Historical texts  >  Early Quaker Sermons  >  John Butcher (1693)

A Sermon

Preached by

Mr. John Butcher,

In Grace-Church-Street, March 11, 1693.

The end of our preaching to you the Principle of the Light within, is, that you might come to the knowledge of Christ, as He does appear nigh to you. He is come nigh to the children of men in our Age, by His light, grace, Spirit, and truth, whereby He does appear in the hearts of men and women. Thus our preaching of Him does agree with His own testimony, I am the light of the world, and He does exhort all that they should so believe in Him; Believe in the light, says He, that you may be children of the light: What is a child of light? He is such a one as, by the operation of the power of Christ, has known a being turned; turned from what? From darkness to light, and from the power of satan to the power of the living God. And for this we do labor, according to the ability which the Lord is pleased to give to us, that people may be turned from darkness to light: And the following words are explanatory, from the power of satan to the power of the living God. So it does appear, people have been under the power of satan, the evil one, that is called the prince of the power of the air; he has a rule and a government, but in whom? In the children of disobedience.

Now, the labor of those ministers that were in the days of old, who were the preachers of the Gospel and glad tidings of the kingdom, they being such ministers as were of Christ's own making, was to turn people from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to the power of the living God: That they might be turned from that evil power and spirit, that rules and works in the hearts of the children of disobedience, who rebel against the light that shines in their hearts and consciences. For the man of sin and worker of iniquity has such a power, and we have all been in captivity to him, we have all been in bondage to sin and satan, which God knew, and the Apostle takes notice of; he says, God has concluded all under sin:We have all been under the power of the wicked one. For what end has God concluded all under sin? For what end is it? That we might be destroyed? No. God, through Christ the dear Son of His love, has extended to you the day of visitation, that you might come to the knowledge of life and salvation. But wherein may we come to this knowledge? It is in that way which God has ordained, even by Christ, who is the way to God; Christ Jesus the eternal Son of God is the blessed Mediator and way to God again. What is God's end in concluding all under sin? Was it that He might destroy all the children of men, that are the workmanship of His hands, that He has endued with rational and immortal souls? Was it that they might be destroyed? No, but that He might have mercy upon all. God's end in first making and creating of us was that we might live to His honor, and that we might so live in this world, that when we die we might obtain a life that shall never die, and to attain to the possession of the inheritance among the Saints in the light, which Christ by His precious blood has purchased for all them that love Him, and give up themselves to be followers of Him.

Now, my Friends, the mercy of God appears great to all in and through Christ Jesus, who is the light of the world, and who is the only way; for we have not another way, nor is there any other name under heaven by which we can be saved, and obtain eternal life. The Apostle refers this to the name and power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Well, if so be that it is only by the power of Christ that we must know salvation, where is it that we must attain it? What shall we do to be made partakers of it, and be saved from the wrath of God, which shall come upon the workers of iniquity? For it's said, The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

People hope to escape the wrath to come and everlasting misery, by Christ, while they neglect to improve the present time that is afforded to them to obtain salvation. Christ is come to redeem us, that we may know redemption by Him; from what? From sin. For pollution and defilement by sin, is the cause why people, notwithstanding all their names and profession of religion, still lie under a secret condemnation in their own hearts. If a man should hold such a fair profession that none could charge him, none condemn him; yet if he meet with a secret condemnation, though all should speak well of him, if his own conscience condemn him, he would not have any true peace or satisfaction in his own mind; for the testimony of a good conscience is more to him than all the favor and friendship of the world. If you incline your minds to obey the light of Christ, what will be the effect of it? This light or Spirit of grace and truth (which is all one) is sufficient to save and deliver you out of the temptations and snares of the wicked one; for we may everyday, while we are here, meet with trials and temptations of one kind or other. What shall a man do that he may be preserved from the evil of the world? There are many provocations and evils that a man meets with in the world, what shall he do to be preserved from them? Christ has made provision for us in His prayer to His Father, John 17:15. I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil. Christ will preserve me from the evil of the world, when a temptation is presented before me, I shall overcome it, if I obey the Light of Christ which will shine upon me, and show me that this must be done, and that I must leave the other undone. In my conscience there is something that will tell me that this thing is evil, and I ought not to do it, when this power of Christ comes to be closed with: for it is an appearance of love, grace, and mercy; but if I do oppose and withstand this grace and mercy, I may miss of that power and strength which is sufficient to overcome, and so be overcome by the temptation. The Apostle John tells us, As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe in His name. So that it's they that do receive Christ, and love His light and Spirit, so as to be led by it, that come to know this power of Christ, and thereby an overcoming; but if people slight and reject the grace and mercy tendered to them, hereupon comes that sentence pronounced by the Prophet, Thy destruction is of thyself. A man may destroy his own soul by giving way to that which is evil, and rejecting that which is good.

Therefore, my Friends, close with that power which inclines you to that which is good: if I mind it, and make trial of it, I shall find that within me, which will incline me to that which is good. Though I may find sometimes a corrupt inclination in me to that which is evil, yet there is something also that will incline me to do what is required of me; why should I reject that which is good? Try all things, and hold fast that which is good; I have tried many things, but none will do me so much good, as the grace and mercy, light and appearance of Christ to me, if I mind it and close with it; He hath showed thee, O Man! what is good, says the Prophet, and what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? The Lord has showed you what His will is, be doers of it. Say then to yourself, shall I give way to that which tends to my ruin, How can I do this wickedness and sin against God? Shall I join with the enemy of my salvation, and yield to his temptations, and dishonor God, and ruin my immortal soul? God forbid. What you know to be contrary to the will of God, take heed of. Cease to do evil, learn to do well; be followers of that which is good; take up the cross of Christ, deny yourselves and your own will, know a being crucified to the world by the cross of Christ, and the world to you.

Thus, as I said before, this is the end of our preaching to you that noble Principle of the light within, that you might come to the knowledge of Christ, as He does appear nigh to you, and will lead you by His Spirit into all truth, and incline you to that which is good, and preserve you from that which is evil, when you are tempted to it. Why should I join with the devil, the dark spirit, that would draw me to that which will destroy my own soul? The Lord Christ is come to turn me from sin, and save my soul; why should I not close with Him? He has stood knocking at the door of my heart, till His head is filled with dew, and His locks with the drops of the night. Many have known these wooings and entreaties of Christ knocking at the door of their hearts, and have let Him in, and closed with His appearance, by His light, grace, and good Spirit, and found the benefit and comfort of it; Why should not I do so? Why should not I esteem Him as the chief of ten thousand, as the beloved of my soul? He will be the chiefest of all to that soul that has chosen Him for the chiefest good. Though there may be some comfort in the enjoyment of the things of the world, yet, though they be useful and necessary for my present supply, if I lose them all and find Christ, and be found in Him, and hold Him fast, I shall count them as nothing, but despise them in comparison of Him, who is the beloved of my soul.

You that are come to the knowledge of Christ, and have embraced the light of truth in your own hearts, do know the benefit you have by it, in walking in the light, as the children of light and of the day, and in obedience to Christ, who is the light and shines in your hearts.

Friends, I would not be mistaken, I do not preach Christ as the Light of the world, in opposition to His outward appearance, and being manifested in the flesh, in that prepared body wherein He did His Father's will when He was on earth: All true Christians do esteem and reverence Christ's appearance in the body, wherein He suffered death, and became a sacrifice for our sins, as the Apostle says, Ephesians 5:2. Christ has loved us, and has given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savor. If I esteem the appearance of Christ in my own heart, I shall be so far from having a light esteem of His bodily appearance, and His being manifest in the flesh, that I shall admire and reverence that great mystery of godliness, and bless God for the record given thereof in the holy Scriptures, which the light of Christ is a key to open; even the great mysteries of the kingdom, which men by their parts and acquirements cannot attain to; for God has not made known these great things to the wise and prudent, as we may gather from Christ's own prayer, Matthew 11:25, 26. I thank Thee, O Father! Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto Babes; even so Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.

My Friends, walk in the light more and more, that, by the Spirit of the Lord, you may be acquainted with the operation of the power of Christ, which will bring you from under the bondage of sin and corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God; wait to know this power in your own hearts, that you may be sanctified throughout in spirit, soul, and body, and be justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, Romans 3:24. Walk in the light, and in meekness, and humility, and in the truth, 1 John 1:6, 7. If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth; but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. Many of you have known the beginning; go forward, and continue to walk in the truth, that you may know the blood cleansing, that as the Apostle says, Romans 6:22. But now being made free from sin, and become Servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.