Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > Isaac Penington to Nathaniel Stonar
There is somewhat on my heart to express to thee, in love <475> and great good-will, which is as followeth: --
Would it not be sad, if thou should perish from the Lord for ever? If thou err in heart from the living way, it may be so: indeed if thy mind be not turned from darkness, inward darkness, to the inward light of God's Spirit, it cannot be otherwise. Now, if thou feel the inward light, the power of the pure light, and art changed thereby, thou canst not speak against that light.
There was no true religion in the apostles' days, without turning to the inward light, and to that the true ministry was sent to turn men; nor is there any true religion now, without being inwardly turned to and walking in the same light; nor canst thou try any truth, or understand any scripture aright, but in the light of God's Spirit. No man can understand the things of God, but the Spirit of God. The Scriptures are holy words, and treat of the things of God, which no man can understand, but in a light of the same nature from which they came; and when once a man comes to the true understanding, he soon finds that the understanding which he had of the same before was but after the flesh, even short of the nature of the true understanding. And, friend, consider if thy knowledge, which thou hast hitherto had, hath changed or doth change the nature of thy understanding and will; or is thy old understanding and will yet remaining, notwithstanding all thy knowledge and practices in religion? Oh, do not dally in things of so great concernment! lest thou repent too late; for I do not tell thee what I see concerning thee, in the light of God's eternal Spirit: but I would fain have thine own eye, or rather the right eye in thee, opened and brought to see.
And consider one scripture seriously concerning the church of Laodicea: had it not the true knowledge outwardly, and a true church state, and right ordinances? Did it not believe in Christ, and look up to him for justification, &c.? Nay, what did it want, as to the outwardness of its state? But it wanted sense, life, warmth, inwardly. So that, if ye had all ordinances and truths of the gospel light outwardly; yet, if ye wanted the inward power, ye could not but want the tried gold, the white raiment, and eye-salve: and so, though ye might think yourselves rich, &c., yet the shame of your nakedness would appear: yea, indeed, the nakedness of such as are not clothed with God's Spirit, <476> doth appear to the Lord, and to the eyes and spirits of his children, which he openeth in his own light, and who see with this eye, -- I say the shame of their nakedness doth appear, notwithstanding all the religious covers they can put upon themselves. Oh that thou hadst desires, living desires, after the nature of truth, and wert acquainted with the new nature, which can be satisfied with nothing but the virtue, life, and power of truth!
Come, friend, wait on the Lord, to have the old nature, the old spirit, mind, wisdom, understanding, and will broken, the old garment torn to pieces; that thou mayst come to experience that which is new, pure, and living; and find the new vessel filled with that which is new; and know the virgin state of spirit, and the savor of the true ointment. For life savors life, and death savors death, and living words are but the savor of death to them that are out of the life; and the living stone, which is the foundation of life to us, and very precious, is but a stone of stumbling, and rock of offence, to them that are out of the life; and who judge of things by their apprehensions of the letter, without the Spirit of life and power. As the Scribes and Pharisees formerly did, and so condemned Christ in his appearance in the flesh; those who judge after that manner now cannot but condemn his spiritual appearance in the hearts of his children. The letter killeth: the Spirit gives life. If thou wilt have life, thou must come to that which gives life. If thou wilt come into the ministration of the new testament, thou must come into the Spirit and power; and know the letter of the Scriptures, in the Spirit and power which wrote them, if ever thou know them aright. Yea, if thou wilt become a son of God, thou must receive power from Christ so to do; and if thou wilt believe aright, thou must feel faith wrought in thy heart, by that very power which raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead: all other faith falls short of the nature of true faith.
If thou receive from the Lord the true sense of these things, thou wilt bless his name for engaging my heart to write them to thee; but if thou read them out of that which gives the true understanding, they cannot be of advantage to thee. But whatever entertainment they have with thee, yet my judgment is with the Lord, and my work and labor of love with my God, who is <477> my strength and joy; in whom my soul rests in peace, in the bosom of my Beloved. And oh that thou also mightst feel quickenings of life and true leadings! and thus be acquainted with that faithful travel which leads thither.
Thy friend in the heartiness of true love, so far as the Lord pleaseth to make use of me towards thee,
7th of the Fourth Month, 1671
Now, in this state, men are without God, without Christ, strangers to the covenant of promise, and without any true hope of salvation; and this state, they are as really in, who get a form of godliness without the power, as the very natural heathen. For nothing makes a true Christian, but the life and power: and he that doth not hear the voice of Christ's Spirit in his heart is no better than a heathen and a publican. Yea, any church, built up out of the life and power, -- nay, a church, though built by the power, yet, if not preserved in the same, is not better than a synagogue of Satan. They that say they are Jews, but are not so; ministers of Christ, but are not, and do lie; alas! what are they? Oh, how precious is life! how precious is the power of God, in which the churches of old stood, and the true churches at this day stand!
It is precious, to know the Spirit of the living God, to be begotten by him in the life, which is true and pure, to be separated from death and the power thereof, and to be married to life and the power thereof, -- to be married to the conquering Lamb, who triumphed over sin and death in his body of flesh, and, by his Spirit and power, delivers his spouse from the strength and dominion of them. And it is precious to walk with the Lamb, <478> and to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes; who always leads out of sin and unrighteousness, into ways of purity and righteousness, into the path which is prepared for the ransomed, where there is no danger of erring, no, not so much as to the wayfaring ones, though fools. Isa. 35:8.
Oh! is it not precious experimentally to read that scripture, and to be able in true understanding to say, The way is easy, the yoke easy, the burden easy, the commandment not grievous; that being brought down and subdued in me, -- yea, removed and cast out, -- to which it was hard? Alas! men building in the flesh, and after their carnal apprehensions of things, how loathsome is it! but God's building, raised in the light and life of his pure Spirit, how glorious, how beautiful, how lovely, is it, even in the eye of God himself! "Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee." Sol. Song 4:7. Into thy holy building, O God! into thy heavenly building, into the spiritual Jerusalem, which thou rearest and buildest up in the Spirit, no unclean or defiled thing can enter; nor is there any room there for that which loves and makes a lie! Without, indeed, are swine and dogs, vulturous eyes and crooked serpents, who make a show of what they are not, and lay claim to that which belongs not to them; but within are the children, within is the heavenly birth, even the new creation of God in Christ Jesus. For God doth not strip his people naked, and gather them out of the spirit of this world, that they should be empty and desolate for ever; but he gathers them into, and fills them with, his own Spirit, fills them with light, fills them with life, fills them with holiness, fills them with righteousness, fills them with peace and joy, in believing and obeying the gospel! And in this Spirit is the kingdom known, which is not of this world, the inward kingdom, the spiritual kingdom, the everlasting kingdom, where the everlasting throne is near, and the everlasting power revealed; and the Lord God Omnipotent reigns in the hearts of his, and other lords do not reign, but their horns are broken; and the horn of God's Anointed exalted, who sits ruling as King on his holy hill of Zion; and they that have suffered with him, and gone through great tribulation, do reign with him: blessed be his name for ever!
10th of Fourth Month