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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