Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Works of Isaac Penington > Isaac Penington to _______ _______
BECAUSE my not praying in my family, according to the custom of professors, seemed to be such a great stumbling-block to thee, it sprang up in my heart to render thee this account thereof.
I did formerly apply myself to pray to the Lord, morning and evening (besides other times), believing in my heart, that it was the will of the Lord I should so do. And this was my condition then: -- sometimes I felt the living spring open, and the true child breathe towards the Father; at other times I felt a deadness, a dryness, a barrenness, and only a speaking and striving of the natural part, which I, even then, felt was not acceptable to the Lord, nor did profit my soul; but apprehending it to be a duty, I durst not but apply myself thereto.
Since that time, -- since the Lord hath again been pleased to raise up what he had formerly begotten in me, and begun to feed it, by the pure giving forth of that breath of life which begat it (which is the bread that comes down from heaven daily to it, as the Lord pleaseth freely to dispense it), -- the Lord hath shown me that prayer is his gift to the child which he begets and that it stands not in the will, or time, or understanding, or affectionate part of the creature, but in his own begetting, which he first breathes upon, and then it breathes again towards him: -- and that <15> he worketh this at his own pleasure, and no time can be set him when he shall breathe: or when he shall not breathe, and that when he breathes, then is the time of prayer, then is the time of moving towards him, and following him who draws. So that all my times, and all my duties, and all my graces, and all my hopes, and all my refreshments, and all my ordinances, are in his hand, who is the spring of my life, and conveys, preserves, and increases life of his own good pleasure.
I freely confess, all my religion stands in waiting on the Lord, for the riches of his Spirit, and in returning back to the Lord (by his own Spirit, and in the virtue of his own life), that which he pleaseth to bestow on me. And, I have no faith, no love, no hope. no peace, no joy, no ability to any thing, no refreshment in any thing, but as I find his living breath beginning, his living breath continuing, his living breath answering, and performing what it calls for. So that I am become exceeding poor and miserable, save in what the Lord pleaseth to be to me by his own free grace, and for his own name's sake, and in rich mercy. And if I have tasted any thing of the Lord's goodness sweeter than ordinary, my heart is willing, so far as the Lord pleaseth, faithfully to point any others to the same spring; and not discourage or witness against the least simplicity, and true desire after God, in them. But where they have lost the true living child, and another thing is got up in its stead (which, though it may bear its image to the eye of flesh, yet is not the same thing in the sight of God), and where this nourisheth itself by praying, reading, meditating, or any other such like thing, feeding the carnal part with such a kind of knowledge from Scriptures, as the natural understanding may gather and grow rich by; this, in love and faithfulness to the Lord and to souls, I cannot but testify against, wherever I find it, as the Lord draweth forth my spirit to bear its testimony.
And this I know, from the Lord, to be the general state of professors at this day. The Spirit of the Lord is departed from them, and they are joined to another spirit, as deeply and as generally as ever the Jews were; and that their prayers and reading of the Scriptures, and preaching, and duties, and ordinances are as loathsome to the soul of the Lord, as ever the Jews' incense and sacrifices were. And this is the word of the <16> Lord concerning them. Ye must come out of your knowledge, into the feeling of an inward principle of life, if ever ye be restored to the true unity with God, and to the true enjoyment of him again. Ye must come out of the knowledge and wisdom ye have gathered from the Scriptures, into a feeling of the thing there written of, as it pleaseth the Lord to open and reveal them in the hidden man of the heart.
This is it, ye are to wait for from the Lord; and not to boast of your present state, as if ye were not backslidden from him, and had not entered into league with another spirit; which keeps up the image of what the Spirit of the Lord once formed in you, but without the true, pure, fresh life.
From a faithful friend and lover of souls.