Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of Isaac Penington > Isaac Penington to Ruth Palmer
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Whose love I am sensible of, and whom I entirely wish well unto, and desire for thee, that thou mayst purchase and possess the pearl of price; and so know and enjoy Christ Jesus, the Lord, as that thou mayst witness him to be eternal life to thy soul.
I received a letter from thee, which occasions this my writing <36> to thee. It is precious, indeed, to have the Spirit of God witness to us, that our sins are pardoned. And they who are truly pardoned, to whom the Spirit so witnesseth, receive the Spirit; indeed, all that are Christians receive the Spirit; for he that hath not the Spirit of Christ, is none of His. And where the Spirit is, there is He who hath power over sin, who delights to exercise his power in mortifying and subduing sin, and in reigning and triumphing over it. Now, they that have received the Spirit, are to live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit; and doing so, they cannot fulfil the lusts of the flesh, nor love the world, nor the things of the world, nor fashion themselves according to it; but are redeemed out of it, in heart, spirit, life, and conversation, up to God. O my friend! let no religion satisfy thee, but that which brings thee hither, and which brings forth this fruit in thee. We must needs own Christ to be the spring, and that we can do nothing without him, but only by, and in, and through him; because we daily experience it to be so.
As touching election, we do believe it, according as the Lord hath taught us, and as the Scriptures express it: but such an election as shuts out any from the salvation God hath prepared for the sons of men, we cannot own; because the Scriptures expressly testify that God "would have all to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the Truth." Yea, also, we know it to be his nature. It is the nature of the destroyer to destroy, -- he would have none saved; but it is the nature of God, the Saviour, to save, -- he would have none perish. But as there is a making the calling and election sure, so there is first a coming into the calling, and into the election. Now, the election cannot perish, nay, the elect seed cannot be deceived. And, as we are chosen in him, and come into him (out of darkness into his marvellous light, out of death into his life), so we must abide in him: and the promise is to him that continues unto the end. And Christ said to the church of Ephesus, "Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else, &c.: and mind, what a state they fell from, and how far they were fallen, when so severely threatened. It was not wholly; it was but from the first love and first works; and yet, if they repented not, how great was their danger.
As for that place of Rom. 11, it is manifest that there is an <37> election, and that this election is not of works, but of grace. Yet, there must be a hearing of the voice; "Today," said the apostle, "if ye will hear his voice;" and so, there must be a coming to Christ, and an abiding in him, and a walking in the strait way; for it is the way God chooseth. God hath chosen Christ, and the soul in him; and the message is to invite to come to him, and abide in him to the end. And the condemnation is upon rejecting him, and the salvation, to them, that receive him, -- which is not of man's self neither, but men are made willing so to do, in the day of God's power; and the power is not far from, or wanting to any, in the way that the Lord hath appointed; though there are also the aboundings of love, mercy, and power according to his pleasure. The falling away is, not because persons were not elected, but because they let in that which is contrary to the election, and cleave to it. So there is a "heart of unbelief," in which men depart from the living God, and make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience; and the ground of their falling is, their hearkening not to the Lord, but to the voice and temptations of the enemy. There are called, and faithful, and chosen. These are states, to be come into and abode in. Many may be called, who never come to be faithful, nor chosen. To witness the peculiar choice of God, this is precious: -- and then, not to be content with a touch of the calling, or a touch of the election, but to "make" them "sure." There is no choosing but in the seed. Make sure of that seed, and thou maketh both thy "calling and election sure." For indeed, "many are called, but few chosen." And yet, when a man comes thus far, so as to know himself chosen, is he quite out of danger? Did not Paul know his election sure? yet, was he not afterwards careful to keep that under and in subjection, which was to be kept under and in subjection? "lest," saith he, "when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away."
Thou sayest, Whom God once loves, he loves to the end. Did he not once love all men, even the whole world? Did he not manifest it, in sending his Son for them? And they that come into his Son, they come into his love; and they that come into his love, must continue in his love and in his goodness. For, it is not persons ("God is no respecter of persons"), but the seed, God loves. "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be <38> blessed;" and, in that seed, they are loved, and continuing there, they continue in the love. It is true, God's grace appears, and thereby many are gathered. And when any fall, the grace of God appears again, and thereby many are restored. But if any be hardened by "the deceitfulness of sin," that they hearken not to the voice of grace, when it comes to restore, are they restored by it? And God's compassions failed not to Israel of old, nor to Israel now; yet, were none consumed then, who, though they came out of Egypt, yet rebelled, and lusted, and tempted Christ, &c., and so were destroyed of the destroyer? And so, do none make shipwreck of faith now, whereby the standing is? as the apostle expresseth, Rom. 11:19-22. Read, and consider. And the apostle, in the sense of things, cries, "Oh, the depth!" &c. Love in severity, mercy in severity! If it be stopped one way, it will break forth more abundantly in another way. And, "who hath known the mind of the Lord," or given him counsel, which way he should manage his love and mercy? as in ver. 33-34 of that 11th chapter. Indeed, all the salvation is to be ascribed to God, and is ascribed to God by all that receive salvation from him; but still, God saves in the way he hath appointed (in coming into the way, in abiding in the way, in walking in the way), -- there, alone is safety; but out of it, death and destruction for ever.
All our best righteousness is as filthy rags, it is true; but the gift of God is not as filthy rags, the righteousness of his Son revealed in the heart, is not as filthy rags. The pure offerings and incense, which are offered up to God in the times of the gospel, are not as filthy rags. See Mal. 1:11; and consider, whether he that offers up to God the male, offers up a corrupt thing, a filthy rag, or no, ver. 14. Oh, what a state of blindness are many in, that they cannot distinguish between what is of themselves, and what is of God in them: and so avoid offering up the corrupt thing, and offer up that which is holy and pure, even the holy sacrifice, with the holy fire, upon the altar of God! Consider 3rd ch. 3rd verse of Malachi; and tell me, if thou knowest, what an offering in righteousness is, whether it be as filthy rags, or no. Consider that place, John 3:21. "He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." And what are those deeds, that are wrought in God? Is not God holy and pure? And is any thing <39> wrought in him, but what is holy and pure? And mind that place, where the prophet speaks, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags," &c. Mind ver. 5, and ver. 6, of Isa. 64, and see if they be not two different states? None of those, whose righteousness was as filthy rags, called upon the name of the Lord, ver. 7. Did not the prophet call on the name of the Lord? The prophet there represents the state of backsliding Israel, that did not remember God in his ways, nor, through faith, work righteousness, as some others did; ver. 5, all their offerings, all their sacrifices out of the faith, were as filthy rags, as the cutting off a dog's neck, &c.; but the offering of Abel, and the sacrifice of the righteous were not so, in any age or generation. Therefore, we should wait rightly to distinguish things, and not jumble the precious and the vile together, as if they were all one.
As for method of speaking, I have none of my own, but wait for the method and words, which God's wisdom teacheth. Indeed, when I speak of the light, and the life, and the power, I do mean Christ Jesus, who is the light, life, and power; but it is a great matter, to come to know him so revealed in the heart; for where he is so revealed, darkness, and death, and the power of Satan, are scattered and put to flight by him. Yea, Satan falls like lightning before the power of his kingdom, where it is revealed.
This is a blessed experience; and these know Christ indeed. The Lord grant that thou mayst so do! which is the hearty desire of thy soul's true and faithful friend,