Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > Isaac Penington to his children J.J. and M.P. (1667)




Two things I especially desire in reference to your learning; -- one is, that ye may learn to know and hearken to the voice of God's witness in you. There is somewhat in you, which will teach you how to do well, and how to avoid the evil, if your minds be turned to it. And the same thing will witness to you, when ye do well, -- and against you, when ye do evil. Now to learn to know this, to hear this, to fear this, to obey this, that is the chief piece of learning that I desire to find you in. And your master or any one of the family that turns you to the witness, reminds you of the witness, reproves you for not hearkening to or obeying the witness, O! love them, and bless God for them in that respect: and remember this, that he that hearkens to reproof is wise, but he that hates or slights it is brutish. That is the dark spirit, which would please itself in its dark ways, and therefore loves not the light which makes them manifest and reproves them: and that spirit is the brutish spirit, which hates the reproof of the light, and would continue its vain foolish ways and delights, which the light testifies against; -- that spirit therefore debaseth man. Therefore mind the witness which discovers these things to you, and leads you out of them, as ye hearken to it, and come to know, fear, and love the Lord God, by his instruction and testimony. The way of youth is vain, and foolish, and <488> defiles the mind: O! my children, wait for the cleansing, -- watch for that which cleanseth the foolish way of children, which is that which discovers and witnesses against your foolishness and vain tempers, and the temptations of your minds, and leads out of them. Learn to bear the yoke in your tender years. There is a vain mind in you -- there is somewhat which would be feeding and pleasing that vain mind; and there is somewhat near you, appointed by God to yoke it down. O! give not scope to vanity, it will be an occasion of woe and misery to you hereafter. But the yoke which keeps under the vain mind, O! take that yoke upon you; and then ye shall become not only my children, but the disciples of Christ, and children of the Most High. This is the first thing, which I mainly and chiefly desire you should apply yourselves to learn.

The next thing is, (which will also flow from the first,) -- that ye learn how to behave yourselves as good children, both in the family and to persons abroad, in a meek, modest, humble, gentle, loving, tender, respectful way, -- avoiding all rude, rough, bold, unbeseeming carriage towards all; honouring your mother and me, as God teaches and requires; dearly cleaving to one another in the natural relation, which is of God, wherein ye are loved, [having] even a great proportion of natural affection and kindness one to another. -- -- -- So to the servants, carry yourselves very lovingly, sweetly, meekly, gently; that none may have any cause of complaint against you, but that all may see your lowliness, and be drawn to love you. And to strangers, carry yourselves warily, respectfully, in a sober, submissive, humble manner of demeanour; not disputing and talking, which becomes not your age and place; but watching what ye may observe of good in them, and what ye may learn of those that are good, and how ye may avoid any such evil, as ye observe in any that are evil. Thus your time will be spent in profit, -- and ye will feel the blessing of God and of your parents, and be kept out of those evils, which your age and natural tempers are subject to, and which other children, who are not careful nor watchful, are commonly entangled in. Mind these things, my children, as ye will give an account to God, who through me thus instructs <489> you, -- who am your imprisoned father -- and have been much grieved when I hear of any ill concerning you, -- it being more matter of trouble and sorrow to me, than my imprisonment, or any thing else I suffer, or can suffer from man.

Your father, who desires your good, and that it may go well with you, both here and hereafter.

I. P.

10th of Third month, 1667

And remember this one thing, which as a father I admonish you of, and charge you to take notice of and observe, which is this, -- that ye do not fly out upon one another, or complain of one another, because of the evils ye observe in one another; but first take notice of that evil in yourselves: if by the true light ye find your own hearts cleansed from it, bless God who hath done it; and keep to his light and the testimony of his witness in you, whereby he did it; and watch that ye be not overtaken in it for the future. But if ye be guilty of the same evil, or have lately done the same thing, or are liable suddenly to do it, -- O! for shame! forbear accusing or blaming another: and in the fear of God wait on him, and pray unto him that ye may be delivered from it, and kept out of it. And then in tender pity, love and meekness, admonish thy brother or sister of his or her evil, and watch to be helpful to preserve or restore them; and pray to God to direct thee how to be helpful to them. But that is the bad spirit and nature, (which God will sharply punish,) that is ready to accuse others: and though it be never so bad and guilty, yet will be excusing itself, and laying the fault upon others, or remembering some other fault of another, when it should be sensible of and ashamed of its own.

Dear children, if ye bend your minds to learn these things, the Lord will help you therein, and become your teacher, guide and preserver, and pour down his blessings upon you; and ye will be a comfort to me and your mother, and an honour to his Truth; and He also may give me wise fatherly instructions to teach you further. But if ye be careless, foolish, vain, following your own minds, and what riseth up there from the wicked one, ye will grieve my heart, and provoke God against you, to bring <490> evil upon you, both in this world and for ever.

Therefore, children, mind that which is near you -- the light of God, which discovers the evil and the good. His witness, which observes all ye do, is near you: yea, he himself is in that light, and with that witness. Therefore, know, ye are in his presence at all times; who is an holy and just God, hating that which is vain and evil, and loving that which is good and right before him: and hath appointed a day and set a time, wherein he will either reward you with peace, joy, and eternal happiness, if ye have been good, and done that which is good; or with misery, destruction, and unsufferable pain both of soul and body, if ye have been evil, and done that which is evil. And God takes notice how many instructions ye have heard from Friends in Truth, and from your parents; and how many meetings ye have been at, wherein ye have been taught and warned of these things: so that if ye turn your back upon his light, and will not hear its reproofs, but will be vain, and idle, and foolish, and rash, and quarreling, and doing that which is naught, and then covering it with lies, and so be as bad, if not worse, than children who were never thus taught and instructed, -- God will be exceedingly angry with you; and may in his just judgment and sore displeasure, separate you from his light, give you up to the black, dark spirit, (from whom all this wickedness is,) to sow in sin here, and to suffer the flames of eternal fire hereafter; -- which is his reward, and the reward of all who are persuaded by him to be of his nature, and who hearken to him, and let him work through them.

O! my children, mind the Truth of God in you; and that will let you see and understand the truth of what I now write, -- and in what fatherly love and tender care of you, I write these things; that ye might be warned of the great danger of neglecting the time of your visitation by God's light and witness in you, and of going on in the evil ways of the dark crooked spirit, who will be tempting you to evil and hindering you from God, as long as ye hearken to him. Therefore, be not fools, to be led by him to destruction, in the evil way and evil works, which lead thereto; but be wise to hearken to the light, and follow it, out of that which is evil, into every thing that is good, -- to the salvation of your souls.

<491> I desire that Friends in the family, watch over them in these respects; and when they find just occasion, to put them in mind of any of these things, in the fear and wisdom of God, with tenderness and gentleness, that they may reach the witness; but to take heed of upbraiding them, or aggravating any thing, lest they be thereby hardened, and the bad raised and strengthened in them. And, my dear G.* and Friends, watch over your hearts and ways, that ye may be as examples to them; that they may not only read these things from my writing, but in your carriage towards them, and one towards another; that they meet with nothing to strengthen or raise up the bad thing, but to reach the witness, and bring and keep down the evil in them. So the Lord bless your watchfulness, care, and endeavors therein; that I may hear good of them, and be comforted in the mercy and kindness of the Lord towards them.

*Doubtless his daughter in-law, Gulielma, afterwards the wife of William Penn [editorial note by John Barclay in Letters &c. of Early Friends (1841)].