Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > Isaac Penington to Widow Hemmings (1670)
Since I last saw thee there have been many deep and serious thoughts on my heart concerning thee; and a sense of thy state as before the Lord, and breathings of heart for thee. I am sensible that the Spirit of the Lord is striving with thee, and in some measure opening thy heart towards him and his truth; and I am sensible withal, that there is much striving against him; and many strong-holds of wisdom and reasonings in thee, which must be broken down, before truth can spring up in thy heart, and exercise its power in thee, and have full command in thee.
Now this morning when I awoke, there were three things sprang up in me, which my heart did singly and earnestly desire for thee. One was that thou mightst be led by God's Holy Spirit <442> into the new and living covenant, where Christ is revealed, and the soul united to him as its Lord and King in a bond of indissoluble union. Another was that thou mightst daily be taught of God, and learn of him in this holy, new, pure, and everlasting covenant. The third was, that thou mightest be true and faithful to God, to obey and follow him, in whatever he teaches and requires of thee.
If thou wert but in this state thou wouldst find sweetness and rest, peace and power, the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, and life eternal revealed in thy own heart; and with joy draw water out of the wells of salvation.
Now if thou come to witness Christ's appearance in spirit, and wilt become a disciple unto him, there are three things thou must apply thy heart to learn of him; which indeed are the sum of the gospel, or of what is taught in and by the gospel. The first is, to fear God. This is the beginning of true, heavenly wisdom, and this is the perfection and the end of wisdom also; for true wisdom not only brings into the fear, but it builds up in the fear, yea, and perfects in the fear also; according as the apostle saith, "Perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord." Now this is not such a fear as man can attain by all he can do; but is the fear of the new covenant, which God puts into the hearts of his children as he quickens them and brings them up in the new covenant. This is such a fear as that those in whom it is placed, cannot depart from the Lord; nor abiding in it, err from the way of life and holiness; for all sin and transgression, all rebellion against the Lord, and grieving and quenching his Spirit, is out of this fear. Oh that thou mightst receive this fear from the Lord, and grow up unto him daily in it!
The second, which depends upon and flows from the former, is, to give glory to God, in discerning his life and power, and the virtue of his Spirit and his grace, working all in thee; and so still ascribing the glory to him of all thou art, dost, or canst do; for in the day of the gospel, no flesh can glory in the presence of our God; but the Lord alone is exalted in the spirits of his children in that day. And indeed, as every one comes into the fear of the new covenant, the presence of the Lord is there, dwelling in the midst of the heart; and he is found working all therein, and bringing forth the seed of life, and working down sin, and <443> death, and corruption. And they that are here feel their own poverty and nothingness as in themselves; and that their way to become strong in Christ, is first to become weak in themselves: and so when they are strong in him, he who is their strength is glorified and admired, and self is of no reputation or value for ever and ever; for that is cleaved to which brought down self, and that power and spirit, being cleaved to, still keeps it down.
The third is, that thou learn to worship God in spirit and truth. Oh this worship is precious indeed! and this is the only sort of worship which God seeketh and regardeth, among the many various kinds of worshippers which appear at this day. This worship was declared by Christ, and taught his disciples; but it has been in great measure departed from; and though many have sought after it, yet none ever could find it, but as they have learned of the Father to return to the anointing; and so to be gathered into his Spirit where Christ's name is known, and where they that meet together, worship in his name: and of a truth none know or can worship in Christ's name besides these. There have been great mistakes about worship and gatherings; they having not been in the name and power of our Lord Jesus Christ, but only in a profession thereof, and an imitation of things, without the true life and power; and what is that worship and religion in the sight of the Lord? Now that thou mayst come into this state and learn all these lessons of the Lord in the new covenant, there is one thing indispensably necessary for thee; which is, to know the hour of God's judgment in thy own heart, and to lie under the judgment of the Lord, bearing it till he finish it, and bring it forth unto victory. For this is the way whereby he purges and redeems the soul; to wit, by the spirit of judgment and burning. Thou must therefore wait for, and come to feel, the Spirit of the Lord near thee, discovering sin to thee, and revealing judgment against it, and executing his righteous judgment upon the evil nature in thee; that he may raise up that good and tender plant of righteousness, out of the dry and barren ground, to which his mercy is.
Friend, mind the words which now spring in my heart to thee (for now my heart is open to thee in the true love and pure sense which is of God), which are these. If thou come to know God's Spirit, and to receive it, and feel it work in thee, and its <444> pure light shine from the fountain and spring of life, thou wilt have a quicker sense and discerning therefrom, than can arise either from words written, or from thoughts; that is, the Lord will show thee the way whereof thou doubtest, quicker than a thought can arise in thee; and the Lord will show thee evil, in a pure sense of the new nature, quicker than thou canst think or consider of anything. And indeed this is needful; for sin lodges in the evil nature inwardly, and works, not so much by a known law set up in the mind, as by a secret nature; and if it be not resisted and withstood by another nature, it can never be overcome. Now by this judgment set up in the heart, doth God overcome and keep down sin for ever; for the judgment of God is stronger than sin, and will bring it down where his judgment is received and abode in; and that which brought it down, being kept to, will keep it down; and it being kept down, life and righteousness, even the righteous life, Spirit, and power of the Lord Jesus inwardly revealed, will be uppermost and reign over it; and then thou shalt know what it is to be a king and priest to God, and to come to the laver at which God's priests wash, and to the blood with which their right ear, and thumb, and toe, is sprinkled, according to the type and shadow under the law.
Perhaps these words, at present, may be hard unto thee: but if thou come to wait on God's Holy Spirit, and to the feeling of his appearance in thy heart, and learn of him to know what is good and what is evil in thy words, ways, worship, yea, and in thy very heart and thoughts, and also to choose the good and refuse the evil; they will grow easier and easier, and plainer and plainer, daily, as thou comest into the sense and experience of the things they mention. And thou wilt find Christ, inwardly revealed in spirit, to be very properly called the word of God, even the ingrafted word which is able to save the soul; for he is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, able to cut down all that shall appear or rise up in the heart, to resist or oppose his work.
The Lord so guide thee, manifest himself to thee, help thee, and lead thee by his Holy Spirit and power, as that thou mayst come undeniably to experience, and to be satisfied by him about these things. And mind not so much to know, as to be obedient <445> and subjected to the Lord, both in thy heart and in thy conversation also, in the least thing that he makes manifest. If the Lord would show thee but this one thing, -- that to use "thee" and "thou" to a particular person is proper language, and Scripture language; and that to say "you," is improper, and arose from pride, and nourisheth pride, and so is of the world, and not of the Father; and thou should bow thy spirit to him in this one thing, thou little thinkest what a work it would make within thee, and how strongly the spirit of darkness would fight against thy subjection thereto. The Lord lead thee as he seeth good, and give thee faithfully to follow; for else, if the Lord should lead in any thing, and thou not follow in that thing, his Spirit would be grieved and vexed thereby, and thy heart in danger of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
This is from one, who wandered long in the waste howling wilderness, wayless, from the Shepherd and Bishop of the soul; and was sorely afflicted, tossed with tempests, and not comforted; but at length it pleased the Lord in tender mercy to visit me, and by his own outstretched arm, to gather me into his own fold; where I have met with the holy mount of God, and his city the heavenly Jerusalem, and the spirits of the just men, and God the judge of all, that ever ariseth, or can arise in the heart; and Christ the mediator, and the new covenant; wherein and whereby he mediates; and the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh good things to the souls that are sprinkled with it; yea, indeed, here are all the good things met with and enjoyed, which were shadowed out under the law, and the precious promises fulfilled, which make partakers of the divine nature as they come to be fulfilled.
What shall I say? The Lord knoweth that I speak these things not boastingly, or to lift up myself above others in my thoughts, but in tenderness and humility of heart, as before the Lord, for thy sake. And now this is my desire and prayer to the Lord, and the travail of my soul in his life and spirit; even that those that are yet scattered from the fold of rest, that the residue of the sheep of the house of Israel that are as yet lost, as yet driven away, as yet scattered up and down in their own apprehensions, conceivings, and several gatherings and ways of worship, and likenesses and imitations of things without the true life <446> and power, may be gathered out of all these into the same life, power, and fold of rest, into which God has pleased of his great mercy and tender goodness to gather us. For, indeed, God's house and holy building is to be exalted, and all others to be laid waste, and left desolate for the beast of the desert, and the dragons and owls, and birds of the night (which are unclean and noisome, and have not so much as a belief or hope to be thoroughly cleansed by the power of the Lord here in this life, nor ever knew what it was to bear the yoke of Christ's spirit and power): I say, all others are to be left for such as these to lodge in, and for the satyrs and dark spirits to dance in.
The Lord give thee the sense and savor of these things; that thou mayest thereby be kindled to wait on the Lord, to be led into the light of the living; that thou mayst live and walk with him therein, who is, and dwells, and walks with his, in the light. O house of Jacob! come ye, let us walk in the light of the Lord, and let us come up to Zion, the holy hill of God, and to the gospel Jerusalem, that there he may teach us of his ways, and we may there learn of him to walk in his paths; for there is the place of wisdom and true understanding, which none know but those that are taught of God.
This is in true friendship and tender love to thy soul, from its friend in truth and sincerity,
26th of Eighth Month, 1670