Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of Isaac Penington > Isaac Penington to a Near Relative



DEAR _______,

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation; it is the glad tidings of freedom from sin, of putting off the body of sin by the circumcision and baptism of the Spirit, of being delivered out of the hands of our spiritual enemies, that we may serve God (without fear of them any more), in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life.

The ministers of the gospel are those, who, in the Spirit of Christ, by the gift and inspiration thereof, preach these tidings to the poor and needy, to the captives, to those that groan under the pressure of the body of corruption.

The gospel, through the great mercy of God, I have, at length, heard preached; and I have not heard man, but the voice of my Beloved; whose voice is welcome to me, though in the meanest boy, or most contemptible female. For in Christ, there is neither male nor female; nor should his Spirit, which is not limited to males, be quenched in any. And though thou, through prejudice, call this speaking of the Spirit through servants and handmaids, prating, yet the Lord can forgive thee; for surely, if thou knew what thou didst herein, thou wouldst not thus offend the Lord; -- extolling preaching by man's wisdom, from a minister made by man, for gospel preaching, and condemning the preaching of persons sent by God, in the immediate inspiration of his Spirit. I am confident, if, without prejudice, and in the fear of God, thou didst once hear such, thou wouldst not be able to forbear saying in thy heart, It is the voice of God, of a truth. But that which hath not the sheep's ear can never own the voice of the true Shepherd.

As for those whom thou callest ministers, if I should speak, concerning them, the very truth from the mouth of the Lord, thou couldst not, in that state wherein thou standest, receive it; yet am I far from accounting them the offscouring of the earth; for I look upon them as wise and knowing, and as of great beauty in the earthly learning and wisdom; but surely, not as having "the <19> tongue of the learned," "to speak a word in season to him that is weary;" nay, they are men unlearned in this kind of learning, and such as toss and tear and wrest the scripture, in their uncertain reasonings and guessings about the sense of it, and in the various doubtful interpretations they give.

And whereas I am blamed for not putting a difference between the profane and scandalous ministers, and the reverend and godly sort; my answer is, They are united in one ministry; and the question is not concerning the persons, but the ministry; in which they are one, -- their call one, their maintenance one, their way of worship and preaching one, their standing and power of government one; which is not by the power and presence of the Spirit, but by the strength of the magistrate. But the true gospel and ministry is spiritual, and cannot stand nor be upheld by that which is carnal, neither in its call, maintenance, government, or what else belongs to it. When Christ came in the flesh, the words he pronounced were not so much against the profane and scandalous among the Scribes and Pharisees; but against those that appeared most strict, and were accounted among the Jews the most reverend and godly. And, were it not for the appearance of godliness in these men, the persecution of the present times had not been so hot, the good old cause so lost, and the work of reformation (inasmuch as relates to men) so overturned as at this day. O _______! there was once a good thing in divers of them, which my soul would rejoice to see revived; but as the seat of government eat out the good that was in the bishops, so gaping after the seat of government hath sunk the good thing in others also; and made their eye so dim, that they cannot see the mighty breakings forth of the Spirit of Christ in his people.

I. P.