Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > Isaac Penington to Catherine Pordage (1675)




While thou seekest to avoid the snare, thou deeply runnest into it: for thou art feeding on the tree of knowledge, in giving way to these thoughts, reasonings and suggestions, which keep thee from obedience to that which hath been made manifest to thy understanding. And thou mayst well be feeble in thy mind, while thou art thus separated from Him who is thy strength, and lettest in his enemy. This is not the right feebleness of mind which God pities, nor the right way of waiting to receive strength. Why shouldst not thou act, so far as God gives thee light? and why shouldst thou not appear willing to obey him, even in little things, so far as he hath given thee light? <511> What if I should say, that all this is but the subtlety of the serpent's wisdom to avoid the cross, and is not that simplicity and plainness of heart towards God, which thou takest it to be; and that thou art loath to be so poor, and low, and mean in the eyes of others, as this practice would make thee appear?

And what a subtil device hath the enemy put into thy mind about prayer; which hath no weight nor truth in it, as applied to this present case. For prayer is the breath of life, an effect of God's spiritual breathing, which no man can perform aright without the Spirit's breathing upon him. Therefore the Spirit is to be waited upon, for his breathings and holy fire, that the sacrifice may be living, and acceptable to the living God. But this is language, as a man or woman in ordinary converse; and doth not require a motion of life to bring it forth, no more than to bring forth other words. And wilt thou say, Thou longest and pantest after the Lord, and the way of truth and righteousness; and yet remain walking, against the light which God has given thee, in things of this nature?

O my friend, thou and thy husband have dallied too long. The Lord hath shewn great love and mercy towards you. Take heed of dallying any longer. Make straight paths to your feet, lest that which is crooked (your feet have hitherto been too winding and crooked) be turned out of the way; but it is the desire of my soul for you, that they may rather be rectified and healed.

Thou sayest, the seasons when thou findest it most laid upon thee, is in the hearing of Friends, or soon after; and when, in that sense, thou resolvest to enter upon the practice, thou findest an inability to keep thee therein; though thy reason is not only silenced, but in measure subjected thereunto. Now do but mind how far the Lord hath gone with thee; and what hinders, and whether it be thy duty to give way to, or to resist, that which hinders. Thou dost confess God hath laid it upon thee; and laid it upon thee at those times when thy heart is most tender and open towards Him (even when thou art in the hearing of Friends, or soon after); and hath brought thee into a resolution to enter into the practice; nay, to help thee further, hath not only silenced thy reason, but subjected it in measure. Have not many entered into the practice, and found acceptance and a blessing therein, <512> who never were thus helped? What wouldst thou have of the Lord? How far hath He proceeded towards bringing thee into obedience in this thing! But thou sayest, thou findest an inability to keep therein. Dost thou abide in the faith, where the strength is dispensed; and out of the thoughts and consultations, where the strength of the strongest (if they intermeddle there) is broken? O! take heed to murmuring against the Lord (as thou hast been too apt to do): and consider what great matter of complaint He hath against thee. What could He have done more for thee, than He hath done? thou being no more ready to meet Him than thou hast been; but, upon all occasions, turning aside from his convictions and drawings, into thine own thoughts and reasonings.

I received thy letter last night; and, upon reading of it, was greatly burdened and grieved for thy sake; feeling thy spirit so exceedingly wrong in this matter, and thy reasonings and way therein so crooked and provoking to the Lord. But this morning, my heart was opened and drawn forth in this manner to thee. The Lord give a present and a future sight of the enemy's working, against the working of the love of God towards thee, and against the redemption and peace of thy soul. My heart breatheth to the Lord for thee; and desireth that He may manifest to thee that nature, wisdom and spirit from whence these things arise, and what is in thee which they prevail upon: that the child may not always stick in the birth, but at length be brought forth into the light, into the life, into the faith which gives victory, and into the single-hearted and holy obedience, where the pure power is met with.

Thy friend in the truth, and in sincere love,

I. P.

Amersham, 25th of Ninth Month, 1675