Tuesday, December 6, 2011

William Penn (1644 - 1718)

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, was the son of Admiral William Penn of the British Navy. Admiral Penn was the British officer who discovered the island of Bermuda. He also helped to strengthen King Charles II's throne in England.

Penn was a student at Oxford University and studied law. Thomas Loe preached a sermon which profoundly affected the young twenty-two year old Penn. The title of the sermon which touched Penn's heart was “The Sandy Foundation Shaken.”

William Penn broke his father's heart by giving up a brilliant future when he became a Quaker and converted to the Christian truths he found in the Society of Friends.  At that time, the Quakers were the object of ridicule and scorn throughout England.

The proclamation which follows is from his Treatise on the Religion of the Quakers:

“I do declare to the whole world that we believe the Scriptures to contain a declaration of the mind and will of God in and to those ages in which they were written; being given forth by the Holy Ghost moving in the hearts of holy men of God' that they ought also to be read, believed, and fulfilled in our day; being used for reproof and instruction, that the man of God may be perfect. They are a declaration and testimony of heavenly things themselves, and, as such, we carry a high respect for them. We accept them as the words of God Himself.”

William Penn became a Quaker preacher and author who suffered imprisonment over three times for the faith he had in Jesus Christ. Penn was imprisoned in the Tower of London for eight months. At this time of imprisonment, Penn wrote his treatise “No Cross, No Crown.”

“No Pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown...”

“Christ's cross is Christ's way to Christ's crown. This is the subject of the following discourse, first written during my confinement in the Tower of London in the year of 1668, now reprinted with great enlargement of matter and testimonies, that thou mayest be won to Christ, or if won already, brought near to Him. It is a path which God in his everlasting kindness guided my feet into, in the flower of my youth, when about two and twenty years of age."

"He took me by the hand and led me out of the pleasures, vanities, and hopes of the world. I have tasted of Christ's judgments, and of his mercies, and of the world's frowns and reproaches. I rejoice in my experience, and dedicate it to thy service in Christ..."

"The unmortified Christian and the heathen are of the same religion, and the deity they truly worship is the god of this world. What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear? And how shall we pass away our time? Which way may we gather and perpetuate our names and families in the earth? It is a mournful reflection, but a truth which will not be denied, that these worldly lusts fill up a great part of the study, care and conversation of Christendom."

“The false notion that they may be children of God while in a state of disobedience to this holy commandments, and disciples of Jesus though they revolt from his cross, and members of his true church, which is without spot or wrinkle, notwithstanding their lives are full of spots and wrinkles, is of all other deceptions upon themselves the most pernicious to their eternal condition for they are at peace in sin and under a security in their transgression."

Furthermore, he admonishes one to:

“Read my “No Cross, No Crown.” There is instruction. Make your conversation with the most eminent for wisdom and piety, and shun all wicked men as you hope for the blessing of God and the comfort of your father's living and dying prayers. Be sure you speak evil of none, not of the meanest, much less of your superiors as magistrates, guardians, teachers, and elders in Christ.”

George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, was accompanied by William Penn who traveled and preached with Fox. During their travels, Penn became acquainted with other Quakers and Christians of various denominations who desired to worship God in the own ways.

William Penn records in his work Travels in Holland and Germany:

“As I have been traveling, the great work of Christ in the earth has often been presented to my view, and the day of the Lord hath been deeply impressed upon me, and my soul and spirit hath frequently been possessed with an holy and weighty concern for the glory and name of the Lord and the spreading of his everlasting truth.”

Penn's father had been a courageous office in the King's Navy and upon his death; King Charles owed him a very large amount of money. King Charles chose to repay the debt with a land grand in America since he was short on finances.

William Penn, as heir of his father's estates, received a grant from King Charles II in 1681. All of the land between Maryland and New York was granted to Penn as payment for the debt. In the year that followed; William Penn received from the Duke of York, the region of land which is now the State of Delaware.

Penn planned on naming the territory Sylvania which means 'woodland'  but King Charles changed the name to Pennsylvania. Since the Society of Friends were those people who helped to establish the state, Pennsylvania became known as The Quaker State.

The quotation which follows is from a letter Penn wrote to a friend on January 1, 1681:

“Make and establish such laws as shall best preserve true Christian and civil liberty, in all opposition to all unchristian....practices.”

“I eyed the Lord in obtaining it and more was I drawn inward to look to Him, and to owe it to His hand and power than to any other way. I have so obtained it, and desire to keep it that I may not be unworthy of His love. God that has given it to me through many difficulties, will, I believe, bless and make it the seed of a nation.”

William Penn desired to make friends of the Indians who inhabited the region where he sought to establish his colony. Among his first acts was to establish friendship with the Indians and insisted on purchasing the land from them. His colony was never attacked by the Indians according to historical records for he sought to be just and fair in dealing with the Indians.

He wrote to this letter to the Indians on August 18, 1681 before coming to the colony:

“My friends: 
There is one great God and Power that hath made the world and all things therein, to whom you and I and all people owe their being and well-being, and to whom you and I must one day give an account for all that we doe in the world; This great God hath written His law in our hearts by which we are taught and commanded to love and help and doe good to one another and not to doe harm and mischief one unto another... 
“Now this great God hath pleased to make me concerned in my parts of the world, and the king of the country where I live, hath given unto me a great province therein, but I desire to enjoy it with your love and consent, that we may always live together as neighbors and friends, else what would the great God say to us, who hath made us not to devour and destroy one another, but to live soberly and kindly together in the world... 
I have great love and regard toward you, and I desire to gain your love and friendship by a kind, just and peaceable life, and the people I send are of the same mind, and shall in all things behave themselves accordingly... 
I shall shortly come to you myself at which time we may more freely and largely confer and discourse of these matters. Receive those presents and tokens which I have sent to you as a testimony to my goodwill to you and my resolution to live justly, peaceably and friendly with you. 
I am your loving friend, William Penn.

The famous Frame of Government for his new colony was written on April 25, 1682. Penn's wisdom expressed in the charter profoundly influenced the charters of the other colonies. His Frame of Government was to establish: 

“...laws as shall best preserve true Christian and civil liberty in opposition to all unchristian licentious and unjust practices, whereby God may have his due, Caesar his due, and the people their due...”
“The originator and descent of all human power [is] from God.. first, to terrify evil doers; secondly, to cherish those who do well..."
"Government seems to me to be a part of religion itself – a thing sacred in its institutions and ends..." 
"Government, like clocks, go from the motion men give them; and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments. Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it will be ill, they will cure it...” 
"That, therefore, which makes a good constitution must keep it, - namely men of wisdom and virtue, - qualities that, because they descend not with worldly inheritance, must be carefully propagated by a virtuous education of youth." 
"[It is therefore enacted] that all persons...having children...shall cause such to be instructed in reading and writing, so that they may be able to read the Scriptures and to write by the time they attain to 12 years of age.”

As a Quaker, Penn experienced a great deal of persecution for his faith. He sought to establish a colony as a land of religious freedom which would be tolerant to Christians of every denomination.

William Penn printed broadsides and leaflets in six different languages advertising his colony of religious toleration inviting persecuted Christians across Europe to emigrate to Pennsylvania. Quakers, Mennonites, Moravians, Lutherans, Schwenkfelders, and Dunkards (Church of the Brethren) came to Pennsylvania from Sweden, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany.

He sought to establish a city which he named Philadelphia - “The City of Brotherly Love” where Christians could work together in love. As a devout Quaker, William Penn believed that true religion was not of ceremonial rituals held each Sunday. To him true religion was faith in Christ which was the foundation for a daily walk through life and inspiration.

His Prayer for Philadelphia is inscribed on plaque which is on the wall of Philadelphia City Hall for all to read: Penn delivered his Prayer for Philadelphia in 1684:

“And thou, Philadelphia, the Virgin settlement of this province named before thou wert born, what love, what care, what service and what travail have there been to bring thee forth and preserve thee from such as would abuse and defile thee.” 
“O that thou mayest be kept from the evil that would overwhelm thee. That faithful to the God of thy mercies, in the Light of Righteousness, thou mayest stand in the day of trial, that thy children may be blest of the Lord and thy people saved by His Power.”

William Penn issued his Charter of Privileges in 1701 which he granted to the province of Pennsylvania:

"Almighty God being the only Lord of Conscience...and Author as well as object of all Divine Knowledge, faith and worship, who only doth enlighten the minds and persuade and convince the understanding of people, I do here by grant and declare: 
All persons living in this province, who confess and acknowledge the One Almighty and Eternal God to be the Creator, Upholder, and Ruler of the world, and that hold themselves obliged in conscience to live peaceably and justly in civil society, shall in no wise be molested or prejudices for their religious persuasion or practice. 
And that all persons who also profess to believe in Jesus Christ the Savior of the World, shall be capable to serve this government in any capacity, both legislatively or executively.

No people can be truly happy, though under the greatest employment of civil liberties, if abridged of ...their religious profession and worship."

William Penn believed that true godliness enabled men to live better lives in the world seeking to mend a broken world.

“True Godliness doesn't turn men out of the World, but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavors to mend it.”

He wrote to Peter the Great, Czar of Russia:

“If thou wouldst rule well, thou must rule for God, and to do that thou must be ruled by him...Those who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.”

Not knowing if he would ever see his wife and children again, William Penn wrote:

My dear Wife and Children: 
My love, which neither sea nor land nor death itself can extinguish or lessen toward you, most endearly visits you with eternal embraces, and will abide with you forever; and may the God of my life watch over you and bless you, and do good in this world and forever! 
Some things are upon my spirit to leave with you in your respective capacities, as I am to the one a husband and to the rest a father, if I should never see you more in this world. 
My dear wife, remember thou wast the love of my youth and much the joy of my life; the most beloved as well as the most worthy of all my earthly comforts; and the reason of that love was more thy inward then thy outward excellencies, which yet were many. 
God knows, and thou knowest it, I can say it was a match of Providence's making and God's image in us both was the first thing, and the most amiable and engaging ornament in our eyes. Now I am to leave thee, and that without knowing whether I shall ever see thee more in this world; take my counsel into thy bosom and let it dwell with thee in my stead while thou livest. 
First: Let the fear of the Lord and a zeal and love to his glory dwell richly in thy heart; and thou wilt watch for good over thyself and thy dear children and family, that no rude, light, or bad thing be committed; else God will be offended, and He will repent Himself of the good He intends thee and thine...” 
And now, my dearest, let me recommend to thy care my dear children; abundantly beloved of me as the Lord's blessing, and the sweet pledges of our mutual and endeared affection. Above all things endeavor to breed them up in the love and virtue, and that holy plain way of it which we have lived in, that the world in no part of it get into my family. 
I had rather they were homely than finely bred as to outward behavior; yet I love sweetness mixed with gravity and cheerfulness tempered with sobriety. Religion in the heart leads into this true civility, teaching men and women to be mild and courteous in their behavior, an accomplishment worthy indeed of praise.”

On title page of his Book of Psalms, William Penn wrote:

"Set forth and allowed to be sung in all churches, of all the people together, before and after morning and evening prayer, and moreover in private houses for their godly solace and comfort, laying apart all ungodly songs and ballads: which tend only to the nourishing of vice and corruption of youth.”

In his sermon “A Summons or call to Christendom – In an earnest expostulation with her to prepare for the Great and Notable Day of the Lord that is at the Door” William Penn declared:

“For in Jesus Christ, the light of the world, are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; redemption and glory; they are hid from the worldly Christian, from all that are captivated by the spirit and lusts of the world: and whoever would see them (for therein consists the things that belong to their eternal peace) must come to Christ Jesus the true light in their consciences, bringing their deeds to Him, love Him and obey Him; whom God hath ordained a light to lighten the Gentiles and for His salvation to the ends of the earth.”

The 1819, Biographical Review of London described William Penn:

"[William Penn] Established an absolute toleration; it was his wish that every man who believed in God should partake of the rights of a citizen; and that every man who adored Him as a Christian, of whatever sect he might be, should be a partaker in authority.”

William Penn's wisdom was “derived from the book of the gospel statutes.” He recognized the basis of good government as Christian character.

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