Chapter 19 » 19.13

A gathered people

From the north the new movement had in 1654 spread to London and the south. Among the converts were Mary Penington (1625?–1682), widow of Sir William Springett. Before she had heard of Quakers she had been uneasy about having her infant daughter ‘sprinkled’. In 1654 she married Isaac Penington, and they found peace in worship with Friends, though still ‘exercised against taking up the cross to the language, fashions, customs, titles, honour, and esteem in the world’. We know of her feelings from her Experiences, which she compiled between 1660 and 1680:

My relations made this cross very heavy; but as at length I happily gave up, divested of reasonings, not consulting how to provide for the flesh, I received the strength to attend the meetings of these despised people which I never intended to meddle with, but found truly of the Lord, and my heart owned them. I longed to be one of them, and minded not the cost or pain; but judged it would be well worth my utmost cost and pain to witness such a change as I saw in them – such power over their corruptions. I had heard objected against them, that they wrought not miracles; but I said that they did great miracles, in that they turned them that were in the world and the fellowship of it, from all such things. Thus, by taking up the cross, I received strength against many things which I had thought impossible to deny; but many tears did I shed, and bitterness of soul did I experience, before I came thither; and often cried out: ‘I shall one day fall by the overpowering of the enemy’. But oh! the joy that filled my soul in the first meeting ever held in our house at Chalfont. To this day I have a fresh remembrance of it. It was then the Lord enabled me to worship him in that which was undoubtedly his own, and give up my whole strength, yea, to swim in the life which overcame me that day. Oh! long had I desired to worship him with acceptation, and lift up my hands without doubting, which I witnessed that day in that assembly. I acknowledged his great mercy and wonderful kindness; for I could say, ‘This is it which I have longed and waited for, and feared I never should have experienced’.

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