Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > Bevan's review of Penington's writings
2. A Review of those which he published after that period, or which have been published in the Collection of his Works since his decease.
IT has been seen that Isaac Penington commenced author, before he commenced a professor with the Society of Friends. The following pieces of his issued from the press prior to that event.
1. A touchstone or tryall of faith by the originall from whence it springs, and the root out of which it grows; held out by way of exposition of the 12 and 13 verses of the first chapter of John's gospel, and of the six former verses of the third chapter, which treat expressly about this point: intended not for the disquiet of any, but for the eternall rest and peace of all, to whom the Lord shall please to make it useful thereunto. To which is added, the spirituall practice of Christians in the primitive times. 4to. 2 1648.
Our author was then about thirty-two years old. The texts upon which he descanted, as well as his manner of explaining them, indicate that a preparation of heart had then begun in him, for the reception of the doctrines of a people who have so much relinquished outward <450> ceremonies as Friends have done. The two verses of John 1. are thus: "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." The other passage is part of the remarkable conference of our Lord with Nicodemus; in opening which, Isaac Penington thus explains the being "born of water," or rather what is meant by water. "By water," says he, "is meant the knowledge of God in Christ, the sight of God in the face of Christ, wherein eternall life consists. 'If thou hadst known the gift of God, &c. thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water,' &c. John 4:10. What is this living water? Why 'this is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.' John 17:3. The heavenly doctrine of life and salvation is often expressed in scripture by this term of Water. 'My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew.' Deut. 32:2. and Isa. 55:10. Heb. 6:7. As God is the fountain, whence all the life and sweetnesse of the creature flows, whether naturall (Isa. 65:9), or spirituall (Jer. 2:13), so those beames of eternall light, those streamings forth of life, which issue out from God, in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, they are waters from this fountaine. 2. What is it to be born of water? It notes that fundamental and radicall change, which is made in the heart by the power of the truths of Christ, conveyed thither, and working there," which he goes on to describe more at large. -- Water, thus defined, being the means of regeneration, he describes the Spirit as the agent who applies them. Thus he seemed then to have made a near approach to the tenets, in which he afterwards lived and died, -- The spiritual practice of Christians in the primitive times, is drawn from Ephes. 4:2. as consisting in humbleness, meekness, long-suffering, and forbearing one another in love.
His next piece has this singular title:
2. The great and sole troubler of the times, represented in a mapp of miserie: or a glimps at the heart of man, which is the fountain from whence all misery flows, and the source into which it runs back. Drawn with a dark pencil, by a dark hand, in the midst of darkness. 4to. 1649.
It is a discourse, systematically arranged on Jer. 17:9-10. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I try the reins." The preface turns upon the propensity of parties and persons, to detect each other's faults and to overlook their own. The body of the work shows the <451> pride, covetousness, envy, unrighteousness, enmity, cruelty, unbelief, and hypocrisy, that prevail in the hearts of men.
Our author's next piece of which we have an account, and of which copies remain, is
3. A voyce out of the thick darkness; containing in it a few words to Christians, about the late and present posture of spiritual affairs among them: together with a postscript about darkening the counsel of God: as also some scripture-prophecies concerning some transactions in the later times. 4to. 1650.
A specimen of this work has already been given at page 3. 3 In the title-page of this work he calls himself Isaac Penington (junior), Esq. <452> which title is also in several other of his books; but dropped when he became a Friend. It is a title that is now lavished on persons having no claim to it, and with little distinction; but which, I think should not be assumed by Friends, above all men. It is supposed to be derived from scutifer, through the French word écuyer; and it is generally rendered in law-latin, armiger. Thus its military cast renders it peculiarly unsuitable for us.
The next piece also has a remarkable title.
4. Light or darkness, displaying or hiding itself, as it pleaseth, and from or to whom it pleaseth: arraigning, judging, condemning, both the shame and glory of the creature, in all its several breakings forth from, and appearances in, the creature: held forth to publike view in a sermon, a letter, and several other openings. 4to. 1650. 4
With reference to this are the pieces called
5. Severall fresh inward openings (concerning severall things) which the day will declare of what nature they are, to which judgment they appeal for justice, being contented either to stand or fall by it: and being likewise ready to kiss that condemnation which they are likely to meet with in the mean time, from all sorts of men, whom they finde ready to deal hardly with them. 4to. 1650.
6. An Echo from the great deep, containing further inward openings, concerning divers other things, upon some whereof the principles and practices of the mad folks do much depend: as also the life, hope, safety, and happiness of the Seed of God is pointed at, which, through many dark, dismal, untrodden paths and passages (as particularly through an unthought of death and captivity) they shall at length be led unto. 4to. 1650.
These appear to be deep cogitations in a deeply exercised mind; and often expressed in terms at which even the pious at this day would revolt, and which the wise would contemn. But it seems to be the author's object to lay in the dust all the wisdom, as well as all the righteousness of man, that immoveable and eternal righteousness may be produced and remain. In a superficial glance over these pieces (for I do not pretend to have read them through), the following short <453> definition claimed my attention. "To trust God with all one is, or hopes, for ever, this is true faith." In another place the undermentioned thoughts occur. "O shallow man, when wilt thou cease measuring God by the eye of thy reason? Wilt thou say it must be thus and thus, because thou canst not see how it can be otherwise?" -- A proper query for the great reasoners of this age! -- We may also find another beautiful definition of faith. "Faith is the divine instinct of the new nature in the new creature; whereby it naturally knoweth, and goeth forth towards God as its centre." -- "O man," says he in another place, "Behold thy Saviour. Know thy life. Do not despise eternity, because of its appearing in, and acting through, mortality. This is He who came to redeem thee, to be a propitiatory sacrifice for thee, and a pattern to thee. Art thou able to measure God in any work of his, through the creature? Thou knowest thou art not. Then why dost thou measure him so confidently in his greatest work, through his Christ, even the work of redemption, and so apparently contradict Him in it?" The mere man of reason would probably charge all these writings with mysticism. It is probable that they will find the most ready answer in the mind that has undergone the deepest hidden distress. The last of them, however, seems the most free from the unusual style which pervades the two former, and may probably have been written when the author's broken spirit was in some degree again bound up.
7. The fundamental right, safety, and liberty of the people (which is radically in themselves, derivatively in the parliament, their substitutes or representatives) briefly asserted. Wherein is discovered the great good or harm which may accrue unto the people by parliaments, according to their different temperature and motions. Together with some proposals conducing towards an equal and just settlement of the distracted state of this nation: as likewise a touch at some especial properties of a supream good governor or governors. 4to. 1651
Of this tract a few extracts have been given in the course of these memoirs, pp. 4 to 6, 5 in order to show the benevolence and moderation <454> of the author in matters relating to government. As, in his days, as well as in preceding and succeeding times, governments have assumed to themselves the regulating of religion, one more quotation may not be improper to show Isaac Penington's manner of speaking on that subject, before he had fallen under the oppression of laws made to coerce the liberty of conscience. He is speaking of two kinds of employment unsuitable for parliaments. "The one is," says he, "meddling with spiritual affairs. The constituting of these, the amending of these, the altering of these, is only proper to such as are invested with spiritual authority. The laws of Christ were never appointed to be set up by the power of man; but by the power of his Spirit in the <455> conscience. It is accounted profane, and much startled at, to touch that which man hath made holy, which man hath separated and consecrated to divine use; and yet how propense are almost all persons to be laying hands on that which God hath made holy and set apart for himself!"
8. The life of a Christian, which is a lamp kindled and lighted from the love of Christ, and most naturally discovereth its original, by the purity, integrity, and fervency of its motion, in love to its fellow-partners in the same life: briefly displayed in this its peculiar, and distinguishing strain of operation. Also some few catechistical questions concerning the way of salvation by Christ. Together with a postscript about religion. 4to. 1653.
A part of this is a diffuse exposition of some of those passages in the 14th and 15th chap. of John, which relate to love. The author, noticing the sort of love enjoined to Christians, "As I have loved you," attempts to describe the love of Christ to man, as to its intensity, purity, and the peculiarity of its seeking out its enemies. He shows the profitableness of this love; and gives some directions for the attainment. I am somewhat struck with the following lines near the conclusion. "There is yet a more excellent way, and more excellent things than are now thought of, which will be manifested in due time. But it is very dangerous striving to ascend up to them aforehand: the sweetest and safest way is to wait the season of their descent. The deep sense of the want whereof, with an assured expectation, and quiet waiting and groaning for, is the best strain of religion, of the purest stamp, of any I know extant."
In the postscript, I meet with one of those passages, which show that the profession of religion under which Isaac Penington at length settled, was not altogether a strange and novel thing to him. Speaking of the difference of the light which the primitive Christians had, from that which satisfied the professors of his time, he says, "We reason ourselves into truths and practices, as any other man might do. I do not say that this should not be done; for the human spirit is to go along, and to have its own light with it too; but I cannot but say, that this is not enough."
9. A considerable question about government (of very great importance in reference to the state of the present times) briefly discussed. With a necessary advice to the governors and governed. 4to. 1653. -- 1 sheet.
The author thus states his question. "The question is this: Which is better, both for the good, safety and welfare, both of the governors <456> and governed, Absolute, or Limited authority?"
"Absoluteness is a full power of government without interruption, without rendering an account, residing in the breast, will, or conscience of the governor or governors."
"Limitation is a circumscribing of this power within such certain bounds as the people, for whose sake and benefit government is, shall think fit to confine it unto, for their good and security."
After showing the benefit of absolute government from its prompt execution, and ready remedy for unforeseen evils; and on the other hand its proneness to degenerate into tyranny, he gives it as the plain result, that "Absoluteness is best in itself, but limitations are safest for the present condition of man." His advice to the governors is, "That they undertake not to bring forth that which is not in them:" showing how the Long Parliament had failed; and doubting the army, then in power. His advice to the governed is, "Expect not that fruit from your governors, the root of which is not in them. Did man ever bring forth righteousness and peace? Have ye not yet had enough of looking for reformation and amendment of things, from this or that party?" Finally, he shows that nothing but the Spirit of Christ can settle the nation. -- It is a lively little piece.
10. Divine Essays, or considerations about several things in Religion of very deep and weighty concernment, both in reference to the state of the present times, as also of the Truth itself. With a lamenting and pleading postscript. 4to. 1654. 17 sheets.
These essays are divided into the following sections: "1. Of knowledge in general. 2. Scripture-knowledge. 3. Radical or original knowledge. 4. Of the Word, the Spirit, and faith, under each administration, both that of the law, and that of the gospel, with a hint at their further tendency. 5. Some few observations touching the principles of the Ranters. 6. Of the various false new births and the true one, which are distinguished by their root and nature. 7. Of the true nature and vertue of the kingdom of God. 8. Of the weakness, uncertainty and invalidity of the flesh, in reference to the things of God. 9. Of the certainty of Christ, in his knowledge concerning the things of God, and particularly of his well grounded testimony concerning the way to life: and consequently of the certainty of the knowledge and testimony of his seed in their generations, they being of the same life and nature with Him. 10. Of the liberty of the kingdom, which was outward and shadowy in that dispensation of the gospel by Christ and his apostles; but inward and substantial, both before, then, and after that dispensation, yea, and <457> for ever: which liberty, although it be very large, yet is limited by the law of its own life and nature. 11. Of the low ebb, which the Lord Christ was brought to, by his death and sufferings. 12. Of the low estate, which the seed of Christ are reduced to, by their death and sufferings. 13. The course and end of man. 14. The happy end of the holy nature and course of the Seed of life, which the Spirit of life, through all the various dark paths of sin, death and misery, most faithfully guideth it unto: or, The sweet and happy end of the righteous."
It is probable that there will appear in the tenth head, an incongruous expression. I refer to the word shadowy, as applied to the gospel.
In the following passage, taken from the postscript, the author appears to have made a near approach to that faith, in which he afterwards lived and finished his course.
"O consider this, if ye love your souls! It is not a building upon Christ after the flesh (it is not either a beleeving or obeying from any rational knowledg, from a knowledg of the understanding, though the heart and affections be never so much heated therewith, accompanying it never so vigourously) which will save any man; but a building of a new nature upon the new nature of Christ. It must be a building of a new nature, for Christ saveth his building, his people, his seed, his church: and it must be built or founded upon the new nature of Christ; for Christ himself saveth, not according to the oldness of the letter, but according to the newness of the Spirit."
11. Expositions, with observations sometimes, on severall Scriptures. Divided into four parts. 1. An exposition on Christ's sermon as it is related in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Matthew's gospel. 2. The sum or substance of Jerusalem's song of triumph, being an exposition of the first ten verses of the second chapter of the first book of Samuel. 3. A basket of fragments, containing chiefly expositions upon particular select scriptures, somewhat promiscuously set down. 4. An exposition on the first epistle of John. 4to. 1656. about 94 sheets.
The first, second, and fourth of these divisions are on the general plan of expositors. The verse is first recited, and then the exposition; which is for the most part diffuse. The third part is written on a different plan, and has the following subdivisions:
"1. The right entrance into true wisdom. From Prov. 9:10.
2. The true way of sight and the things most desirable to be seen. Ephes. 1:17-19.
3. The cleer light and sight of God. Psal. 139:12.
<458> 4. The first tipe of the two seeds. Gen. 4.1-13.
5. The transient, yet present light. 2 Pet. 1:19.
6. Christ, the universal light. John 1:9.
7. The times of refreshment. Acts 3:19.
8. A distinction about Orphanship. John 14:18.
9. The ground of the world's hatred against the seed of Christ, or the true and chief ground of persecution, which alwaies hath been and still is the ground, though it was never so acknowledged: from John 15:19.
10. The best defence against the world or worldly spirit, which is the wisdom and innocency of the renewed spirit. Mat. 10:16.
11. Two questions concerning Christ.
12. The anointing and function of Christ. Isaiah 61:2-3.
13. The sweet invitation, reproof and direction of Christ, to wandering souls. Isaiah 55:1-3.
14. The sweetness, goodness and kindness of God's nature, with its great efficacy in the day of his power. Psal. 36:7-9.
15. A Tast of the breathings, pantings, waitings, and hopes of Israel after the true Saviour, and his effectual redemption. Psal. 85.
16. The two main props and pipes of Faith: viz. Knowledg and experience.
17. The distresse and perplexity of Sion; her fidelity therein, and her faithful comforter and deliverer; representated in some declarations from ch. 51. of Isaiah.
18. The proper nature, and sweet benefits of afflictions. Heb. 12:11.
19. The design and work of God in all his dispensations, with a glance at the mistery of this design and work. Ezek. 17:24.
20. Man's way to life rejected, and a way of a different nature made choice of by God. 1 Cor. 1:21-26.
21. The wisdom of God despised and rejected, even in all its appearances, by the spirit of this world: but still justified by the light and spirit of life in his children. Matth. 11:16-20.
22. Man's right temper and practice. Eccles. 12:12-13.
23. The severity of God against corrupt shepherds, who will rescue his flock from them, Ezek. 34:2.
24. The estate of Christ's kingdom at his coming, as it is represented in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Matt. 25:1-13.
25. Brief observations on part of the first chapter of the second epistle to the Thessalonians; but chiefly on those verses which concern the great Rest or Salvation, and the great Trouble or Destruction, both which are, in the end, to be impartially opened and dispensed.
26. The danger of exaltation of a man's spirit over others. <459> Matth. 5:22
27. The conclusion, containing a brief relation concerning myself; with a faithful beam of light which may be of service to such, as are not yet translated out of the dark spirit of this world into the true light of life."
This large volume, like all Penington's early writings, is out of print, and not likely to be again edited. I have never seen more than two copies of it. As a specimen, though short and slight, of the author's manner and temper of mind, I present the reader with an extract from the 14th section of the "Basket of Fragments," entitled, "On the sweetness, goodness, and kindness of God's nature," &c. being an exposition of the 7th, 8th, and 9th verses of the 36th Psalm. The 7th verse is this: "How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings."
"The children of men are in a weary land, in a scorching and tempestuous country, in a city closely besieged and scanty of provision: they want shade, they want shelter, they want rescue, they want relief. The enemy persecuteth them, yea, hath seized upon their life and is devouring it. Their precious soul is daily hunted and taken. They are made very miserable by enemies and dangers, both within and without them: which though few at present discern particularly, yet it is so plainly written in the state of all men, that he that runs may read. For what man can fly from the death of his body? Or what man can endure or escape the pains of the death of his soul? O, how will men cry to the mountains to fall on them, and to the rocks to cover them, when once their misery approacheth! Surely, surely, very precious will be a shelter in the day of calamity! Now God hath wings, such wings as cast a shadow sufficient to shelter the sons of men from all misery. They are a proper help, a proper relief, from sin, from death, from hel, from whatsoever can affright or afflict poor miserable man. They can cover man, and keep him secure from all that can disturb him. And when once man comes to be sensible of this, to understand his own need, the sutableness of this remedy for him, and the great kindness of God in affording it him, he will speedily resort unto it, 'Therefore do the children of men,' &c. Therefore: Because of thy kindness, because of the excellency of thy kindness, because of the openness of thy nature to that which is miserable, and which none can help. There is that in the nature of God which (were it discovered to them) the whole creation could not but trust, only it is hid from their eyes, which, necessitateth for the present this course of misery. -- Therefore: Because of the excellency of its nature, because the children of men <460> see the truth and fulnesse of this kindnesse; they see it to be such, as that it is impossible for it to refuse the relief of any thing that runneth to it, ('Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out,' therefore do they seek shelter under it, and with confidence repose their weary souls there. Indeed, if it were but a kindness of man, though raised to never so great a degree, there were not sufficient ground to trust it."
-- "But such is the nature of God, that were it but known, it could not but be trusted. So kind is God that the greatest sinner who is most obnoxious to Him, did he but know Him, would not fear to put himself into his hands."
Isaac Penington had at one time imbibed the doctrine of election and reprobation, which, as generally understood, consigns to destruction the majority of mankind; but when he wrote the volume under review, he seems to have given up that doctrine so far, as not to be willing to allow the reprobation of any. -- An account has already been given of his attainments in religion, and how all the fabric which he had reared was broken suddenly to pieces. In the conclusion of the part from which these quotations are made, he recounts this overthrow, and thus describes his state when writing. "My soul boweth down before Him, blessing his name. Good is the hand of the Lord! Most holy, righteous, sweet, and kind is his severity and wrath. But my heart and tongue are not yet prepared to speak these things. I will therefore cease, lest He judg me again for taking his name in vain. I am now a dark thing, still in the dark, being neither what I formerly was, nor yet formed into a vessel by the potter: nor yet perfectly broken (though to my own sence perfectly broken long ago); and very little made up."
Another touch or two extracted from another part of this large volume, namely, the "Exposition on Christ's Sermon," may form an agreeable addition to the foregoing.
"As we forgive our debtors.] This is a strong argument with the Father, to move Him to forgive, and to the child, to believe its pardon. He that hath taught us to forgive, will He not forgive us? Can we find a readiness in our spirits, to remit the offences of others; and can we possibly imagine that God can want it? Certainly He that hath wrought this in us, hath also left it remaining in himself. He to whom God hath given a spirit of forgiving, who cannot but forgive those who offend him, may well expect to reap the same measure from God: whose nature engageth Him more to forgive his children, than any nature derived from Him can teach any to forgive such as injure and provoke them. He who finds this wrought in him, hath strong ground to believe that God himself cannot but bear the same temper of spirit in <461> himself, towards him, which He hath wrought in him towards others."
Again, from ch. 7.
"Judge not.] Observ. A judging temper is not fit for a disciple, in the eye of Christ. Judging is not an action beseeming a disciple: is not such an action as Christ alloweth in him."
"There are two things exceeding lovely in a disciple, both whereof this is contrary unto. The first is, A brokenness of spirit in himself, for his own vileness. Though a man be pardoned for his sin; yet the sight of what he was, the remembrance of what was blotted out in him (nay of what is still in him and upon him, further than the Lord pleaseth of his own free goodness to blot it out continually), should keep him very low in his own eyes; even as low as if he were still lying under the guilt and condemnation of it. The second is, A pity and tenderness of spirit towards sinners. He who knoweth the bitterness of his own wound, although he be in part healed himself, yet cannot but yearn over those who remain still exposed to the bitterness of the same wound. How did Christ pity sinners, even the most stubborn sinners! 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,' &c. The more men lie open to judgment, doth not afford us the more liberty of judging them; but the more it should excite our pity. It no way becomes a condemned person newly pardoned, to judg his fellow offenders; but to pity them, and to lie abased under the sense of his own desert, which, by the meer mercy of the judg, he hath lately escaped the danger of."
IN giving an account of the writings of Isaac Penington after he had joined the society of Friends, I cannot engage to enter much into their contents. Such a plan would swell the catalogue itself into a volume of no inconsiderable size; and is the less needful as the titles of them are generally diffuse. The first is
1. The way of Life and Death made manifest, and set before men; whereby the many paths of death are impleaded, and the one path of life propounded and pleaded for: in some positions concerning the apostasy from the Christian spirit and life; with some principles guiding out of it: as also an answer to some objections whereby the simplicity in some may be entangled: held forth in tender good-will both to Papists and Protestants who have generally erred from the <462> faith for these many generations, since the days of the apostles; and with that which they have erred from are they comprehended. 4to. 1658. 14 sheets,
The first edition has in it a piece by Edward Burrough, and one by George Fox. These are omitted in the edition of Penington's works.
The positions are as follow:
"1. That there hath been a great apostasy from the Spirit of Christ, and from the true light and life of Christianity; which apostasy began in the apostles' days, and ripened apace afterwards."
"2. That in this great apostasy, the true state of Christianity hath been lost."
"3. That there is to be a recovery, a true recovery, out of this state of apostasy, into the true state of Christianity again."
"4. That they that are in those things which have been set up in the times of the apostasy, are not yet come to the recovery from the apostasy."
"5. That the only way of recovery out of the apostasy is by returning to, and keeping in, that Spirit from which the apostasy was."
The principles mentioned in the title are these,
"1. That there is no salvation but by the true knowledge of Christ."
"2. That Christ saves by the new covenant."
"3. That the new covenant is written in the heart."
"4. That the Spirit of God alone can write the covenant in the heart; or that Christ writes the covenant by his Spirit."
"5. Therefore the first proper step in religion, is to know how to meet with God's Spirit."
"6. The first way of meeting with the Spirit of God, is as a convincer of sin."
"7. That whereby the Spirit of God convinceth of sin, is his light, shining in the conscience."
"8. That this light convincing of sin shineth in every conscience."
"9. The true way to life eternal is by believing in the light of the Spirit, which shineth in the conscience."
"10. That believing in the light of the Spirit which shines in the conscience, unites the soul to God, and opens the springs of life to it."
These principles, as well as the five positions, are discussed at large. Objections to this doctrine are answered, and there is a particular discussion of the important topic, Justification.
2. The scattered sheep sought after. First, in a lamentation over the general loss of the powerful presence of God in his people, since the <463> days of the Apostles; with a particular bewailing of the withering and death of those precious buddings-forth of life, which appeared in many at the beginning of the late troubles in these nations; with the proper way of recovery for such. Secondly, in some propositions concerning the only way of salvation; where is an answer given to that great objection, That the light which convinceth of sin, is the light of a natural conscience; and a brief account rendered of the ground of men's understanding scriptures. Thirdly, in exposing to view the fundamental principle of the gospel, upon which the redeemed spirit is built. Fourthly, and in some questions and answers (by way of catechism for the sake of the simple-hearted) directing to that principle, and fixing in it. 4to. 1659, 4 sheets. 2nd edit. 1665.
The propositions concerning the only way to salvation are the following four:
"1. That there is no way of being saved from sin, and wrath eternal, but by that Christ alone which died at Jerusalem."
"2. That there is no way of being saved by Him, but through receiving Him into the heart by a living faith, and having Him formed in the heart."
"3. That there is no way of receiving Christ into the heart, and of having Him formed there, but by receiving the light of his Spirit, in which light He is, and dwells."
"4. That the way of receiving the light of the Spirit into the heart (and thereby uniting with the Father and the Son), is by hearkening to and receiving its convictions of sin there."
The fundamental principle of the Gospel is held forth in that passage in the 1st Epist. of John, "This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, That God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." It is not easy to abridge the catechism.
The following winds up the whole. "Let thy religion be to feel the pure principle of life in the pure vessel of life; for the eye must be pure that sees the life, and the heart that receives it. And faith is a pure mystery, and it is only held in a pure conscience. Know that in thee that purifies thee; and then thou knowest Christ, and the Father, and the Spirit; and as that lives, and grows up in thee, so shalt thou know their dwelling-place, and partake of their life and fulness."
3. Babylon the Great described, the city of confusion, in every part whereof antichrist reigns; which knoweth not the order and unity of the Spirit, but striveth to set up an order and uniformity according to the wisdom of the flesh, in all her territories and dominions; her <464> sins, her judgments: with some plain queries further to discover her; and some considerations to help out of her suburbs, that her inward building may lie the more open to the breath and Spirit of the Lord, from which it is to receive its consumption and overthrow. 4to. 1659. 8 sheets.
The preface to this work is another account of the author's religious conflicts and experiences. The work itself appears to be a close reproof of all the semblances of religion which have been formed and worshipped in the world; and great use is made of the figure of a city, and of the mystery of the beast, whore, &c. mentioned in the Apocalypse, which are, in many particulars, explained, according to the sense given to the author.
4. The Jew outward; being a glass for the professors of this age, wherein, if they read with meekness, and in the true light, such of them as have not overslipped the day of their visitation, may see their own spirits, to their own everlasting advantage and comfort, by learning subjection to that which hath power in it to destroy the evil spirit in them: containing some exceptions and arguments of the Jews against Christ's appearance in that body of flesh in their days: which the present professors may view and compare with their exceptions and arguments against his appearance in spirit in this age; that they may see and consider which of them are the more weighty. 4to. 1659. 4 sheets.
The drift of this piece is to show that, in like manner as the Jews rejected Christ, because their knowledge and expectations were outward, and gathered from their fleshly comprehension of the prophecies concerning Him; so the wise professors of the seventeenth century rejected and persecuted his life, as it appeared in their day; and that the natural effect, in every age, of walking according to the flesh, is to persecute that which is born of the Spirit. The analogy of the two cases is exhibited in a striking point of view; the reasoning upon it close and pertinent; and the Scripture-references remarkably apposite.
5. The axe laid to the root of the old corrupt tree; and the spirit of deceit struck at in its nature; from whence all the error from the life, among both papists and protestants, hath arisen, and by which it is nourished and fed at this day: in a distinction between the faith which is of man, and the faith which is of God: and in some assertions concerning true faith, its nature, rise, &c., its receiving of Christ, and its abiding and growing in his living virtue: with a warning concerning adding to, and diminishing from, the Scripture in general, <465> and the prophecies of the Revelations in particular: discovering what it is, and the great danger of it, with the only way of preservation from it. Whereto is added, a short touch about the use of means; as also, a brief history concerning the state of the church since the days of the Apostles: with an exhortation to the present age. By the movings of the life, in a friend to the living Truth of the most high God; but an utter enemy to the spirit of error and blasphemy, wherever it is found, as well in the strictest of the Protestants, as among the grossest of the Papists. 4to. 1659. Six and a half sheets.
This makes the fourth in one year. It is a very close, searching work. Much of it is employed in detecting the marks of the false church, in the various forms under which it has appeared; and the deceivableness of unrighteousness is set forth by copious allusions to the book of the Revelation. The author seems aware that his doctrine will find difficult entrance into the minds of such as are satisfied with any thing short of the pure life; and may even induce some of those who are seeking it, to doubt whether they are not deceived; for he supposes the following objection, "How difficult do you make the way to life, if not utterly impossible? If all this be true, who can be saved?"
Answ. "The way to life is very difficult; . . . " 6
In John Whiting's Catalogue, comes in next,
6. To the Parliament, the Army, and all the well-affected in the nation, who have been faithful to the good old Cause. 1659. Half a sheet.
In Whiting the title ends at "nation." and the piece itself is omitted in the Quarto edition. The author reproves the army for having forsaken their first principles, and having served the ends of interest and power to themselves; and exhorts the parliament not to second such a disposition, but to act for the purposes of righteousness.
7. A Brief Account of some Reasons (amongst many that might be given) why those people called Quakers, cannot do some things on the one hand, and forbear doing of some things on the other hand; for which they have suffered, and do still suffer, so much violence from the people, and such sore persecution from the teachers and magistrates of these nations; where it may appear to all, who are willing to take any fair consideration of their cause, that their <466> sufferings are for righteousness' sake, because of the integrity of their hearts towards God, and void of any just ground of offence towards man. No date; published in a broad sheet; as was also,
8. Some Considerations proposed to the City of London, and the nation of England, to calm their spirits, and prepare them to wait for what the Lord is bringing about, that they may not run headily into their ruin and destruction; and by this extraordinary heat of their spirits, kindle that fire which will soon devour them. With a short exhortation to them relating to their true settlement, and the removal of that which hinders it.
The two following were also published about this time.
9. Some Considerations proposed to the distracted Nation of England, concerning the present design and work of God therein; upon their submitting whereto doth their settlement alone depend, and not upon any form of government, or change of governors: as that spirit which seeketh their ruin tempteth them to believe. 1659.
10. To the Army. Very short.
11. A Question propounded to the Rulers, Teachers, and People of the Nation of England, for them singly to answer in their hearts and consciences, in the fear and dread of the mighty God of heaven and earth, &c. I abridge this long title, and insert a part of the question.
"When this nation was rent from popery (in part I mean; for wholly it was never rent, but did still remain in the same spirit; though by the magistrate's sword it was forced from that form and way of worship which the pope had established), did it wait on the Lord for the guidance of his Spirit and power, thereby to build up a true church and habitation for God in the Spirit? Or did it take such materials as were ready at hand, and frame up a building as well as it could, wherewith the consciences of many, that were tender-hearted towards God, were even then dissatisfied?" 4to. One sheet.
The propositions are these:
"1. That councils may err."
"2. That the pope himself may err."
"3. That every man may err, in his interpretation of scripture."
"4. That if there be any light to be found any where shining from God, that light cannot err."
"5. That there must necessarily be such a light, communicated to all men since the fall."
"6. That this being let in, believed in, and obeyed, shineth more and more unto the perfect day; even until it hath wholly brought out of the error, into the truth."
"7. That nothing less can lead unto eternal life than an eternal light in man's spirit."
In this piece also is frequent reference to the description of the woman and the dragon, in the book of Revelations.
13. An Examination of the grounds or causes which are said to induce the court of Boston, in New-England, to make that order or law of banishment, upon pain of death, against the Quakers; as also of the grounds and considerations by them produced, to manifest the warrantableness and justice both of their making and executing the same; which they now stand deeply engaged to defend, having already thereupon put two of them to death. As also, of some further grounds for justifying of the same, in an appendix to John Norton's book (which was printed after the book itself, yet as part thereof); whereto he is said to be appointed by the general court. And likewise, of the arguments briefly hinted, in that which is called 'A true relation of the proceedings against the Quakers,' &c. Whereunto somewhat is added about the authority and government, Christ excluded out of his church; which occasioneth somewhat concerning the true church-government. 4to. 1660. Thirteen sheets.
I take this to be a choice piece, and far from being useless now, or at any time, because the immediate cause of its publication is done <468> away. The reader will find in it some able defence and elucidation of the principles of Friends; clear refutation of the arguments for persecuting them, and much of the spirit of love and good-will to the persecutors. The matter is well summed up, and the excluded, and the allowed authority of the church are well described.
14. A Warning of Love from the bowels of life, to the several generations of professors of this age, that they may awaken and turn toward the life, to be truly cleansed and saved by its powerful living virtue, before the storm of wrath break forth, and the overflowing scourge overtake them, which will sweep away the strongest and most well-built refuge of lies: and sink those souls even into the pit of misery, which are there found when the storm comes: held forth in four propositions, assertions, or considerations, concerning man in his lost state, and his recovery out of it. 4to. 1660. One sheet.
This close piece may be epitomized by taking the four assertions, viz.
"1. That man is fallen from God."
"2. That man, by all the imaginations that can enter into his heart, and by all the means he can use, or courses he can run, cannot return back to God again, or so much as desire it."
"3. That all professions of God and of Christ upon the earth, all knowledge and beliefs whatsoever, with all practices of duties and ordinances of worship, save only such as proceed from, and are held in, the pure life, are but as so many fig-leaves, or deceitful plasters, which may skin over the wound, but cannot truly heal it."
"4. That the living seed of eternal life, which God hath hid in man underneath his earth, hath in it the living virtue, which alone can heal man, and restore him to God."
The subject of this assertion, he also holds forth, in another part, which for its brevity and beauty, and soundness, I also transcribe. -- "That which recovers man, is the eternal virtue, the endless power, the life immortal, the Christ of God."
15. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 4to. 1660. One sheet.
This text is the title of a piece, printed in his works like a postscript to the former; but it is evidently a distinct one, and is so noted in Whiting's Catalogue.
16. An Epistle to all such as observe the Seventh Day of the week for a sabbath. 1660.
<469> This is also a separate piece, but in the works is only to be found in the following.
17. The new Covenant of the Gospel distinguished from the old Covenant of the Law, and the Rest or Sabbath of Believers from the Rest or Sabbath of the Jews; which differ as much from each other, as the sign and shadow doth from the things signified and shadowed out. In answer to some queries of W. Salter's, tending to enforce upon Christians the observation of the Jewish Sabbath, which was given under the law to the Jews for a sign: as also to some other queries sent in writing, upon occasion of an epistle directed to all such as observe the seventh day of the week for a sabbath, now under the gospel. As likewise some letters to the same purpose; with a brief explication of the mystery of the six days labour and seventh day's sabbath. Whereto are added, some considerations propounded to the Jews, tending towards their conversion to that which is the life and spirit of the law. 4to. 1660. Seven sheets: but the Consid-erations to the Jews occupy one, of which the pages begin afresh.
The first of the set of queries to which this book is an answer, is, "Whether the fourth commandment, expressed Exod. 20. be not moral and perpetual, as well as the other nine be, yea or no?" Our author maintains the negative, and shows the spiritual nature of the Christian rest.
Next follows, in Whiting's Catalogue, but not in the works,
18. Some few Queries and Considerations proposed to the Cavaliers, being of weighty importance to them. 4to. No date. One sheet.
It seems to have been written soon after the Restoration, and is a calm and close expostulation with the prevailing party. -- "O," says he, "that they could fear the Lord for his goodness; and that those that are fallen under them might fear Him for his severity; and that we might all give over upbraiding, and fighting against one another, and every man fight against the lusts of his own heart; against pride, passion, envy, covetousness, hard-heartedness, oppression of men's consciences, doing to others what we would not receive from others, &c., for the hand of God is swift against the unrighteous spirit, and He overturns apace. And if this present settlement do not please Him; but if this generation, after all their afflictions, prove themselves unworthy of his mercy, not letting fall what the hand of the Lord hath gone forth against, but thinking to settle again upon firmer foundations what God hath all this while been shaking; the Lord will laugh at their counsels <470> and at their strength, and overturn them in a moment."
The reader may compare this with the counsels, and with the overthrow, of the house of Stewart.
19. Some Queries concerning the work of God in the world, which is to be expected in the latter ages thereof; with a few plain words to the nation of England, tending toward stopping the future breakings-forth of God's wrath, both upon the people and power thereof; with an Advertisement relating to the present state of things. 4to. 1660. One sheet.
This is in some respects similar to the foregoing. Near the conclusion, the author says, "It behoves this nation to consider what of Babylon may be found in it, and to part with it, that it may escape the plagues of Babylon, Rev. 18:4., which are very bitter, as ver. 7-8, &c. These are the two main things whereof Babylon is guilty:
"1. An invented form of worship, a likeness of the true worship, but not the true worship itself.
"2. A persecuting, and endeavouring to suppress the power of the truth, even of the purity of the godly religion and worship, by means of this form; because for conscience' sake, men who are taught otherwise by the Spirit of God, cannot submit and subject thereto."
20. The Consideration of a position concerning the book of Common Prayer; as also of some particulars held forth for truths by one Edmund Ellis, stiled a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ: with a warning of tender bowels to the rulers, teachers, and people of this nation, concerning their church and ministry. Likewise, a few words concerning the kingdom, laws, and government of Christ in the heart and conscience; its inoffensiveness to all just laws and governments of the kingdoms of men. 4to. 1660. Four sheets.
This is somewhat of a controversial piece, but our author does not seem to have had to do with a railing adversary; nor does he treat him with asperity. It cannot well be abridged; but I shall cite two passages, one to show the author's sense of the main question; the other, his state of mind, and his estimation of his own talents.
"Now, as touching the book of Common Prayer, or prayers conceived without the immediate breathings of the Spirit, I shall speak mine own experience faithfully, which is this; I have felt both these ways draw out the wrong part, and keep that alive in me which the true prayer kills. And he that utters a word beyond the sense that God begets in his spirit, takes God's name in vain, and provokes him to <471> jealousy against his...soul. 'God is in heaven, thou art on earth, therefore let thy words be few.' The few words which the Spirit speaks, or the few, still, soft, gentle breathings, which the Spirit begets, are pleasing to God, and profitable to the soul; but the many words which man's wisdom affects, hurt the precious life, and thicken the veil of death over the soul; keeping that part alive which separates from God; which part must die, ere the soul can live." Vol. i.408.
"As for me, I am but a shell; and if this party knew me (who sets me up so high, preferring me above many whom the Lord hath preferred far above me), he would soon acknowledge me to be a poor, weak, contemptible one. Yet this I must by no means deny, that the pure liquor of the eternal life, at its pleasure, springeth up and issueth out through me; though I can also, in true understanding, say, that it issueth out far oftener, and much more abundantly, through others." p. 417.
21. An Answer to that common objection against the Quakers, That they condemn all but themselves; with a loving and faithful advertisement to the nation and powers thereof. 4to. 1660. One sheet.
After owning the spirit which actuated the martyrs and spiritually-minded men of former days, and deprecating the disposition to stop short in partial reformation, our author thus sums up his answer:
"We are not against the true life and power of godliness, wherever it hath appeared, or yet appears, under the veil of any form whatsoever. Nay, all persons who singly wait upon the Lord, in the simplicity and sincerity of their hearts, whether under any form, or out of forms (that matters little to us), are very dear unto us in the Lord. But we are against all forms, images, imitations, and appearances, which betray the simplicity and sincerity of the heart, keep the life in bondage, and endanger the loss of the soul. And too many such now there are, which hold the immortal seed of life in captivity under death; over which we cannot but mourn, and wait for its breaking off the chains, and its rising out of all its graves, into its own pure life, power, and fulness of liberty in the Lord."
22. The great Question concerning the lawfulness or unlawfulness of Swearing under the Gospel, stated and considered of; for the satisfaction of such as desire to scan the thing in the weight of God's Spirit; and to see the true and clear determination of it in his unerring light. 4to. 1661. Two sheets.
This pamphlet condemns swearing, on the ground of the superior purity of the Christian dispensation, to that wherein oaths were <472> allowed; as well as on the prohibition of Christ. An objection, probably that which has been made from Heb. 6:17. is answered.
23. Somewhat spoken to a weighty Question concerning the Magistrate's protection of the innocent: wherein is held forth the blessing and peace which nations ought to wait for and embrace in the latter days; with some considerations for the serious and wise in heart throughout this nation to ponder, for diverting God's wrath (if possible) from breaking forth upon it. Also, a brief account of what the people called Quakers desire in reference to the civil government. With a few words to such as by the everlasting arm of God's power have been drawn and gathered out of the apostasy, into the living truth and worship. 4to. 1661. Two sheets.
This was published from Aylesbury gaol.
24. Concerning Persecution; which is the afflicting or punishing that which is good, under the pretence of its being evil; which practice is contrary to the very nature of mankind (so far as it is drawn out of the corruption and depravation [depravity],) which would be good and do good, and have good cherished and evil suppressed, both in itself and others. It is contrary also to all equal and righteous government, which is for the suppressing of evil and cherishing of good; and not for the afflicting and crushing of that which is good, upon pretence of its being evil. Yet this unhappy error will always be committed in nations and governments, until the proper right, and just liberty of men's consciences be discerned, acknowledged, and allowed. Likewise, there are some answers given to that common objection against affording conscience its due liberty, because evil persons may pretend conscience to escape the just punishment of their evil deeds. With a brief account of that supposed stubbornness, which by many is objected against the people called Quakers. Given forth in love to this nation, that at length, the true bottom and foundation of a lasting peace and settlement may be espied; the spirits of the governors and people fixed thereon; and that dangerous rock of persecution (whereon both the powers and people of this nation have so often split) carefully avoided by all. 4to. 1661. Four sheets.
The title itself is a table of contents, which precludes the necessity of epitomizing the book. Like many of Isaac Penington's writings, it is systematic and perspicuous, not confused and obscure; and its several positions are treated of with a distinctness, which allows the reader to pause as he proceeds, without danger of losing his clue. I may just cite the concluding paragraph. "O! how happy will the day <473> be, when the Lord shall have wrought down the selfish spirit in man, and shall have raised up his own noble and equal principle. Then shall righteousness spring up, and spread abroad throughout the nations; and 'the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever.'"
25. Some directions to the panting Soul, which hath been long travelling in the letter, but hath not yet been acquainted with the power, nor hardly so much as entered into the ministration of endless life (which is the ministration of the Gospel), that it may feel the spring, and come to drink there, of the living waters. 4to. 1661. One sheet.
Whiting places this piece after the two following; but from its date it seems more rightly placed in the Works. It is difficult to give an outline of so short a work: its tenor may be inferred from the motto from Matt. 11:28-30. "Come unto me all ye that labour."
26. Concerning the Worship of the living God, which He teacheth Israel his people, who know Him to be the only true God, and the worship which He teacheth them to be the only true spiritual worship. With some questions and answers relating to conversion and tenderness of conscience. 4to. One sheet.
It is easy to see that spiritual worship, free from any mixture of man's will or wisdom, is what the author enforces; he notices the springing up of such a worship in his day; and he foretells a day, in which "it will be as honourable to wait for the movings of the Spirit, and to worship alone therein, as now it is reproachful."
27. To all such as complain that they want power; not applying themselves to yield subjection to what of God is made manifest in them, upon a pretence of waiting for power so to do. 4to. 1661. Two sheets.
I shall rather aim at giving a specimen, than an analysis of this excellent piece. "I confess," says our author, "the power doth not so flow forth to man, as man expects it; but...begins in him as weakness. There is all...the power of the enemy against the work of God in the heart. There is but a little thing (like a grain of mustard-seed), a weak thing, a foolish thing, even that which is not (to man's eye) to overcome all this; and yet in this is the power."
In this piece there is a sweet letter (to Isaac Penington, most probably, at the time of his early convincement) from John Crook, well worth the perusal of such as are truly awakened, but "afflicted <474> and not comforted,"
28. Some Questions and Answers for the opening of the eyes of the Jews Natural, that they may see the Hope of Israel, which hath so long been hid from them: with some questions and answers, for the direction, comfort, help, and furtherance of God's spiritual Israel, in their travels in spirit, from spiritual Egypt, through the spiritual wilderness, to spiritual Canaan, which is the land where the redeemed soul flourisheth in the life, walking with God, and worshipping Him in spirit and truth. 8vo. 1661. Eight sheets.
This, also, though a work of deep concernment, and very far from relating wholly to the Jews, as indeed the title implies, is not capable of being represented by a summary. I have however thought the following advice so suitable a caution to the readers of mysterious writings (such as spiritual tracts must ever be to the natural understanding; and the experiences of the adept, to the novice even in spiritual things themselves), and indeed even to the merely curious readers of the scriptures -- I have, I say, esteemed it so apposite as to be worth transcribing. "He that readeth these things," saith our author, after a long description of the soul's spiritual travel, snares, and means of deliverance, "let him not strive to comprehend them; but be content with what he feeleth thereof suitable to his own present estate: and as the life grows in him, and he in the life, and he comes to meet with the things and exercises spoken of, the words and experiences concerning them will of themselves open to him; and be useful and serviceable to him so far as the Lord pleaseth; he keeping to the leadings, savour, and principle of life in himself, wherein alone his knowledge, sight, growth and experiences are safe."
29. Some Questions and Answers, showing man his duty, and pointing him to the principle of God in his heart; which is the root of life in all dispensations; and which, being kept to, is able to bear the fruit of life in every dispensation. As also some questions and answers concerning the seed of Jacob, and the true church. 8vo. 1662. Three sheets.
This is also another piece little capable of abridgement; because, like some of the foregoing, and many other of our author's writings, it is written in the way of dialogue, one question arising out of the preceding answer.
The piece before-mentioned, No. 27, "To all such as complain they want power," &c. is printed with it in the Works.
<475> 30. Some observations on that portion of Scripture, Rom. 14:20. for the service of such in this present age, whose eyes and hearts the Lord shall please to open, to see and consider the weight of the truth thereof. With some few weighty words of advice to several sorts of people, according to their different states. 8vo. 1662. One sheet.
The passage of scripture is this, "For meat, destroy not the work of God." The observations are four: namely,
"1. God hath a work in some men's hearts."
"2. That this work of God in man is liable to be destroyed."
"3. A little thing will destroy the work of God in the heart."
"4. No man should do that which tendeth to destroy the work of God in himself, or the work of God in another."
Each observation is briefly enlarged upon. The first may seem to savour of unconditional and partial election. Nevertheless our author appears to have been an advocate for universal grace: but in a piece inferring and asserting the possibility of destroying the divine operation, it was sufficient to assert it only as existing in some. In this view, it is a reply to the assertors of the impossibility of falling from the least degree of saving grace. There are short addresses to several states; viz. to such as never have been tender in conscience; to such as having been so, are become hard; to such as are still tender; and, lastly, to the obdurate and persecuting. Few works more teem with benevolence than this does.
31. Three Queries propounded to the King and Parliament, in the fear of the Most High, and in the tender love of my soul to them. 4to. One sheet. No date.
The three questions are these,
"1. Whether ye do certainly and infallibly know what was the ground or cause why the hand of the Lord was so heavy upon this nation, and why He overturned the government thereof, and brought the honourable into contempt?"
"2. Whether, when the Lord did overturn the former powers, with the glory and beauty of this nation, and raise up other powers out of the dust (as I may say), even from among them of low degree, if they had then answered what the Lord expected and required of them in their day, whether they should have been continued by Him in their dominion or no; and whether ye should have had this day of trial, which it hath pleased the Lord now to afford you?"
"3. If ye do not certainly know what was the cause of the Lord's former displeasure against you, and of his so sore afflicting you, but shall err in judgment, and set up the same things again, which the Lord <476> then put forth his hand to throw down; and also endeavour to crush and suppress that, which the Lord then made way for the growth of; whether this will not endanger your overthrow from the hand of the Lord?"
This is a dissuasive against persecution.
32. A Salutation of Love and tender Good-will to the Commissioners of the Peace for the county of Bucks, and such others in that county, and also throughout the nation, as are concerned in the contents hereof. Published in one broad sheet. No date.
This is a serious warning to avoid the eternal displeasure of the Almighty, by avoiding the temptations to sin. It may be considered as a short sermon, appears to be dictated in love, and is a piece of general application.
33. A weighty Question propounded to the King, and both Houses of Parliament; together with some queries about religion, for the good of men's souls, that they may seek after, and be established in, that which gives life. 4to. 1663. One sheet.
The first part being short, I transcribe the whole. 8
This piece also contains a weighty discussion of the difference between the persuasions of reason, and the persuasions of faith; giving of course the superiority to the latter.
34. Some of the Mysteries of God's Kingdom glanced at, for the service of the upright-hearted among several sorts of professors; who have formerly had a feeling of most of these things in measure: to which feeling, and that which gave it them, they are hereby allured and invited to return; that the many names and various ways may perish and vanish; and the one Spirit, one Life, one new living Name and Way, may be waited for and pursued after: that so all the tribes and families, and several divisions of Israel may know one another; and heartily unite in one nature and inward power of life, which doth good to all, and harm to none, neither inwardly nor outwardly. By a traveller towards the living substance, and a mourner over the wanderings of the scattered sheep. 4to. 1663. Four sheets.
This work is divided into sixteen sections, with the following titles. Concerning Christ -- The Way of knowing Christ -- Repentance -- Faith -- Hope -- Love -- Obedience -- Peace, or rest -- Joy -- Liberty -- <477> Prayer -- Regeneration -- Justification -- Sanctification -- Reconciliation -- Redemption.
As a specimen, I select the following extract, being the section on Love.
"What is Love? What shall I say of it, or how shall I in words express its nature! It is the sweetness of life. It is the sweet, tender, melting nature of God, flowing up through his seed of life into the creature; and, of all things, making the creature most like unto himself, both in nature and operation. It fulfils the law. It fulfils the gospel. It wraps up all in one, and brings forth all in the oneness. It excludes all evil out of the heart; it perfects all good in the heart. A touch of love doth this in measure; perfect love doth this in fulness. But how can I proceed to speak of it! Oh! that the souls of all that fear and wait on the Lord might feel its nature fully; and then would they not fail of its sweet overcoming operations, both towards one another, and towards enemies. The great healing, the great conquest, the great salvation is reserved for the full manifestation of the love of God. His judgments, his cuttings, his hewings, by the word of his mouth, are but to prepare for, but not to do, the great work of raising up the sweet building of his life; which is to be done in love, and in peace, and by the power thereof. And this my soul waits and cries after, even the full springing up of eternal love in my heart, and in the swallowing of me wholly into it, and the bringing of my soul wholly forth in it, that the life of God, in its own perfect sweetness, may freely run forth through this vessel; and not be at all tinctured by the vessel, but perfectly tincture and change the vessel into its own nature; and then shall no fault be found in my soul before the Lord; but the spotless life be fully enjoyed by me, and become a perfectly pleasant sacrifice to my God."
"O how sweet is Love! how pleasant is its nature! how takingly doth it behave itself, in every condition, upon every occasion, to every person, and about every thing! How tenderly, how readily, doth it help and serve the meanest! How patiently, how meekly doth it bear all things, either from God or man; how unexpectedly soever they come, or how hard soever they seem! How doth it believe! How doth it hope! How doth it excuse, how doth it cover even that which seemeth not to be excusable, and not fit to be covered! How kind is it even in its interpretations and charges concerning miscarriages! It never overchargeth, it never grates upon the spirit of him whom it reprehends. It never hardens, it never provokes; but carrieth a meltingness and power of conviction with it. This is the nature of God. This, in the vessels capacitated to receive and bring it forth in its glory, the power of enmity <478> is not able to stand against, but falls before, and is overcome by."
In this work, though not specified in the title, there are "Some Questions and Answers of deep concernment to the Jews, from one who hath been a wrestler and traveller [travailer] with the Lord of life, for the day of their mercy and redemption." I shall only quote the following lines, and observe that the concluding address to the Jews is very earnest and pathetic. The selected quotation is an answer to the first question, the piece being catechetical. -- "That there is mercy towards, and redemption for, that poor scattered, forsaken people, my heart hath from my childhood, and doth still steadfastly believe."
35. Some deep Considerations concerning the State of Israel, past, present, and to come. With some questions and answers concerning unity. 4to. No date. Two sheets.
This has relation to the state of spiritual religion in our author's memory; but as the nature of the human mind is alike in all times, it is not to be considered as an obsolete piece. In looking it over, I fell upon a very tender and encouraging salutation to the afflicted traveller towards Sion.
The questions concerning spiritual unity are the following:
"1. What is it? 2. Wherein doth it consist? 3. How preserved? 4. How interrupted? 5. How recovered, if decaying?"
The reader may probably incline to turn to the answers (which it would exceed my plan to insert), when he has tasted the following paragraph, with which this piece concludes:
And let all strive to excel in tenderness and in long-suffering, and to be kept out of hard and evil thoughts one of another, and from harsh interpretations concerning any thing relating to one another. Oh! this is unworthy to be found in an Israelite towards an Egyptian; but exceeding shameful and inexcusable to be found in one brother towards another. How many weaknesses doth the Lord pass by in us! How ready is He to interpret every thing well concerning his disciples, that may bear a good interpretation! The spirit, saith He, is willing, but the flesh is weak. When they had been all scattered from Him, upon his death, He did not afterwards upbraid them, but sweetly gathered them again. O dear friends, have we received the same life of sweetness? Let us bring forth the same sweet fruits, being ready to excuse, and to receive what may tend towards the excuse of another in any doubtful case; and where there is any evil manifest, wait, Oh! wait, to overcome it with good. Oh! let us not spend the strength of our spirits in crying out of one another because of evil; but watch and wait where the mercy and <479> the healing virtue will please to arise. O Lord, my God, when thou hast shown the wants of Israel in any kind sufficiently (whether in the particular or in the general), bring forth the supply thereof from thy fulness, so ordering it in thy eternal wisdom, that all may be ashamed and abased before Thee, and thy name praised in and over all."
As this piece is said to be by "Isaac Penington the younger" (at least is so printed in the Works), I mention it before the next, though that precedes in Whiting's Catalogue; but, with Whiting, I put both before what is here numbered 37, because this being written in Aylesbury prison, it seemed natural to connect it with a series of pieces also written there.
36. Concerning God's seeking out his Israel: likewise concerning the principle of life whereby He seeketh them; and the way of their closing with his Spirit therein. As also concerning the two covenants; under one whereof He pleaseth to exercise and prepare them for the life and inheritance, which He hath treasured up for them in the other. With a postscript, relating some things necessary for lost man to be acquainted with, in his travels from his lost estate. 4to. 1663. Three sheets.
This wants in the title the appellation "younger," which seems to denote that about this time our author lost his father, the alderman, who, as has before been remarked, died in the Tower, a prisoner to the royal party then risen to power.
This piece is addressed to Friends in and about Godmanchester, in Huntingdonshire. A part of it arose on this wise: Some time before, the author had been at a meeting there, in which whilst another Friend was speaking, some words sprung up in his mind. When the Friend ceased, the words did not again spring in him, and he dared not to utter them from bare remembrance, but went away with a burden. After some time, one morning, not then thinking of the circumstance, the very same words sprung up again livingly, with a pointing to write them down, with what else should be given to him, and to send them to the Friends of the neighbourhood of Godmanchester.
I have found it more than ordinarily difficult to fix upon any part of this work as a specimen. The words which occurred at Godmanchester were these: "The Shepherd of Israel is seeking out his sheep, even the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The title of this book, as well as this sentence, may be thought by some to have a predestinarian aspect; but he defines "his sheep" to be the sons of men; and "the lost sheep of the house of Israel," those among the sons of men who have felt touches of the life, but have not fully followed it. A second part of the work <480> has this title -- "Concerning the Seed, or inward principle, whereby life is begotten and maintained in the heart." In this, the lowness and weakness of the first appearances of good, and the necessity of being content to receive it in its low appearance, are much insisted on. Then follow remarks "Concerning the two Covenants." Here again the author shows himself no advocate for a partial call by grace; saying, "This visitation of grace is to all mankind, there being none upon earth whom the Lord doth not thus seek, and visit with the light of his eternal life, thus administered through the grace." This section contains encouraging advice to the upright yet weary traveller; and also the author's belief that there may yet be a greater manifestation of the love and life than yet is. There is also a Postscript, concerning "Some things necessary for lost man to be acquainted with: as, 1. To know his lost estate and misery for ever, unless the Lord pity and help him. 2. To know the light wherewith the Lord visits the souls that sit in darkness. 3. To breathe to the Lord, and wait to have his heart joined to the power of life daily. 4. To put forth all the strength of his soul and mind, and all the members of his body, in the service of the Lord. 5. To wait daily to receive the strength from the Lord, wherewith he serveth the Lord. 6. To feel the grace and mercy of the Lord, in whatever he receiveth from the Lord, or whatever he doth for the Lord. 7. To wait for the wasting of the man, and the raising up of the seed day by day." -- I have abridged most of these, and shall much abridge the conclusion.
"Here," saith he, "is safety indeed! Here is everlasting righteousness so brought in, that it can never be removed out of the heart more. Here, everlasting life and the soul are one for ever.... This is the mark of Israel, and the haven of its eternal rest."
37. Some Queries concerning the order and government of the Church of Christ. 4to. No date. Two sheets. Written in Aylesbury prison.
The scope of this piece is to establish the necessity of order in the church; in reply to such as contend that general regulations may occasion a man to turn away from the measure of life in his own vessel, to another man's measure. This, and other objections are answered. "Did not," says Penington, "the apostles preach up the measure of life in their day,...the anointing within, its sufficiency to teach all things! &c. And yet did they so preach it as to overthrow the ministry, or the gifts or service, either towards them that were without, or them that were within? Had they not power over them in the Lord? Were they not...to build them up in the holy faith; and also to watch against wolves and devouring spirits?" The tract however seems to <481> have a principal reference to the judgment respecting the ministry of others. The latter part of it relates to unity, and the author mentions four means, which he had found helpful to preserve him in unity with the body. The first is, the pure fear of the Lord; the second, humility of heart; the third, sobriety of judgment.* "Not to set up mine own judgment," says he, "or that which I account the judgment of life in me, above the judgment of others, or that which is indeed life in others. For the Lord hath appeared to others, as well as to me: yea, there are others, who are, in the purity and dominion of his life, far beyond me." The last-mentioned means are, tenderness, meekness, coolness, and stillness of spirit. "These," he declares, "are of an uniting, preserving nature. He that differs...from the body, cannot be thus; and he that is thus, cannot rend or divide."
38. An Epistle, written from Aylesbury prison, to Friends in England, Ireland, Scotland, Holland, New-England, Barbadoes, or anywhere else, where the Lord God shall order this to come, in the tender spirit of life and love, greeting. 4to. 1666. One sheet and a half.
There is much in this of the same stamp with the last; which makes it the more probable that Whiting's arrangement is the right one.
39. One more tender Visitation to the men of this generation, sent to them in bowels of love and tender compassion, before their day be over. Published in a broad sheet. 1666. Dated from Aylesbury prison, 16th, 5th month.
This is a tender, pathetic remonstrance, chiefly with those in authority; breathing, according to my capacity to judge, the genuine spirit and language of a persecuted Christian to his oppressors.
40. Concerning the Church, or, of the Church-state under the Gospel: whereby it may appear what a miserable apostacy from the truth had overspread and covered the earth for many ages and generations, and how gross and thick the darkness yet lies upon it; though the light of God, in his tender mercy, hath broke forth and shined upon the people of his gathering, and through them hath also visited the world. The guidance of this in my heart was particularly and chiefly towards the Papists; but I afterwards had a true sense that it also extended to the state of such Protestants as had not waited on the Lord, for Him (in his wisdom and power) to rear up his own <482> building; but had ventured to build of themselves, and so had reared up churches in the same spirit of error, darkness, and apostacy, which they seemed to depart from. Against all which the Lord will fight, and all which He will break down, in the day of the revelation of the glorious light and power of his truth, which will overcome, subdue, and reign over the earth; not after the manner of men, but in the heavenly dominion of his life. -- Written in Aylesbury prison, about the middle of the sixth month, 1666. -- Whereunto are annexed, some observations upon the eternal judgment, as it is expressed by Christ, Matth. 25:31. to the end of the chapter. -- This last was written 29th of the 8th month. The whole two sheets and a half, 4to.
The title is full and particular. I attempt not to analyze; but select the description of the means of knowing a true church.
"There must be somewhat in man, to know them [modern accuracy would say it], and somewhat in them to be known by. That in man which knows them, must be somewhat of God in him: for that which is of man, cannot measure or judge of the things of God. As the worldly wisdom and spirit could not know Christ formerly; so neither now can it know his church."
The well-known passage in Matt. 25. is here brought as a weighty argument against persecution.
41. Concerning the sum or substance of our Religion, who are called Quakers; and the exercises and travails of our spirits therein. No date. 4to. Two sheets.
The author declares the sum of their religion to be the feeling and discerning of the two seeds. This is opened in the first part. The next division is, "Concerning Christ, coming to the Father by Him, receiving Him, walking in Him; not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the spirit. And concerning reading the scriptures aright."
The third section relates to the gospel-ministration; and the fourth is, "Concerning Christ's being manifested without, and his being also manifested within, and how both are owned by them that know the truth."
Lastly are, "A few words concerning the principle of truth; what it is; how it may be discerned; and how it may be purchased and possessed."
42. Some things of great weight and concernment to all; briefly opened and held forth from a true sense and understanding, for the healing of the ruins and breaches, which the enemy of mankind hath made on men's souls. As, 1. Some assertions concerning the principle and way of life. 2. Some further directions to Christ, the <483> principle and fountain of life. 3. The end of Christ's manifestation, his salvation, and whom He saves. 4. Three questions answered concerning Justification. 5. Of the pure, constant, eternal, unchangeable nature of God's truth. Written in the time of my confinement in Aylesbury, when love was working in me, and the life of God in me travailing and wrestling with the Lord for the salvation of others. 4to. 1667. Two sheets and a half.
The two first sentences of this work will, in great measure, manifest the scope of it:
1. "That it is a great and hard matter to come into a capacity of knowing and receiving the truth. It is no hard matter to take up any religion that a man finds in the world. To read scriptures, to believe what a man finds related there, according to his understanding of them; yea, to believe that he hath the light and help of the Spirit in his reading and understanding; to apply himself also to practice and observe what he finds therein required; and to aim at holiness, &c. This is no hard matter: every man that is serious, and seeks religion of any kind, but in the weight of a man's spirit, may go thus far. But all this administers not the true capacity; but he that meets with it, must go further than thus."
2. "That which gives the true capacity is a principle of life from God; and there alone, and no-where else, can a man meet with it, and receive it. This principle is the seed of the kingdom, or heavenly leaven, with which the mind must be in some measure leavened, ere it can come into a true capacity of understanding and receiving the truth. And in this leaven must it abide and grow up, if it abide and grow in the true knowledge."
The foregoing tracts (with the exceptions already noticed) compose the first volume of the Quarto edition of Isaac Penington's works, printed by the late Samuel Clark of London, for John and Thomas Kendall, Colchester, and published 1761.
43. A Question to the Professors of Christianity, whether they have the true, living, powerful, saving knowledge of Christ, or no. With some queries concerning Christ and his appearances; his taking upon Him our flesh; as also concerning his flesh and blood, and our being formed thereof and feeding thereon. And an incitation to professors, seriously to consider whether they or we fail in the true acknowledgment and owning of the Christ which died at Jerusalem. Likewise, some propositions and considerations concerning the nature of church-worships and ordinances since the death of the apostles, for the sake of the simplicity, which hath been long held <484> captive therein. With the sounding of Bowels towards thee, O England! Also a faithful guidance to the principle and path of truth. With some sensible, experimental questions and answers, from the tenth chapter of John. By I. Penington, prisoner in Aylesbury, who (by the counsel of the Lord) hath chosen rather to suffer afflictions with the despised people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. 4to. 1667. Seven sheets.
"The question," says he, "is not, whether they know what is said of Christ in the scriptures; but whether they know it savingly, truly, livingly, powerfully. Yea, they may know what is said of Him, and yet not know Him of whom those things are said."
He gives many instances of the Jews, who, having furnished themselves with many outward marks from the scriptures for the discovery of Christ, yet knew Him not when He came; and declares that many now can condemn the Jews, who are acting over again in spirit the same thing. The queries concerning Christ are thirty-eight in number, tending to lead to a confession that the sacrifice of Christ has more than an outward interpretation; and pointing out the sense of many scriptural expressions respecting the mode of salvation by Christ. In the part entitled "An Incitation," &c. he thus repels the charge, that our Friends did not acknowledge Christ, as testified of in the scriptures. "We do really in our hearts own that Christ who came in the fulness of time, in that prepared body, to do the Father's will (his coming into the world, doctrine, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, &c.); in plainness and simplicity of heart, according as it is expressed in the letter of the scriptures. We own no other Christ than that, nor hold forth no other thing for Christ, but Him who then appeared, and was made manifest in flesh."
These four things he asserts:
"1. That nothing can save but the knowledge of that very Christ who offered up the prepared body at Jerusalem. 2. That no knowledge of Christ can save, but the living knowledge; which is only given to that which is begotten of the Spirit, and runs not out into the fleshly conceivings about the things mentioned in the scriptures. 3. That the man who knoweth not Christ in spirit, but calleth the shinings of his light, his checks for evil, his motions to good, natural; this man though he seem to own Christ ever so much according to the letter, yet in truth denies Him. 4. He that denies Christ (in his visitations in his own heart, and before men in the truths which he holds forth by his ministers of his Spirit) him will He deny before his Father in heaven." I abridge. See the whole, vol. 2. 4to. p. 27.
The Sounding of Bowels towards England is a weighty piece, <485> turning on these two questions. "What is the way of peace?" "What is the way of trouble?"
Another part of this work is some exposition of the similitude of the Shepherd, the door, the fold, and the sheep, in John 10. It thus ends: "The Lord God, who is the spring and fountain of all good, inflame people with desires after the pure life and holy nature, which is of and from Christ, the Seed, his Son, and satisfy those desires which are singly and uprightly after Him." There also is a general conclusion to the whole. This also is a product of imprisonment.
44. To such as are not satisfied with a profession without the true life and power, but have sincere desires in their hearts after the Lord himself, and a willingness to be acquainted with his pure, living truth, and with the soul's true guide and leader. This experience is in my heart to express unto you, which we have all along witnessed in our travels out of the dark, corrupt land, into the land of life and purity. 4to. 1668. One sheet and a half.
This piece does not appear to admit of a specimen.
Next to it, in the Works, is printed the Account of his soul's travel towards the Holy Land, &c. which forms part of the following tract.
45. Observations on some passages of Lodowick Muggleton, in his interpretation of the 11th chapter of the Revelations. As also on some passages of that book of his styled The Neck of the Quakers broken, and in his letter to Thomas Taylor; whereby it may appear what spirit he is of, and what god his commission is from. Whereunto is added, a brief Account of my soul's travel towards the holy land, with a few words concerning the way of knowing and receiving the truth. Written in tender love to souls, in true sense and understanding received from the Lord, and with reverence to his holy Spirit and power. 4to. 1668. Three sheets and a half.
It appears by this, that the early editors did not think fit to reprint the observations on Muggleton; as they took only the latter part of this pamphlet. The substance of the "Account," &c. is given at page 21, forming a part of the narrative of the author's convincement.
46. Some things relating to Religion, proposed to the Royal Society, so termed; to wit, concerning the right ground of certainty therein; concerning tenderness of spirit, and persecution; a query concerning <486> separation; concerning washing away sin from the conscience, and the garment of salvation, and what it is that is covered therewith. Likewise some questions and answers concerning the church of the new covenant, the rock or foundation whereon it is built, and its preservation by and upon the rock. With some queries concerning the scattered and hidden estate of the church; and concerning that church which got up in the view of the world instead thereof; and was acknowledged by the world, as if she had been the true church; though in deed and in truth she was not so. Whereunto are added, some queries to professors, who speak of high attainments, &c. Written by one, whom it hath pleased the Lord (of his great goodness and tender mercy) to lead out of the darkness into his marvellous light; known among men by the name of Isaac Penington. 4to. 1668. Three sheets.
It may seem strange that a society incorporated for the purpose of investigating natural knowledge, should be selected for a religious address. The author's prefatory letter may open his intention in it, as the copious title may sufficiently, for this cursory view, show the contents of the work.
"Friends, I have heard that ye are seeking after the excellency of nature and learning. I am not for discouraging any man, in endeavouring after that which is good, useful, and excellent in its kind and place; but it is the advantage of every thing to know and abide in its place; and to honour and serve Him from whom all good gifts and endowments come. Man hath but a moment in this world, and he is here no more; and then the spirit returneth to God, that gave it, to give an account of the talent which He gave it, and its improvement thereof, to the glory of Him that gave it, and to the salvation of its own soul. Now, this talent is of a higher kind than nature, and will lead higher than nature; giving a man to partake of that wisdom from which nature came, and teaching him to order all that is natural to its right end. For God is not an enemy to nature; but to the corruption and disorder of nature. I desire ye might know and partake of the true wisdom, and feel union with God in the principle of his own life; and the incorruptible and heavenly seed of God receive dominion over the earthly and corruptible. For this end singly, in the love springing up in my heart towards you (as it often doth, both towards particular persons and societies; for I am a friend to all, and a lover of all; sincerely desiring the good of all, and the right guidance of their souls to happiness), have I proposed these things following more particularly to your view, though they concern others also, that ye thereby might be awakened to search <487> after that which is most excellent in you, and be acquainted with the virtue and precious effects thereof, to the full satisfaction and complete joy of your souls, in that which alone is able fully to satisfy, and give them ground of durable joy and rejoicing; in that which is not of a perishing nature, but which was, and is, and will be, the same for ever."
"From a friend to the everlasting peace of your souls, and a desirer of your welfare and prosperity in this world, -- Isaac Penington"
47. Of the Church in its first and pure state, in its declining state, in its declined state, and in its recovery. With the way of salvation in the covenant of life opened, and some stumbling-blocks removed out of the way of the simple-hearted. Likewise, some queries concerning the new covenant: with an exhortation to all people; but more especially to such as are desolate and distressed. By one who testifieth what he hath seen, and heard, and tasted, and handled of the word and life eternal, Isaac Penington. Whereunto is added, a visit of tender and upright love to such as retain a sincerity towards the Lord. Also, a brief account of the ground of certainty and satisfaction, which it hath pleased the Lord to establish in my heart, concerning religion and the things of his kingdom. And a question answered, about the way of knowing the motions, doctrines, and teachings of Christ's Spirit: with somewhat relating to the gospel-rest or sabbath; and some queries to such as complain of want of power to become the Lord's, and serve Him. 4to. 1668. Nine sheets and a half.
The Church in its pure state is portrayed by descriptions taken from 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:8., and 2:5.; 1 John 2:8,12-14,18,20-21.; Heb. 6:10.; 10:32-33.; 12:22-24,28.; also from Rev. 1:5-6. It is described as formed of "squared stones, fit for the spiritual building; not old, rough, fierce, cruel, implacable, unregenerate, unholy spirits; but meek, gentle, lowly, tender, poor in spirit, merciful, peaceable in themselves, and making peace among men, renewed and sanctified in spirit, holy in conversation, suffering for that power of truth and righteousness which they profess, and bear witness to."
Treating of a declining church, he says, "Can any thing preserve a soul, or church, but God's power?... A church is like a garden, needs digging, dressing, watering, and sun-shine.... Do not weeds easily spring up in a garden? yea, ranker weeds than in common ground,...if it be not...kept by the gardener. Read the figure and understand.... If but one root of bitterness spring up in a church, it may defile many, and trouble the whole...so one corrupted church may...poison many more."
An instance of a declined, fallen church, is given from 2 Thes. 2:4; <488> and the condition of its members is described from 2 Tim. 3:2, &c.
As to the state of the church in the recovery, I briefly notice the change of language, which, with great force, and beauty, and significance, he ascribes to it:
"It shall be said no more, 'Who can make war with the beast?' after the Lamb hath overcome him; but 'Who is like to thee, O Lord, O King of saints, who hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned?'"
In the "Way of Salvation opened," among other things, the Calvinistic doctrine of Reprobation is combated, and there are some nice disquisitions on this subject. The following distinctions I incline to quote: "It is not the creature which is rejected by its Maker; but somewhat in the creature, and the creature in that. Nor is it the creature (simply) which is elected; but somewhat in the creature, and the creature in that. And as any man comes into that, the election is begun in him.... But as any man departs from that, he departs from the election into the reprobation."
In the "Visit of tender and upright love," may be found a brief discussion of the subjects of Water-baptism, and the Supper, together with divers other weighty subjects, on some of which Friends have been, and are, often misunderstood, and misrepresented. On the whole, as this is not one of our author's lesser tracts, so it seems not one of the least valuable. The topics are of the first importance, and he appears to labour at treating of them with perspicuity.
48. An Inquiry after Truth and Righteousness, and after the people whom the Lord establisheth, and will establish therein: in some queries on Isaiah 58, and also on chap. 54. 4to. 1671. One sheet. Written in Reading gaol.
It is generally allowed that these two chapters relate to the glorious state of the true church, and our author endeavours to show how far what is there spoken of it, is applicable to the professors of spiritual Christianity at that time under persecution.
49. The holy Truth and People defended; and some of the weapons and strength of the power of darkness broken and scattered, by the light and power of truth: in an answer to the chief passages in a letter, written to me, and replied to by me, before my imprisonment in this place; where I have been a prisoner above a year and a half, without any law broken, or cause given on my part, who only came innocently and peaceably to visit my friends in prison. By me, Isaac Penington, prisoner for the testimony of truth (for could I have denied truth, I might have avoided the snare), at Reading gaol. <489> 1672. 4to. Five sheets and a half.
This piece being an answer to the book of an opponent, in which the author selects passage after passage, replying to each, cannot well be represented in miniature; but as it consists of a review of divers objections that have been made to the doctrine of Friends, it may be recommended to such as desire minutely to examine their tenets. The following short passage relates to a common calumny of our adversaries. "As for our denying Redemption by the blood of Christ,...none upon the earth (as the Lord God knoweth) are so taught, and do so rightly and fully own redemption by the blood of Christ, as the Lord hath taught us to do. For we own the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, both outwardly and inwardly; both as it was shed on the cross, and as it is sprinkled in our consciences; and know the cleansing virtue thereof in the everlasting covenant, and in the light which is eternal: out of which light men have but a notion thereof, but do not truly know or own it."
50. The ancient principle of Truth, or the light within asserted, and held forth according to true experiences, and the faithful testimony of the Scriptures: in the answers to four questions. 1. What this light is which we testify of, and what is the nature of it? 2. What it doth inwardly in the heart? 3. How it cometh to be lighted, set up, and increased there? 4. How it cometh to be diminished or extinguished in any? Also an appeal to the witness of God in all consciences, Which is the more sure word of prophecy; the testimony of the scriptures without, or the voice and testimony of the light and Spirit of God within in the heart. By one once greatly distressed, but now at length, in the tender mercy of the Lord, effectually visited and redeemed by the light and power of truth. 8vo. 1672. Six sheets.
The fore-part of this tract is, as may be expected, an exposition of the principles of Friends. In the appeal, or comparison between the outward and inward guide, the preference is given to the latter. The passage in 2 Peter, 1:19. has given rise to some controversy; and standing as it does in our common translation, it is not surprising that it should; but there is great reason to suppose that it is wrongly translated, and that no comparison between the voice in the mount and any thing else, was intended by the apostle. Much of the arguments, however, of Isaac Penington, and several others of our early Friends, in favour of the superiority of the Spirit to the letter, may still stand good, though that which gave rise to them is done away. In fact, the professors of those times used this text to prove the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures. Our Friends, who had learned the pre-excellence of the cause before the <490> effect, opposed them on their own ground; and while both parties allowed that something was supposed to be preferred to the voice on the mount, they had reason on their side in asserting that it could not be the Scripture. It is with diffidence and fear, I presume to conclude, that such eminent men were not fully aware of the true meaning of the passage; but if the words, rightly translated, are literally these, "And we have more sure the prophetic word,"* the comparison "more sure" (which probably means, more confirmed) will relate to the increased confirmation which the primitive Christians had of prophecy, by having seen its accomplishment. I think the subsequent verses are also clearer by this means, and accord better with the scope of the whole passage.
There is a postscript to this work on the 18th verse of Rom. 9. "Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth." This text the author attempts to rescue from the service of the Predestinarians; and contends against the doctrine which is generally drawn from this and other parts of that famous chapter: showing, 1. from the nature of God, 2. from his sending his Son, 3. from the universality of the covenant of light and life, and 4. from Scripture-testimony, that the Almighty would have none to perish.
51. Naked Truth, or Truth nakedly manifesting itself, in several particulars, for the removing of hindrances out of the way of the simple-hearted, that they may come to true knowledge, life, liberty, peace, and joy in the Lord, through the virtue and power of his precious truth, revealed and working in them. Given forth by way of question and answer. Whereunto are added some experiences, with some scriptures, very sweet, and necessary to be experienced in the gospel-state. As also a few words concerning the true Christ. And a few words in the bowels of tender love and goodwill to my native country. By a long mourner and traveller after, but at length a happy experiencer of, the Truth, as it is in Jesus. 8vo. 1674. Seven sheets and a half.
This is arranged under the following heads:
1. Concerning understanding the holy Scriptures truly and aright. 2. The illuminating and sanctifying Spirit. 3. The holy Spirit of God, <491> and the holy Scriptures. 4. The law of the Lord, which is perfect, and converts the soul. 5. David's longings, as expressed in Psal. 42. 43. 119. and other places. 6. The sun or fountain of spiritual light. 7. The Word's being a fire and a hammer, to burn up the chaff and break the rocks in pieces. 8. God's writing his law in the heart. 9. The inward Light of God's Spirit. 10. The Ministers and Ministry of the Gospel. 11. Trying of spirits and searching the heart. 12. Things necessary to Salvation. 13. The true Gospel-church or society. 14. The way to Salvation. 15. Christ's saving the soul. 16. Regeneration. 17. True Holiness. 18. Christ's works outwardly in the days of his flesh, and inwardly in the day and inward shining of the light of his Spirit in the heart. 19. The Yoke or Cross of Christ. 20. Making our Calling and Election sure. 21. Prayer. 22. Repentance. 23. Faith. 24. Obedience. 25. Justification. 26. Good Works. 27. Love. 28. Meekness and Patience. 29. The Knowledge of the New Covenant. 30. Its Fear. 31. Hope. 32. Peace. 33. Joy. 34. Poverty of Spirit and Humility.
The Experiences are on the several subjects of 1. The Seed of the Kingdom. 2. The Soul's Food. 3. God's power. 4. Temptations. 5. Prayer. 6. Justification and Sanctification. 7. Faith. 8. Obedience. 9. The Cross of Christ. 10. The Mystery of Life, and the Mystery of the Fellowship that is therein. 11. Judging according to appearance, and judging righteous judgment. The scripture passages, which our author truly terms sweet, and on each of which he comments, are the following: John 17:3. 1 Cor. 12:3. John 6:45. 1 John 5:12. John 6:55-56. Ps. 36:9. Isaiah 55:1-3. John 4:14. 1 John 1:2-3. Matth. 11:28-30. 1 John 5:20. 2 Cor. 4:6. also 3:14. John 8:31-32. Rom. 6:14. Isaiah 4:5. also 12:1-3. Rev. 3:18. 1 John 2:27. Psalm 85.9, to the end. Rev. 3:20.
For a small specimen, an extract from the section on Joy may suffice.
"Quest. Which is the true Joy? Answ. The joy which flows from God's presence, and the work of his power in the heart, and the assured expectation which He gives of the full inheritance and glory of life everlasting. When the Bridegroom is present, when the soul is gathered home to Him, married to Him, in union with Him, in the holy, living fellowship; when He appears against the enemies of the soul, rising up against them, breaking, scattering them; and giving of his good things, filling with life, filling with love, filling with virtue, feasting the soul in the presence of the Father; oh! what sweet joy! oh! what fulness of joy is there then in the heart! 'In thy presence is fulness of joy, and at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.'"
<492> 52. The Flesh and Blood of Christ, in the mystery and in the outward, briefly, plainly, and uprightly acknowledged, and testified to; for the satisfaction and benefit of the tender hearted, who desire to experience the quickening, healing and cleansing virtue of it. With a brief account concerning the people called Quakers, in reference both to principle and doctrine. Whereunto are added some few other things, which, by the blessing of God, may be experimentally found useful to the true pilgrims and faithful travellers out of the nature and spirit of this world. Written in true love and tenderness of spirit. 8vo. 1675. Four sheets.
In the narrative, at page 98, some account of this work is given. It may be added, that the 'Brief account concerning the people called Quakers,' is couched in the assertion, and in the answer to the questions, which are here subjoined:
Assert. "We are a people of God's gathering, who (many of us) had long waited for his appearance, and had undergone great distress for want thereof."
Quest. 1. "But some may say, What appearance of the great God and Saviour, did ye want?...
Quest. 2. "How did God appear to you?
Quest. 3. "How did God gather you?"
There are "a few words," concerning the Way of Peace mentioned Rom. 3:17. and also, in the postscript, concerning the doings and sufferings of the despised people called Quakers; and lastly, "An Exhortation to true Christianity," having this assertion prefixed:
"It is easy to pretend to Christ; but to be a true Christian is very precious, and many tribulations and deep afflictions are to be passed through before it be attained unto, as those who are made so by the Lord experience."
53. To the Jews natural, and to the Jews spiritual; with a few words to England, my native country, &c. Some sensible, weighty queries, concerning some things very sweet and necessary to be experienced in the truly Christian state. Whereunto is added a postscript, containing some queries on Isaiah 50:10-11. a scripture of deep counsel and concern to the darkened and distressed states of some among those that fear and obey the Lord. Whereunto are added, two or three queries touching the River and City of God, and the pure stillness, wherein God is known and exalted. As also some <493> questions answered concerning the true church, ministry, and maintenance, under the Gospel; and about the Lamb's war. Written in travailing bowels. 8vo. 1677. Four sheets and a half, and one and a half; or six sheets.
"It is the joy of my heart," says our author in his preface, "to receive good from God, to be filled with his blessings, to have my cup overflow; and that others may be helped, refreshed, and gladded therewith; and, by the sweet taste thereof, led to wait for the opening of the same root and fountain of life in themselves, to yield living sap, and send forth living streams in them day by day." This sentence seems to set forth the spring and tendency of gospel-communications; the temper of the pastor, and the purpose of being fed. The reader may ask the question, Why should not the purpose be fulfilled in me?
It is not easy to abridge the address to the Jews natural. The author seems not to expect the restoration of their outward estate. Some may therefore ask, To what end have they been miraculously preserved a distinct people, in their dispersion, through almost eighteen centuries? It is easier to ask than to answer, to doubt than to solve; but whichever may be the termination of their long outward captivity; either a glorious restoration to Palestine, and conversion to Christianity; or simply an inward redemption into its faith; they serve in the mean time as a grand monument of the truth of the things recorded of them in ancient time; and as a clear, though indirect testimony to the truth even of the religion which they refuse to embrace. Our author thus expresses his love to them. "You Jews," says he, "of the outward line of Abraham, whose return to the Lord my soul most earnestly desireth after, and for which I have most vehemently, and wrestlingly, prayed to the Lord." The bent of the book is to show them that all the occurrences which befell their forefathers were typical. The Scripture references are of course to the Old Testament. Eight queries, in our author's Socratic way, are propounded for their consideration. One of them is thus: "Query 3. Did not the Messiah come at the set time, at the time set by the holy Spirit of prophecy. Did He not come in the prepared body to do the will, and did He not do the will? And after his obedience to his Father, was He not cut off, though not for Himself? And after his cutting off, were not ye made desolate? Why were ye made desolate? Why did such a stroke come upon you, as never before? Oh! consider it. Read Dan. 9:24, to the end of the chapter, and let him that readeth, understand."
The address to the Jews spiritual, sets out upon the passage in Gen. 49:10. "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering <494> of the people be." This piece treats of the gathering of the Gentiles, and concludes with a warm, pathetic exhortation to the spiritually-minded. I cast my eye on the following: "Oh! who would lose the precious fear of the covenant, which is clean, and endureth for ever, and keepeth clean and chaste to the Lord for ever! And who would miss of one law which God hath to write in the hearts of his children, when every law is a law of life."
There are in this piece three queries upon Psalm 46:4-5,10; not specified in the title. In Penington's works a new title and preface is given with the "Sensible, weighty Queries," and those on Isaiah 50. Most of these queries are short. The reader, by turning to the place, may see the weightiness of the passage in Isaiah; and will find our author's queries on it weighty also, and of great concernment to every religious professor.
54. The Everlasting Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the blessed effects thereof, testified to from experience. 4to. 1678. One sheet and a half.
This is the short piece dated from Astrop, from which an extract is given at page 109.
55. A further testimony to Truth, revived out of the ruins of the Apostasy; or several things opened from the Spirit of Truth, touching the way of Life and Salvation; which will reach to the witness in the hearts of those whose spirits are quickened, and whose ears and understandings are opened by the Spirit and power of the Lord. Written in a deep sense, and tender love. 4to. 1680. i.e. posthumous.
The reader will find this piece divided into the following sections, though not denominated such:
"Some queries concerning Christ's righteousness, how it justifieth: whether as inwardly revealed and dwelling in the heart, or only as imputed, or both."
"Concerning the true Church and Ministry."
"An objection, concerning the newness of the way of Truth, answered; with a tender expostulating exhortation."
"A caution to those who are at any time touched with the power of Truth, how they afterwards hearken to and let in the enemy, and so thereby have the good seed stolen away, the true sense lost, and the <495> mind filled with prejudices and stumbling blocks instead thereof."
"An objection against the principle, which, in faithfulness to God, and in love to souls, we bear witness to, briefly answered."
"Some questions and answers concerning the new covenant; opening the nature and way of it, as it is experimentally felt in the heart, and witnessed to in the holy Scriptures."
"A question or two, relating to Election, answered."
"A question answered concerning the ground of men's misunderstanding and wresting of Scriptures."
"Some questions, answers, and queries, concerning deceit and deceivers: as what they are, what discovers them, how man may come out of them, and be preserved from them," &c.
"That the way of life and salvation is freely held forth by God to all; and there is nothing in Him to let, stop, or discourage any man from receiving his truth, and giving up to Him in the faith and obedience of it; but very much to invite and encourage."
"Some questions answered concerning the Spirit of Christ, and the spirit of the Scribes and Pharisees."
"Some questions answered concerning blasphemy and blasphemers."
"A question concerning miracles answered." This relates to the objection that our Friends wrought no miracles in support of their mission.
"Some further questions answered concerning the new covenant."
"A brief account concerning Silent Meetings; the nature, use, intent, and benefit of them."
This last is an informing section, on the subject referred to; -- but hear our author, in his preface, respecting the information on religious subjects received merely by reading. "Dwell not in the notion, delight not in the outward knowledge of the thing itself (though the knowledge be ever so sweet, pleasing, satisfactory, and demonstrative to the mind); but come to the everlasting spring. Feel the measure of life in thy particular, and that will lead thee to the spring of life, from whence the measure comes as a gift from the Father to thee, to bring thee to the Father. And singly for this end have I been drawn to write what follows, in service to the Lord, in faithfulness to Him, in dear love to the souls of men."
The next is also a posthumous publication, which first appeared in the Folio edition of Isaac Penington's works, though written so long before as 1671. It is one of his longest works, viz.
56. Life and Immortality brought to light through the gospel. Being a true discovery of the nature and ground of the religion and kingdom <496> of Christ; in several weighty queries propounded, and other serious matters treated of, highly importing the eternal salvation of souls. Written by Isaac Penington, in the time of his imprisonment in Reading goal. The date of this is 1671. As it was never separately published, the form and size cannot be given.
This work is in thirty sections. The first eight are queries -- "1. On the state of the Church as it was in the Apostles' days, and was to be afterwards. 2. On Deut. 29. and 30. compared with Rom. 10. 3. On Destruction and Salvation. 4. On Col. 1:27-29, (translating , in the Gentiles). 5. On the Way of Life, and mystery of the Gospel. 6. On Righteousness or Justification. 7. Being under the Law, and under Grace. 8. For the professors of Christianity to consider of, and try their states by." These are interesting. The first begins thus: "Is thy spirit, heart, mind, soul, and body a temple for God to dwell in? Who dwells in thy heart? Doth the Holy Spirit, or the unclean spirit?"
The 9th section is about "preaching the gospel after the apostasy. 10. Concerning others not learning what God teacheth us [Friends], and concerning the way of his teaching us. 11. Of the three-fold appearance of Christ: under the law, in a body of flesh, and in his Spirit and power. 12. and 13. On Mounts Sinai and Sion. 14. The temple and sacrifices under the Gospel. 15. Questions concerning the light of Christ's Spirit answered, according to the Scriptures, and experience. 16. The way to know one's election, and to be fully assured of it; as also concerning election itself. 17. Concerning the Priesthood of Christ, from Hebrews. 18. A brief relation of the estate or condition the Lord found many of us in, when He came to visit us, and make known to us the blessed ministration of his Spirit and power; and, of some of his dealings with us, in instructing and nurturing us up therein; with a few words of exhortation. 19. Concerning the Gospel-state. 20. Baptism, from Mark 16:16. 21. Some questions concerning the Gentiles' doing by nature the things contained in the law. 22. The rule of the children of the new covenant. 23. Queries concerning the law, or word, statutes, testimonies, judgments, &c. which David was so delighted in. 24. Observations on 2 Pet. 3:14-16. 25. On the Gospel-ministry, or right teaching and learning the mystery of life and salvation. 26. On the old and new Covenant. 27. Queries on Rom. 6. 7. and 8. 28. A further testimony concerning the work of God upon our hearts, who are called Quakers. 29. A brief account of the ground of our worship, and how it cometh to pass that we cannot conform to the spirit of this world, or to the wills of men therein, but only to the Spirit and will of our God. 30. Some <497> queries concerning knowing and owning the Lord Jesus Christ truly and aright, who hath been the only Saviour and Redeemer in all ages and generations; and there never was, and never shall be any other."
Such are the subjects which are investigated in this book. In the eleventh section (to give a few touches of some of them), under the division treating of Christ's appearance under the law, there is probably as full a testimony of the oneness of the Son and Father, as can any where be met with. This is however a subject to be spoken and taught of with reverence. The same subject is spoken of with equal confidence, though on a different occasion, in the eighteenth. Thus, "Very deep and weighty was that answer of Christ to Philip. When Philip said, 'Show us the Father, and it sufficeth. Hast thou not seen* me Philip,' said Christ. 'How is it that thou sayest, Show us the Father? He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father also?' Are they not one nature, one wisdom, one pure eternal Being? Can the one possibly be seen, and not the other? Though they may be distinguished in manifestation, in the hearts where they are received; is it possible they should be divided and separated the one from the other? Those that thus apprehend, plainly manifest, that they never received the true knowledge of the Father and Son; but have only notions and apprehensions of man's wisdom concerning them."
To the objection that the Friends do not use the Lord's Prayer, is this reply: "Truly, Christ, our Lord and Master, who taught his disciples to pray formerly, hath taught us also to pray that very prayer; though not to say the words outwardly in the will of men, or in our own will. He hath taught our hearts to breathe after the same things, even that the name of our heavenly Father might be hallowed or sanctified more and more,...that He might reign more in men's spirits, and the kingdom of sin and Satan be thrown down; and that his will might be done even in our earth, as it is done in heavenly places, where all the hosts of God obey him; and that we might have every day a portion of the heavenly bread, whereby our souls may live to Him, and convenient food and provision outward also, according as He seeth good, who careth for us.
"Now as we are kept in the light, and watch to the light which discovers things, we see what we are kept out of, and what we are at any time entangled in, and so trespass against the Lord; and then we are taught to beg pardon, and wait where pardon is to be received, through our Advocate, even as God hath taught us to forgive. Yet this doth not <498> embolden any of the little ones to sin; but they pray that they may not be led (or fall) into temptation; but may witness deliverance from the evil, which the enemy watcheth to betray and insnare them with. And these cries are put up to Him who is ready to hear; and who can answer and fulfil the desires of them that love and fear Him; and indeed not only so, but they are also put up in faith that, in the way of God, the soul shall obtain and receive what it prayeth and waiteth for."
From the section on "the Gospel-state," a part of the summing-up or conclusion, after a glorious description* of that state, may serve as a specimen.
"Now if any one doubt concerning the truth of these things, this word is in my heart to such, Come and see. Oh! come and see the glory of the Lord, and the power of his life, and righteousness of his kingdom, which is now revealed, after the long night of darkness! Oh! blessed, blessed, be his name, who hath caused his light to shine, and opened the eye which was once blind to see it!"
"Quest. But how may I come to see the glory of the Gospel-state?"
"Ans. Come to the seed, and wait to feel and receive the power which raiseth the seed in the heart; and bringeth the heart, soul, mind, and spirit, into union with the seed."
"Quest. But how may I come to the seed; and how may I wait aright, to feel and receive the power which raiseth it?"
"Ans. Mind that in thee which searcheth the heart, and what it reacheth to, and quickeneth in thee; what it draweth thee from, what it draweth thee to; how it showeth thee thine own inability to follow, and how it giveth ability when thou art weary of toiling and labouring of thyself...."
"...The Lord make thee sensible of the visits, drawings, and leadings of his holy Spirit; and guide thy feet thereby into the way of truth and peace. Amen."
The section on baptism will be easily conceived to recommend spiritual, and not water-baptism. On this subject much has been written by Friends; but those who wish to investigate the subject deeply, as it may be supported by Scripture authority, would do well to peruse this dissertation on it.
After the series of the thirty sections, there is a query, "Concerning Imputation," a famous subject, the occasion of much debate in the Christian world, and concerning which no view of our author's belief has yet been given in these pages. With this query therefore may be <499> concluded this short review of the important and instructive work, "Life and Immortality brought to light by the Gospel."
"In what state was Abraham when faith was imputed to him for righteousness? Was he in the ungodly state; in the state of unbelief and disobedience to the Spirit and power of the Lord; or was he in the sense of God's power, in the belief of Him who could raise up his son from the dead; and, in the performance of obedience unto Him, giving up his son at the Lord's command?"
"And in what state must we be, when we witness faith imputed to us also for righteousness? Must we not be in the sense of the same power, and in the belief of it, and in the obedience of faith? Read Rom. 4 and consider: for the righteousness of the gospel is not imputed in, or by, the works of the law, but in the obedience of faith."
"It is true, God justifieth the ungodly; through faith He makes them just and godly; but doth He justify or accept them in the ungodly state? Doth He not first make a change in them by his power? Doth He not first, in some measure, purify their hearts by faith?"
The next posthumous work, published in the general collection, is also of considerable magnitude. It is without a title, but appears to have been intended as an answer to some questions, and a reply to some animadversions of a certain person whose name is now lost. We may call it
57. A Reply to queries and animadversions, written in the year 1667.
It appears that our author's antagonist, or probably a friendly objector, had been pleading for the value and sufficiency of that knowledge of religion which is merely derived from an acquaintance with the scriptures; because the superiority, and indispensable need, of the Spirit, pervade the whole of this Reply. Like many of our author's books, it is arranged under various heads. They are these: "The rule of the new covenant, or that which God hath appointed to be the rule to the children of the new covenant. -- Christ. -- The form of sound words. -- Inward impressions. -- The Light. -- Justification. -- God's love to mankind. -- Baptism. -- Perfection."
The animadversions appear by the replies to have been ten, and it seems probable that their author was a member of some church or congregation, whose tenets he was endeavouring to defend.
This is a choice performance, and it is rather difficult to select extracts few enough to suit the conciseness of this review. The following, on two points (if the latter may be reverently called so), on which many people think themselves able to speak, may be acceptable <500> to the reader who is either already imbued with the principles of Friends, or is desirous of knowing them with precision.
"Yet (though we do own Christ to be the rule) we do not deny making use of the scriptures to try doctrines and forms of religion by; but know that what is of God doth and will agree therewith; and what doth not agree therewith is not of God; and that our forefathers in the faith were led to batter the superstitions and idolatries of the Papists, by the testimony of the scriptures. And we have also the testimony of the scriptures with us, both to the light and Spirit within; and against forms formerly invented, or now practised, out of the life and power. But we believe the Spirit to be a touchstone beyond the scriptures, and to be that which giveth ability to try and discern not only words, but spirits.... And for calling the scriptures the Word of God, we cannot but look upon it as an improper expression; they being many words, not the one Word; and Christ is called in the scripture, not only the Word God,* but the Word of God. And if, in the fear of the Lord, and true sense, we keep herein to the expressions of scripture, and its form of words which are sound, surely we cannot justly be blamed for so doing."
This is an extract from the first section. The second, entire, runs thus:
"Christ is that Word of eternal life, which was glorified with the Father before the world was; who, in the full appointed time, took up the body of flesh prepared by the Father, to do the will in; and did the will in it, fulfilling all righteousness, to the satisfaction of the very heart of the Father; for whose name's sake the sins of believers are pardoned. And this same Word of eternal life, and no other, which took that body of flesh upon Him, is also manifested, and dwelleth in the hearts of his saints; who [he might more clearly have said, and], as they receive Him in the faith which is of Him, dwells in them richly, manifesting in the vessel the treasures of his divine wisdom and knowledge. Now, this is the precious knowledge of Christ indeed; and this is it every one is to wait for; to find a measure of the same life, the fulness whereof dwells in Him bodily, dwelling in our mortal bodies, and making us like unto Him, in spirit, nature, and conversation. And he that knoweth not, but opposeth this, in any of its appearances or operations, either in himself or others, is so far of the dark antichristian spirit."
In the section on the love of God to mankind, absolute reprobation is impugned; but I conclude these extracts with a few touches of the <501> section on Perfection.
"Christ is a perfect physician, and is able to work a perfect cure on the heart that believeth in Him, and waiteth upon Him. -- Christ likewise bids his disciples be perfect, as their heavenly Father is perfect; and the apostle bids men perfect holiness in the fear of God, that they might be fully separated from, and not so much as touch, the unclean thing."
"Did Christ cure perfectly outwardly, in the days of his flesh; and shall He not cure perfectly inwardly in the days of his Spirit? Yes, certainly. The lame, the deaf, the blind, the dumb, the lepers, waiting upon Him in the way of his covenant, shall be cured by Him as perfectly inwardly, as ever the others were outwardly."
The next piece in the collection, as indeed all the remainder which I shall have occasion to mention, is also posthumous, viz.
58. A few Experiences concerning some of the weighty things relating to God's everlasting kingdom. Given forth in true and tender love, for the help of any such of the race of the true travellers, as may stand in need thereof.
This was written in Reading gaol, in 1671. It consists of the following particulars: "1. A faithful testimony concerning the true and pure way of life; with breathings for such as have desires after it, and yet are strangers to it. 2. Concerning the perfecting of God's work in the heart. 3. Concerning the true Christ; how it may be certainly and infallibly known which is He. 4. Some queries to such as affirm the scriptures to be the only rule, and deny the Spirit, the Seed of the kingdom, the new covenant, the holy leaven of life, the law written in the heart, to be the rule of the children of the new covenant. 5. Concerning the Light, wherewith Christ, the Life, enlightens every man. 6. A few words further concerning Perfection. 7. Concerning Imputation of righteousness. 8. Some queries concerning the time and work of Reformation. 9. Some queries concerning the Spirit of Christ, or the Spirit of the Father (it being one and the same Spirit), for those who take themselves to be Christians (and under the gospel-dispensation) to consider and examine themselves by, that they may not be deceived, either concerning their present estate here, or the eternal estate of their souls hereafter; seeing the apostle so expressly saith, "If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Rom. 8. 10. Of the true way, the way of holiness, the way of life, and of the true teaching and knowledge. 11. Concerning separation from the spirit and ways of the world."
The last extract given from the preceding work, was intended to show our author's, and the Society's views, on the subject of <502> Perfection. A few queries, selected from §2. of this work, may be a suitable supplement.
"Is it not the will of God that his people and children should be sanctified in soul, in body, in spirit?... Did not [Christ] bid them pray, 'Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven?' And would He never have them believe and expect that it should be done in earth, as it is in heaven?"
"Doth not he who hath the true, pure, living hope (which anchors within the veil), purify himself, even as He is pure?"
The 9th section is very weighty, The third of its queries may serve as a specimen.
"Doth the Spirit of Christ dwell in thee? Hath the stronger man cast the strong man out of thee, and taken possession of thy heart, and doth He dwell therein? Then thou mayest truly say, that thou art built up by God an habitation for Him in the Spirit. Then thou art washed and cleansed by Him from thy filthiness; and lusts or vain thoughts do not lodge in thee. For the holy Spirit of Christ will not dwell where such things lodge; but 'Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty, in whom I will dwell and walk.'"
The next piece is also a production of the same imprisonment.
59. A treatise concerning Christ's teachings, and Christ's law, with some other things of weighty importance, particularly mentioned after the preface, written by I.P. prisoner at Reading gaol for the testimony of truth.
This, like most of our author's tracts, is divided into numbered sections. "1. Concerning God's teachings. 2. Concerning the law of Christ. 3. A brief relation concerning myself, in reference to what has befallen me in my pursuit after Truth. 4. A question about preaching the everlasting gospel answered. 5. Concerning Christ's ministry or priesthood. 6. Concerning the true knowledge of Christ. 7. A few words more concerning the right way of knowing, as it is witnessed unto in the scriptures, and experienced in the hearts of those that truly and livingly know the Lord. 8. Concerning Christ's righteousness, which is the righteousness of all his saints. 9. Of the Grace of the gospel. 10. A question answered concerning real holiness. 11. Concerning the law of sin in the fleshly mind, and the law of life and holiness in the renewed mind, and whence each have their strength. 12. Concerning God's gathering us home to Himself, who are a people despised <503> and rejected of men, and in scorn by them called Quakers. 13. A few words concerning the worship which our God hath taught us."
The third section of this work is already given, nearly the whole of it, at page 10. If we take sections 5 and 13, they will form an extract which will comprehend a large portion of what, speaking in the usual manner, would be called Quaker-divinity.
Sect. 5. "Christ is made by God a minister or high priest over the spiritual Israel of God. Not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life (as Heb. 7:16, and chap. 8:2), and He ministers with his Spirit and power unto, and in all his. So that he that knows Christ's ministry, knows the power, the life, the Spirit in which He ministers; but he that is not acquainted with these, is yet to learn to know Christ aright, and to believe in Him unto life and salvation; which are wrapped up, comprehended, revealed, and communicated in the power wherewith He ministers. For the very beginning of Christ's ministry is in the Spirit and power of God, whereby He redeems out of the spirit and power of satan: and to this, men are to be turned, if they will witness salvation by Jesus Christ; even to the light and power of God's holy Spirit, which breaks the darkness and strength of the kingdom of satan in the heart. For indeed, all literal professions, beliefs, knowledges, and practices, out of the life and power, satan can transform himself into, and uphold and maintain his kingdom under, in the hearts of men; but the inward light and power of life breaks it, where the minds of people are by the Spirit of the Lord turned thereto, and subjected under its rule and government."
Sect. 13. "Our worship is a deep exercise of our spirits before the Lord, which doth not consist in an exercising the natural part or natural mind, either to hear or speak words, or in praying according to what we of ourselves can apprehend or comprehend concerning our needs; but we wait, in silence of the fleshly part, to hear with the new ear what God shall please to speak inwardly in our own hearts, or outwardly through others, who speak with the new tongue, which He unlooseth, and teacheth to speak; and we pray in the Spirit, and with the new understanding, as God pleaseth to quicken, draw forth, and open our hearts towards himself."
"Thus our minds being gathered into the measure, or gift of grace, which is by Jesus Christ; here we appear before God; and here our God and his Christ is witnessed in the midst of us. This is that <504> gathering in the name, which the promise is to; where we meet together, waiting with one consent on the Father of life, bowing and confessing to Him in the name of his Son; and that fleshly part, that fleshly understanding, that fleshly wisdom, that fleshly will, which will not bow, is chained down and kept under by the power of life, which God stretcheth forth over it, and subdueth it by. So then there is the sweet communion enjoyed, the sweet love flowing, the sweet peace reaped;...the sweet joy and refreshment in the Lord our righteousness, who causeth righteousness to drop down from heaven, and truth to spring up out of the earth. And so our Father is felt blessing us, blessing our land, blessing our habitations, delighting in us and over us to do us good; and our land yields its increase to the Lord of life, who hath redeemed it, and planted the precious plants and seeds of life in it."
60. A question answered, concerning reading the Scriptures aright. No date.
This is a short piece. The question is, "How may a man know whether he readeth the Scriptures to his advantage and benefit; or whether he readeth them to his disadvantage or hurt?"
The following short quotation further opens the nature, and the cause, of this question:
"He that reads the Scriptures in a true measure of life received from God, he reads them aright; and whenever he so readeth, it is to his benefit. He that readeth out of that, readeth [or may read] to his hurt: that being then up in him which misunderstands, misapplies, and grows conceited, wise, and confident, according to the flesh; and so he is thereby liable to, and in great danger of, setting up his interpretations instead of the meaning of God's Spirit; and of condemning that which doth not assent and agree therewith [with them], though it be ever so necessary and precious a truth of God, and ever so fully demonstrated by his Spirit, to those who are in the true faith and understanding."
The Jews, the Scribes, and Pharisees, are given as practical instances of reading to their hurt. The remedy, and the knowledge that a man has it, will be easily supposed to lie in the enlightened spiritual understanding; but for the application I must refer to the piece itself. There is subjoined, "A few words to such as complain for want of Power." This short and excellent piece (vol. 2. p. 540, of 4to edition, and vol. 4 p. 336, of the 8vo.), after a lively testimony to the source of Power, the power of the endless life, thus concludes: "So that it concerns all people seriously to consider, whether the reason why they have not power, be not because they do not receive Christ, who hath all power in <505> heaven and earth given to Him. For many talk of Christ; but few come to Him in the Father's drawing; so will not receive Him: like the Jews, who waited for his appearance, and yet rejected Him when He came."
61. Somewhat relating to Church-government, wherein the necessity, usefulness, and blessed effects of the true Church-government, are here and there hinted at; and this clearly manifested, That the authority and power of Christ's Spirit in his church is no usurped or antichristian authority, nor contrary to the true light and liberty of any particular member, but a cherisher and preserver of it. As also remarks on some passages in a late book entitled, "Antichrist's transformations within, discovered by the light within." Wherein the antichristian transformer is made manifest, and the light within cleared from his false imputations and pretences to it. Written in obedience to Him that is true, who hath given a certain testimony against him that is false, to very many in this his day; and among others to me also, whom He hath pleased to gather and own among his children and servants in truth.
This book, though not published during the author's life, was probably written about the time, when some who had been members of the society of Friends were beginning to find fault with the outward order and discipline that was then arising in the society. By the citations made from the opponent's book, it appears that the general argument of it was, that a subjection to the regulations of the body, is an infringement of the liberty of the individual, and an inducement for his forsaking the immediate teachings of the light within, for the dominion of men: whom he denies to have any such authority committed to them by the alone Head of the church. The general reply is, that the true Spirit in the Church does not contradict the same Spirit in the members; and that the superior degree which results from the union of many enlightened minds, helps, protects, and cherishes the lesser measure in individuals. This principle is of course variously held forth according to the various branches of the adversary's attack.
There doth not appear to be any particular practice of the society touched upon, except the standing or kneeling of the Friends in a meeting, and the uncovering of the men, during the time of public prayer. This practice had been opposed by John Perrot many years before 1675, which I have conceived to be about the time of the writing of this piece by Isaac Penington; because connected with it is another piece in reply to John Pennyman, an adversary whose book bears that date. This is, in the order of the works,
<506> 62. Some misrepresentations of Me concerning Church-government cleared; and the power and authority of God's Spirit, in governing his church, testified to; by one whom it hath pleased the Lord to make a member of the church which He hath gathered, and preserveth by his own Almighty arm; who accounteth it his duty and honour in the Lord to be subject to the government and ordering of his Spirit and power in his church.
The reader may observe that part of the title of Penington's book, No. 13, "An Examination of the Grounds or Causes, &c." is as follows: "Whereunto somewhat is added about the authority and government, Christ excluded out of his church: which occasioneth somewhat concerning the true church-government. 1660." "Now this latter part," says he, "hath been so misrepresented as if, because the wrong church-government was excluded, the exclusion of all church-government was intended by me, there being no notice taken of my owning the true church-government; but only some passages of my disowning the false produced; as if they intended to overturn and deny all church-government."
It is remarkable how, in different ages, and on different occasions, the opposing spirit avails itself of partial citation. But to advert to the subject, our author's opponent here was John Pennyman, who was endeavouring to show that his former sentiments on discipline were opposite to those which he held at the time of this controversy. Twelve citations are adduced of Pennyman from our author's "Examination," &c. These Penington confirms by some addition to each; and then to each superadds a question in order further to open his intention. Thus the work is one of those which are clear, and pleasant to be read, for the order in which it is written. The last citation, with its correspondent confirmation and question, is rather too long to be given here. Subjoined are some considerations on Church-government. Pennyman had joined the Society; but taking offence at some things which he thought he had discovered to be wrong in it, had left it, and had become an opposer: though still laying claim to extraordinary revelations. He was contemporary with Rogers, another opposer, and his works are still extant. There appears in this book of our author's a benevolent and compassionate regard for his adversary, whom he rather bewails than inveighs against. "I have been," says he, "in a great travail of spirit for J. Pennyman, the Lord having showed me his spirit and state; and this hath been the cry of my heart to the God and Father of my life for him, in great brokenness and tears, many times; Father, forgive him, for he knows not what he does. He knows not what spirit and <507> power he acts against, nor what spirit and power it is that leads him." In another place he says, "Truth teacheth that modesty, temperance, humility, tenderness, and sobriety, that I dare not despise the voice that pretends to the anointing in any, until I have made trial of it. Yea, John Pennyman's voice and testimony, I durst not condemn, until the Lord my God, in the unerring light and pure springing life, manifested unto me that it was not of Him, but of the transforming enemy."
63. The Seed of God, and of his Kingdom, treated and testified of, according to the Scriptures of truth, and according to true experience felt in the heart from the God of Truth.
This piece will admit of some analysis. It first treats of the Seed of the kingdom by answers to the following questions: "1. What the Seed is? 2. Who is the sower of this seed? 3. Where is this seed to be found? 4. In what sorts of earth is this heavenly seed sown? 5, In what sort of earth it brings forth good fruit to perfection? 6. How may the ground that is bad be made good? Was not the ground which is now good, once bad; and may not the ground that is now bad be made good?"
The work is next distributed under three heads; namely,
1. What is hid or wrapped up in this seed.
2. The nature of it.
3. The effects.
"Indeed," says the author, "there is so much wrapped up in it, as the heart of man cannot conceive, much less the tongue utter; yet somewhat have I felt, and somewhat is upon my heart to say in answer to this thing, under these four heads following:"
"First, The glory of the kingdom of Heaven, the glory of the everlasting kingdom, is hid and wrapped up in it, as in a seed...."
"Secondly, The divine nature of God Almighty is hid and wrapped up in it."
"Thirdly, All the graces and virtues of God's holy Spirit are hid and wrapped up in this one seed. There is nothing God can require of the soul, nor [and] nothing the soul can desire of God, but is hid and wrapped up in this seed.... To make this a little more plain and evident... I shall instance in some particulars:"
"1. The pure, living knowledge of the Father, and of his Son Christ Jesus, is wrapped up in this seed."
"2. Faith, the true faith, the lively, effectual, saving, conquering faith, which gives victory over the world, and over the devil and his temptations, is contained or wrapped up in this seed."
<508> "3. The pure fear, the holy fear, the heavenly fear, which is of a clean and heavenly nature, and endureth for ever, is also in this seed."
"4. The pure, divine love is in it."
"5. The pure hope, the hope of the upright, the hope which makes not ashamed, the hope which goes within the veil, and is a sure and steadfast anchor there, staying the mind upon the Lord, who keeps such in perfect peace; this hope is contained in, and springeth from the seed."
"6. The true patience, which obtains the crown, which makes perfect and entire, so that there is nothing wanting where it hath its perfect work, (James 1:4); the patience which enables quietly to suffer any chastisement from God, or any affliction, or hard dealing from men, it is contained in, and given with, this seed."
"7. The Lamb's meekness is in it."
"8. Here poverty of spirit is witnessed."
"9. Here mercifulness towards others is experienced:" [I give this entire] "for he that is brought hither lives only by mercy; and he that lives by mercy, and is daily what he is by mercy, cannot but be merciful to others."
"10. Here the true mourning and lamenting after the Lord, and his precious life and presence; and because of the presence or power of that which hinders the growth of the seed, and the soul's union with and enjoyment of the Lord in it, is witnessed."
"11. The true hungering and thirsting after righteousness ariseth from this seed."
"12. The true sobriety, moderation, and temperance, ariseth from this seed."
"Lastly, To name no more, the cross which mortifies and crucifies to the world, and to sin, can only be taken up in the seed, or by virtue of the seed."
"Fourthly, The new covenant, which God makes with the new Israel, by which He makes the heart new, and writes his law in it, and takes away the stony heart, and heals all their backslidings, and loves them freely, and puts his Spirit within them, causing them to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes and judgments, and do them; even the holy agreement of the soul with God in Christ Jesus, is in this seed.... Keep here, thou never goest out of the holy agreement with God and with Christ; for in this grace and truth, in this seed of life, there is nothing that disagrees with them."
The other two sections, concerning the nature and the effects of the Seed, are somewhat less capable of abridgment, and I have given to this work its full proportion of notice. It concludes with "Some <509> queries [thirty-two in number] concerning God's kingdom, whereby the Seed thereof may be the better illustrated and understood."
64. An Epistle to all serious professors of the Christian religion: wherein a brief touch of my knowledge, sense, belief, and experience concerning the Godhead, the offering up of the Lord Jesus Christ in his body on the tree, as a propitiatory sacrifice to the Father, and the imputation of his righteousness to those who believe in his name and power, is nakedly laid before them: wherein I am not alone, but one with those who have so learned and experienced the same in the leadings and light of his Holy Spirit. Written in love to them, that they might have the better understanding of us, as to these things, and might not think otherwise, either of us, or of the Truth of our God, which we bear witness to, than there is cause, to their own hurt and prejudice.
To the curious in what generally goes by the name of Christian divinity, and too many such there are who do not like Penington seek after the experience of the life of religion in their hearts, this is an interesting piece, because it touches on controverted subjects. Since the time of Isaac Penington, the 7th verse in the 5th chapter of John's first epistle has been shown to be an interpolation, by as much proof as the nature of the case will admit; namely, that it is not found, as the learned are now generally agreed, in any Greek manuscript written before the year 1500. This has been admitted by one of its admirers, and a great biblical critic.* How it got into our bibles is not material here. The doctrine which it contains, as Richard Claridge among our own writers observes, is to be found in other parts of the New Testament. It is probable that our early Friends, in common with most other people then, received it as Scripture, Claridge and Penn however have noticed the doubts which had begun to prevail.
Penington, treating in this epistle of the Godhead, takes 1 John 5:7, as Scripture; and, having quoted it, adds, "This, I believe from my heart, and have infallible demonstrations of; for I know three, and feel three in spirit, even an eternal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which are but one eternal God. And I feel them also one, and have fellowship with them (through the tender mercy of the Lord) in their life, and in their redeeming power. And here I lie low before the Lord in the sensible life, not desiring to know and comprehend notionally; but to feel the thing inwardly, truly, sensibly, and effectually; yea, indeed, <510> this is to me far beyond what I formerly knew notionally concerning them: and I cannot but invite others hither."
"Now, consider seriously, if a man from his heart believe thus concerning the eternal Power and Godhead, that the Father is God, the Word God, the Holy Spirit God; and that these are one eternal God, waiting so to know God, and to be subject to him accordingly; is not this man in a right frame of heart towards the Lord, in this respect? Indeed, Friends, we do know God sensibly and experimentally to be a Father, Word, and Spirit, and we worship the Father, in the Son, by his own Spirit, and here meet with the seal of acceptance with Him."
..."Concerning the offering of the Lord Jesus Christ without the gates of Jerusalem, I do exceedingly honour and esteem that offering, believing it had relation to the sins of the whole world, and was a propitiatory sacrifice to the Father therefore [for them.] And surely he that is redeemed out of the world up to God by Christ, cannot deny that Christ was his ransom, and that he was bought with a price, and therefore is to glorify God, with his body and spirit, which are God's. 1 Cor. 6:20." He adduces also 1 Pet. 1:18-19, and Heb. 9:14, and then goes on, "This we do own singly and nakedly, as in the sight of the Lord; though I must confess we do not lay the sole stress upon that which is outward and visible (though we truly and fully acknowledge it in its place,) but upon that which is inward and invisible.... The outward flesh is not the meat indeed, nor the outward blood the drink indeed; but it is the Spirit, the life, the substance, which the birth that is born of the Spirit feeds upon, and lives by. Oh! consider seriously, and wait on the Lord rightly to understand that Scripture, John 6:63. 'It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.'"
It would be difficult to abridge what the author says concerning Imputation. It may suffice to hint that it is not to sinful persons; but to such as turning to the grace which visits them in their sinful state, are by it in measure transplanted from the evil root, into the holy, where they partake of the virtue and fatness of the true olive-tree.
65. A Reply to an answer of some queries given forth by me, I.P., concerning the Gospel-baptism; with answers to some other queries returned in a paper subscribed N.B.
There is a date to this, which shows it to have been one of his latest writings, viz. 18th 5th month, 1679. The author first states his own query, then his respondent's answer, and next his own reply; and so throughout. Next he answers N.B.'s questions, and winds up with the <511> sense given to him of the "mystery of Christ, and of his enlightening, quickening, circumcising, and baptizing." But an abridgement of this piece would be difficult.
(a) Five Epistles to Friends of Chalfont, dated in 1666, 1670, and 1671, most of them from prison, follow next in the second Quarto volume; and then a short piece entitled,
(b) "Some Queries concerning compulsion in religion," written in Reading gaol in 1670.
One can scarcely call these books, nor probably the following short pieces.
(c) Concerning the dispensation of the Gospel, or the dispensation of the Son in Spirit, which is the last dispensation, whereby the mystery of God, the mystery of the work of redemption is finished in the heart, all created anew inwardly, all subdued that is contrary to God, the soul brought into, or translated into, the everlasting kingdom, and the kingdom at length delivered up to the Father, and God becomes all in all: where all names cease, and the pure eternal Being is known, united to, and lived in, after an unutterable manner. Dated 18th 9th month, 1678.
(d) Some Experiences which it hath pleased the Lord to give me concerning his way, his truth, his church and people, against whom the gates of hell cannot prevail.
In this review most of the tenets of the Society of Friends have been occasionally displayed. The postscript of the piece last-mentioned relates to a subject which has often occasioned a sneer, and sets that subject in a clear light. On this account, and because it abounds with unbounded philanthropy, the reader will not probably be displeased to see it here.
"I do not say that I as a man am infallible, or that any of us as men are infallible; but God's light, God's grace, God's truth, God's Spirit, God's wisdom and power, is infallible; and so far as we partake of that, are gathered into and abide in that, we partake of that which is infallible.... And Oh! let not men rest in, or be contented with, that knowledge which is fallible, but press after unity and fellowship with the Lord in his infallible Spirit; there being no true union nor fellowship with Him in any thing that is fallible."
"Oh! that Protestants, Papists, Jews, Turks, Indians, did all know and own this light, that there might be an end of the darkness and misery, wherewith mankind hath been so long overwhelmed; and <512> happiness, both in particular nations and in the whole world, might be experienced in the stead thereof. For men's erring from the light and Spirit of God hath been the cause of all their misery; and their returning to the light and Spirit of God (from which all have erred) will take away the cause of their misery; and in it (as they faithfully [become] subject to the Lord and travel therein) they shall find his power, love, and mercy revealed, towards their restoring unto happiness."
"31st 5th month, 1679."
The last piece in the volume, and probably the last piece which this diligent hand ever wrote, is the following, of which, for the latter reason, I shall give a very copious extract.
(e) Concerning the times and seasons, both which have been, and which are yet to be.
This piece appears to have been written at different times. The first part, and which more immediately answers to the title, is as follows:
"When God made man in his own image, placing him in Paradise, and giving him dominion over the works of his hands; then was a time of great joy to Adam and Eve, and should have still been so to them, and all mankind, had they continued in the state wherein they were created."
"When Eve, and by her means Adam, hearkened to the voice of the serpent, disobeyed the Lord their Creator, aspiring after wisdom and the knowledge of good and evil, out of God's way; then was a season of misery to Adam, and all his posterity; the holy and heavenly image being lost, and a cursed image gained in the stead thereof, and so man thrust out of Paradise, and the blessedness thereof, into the earth, which was cursed for man's sake. So in this state sin and the curse is man's portion, instead of the holiness and blessedness which his Creator had allotted him."
"When God promised the blessed Seed, and revealed himself to the fathers in the faith, begetting sons to himself, who heard his voice, obeyed and walked with Him; then was a blessed time and season to them, though sin and death reigned in the world. But when the sons of God also forgot Him, and mingled their seed with a corrupted world, then the deluge came, sweeping away all but Noah with his family, and the creatures saved in the ark."
"When the Lord chose the Jews to be a people to himself, from amidst all nations, delivering them by his out-stretched arm out of Egypt, destroying Pharaoh and his host, and led them through the wilderness, fitting the succeeding generation for the good land, bringing <513> them into it, blessing and establishing them in it, while they feared Him and walked in covenant with Him, then was a blessed time and season with that people. But when they provoked God, brought his judgments often, and at last utter ruin and desolation upon themselves; then were seasons of great misery and distress, and at last of utter destruction to them."
"While the Gentiles were cast off, and were no people, being of the corrupt seed which God hath not chosen, nor had any delight in, and while they knew not the living God, but worshipped stocks and stones, and so were liable to the pouring down of his wrath and indignation upon all occasions, and to utter ruin and destruction, when their iniquities were full; it was a sad time and season with them, wherein they were estranged from the life of God, and his holy covenant of promise, and were without God in the world."
"When the Lord preached the gospel to the Gentiles, by his holy apostles and ministers, manifesting Christ to them, the hope of glory, the mystery hid from ages and generations, engrafting them into the holy vine and olive-tree, giving them to partake of the sweetness and fatness thereof, even of the riches of his grace and goodness in his Son, who is eternal life, and gives eternal life to all his; then was such a time and season of love, grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ (both towards Jews and Gentiles), as had not been known in the world before."
"When the Christian church apostatized, the love in many waxing cold, men minding the name of Christianity, and form of Godliness, but not the life and power, and so the Lord was provoked against them, to remove their candlestick out of its place, and give up the outward court to the Gentiles; and so the Spirit was lost or departed from, the life lost, the power lost, the everlasting gospel hid from men's eyes, and darkness and men's inventions set up instead thereof in nations, tongues, and people, and the witnesses to any appearances of God's living truth and holy power persecuted; then was a sad time, then was a season of death and darkness reigning over all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, and the cup of fornication drunk by them all, and all generally bewitched by it, except those whose names were written in the Lamb's book of life. This was the greatest time of darkness (wherein the mystery of iniquity most deeply wrought, in the deepest ways of deceit) that ever was in the world."
"When the church comes again out of the wilderness, when the Spirit and power of God builds up again the gospel-church in its primitive glory; when the everlasting gospel is preached again to all <514> nations, kindreds, tongues, and languages, in the authority and power of God; when the Spirit of the Lord is poured out plentifully on his sons and daughters, and they prophesy, walk, and live in it; when God dwells and walks in his people, and his true light shines in them, dispelling the darkness thoroughly, and filling them with the glory and majesty of the Lord; and they ascend up, out of the world's spirit and nature, into his Spirit and nature, even in the sight of their enemies, and the full wrath of the Lamb be poured out on Babylon, and the full glory revealed in Sion; then shall there be such a day of brightness, and pure heavenly glory, as shall dazzle the eyes of all beholders."
"But the passing away of this night, and the bringing forth of this day, will be very terrible and dreadful, both in particulars and in nations. The kingdoms of this world must indeed become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ; but it will require great power to bring it about. The wrath and strength of the spirit of darkness will be working against the Lord and his power to the utmost; and the more it works against the Lord and his power, the more will the Lord's power and the wrath of the Lamb be revealed against that spirit, and against all its devices and undertakings against the counsel and power of the Lord. Oh! blessed are they that are of the Lamb's nature and spirit, of his righteousness and meekness, for the wrath of the Lamb will not be kindled against them; but he will be a munition of rocks unto them, and their inward life shall be preserved, and they shall enjoy peace with the Lord, in the midst of all that shall outwardly befall them."
"Mesborough, in Kent, 22d 6th month, 1679."
The second part, which is somewhat longer, is dated three days after the foregoing. It describes the state that will be safe when the divine judgments are poured upon nations; and also sets forth the class that will not be able to find a shelter in that trying time. Then follows, after some benevolent aspirations, an address, by way of advice to such as "are touched with the fear of the Lord, and the sense of his righteous judgments due to this nation." A short postscript to this part thus concludes the volume:
"The gospel-religion is very precious, being inwardly felt and experienced in the life and power of it; but a bare profession of it, out of the life and power of godliness, is of no value in the sight of God, nor is it of any profit or advantage to the soul."
In this document words enclosed in square brackets, [ ], are Bevan's editorial comments. Notes by QHP editor are in numbered footnotes; Bevan's footnotes are marked with asterisks, *.
2 The notations "4to." (quarto) and "8vo." refer to the dimensions of the book. A quarto volume is a large one such as is sometimes called a folio volume (about 8 1/2 x 11). An octavo volume is one of the size more often used today (about 5 1/2 x 8 1/2).
3 The reference is to Bevan's Memoir of the Life of Isaac Penington, in which Bevan writes,
"In the preface to one tract, published in 1650, entitled, according to the fashion of titles in those days, 'A Voyce out of the thick Darkness,' he [Penington] mentions an intention he had before conceived of publishing something concerning the state of affairs. 'I should have expressed,' says he, 'ill-will to none, but only have uttered that deep affection that was then in me, towards the soldering and healing the distempers of such spirits as are made more miserable by their own discontents, than they could be by any thing else that can, in probability, befall them.' -- 'There are one sort of men whom I should more especially have applied myself unto; who are wonderous eager after making the nation happy; whose spirits can be no ways satisfied till they see the attainment of that universal freedom, and the flowing forth of that universal, speedy justice, which is easy to be desired, but hard to be met with.' To persons of this description, he gives the following advice. 'Be content to pass through your pilgrimage without the full enjoyment of that freedom ye have desired, and pressed so hard after. There is a power above, whose will may cross yours in this; which may as well find fault with your untowardness to be governed, as with the self-seeking of such as have been governors.' -- 'It is a brave thing sometimes to oppose the yoke; but a braver, from judgment to submit unto it. It is in many cases, better for particular persons, yea for societies, to bear than avoid the yoke.' -- 'It is the stiffness of the neck, and unbrokenness of the spirit that chiefly makes all our yokes so harsh.' But he subjoins, 'Groan, pant after, and, in a just way, pursue the attainment of perfect freedom. Lie not down as a slave, with a base, abject spirit, counting slavery best; but with a sweet spirit submit to it for necessity's sake; and let a sense appear of your prizing and desiring of liberty. And what way of attaining it is made out to you plainly and evidently justifiable, forbear not to fall in with; yet not in such a violent and irrational manner, as to make your more noble parts far worse slaves to brutish passions within, to avoid a more inferior slavery of the outward and more ignoble part."
4 An extract from this is in Hugh Barbour & Arthur O. Roberts (eds.), Early Quaker Writings (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), pp. 226-30.
5 Reference is to the following passage in Bevan's Memoir of the Life of Isaac Penington:
"'This right,' saith he, 'lieth chiefly in these three things -- in the people's choice of their government and governors whom they shall choose -- and in the alteration of either as they shall find cause.' These principles are democratical, and accordingly the Salus populi, suprema lex, is the prominent feature of the book. But it is at most a representative, not a pure, democracy at which the author aims. He shows the impossibility of the people acting for themselves; and the impropriety of a parliament assuming both legislative and administrative power. He seems even not averse to the latter being placed in the hands of a king. 'Though,' these are his words, 'I shall not plead for the resettlement of kingly government (for I am not so far engaged in my affections to it, as it yet hath been) yet I would have a fair and friendly shaking hands with it, and not any blame laid upon it beyond its desert. For doubtless it is both proper, good, and useful in its kind; and hath its advantages above any other government on the one hand, as it hath also its disadvantages on the other hand.'
"In short, though the desire of Penington seems to have been the general welfare of the people; he only expected it (so far as civil policy can effect it,) from the preservation of every rank in the state within its own limits. 'Kingly power,' thus he writes in his prefatory address to the parliament, 'did pass its limits, we may now speak it.' The times of Charles I. the late stretches of prerogative by that monarch, and the attempts at power independent of the parliament, were of course fresh in his memory. But Penington immediately subjoins, 'Doth parliamentary power keep within its limits?' -- 'And if things should yet devolve lower, into the great and confused body of the people, is it likely they would keep their limits?' -- 'Man cannot be free in himself, nor free from himself, (while self is in him it will make him selfish) and while it is so, others under his power or within his reach cannot be free.'
"Another short extract from the body of the work may close the description of the political part of the character of Isaac Penington, and show that universal benevolence formed its basis. 'There is not one sort of men upon the face of the earth, to whom I bear any enmity in my spirit (though in some respect I must confess myself an enemy to every sort of men) but wish, with all my heart, they might all attain and enjoy as much peace, prosperity, and happiness as their state will bear. There are not any to whom I should envy government; but, whoever they are, they should have my vote on their behalf, whom I saw fitted for it and called to it.'"
6 The text of Penington's answer here is omitted, as it can be found in the present volume on pages 274-75.
7 This paper is in Volume II of the QHP 1994 edition.
8 Bevan's transcription is omitted here. The tract is printed in Volume II of the QHP (1994) edition, p. 324.
* [on item 37] So the apostle. Not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think: but to think soberly, .
* [on item 50] . Isaac Penington has noticed that the Greek has 'prophetic word;' but he does not seem to have observed that our translators have transposed the words of the sentence, nor to have noticed the definite article , the, which our translators have rendered, a.
* [on item 56, section 11] I apprehend this is a typographical error, for known. The edition has not a few, if they abound in proportion with the parts I have examined.
* [on item 56, section 19] Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God, Psalm 87:3.
* [on item 57] This precise expression is not found in our Bible. It shows, however, the author's anti-Socinian turn; and probably refers to John 1:1.
* [on item 64] Bengel