Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > Isaac Penington to _____ _____ (1671)
Some Scriptures did spring up and open in my heart towards thee this morning.
One was, that of 2 Cor. 10:4, 5, and 6. That which was chiefly on my heart therefrom, was about the fulfilling of obedience. First, there is a knowing the will of God; a waiting to know and understand from God, what is his holy, good, perfect, and acceptable will. Then, as God gives the knowledge, he requires obedience; which is to be learned of God in the new spirit and life. For in the old nature, mind and spirit, there is nothing but darkness and disobedience; in the new creation is the new obedience. So that there is first a beginning of knowledge in the Spirit, a beginning of faith in the renewing power, and a beginning of obedience (in the same) to him that calls. Then there is an increase of knowledge, of true, pure, living knowledge, an increase of faith, and a growing more and more obedient under the exercises, judgments and chastisements of the Father's Spirit: even till, at length, the soul comes to witness a full readiness, skill, and strength (in and through Christ, in and through the measure of the gift of grace received from him), to obey in all things. When the new birth is thus grown up into strength and dominion, into the stature of a man in Christ; then the senses, which have been long exercised in discerning between good and evil, grow strong: and there is a quick discerning <488> in the fear of the Lord, and an authority in his name and power, over the enemy and his temptations: so that every strong hold is broken down, every imagination and false reasoning concerning the truth, is subjected and broken by the evidence and power of truth, every thought brought under, into captivity, even to the obedience of Christ; with a readiness to reject all unbelief and disobedience, that will so much as offer to rise up. Now, is not this the Christian state, which God would have his children aim and strive at? and are not they blessed who witness it; and doth not the true ministration of the gospel light, Spirit, and power lead to it? and should any be at rest in their spirits, in an easeful, formal, dry, dead profession without it?
Another Scripture was 1 Pet. 2:2, 3, 4, and 5. It is precious to witness the state of a new-born babe, to be begotten to God by the word of life and power, even by the word which God ingrafts into the heart. Oh, what living desires then are there after that which nourisheth the birth of life, which God breathes from his own Spirit, and begets the soul into! Now as the birth is pure, so the nourishment is pure -- pure milk from the pure word, -- sincere, unmixed milk from the word of life, -- from the breast of life. Who is it that begets to God? It is the Spirit, the Word, the second Adam, he whose name is the Word of God. Who is the mother of these children? It is the heavenly wisdom, the Jerusalem which is above. ("Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." "Wisdom is justified of her children.") Now, who feeds these children? who nourisheth, who brings them up? Why, the mother which bare them, she holds forth the breast of life to them, she yields to them the pure milk of the word. The new-born babes, they long for it, they cry for their food, they earnestly desire after it; and the tender mother gives it forth to them, even the milk of the breast of life from the pure word of life; and by this they grow. But how came the babes to desire after such pure, sincere, unmixed food? Oh! they have "tasted that the Lord is gracious." They have had the heavenly taste, they have tasted that which was living and pure from God, from his tender mercy and grace, wherein he ministers life and salvation. Oh, the remembrance and sense of the sweetness of this is upon their palates! Oh, how precious and living is it, <489> when it comes new and fresh from him! the words which he speaks, they are still spirit and life to the soul. How can they but desire, that from the breast of life, from the heavenly wisdom and divine knowledge of his Father, he would minister unto them of the pure food, that they may know and feed on the truth as it is in Jesus? Here they come to him as unto a living fountain, and a living stone, disallowed indeed, and rejected of the builders after the flesh, in all ages and generations; but chosen of God, and precious to all that have the true sense and understanding. They come thus to him daily, and so are built up into a living house, or spiritual temple and dwelling-place for God. He, the foundation stone, the corner stone, the top stone, the hope and crown of their glory; they, living stones in him, quickened and kept alive in and by him, and shining in his light and glory.
A third Scripture was Eph. 6:10, 11, 12, and 13. Is not this a precious state, to be "strong in the Lord and in the power of his might"? to know "the whole armor of God," and to put it on and stand armed against the strength of the enemy, and to overcome him? was there ever such a state witnessed? Yea: John writeth to the young men in his time, because they had "overcome the wicked one." (Compare 1 John 2:14, with Eph. 6:10.) May not such a thing be again witnessed, even now, in these our days? Were not he a messenger of good tidings to thee, who from God could tell thee, how thou mightest come to know, to put on, to fight in this holy armor, and thereby overcome all the adversaries of thy soul? Doth not the apostle say, "The weapons of our warfare are mighty through God"? Wouldst not thou be willing to witness them so in thee? Mind then, in the measure of life, in the measure of grace and truth which is from Christ, all the knowledge, strength, and use of the armor lie. Thus the truth as it is in Jesus is the girdle of the loins; and from and through him, in his pure measure of life, righteousness springs up as a breastplate. There likewise, the feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; for there, the gospel, the life, the redeeming power and virtue is always in readiness, whenever the Lord seeth service for it. And then, the shield of faith is known, which quencheth the fire of the enemy's temptations. There also is the helmet of salvation, the true hope; for in it, Christ, the hope of glory, is <490> revealed, and felt to be near. And then, the sword of the Spirit is witnessed, which is the living Word, the Spirit which quickens and gives life; which Word is quick, piercing, and exceeding powerful, able to smite and wound death. (See Rev. 1:16. Isai. 27:1. and 11:4. and 2 Thes. 2:8.) And here, is pure praying in the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, and watching thereunto with perseverance, both for itself in particular, and the whole body of the faithful in general; but for those more especially, on whom lies the weight of the service in and towards the body: so that here, is prayer in its due season, weight, and order offered up to God, in true life and understanding: which prayer God always heareth.
Oh, mind this thing diligently, for it is of great concernment to thee! In the grace of the gospel, in the measure of truth and life from the quickening Word, thou meetest with the whole armor of God. Thou mayst there know it, thou mayst there put it on, stand armed with it, and fight with success against the soul's enemies. Out of this, thou mayst get apprehensions in thy mind about it, but canst never truly know it, canst never come at it, or be covered and armed with it, to stand and fight successfully and victoriously against the enemies of thy soul.
Ah! little dost thou know the loving kindness of the Lord in visiting thee with his truth, in giving thee a sense beyond others, in so tenderly drawing and inviting thy heart; or what this will come to, if thou faithfully give up to hearken to and follow him.
20th of Tenth Month, 1671