AMERICAN CROSSROADS Isaac Pennington  
 
THE INWARD JOURNEY OF ISAAC PENNINGTON
A LOVING, WISE, COMPASSIONATE, AND HONORABLE MAN
 

Thou that wouldst enjoy thy beloved, and feel the rest of his gospel, and walk in that path which leads thereto, wait to learn of the Spirit.

      Know what it is that is to walk in the path of life, and indeed is alone capable of walking therein. It is that which groans, and which mourns; that which is begotten of God in thee. The path of life is for the seed of life. The true knowledge of the way, with the walking in the way, is reserved for God's child, for God's traveller. Therefore keep in the regeneration, keep in the birth; be no more than God made thee. Give over thine own willing; give over thine own running; give over thine own desiring to know, or to be any thing, and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart; and let that grow in thee, and be in thee, and breathe in thee, and act in thee, and thou shalt find by sweet experience, that the Lord knows that, and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of life, which is his portion. And as thou takest up the cross to thyself, and sufferest that to overspread and become a yoke over thee, thou shalt become renewed, and enjoy life, and everlasting inheritance in that.

     Watch against the selfish wisdom, in every step of thy growth, and in every spiritual motion, that *that* come not between thee and thy life; that that deceive thee not with a likeness, a shadow, making it appear more pleasing to the eye than the substance. Every step of thy way it will be laying baits for thee; and it is easy for deceit to enter thee at any time, and for that wisdom to get up in thee under an appearance of spiritual wisdom, unless the Lord tenderly and powerfully preserve thee: and if it prevail, it will lead thee from the path of true wisdom; it will cozen thee with a false faith, instead of the true faith; with false praying instead of the breathings of the true child; with diligence and zeal in thy false way, instead of the true zeal and diligence; yea, it will hurry thee on in the path of error, shutting that eye in thee, which should see, and hardening thy heart against thy bosom friend.

Let nothing judge in thee, concerning thine own heart, or concerning others, or concerning any way or truth of God, but only the begotten of God in the heart. Let the light in which thou art begotten to God, and which shines upon his begotten, be the only judge in thee, and then thou canst not err in judgment. Be not hasty, be not forward in judgment; keep back to the life, still waiting for the appearance and openings of the life. A few steps, fetched in the life and power of God, are much safer and sweeter than a hasty progress in the hasty, forward spirit.

         The Inward Journey of Isaac Penington (sic) ed. by Robert Leach (Pendle Hill Pamphlet #29, p. 28.) and also contained in extracts from an article entitled, " Some Directions to the Panting Soul," taken from Isaac Pennington's The Light Within and Selected Writings; Published by The Tract Association of Friends.

      This remarkably lucid expression of a pathway toward spirituality and peace of mind was written (Penned?) over 350 years ago by the Quaker writer, Isaac Pennington, the father-in-law of William Penn.   It is quite amazing to read his words, absorb their simple message and realize that Isaac Pennington asked himself the same spiritual questions that we find ourselves asking today. His answers are illuminations of love, compassion and wisdom about how to live more joyful lives, how to recognize and honor the divine spirit within each of us, (an even more heretical thought then than now,) and how to create harmony within our interactions with others.

      This presentation of Isaac Pennington's journey is not intended as a proselytization toward religion or religiosity, which I abhor. Rather, I believe his ancient writings are much the opposite. Isaac Pennington was born in 1616, and lived throughout much of the most terrible conflict in British history, the British Civil War. His father was a Puritan, a member of the House of Lords, and sat in that Parliament which condemned the British monarch Charles I to death. The 17th century era that produced the kindly person and compassionate spirit of Isaac was certainly as filled with as much warmongering, hatefulness and madness as we have lived through in our own 20th century, yet he chose a journey that diverged from that worldly chaos, and instead, created a personal environment of love and peace.

      Isaac Pennington's writings and his very life are celebrations of the individual spirit. He urges acceptance of what is real around us, but tells us always to remember that even if the chaotic noise of the world swirls around us, we have the absolute right, as well as the responsibility and obligation, to walk pathways that honor our individual choices. For nothing more than upholding his personal beliefs, Isaac Pennington was repeatedly maligned and jailed.   Like many other Quakers, he was notoriously harassed and persecuted for daring to practice what he preached, and sometimes just for the preaching itself.

His was an exceedingly joyous spirit.  Maria Webb's  book, "The Penns and Penningtons," has segments from family letters and other writings, portraying clearly the depth of his joy in life, and the great love he had for his wife and family.  His emotions leap from the page, for instance, in the following letter to his wife.  From his own words, we can literally see him in bed with his son Bill, teasing and delighted with his young child, and concerned about his wife.  [Maria Webb notes it was addressed to William Penington, Merchant, for M. P. (Mary Pennington.)  Mary Pennington suffered from internal pain and seems to have gone to London for medical advice, accompanied by her daughter Gulielma (later to become the wife of William Penn).]:

                                                                                            19th of First Month, 1667
"My dear love, whom my heart is still with, and whose happiness and full content is my great desire and delight.
    "Leaving thee in so doubtful a condition, and there being such an earnestness in my mind to hear how it was with thee, it was pretty hard to me to miss of a letter from thee on the Third-day.  Thomas Ellwood had one from W. P. on the Fourth-day, wherein there was very good and welcome news concerning thy health.
    [He here conveys some political news, which I omit.]
    "Yesterday I saw thy boy Ned at (name illegible) looking very well and fresh, if not too well; I mean, too fat.  Bill and all thy children are well.  Bill expects thy coming home at night.  I bid him write to thee to come home; but he said no, he would go to London to thee.  I said, 'If thou canst not get quiet, father will get all thy love from thee;' for he was exceedingly loving to me this morning in bed.  He said, 'No! no! must not get all the love from mother.'  My natural love makes me express these things, yet not without some fear lest I should be instrumental to draw thy mind too much into that nature which I myself want to be daily further and further drawn out of.
    "My dear love is to thee, and to my dear Guli, and to my dear S. W.  Mind it also to S. H. and J. B., and W. and S. B., and brother Daniel and his wife and to the Pagetts, if thou see them, -- [He sends love to others, which I omit.]
    "My dear, that the Lord may lead us more and more into His precious life, and under His holy power, and into the grace of and subjection to His pure truth, that therein we may live to Him, and feel the daily change more and more into His holy image!
    "Thine in all dearness, truth, and love,
                                                                                        "I. P.
    "P. S. -- Thomas Ellwood desires me to mind his love to thee and Guli Springett.
    "My soul hath been poured out, my dear, in prayer for thy health and case, if the Lord might see good; and for His doing thee good by the pain wherewith thou art afflited; and for thy growth and prosperity in His truth.  I also desire of the Lord prudence and wisdom to guide me towards my children."

    After only a two month release from jail, this gentle good man was shortly thereafter imprisoned once again, and his delicate heath was so seriously damaged it was thought he would not survive.  However, he continued to write, not only of his convictions, but also in support of the cause of Quakers and Quakerism.  Isaac and Mary were persecuted and harassed publicly and privately.  Unscrupulous persons, finding the pair would not swear an oath in court, did not repay loans, and some of Mary's relatives were able to deprive her of some of her estates through lawsuits which the Penningtons would not answer.  The following is an example of a letter written on behalf of himself and his friends, to the Magistrates who were striving to crush out Quakerism by persecution:

    "Why do ye persecute and afflict a man who desireth to live in the love and peace of God towards you?  Will nothing satisfy you unless I deny the Lord whom I have sought and have been acquainted with from my childhood, and whose favour and presence I cannot but value above all things?  God appeareth not in outward shapes or voices, but in His truth revealed in the hearts and consciences of them that feat Him and wait upon Him; and he that denieth subjection to any manifestation in the pure light revealed there denieth God, and shall be denied of Him; this I dare not run the hazard of, through fear of any man.  Ye are men -- great men, many of you -- but I know God to be greater, and that His Power and authority over me is greater than yours; and therefore I am not to be blamed for yielding subjection to Him in the first place.
    "O! think what ye are doing.  Oh! that ye would yet consider!  Can poor worm man contend against his Maker and prosper?  Alas!  what are we?  But if the Lord our God hath appeared to us, and in us, and ye in that respect are offended, and make war with us, do ye not thus contend against God?  What will be the end of these things? and what are ye bringing this poor nation and yourselves unto?  For of a truth God is righteous, and what ye have sown in the day of your power that ye must reap in the day of His righteous judgement; all the sufferings, oppressions, and cries of the innocent will then come upon you in  full weight and measure, unless ye repent and change your ways.
    "I write this in love, tenderness, and good will as the Lord knoweth, however ye may interpret it; and, after all my sufferings from you, I could freely lay down my life for your sakes, if it were the will of God thus to do you good.
    "I have been and still am a patient sufferer for well-doing, blessing the Lord who redeemeth and preserveth the souls of His children out of evil-doing, and who bringeth His indignation and wrath, and with great perplexity and misery, upon nations, and upon persons who set themselves in opposition to Him.  Read  Is. xxiv. and Rom. ii. 2,9; and fear before Him, for it is good for man to be abased, and to be found in true fear before his Maker.
                                                                                             I. P.
"Aylesbury, 23, 4th mo. 1666. "

Isaac Pennington's Family History This includes a chart prepared around 1900, on file at the Delaware State Archives
 

Isaac Pennington's American Descendants This was written by Frank Leach, in the early 20th century, and is a nice summary of the Pennington Family, reflecting our Cousin Jim Cookman's ancestry..
 

LINKS:
British Monarchy from 1485 to Present: http://www.stg.brown.edu/projects/hypertext/landow/victorian/history/kings.html

Oliver Cromwell http://www.stg.brown.edu/projects/hypertext/landow/victorian/history/Cromwell.html

P. D. Sippel's Pages which include wonderful collections of Quaker writings, including Isaac Pennington, his step-daughter Gulielma Springett Penn, Margaret Fell Fox and William Penn, and does not have any proselytizing (!) Thank God! as others do. http://people.delphi.com/pdsippel/index.html

Guilford College Friends http://www.guilford.edu/LibraryArt/fhc.htm

Quaker Corner:  Quaker Corner is devoted to information about Friends The URL: https://sites.rootsweb.com/~quakers/index.htm
 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

The Penns and Penningtons Maria Webb, published 1881 by Henry Longstreth, Philadelphia

Immigration of the Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania: 1682-1750 - Albert Cook Myers. (Keep in mind that these Quakers may not have been Irish, but living in Ireland -- ) It is extensive, from the history in Great Britain to the Philadelphia perimeter, including NJ, DE and MD.

Pennington Pedigrees, Volume  Five, #1, p. 61-64; 1975 Pennington Personalities, -- Isaac Pennington - The Quaker, 1616 -1679) by Mae Pennington of Kansas City, Mo.

Isaac Pennington's Family History This includes a chart prepared around 1900, on file at the Delaware State Archives
 

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