I wanted to share this selection from Isaac Penington, which was presented by Brian Drayton at his recent Midweek Meditation. It’s an excerpt from a letter Penington wrote to John Mannock, who—according to one Beatrice Saxton—was “a humble Friend, whose duty was to look after the horses of Friends attending Monthly Meeting.”
Penington writes Mannock:
... be not careful after the flesh, but trust the Lord. What though
thou art weak, and little; though thou meet with those that are
wise and knowing; and almost every way able to reason thee
down; what though thou hast not wherewith to answer; yet thou
knowest and hast the feeling of God's pure Truth in spirit, with a
desire to have the life of it brought forth in thee, and so to witness
the change and renewings which are by his power. O dear heart!
herein thou art accepted of the Lord, and here his tender love and
care will be over thee, and his mercy will daily reach to thee; and
thou shalt have true satisfaction in thy heart, and hold the Truth
there, where all the reasonings of men, and all the devices of the
enemy of thy soul, shall not be able to reach; yea, thou shalt so
feel the Lord to help his babe against the strength of the mighty,
in the seasons of his good pleasure, as shall exceedingly turn to
his praise; and so thou shalt experience that whom God preserves,
all the gates of hell shall not be able to prevail against. Therefore
look not out at men, or at the words and wisdom of men; but keep
where thou hast felt the Lord visit thee, that he may visit thee yet
again and again every day, and be teaching thee further and
further the way to his dwelling-place, and be drawing thee thither,
where is righteousness, life, rest, and peace for ever.
I sometimes feel that there are two personae inside me—the humble Quaker and the wise, knowing skeptic. The Quaker part of me is ascendent but is continually challenged by the skeptical, modern rationalist. This produces a very real and uncomfortable tension in the depths of my being.
I’ve concluded that I must live with the tension, but I find Penington’s advice to John Mannock most comforting. When my rationalist persona raises its “rattlesnake head,” I need to let myself feel “God’s pure Truth in spirit.” I need to retire to the inward place where I’ve felt the Lord visit me. There, I can find a temporary relief from my spiritual tension. There I can find “life, rest, and peace.”
Of course, there are Friends who see the Inward Light as the Light of Reason, and I envy their oneness of spirit. It’s probable that Spirit (God in my idiom) moves different people to different conclusions about Ultimate Reality.
So long as our Inward Light brings us a life of peace and “good will toward men,” it must be respected—however we define that Light. May we all experience the rest and peace of our Quaker convictions, however they may differ from the leadings of other Quakers!
~ Richard Russell
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