Chapter 19 » 19.15
A gathered people
Isaac and Mary Penington were friends of the Ellwood family and Thomas Ellwood (1639–1713) first experienced Quaker worship at their home. He here describes his second meeting for worship:
I had a desire to go to another meeting of the Quakers, and bid my father’s man inquire if there was any in the country thereabouts. He thereupon told me he had heard at Isaac Penington’s that there was to be a meeting at High Wycombe on Thursday next. Thither therefore I went, though it was seven miles from me, and, that I might be rather thought to go out a-coursing than to a meeting, I let my greyhound run by my horse-side. Being come to the house … I saw the people sitting together in an outer room, wherefore I stept in and sat down on the first void seat, the end of a bench just within the door, having my sword by my side and black clothes on, which drew some eyes upon me. It was not long ere one stood up and spake, whom I was afterwards well acquainted with (his name was Samuel Thornton), and what he spake was very suitable and of good service to me; for it reached home, as if it had been directed to me.
As soon as ever the meeting was ended and the people began to rise, I, being next the door, stept out quickly and, hastening to my inn, took horse immediately homewards; and, so far as I remember, my having been gone was not taken notice of by my father.
This latter meeting was like the clinching of a nail, confirming and fastening in my mind those good principles which had sunk into me at the former… And now I saw that, although I had been in a great degree preserved from the common immoralities and gross pollutions of the world, yet the spirit of the world had hitherto ruled in me and led me into pride, flattery, vanity and superfluity, all which was naught. I found there were many plants growing in me which were not of the Heavenly Father’s planting, and that all these, of whatever sort or kind they were or how specious soever they might appear, must be plucked up.
Now also did I receive a new law, an inward law superadded to the outward – the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus – which wrought in me against all evil, not only in deed and in word, but even in thought also, so that everything was brought to judgment and judgment passed upon them all. So that I could not any longer go on in my former ways and course of life, for when I did judgment took hold upon me for it.
So that here began to be a way cast up before me to walk in, a direct and plain way, so plain that a wayfaring man how weak and simple soever … could not err while he continued to walk in it; the error coming by his going out of it. And this way, with respect to me, I saw was that measure of Divine Light which was manifested in me, by which the evil of my doings, which I was to put away and to cease from, was discovered to me.