Before the likes of Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, and Adams, we had William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania who is rightly considered by many to be America’s first Founding Father. A champion of religious freedom and democracy, Penn stands out among many early American settlers in his good relations and treaties with native-Americans.
A Quaker (the Religious Society of Friends), William Penn was good friends with George Fox, the founder of the Quakers and like Fox, Penn combined a refined spiritual outlook with practical sensibilities. In the following passages,1 we find Penn offering sound advice to his children, as they begin their journey through life.
In our current age, where Facebook, Twitter, online forums, and blogs are becoming a national obsession, Penn’s final piece of advice regarding acquaintances and intimates should inspire serious meditation.
**In conversation, mark well what others say or do. Hide your own mind, at least until last, and then open it as sparingly as the matter will let you. A just observance and reflection upon men and things give wisdom and are the great books of learning seldom read. The laborious bee draws honey from every flower. Be always on your watch, but chiefly in company. Then be sure to keep your wits about you, and your armor on. Speak last and little, but to the point; interrupt none; anticipate none. Read Proverbs 10: 8,13. Be quick to hear, slow to speak: (Prov. 17: 27). It gives time to understand and ripens an answer. The truest eloquence is plainest, and brief speaking (I mean brevity and clearness to make yourselves easily understood by everybody, and in as few words as the matter will allow) is the best.
**Return no answer to anger, unless with much modesty, which often turns it away. But rarely make replies or rejoinders, for these add fuel to the fire. It is a wrong time to vindicate yourselves, because the true ear is never open to hear it. People are not themselves, and know not well what emotions control them. Silence to passion, prejudice, and mockery, is the best an answer, and often will conquer what your resistance would have otherwise inflamed.
**Have but few books, but let them be well chosen and well read, whether of religious or other subjects. Shun fantastic opinions; measure both religion and learning by practice; reduce all to that, for that brings a real benefit to you; the rest is a thief and a snare. And, indeed, reading many books takes off your mind too much from meditation. Reading yourselves and nature, and the dealings and conduct of others, is the truest human wisdom. More true knowledge comes by meditation and just reflection than by reading; for much reading is an oppression of the mind, and extinguishes the natural candle, which is the reason we have so many senseless scholars in the world.
**Have very few acquaintances, and fewer intimates, but of the best in their kind.
Gain fresh insight into the Lord’s Prayer. Read our free online book The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life. The prayer’s hidden teachings will enrich and inspire you. Click the following link to begin reading the Living Hour book now: The Lord’s Prayer.
If you appreciate the work of LivingHour.org, please support us today by linking to our website. We also welcome your financial support. You can make your secure online donation via PayPal by clicking the following icon:
- The above passages by William Penn have been edited slightly to make it easier to read by the modern reader [↩]
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2 Any unfruitful branch in me he takes away, and he cleanses every fruitful branch, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the message that I have given you. 4 Remain united to me, and I will remain united to you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains united to the vine; no more can you, unless you remain united to me.”
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. You that remain united to me, while I remain united to you, will bear fruit plentifully; for you can do nothing apart from me. 6 If anyone does not remain united to me, they will be thrown away, as a branch would be, and wither up. Such branches are collected and thrown into the fire, and are burnt.”
7 “If you remain united to me, and my teaching remains in your hearts, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be yours. 8 It is by your bearing fruit plentifully, and so showing yourselves my disciples, that my Father is honored. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; remain in my love. 10 If you lay my commands to heart, you will remain in my love; just as I have laid the Father’s commands to heart and remain in his love. 11 I have told you all this so that my own joy may be yours, and that your joy may be complete.”
12 “This is my command: love one another, as I have loved you. 13 No one can give greater proof of love than by laying down his life for his friends. 14 And you are my friends, if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you ‘servants,’ because a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have given you the name of ‘friends,’ because I made known to you everything that I learned from my Father.”
16 “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you, and I appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that should remain, so that the Father might grant you whatever you ask in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands that you may love one another.”
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has first hated me. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—that is why the world hates you.”
20 “Remember what I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have laid my message to heart, they will lay yours to heart also. 21 But they will do all this to you, because you believe in my name, for they do not know him who sent me.”
22 “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have had no sin to answer for; but as it is, they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Those who hate me hate my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them such work as no one else ever did, they would have had no sin to answer for; but, as it is, they have both seen and hated both me and my Father.”
25 “And so is fulfilled what is said in their law: ‘They hated me without cause.’ 26 But, when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of Truth, who comes from the Father—he will bear testimony to me; 27 Yes, and you also are to bear testimony, because you have been with me from the first.”
To read the next chapter of the Book of John, please go to The Gospel of John – 16
This Online New Testament Gospel of John is excerpted from the book The Living Hour: The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life (with New Century Gospels). Including over 200 bookmarked citations from the canonical Gospels, this Progressive Christian book appeals to the Unitarian spirit at the heart of all faiths.
Challenge your perceptions on the Gospel of Christ, Jesus’s parables, and the Kingdom of God by purchasing The Lord’s Prayer book today. Produced by LivingHour.org, a Thailand-based small press dedicated to publishing unique Learning Easy Thai Language Books, as well as works on progressive spirituality.