Above is a picture of a 17th century jail cell, the likes of which imprisoned Penington on many occasions. Below is the Penington quote chosen by Brian Drayton for his June mid-week meditation:
When God begets life in the heart, there is a savor of it in thy vessel, and a secret, living warmth and virtue, which the heart in some measure feels, whereby it is known. Lie low in the fear of the Most High, that this leaven may grow and increase in thee... Now while the savor is upon thee, while the virtue of the life is fresh in thee, thou findest some strength towards God, with some little taste and discerning of the things of his kingdom. Know thy weakness, and go not beyond the measure; but in what thou hast received bow before the fulness, worship God in that, and be patient in what he exercises thee withal, waiting for more from him. And when the night comes upon thee, and thou perhaps art at a loss, missing the savor and presence of the life, and not knowing how to come by it again, be patient and still, and thou wilt find breathings after a fresh visitation, and a meek, humble, broken spirit before the Lord. Thou wilt see thou canst do nothing to recover his presence again; nay, thou canst not so much as wait for him, or breathe after him, without his help; but he is nigh to the poor, nigh to the broken, nigh to the distressed, nigh to the helpless...
In the night of distress, feel after somewhat which may quiet and stay thy heart till the next springing of the day. The sun will arise, which will scatter the clouds; and he is near thee who will give thee to hope that thou shalt yet see God, and find again the quickenings and leadings of his Spirit. And in the day of his power thou wilt find strength to walk with him; yea, in the day of thy weakness his grace will be sufficient for thee; and he will nurture thee up in his life by his pure Spirit, causing thee to grow under his shadow; and he will be teaching thee to live, and to speak, and to move and act from the principle, and within the compass of his light and life eternal. Only be not wise to catch the notion of things into the earthly part, where the moth can corrupt, and where the thief can break through and steal; but know the divine treasury, where all the things of life are treasured up by the Spirit, and handed forth to the living child with fresh life, according to its need of them.
And thus thy heart being kept close to God, and thy spiritual senses continually exercised about the things of God, it will be easy to thee to know the shepherd's voice, and to distinguish the sound of the Spirit in thine own heart: and that which tries spirits and motions in thine own heart, will also give thee the discerning of truth and error abroad, ...and will give thee to judge, not by the words, but by the power: for thou thyself being in the power, in the anointing, in the savor, it will become natural to thee to feel, to taste, to know and unite with what is one with thy life, what comes from the same spirit in others, and to turn from the contrary.
There are multiple insights in the above passage, but—for me—the most interesting thought is Penington’s contention that we cannot even feel God’s presence without God’s help. I’m reminded of St. Paul’s thought about prayer in Romans 8:26-27:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We
Do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself
intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who
searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the
Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will
of God. (NIV)
Paul is really saying that—in prayer—God (i.e., Spirit) intercedes before God on our behalf! Penington would agree.
~ Richard Russell
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