George Fox "I was to bring people off from all the world's religions, which are in vain."
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George Fox (July 1624 – January 13, 1691) was the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as the Quakers, because they trembled in fear of God. He was a serious child, who listened to the Lord early and sought a deep relationship with the Lord. In his late teens, he responded to the Lord's commands to seek him in isolation from others. For several years, sometimes walking all night, he listened to the Lord's teachings. As with the Apostle Paul's three years of isolation in Arabia, this resulted in Fox's renewal of mind and spirit. At the age of 22 he became a minister of truth and changed the world at that time by establishing a church that exhibited the fruits of Christianity. At his death, ten per cent of England's population were Quakers, (650,000). Quakers were spread over the world. The greatest testimony to the authenticity of his faith is the persecution, (as predicted by Christ for his true followers), that he and the early Quakers experienced. He was arrested and taken to court over sixty times, spending over six years in harsh imprisonments, and thirteen thousand Quakers were imprisoned while even more had their property seized, (the Quaker faith was very threatening to the dominant protestant sects (Anglican, Baptists, Puritan, and Presbyterian.) . His autobiographical journal, describing his inspiring translation into paradise and his subsequent forty-five-year ministry, is a text popular even among non-Quakers for its vivid account of his personal journey.
George Fox was born at Drayton-in-the-Clay, Leicestershire, England (now known as Fenny Drayton), 24 km (15 miles) southwest of Leicester. His father, Christopher Fox, was a weaver, called "righteous Christer" by his neighbors; his mother, Mary Lago, was—he tells us—"of the stock of the Martyrs." From childhood, Fox was of a serious, religious disposition. His education was based around the faith and practice of the Church of England, of which his parents were members. He had no formal schooling, but was able to read and write. Even at a young age, he was taught by the Lord: "I being brought up into the covenant, as sanctified by the living word, [the Holy Spirit, not the Bible], which was in the beginning, by which all things were upheld, in which there is unity with the creation." "When I came to eleven years of age," he said, "I knew pureness and righteousness; for while I was a child, I was taught how to walk to be kept pure. The Lord taught me to be faithful, in all things, and to act faithfully two ways: inwardly to God, and outwardly to man."
As he grew up, his relations "thought to have made him a priest," but he was instead made an apprentice to a shoemaker and grazier. This suited his contemplative temperament, and he became well-known for his diligence among the wool traders who had dealings with his master; he also prospered and saved considerable funds. Fox was for using the creation for health, rather than consuming it on lusts in excessive eating and drinking. He testified against sports, hunting, plays, fashion, oppressive judges, loose school teachers, and misuse of the creatures. He was a tradesman and noted that the Lord had called tradesmen and shepherds in the past including: Peter, Paul, Andrew, Luke, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David, verifying that a learned education was no qualification for the ministry.
Even so, Fox was a friend of all classes of people, for he "loved of all men's souls." He was later in life a close friend with William Penn, an upper class, educated man who founded the colonies of West Jersey and Pennsylvania in America; they often traveled and ministered together throughout Europe; Penn was selected to write a beautiful Introduction to Fox's Journal. Earlier, George Fox also had friends who were "professors" (stated believers in Christ and the scriptures), but by the age of nineteen he had begun to disassociate with their behavior, in particular their excessive drinking to "healths." He records that as he was walking alone one night he heard the Lord say to him, "You see how young people associate in vanity, and old people into the things of the world; but you must forsake all, young and old, keep out of all, and be as a stranger to all."
For this reason, he left his family Drayton-in-the-Clay in September 1643, to seek the Lord in isolation without being drawn into conversations with anyone; he left any town where he began to be recognized and drawn into conversation. While in Barnet, Fox would alternately shut himself in his room for days at a time, or go out alone into the countryside. As he continued to seek, he experienced very troubling temptations. He thought intensely about Jesus' temptation in the desert, which he compared to his own spiritual condition, but drew strength from his conviction that God would support and preserve him. He fasted much and walked alone all night in the countryside; during these walks he experienced most of his revelations from Christ. At times, he attracted the attention of various religious scholars, but he rejected them because he did not feel they lived up to the doctrines they taught. Fox did seek help and advice from priests, but "found no comfort from them," as they too were unable to help or even give advice with the matters that were troubling him. One priest in Worcestershire advised him to take tobacco (which Fox declined) and sing psalms; another, in Coventry, was helpful at first but lost his temper when Fox accidentally stepped off the path onto a flower in his garden; a third priest/physician suggested that bloodletting would help him; but they could not draw a drop of blood from his body or head because he was so dried up from his griefs.
Disillusioned by the inability of the priests to help him and still subject to the spiritual temptations, he returned home in June 1644. But there was no help to be found there either. Fox's family and friends offered either marriage or military service as a solution to his troubles. He left to travel in isolation again, but never as a vagabond; he always had money, even enough to give some money to the widows on Christmas (he knocked on doors to find them) and for money to poor newly married couples.
Unique Experiences and Teachings from Christ
Fox learned directly from Christ. As he said: "But as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those esteemed the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition (address my spiritual needs). And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, oh, then, I heard a voice which said, 'There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to your condition;' and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give Him all the glory; for all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence who enlightens, and gives grace, and faith, and power. Thus when God doth work, who shall let (hinder) it? and this I knew experimentally (through experience)."
Over the next few years, George Fox continued to move around the country, usually walking all night, as he continued to receive teachings from the Christ. He experienced the appearance of the Light to expose the conditions of his heart, and the refiner's fire to burn away his sin. He was taken up through the flaming sword into paradise by Christ, first to the state of Adam and Eve before their fall, and then beyond to the state of Christ, protected from ever sinning again. He was still physically present on the earth, but his consciousness and sight was in paradise, translated into the higher dimension of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Fox had the power of God with him to accomplish many divine healings, (including raising the dead) and prophesies including the Great Fire of London, Cromwell's demise, and the defeat of the Turks. He miraculously escaped many attempts on his life. He clearly won every debate with any opposing sect, and most of his strongest persecutors were mysteriously destroyed or ruined, (the heritage of a servant of the Lord).
Fox's basic message was: that Christ had come to teach his people himself; and that the people had no need of any teacher but the Light that was in all men and women, (the anointing they had received.) And if people would be silent, waiting on God, the word and Light within would teach them how to conduct their lives, teach them about Christ, show them the condition of their hearts; and, they loving the Light, it would cleanse them of the cause of sin. And soon after, Christ would return in his glory to establish his Kingdom in their hearts.
The Light destroying the cause of sin was what George Fox called the result of the Cross of Christ, the Power of God: in humble silence, waiting on the Lord; hear his spoken words and see what the Light shows to be one of the evils within your heart; and not running in shame, but remaining focused on the Light while it removes the condition — the destruction of the evil, the cause of sin. He said Christ had come to lead man from darkness to light through the destruction of sin, and this was the way to have it destroyed.
Fox was sent, just as Jesus told Paul: I am sending you to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in Me. Acts 26:17-18
The Religious Society of Friends takes shape
In 1648 Fox began to exercise his ministry publicly: he would preach in market-places, in the fields, in appointed meetings of various kinds, or even sometimes in "steeple-houses" after the priests had finished. His preaching was powerful, and many people were convinced of the truth that he preached. Over the years, he addressed hundreds of thousands of people. He became so famous that at the mention of his arrival in a town, people would spontaneously assemble to hear him speak. The worship of Friends, in the form of silent waiting, seems to have been well established by this time, though it is not recorded how this came to be. It is not even clear at what point the Society of Friends was formed; though one could believe it coalesced around the frequent retreats of the early proponents to Swarthmore, Margaret Fell and Judge Fell's estate. The term "Children of Light" was at one time used, as well as simply "friends." In one of Fox's many trials, a judge mocked Fox's exhortation to "tremble at the word of the Lord", in derision calling him and his followers "Quakers" — now the common name of the Religious Society of Friends.
Fox's preaching was always backed up by the scriptures; his listeners usually remarked that they had never heard anyone open their understanding to the obscure meaning of the scriptures so thoroughly. He often delayed speaking until he could feel the "power of God settle on the people" to quiet them and prepare them for his words. He also waited until the he felt the promptings of the Lord to begin to speak. Fox spoke by the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and from the presence of the Lord. He was an extremely effective preacher, the Lord seeding an assembly of people at almost every stop. It is recorded that several times entire buildings would shake when he prayed. He was scathing about contemporary morality, taking strong aim at the requirement to pay tithes to support institutions of the church and society's preoccupation with the pleasures of the world. He showed how the lusts and affections for the world could be crucified while sitting in the Light; he called this the cross of Christ, the power of God. At the time, there were a great many rival Christian denominations holding very diverse opinions; the atmosphere of dispute and contention gave George Fox an opportunity to show the people the errors and shortcomings of each sect, always winning the debate and "convincing many observers and opponents of the truth." By 1652 other talented preachers had been raised around him, and they all continued to preach throughout England, sharing the news that Christ the Light was in them all and ready to teach each man or woman personally. The early Quakers preached that salvation was to be seen, felt, and experienced; salvation being simultaneous with seeing Christ within, entering the Kingdom of God within and around without visible or outward sign, and enjoying fellowship with the Father and Son. They continued to do this despite a harsh reception from most listeners, who would whip them out of their "churches," fine them, imprison them, and even kill them — as Christ had said would happen to his true believers.
In 1652 Fox felt that God led him to walk up Pendle Hill. There he had a vision of thousands of souls coming to Christ. From there he traveled to Sedbergh in Westmorland, where he heard a group of Seekers were meeting. He preached on the nearby Firbank Fell and convinced many, including Francis Howgill, to accept his teachings on Christ being able to speak to and to teach people directly. In a few short years, entire churches were emptied of listeners to preachers repeating the words of the Bible, to become listeners of Christ in Quaker silent meetings.
Fox instructed Quakers to address all single persons as "thee" or "thou;" they suffered persecution for this even though the grammar books of the day taught such; important persons wanted to be addressed as "you" instead of "thee" and "thou," because the plural form was used as a means of flattery and respect, which they demanded and became outraged if they were addressed in the singular "thee" or "thou." Following Fox's exhortations, the Quaker movement was marked by their opposition to flattering speech or behavior, regardless of class addressed; refusal to bow or curtsey to others; refusal to pay tithes, (the early Quakers said any priest or minister who asked for money was a false prophet); refusal to remove their hats to honor people; and their refusal to swear or take oaths. They also testified strongly against fashion with extravagance; dysfunctional ribbons, feathers, and scarves; jewelry; and anything worn for pride. The Quakers' adherence to their principles was their mark, aside from their simplicity, honesty, and integrity which was generally observed and respected by most of England's population. While at first the general population rejected them, once their honesty was observed, their business's volume doubled; people new to a town were known to ask directions to the nearest Quaker shop of their particular need. The fact that so many of the Quakers testified to the changing, teaching grace of God in their lives, while exhibiting moderation in their conversation and integrity in their conduct, was a powerful draw to others to join their society; particularly when they heard the preaching of the many ministers, without formal education, several under twenty years of age, but with the ability to explain all the promises within the scriptures, and how to secure them for themselves.
He and the many thousands of early Quakers were convinced of the Bible expressing essential truths. However, they identified the Bible as the "words of God" or scriptures as recorded by men controlled by the Spirit of God; they denied the scriptures to be "the Word of God", whom they said was Christ, the nearby Word of God within a man's heart and mouth, placed there to be obeyed. In one trial where Fox was being accused of blasphemy again, he and the priests had a dispute on whether the Bible was the Word of God, the priests maintaining that the letter and the spirit were inseparable. Fox said that being true, one could buy the spirit of God; the listening judges agreed and said "according to that position, they might carry the spirit in their pockets as they did the scriptures."
He avoided attracting personal followers and declined groups who tried to hire him as their minister; he said, "this showed that they did not really understand us or our principles very well: but when I heard of it, I said, ‘it was time for me to be gone; for if their eye was so much to me, or any of us, they would not come to their own teacher.' For this thing (hiring ministers), had spoiled many, by hindering them from improving their own talents; whereas our labor is to bring everyone to their own teacher in themselves."
The early Quakers insisted their members' conduct complied with Christian and the Assemblies' standards. If a member violated those standards, members from his local assembly would plead with him to acknowledge his error and condemn his past actions, usually in writing. If the errant member admitted the error, the incident was forgotten. If the person refused to change, after repeated pleas and reasonings with them, they would be expelled from the assembly; and to preserve the Quakers' reputation, there would be a public notice that the person in question was no longer associated with Friends. This was done as a last resort after many pleadings, but was thought to be necessary to preserve the reputation of Truth and the unity of the spirit within the Society. Anyone expelled could return at any time, providing they condemned their past actions. Hannah Stranger had seriously erred as part of a cult around James Naylor, and she had been censured and denied. Later Hannah saw her error and was fully reinstated in the Society. As testimony to their forgiveness and forgetting past wrongs, George Fox later asked Hannah to accompany his daughter to plead with King Charles II for the release of his wife, Margaret Fox, from prison. By the same token, any report of misconduct investigated, which proved to be false, was traced to the originator, who was rebuked for "raising a false report on the people of God."
Regarding the Quakers' care for Friends within the Society: widows, orphans, sick, poor, imprisoned, old, young; they were all cared for by the Quakers. If one assembly was overburdened with expense of care, other assemblies would contribute to their assistance, worldwide. Their care for their own was so thorough that "there was not a beggar among them," and when a local government would discover that they were providing assistance, which the government was obligated to fund, the government would suddenly drop their opposition to their meetings and assemblies.
Regarding their care for all men: from the Journal, "Sometimes there would be two hundred of the poor of other people (non-Quakers) to come and wait until the meeting was done, (for all the country knew we met about the poor); and after the meeting, Friends would send to the bakers for bread, and give everyone of those poor people a loaf, however many there were of them; for we were taught 'to do good to all, though especially to the household of faith.'"
At Derby in 1650 Fox was imprisoned for blasphemy, stating that he had been freed from sin by Christ and lived in paradise. He suffered unimaginable, deplorable, harsh treatment in prison, and he repeatedly refused to join the army as a means to escape imprisonment; he refused to take up arms for any reason. (However, he never opposed any government; rather Fox, the early Quakers, Penn, Peter, and Paul taught to the opposite, being submissive to government and authorities even if persecuted.) A further conviction came in 1653 in Carlisle; it was even rumored that he was to be put to death, but Parliament, hearing the rumor, and under severe criticism for allowing 19 year old James Parnell to die in prison, (the first Quaker of many hundreds to similarly die), sent a letter of concern to the magistrates. Not long after, the Lord's power came over the justices who had imprisoned him, and they set him free. Upon inspection of the facilities, the jailer took his place in jail and died there.
Fox was usually put in prison, as were most Quakers, for their refusal to take oaths. They refused because of the statements of Jesus: "But I tell you, Do not swear at all" and the Apostle James "Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned." He was also imprisoned a full year for nothing but failing to take off his hat in court. Like all the early Quakers, Fox never sought revenge, instead they prayed for their enemies and pleaded with them to consider how their actions were so contrary to the scriptures they professed to be their rule and judge.
Further imprisonments came at London in 1654, Launceston in 1656, Lancaster in 1660 and 1663, Scarborough in 1666, and Worcester in 1674. Often, Fox was arrested on no charge other than generally causing "disturbance," but he and the other Friends were also accused of more specific offences. Refusal to take oaths meant that Quakers could be prosecuted under laws compelling subjects to swear allegiance, as well as making testifying in court an automatic jail sentence. Fox and his fellow Quakers would be arrested on a false charge, and then imprisoned for refusing to take an oath before being able to deny or respond to the charges. Not only were they imprisoned, but thousands of Quakers had their homes and property seized as "spoils" for violating the laws. But Fox and the early Quakers always conducted themselves like lambs, forgiving their persecutors and never organizing for resistance or even protest. However, the vast majority of their virulent persecutors mysteriously suffered loss of life, children, wife, property, or sanity; so many of their persecutors experienced an early death, that there was a book written and distributed by the Quakers documenting "God's revenge" upon the persecutors of His people.
While in prison, there were several plots to kill him which he perceived and avoided. When he was not in prison, there were many attempts on his life; but he was miraculously spared by timing or being warned by prior visions.
Fox suffered very harsh conditions in prison. It was apparent that his persecutors hoped he would die in prison and made sure he received the worst possible treatments, which most men did not survive without death or serious, permanent impairment of their health. In Derby he was placed in "Doomsdale, a nasty, stinking place, where they used to put witches and murderers after they were condemned to die;" he was confined to standing in human waste up to his ankles, unable to even lie down. In Lancaster he was put in a room where smoke was continuously so thick that it dripped from the walls and a lit candle could not be seen, bordering him on suffocation; he was also placed in a room with an open window facing the wind and storms, raining on his bed, without any heat for an entire winter. Dogs in England were treated better; he suffered terribly. Despite these torturous conditions, he endured them for years without mental or spiritual depression, even though his body was racked with weakness, swelling, and numbness. His jailers remarked on him as 'he is as stiff as a tree and as pure as a bell; for we could never bow him.' He declined several offers of release from prison because: they required him to take up arms, or to promise to cease from preaching, or to admit to some wrongdoing of which he was innocent; instead, he chose continued imprisonment rather than a loss of his integrity and smear on the truth. Even in prison, George Fox continued writing and preaching. Many priests, professors, and other persons came to prison to debate with him and to examine him; despite his disadvantage of harsh captivity, he always met their questions and challenges with conviction and persuasiveness. He turned the other cheek when being beaten and never become despondent or depressed. As happened with the Apostle Paul, several of Fox's jailers were so impressed that they became Quakers also.
Encounters with Oliver Cromwell
After a bloody civil war of the Puritan parliament against the Royalists, the Puritan soldier-general Oliver Cromwell had come to power as Lord Protector deposing and executing the king, Charles I of England. The Puritan government feared plots to restore the monarchy, and regarded the Quakers with suspicion – by this time, Fox's preachings were regularly attracting crowds of thousands. In 1653 Fox was arrested and taken to London for a meeting with Cromwell. After affirming that he had no intention of taking up arms, Fox was able to speak with Cromwell for some time about the differences between Friends and members of the traditional denominations; and he advised Cromwell to keep in the fear of God in order to receive wisdom to govern to God's glory. He records that on leaving, Cromwell remarked, "with tears in his eyes said, 'Come again to my house; for if thou and I were but an hour of a day together, we should be nearer one to the other'; adding that he wished me (Fox) no more ill than he did to his own soul." George Fox was at liberty again.
Later hearing that George Fox had refused an invitation to elegantly dine with his court, Cromwell remarked, "Now I see there is a people risen that I cannot win either with gifts, honors, offices, or places; but I can all other sects and people." Cromwell was much impressed with George Fox, not only for his unimpeachable integrity, but because he spoke from the Spirit, which was compatible with the scriptures that Cromwell knew well. As Fox spoke, Cromwell several times remarked: "it is very good, it is true."
In 1656 the next meeting took place when Fox saw Cromwell's caravan traveling. With Cromwell telling his horse-guards to let Fox through to his coach, per Fox: "So I rode by his coach side with him, 'declaring what the Lord gave me to say to him, of his condition, and of the sufferings of Friends in the nation; showing him how contrary this persecution was to Christ and his apostles, and to Christianity.' When we had come to James's Park Gate, I left him; and at parting he desired me to come to his house. Cromwell rushed to one of his wife's maids, who was a Quaker, and excitedly announced 'George Fox has come to town!'" Fox and Edward Pyot laid the sufferings of the Quakers before him and directed him to the Light, which he denied as divine and claimed to be a natural light. Fox told Cromwell several times to "lay down his crown at the feet of Jesus" — which, however, Cromwell declined to do. When Fox left, Cromwell expressed disappointment in his leaving with so little agreement between them. Later, Fox and several Quakers warned Cromwell that his failure to intervene in the persecution of innocent Friends would be revenged by God. His demise was prophesied by several Quakers including Fox. Their third meeting was in 1658 at Hampton Court, though they could not speak for long, because of the Protector's worsening illness — Fox wrote that "he saw a waft of death go forth against him, and coming to him, he looked like a dead man." Cromwell died in September of that year. Richard Cromwell succeeded his father as Lord Protector for eight months before the English Restoration.
Suffering and growth
In the time of the restored King Charles II alone, 13,562 Quakers were imprisoned; 338 died from injuries inflicted in meetings or imprisonment, and 198 were sent into slavery over the seas. Under all the kings, Besse's Sufferings counts 869 Quakers who died in prison. They were viciously persecuted by Independent Calvinist Puritans [Congregationalists], Presbyterians, Baptists, and Episcopalians. Per Fox's Journal: "Friends never feared their acts, prisons, jails, houses of correction, banishment, nor seizure of personal property; no, nor the loss of life itself; nor was there ever any persecution that came, but we saw how it would result in good; nor were there ever any prisons that I was in, or sufferings, except it was for the bringing multitudes out of prison; though they who imprisoned the truth, and quenched the spirit in themselves, would imprison and quench it without them; so that there was a time when so many were in prison, that it became as a by-word, 'truth is scarce any where to be found but in jails.'" (See Persecutions for more.)
They suffered without even an organized protest; they made many appeals by letter and in person to parliament, judges, kings, and magistrates; but they were always loyal to the government without group action or protest. As a people they prayed for their enemies and turned their other cheeks to their smiters. George Fox was always encouraging and supporting this great people in their sufferings, as their enemies tried to silence their words and extinguish their great light. Their sufferings and peaceful appeals to the various governing authorities largely contributed to the freedom of religion which is enjoyed today in the British Commonwealth nations and America.
In 1657 Fox had the first of two meetings with official delegations of Jesuits, to debate their respective faith's positions. In both instances he asked if they in were the same spirit as the Apostles were. In both meetings, the Jesuits admitted they were not in the same spirit as the Apostles, in which the Quakers claimed to be. He asked, "What scripture they had for setting up cloisters for nuns, abbeys and monasteries for men; for all their several orders; for their praying by beads and to images; for making crosses; for forbidding of meats and marriages; and for putting people to death for religion?" Fox also opposed the Roman Catholic sect, as well as all the Protestant sects, because they did not insist on holiness and purity as necessary for salvation; the result of purity being the receipt of the same spirit as the Apostles were in. As Fox said, "we had reasonings with all the other sects: Presbyterians, Independents, Seekers, Baptists, Episcopal-men, Socinians, Brownists, Lutherans, Calvinists, Arminians, Fifth-monarchy-men, Familists, Muggletonians, and Ranters; none of which would affirm they had the same power and spirit that the apostles had and were in. So in that power and spirit the Lord gave us dominion over them all."
The Society of Friends became increasingly organized towards the end of the decade. Large meetings were held, including a three-day event in Bedfordshire, the precursor of the present Britain Yearly Meeting system. Fox also commissioned two Friends to travel around the country collecting the testimonies of imprisoned Quakers, as evidence of their persecution; this led to the establishment in 1675 of Meeting for Sufferings, which has been in continuing existence to the present day.
With the restoration of the monarchy the nation was again locked in bloody revenge, this time returned-to-power Royalists against their Puritan predecessors. Fox and Quakers had been offered commands and positions in the Puritan armies, but they refused and cautioned all Quakers to stay out of the conflict. The fate of the Quakers was uncertain. George Fox was again accused of disturbing the peace, being an insurrectionist and an enemy of the king, Charles II— a charge he replied to as ridiculous since he had been imprisoned when he refused to take up arms against the king's father, Charles I. Once again, Fox was released after demonstrating that he had no military ambitions. Since the Quakers and Fox believed God had removed Cromwell and allowed the restoration because of Cromwell's failure to halt massive persecution of Quakers, Fox wrote to King Charles II, warning him to "show mercy and forgive, or suffer the judgment of God, including being overthrown." He also told Charles that he should refrain from domestic religious persecution, and discourage: drunkenness, oath-taking, plays, and may-day games with statues (the objection of idol worship) of King Charles on the top of each may-pole. (These last suggestions are disputed by today's Quakers to be Puritan leanings, and were a major point of contention between Quakers for centuries after his death; the early Quakers opposed plays and shows because they trained up people to vanity and looseness, and led them from the fear of God.)
Thanks to the efforts of George Whitehead, King Charles then pardoned five hundred Quakers, some of whom had been imprisoned for ten years. A 1661 revolt by the Fifth-Monarchy men led to the suppression of that sect and the repression of other nonconformists, including Quakers. Quakers fell afoul of laws forbidding unauthorized worship; after the Monarchist plot was discovered to overthrow the King, Parliament enacted laws forbidding the assembly of more than five persons, other than for "approved" national worship. The Quakers, an "unapproved body," under Fox's leadership and example, refused to stop meeting to worship; and the whole nation watched as thousands of Quakers were imprisoned for meeting together. The Quakers' blood ran in the streets from beatings and stabbings, and they were killed by musket fire. The soldiers put locks on their meeting houses, so they met in the streets in front of the meeting houses, ignoring the freezing cold, snow, and rain. Meeting in the streets, many passers-by would stop to listen to their speakers, and being greatly impressed with the truths expressed, joined the Quakers; thus their persecutors' efforts to destroy the Quakers, instead strengthened them. When the soldiers would arrest one speaker and take him away, another would immediately and courageously take their place in prayer or speaking. In the same year, Fox and Richard Hubberthorne co-authored a statement signed by twelve Friends that the group would never take up arms, neither for themselves nor for the Kingdom of Christ, and were thus not a threat to the newly restored monarch; this statement was later twisted to justify the modern Quakers' Peace Protests against others who didn't have the same convictions of conscience. Fox preached that wars were the result of lusts within man and advocated the crucifixion of lusts with the spirit of Love's replacement. He refused to take up arms, never opposing any specific war, only opposing war's root cause, lust and greed; and if a Quaker's conscience led him to refuse to bear arms, to respect others until they too felt the need to lay down arms. He did, however, when consulted, permit Quakers on the Caribbean islands to cooperate with the authorities there in watching for bands of raiding pirates and reporting their intrusions, which resulted in armed repulsion of the invaders. There were many soldiers and sailors of the English armed services who were Quakers.
Meanwhile, Quakers in New England had been banished. The Boston Puritans were so convinced that Quakers were heretics that stringent laws were enacted. A fine was imposed on all who missed their Puritan worship services. No one could offer any refreshment to one of the hated Quakers without being heavily fined. All who held Quaker views were sentenced to be whipped, have their ears cut off, and have their tongues bored through with hot iron; and if these measures did not induce them to recant, they were to be banished from the colony. The first person to be convinced by George Fox, and first Quaker female minister, Elizabeth Hooton with her young daughter, was stripped to the waist and whipped while walking for eighty miles in the snow through three New England villages, and then left to die in the remote wilderness, [but they survived by the grace of God]. Even Quaker children did not escape; some being sold as slaves to be shipped to the Bermudas, for payment of the fines imposed on their parents. Finally, the fundamentalist Puritans defined Quakers as witches and devils, whose punishment was to be executed by hanging.
Four Quakers, three men and a woman, were hung for returning after banishment; Fox stated he knew exactly when it happened and could feel the noose around his neck. At least 27 more Quakers were scheduled to be executed by the Calvinist Puritans [Congregationalists] of Boston. So they, (Fox still in prison, Edward Burrough went), quickly alerted the King to the terrible injustices in the King's colony city of Boston. King Charles immediately issued a mandamus condemning this practice and requested all convicted Quakers to be returned promptly to England. A group of Quakers at their own expense quickly set sail for New England with the King's mandamus in hand, and Friends were suddenly and dramatically rescued from prison and their scheduled executions. George Fox later personally confronted, shamed, and forced a confession of guilt from some of those Puritan English magistrates who had participated in sentencing the Quakers to death, sending them fleeing back to New England in fear of prosecution from relatives of the murdered Quakers.
It is ironic that only one hundred years later, liberalized Quakers would turn against and accuse George Fox of being Puritan because of his opposition to plays and the arts, (he had no objection to art that was not possessed with pride). The Puritans were the greatest persecutors of the Quakers; so his own faith was now accusing him of being like the early Quakers' murderers. The Puritans walked outwardly by the flesh, according to their interpretation of the Bible, considering most things sinful; while the Quakers walked in love by the Spirit, according to how they were led by their inner teacher, Christ. So the Puritans' focus was avoiding sin, while the Quakers' focus was to be obedient and pleasing to Christ, their teacher and Lord within. They were two entirely different spirits: one harsh and judgmental, the other loving and obedient; one focused on outward law, the other focused on inward love and obedience. We see the Puritan spirit today in the fundamental sects. Yet, many from the world see them both the same. For example, the Puritans said cards was a sin; while the Quakers said it was a waste of time, which could be better spent in seeking to hear and serve their beloved.
Fox was imprisoned again in 1663 for his refusal to swear oaths, and was released in 1666; he said, "But I was so weak with lying almost three years in cruel and hard imprisonments, my joints and my body were so stiff and benumbed, that I could hardly get upon my horse, or bend my joints, or tolerate being near a fire, or to eat warm meat, I had been kept so long from it." Nevertheless, he immediately continued his travels and meetings with Friends, even going to Ireland later to visit Friends.
According to Fox, at the command of Christ, (honoring marriage), in 1669 he married Margaret Fell of Swarthmore Hall, Swarthmore, a lady of high social position, and one long convinced of the truth with resulting Christian maturity. Her former husband, Judge Thomas Fell, had died eleven years prior. She had been imprisoned before their marriage, but she was again imprisoned for several years in Lancaster. She spent a total of ten years in prisons, all for holding meetings in her home and refusing to swear in her trials. Judge Fell and she had thrown their mansion open to be the cradle of the Quaker movement, and Quakers from all over the world came there for fellowship, spiritual growth, and recovery from persecution. For many years afterwards she communicated by letter with Quakers throughout the world, sharing the accomplishments of all, functioning as the de facto headquarters. She was truly the loving mother of the early Quaker movement. Although mutual imprisonments and George Fox's constant traveling allowed little time for she and he to be together, their shared commitment to Christ and the work of the Church sustained joy in their marriage, and they later collaborated on a great deal of the administration the Society required.
Travels in America and Europe
In 1671 George Fox went to America for two years, stopping first in Barbados. Here, well ahead of the times, he urged Quaker slaveholders on Barbados to give their slaves freedom after years of service. Having many meetings with slaves fostered a rumor that Quakers advocated slave revolts, which he denied in a letter that he wrote to the governor and legislature of the island. In the same letter he also outlined the sect's religious beliefs, which portion of the document became the basis for later convincement of Parliament that Quakers were part of the Protestant movement. He spent several months in Barbados visiting Friends and recovering from a serious illness. He then went to Jamaica for seven weeks.
Fox next traveled to the American colonies, (New England); his first major meeting on the North American continent was at Maryland, where he participated in a four-day meeting of local Quakers. Because he believed the Light was in all men, he was eager to meet with the Indians of North America; here he had his first meeting with some Native Americans who were interested in Quaker ways. Fox was impressed by the Indians' general demeanor, which he said was "loving" and "respectful." He then traveled throughout the colonies including: Maryland, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Virginia, Carolina, Massachusetts, and New York. To travel well over 1000 miles in the American wilderness he swam rivers, traveled by canoe and horse, traversed bogs, sleeping in Indian wigwams, and sleeping by a campfire in the snow and freezing cold for weeks, traveling twenty to thirty miles per day; dodging wolves, bears, poisonous snakes, cougars, panthers, and even men-eating Indians. Even though he was old and his body was wasted from many years of harsh imprisonments, his zeal for the Lord drove him to ignore his pain and suffering for over fourteen months as he endured daily suffering; for which he credited the Lord's protection for him and his entire party, all of whom survived without incident. He met with Quaker friends and Indian tribes throughout his journeys in the colonies. Here, Fox helped to establish organizational systems for the Friends, along the same lines as he had done in Britain.
Fox established a Yearly Meeting in Amsterdam
for Friends in the Netherlands and German states.
Following extensive travels around the various American colonies, George Fox returned to England in 1673. He was almost immediately imprisoned again, traveling home with his family, this time with serious sickness besetting him. Margaret Fell petitioned the king for his release; the King offered several pardons, but Fox refused stating "to accept a pardon would imply guilt to the charges of which he was innocent." He was eventually released by judgment of error in his case, but Fox felt too weak to take up his travels immediately. He compensated by increasing his written output: letters, both public and private, as well as books, essays and what became his Journal. He exhorted the many Quakers throughout the world to walk worthy of the true Church of God; to do good to all men, especially their fellow believers; and to continue their testimony against wasteful fashion, slothfulness, excessive consumption of the creation, tithing, dishonesty, oppression of any people, and swearing.
In 1677 and 1684 he visited the Friends in the Netherlands, where he organized their meetings for discipline. He also made a brief visit to what is now Germany.
Meanwhile, Fox was participating by letter in a dispute among Friends in Britain over the role of women in meetings, a struggle which took much of his energy and left him feeling exhausted; he was an ardent defender of women's co-roles in the Church, stating that Christ was the same in women and men; this position of woman's equality was the cause of many defections within the Quaker ranks.
Returning to England, he stayed in the south in order to try to end the dispute. Fox's health became worse towards the end of 1684, but he continued his new, more restricted form of activities — writing to leaders in Poland, Denmark, Germany, and elsewhere about his beliefs, and their treatment of Quakers.
In the last years of his life Fox spent as much time in heavily populated, but air-polluted London as his frail health could tolerate, alternating time in London with recovery in the country. He continued to participate in Yearly Meetings, wrote many letters, still made representations to Parliament about the sufferings of Friends, and continued to meet with Friends. Two days before he died, "after he had written an epistle to Friends in Ireland, he went to the Quaker meeting at Gracechurch-street, (the main meeting in London), which was large because it was the First-day (Sunday), and the Lord enabled him to preach the truth fully and effectually, opening many deep and weighty things with great power and clearness."
The 1689 Act of Toleration put an end to the uniformity laws under which Quakers had been persecuted, and in that year many Friends were released from prison.
Death and legacy
In the last two days of his life as he peacefully lay on his deathbed, "as in the whole course of his life, his spirit, in the universal love of God, was set and bent for the exalting of truth and righteousness, and the making known the way truth and righteousness to the nations and people in distant locations." His last request was "the spreading of Friends' books, and therefore truth in the world." Penn stated that Fox twice admonished Friends "to remember poor Friends in Ireland and America."
George Fox died on January 13, 1691, (which was the 11th month of 1690 by the then used Julian calendar, as recorded on the gravestone below), and was interred in the Quaker Burying Ground at Bunhill Fields in London. He was 66 years of age.
George Fox's gravestone in Bunhill Fields, next to the Meeting House
His journal was first published in 1694, after editing by Thomas Ellwood, a friend of Fox and former associate of John Milton. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote: "One assertion I will venture to make, as suggested by my own experience, that there exists folios on the human understanding and the nature of man, which would have a far juster claim to their high rank and celebrity, if in the whole huge volume there could be found as much fullness of heart and intellect as bursts forth in many a simple page of George Fox,." ( from his Biographia Literaria).
Hundreds of George Fox's Letters— mostly epistles intended for wide circulation, along with a few private communications — have also been published. Written from the 1650s onwards, with such titles as Friends, seek the peace of all men or To Friends, to know one another in the light, the letters give enormous insight into the detail of Fox's beliefs, and show his determination to spread them. These writings have found an audience beyond Quakers, with many other church groups using them to illustrate principles of Christianity.
Under Fox's leadership, the early Quakers initiated social reforms that are still beneficial to us today. They forced prices to be marked in stores, rather than all pricing being negotiable, even for food and clothing. They reformed the treatment of the mentally insane from being chained in dungeons. They initiated education for women in the trades. They provided rest homes for the aged, unable to work. In 1688, Pennsylvania Quakers passed an anti-slavery resolution in their colonial governing body, initiating slavery's long demise in America. Their suffering and patient appeals to the governments resulted in religious toleration and freedom throughout Europe. Their ideals even influenced the United States Constitution in its separation of powers, the separation of Church and State, and the United States Bill of Rights, (William Penn's Frame of Government for Pennsylvania implemented a democratic system with full freedom of religion, freedom from unjust imprisonment, fair trials, elected representatives of the people in power, and a separation of powers. Ahead of his time, Penn also submitted a written plan for a United States of Europe.)
The Quakers became a sedate, sober, thrifty people, of most exemplary lives, and most earnest in all good works. They were leaders in the most advanced philanthropic movements of the age. Besides their persistent and sincere advocacy of religious liberty, they were the first advocates of the abolition of slavery, and they never faltered in their purpose until slavery had ceased to exist in the British possessions and in the United States. Based on their own experience and sufferings in the horrors of the English prisons of the seventeenth century, they established the principle that a prison should be a reformatory, a place of moral improvement instead of a punishment by dirt and disease, and deeper moral degradation than could be found outside of its walls. They opposed the indiscriminate manner in which the death penalty was inflicted for minor offences. In England at that time death was the punishment for over two hundred and fifty crimes. The Quakers argued in favor of reducing the number to two, murder and treason.
"They weakly err," observes William Penn, "who think there is no other use of government than correction, which is the coarsest part of it." To provide the means of a good education for every child, and to see that all are taught some good trade or profession, would do more for the promotion of peace and happiness than all the machinery of courts and prisons. The principles that actuated the Friends who emigrated to the Holy Experiment of Pennsylvania, are set forth in a contemporary publication, called the Planter's Speech made by Penn, as follows:
"The motives of our retreating to these new habitations I apprehend to have been, the desire of a peaceable life, where we might worship God and obey his law with freedom, according to the dictates of the divine principle. ... Our business, therefore, in this new land, is, not so much to build houses and establish factories, and promote trade and manufactures, that may enrich themselves, (though all these things, in their due place, are not to be neglected), as to erect temples of holiness and righteousness,* which God may delight in; to lay such lasting frames and foundations of temperance and virtue as may support the superstructure of our future happiness, both in this and the other world."
*Penn is not advocating physical temples, rather temples or righteousness and holiness within the hearts of the early Quakers.
The Quaker colony of Pennsylvania was first sought by George Fox, twenty years before William Penn made it a reality. In France and on the continent of Europe the great men and writers seized upon The Holy Experiment of Pennsylvania as the most remarkable occurrence of the age. Voltaire was delighted, and from that time he loved the Quakers; and even thought of going to Pennsylvania to live among them. To these men, brought up under Roman version of Christianity and accustomed to the atrocities and horrors inflicted by Cortes and Pizarro on the natives of South America, the thought of Christians keeping their promises inviolate for forty years with heathen Indians was idealism realized. It was like refreshment in a great weary desert of previous Christian failures.
Fox is described by Ellwood as "graceful in countenance, manly in personage, grave in gesture, courteous in conversation." Penn says he was "civil beyond all forms of breeding." We are told that he was "plain and powerful in preaching, fervent in prayer," "a discerner of other men's spirits, and very much master of his own," skilful to "speak a word in due season to the conditions and capacities of most, especially to them that were weary, and wanted soul's rest;" "valiant in asserting the truth, bold in defending it, patient in suffering for it, immovable as a rock." In William Penn's excellent Introduction to George Fox's Journal, he summarized George Fox's life with this epitaph: "Many sons have done virtuously in this day, but dear George, thou excellest them all."
While alive, Fox was the principal guiding authority for the Society of Friends. However, later Quakers abandoned many of his and the early Quakers' basic beliefs. In the name of tolerance and love, they failed to insist on standards of conduct from their members; and a little leaven affects the whole loaf. They lost any resemblance to the unity of the Holy Spirit, replacing it with a diversity of unholy spirits. Deterioration of their faith was sealed when the Quakers began denying any authority necessary within the Church, as was beginning in Fox's time. (Click here for his statements regarding this deception of supposed "freedom.") They also later abandoned the requirement for the Scriptures to not be violated by their understandings, resulting actions, and resulting pursuits; rationalizing that the Spirit could conflict with and override the Scriptures — directly opposite to the early Quaker's fundamental tenet. They also dropped the requirement to never violate the elders' wishes in any changes to their policies or directions; instead, they substituted a consensus of opinion required, giving license to those spiritually immature persons, often the most aggressively prideful in nature, to seize and control the direction of the church. And of course, as they abandoned their faith in the divinity of Jesus, or even a belief in God, the Holy Spirit no longer presides over their meetings; therefore they now bring preconceived statements to be shared in their meetings, as well as highlight their social actions. They also lost sight of entry into the Kingdom of God after attaining purity through the reproval and destruction of sin by grace when bearing the inward cross of self-denial. Some Quaker sects accepted theological study as a means to becoming a minister or teacher.
This deterioration is particularly hard to understand in view of the writings of the many early Quakers being so specific to the requirements of the true faith, written in English, with no risk of a translation's distortion. A typical Christian has difficulty in piecing all the scriptures of the Bible together to make sense and to see the true gospel, partially because of the translator's assumptions and misunderstandings. But an English speaking person, reading the writings of the early Quakers, cannot plead vagueness and misunderstanding. The requirements are plainly stated and not subject to interpretation. Many of today's Quakers read the writings of their founders with great pride in sharing their name of Quaker, but ignore their call to seek the Kingdom through the cross. Their founder's words seem beautiful, but the readers fail to hear the warnings and requirements, just as Ezekiel described the same problem in his time:
Today's Quakers have also changed their Peace Testimony from the early Quaker's personal submissive appeals to persecuting government policies, to become organized group opposition and protests against governmental policies of war; and from their peaceful refusal to bear arms based on their individual consciences, to become aggressive confrontation with others who do bear arms; thus their original ideals have been twisted to become the exact opposite of their origins. Forgetting the early Quakers' testimonies against lying, wasteful fashions, greed, sexual immorality, swearing, false prophets, etc., for which they were greatly persecuted, the later day Quakers rather take to the streets to oppose their government's armed services — evidently concluding the only evil of man is to bear arms; in stark contrast to the warnings and definitions of evil in the Bible. To read the real early Quaker position on a nation bearing arms, see Isaac Penington's writing, Protection of the Innocent.
By the mid 1700's, the Quakers had minimized the contribution of George Fox to the founding of the Society. Those then within the Society, had not experienced the necessities of: the baptism of death; crucifixion of the selfish spirit on the inward cross of self-denial, obtaining the same Spirit that guided the Apostles; regeneration; sanctification; union with Christ and God; and entering the Kingdom, paradise, while still on the earth. Their definition of the cross became limited to wearing 17th Century clothing, while saying their thees and thous, and silently waiting in meetings once a week. This made them appear to be the same, but they didn't seek with their whole heart, or even understand the goal of seeking. Without the Spirit in control of their minds, the Quakers began to ignore Fox's and other early Quakers' counsel, changing the government left behind, (See Quaker Departure from the Truth for more). They falsely concluded that Fox had no more measure of Christ than themselves. Diminishing Fox, they began to emphasize instead the contributions of the Valiant Sixty, despite almost every one of the sixty having been convinced by Fox. But if you will notice throughout these writings on the web site, Fox was particularly held with unparalleled love and endearment by every Quaker writer, of which there are scores quoted.
By the 1800's on, Quakers in general judged their founder's criticisms and vocal opposition to the Protestant and Catholic sects and priests to be appalling. The later day Quakers judged their founders to be intolerant, unloving, judgmental, etc. This is the case of unfinished men of the flesh judging a spiritual man obviously under control of the Spirit of God; likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities, Jude 1:8. Fox and many of the early Quakers were in the Kingdom of Heaven, therefore heavenly dignities, deserving of respect. A man of the flesh is without understanding and supremely arrogant to judge a man of the spirit. A man of the flesh cannot comprehend the degree to which false prophets are held in contempt by God, and therefore spared no extent of verbal lashing, especially when in a debate with others listening who might have been misled. Babylon has sinned, all
you that bend the bow, shoot at her; spare no
arrows, for she has sinned, Jer 50:14.
The Quakers devolved into many deficit sects; the leadership of England fell in less than 100 years, while it was slightly slower in the US. Despite the leaderships in both countries falling in error, less vocal individuals privately persisted in Truth. From the Word of the Lord within: "The last substance of the Quaker faith disappeared in 1880; there is no fear of God and no obedience." Today they are an amalgam of splintered sects, mostly in name of Quaker only; all falling into form and most focused on outward social change, with the many sects within proud of their diversity of spirits, faiths, and beliefs. This diversity of spirits they call "a rich tapestry, woven without a weaver." They justify their diversity of spirits, citing the inner light of each man that calls them differently; which is definitely not the inner light, (who is Christ), but only the diversity of their selfish old men of the flesh, glorifying in their pride, lusts, and affections that are enmity with God. They forgot the requirements of purity through repentance and the cross to the Kingdom, instead turning their focus from inward renewal to outward social reform, for which they take great pride of life. The writings on this site only refer to the early Quakers. Similar to New Age meditators, most of today's Quaker sects don't require a belief in Christ or even God, while embracing within their membership atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Buddhists, and even an occasional witch. With such a diverse membership, it is no wonder their focus is limited to social action of the old man of the flesh.
There is a minority of conservative Quaker sects that still value Fox and other early Quakers; however, they are like the Christians of today presuming they are saved through belief in Jesus, studying the Bible, and waiting for Jesus to come back to the earth — all while ignoring the Bible's clearly stated exclusions, requirements, and conditions of salvation. They also ignore their founders' clearly stated necessities of salvation, such as William Penn's and George Fox's; instead they rely on the same broad easy way of salvation that their founders suffered imprisonment and died for discrediting. None of the Quaker sects have the hope of becoming pure though mortification of their carnal mind, evil imagination, and sinful nature; none are seeking to be crucified, dying daily on the inward cross of self-denial, while strictly obeying the spoken and heard commands of Christ — the forgotten, but only, way to attain salvation, attain righteousness, enter the kingdom while on earth, and see the personal return of Christ in their hearts. What their founders rediscovered through experience, the Quakers lost again: the true gospel, the true hope, and the true faith.
For more detail on the deterioration of the Quaker faith, see The History of the Quaker Departure from Truth.
The Journal on this site was scanned from the 1831 The Works of George Fox, edited by Thomas Ellwood. Several text additions, all marked as to the source, are included for background and additional detail. Also included in this site's Journal is additional text extracted from the Cambridge Journal, a two-volume reconstruction from Fox's original handwritten manuscripts, (click to see a sample); the text having been omitted from the official published version edited by Ellwood. The Cambridge Journal is only available in libraries, but Volume 1 only is available in the on-line version of this site for your reference in PDF format. It is very difficult reading, preserving the original 17th Century language. We have also included supplementary information from other sources, but they are well marked within.
Understand that the entire eight volume set of The Works of George Fox, including the Journal, the Letters, the Doctrine Books, and several other writings are all available free on this site with modern English wording and many Bible links to validate the text. This site's Journal is unique in that it has the entire two volume 1831 version of Ellwood, which has been modernized in language and also has significant additions from Fox's original manuscripts, The Cambridge Journal, published by Penney but omitted in the 1831 Ellwood version. If you want a paper book Journal, the best available is edited by Wilson Armistead, which has been mostly edited to modern English and is sold by Amazon for $29.44; the next to best is edited by John Nickalls, which is in 18th Century English and sold by Amazon for about $25; both versions are far better than the Rufus Jones version, which is deliberately short of some incredible spiritual experiences of Fox, including Fox's translation into the Kingdom of Heaven. (Rufus Jones, a 20th Century Quaker leader, had disdain for Fox, labeling Fox an escapist for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ instead of being dedicated to social action like Jones.) The Armistead and Nickalls versions both retain all Fox's experiences. You can also view The Works of George Fox in original PDF format on this site. According to the Word of the Lord within, "the two most important books on this site are: The Journal of George Fox and No Cross No Crown by William Penn's," which is also available from Amazon for $26.75
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia :
This bulk of this article (excluding the closing comments regarding the deterioration of the faith) was provided courtesy, of Wikipedia as of June 10,2006, and preserved here. It was replaced shortly after appearing by a version slanted against Fox. Today's Quakers often accuse George Fox of being judgmental, based on his criticisms of the deficit sects of Christendom. If these same people read the Bible, they would shudder at Jesus' criticisms of the religious people in his day. (Click to see). They fail to understand the difference between judging those of the world vs. those not called by Christ to be Christian leaders, nor the natural man's judging vs. the spiritual man's judging, both of which Fox explains.
This web site's purpose is to show how to become
free from sin
by benefiting from the changing power of God through the cross,
which leads to union with God in his Kingdom.