Penn's Testimony for George Fox
I have now come to the third head or branch of my preface, the author. For it is natural for some to say, "Well, here is the people and work, but where and who was the man, the instrument; he that in this age was sent to begin this work and people?" I shall, as God shall enable me, declare who and what he was, not only by report of others, but from my own long and most inward converse and intimate knowledge of him; for which my soul blesses God, as it has often done; and I doubt not, but by that time I have discharged myself of this part of my preface, my serious readers will believe I had good cause so to do.
The blessed instrument of God in this day of God, and of whom I am now about to write, was George Fox, distinguished from another of that name, by that other's addition of younger to his name in all his writings; not that he was so in years, but that he was so in the truth. But he was also a worthy man, witness, and servant of God in his time.
But this George Fox was born in Leicestershire, about the year 1624. He descended of honest and suitable parents, who endeavored to bring him up, as they did the rest of their children, in the way and worship of the nation; especially his mother, who was a woman accomplished above most of her degree in the place where she lived. But from a child he appeared of another frame of mind than the rest of his brethren; being more religious, inward, still, solid, and observing, beyond his years, as the answers he would give, and the questions he would put upon occasion manifested, to the astonishment of those that heard him, especially in divine things.
His mother took notice of his singular temper, and the gravity, wisdom, and piety that very early shone through him, refusing childish and vain sports and company when very young. She was tender and indulgent over him, so that from her he met with little difficulty. As to his employment, he was brought up in country business; and he took most delight in sheep. He was very skilful with the sheep; an employment that very well suited his mind in several respects, both for its innocence and solitude; and was a just emblem of his later ministry and service.
I shall not break in upon his own account, which is the best that can be given; and therefore desire, what I can, to avoid saying any thing of what is said already, in his writings describing the beginnings of his ministry. But, in general, when he was somewhat above twenty, he left his friends, and visited the most retired and religious people. There were some at the time in this nation, especially in those parts, who waited for the consolation of Israel night and day, as Zacharias, Anna, and good old Simeon did of old time. To these he was sent, and these he sought out in the neighboring countries, and among them he lived until his more ample ministry came upon him.
At this time he taught and was an example of silence, trying to bring people from self reliance. He testified and turned them to the light of Christ within them. He encouraged them to wait in silence to feel the power of the light to stir in their hearts, so that their knowledge and worship of God might stand in the power of an endless life. He taught that this endless life was to be found in the light, if it was obeyed as it was revealed in man. 'For in the word was life, and that life was the light of men.' Life in the word, light in men, and life too, as the light is obeyed. The children of the light living by the life of the word, by which the word begets them again to God. This is the regeneration and new birth, without which there is no coming to the kingdom of God. Whoever comes to the kingdom, is greater than John; that is, than John's ministry, which was not that of the kingdom, but the consummation of the legal, and opening of the gospel dispensation. Accordingly, several meetings were gathered in those parts; and thus his time was employed for some years.
In 1652, he being in his usual retirement, his mind was exercised towards the Lord upon a very high mountain, in some of the nearby parts of Yorkshire, where he had a vision of the great work of God in the earth, and of the way that he was to proceed to begin it. He saw people as thick as motes in the sun, who in time would be brought home to the Lord; and that there might be but one shepherd, and one sheepfold in all the earth. There his eye was directed northward, beholding a large number of people that would receive him and his message in those parts. Upon this mountain he was moved of the Lord to sound out his great and notable day, as if he had been in a large audience; and from there he went north, as the Lord had shown him. And in every place where he came, if not before he came to it, he had his particular work and service to be done shown to him, so that the Lord was indeed his leader. For it was not in vain that he traveled. God in most places sealed his commission with the convincement of people from all walks of life, from worldly people to sober professors of religion. Some of the first and most eminent of them, who have departed the earth, were: Richard Farnsworth, James Naylor, William Dewsberry, Thomas Aldam, Francis Howgil, Edward Burrough, John Camm, John Audland, Richard Hubberthorn, T. Taylor, T. Holmes, Alexander Parker, William Simpson, William Caton, John Stubbs, Robert Widders, John Burnyeat, Robert Lodge, Thomas Salthouse, and many more worthy men, who cannot all be noted here. Those departed, together with those yet living of the first and great convincement, felt the divine motions of God; after God's purging judgments in themselves were experienced, and after considerable time of waiting in silence upon him, to feel and receive power from on high to speak in his name, (which no others can correctly speak, even though they may use the same words). They were frequently drawn forth, especially to visit the public assemblies, to reprove, inform, and exhort them. Sometimes they called people to repentance in markets, fairs, streets, and by the highway side, urging them to turn to the Lord with their hearts as well as their mouths. They directed them to the light of Christ within them; by the light to see, examine, and consider their ways. And they directed people to shun evil and do the good and acceptable will of God. For this, their love and goodwill, they often suffered great hardships, being often stocked, stoned, beaten, whipped, and imprisoned. They were treated so poorly, even though they were honest men and of good report where they lived, who had left wives and children, houses and lands, in order visit them with a living call to repentance. The priests generally opposed them, wrote papers against them, and insinuated most false and scandalous stories to defame them; stirring up the magistrates to suppress them, especially in those northern parts. Yet God was so pleased to fill them with his living power and give them such an open door of utterance in his service, that a great number of people were convinced of the way in those parts of the nation.
In the early days, because of the tender and singular indulgence of Judge Bradshaw and Judge Fell, the priests were never able to gain the point they labored for; which was to have proceeded to shed blood. Like Herod, they sought a cruel exercise of the civil power, to cut them off and root them out of the country. But especially Judge Fell, who was not only a check to their rage in legal proceedings, but he finally supported this people. His wife had received the truth early on, and that influenced his spirit; because he was a just and wise man, seeing all the popular uproars against the way of truth, as false accusations against his own wife and family. He protected them however he could, and freely opened his door and gave up his house to his wife and her friends, ignoring the reproach of ignorant or evil minded people. I mention this to his and her honor, and which I believe, will be an honor and a blessing to those of their name and family who are in the tenderness, humility, love, and zeal for the truth and people of the Lord.
At first, until the truth had opened its way in the southern parts of this island, that house was for some years an eminent meeting place of this people. Others of good note and substance in those northern countries had also opened their houses with their hearts to the many publishers of truth, who in a short time the Lord had raised to declare his salvation to the people. Meetings of the Lord's messengers were frequently held in those homes, to communicate their services and exercises, and comfort and edify one another in their blessed ministry.
I. He was a man that God endowed with a clear and wonderful depth, a discerner of others' spirits, and very much a master of his own. And though his understanding of worldly matters, and especially his expressions relating to the them, might sound uncouth and unfashionable to nice ears, his center was nevertheless very profound; and the closer one examined him, the greater his qualities showed and taught by example. And as abruptly and brokenly as sometimes his sentences would fall from him about divine things, it is well known they were often used as texts to many fairer declarations. And indeed, it showed beyond all contradiction that God had sent him, and that nothing of man had any share in the matter or manner of his ministry. So many great, excellent, and necessary truths as he preached to mankind, showed nothing of man's knowledge or wisdom to validate them. So that as a man, he was an original, being no man's copy. And his ministry and writings show they are from one who was not taught by man, nor had he learned what he said by study. Nor were his teachings imaginary or speculative. His teachings were sensible and practical truths, tending to conversion and regeneration, and the setting up the Kingdom of God in the hearts of men; and the way of the Kingdom was his work. So that many times I have been overcome in myself, and been made to say with my Lord and master at such times, 'I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent of this world, and revealed them to babes.' For many times has my soul bowed in a humble thankfulness to the Lord, that he did not choose any of the wise and learned of this world to be the first messenger in our age of his blessed truth to men. Instead he took one who was not of high degree, or elegant speech, or learned after the way of this world. He chose so that his message and work, which he sent him to do, might come with less suspicion or jealousy of human wisdom and interest. And so the message might have more force and clearness upon the consciences of those that sincerely sought the way of truth in the love of it. I saw, beholding with the eye of my mind, which the God of heaven had opened in me, the marks of God's finger and hand visibly showing in this testimony. It was evidenced by the clearness of the principle, the power and effectiveness of it in the exemplary sobriety, plainness, zeal, steadiness, humility, gravity, punctuality, charity, and circumspect care in the government of church affairs, which shined in his and their life and testimony that God employed in this work. Thus it greatly confirmed to me that it was of God, and engaged my soul in a deep love, fear, reverence, and thankfulness for his love and mercy therein to mankind; in which mind I remain, and shall, I hope, to the end of my days.
II. In his testimony or ministry, he labored much to open truth to the people's understandings, and to base them upon the principle and principal, Christ Jesus, the light of the world. So that by bringing them to something that was of God in themselves, they might better know and judge of him and themselves.
III. He had an extraordinary gift in opening the scriptures. He would go to the core of things, and show the mind, harmony, and fulfilling of them, with much plainness, and to great comfort and edification.
IV. Much of the substance and drift of his testimonies concerned: the mystery of the first and second Adam, the fall and restoration, the law and gospel, shadows and substance, the servant and son's state, and the fulfilling of the scriptures in Christ; and by Christ the true light, in all who are his through the obedience of faith. All that he witnessed was from God, compelled to speak what he had received from Christ, and what was had been his own experience; such speaking never errs nor fails.
V. But above all he excelled in prayer. The inwardness and weight of his spirit, the reverence and solemnity of his address and behavior, and the fewness and fullness of his words, have often struck even strangers with admiration, and reached others with consolation. I must say that he was in his praying the most awful, living, reverent frame I ever felt or beheld. And truly it was a testimony that he knew and lived nearer to the Lord than other men; for they that know Him most, will see most reason to approach Him with reverence and fear.
VI. He was of an innocent life, no busy-body, nor self-seeker, neither touchy nor critical; what fell from him was very inoffensive, but very edifying. So meek, contented, modest, easy, steady, tender, that it was a pleasure to be in his company. He exercised no authority except over evil, and did that everywhere and with all; but with love, compassion, and long suffering. A most merciful man, as ready to forgive as he was unlikely to take or give an offence. Thousands can truly say, he was of an excellent spirit and savor among them, and because of this, the most excellent spirits loved him with an unfeigned and unfading love.
VII. He was an incessant laborer; for in his younger years, before his many great and deep sufferings and travels had enfeebled his body for traveled services, he labored much in the word, and doctrine, and discipline in England, Scotland, and Ireland. He turned many to God, and confirmed those that were convinced of the truth, settling good order in church affairs among them. And towards the conclusion of his traveling services, between the years 1671-1677, he visited the churches of Christ in the plantations in America, and in Holland, and Germany, as his following Journal relates; to the convincement and consolation of many. After that time he chiefly resided in and about the city of London, and besides the services of his ministry, which were frequent, he wrote much both to those that are within and those that are without the communion. But the care he took of the affairs of the church in general was very great.
VIII. He was often where the records of the business of the church are kept, and where the letters from the many meetings of God's people over all the world were received; which letters he had read to him, and then communicated them to the meeting that is weekly held for such services. And he would be sure to stir them up to answer them, especially in suffering cases; showing great sympathy and compassion upon all such occasions, carefully looking into the respective cases, and endeavoring speedy relief according to the nature of them. So that if he were there, the churches and any of their suffering members were certain to not be forgotten or delayed in their desires.
IX. As he was unwearied, so he was undaunted in his services for God and his people. He was no more to be moved to fear than to wrath.
But as in the early church, some rose up against the blessed apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, even from among those who they had turned to the hope of the gospel, and who became their greatest trouble. Similarly this man of God had his share of suffering from some who had been convinced by him, who through prejudice or mistake, opposed him as one who sought dominion over conscience; because he pressed, by his presence or epistles, a ready and zealous compliance with such good and wholesome things as tended to an orderly conversation about the affairs of the church, and in their walking before men. That which contributed much to this hostile opposition, was in some an envy of the love and esteem he had and deserved in the hearts of the people; their groundless suggestions of his imposition and blind obedience must be attributed to their weakness.
They would have had every man independent, that as he had the principle in himself, he should only stand and fall to that and nobody else; not considering that the principle is one in all. Though the measure of light or grace might differ, yet the nature of it was the same; and being so, they struck at the spiritual unity, which a people guided by the same principle are naturally led into. So that what is evil to one is evil to all, and what is virtuous, honest, and of good report to one, is so to all, from the sense and savor of the one universal principle which is common to all. Even the disloyal also profess this principle to be the root of all true Christian fellowship, and that spirit into which the people of God drink, and come to be spiritually minded, and of one heart and one soul.
Some weakly mistook good order in the government of church affairs for discipline in worship, and mistakenly believed that discipline in worship was stressed and recommended by him and other brethren. So they were ready to repeat the same accusations against which dissenters had very reasonably objected, regarding the national churches, which had coercively pressed conformity to their respective creeds and worships. Instead, the matters he recommended and stressed related wholly to conversation, and the outward and (as I may say) civil part of the church, so that men would walk according to the principles of their belief, and not be wanting in care and charity. Some have mistakenly stumbled and fallen with an unreasonable obstinacy, even to a prejudice. Yet blessed be God, the most have returned to their first love, and seen the work of the enemy. An enemy that loses no opportunity or advantage by which he may check or hinder the work of God, and disquiet the peace of his church, and chill the love of his people to the truth, and one to another; and there is still hope for several of the few that are still in rebellion.
In all these occasions, though George Fox was the target of this discontent, he bore all their weakness and prejudice, and did not return harshness and accusation for what he received from them. Instead, he forgave them their weak and bitter speeches, praying for them that they might have a sense of their hurt, and see the subtlety of the enemy to rend and divide, and return into their first love that thought no ill.
And truly, I must say, that though God had visibly clothed him with a divine preference and authority, and indeed his very presence expressed a religious majesty, yet he never abused it, but held his place in the church of God with great meekness, and a most engaging humility and moderation. For upon all occasions, like his blessed master, he was a servant to all, holding and exercising his eldership in the invisible power that had gathered them, with reverence to the Head and care over the body. His eldership was received only in that spirit and power of Christ, as the first and chief elder in this age. He was therefore worthy of double honor, so for the same reason it was given by the faithful of this day; because his authority was inward and not outward, and that he got it and kept it by the love of God and power of an endless life. I write of my own knowledge and not hearsay, and my witness is true, having been with him for weeks and months together on many occasions; and those occasions being close to him in most difficult of circumstances. And that by night and by day, by sea and by land, in this and in foreign countries; I can say, I never saw him out of his place, or not a match for every service or occasion.
For in all things he acquitted himself like a man; yes a strong man, a new and heavenly-minded man. A divine, and a naturalist, and all of God Almighty's making. I have been surprised at his questions and answers in natural things; that while he was ignorant of useless and sophisticated science, he had in him the grounds of useful and commendable knowledge, and cherished it everywhere. Civil beyond all forms of breeding in his behavior; very temperate, eating little and sleeping less, though a bulky person.
Thus he lived and sojourned among us; and as he lived so he died, feeling the same eternal power that had raised and preserved him in his last moments. So full of assurance was he, that he triumphed over death; and so even to the last, as if death were hardly worth notice or a mention; recommending to some of us with him the dispatch and distribution of an epistle, just before dictating one to the churches of Christ throughout the world, and dispatching his own books. But above all, recommending to Friends; and of all Friends, particularly those in Ireland and America; twice over, saying, ‘Mind poor Friends in Ireland and America.'
And to some that came in and inquired how he found himself, he answered, 'Never heed, the Lord's power is over all weakness and death; the seed reigns, blessed be the Lord:' which was about four or five hours before his departure out of this world. He was at the great meeting near Lombard street on the first day of the week, and it was the third following, about ten at night, when he left us; being at the house of H. Goldney in the same court. In a good old age he went, after having lived to see his children's children to several generations in the truth. He had the comfort of a short illness, and the blessing of a clear sense to the last; and we may truly say, with a man of God of old, that ‘being dead, he yet speaks;' and though absent in body, he is present in spirit. Neither time nor place being able to interrupt the communion of saints, or dissolve the fellowship of the spirits of the just. His works praise him, because they are to the praise of Him that worked by him; for which his memorial is and shall be blessed. As to this part of my preface, I am finished, when I have left this short epitaph to his name. 'Many sons have done virtuously in this day, but dear George, thou excellest them all.'
A Plea to Those Called Quakers
And now, friends, you that profess to walk in the way this blessed man was sent of God to turn us into, I plead with you to allow my words of exhortation to both fathers and children, and to both elders and young men. The glory of this day and the foundation of the hope (that has not made us ashamed since we were a people), is that blessed principle of the light and life of Christ, which we profess, and direct all people to, as the great instrument and agent of man's conversion to God. It was by this we were first touched, and effectually enlightened, as to our inward state; and became aware of our latter end, causing us to focus on the Lord, and to number our days, that we might apply our hearts to wisdom. In that day we judged not after the sight of the eye, or after the hearing of the ear. But according to the light and sense this blessed principle gave us, we judged and acted in reference to things and persons, ourselves and others, yes, towards God our maker. For being quickened by it in our inward man, we could easily discern the difference of things, and feel what was right, and what was wrong, and what was fit, and what not, both in reference to religious and civil concerns. That being the ground of the fellowship of all saints, in which our fellowship stood. In this we desired to have a sense one of another, and acted towards one another and all men, in love, faithfulness, and fear.
In the feeling of the motions of this, we drew near to the Lord, and waited to be prepared, that we might feel those drawings and movings, before we approached the Lord in prayer, or opened our mouths in ministry. And in our beginning and ending with these moving and drawings of the Lord, stood our comfort, service, and edification. And as we ran ahead, or fell short in our services, we made burdens for ourselves to bear; finding in ourselves a rebuke, instead of an acceptance; and in lieu of, 'Well done," we heard "Who has required this at your hands?" In that day we were a directed people, our very countenances and deportment declared it.
Care for others was then much upon us, as well as for ourselves, especially the young convinced. Often we had the burden of the word of the Lord to our neighbors, relations, and acquaintance, and sometimes strangers also. We were in travail for one another's preservation; not seeking, but shunning occasions of any coldness or misunderstanding. Treating one another as those who believed and felt God present; which kept our conversation innocent, serious, and weighty, guarding ourselves against the cares and friendships of the world. We held the truth in the spirit of it, and not in our own fleshly spirits, or after our own wills and affections. Our fleshly spirits were controlled and brought into subjection; so much so, that it was visible to them that knew us. We did not think ourselves at our own disposal, to go where we liked, or say or do what we liked, or when we liked. Our liberty stood in the liberty of the spirit of truth; and no pleasure, no profit, no fear, no favor could draw us from this retired, strict, and watchful frame of mind. We were so far from seeking occasions of company, that we avoided them when we could, pursuing our own business with moderation, instead of meddling with other people's unnecessarily.
Our words were few and savory, our looks composed and weighty, and our whole deportment very evident. True it is, that this retired and strict sort of life from the liberty of the conversation of the world, exposed us to the censures of many, conceited, and self-righteous persons, etc. But it was our preservation from many snares, to which others were continually exposed by the prevalence of the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, that needed no excuse or temptations to excite them in the conversation of the world.
I cannot forget the humility and chaste zeal of that day. Oh! how constant at meetings, how retired in them, how firm to truth's life, as well as truth's principles, and how entire and united in our communion, as indeed becomes those who profess one head, even Christ Jesus the Lord!
This being the testimony and example of the man of God before mentioned, who was sent to declare and leave it among us; and we having embraced this as the merciful visitation of God to us, the word of exhortation at this time is: that we continue to be found in the way of this testimony with all zeal and integrity, and so much the more by how much the day of the Lord draws near.
And first, as to you, my beloved and much honored brethren in Christ that are in the exercise of the ministry. Oh, feel life in your ministry! Let life be your commission, your well-spring and treasury on all such occasions; else you well know there can be no begetting to God, since nothing can quicken or make people alive to God, but the life of God. And it must be a ministry in and from life that enlivens any people to God. We have seen the fruit of all other ministries, by the few people who are turned from the evil of their ways. It is not our parts or memory, or the repetition of former revelations in our own will and time that will do God's work. A dry doctrinal ministry, however sound in words, can reach but the ear, and is but a dream at the best. There is another soundness, that is soundest of all: Christ the power of God. This is the key of David, that opens, and none shuts; and shuts, and none can open: as the oil to the lamp and the soul to the body, so is that to the best of words. Which made Christ to say, 'My words they are spirit, and they are life.' That is, they are from life, and therefore they make you alive that receive them. If the disciples, who had lived with Jesus, were to stay at Jerusalem until they received power from the Spirit; so must we wait to receive power before we minister, if we will turn people from darkness to light, and from satan's power to God.
I fervently bow my knees to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you may always be like minded, that you may ever wait reverently for the coming and opening of the word of life, and attend upon it in your ministry and service, that you may serve God in his spirit. And be it little, or be it much, it is well; for much is not too much, and the least is enough, if from the motion of God's spirit; and without it, truly, little is too much, because it is to no profit.
For it is the spirit of the Lord immediately, or through the ministry of his servants, that teaches his people to profit. And to be sure, so far as we take him along with us in our services, so far are we profitable, and no farther. For if it is the Lord that must work all things in us, for our salvation, how much more is it the Lord who must work in us for the conversion of others. If therefore it was once a cross to us to speak when the Lord required it at our hands; let us be silent when he does not require speech.
It is one of the most dreadful sayings in the Revelation, that he that adds to the words of the prophecy of this book, God will add to him the plagues written in this book. To keep back the counsel of God, is as terrible; for he that takes away from the words of the prophecy of this book, God shall take away his part out of the book of life. And truly it has great caution in it to those that use the name of the Lord, to be well assured the Lord speaks, that they may not be found of the number of those that add to the words of the testimony of prophecy which the Lord gives them to bear; nor yet to mince or diminish the same, both being so very offensive to God.
Therefore brethren, let us be careful neither to run out ahead of our guide, nor loiter behind him; since he that makes haste may miss his way, and he that stays behind may lose his guide. For even those who have received the word of the Lord needed to wait for wisdom, that they might see how to apply the word correctly. Which plainly implies, that it is possible for one who has received the word of the Lord to miss the application of it; which comes from an impatience of spirit and a self-working, which makes an unsound and dangerous mixture, and will not produce a right-minded people living to God.
Above all other considerations I am zealous regarding the public behavior of brethren in the ministry; knowing well how much their behavior determines the present state, future state, and preservation of the church of Christ Jesus, which has been gathered and built up by a living and powerful ministry. I intensely desire that the ministry be held, preserved, and continued in the manifestations, motions, and supplies of the same life and power of God for all time.
And wherever it is observed that anyone ministers more from gifts and parts other than the life and power of God, though they have an enlightened and doctrinal understanding, let them in time be advised and admonished for their preservation; because out of ignorance such will come to depend upon self-sufficiency, forsaking Christ the living fountain, and hewing out unto themselves cisterns that will hold no living waters. Such self-sufficiency will by degrees to draw others from waiting upon the gift of God in themselves, and to feel it in others, and wait for strength and refreshment; and to eventually turn from God to man again, thus making shipwreck of the faith once delivered to the saints,* and of a good conscience towards God. Faith held in a good conscience towards God can only kept by that divine gift of life that in the beginning created the faith, and wakened and sanctified the soul.
It is not enough that we have known the divine gift, and in it have reached to the spirits in prison, and been the instruments of the convincing of others of the way of God. We must keep as low and poor in ourselves, and as depending upon the Lord as ever; since no memory, no repetitions of former openings, revelations, or enjoyments will bring a soul to God, or afford bread to the hungry, or water to the thirsty, unless life goes with what we say; and we must sit quietly and wait for life.
May we have no other fountain, treasury, or dependence; that none may presume in any way to act of themselves for God, because previously they have long acted from God; that we may not substitute our own wisdom for waiting on the wisdom of God, or think that we may take less care and more liberty in speaking than formerly. And if we do not feel the Lord by his power to open us and enlarge us, regardless of what the people expect from us, or has been our customary supply and character, that we will not exceed or fill up the time with our wisdom and words.
I hope we shall always remember who it was that said, 'Of yourselves you can do nothing.' Our sufficiency is in him. And if we are not to speak our own words, or take thought what we should say to men in our defense when exposed for our testimony, surely we ought to speak none of our own words, or take thought what we shall say in our testimony and ministry in the name of the Lord to the souls of the people. For then of all times, and of all other occasions, should it be fulfilled in us, ‘For it is not you that speak, but the spirit of my Father that speaks in you.'
And indeed the ministry of the spirit must and does keep its agreement with the birth of the spirit; that as no man can inherit the kingdom of God unless he is born of the spirit, so no ministry can generate a soul to God except from the spirit. For this, as I said before, the disciples waited before they went forth, and in this our elder brethren and messengers of God in our day, waited, visited, and touched our spirit. And having begun in the spirit, let none ever hope or seek to be made perfect in the flesh; for what is the flesh to the spirit, or the chaff to the wheat? And if we keep in the spirit, we shall keep in the unity of it, which is the ground of true fellowship. For by drinking into that one spirit, we are made one people to God, and by it we are continued in the unity of the faith and the bond of peace. No envying, no bitterness, no strife can have place with us. We shall watch always for good and not for evil over one another, and rejoice exceedingly; and not begrudge at one another's increase in the riches of the grace with which God replenishes his faithful servants.
And, brethren, as to you committed to the dispensation of the oracles of God, which gives you frequent opportunities and great place with the people among whom you travel, I plead with you not to think it is sufficient to declare the word of life in their assemblies, however edifying and comfortable such opportunities may be to you and them. But as was the practice of the man of God in great measure before mentioned, when among us, he inquired of the churches visited, who among them was afflicted or sick, who was tempted, and if any were unfaithful or obstinate. Work similarly in the wisdom and power of God, which will be a glorious crown upon your ministry. Such work prepares your way in the hearts of the people to receive you as men of God, and it gives you credibility with them, allowing you to advise them to their good in other respects. The afflicted will be comforted by you, the tempted strengthened, the sick refreshed, the unfaithful convicted and restored; and those who are stubborn will be softened and fitted for reconciliation, which gives you credibility by your care shown to those in particular need.
Although good and wise men, and elders too, may reside in such places, who are of worthy and important, sometimes they do not have the respect they deserve from the people they live among, or in some cases it may not be proper for them to use that authority. But you that travel as God's messengers, if they accept you for the greater responsibility, shall they refuse you in the less? And if they own the general testimony, can they withstand the particular application of it in their own cases? Thus you will know yourselves approved workmen indeed to the praise of His name, who has called you from darkness to light, that you might turn others from satan's power unto God and his kingdom which is within. And Oh, that there were more faithful laborers in the vineyard of the Lord! Since the beginning, there has never been more need!
For which reason, I cannot but cry and call aloud to you, who have been long professors of the truth, and know the truth in the convincing power of it, and have had a sober conversation among men; yet are content to only know truth for yourselves. I cry to you who limit yourselves to go to meetings, exercising ordinary charity in the church and an honest behavior in the world; feeling little or no concern upon your spirits for the glory of the Lord in the prosperity of his truth in the earth. I cry to you to be more than glad that others succeed in such service. Arise in the name and power of the Lord Jesus! See how the fields are white with seed, awaiting harvest in this and other nations, and how there are so few able and faithful laborers to work the harvest! Your country folks, neighbors, and relatives, want to know the Lord and his truth, and to walk in it. Do you feel nothing of their burdens in life? Search and see, and lose no time, I implore you, for the Lord is at hand. I do not judge you; there is one who judges all men, and his judgment is true. You have mightily increased in your material possessions, may you equally increase in your inward riches, and do good with both while you have a day to do good. Previously your enemies seized your property for the sake of His name in whom you have believed; therefore he has given you much of the world in the face of your enemies. But Oh, let your riches be your servant and not your master, your diversion rather than your business! Let the Lord be chiefly in your eye, and ponder your ways, and see if God has nothing more for you to do. And if you find yourselves short in your account with him, then wait for his preparation, and be ready to receive the word of command. When you have put your hand to the plough, be not weary of well doing ; and if you faint not, assuredly you shall reap the fruit of your heavenly labor in God's everlasting kingdom.
To the Young, Convinced* Ones
And you, young convinced ones! I urge and exhort you to a diligent and chaste waiting upon God in the way of his blessed manifestation and appearance of himself to you. Look not out but within; let not another's liberty be your snare; neither act by imitation, but sense and feel God's power in yourselves. Crush not the tender buddings of it in your souls, nor overrun in your desires and your warmness of affections the holy and gentle motions of it. Remember it is a still voice that speaks to us in this day, and that it is not to be heard in the noises and hurries of the mind; but is distinctly understood in a retired frame. Jesus loved and chose out solitudes, often going to mountains, gardens, and sea-sides; to avoid crowds and hurries, to show his disciples it was good to be solitary and sit separate from the world. Two enemies lie near your state: imagination, and liberty. But the plain, practical, living, holy truth that has convinced you will preserve you; if you mind it in yourselves, and bring all thoughts, inclinations, and affections to the test of it, to see if they are wrought in God, or of the enemy, or your own selves. So will a true taste, discerning, and judgment be preserved to you, of what you should do and leave undone; and in your diligence and faithfulness in this way, you will come to inherit substance; and Christ, the eternal wisdom, will fill your treasury. And when you are converted,* as well as convinced, then confirm your brethren, and be ready to every good word and work that the Lord shall call you to, that you may be to his praise, who has chosen you to be partakers, with the saints in the light, of a kingdom that cannot be shaken, an inheritance incorruptible, in eternal habitations.
And now, as for you that are the children of God's people, a great concern is upon my spirit for your good, and often are my knees bowed to the God of your fathers for you, that you may come to be partakers of the same divine life and power, that have been the glory of this day. That a generation you may be to God, a holy nation and a peculiar people, zealous of good works, when our generation is all dead. Oh! You young men and women, do not be content that you are the children of the people of the Lord! You must also be born again, if you will inherit the kingdom of God. Your fathers are only after the flesh, and could only produce you into the likeness of the first Adam; but you must be born into the likeness of the second Adam, by a spiritual regeneration, or you will not, and you cannot be His children or offspring. And therefore, look carefully about you, Oh you children of the children of God! Consider your standing, and see what you are in relation to this divine kindred, family, and birth! Have you obeyed the light, and received and walked in the spirit, that is the incorruptible seed of the word and kingdom of God, of which you must be born again! God is no respecter of persons; the father cannot save or answer for the child, nor the child for the father. For 'but in the sin that you sin, you shall die, and in the righteousness you do,' through Christ Jesus, 'you shall live.' For it is the willing and obedient who shall eat the good of the land.
Be not deceived, God is not mocked; as all nations and people sow, so shall they reap at the hand of the just God. if you choose not the way of the Lord, your many and great privileges above the children of other people will add weight in the scale against you. For you have heard line upon line of correct teachings, and precept upon precept, and not only good doctrine but good example. What is even more, you have been turned to, and acquainted with, a principle in yourselves, of which others have been ignorant. And you know that you may conduct yourselves with as much goodness as you please, without the fear of frowns and blows, or being turned out of doors, or rejected by father and mother for God's sake and his holy religion, as has been the case of some of your fathers in the day they first entered into his holy path. If after you have heard and seen the wonders of God in the deliverance and preservation of your parents through a sea of troubles, and the manifold temporal as well as spiritual blessings that he has filled them with in the sight of their enemies; if you should neglect and turn your backs upon so great and so near a salvation, you would not only be most ungrateful children to God and them, but must expect that God will call the children of those that knew him not, to take the crown out of your hands, and that your lot will be a dreadful judgment at the hand of the Lord. But Oh, that it may never be so with any of you! The Lord forbid, says my soul.
Therefore, Oh you young men and women! Look to the rock of your fathers; choose the God of your fathers. There is no other God but him, no other light but his, no other grace but his, nor spirit but his to convince you, quicken and comfort you, to lead, guide, and preserve you to God's everlasting kingdom. So will you be possessors as well as professors of the truth, embracing the truth not only by education, but by judgment and conviction; from a sense created in your souls through the operation of the eternal spirit and power of God. By this you may come to be the seed of Abraham through faith, and the circumcision not made with hands, and so heirs of the promise made to the fathers of an incorruptible crown. That, as I said before, you may be a generation to God, holding up the profession of the blessed truth in the life and power of it. For formality in religion is nauseous to God and good men; and the more nauseous, where any form or appearance of religion has been new and peculiar, and begun and practiced upon a principle with an uncommon zeal and strictness. Therefore, I say, for you to fall flat and formal, and continue the profession without that salt and savor by which it has obtained a good report among men is not to answer God's love, nor your parents' care, nor the mind of truth in yourselves, nor in those that are without. For though the people without will not obey the truth, they have sight and sense enough to see whether those, who do make a profession of it, obey it or not. For where the divine virtue of it is not felt in the soul, and waited for, and lived in, imperfections will quickly break out, and show themselves. The unfaithfulness of such persons is detected; and their insides are seen as not seasoned with the nature of that holy principle which they profess.
For which reason, dear children, let me urge you to shut your eyes to the temptations and allurements of this low and perishing world, and not allow your affections to be captivated by those lusts and vanities that your fathers, for the truth's sake, long since turned their backs upon. But as you believe it to be the truth, receive it into your hearts, that you may become the children of God; so that it may never be said of you, as John writes of the Jews of his time, that Christ the true light came to his own, but his own received him not; but to as many as received him, to them he gave them power to become the children of God; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.' This verse is very appropriate to this time. You are exactly and peculiarly like those professing Jews, for you have the name of God's people, by being the children and wearing the form of God's people. And he by his light in you may very well be said to have come to his own. And if you do not obey the light, but turn your back upon it, and walk after the vanities of your minds, you will be the same as those Jews who would not received him, which I pray to God may never be your case and judgment. Instead, that you may be thoroughly sensible of the many and great obligations you lie under to the Lord for his love, and to your parents for their care. That with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your strength, you will turn to the Lord; to his gift and spirit in you. That you may hear his voice and obey it, thus sealing the testimony of your fathers by the truth and evidence of your own experience. That your children's children may bless you, and bless the Lord for you, as those that delivered a faithful example, as well as record of the truth of God unto them. So will the gray hairs of your dear parents, who are yet alive, go down to their graves with joy, to see you the posterity of truth, as well as theirs; and that not only their nature, but their spirit of God, shall live in you when they are gone.
I shall conclude this preface with a few words to those who are not of our communion, into whose hands this may come, especially those of our own nation.
Penn's Appeal to the Non-Quakers
Friends, as you are the sons and daughters of Adam, and my brethren after the flesh, often and earnest have been my desires and prayers to God on your behalf. That you may come to know him that has made you to be your redeemer and restorer to the holy image, (that through sin you have lost); by the power and spirit of his son Jesus Christ, whom he has given for the light and life of the world. And Oh! That you, who are called christians, would receive him into your hearts! For it is in your hearts that you lack him to be, and at that door he stands knocking, so that you should open the door and let him in. But you have not opened the door of your heart to him; you heart is full of other guests, so that a manger is his lot among you now, as it was then. Yet you are full of profession, as were the Jews, when he came among them; who knew him not, but rejected and treated him evilly. Unless you come to possess and experience of what you profess, all your formality in religion will do you no good in the day of God's judgment.
I urge you, consider your eternal condition, and see what you possess; what ground and foundation do you have for your christianity. Is it more than a statement of belief; is it more than a belief in historical accuracy of the gospel? Have you known the baptism of fire and the holy ghost, and the fan of Christ that winnows away the chaff, the carnal lusts and affections? Have you known divine leaven of the kingdom, which upon receipt, changes the whole man, sanctifying him throughout in body, soul, and spirit? If this is not the basis of your confidence, you are in a miserable estate.
You will say, perhaps, that though you are sinners, and live in the daily commission of sin, and are not sanctified, as I have been speaking, yet you have faith in Christ, who has borne the curse for you, and in him you are complete by faith; his righteousness being imputed* to you.
But, my friends, let me urge you not to deceive yourselves on such an important point as that of your immortal souls. If you have true faith in Christ, your faith will make you clean, it will sanctify you; for the saints' faith was their victory of old; by faith they overcame sin within themselves and sinful men without. And if you are really in Christ, you walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit; whose fruits are clearly seen. Yes, you are a new creature, new made, new fashioned, after God's will and spiritual image. Old things are done away, and behold all things have become new: new love, desires, will, affections, and practices. It is not any longer the disobedient, carnal, and worldly you that lives; but it is Christ that lives in you instead. And to live is Christ, and to die is your eternal gain; because you are assured, ‘that your corruptible shall put on incorruption, and your mortal immortality;' and that you have a glorious house, eternal in the heavens, that will never wax old or pass away. All this follows being in Christ, as heat follows fire, and light the sun.
Therefore, have a care how you presume to rely upon such a opinion, that you are in Christ while still sinning in your old fallen nature. For 'what communion has light with darkness, or Christ with Belial?' Hear what the beloved disciple tells you: 'If we say we have fellowship with God, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.' That is, if we go on in a sinful way, are captivated by our carnal affections, and are not converted to God, we walk in darkness, and in that state cannot possibly have any fellowship with God. Christ clothes them with his righteousness, who receive his grace in their hearts, and deny themselves, and take up their cross daily, and follow him. Christ's righteousness makes men inwardly holy, of holy minds, wills, and practices. Although we have righteousness, it is Christ's; for it is ours, not by nature, but by faith and adoption. It is the gift of God. But still, it is not ours as from ourselves, for it is Christ's, being of and from him. Yet it is ours, and must be ours in possession, power, and enjoyment, to do us any good; or Christ's righteousness will profit us nothing. In this way was he made righteousness, sanctification, justification, and redemption to the primitive Christians; and if ever you will have the comfort, kernel, and marrow of the Christian religion, in like manner you must come to learn and obtain it.
Now, my friends, by what you have read, (and will read in what follows), you may perceive that God has visited a poor people among you with this saving knowledge and testimony; whom he has upheld and increased to this day, notwithstanding the fierce opposition they have met at the same time. Despise not the low status of this appearance. It was, and yet is, we know, a day of small things, and of small account with too many; and many hard and ill names are given to it. But it is of God; it came from him because it leads to him. This we know, but we cannot make another know it as we know it, unless he will take the same way to know it that we took. The world talks of God; but what do they do? They pray for power, but reject the principle in which power is found. If you would know God, and worship and serve God, as you should do, you must accept the way he has ordained and given for that purpose. Some seek it in books, some in learned men; but what they look for, is found within themselves, and yet they overlook it. The voice is too still, the seed too small, and the light shines in darkness. They are too busy, and so cannot reap the reward; but the woman, who lost her coin, found it at home, after she had lit her candle and swept her house clean. If you do the same, you shall find what Pilate wanted to know, namely truth.
The light of Christ is within, who is the light of the world, and so is a light to you, which light tells you the truth of your condition, leads all that obey it out of darkness into God's marvelous light; for light grows upon the obedient. It is sown for the righteous, and their way is a shining light that shines forth more and more to the perfect day.
For which reason, Oh friends, turn in, turn inward, I beseech you! Where is the poison, there is the antidote: there you want Christ, and there you must find him; and blessed be God, there you may find him. 'Seek and you shall find,' I testify for God. But then you must seek aright, with your whole heart, as men that seek for their lives, yes, for their eternal lives: diligently, humbly, patiently, as those that can taste no pleasure, comfort, or satisfaction in anything else, unless you find Him whom your souls want, and desire to know and love above all. Oh! It is a labor, a spiritual labor! Let the carnal evil world think and say as it will. And through this path you must walk to the city of God, which has eternal foundations, if you ever will arrive there.
To conclude. Behold the testimony and doctrine of the people called Quakers! Behold their practice and discipline! And behold the blessed man and men that were sent by God for this excellent work and service! All which will be more particularly expressed in the ensuing writings of that man of God; which I do heartily recommend to my reader's most serious reading, and beseech Almighty God that his blessing may go along with it, to the convincing of many as yet strangers to this holy dispensation, and also to the edification of the church of God in general. Who, for his manifold and repeated mercies and blessings to his people, in this day of his great love, is ever worthy to have the glory, honor, thanksgiving, and renown; and be it rendered and ascribed, with fear and reverence, through him in whom he is well pleased, his beloved son and lamb, our light and life, that sits with him upon the throne, world without end. Amen.
I write as one whom God has long since mercifully favored with his fatherly visitation, and who was not disobedient to the heavenly vision and call. To whom the way of truth is more lovely and precious than ever, and that knowing the beauty and benefit of it above all worldly treasure, has chosen it for his chief joy; and therefore recommends it to your love and choice, because he is with great sincerity and affection your soul's friend,
A Postscript to Penn's Introduction
One cannot but be affected by the love for God and his fellow man that William Penn transmits through his writing. May we all know the same love.
Under the leadership of giants like Fox and Penn, the early Quakers initiated social reforms that are still beneficial to us today. They forced prices to be marked in stores, rather than all pricing being negotiable, even for food and clothing. They reformed the treatment of the mentally insane from being chained in dungeons. They initiated education for women in the trades. From their many harsh imprisonments, they initiated needed reform in the prisons. They provided rest homes for the aged, unable to work. They insisted of women's equality in their church. In 1671, Fox urged Quaker slaveholders in Barbados to give their slaves freedom. In 1688, Pennsylvania Quakers passed an anti-slavery resolution, initiating slavery's long demise in America. Their suffering and patient appeals to the governments resulted in religious toleration and freedom throughout Europe. Their ideals even influenced the United States Constitution in its separation of powers, the separation of Church and State, and the United States Bill of Rights, particularly full Freedom of Religion. William Penn's Frame of Government for Pennsylvania implemented a democratic system with full freedom of religion, freedom from unjust imprisonment, fair trials, elected representatives of the people in power, and a separation of powers. Ahead of his time, Penn also submitted a written plan for a United States of Europe.
Regarding the Quakers' care for Friends within the Society: widows, orphans, sick, poor, imprisoned, old, young; they were all cared for by the Quakers. If one assembly was overburdened with expense of care, other assemblies would contribute to their assistance, world-wide. Their care for their own was so thorough that "there was not a beggar among them," and when a local government would discover that they were providing assistance, which the government was obligated to fund, the government would suddenly drop their opposition to their meetings and assemblies.
Regarding their care for all men: from the Journal, "Sometimes there would be two hundred of the poor of other people (non-Quakers) to come and wait until the meeting was done, (for all the country knew we met about the poor); and after the meeting, Friends would send to the bakers for bread, and give everyone of those poor people a loaf, however many there were of them; for we were taught 'to do good all, though especially to the household of faith.'"
Today they are an amalgam of splintered sects, mostly in name of Quaker only; all falling into form and most focused on outward social change, with the many sects within proud of their diversity of spirits, faiths, and beliefs, including atheists, agnostics, and pagan witches. This diversity of spirits they call "a rich tapestry, woven without a weaver." They justify their diversity of spirits, citing the inner light of each man that calls them differently; which is definitely not the inner light, (who is Christ), but only the diversity of their selfish old men of the flesh, glorifying in their pride, lusts, and affections that are enmity with God. They even debate removal of the word Religious from the name, Religious Society of Friends, to prevent offending those within who are not.