Lord, which has been upon me as a warning to the remiss and careless ones, and it was delivered with a voice full of power in these words; All foundations shall be manifested of what sort they are; a Watcher from the holy one with severity shall overtake the unwatchful. Therefore let this be a warning to you all, that you may not fall under the stroke of God's severity. The Apostle Paul says to the believing Romans, speaking of the goodness and severity of God, Romans 11:17-22. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree, boast not against the branches. But if thou boast thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded but fear; for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity, but towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

O my Friends, what need is there of a watchful frame! Think how necessary it is in your own particular, for everyone of you to be keeping in your watchtower; The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous shall flee unto it and be safe: And when they are assaulted with the enemy, the Spirit of the Lord shall be with them; and when the enemy comes upon them as a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard for them against the adversary, and they shall stand still, and see the salvation of God. And they shall find the power of God's Spirit come upon them for sanctification, and they shall be as the purest wheat gathered into the garner of God.

Therefore, my Friends, let the testimonies of truth, which the Lord is pleased by His Servants and Messengers to send to you, take hold of you, and go along with you, and have a place in your secret thoughts. It is an exhortation of the word of truth, which God gives by His Spirit to you, therefore let it be retained; while you are in the light, walk as children of the light, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them, and you shall dwell safely and be set upon a Rock that is higher than you; you shall be as the stars shining in a dark world, and though there be darkness upon the earth, yet here is light, here is beauty. To those that are in Sion and in Goshen, the songs of the night shall be given. When others are in distress, these are they that have their habitation in the Lord, and find a spiritual repose and enter into rest, and enjoy the peace which God through Jesus Christ His beloved Son does give to the souls of His people: That peace that passeth understanding. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto the Lord. Salvation and praise be ascribed unto our God continually for all his mercies and favors, for to him honor, and glory, and thanksgiving belong. And as you render praise to the Lord in the Name of His beloved Son, you shall find acceptance with Him; and an answer of peace returned into your bosoms, when you pray as the Psalmist, Lord I cry unto thee, make hast unto me, give ear to my voice when I cry unto thee, let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Hereby you shall enjoy divine rest, and repose, and refreshment from the Lord, and that joy that is unspeakable and full of glory. This is my desire and Soul's travail, and the end of my labor among you, that this may be your Lot and Portion with the Lord.