My friend Vail Palmer recently recommended to me to read Isaac Pennington’s book of letters. While I was at George Fox University this week for a conference on discernment and leadership I took the chance to visit the Quaker collection there and borrow the Pennington collection. This is the letter I’ve read multiple times this week and in a variety of settings. I love the entire thing, but the line about “helping one another up with a tender hand” has been the most powerful challenge to me this week.
TO FRIENDS IN AMERSHAM
Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand, if there has been any slip or fall; and waiting till the Lord gives sense and repentance, if sense and repentance in any be wanting. Oh! wait to feel this spirit, and to be guided to walk in this spirit, that ye may enjoy the Lord in sweetness, and walk sweetly, meekly, tenderly, peaceably, and lovingly one with another. And then, ye will be a praise to the Lord; and any thing that is, or hath been, or may be, amiss, ye will come over in the true dominion, even in the Lamb’s dominion; and that which is contrary shall be trampled upon, as life rises and rules in you. So watch your hearts and ways; and watch one over another, in that which is gentle and tender, and knows it can neither preserve itself, nor help another out of the snare; but the Lord must be waited upon, to do this in and for us all. So mind Truth, the service, enjoyment, and possession of it in your hearts; and so to walk, as ye may bring no disgrace upon it, but may be a good savor in the places where ye live, the meek, innocent, tender, righteous life reigning in you, governing over you, and shining through you, in the eyes of all with whom ye converse.
Your Friend in the Truth, and a desirer of your welfare and prosperity therein.
Aylesbury, 4th of Third Month, 1667