Penington, Isaac

, a writer of considerable estimation among the people called Quakers, was the son of an alderman of London during Cromwell’s time, who was lord mayor in 1642, and appointed one of the judges on the trial of the king. For this he was at the restoration prosecuted, and died in the Tower. Isaac the son, was born about 1617, and in his education is said to have had the advantages which the schools and universities of his country could give; but what school or university had the honour of his education, is not mentioned. From his father’s station, we are told, he had a reasonable prospect of rising in the world, but chose a life devoted to religion and | retirement; and, as he has himself said, received impressions of piety from his childhood. He is represented by himself and his sect, as one who passed much of the early part of his life in a state of spiritual affliction, perceiving in himself, and in the world at large, a want of that vital religion and communion with the divine nature, which he believed the holy men of ancient time to have possessed. Whatever he read in the Scripture, as opened to his understanding, he determined fully to practise, and was contented to bear the reproach, opposition, and suffering which it occasioned. It appears also, that he met with opposition from his relations, and, among the rest, from his father; but he declares that his heart was preserved in love to them amidst all he suffered from them. On his first hearing of the Quakers, he thought them a poor, weak, and contemptible people, although, while his judgment seemed to reject them, the conferences which he occasionally had with them, seemed to increase his secret attachment. At length, in 1658, he became fully satisfied respecting them, partly through the preaching of George Fox; and became himself an unshaken and constant asserter of their peculiar tenets, as a minister and author.

He married about 1648 Mary Springett, a widow, whose daughter, by her former husband, became the wife of William Penn. He resided on his own estate, called the Grange, at Chalfont, in Buckinghamshire. It does not appear that he travelled much as a minister; for of six imprisonments which he suffered, during the reign of Charles II. five were in his own county. The first was in 1661, when the nation was alarmed on account of the fifth monarchy men, which occasioned much disturbance to the meetings of Dissenters. He was taken from a meeting in his own family, and committed to Aylesbury gaol, where, although a weakly man, he was kept for seventeen weeks (great part of which was in winter) in a cold room without a fire-place, by which means he became unable to turn himself in bed. In 1664, he was again taken out of a meeting, and remained a second time prisoner in the same gaol for nearly the same time. In 1665, he was taken up at Amersham as he was attending the corpse of a friend to the burial-ground of the Quakers. The concourse of that people who walked after it in the street, seems to have been construed into a conventicle, for he was committed to Aylesbury gaol for one month only, on the | Conventicle Act, in order to banishment. It is remarkable that the justice, because it was not then convenient to end him from Amersham to Aylesbury, dismissed him on his word to come iigain the next day but one, when he accordingly casne, and was committed: as did on the samft occasion several other Quakers. The same year he was arrested in his house by a soldier without a warrant, and carried before a deputy-lieutenant, by whom he was again sent to his old quarters at Aylesbury; and, though the pestilence was suspected to be in the gaol, and no crime was laid to his charge, he was kept there till a person died of it. After about nine months’ confinement he was discharged; but when he had been at home about three weeks, a party of soldiers came and seized him in bed, carrying him again to prison at Aylesbury. The cold, damp, and unhealthiness of the room, again gave him a fit of illness, which lasted some months. At length he was brought by Habeas Corpus to the bar of the King’s-bench, and (with the wonder of the court that a man should be so long imprisoned for nothing) he was discharged in 1668. During one of these imprisonments his estate was seized, and his wife and family turned out of his house.

In 1670, he was imprisoned a sixth time. He was visiting some of Ins friends, confined at that time in Readinggaol; on which he was taken before a justice and confined there himself. Kllwood relates, that during this confinement, which lasted a year and nine months, he incurred a premunire, as did many of the Quakers. For being from time to time examined at the assizes, it was common to tender them the o;tli of allegiance, which they refusing, from their scruple to swear at all, they became criminals in the view of \[\e law when they went out of court, however innocent they might have been on their coming in. It seems probable, that the political principles of the father had some share in occasioning the sufferings of the son; v\ho, from his writings, appears to have been of a meek and quiet spirit. He died at Goodnestone-courr, Sussex, in 1679, being about sixty-three years of age. Ell wood says, that his disposition was courteous and affable his ordinary discourse cheerful and pleasant, neither morose nor light, but innocently sweet, and tempered wuh such a serious gravity, as rendered his conversation both delightful and profitable. His numerous writings were collected into one volume folio, and published 1681; | afterwards reprinted in two volumes 4to, and next in 4 vols. 8vo. Some select pieces have also been reprinted, and lately, some of his letters, 1796, in octavo; many of them, are dated from Aylesbury. They breathe a spirit of genuine philanthropy, but, being deeply tinctured with mysticism, have been more sought for by such as are fond of that species of writing, than by other readers. 1


Perm’s and Ellwood’s Testimonies, prefixed to his works.