Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > Isaac Penington to _____ _____ (1670)
PROFESSORS have long known the name of Christ, and what the Scripture relateth concerning him so named; but oh that they could once know Christ [himself,] and receive him into their <448> vessels, and feel life flowing from him into them! Then would they indeed know Christ according to the Spirit; which knowledge quickeneth, but the literal knowledge killeth. For he that hath the Son, he that is in true union with him, and really changed by him, so as to become one nature and spirit with him, -- he hath life; but he that hath not the Son hath not the life of the Son, nor the liberty of the Son, but it is in the death of sin, and in service unto sin.
The directions from God's Holy Spirit in the Scriptures are exceedingly weighty and precious in themselves, and very proper to the several states to which they were given forth; and blessed is he who is found in the practice and observation of them. And it hath been the desire of my heart from my childhood, and still is, that I might be found walking with the Lord, according to what is there taught and prescribed to the children of God, in the several foregoing ages and generations; which things were written, and are useful, for our instruction also, being read by us, and heeded, in that which gives the true understanding of them.
But though this was my desire, yet in my way to attain this, I missed; for I thought that by getting the directions of Scripture into my mind, and applying myself to the strict observation of them, and praying for God's Spirit and help, I might obtain what I desired. And truly the Lord was merciful to me, and did help me, in a great measure, to walk uprightly and lowlily with him, and inoffensively before men; yet not so but that I often felt the temptations and darkness of the enemy nearer me than my rule, and in many cases knew not what to do, nor how to be resolved from the Scriptures.
At length the Lord greatly distressed me, and brought me to a fuller sense of my want of his Spirit and power, and dashed all my religion in pieces; that I was just like Babylon, for in one hour judgment and desolation came upon me; Rev. 18:10. and I knew not what to do without the Lord, nor which way to draw nigh to him; but then was the Lord preparing for me that day of mercy, which since, in his tender goodness, is broken in upon me. And now the eye which he hath opened in me seeth, that the gospel is a ministration of the Spirit and power of the Lord Jesus Christ; and that he who would be his disciple indeed, must be turned to his Spirit, and receive the immediate light and shinings <449> of his Spirit into his vessel; and must feel the law of life, the holy laws of the new covenant, not comprehended outwardly in his mind, but written inwardly in his heart by the finger of God's Spirit. And being written in his heart, they have power over his heart, and cause him to obey them; so that, being here, he cannot possibly but fulfil the holy directions of the Scriptures, he being in that from which they came, which reveals the substance of them unto him, and makes them living and powerful in him. For indeed the law of sin and death hath power over a man so long as he liveth; but when he meets with that which kills sin and death in him, and maketh him alive to God, and he receives life in abundance in and through the Lord Jesus Christ; then the fruits of life become easy and natural to him, and the fruits and ways of sin, unbelief, and disobedience unnatural: and here the yoke is easy and the burden light, and none of the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ grievous. But take them merely out of the letter, not feeling the Spirit leading into them, and quickening and enabling to the performance of them, oh how heavy, how hard are they! How impossible to believe aright, hope aright, pray aright, walk aright, watch aright over the heart, fight against the enemies, lusts, and corruptions aright! &c. On the other hand, how pleasant is the way of life in the covenant of life, in the power and virtue of life, and ministered from the Spirit of our God! And here he is praised, and victory over his enemies witnessed, and peace with him enjoyed in the pure seed of life; blessed be the name of our God for ever! For the letter, or description of things, is not the way; but the life is the way, the Spirit the way, the power the way, the truth as it is in Jesus the way, which none can truly and rightly know, but as they are ingrafted into and formed in him, and he formed in them; this is only obtained, witnessed, and preserved, in the soul's union and communion with, and obedience to, his Spirit and power inwardly revealed and made manifest.
Friend, there is somewhat further in my heart towards thee, which I have the true and certain sense of, which is this: The Lord, who is near thee with his Holy Spirit and power, hath been begetting life in thee, and hath, at times, given thee a true sense and discerning, in some measure; but there is also somewhat near thee, which watcheth to destroy and devour what the Holy Spirit <450> of God begets in thee, and to beget another sense and belief in thee, different therefrom, and indeed contrary thereto. Now, it behooveth thee exceedingly to watch, and to pray to the Lord for help; for the life of thy soul depends upon the one of these, and death and destruction will inevitably break in upon thee, and have power over thee, if thou hearken to the other. Whom doth the enemy so much strive to devour as the sheep and inheritance of the Lord? And they are only preserved in the Lord's way, and in subjection to his Spirit. Oh, how many hath the enemy betrayed and deceived of the life of their souls! how many men's spirits are now cankered, and the good long ago eaten out of them, who had once some tenderness and upright breathings after the Lord! but now their silver is become dross, and their wine mixed with water, so that the very nature and property of it is changed; the salt having lost its savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned? I mention this to thee, that thou mayest watch and pray; that thou thyself do not lose thy savor and sense and tenderness which the Lord at some times kindleth in thee, by hearkening to the subtle reasonings and suggestions of another spirit, either in thyself or others.
This is in the nakedness of my heart, as in the Lord's sight, and in the truth of friendship towards thee.
27th of Ninth Month, 1670