Isaac Penington was one of the earliest Quakers, he and his wife Mary were convinced after a long period of seeking, some believe by George Fox himself (I’ve written more about them here). The Peningtons, like many other early Friends, were met with great hostility and hatred by those who professed to be themselves Christians. Isaac was imprisoned no less than seven times and had he and Mary had their entire estate seized because they refused to take an oath of allegience. For early Friends, following Christ was not only about radical sacrifice, but also radical love. That’s what makes this short little excerpt so amazing to me:
The innocent love, which things no ill, nor wishes no ill, much less can do any ill to any; but suffereth long, and is kind, meek, humble, not seeking its own, but the good of others; this love is lost. The love unfeigned is banished; a feigned love, such a love as enmity and violence proceed from, is got in the place of it. The true love loves the enemy, and cannot return enmity for enmity, but seeks the good of them who hate it; but this love can persecute and hate that which it calls the friend, nay, the brother, because of some difference of opinion or practice. The love that was in Christ, taught him to lay down his life for his sheep; and he that hath the same love, can lay down his life for his brother. But the love that is now amongst Christians tends rather to the taking away of life.
Isaac Penington (Some Positions Concerning the Apostasy from the Christian Spirit and Life 1658: 38)