Sunday, January 10, 2010

Deliverance, Comfort, Safety, and Sure-Hope

John Penry (1559-1593) is Wales' most famous Christian martyr. He labored to preach the gospel to his fellow Welshmen, and was thought by Anglican authorities to be the author of the Martin Marprelate tracts, although modern scholarship leans towards identifying Job Throckmorton as the primary author. He died convicted of sedition for private, unpublished papers that were found in his possession, and was speedily executed, without being permitted to see his family, on the afternoon May 29, 1593. No bell was tolled for him, and his burial place is unknown. For a good biography of his life, I recommend reading John Waddington, John Penry: Pilgrim Martyr, 1559-1593; for a fascinating dramatic presentation of his final years, consider reading I.D.E. Thomas (himself a Welshman), God's Outsider: John Penri: a Puritan Martyr: a play.

As he told his young daughters in a letter, he had no patrimony or dowry for them, except a Bible for each of them. Few men have left a better legacy behind to their families though. His wife was named Helen or Eleanor (authorities differ) Godly (yes that was her maiden name), and his daughters were named Deliverance (thought to be so named because she was born soon after the English victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588), Comfort, Safety and Sure-Hope. He wrote letters to his wife and daughters from his prison cell before he died. What follows is the letter he wrote to his young daughters.

To my Daughters when they come to years of discretion and understanding :—

My dear and tenderly beloved daughters:— Deliverance, comfort, safety, and sure hope. The God of Heaven, who is my God and your's, in Jesus Christ, our strong Redeemer, bless you, both bodies and souls, with the saving grace of His Spirit, even for ever and ever; and grant, that to my eternal comfort, I may meet with you in the kingdom of heaven. Give ear now unto my counsel, which, in the name of my God, I, your father—now in bonds for the testimony of Jesus Christ—give unto you; and be sure to keep the same, that the blessing of the Lord may be upon you for evermore. First, know the God of your father and serve Him even in all those duties which He requireth of you in His blessed written word. You must search for all His commandments, and practice them all. Remember, and believe assuredly, that salvation is perfectly to be had by Jesus Christ and none other. If you will be partakers of this salvation, you must assuredly believe all your sins to be forgiven you, for His sake. If you do this, oh ! blessed shall your reward be in the kingdom of heaven. You shall live there in all joy with Jesus Christ; His blessed angels and saints, with me also, your father in this life. Whereas, otherways, you shall never see me, to your comfort, in that blessed life, whereof your poor mother and I am, by the mercies of God, most undoubtedly assured. Nay, you shall be everlastingly cast forth from the presence of God, who is most fearful. Great troubles you are likely to see and sustain for the truth of God ; but a blessed issue thereof shall you have if you continue to the end.

The troubles shall be, as now they are, about matters which they would, by the great subtilty of Satan, account but small—yea, trifling. Such as the mingling of the sincerity of Christ's truth, with the subverting of the same, unto the polluted institutions and ceremonies of Antichrist; and thus, as the serpent beguiled Eve with her subtilty, the minds of men, in this age, are corrupt from the simplicity that is in Christ. But, my daughters, take you heed of this. Have you nothing to do with the ordinances and inventions of Antichrist's kingdom, as are retained — such as Lord Archbishops, Archdeacons, Chancellors, Canons, Prebends, Spiritual Courts, and the mingling of the clean and unclean. For these, and such like, were added, as mere inventions of Satan, unto Christ's holy Word since the mystery of iniquity began to work.f Of such inventions, mingled with the truth, doth the Man of Sin consist. Now, my daughters, you and all others, the members of Christ, are bound not to have any fellowship with the ordinances of such abomination.

If it be so that we have no lawful use of the ceremonies of Moses' law, which were sometime the Lord's own sacred ordinances, ordained by His faithful servant, how can we have any communion with the most fearful constitutions of the kingdom of Antichrist, the great enemy of Jesus Christ? No, no, my daughters. Christ Jesus, by His death, hath freed us from all legal and spiritual antichristian bondage, and He hath redeemed us to walk in His sacred ways and ordinances. I charge you, then, my beloved, to be subject unto all that holy order which Christ Jesus hath appointed for the ruling of His church and members here upon earth; for we must walk in Christ Jesus as we have received Him. Now, if you suffer as you ought to suffer, either for submitting yourselves unto and labouring to enjoy those holy ways of Christ, or in refusing to be servants of corruptions, then the Lord will acknowledge you to be His before His Father and His holy presence; and happy will it be that ever I was your father on earth. Whereas, on the other side, you shall think it hard condition to suffer with Christ, and be offended at Him, then woe is me, that the doom of the wicked is provided for you.

Wherefore, again, my daughters, even my tenderly beloved daughters, regard not the world nor anything that is therein. Look only upon the durable crown of reward that lasteth for ever more, which the Lord Jesus offereth unto you, and unto all, if you suffer with them. I, your father, you have as a witness before you in the enduring for these six years past some part of these sufferings. Your mother hath been joyfully partaker with me of them. Ever since the Lord joined me and her together, all of you have been born in this time of your mother's testimony and mine; wherefore, I am in good hope that the Lord will give you grace to follow us, your poor parents, in that which is acceptable in His sight.

In other things, for the direction of your private lives, I refer you to your mother, who hath been a most faithful sister and comfortable yoke-fellow to me in all my trials and sufferings, and, for your comfort and mine, hath taken bitter journeys by sea and land.

Repay her, then, by your dutifulness and obedience, some part of that kindness which (one may be sure) you owe unto her. Be obedient to her in word and in deed, and miss not to be the staff of her age, who is now the only stay and support that is left unto you in your youth and infancy. I now leave four of you upon her, having nothing to speak of to leave her and you, save only that everlasting and durable fountain of the Lord's blessed providence and promises; who relieveth the fatherless and the widow.

The eldest of you is not yet four years old, and the youngest not four months, and therefore, every way, shall you be indebted to that mother who will think it no intolerable burden to bear, and take the care of you all.

Be willing, therefore, under her hand, to undergo any labour and travail. Be ruled, in all things, by her direction; especially in the bestowing of yourselves, if the Lord will ever grant you the favour to enter into the holy estate of matrimony. If she will place you in any service, think not honest labour too mean for you, nor wholesome diet too hard, nor clothing that may cover you and keep you warm over base for you; but bless God that He provideth you food and raiment. By reason of the iniquity of that antichristian kingdom, I could not make, as I was willing, any provision for you; yet I am assured, that my God, in whose service I am now employed against Babel and her daughters, will exceedingly provide for your mother and you; and when you shall find that the Lord doth this, according to His blessed promises made unto me, your poor father, I charge you that you profess and acknowledge this favour of His before all the world, if need so require; saying, the loving kindness of the Lord is for ever upon those that fear Him; and the truth of His promises upon His children's children, of them that keep His commandments and remember His ordinances to do them. Whatsoever becometh of you in outward regard, keep yourselves in this poor church, where I leave you, or in some other holy society of the saints. I doubt not but my God will stir up many of His children to shew kindness unto my faithful sister and wife, your mother; and also unto you, even for my sake. Although you should be brought up in never so hard service, yet, my dear children, learn to read, that you may be conversant, day and night, in the word of the Lord. If your mother be able to keep you together, I doubt not but you shall learn both to write and read by her means. / have left you four Bibles, each of you one; being the sole and only patrimony or dowry that I have for you. I beseech you, and charge you, not only to keep them, but to read in them day and night; and before you read, and also, in and after reading, be earnest in prayer and meditation, that you may undci stand and perform the good way of your God. Frequent the holy exercises and meetings of the saints in any case; for there is the Lord most powerful in the holy ministry of His word; and you must remember that the Lord regardeth, loveth, and blesseth the public worship more than any private exercise of religion whatsoever.

Frame yourselves to be humble, lowly, meek, and patient toward all men. Reward no man evil for evil, either in word or in deed, but overcome evil with goodness ; f with patience, modesty, and sobriety. Above all things, shew yourselves loving and kind unto all the saints of God; being ready to lay down your lives to do good unto the Lord's poor church, and members here upon earth. Whatsoever you have, bestow somewhat thereof for the relief of the church. Diminish from your diet and apparel, that you may bestow the same upon the church, and members of Christ, for the maintenance of the true worship and service of God among them. If you live in abundance, see that the true members of Christ want not. Be always partakers of the afflictions of the Gospel with them.

Labour for true humility; beat down the pride which is naturally in all flesh. Give not yourselves to delight in any vanity of apparel, of words, or gesture. Ever restrain your affections betimes, and acquaint yourselves only with those thoughts that may humble you; work a distaste of that which is earthly, and a longing desire unto the kingdom of heaven.

Shew kindness unto the kindred whereof you are come; both of your father's side and mother's also; but especially, if ever you be able, shew all forwardness in doing good unto my people and kindred in the flesh.

The Welsh nation, now for many hundred years past have been under the Lord's rod; but I trust the time is come wherein He will shew mercy unto them, by causing the true light of the Gospel to shine among them; and, my good daughters, pray you earnestly unto the Lord—when you come to know what prayer is—for this; and be always ready to shew yourselves helpful unto the least child of that poor country, that shall stand in need of your loving support; in any case, repay the kindness, if you be able, which I owe unto my nearest kindred there ; as to my mother, brethren and sisters, &c., whom I am persuaded will be most kind towards you and your mother, unto their ability, even for my sake; and be an especial comfort, in my stead, unto the grey hairs of my poor mother, whom the Lord used as the only means of my stay for me in the beginning of my studies, whereby I have come unto the knowledge of that most precious faith in Christ Jesus, in the defence whereof I stand at this present in the great joy of my soul, though in much outward discomfort.

Pray much and often for the prosperous reign and the preservation, body and soul, for her right excellent Majesty, my dread sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, under whose reign I have come unto this blessed knowledge and hope, wherein I stand. The Lord shew mercy unto her for it, both in this life and also in that great day.

Shew yourselves helpful and kind unto all strangers, and unto the people of Scotland, where I, your mother, and a couple of you, lived as strangers, and yet were welcome, and. found great kindness for the name of our God. Be tender-hearted towards the widow and the fatherless; both because the law of God and nature requireth this at your hands, and also because, for ought I know, I am likely to leave you fatherless, and your mother a widow.

Finally, my daughters—grow in all graces of knowledge and godliness in Christ Jesus. Believe and hope firmly in that salvation which is to be had by Him. Suffer affliction with Him in this poor church. Continue in holy fear unto the end ; then shall you and I have a blessed meeting in the great day of His appearance.

Thus have I unburdened my careful soul of some part of that great solicitude which every way I have of you, but especially of your salvation. I have written this in that scarcity of paper, ink, and time, that I could do it no otherwise than first it came into my mind, and set it down; and, therefore, it is neither so full, nor so profitable a counsel, as otherwise, upon better leisure, my God, I trust, would have enabled me to give unto you; but you may take instruction by it, I doubt not (my children), and follow it, that the blessing of God may light not only upon the posterity of Jonadab, the son of Recab, but also upon the children of John Penry, for the obedience that they have yielded unto their father's godly commandment and counsel. Thus while the poor Church of God lieth in ashes, sitting on the ground like a widow stretching out her hand to see if there be any comfort left for her soul, and complaining the spoil of me that was left is brought unto Babel; and the Lord saith, "behold, I will plead thy cause" (Jer. li, 36); whilst I, your poor father, from the bottom of my spirit and soul, am thus ready not only to be imprisoned, but even to die for the name and truth of the Lord Jesus, which I have maintained; and while I acknowledge, with a loud and triumphant voice, that the afflictions of this present life are not worthy of the glory which shall be revealed unto us. I betake you, my dear children, and your loving mother, unto the hands of my most merciful God, and unto your most undoubted and careful Redeemer in Jesus Christ our Lord, whom be blessed for ever and ever. Amen. Amen. Amen.

From close prison, with many tears, and yet in much joy of the Holy Ghost, this 10th of 4th month of April, 1593, your poor father here upon earth, most careful to be joined with you for evermore in the kingdom of Jesus Christ,

John Penry,

A poor witness in this life unto the right of Jesus Christ, and against the abominations of the Roman Babel.

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