William Penn and Pennsylvania

This is the day that … William Penn died in 1718, at the age of 74.

His father was an Admiral in the British Navy, Admiral Sir William Penn, and so young William enjoyed “the favour of the king … he was admired at court, handsome in person, graceful in manners … expectant heir of a title of nobility …”

And all this he gave up for a life of ridicule and scorn. He was even expelled from Christ Church, Oxford (1661) because he held views no longer in keeping with that of the state church. William Penn had become a disciple of George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends (the Quakers).

Four times he found himself thrown into prison because of his non-conformist (i.e., not belonging to the Church of England) views. He courted trouble not only by street preaching and by means of the printed word (over 100 tracts and booklets came from his pen), but also by the distinctive Quaker attire, and his refusal to remove his hat to anyone – even King Charles!

Eventually Penn and a group of fellow Quakers migrated to America and a 45,000 acre tract of land was granted him by the king. It was called ‘Pennsylvania’, named after William’s father. Young William had inherited great wealth from his father, including a debt owed by King Charles II, which was paid by the grant of land in the New World.

In Pennsylvania the Quakers and Red Indians intermingled without problems for 70 years. “Whilst English and European settlers in neighbouring areas were constantly at war with the Indians, Penn and his company made friends and lived in perfect harmony …” (English Sects, by A. Reynolds, page 159). This achievement was due to Penn’s “Great Treaty” with the Delaware tribe.

It should be pointed out that the Quakers rejected the sacraments and placed more emphasis upon ‘the Light within’ than the Holy Scriptures. (See the post on George Fox on July 19)

Politically, it could well be argued that William Penn’s religious convictions were a primal component of the principles on which the nation of America was to be built.

Further information on William Penn can be found at: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CAP/PENN/pnintro.html

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Nobility by Walking in the Spirit

I have pointed out in earlier posts that Nobility is anchored in our creation. Nobility is attached to things based on their birth or some other special quality. There is no more special origin and quality than to be made in the image of Almighty God. We are Imago Dei – made in the image of God.

Thus we are spirit beings, with profound spiritual significance. Our destiny is to express all that God is by our actions and lifestyle. We are to be like God, who is holy, loving, creative, totally faithful, responsible, forgiving, just, and so on. We must also recognize that we are created by a moral God and placed in a moral universe. We are therefore moral beings, accountable to God for what we do with our lives.

At the same time we are ‘flesh’. This means we are made of natural senses that empower us to engage with the natural world in which we have been placed. Those senses can, of themselves, provide us with delight, in taste, touch, sight, sound and so on. Humans, then, can choose to pursue the delight that human senses provide. When they do that they are now living out of their natural, sensual being, rather than their spiritual qualities.

Since nobility is based on our special-ness, when we live out of our spiritual value we have unparalleled nobility. When we live out of our natural senses we lower ourselves to the level of an animal in pursuit of natural experiences.

So, mankind’s nobility is tested by the fact that he is ‘also flesh’, as God described us in Genesis 6:3. Man is not to look out for opportunities to indulge the flesh but is to live by God’s spiritual destiny on his life.

The Apostle Paul put it this way, “do not use freedom as an opportunity to indulge the flesh, but serve one another out of love”, Galatians 5:13 (author’s paraphrase).

The challenge for humans, however, is that their natural senses can become quite obsessed with gratification. This is especially so if those senses have been awakened and indulged.

When the Israelites were fed supernaturally in the wilderness for 40 years they were fed a substance that sustained their bodies, but which did not indulge their appetites. The miracle ‘manna’ would form on the ground each morning and be collected for their sustenance. They made bread and other food from it. The food was physical but its essential quality was spiritual.

The Bible described the manna as “angels food” (Psalm 78:25). Angelic food would be sufficient to feed a spirit being, since angels are spirit beings. It was able to sustain natural bodies because people can be sustained and kept alive by having their spirit fed. Yet spiritual food would do nothing to pander to human appetite, even though it miraculously sustained human life.

As a consequence the people loathed the food, which they called ‘light bread’, and they lusted for meat, onions and other things their taste buds craved (Numbers 11:4-6,21:5). They said “our soul loathes this light bread”. While their body was sustained by manna, their appetites were unsatisfied with it. It did nothing to appease their natural cravings for strong flavours and tickled taste-buds.

The historical experience is metaphorical of the way humanity despises living for spiritual values. In order to walk in the Spirit and live out of our spiritual realities we have to put our flesh to death, dying to natural appetites.

The issue is not staying alive or sustenance, but the human pleasure derived from the natural senses. And therein is the nobility challenge for all humanity. When we turn our focus from the divine to the natural we are the ones who abuse our own nobility and degrade our own existence, selling out our true potential for such temporary and meaningless experiences as the gratification of our human appetites.

Let me put it another way. We are made in the image of God, imago dei. So we have divinity stamped in our being. This is the basis of our highest nobility. Yet we are made with natural senses that can feed appetites of lust and self-gratification. When we bring out body under control, and die to our fleshly appetites, living to fulfill spiritual destiny, we achieve our highest nobility. When we abandon spiritual focus and seek gratification of our appetites we degrade ourselves and can totally destroy any self-worth within us.

The Bible truth of our special creation by a loving God to whom we are accountable, is a solid basis for appreciating our nobility. The lie of evolution, baseless in science, defying proof or even a workable theoretical base, yet pushed as essential dogma for acceptance into many corners of western society, strips humanity of its nobility.

I call you to rise to your true nobility. I call you out of the trough, where the pigs wallow. You are created for much higher destiny and nobility than the pub brawl, seedy back alleys, hollow halls of human vanity, vain and baseless ambitions of self importance, and so on. You are created for the throne room, where your mentor, the Living God, waits to tutor you in eternal authority and global significance.

Fellow noblemen, please stand. Stand in the presence of God. Stand in your created destiny. Stand in your nobility. Stand against evil. Stand in freedom from human appetites. Stand in the glorious liberty of the children of God. Stand, because He has called you to stand for His glory.

Nobility Challenge

In an earlier post (Nobility – Imago Dei) I introduced you to the notion of our true nobility being anchored in our unique created status. Since we are made in the image of God, imago dei, we have remarkable nobility built in to who and what we are.

Our nobility is challenged, however, by our tendency to live below our created status. Instead of living as God’s children, made in God’s image, we are tempted to live like animals, bent on the indulgence of animal instincts.

This post on our nobility challenge seeks to focus your attention on the choices you make the impact those choices have on your nobility.

As humans we have two dimensions. We have a spiritual dimension based on our being made in God’s image, as moral beings accountable to a moral God in a moral universe. We also have a natural dimension. Our natural dimension is based on our natural environment and the physiological make-up which enables us to engage with that world. Our five senses enable us to enjoy this life, but can be elevated to the place of our main purpose for life. When we choose to live out of our natural senses we effectively abandon our spiritual dimension, in order to indulge our natural dimension.

The measure of our nobility is the degree to which we live for spiritual realities versus our fleshly interests. This does not mean that people become dead to their five senses, but they put to death the self-serving lusts that spring from those senses. The body has bodily appetites but is not synonymous with bodily appetites. It is more than the sum of our bodily appetites. It is possible to be dead to human appetites and to simply enjoy the pleasures of taste, touch, sight, etc, without being sold out to those things. It is also possible to be highly disciplined and to deny bodily pleasure yet to be internally preoccupied and distracted with gratification. An absence of sensual engagement does not mean that a person is living out of their spiritual dimension. They may simply be highly disciplined in their flesh.

The nobility challenge is to live as the image of God, imago dei, rather than as a craven animal distracted by natural experiences. When you step away from your divine origins and calling you trash your nobility. Every addiction to your senses and sensual experience is evidence of your lost nobility. True nobility involves freedom from the demands of your natural, flesh self.

I pray that God give you the grace to walk into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, out of the quagmire of darkness, slavery and oppression that devours your nobility and mocks your existence.

Nobility as Imago Dei

The dignity with which you live your life is in your own power. It is based on your personal ‘nobility’ and your nobility is, in turn, based on your origins and the degree to which you embrace them.

I want you to discover the awesome significance of your personal nobility and to live it to the full. So allow me to open up this subject with you here. I will doubtless wax lyrical about it in the future, so consider this post as the primer for future explorations.

The starting point of true nobility is the fact that – Man is made in God’s Image. That is man’s source of true Nobility.

I use the Latin term, Imago Dei, which means “in God’s image”. This term is anchored in the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1:27 – the historical account of God making mankind in His own image. This fact, that mankind is made in God’s image – ‘Imago Dei’ – gives unique definition to humankind. We differ from all other creatures because, we, like no other creature, are made in the image of God. We have something of the divine about us, indicating our natural potential and our spiritual responsibility.

So now, let me take you again to the notion of ‘nobility’. Dictionary definitions speak of nobility as: privileged birth or rank, thus a quality inherited or conferred, based on prominence or some elite status, such as being rare or of exceptional excellence. Nobility also speaks of the character qualities appropriate to one who is of high rank or station, involving elevation of mind and exaltation of character, ideals or conduct.

Allow me to cut through the clutter of concepts again and state simply that “Man is made in God’s image, so mankind has a special nobility conferred on it.”

That’s the theoretical basis for my discussion on nobility. Now let me take that notion of nobility, based on our being ‘imago dei’, and apply it to the way we choose to live.

Let me tell you where I am going. Mankind has been created for special relationship with God and special status within the whole created realm. That special place is our true nobility. We can only attain to the highest expression of that nobility when we pursue our obedience to God, worship of God and experience of God. When we choose to downplay our “god-ness”, the truth of ‘imago dei’, we also downplay or degrade our nobility.

In the extreme, a person who sees themself as nothing more than an evolved super-slime has lost all sense for true nobility. That person will live a degraded life, far below the nobility for which they were created. They will live like an animal, not like God. They will become slave to human appetites, instead of serving divine destiny.

Nobility, then, springs from our place of personal privilege. To be created in the image of God is an elevated status that confers impressive nobility upon us. However, if we choose to abandon our status and live like a slave or an animal, we also abandon our nobility. My call to you is that you embrace the awesome reality of your created status, as imago dei, and live in the full force of the nobility that is yours.

I want to tease this insight out further with you, so look out for further posts on the topic of nobility in the next week or so.