Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > Isaac Penington to his Brother (1667)
This morning, as I was going out to walk, somewhat sprang up in my heart freshly and livingly to thee; whereupon, I consulted not, but immediately turned back so to do. Now, if the Lord make it useful to thee, thou wilt have cause to bless his name; and so shall I also, who heartily desire the life and welfare of thy soul in the living God, and thy avoiding all such snares as the enemy lays to betray, and to keep it in death and bondage. The thing that rose up in me, was this.
God gave some apostles, some prophets, &c., for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body, for the perfecting of the saints. This was God's gift, in mercy and love, to them in that day, of which gift they were to walk worthy, and to be thankful for it.
And in these days, the Lord hath given gifts to some for this work, which the body hath need of; and the body is to wait on the Lord in the use of his gift, in fear and humility. For those that gather the soul to the Lord, they also are appointed to watch over the soul, in the same power and authority that gathered. Now, that which is of God in any heart, being heeded, will teach to make use of the gift and ministry which is of him; and it cannot be despised, but God is despised; nor can it be neglected, without loss and danger to the soul that neglects it. For God is wise, and his ordinances, his ministry, his gifts, are weighty, and his blessings go along with them. Who have been gathered to him in these days, but by his ministry which he hath appointed and sent to gather? and who have been preserved, but those who have waited on the Lord, and been subject to his Spirit in the same ministry which hath gathered? Mark, brother, in every age, God's ministers have been despised. Moses and all the prophets were despised in their day. What! [said the despisers] hath God spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? The apostles were despised in their days, by those that kept not to the anointing; for this always teacheth to reverence, in subjection to the Lord, the ministry which is of the anointing. <503> "He that despiseth you," said Christ, "despiseth me." He that despiseth them in their gathering, or in their building up, despiseth Him that sent them. They were earthen vessels, in presence contemptible, and very liable to be despised. It is easy still, to despise God's messengers and servants; but he that will truly and rightly esteem them, must lie low, must dwell in the pure fear, and in the sense of life, that he may be taught of God so to do. It is an easy matter to have objections enough against them; but to see through all prejudices and objections, to the pure and precious life in them, and to the gift and spirit and power of the Lord, wherein and whereby they minister, -- this requires a true eye, and a heart opened by the Lord.
Ah brother! this is a snare, wherein many have been caught in former ages, and in this age also, which it is easy falling into, but the preservation out of it, is not easy, but only by the power and mercy of the Lord. And blessed are those, whom the Lord so favors as to preserve out of it, and to remove from them those prejudices and devices, whereby they are entangled. Dear brother! when I am in the pure sense before the Lord, and my spirit opened by him, and thou presented before me; I could even beg most earnestly of the Lord, that he would open thy eye, and give thee a true sight of thy state, and cause thy spirit to bow before him; and to know and honor what is of him, and not, by any device of the enemy, be hindered from receiving therefrom, what he, in tender love and mercy, holds out to thee.
And, dear brother, mind this advice which just springs in my heart: pick out some of the faithful ones of the Lord's servants, and open thy heart to them, as, in the leadings of the Lord and waiting upon him, thou findest freedom thereunto. Indeed, brother, I have had, for a long time, a deep sense of danger towards thee: the Lord prevent it, that thy soul may live to him, and not die from him! There is a wisdom, a will near thee, which will destroy thee, unless the Lord destroy it in thee.
Oh that thou mightst come to wait aright for the motion of his spirit! and mightst be kept by him in that which knows the drawing; then wilt thou hunger and thirst after the righteousness <504> of his kingdom, and long after times of meeting and assembling with his people; and find thy sense of them living, and thy life refreshed therein. For, God is with his people, of a truth, and they meet not without him; but his presence is in the midst of them, causing his life to flow into every vessel, that stands open to him. And death has not come over his people, whatever the enemy suggests, where he gets an ear open: but life grows more and more in freshness and into dominion in them. O brother! the Lord fully gather thee into and preserve thee in that, wherein thou mayst feel this in thy own particular, wherein thou mayst feel the freshness of life, and the power thereof in them; that thy heart also, may be as a watered garden, and as a living temple, wherein the pure, living God dwells!
I am satisfied in my heart, that not only my love, but my life speaks to thee. Oh that thou couldst hear, and feel, and fear, and bow down before the Lord! that he might, in his due season, raise thee up in his life and power among his people, purifying thee, and preserving thee pure and living to him for ever.
The desire of my heart to the Lord for thee is, that he would open and keep open in thee the eye which sees, and the ear which hears, and the heart which understands his truth; and that he would prevent the enemy from raising up another thing in thee, instead of the seed of life and holy witness.
Great hath been the subtlety, and deep hath been the error from the truth; and many who seem to be Jews are not, but have erred from the Spirit, life, and power, wherewith they were at first convinced, and whereby they were at first led. And in these, the enemy hath raised up a seat of prejudices, and strong-holds against the ministry and power of the living God; but those that are of the right seed bless the Lord, beholding his work, while others slight it, and are expecting somewhat else; they bless also the church which the Lord hath built, and the ministry which he hath sent forth to gather and build it.
O brother! there is a high-mindedness in some which takes <505> upon it to judge beyond its growth and capacity; and there is a fear in the hearts of others, lest any thing in them should get up, or judge, or be any thing, beyond or beside the pure Truth; this teacheth to honor and prefer those, whom the Lord hath preferred, the other hath accusations and pleas against them; the one of these witnesseth preservation from God, the other is left to fall. Dear brother, believe a traveller in the path of life (the Lord God raise up in thee that which can believe), the enemy, with great subtlety, hath laid his snares, hath taken many in his snares, even in the snares which he laid by his instrument, J -- P -- ; and many did let in his spirit before they were aware, and are at this day (unknown to their own hearts) entangled therein. The Lord God will terribly appear against such (indeed it is truth), unless they bow to his light, acknowledge their error from the truth, and come back to the body by repentance, and turning from that, wherein this spirit hath entangled them.
Dear brother, it is my desire that thou mayst not perish, but feel the carrying on of the work of salvation in thee; travel on in the pure, holy, living, powerful path, and receive the crown of fidelity to the truth! Ah brother! mourn to the Lord; fear before him; converse and consult with those that abide faithful; and they may help thee to see (through the guidance, presence, and power of the Spirit of the Lord with them), what of thyself, thou art not able to see. Remember this counsel; thy life is wrapped up in it; for thou hast need of the helps, which the Lord, in his tender mercy, hath provided, and canst not be safe without them.
Thy dear Brother, in the unity of nature, longing after perfect sense of thee, and unity with thee, in the pure life.
Aylesbury Jail, 7th of Eighth Month, 1667