Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > Isaac Penington to Mathaniel Stonar (1670)




There was somewhat on my heart towards thee this morning, which I am willing in truth and uprightness to express to thee, as the Lord knoweth.

<440> There is a great dispute between us and professors, concerning the rule; which they hold forth the Scriptures to be. Now truly I could wish, from the depth of love in my heart to them, and from my desire of their good, that the Scriptures, rightly understood by them, were their rule; and not their own reasonings, conceivings, and apprehendings upon the Scriptures. But yet, if it were so, they must needs assent to me, that the Spirit of life, -- that the truth, which lives in the heart, -- that the law, written by the finger of God in the inward parts, -- is nearer and more powerful, than the words, or outward relations concerning those things in the Scriptures. There is a measure of life to be received, there is the Spirit of life to be received, there is a well of life, from which pure life springs up, to be received and enjoyed by them that truly and rightly believe.

The Lord, in the gospel state, hath promised to be present with his people; not as a wayfaring man for a night, but to dwell in them and walk in them. Yea, if they be tempted and in danger of erring, they shall hear a voice behind them, saying, "This is the way, walk in it." Will they not grant this to be a rule, as well as the Scriptures? Nay, is not this a more full direction to the heart, in that state, than it can pick to itself out of the Scriptures? Truly, this ensuing testimony is true, which now springs up in my heart unto thee, which is this; -- the Lord hath poured out his Spirit upon his sons and daughters, in and by this precious dispensation of truth, and of the pure seed, which is so despised. And the Spirit which gave forth the words is greater than the words; therefore we cannot but prize Him himself, and set Him higher in our hearts and thoughts than the words which testify of Him, though they also are very sweet and precious to our taste.

There was a measure and rule, whereunto the true minister of Christ and the believing Gentiles had attained, by which they were to walk; as is mentioned in 2 Cor. 10:13, 15. "According to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us" -- "according to our rule," &c.: and in Philippians, 3:16, "Whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing;" as also in Galatians, 6:15-16, "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk <441> according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy," &c. Now consider what that rule was. Oh that thou mayst know it and walk thereby, as they that had received God's Spirit did! For I am assured in my heart, that if thou receive God's Spirit, and live and walk therein, thou canst not fulfil the desires of the flesh; but thou wilt find thy heart opened thereby into a true sense, understanding, and right use of the Scriptures. For the Scriptures of the New Testament were written to the saints, and cannot be truly or rightly understood or made use of, but as men come into their spirit and state.

These things are of great weight and concernment: the Lord open and guide thy heart into true satisfaction in this and other things also, from the demonstration of his own Spirit; that thou mayst be able truly to say as in his sight, Now I believe and understand things, not because this or that man hath so said, but because the Lord, who is the Teacher indeed, hath taught and assured my heart concerning the truth itself, as it is in Jesus; which I feel to be so, by its living virtue and powerful operation in and upon my heart.

This is my desire for thee, who am thy soul's true and sincere friend, who would by no means have thee deceived about any thing that concerns it.

I. P.

Reading Jail, 24th of Seventh Month, 1670