Introductory Note:

Isaac Penington (1617–1680) was the son of the mayor of London. In 1658 he joined the Society of Friends (the Quakers). He was such a zealous follower of Christ and filled with such faith that he was jailed six times for proclaiming his unshakable convictions. He spent five years in prison as a result of his desire to worship in a manner other than the one prescribed by the established church. For a Quaker, this meant through silence as opposed to liturgy and sacraments and sermons.

He also refused to take an oath in court (which he believed was forbidden by God in Scripture). As a result, he and his wife lost all their property. The hardships he encountered in the following years helped him to understand the growth that comes through suffering. Penington offers light and truth and comfort for all who suffer and are afflicted today as he was in his day. The following selection comes from some of the letters he wrote to friends. They reveal his own tenderness, sympathy, and unwavering faith.

Excerpt from Devotional Classics

1. Wait­ing for Breath­ings from His Spirit 

Friend, it is a won­der­ful thing to wit­ness the pow­er of God as it reach­es to the heart and demon­strates to the soul the pure way to life. Sure­ly the per­son who par­takes of this pow­er will be favored by the Lord. There­fore, we ought to wait dili­gent­ly for the lead­ings of the Holy Spir­it in every­thing we do. Thus we will be able to trav­el through all that is con­trary to God and into the things that are of God. 

It is also a won­der­ful thing to wit­ness God’s preser­va­tion that keeps us from slid­ing back­wards and being entan­gled in the traps of the ene­my. For the ene­my has many ways and uses many devices to ensnare our minds and draw it away from the Truth. There our souls are lulled asleep with false hopes and we lose the feel­ing and enjoy­ment of the true life and power. 

O Friend, do you not have a sense of the way to the Father? Then you must press your spir­it to bow dai­ly before God and wait for breath­ings to you from his Spir­it. Pray that he will con­tin­ue his mer­cy to you and make his way more and more clear before you every day. Yes, and also pray that he will give you strength in all the tri­als which may come your way. By his secret work­ing in your spir­it, giv­ing you assis­tance from time to time, you will advance near­er and near­er towards the kingdom.

2. The Way to His Dwelling Place

And do not pay care­ful atten­tion to the desires of the body, but instead, trust the Lord. Though you are weak and small, and though you may fall into the com­pa­ny of those who are more clever than you and are able to trick you by their rea­son, and though you may not have an answer to their argu­ments, you know and can feel God’s pure Truth in your spir­it. Desire only to have that life brought forth in you and to have your spir­it renewed and changed by God’s power. 

O dear heart, it is in this that you are accept­ed by God, and here his love and ten­der care will be over you. His mer­cy will reach out to you dai­ly and you shall have true sat­is­fac­tion in your heart. Hold that Truth in your heart where all the devices of the dev­il and the rea­son­ings of false teach­ers shall not be able to reach it. You will be able to feel the strength of the Lord help­ing his child dur­ing times of tri­al, and you will feel the joy of praise dur­ing the sea­sons of his good pleasure. 

And so you shall expe­ri­ence the truth of God’s promise that the gates of hell will not pre­vail against you. There­fore, remem­ber, do not look to oth­ers or to the rea­son­ing of the wise, but keep your­self where you have felt the Lord vis­it you that he may vis­it you again and again — every day — teach­ing you more and more the way to his dwelling place, draw­ing you near to the place where there is right­eous­ness, life, rest, and peace — forever! 

3. Feed on the Tree of Life 

O Friends! Feed on the tree of life; feed on the mea­sure of life, and the pure pow­er which God has revealed and man­i­fest­ed in you. Do you know where your real food comes from, do you remem­ber the taste? Then keep to it, and do not med­dle with the kind of food that seems desir­able to the oth­er eye, the one that promis­es to make you wise. 

O abide in the sim­plic­i­ty that is in Christ Jesus, in the naked truth that you have felt there! It is there that you will be able to know and dis­tin­guish your food, which has sev­er­al names in Scrip­ture but is all one and the same thing: the bread, the milk, the water, the wine, the flesh, and blood of him who came down from heav­en. It is all the same food, only it is giv­en to us in dif­fer­ent mea­sure — some­times weak­er, some­times stronger — accord­ing to the capac­i­ty we have for receiv­ing it. Thus, it is giv­en dif­fer­ent names. 

4. Dwell in Your Habitation 

O keep out of that wis­dom which does not know the truth. Rather, keep to the prin­ci­ple of life — keep to the seed of the king­dom — and feed on that which was from the begin­ning. Is this not the true meat? Is this not the true drink? The Lord has advanced you to this appoint­ment of life and pow­er where things are known and revealed and felt beyond what words can utter.

O dwell in your habi­ta­tion and feed on the food which God brings into this dwelling place. It is pure and alive, and it will cause your souls and spir­its more and more to live in and to God as you eat and drink there­of. May the Lord God pre- serve you and watch over you, may you feel vic­to­ry and domin­ion over all that is con­trary to him, and may you tri­umph over all that stands in the way of your fel­low­ship with him. 

5. Help­ing One Anoth­er with a Ten­der Hand 

Friends, our life is love and peace and ten­der­ness. We are called to bear one an- other’s bur­dens, for­give one anoth­er, and nev­er judge or accuse one anoth­er. Instead, we must pray for one anoth­er, help­ing one anoth­er up with a ten­der hand if there has been any slip or fall. O! wait to feel this spir­it. Wait to be guid­ed and to walk in this spir­it that you may enjoy the Lord in sweet­ness and walk meek­ly, ten­der­ly, peace­ably, and lov­ing­ly with one anoth­er. Then you will be able to praise the Lord, and any­thing that has hin­dered you, you will be able to over­come in the Lamb’s domin­ion. That which is con­trary shall be tram­pled upon as his life ris­es and begins to rule in you. 

So, watch your hearts and ways. Watch over one anoth­er in gen­tle­ness and ten­der­ness. Know that we can­not help one anoth­er out of a snare of our own strength, for only the Lord, who must be wait­ed upon, can do this in all and for all. So, attend to the Truth, to the ser­vice and enjoy­ment and pos­ses­sion of it in your hearts. Walk in such a way that you do not bring dis­grace upon it, but instead, let the Truth be a good savor to oth­ers in the places where you live. May the meek, inno­cent, ten­der, right­eous life that reigns with­in you and gov­erns you, shine through you into the eyes of all with whom you speak. 

6. An Eye of Pity 

Who is able to under­go the cross­es and afflic­tions — inward or out­ward — that come upon us? The Lord is able to uphold the one who feels his weak­ness and dai­ly waits on him for sup­port, even under the heav­i­ness of the cross. 

I know, dear heart, that your out­ward tri­als are painful and bit­ter. And I know also that the Lord is able to sus­tain you through them and make you able to stand your ground. O that you could dwell in the knowl­edge and sense of this: the Lord sees your suf­fer­ings with an eye of pity and also is able to achieve some good through them. He is able to bring life and wis­dom to you through your tri­als. He will one day give you domin­ion over that which grieves and afflicts you. There­fore, do not be griev­ed at your sit­u­a­tion or be dis­con­tent­ed. Do not look at the dif­fi­cul­ty of your con­di­tion, but instead, when the storm rages against you, look up to him who can give you patience and can lift your head over it all and cause you to grow. If the Lord did not help us with his mighty arm, how often would we fall! If God helps you in pro­por­tion to your prob­lems, you should have no rea­son to com­plain, but rather, to bless his name.

God is exceed­ing­ly good and gra­cious and ten­der­heart­ed. He does not turn away from the afflic­tion of his peo­ple in any way. This I share in ten­der love towards you, with breath­ings to our Father, that his pleas­ant plant may not be crushed in you by the foot of pride or vio­lence, but instead, may over­grow it and flour­ish the more because of it. (From thy tru­ly lov­ing Friend in the Truth, and for the Truth’s sake.) 

7. Quick­ened by the Spirit 

Friend, some ques­tions about prayer may arise in your mind as you have begun to sense the Truth, or have been touched by the Truth from God’s Holy Spir­it. Since you have oper­at­ed so long from a flesh­ly mind and ungod­ly nature and not in the lead­ing of the Spir­it, you may have some doubts about the prac­tice of prayer. 

Those peo­ple who doubt the pow­er of prayer will nev­er have their ques­tions answered until the Lord opens their spir­its and teach­es it to them. Here­in is the truth: all true prayer is in and from the Holy Spirit. 

The promise of God con­cern­ing prayer (that is, the cer­tain­ty of prayer being answered) is refer­ring to the kind of prayer that is in faith and to the Holy Spir­it. It is not, how­ev­er, deal­ing with the prayers that come from the flesh or will or human wis­dom. There­fore, the great care and con­cern in prayer is that it be of God in the quick­en­ings and motions of his own Spir­it. For the dead can­not praise God, nor can the dead tru­ly pray to him. 

We must not pray in a way that lacks life, that lacks God’s Spir­it (who calls us to pray, teach­es us to pray, and makes inter­ces­sions for us). True prayer is not in the time, in the will, or in the pow­er of the per­son pray­ing. Rather, it is a gift of God that resides in his Spir­it. It is not ours, but it is giv­en to us. There­fore, it is ours to wait upon the Spir­it, to wait for the Spir­it to move and breathe in us, and to give us the abil­i­ty to call upon the Father and give us the pow­er of pre­vail­ing with the Father, in the name and through the life of the Son. 

DEVO­TION­AL CLAS­SICS: Select­ed Read­ings For Indi­vid­u­als and Groups. Copy­right © 1990, 1991, 1993 by REN­O­VARÉ, Inc. Revised 2005

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