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    A Quaker meeting in the eighteenth century, vintage engraving.

    Have a Problem with a Church Member?

    An early Quaker advises a friend on how to handle a conflict between brothers and sisters in the faith.

    By Isaac Penington

    November 13, 2022

    Dear Friend,

    I have heard that thou hast somewhat against W. R. whereupon thou forbearest coming to meetings to his house; which thou oughtest seriously to weigh and consider, that thy path and walking herein may be right and straight before the Lord. Is the thing, or are the things, which thou hast against him, fully so as thou apprehendest? Hast thou seen evil in him, or to break forth from him; and hast thou considered him therein, and dealt with him as if it had been thy own case? Hast thou pitied him, mourned over him, cried to the Lord for him, and in the tender bowels of love and meekness of spirit, laid the thing before him? And if he hath refused to hear thee, hast thou tenderly mentioned it to others, and desired them to go with thee to him; that what is evil and offensive in him might be more weightily and advantageously laid before him, for his humbling, and for his recovery unto that which is a witness and strength against the evil?

    If thou thou hast proceeded thus, thou hast proceeded tenderly and orderly, according to the law of brotherly love, and God’s witness in thy conscience will justify thee therein. But if thou hast let in any hardness of spirit, or hard reasonings against him, or hard resolutions, as relating to him, the witness of God will not justify thee in that.

    Hast thou pitied him, mourned over him, cried to the Lord for him?

    And if at any time hereafter thou hast any thing against others, O learn from that of God in thee to shew bowels of compassion towards them, as the Lord has had pity on thee. And keep to his witness in thy heart. Wait to feel the seed, and to keep thy dwelling therein, that thou mayest abide in the peace and rest thereof, and not depart out of thy habitation, out of the sense of truth; for that will let in temptation upon thee, give the enemy strength against thee, and fill thy soul with anguish and perplexity. So the Lord God of infinite tenderness renew his mercy upon thee, and keep thee in that, wherein his love, life, rest, joy, peace, and unspeakable comfort of his holy spirit (which is able to keep the mind out of all the snares and temptations of that which is unholy) is felt and witnessed, by those who are taught and enabled by him to abide and dwell in that into which he gathered them, and in which he hath pleased to appear unto them.

    This is in the love and tender goodness of the Lord to thee, from thy friend in the truth, and for the truth’s sake,


    13th of 10th Month, 1667

    From Letters of Isaac Penington (London: J. Phillips, 1796), 14–15.

    Contributed By IsaacPenington Isaac Penington

    Isaac Penington (1616–1679), the oldest son of a Lord Mayor of London, became a leader in the Quaker movement founded by his younger contemporary George Fox; shunned by family and friends for his convictions, he was imprisoned six times.

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