Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > Isaac Penington to Friends at Horton (1665)
THERE hath been a cloudy and dark day, wherein God's church and building hath been laid waste, and his holy city (according to his decree and purpose) trodden under foot by the Gentiles; all which time, his church hath been as a desolate widow, mourning in the wilderness. Yet, during this season, God hath not left his people; but there have been breathings and stirrings of life in and from the precious seed; in which breathings of life, they have seen somewhat of the beauty of the built state, and have had true desires and longings after it: but, in the midst of these desires, the enemy hath struck in upon their spirits, and put them upon pressing more forward towards it, than they have been truly led. So reading in the Scriptures of a church state and church orders, &c., they thought it was their duty to set on building; and so have thrust themselves into these things, in which they have not been accepted of the Lord; though, in their breathings and true desires, they were accepted. And what hath been the issue of these buildings? Ah! the pure seed hath been buried in them, they have been as a grave to it; and their own imaginations, and wrought-out knowledge, and way of worship, have been of high esteem.
O Lord my God! raise again, I beseech thee, the pure life, and those pure breathings which have been drowned, lost, and buried in these buildings!
Now, dear Friends, the Lord alone built his church at the first. The Lord also laid the buildings waste, and carried his living temple, out of the shell of it, into a wilderness. And the Lord alone can lead his church out of the wilderness (leaning upon her Beloved), into her built state again. Ah! dear Friends, all must be scattered, all must be scattered, all the gatherings, all the buildings, which are not of the Lord, that his gathering, his building, may be known and exalted in the earth: so that I would not have you hold up any thing in this day of the Lord (it is so indeed), against the light and power of the Lord. The Lord is able, and will maintain his building, however weak and low of esteem it be in the eye of man; but man shall not be able to maintain his buildings, however high and strong in his own eye. <469> Yea, every high tower and every fenced city shall fall before the dread of His presence, who hath now appeared among his poor, desolate people, and gathered them within the verge of his power: blessed be his holy name for ever!
And since my spirit is at this time thus unexpectedly opened, in love and in life, towards you, I shall mention one or two great snares, which I see professors entangled in, that you may wait on the Lord, to escape the evil and danger of them. One is this, they look too much at outward time and outward things, and their expectations are too much that way. Oh let it not be so with you! but wait for the inward day, wherein the things of God are wrought in the heart. And take heed to your steps, thoughts, and ways; for the Lord, who hath long tenderly visited, is now laying stumbling-blocks; and not only the world, but even professors also, shall be hardened, snared, fall, and be taken; and this word shall be fulfilled, even among them, "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness." But woe unto him that hath stumbled at the living appearance of God's precious truth in this our day, and in his wisdom hath been exalted above that which he should have fallen down before! Oh that none of you (whom I have dearly loved, and still love, and whom I have truly sought in the Lord, and still seek) ever prove sad examples and spectacles of what I now write in a living, feeling sense! Oh that that which hath mourned and is oppressed among you might live, and rise up in the power of life, over that which hath grieved and oppresseth it! for, of a truth, I feel among you a wisdom and knowledge, which is not of the seed, but oppresseth it. Oh, what plainness of speech doth the Lord give me towards you! Indeed, I am melted in concern for you; and, in the strength of that love which searches into your bosoms, desire, that the abominable thing among you might be discovered and purged out, and that which is indeed of God might spring up, live, and flourish among you.
A second thing, wherein professors grievously mistake, is, about praying in the name of Christ; in which name, he that asketh receiveth; and out of which, there is no right asking of the Father. They think that praying in the name of Christ consists in using some outward words; as, "Do this for thy Son's sake," or "We beg of thee in Christ's name;" whereas, that in <470> the heart which knoweth not the Father may use such words; and that which is taught of the Father to pray, and prayeth in the Son, may not be led to use those words. The name, wherein the asking and acceptance is, is living; and he that prayeth in the motion of the Spirit, and in the power and virtue of the son's life, he prayeth in the name, and his voice is owned of the Father; and not the other, who hath learned in his own will, time, and spirit to use those words relative to the Son.
Another thing, wherein professors exceedingly err and mistake, is, about the applying of Christ's righteousness, which is only rightly done in the Spirit, where the application hath its true virtue. But man's misapplication hath no virtue; for, notwithstanding that, his sins remain; and so the comfort, hope, and joy in his heart, that his sins are pardoned is only a pleasing dream, which will deceive him when he awakes, and finds his sins not blotted out by God, but only in his own apprehension.
Ah Friends, that ye might travel into truth, and meet with the unerring substance of things, that ye might live, and not die! and then ye will see how man hath erred, and errs, yea, even the man in you; and that the seed only, and they that are born of the seed, know the living truth, and walk in the living path, where there is no error, no deceit, but a perfect preservation out of them. There, it is my desire to meet and embrace you, in the dear bowels of love, where we may unite, and know one another, in the spiritual birth and life, inseparably, for ever; if we daily mourn after, and faithfully wait upon, the true guide and leader thereunto.
I remain your imprisoned Friend, according to the wisdom of God, and in his pure content and fear; though the wisdom of man might easily have avoided these bonds.
Aylesbury Jail, 22d of Eighth Month, 1665