Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > Isaac Penington to James Eeles (1677)




God is my witness, to whom I must give an account of all my actions, that it is my desire to be found in all true love, courtesy, and righteousness, in my dealings towards all men; and that I would by no means deny any man his just due, which he can by any just law or right claim from me.

Now, as touching tithes, the payment or refusing of them is to me a matter of conscience, weighty on my heart before the Lord; and I would do therein as he might justify, and not condemn me. I know tithes were ordained by God, to be paid to the Levitical priesthood, under the law; but the same power that ordained them under the law, disannulled them under the gospel. Heb. 7:12 and 18. Here is God's power and authority for disannulling them. Now, that any man or men have true right, power, and authority to set up or require to be paid, under the gospel, what God's power hath disannulled, -- indeed, I do not see; nor can I be subject to any human authority or law in this thing, without sinning against God, and incurring his wrath upon my soul, which I have formerly found very dreadful, and would not, for fear of sufferings in this world, expose myself to the bearing of. Besides, Christ saith, "He that denies me before men, him will I deny before my Father." He is the substance of all the figures under the law; he hath put an end to them; he is King, Priest, and Prophet in the church of God; all power in heaven and earth is given to him, and he sent forth his ministers without tithes. Now, tithes were set up in the dark time of popery, and not by the gospel light; and they who know the gospel light dare not be subject to that which was set up in matters of religion, by the dark power of Rome, in the time of darkness.

<522> I was willing to give thee this plain and naked account, that thou mayst see how weighty the thing is with me, and how dangerous it would be to me, to do what thou requirest of me; for in so doing, I should lose my peace with God, I should be unfaithful to the testimony he hath given me to bear, I should dishonor his name and truth, and bring his sore wrath and displeasure upon my soul and conscience. Judge, thyself, in this matter, whether I had not better expose myself to any outward sufferings, though ever so great (either from thee or any thou shalt make use of), than expose my soul to so great inward misery and sufferings, for disobedience to the Lord in this particular. Consider Ralph Trumper,* a just tender, honest-hearted man, -- how much he hath suffered in this respect, to keep his conscience clear in this thing; who, I believe, would rather suffer all his former losses ten times over again, than suffer what he did (to my knowledge), for paying tithes, after he was convinced of the evil and unlawfulness of it. I do not contend with thee by the law of the land; but I must be subject to the law of God, who shows me from what root tithes came; and that they are not the maintenance of the ministry of Christ, or allowed by Christ, but the maintenance of the ministry Rome's power set up; both which ministry and its maintenance are to be denied and witnessed against, by those whom he calls forth to testify to his truth in these things.

So, at present, I say no more, but remain thy friend, ready to do thee any good, though I should suffer ever so deeply from thee.

I. P.

25th of Fourth Month, 1677

*See Besse's Sufferings of Friends, Vol. 1st, p 78, 79.