II.B.2 George Fox and Early Quakerism

Part II  –  Application to Reformed & Evangelical Theology

SUBPART B – QUAKERISM; Faltering Beginnings of Christian Mysticism

Article 2 – George Fox & Early Quakerism

a.  George Fox

i.    Preparation for Ministry

ii.   A Mystic

iii.  His Ministry

b.  The Quaker Gospel

c.  Pamphlet-Debate of Edward Burrough & John Bunyan (1656-57)

d.  James Nayler & the Bristol Incident

e.  The Discredited Quaker-Reputation

Article 2 – George Fox & Early Quakerism

 a.  George Fox

i.  Preparation for Ministry

 George Fox was born in Leicestershire in 1624.[1]  He states that at the age of eleven given his upbringing he “knew pureness and righteousness” [2] and that as he grew up; “people had generally a love to me for my innocency and honesty.”   An experience at the age of nineteen wherein he resisted pressure from his cousin “Bradford” and another professing-Christian that he drink with them to excess caused him to conclude that he must forsake the company of all men. Therefore he writes that in 1643 he “left [his] relations and broke off all familiarity or fellowship with young or old.”  He then took to wandering about England resisting any offers of camaraderie and disdaining the clergy as incompetent in spiritual affairs.  After roughly a year his conscience began to trouble him for having forsaken his family, and even though he viewed professors of Christ as “under the chain of darkness” he nevertheless actively sought out the clergy for guidance.  He recalls meeting a Baptist minister by the name of Pickeringand relates that:

 the Baptists were tender then; yet I could not impart my mind to him, nor join with them; for I saw all, young and old, where they were.  Some tender people would have had me stay, but I was fearful, and returned homeward . .  

His return home did nothing to relieve his troubled mind and he entered upon a time of distress in which he would walk the countryside at night.  During this time of conviction he began a series of meetings with his local priest, Nathaniel Stephens, but soon became resentful that Stephens would preach concerning the topics of their private meetings.  His meetings with other ministers were likewise unsuccessful in resolving his personal-distresses and he began to isolate himself until in 1646 the Lord “opened to [Him’” the revelation; “that being bred at Oxford or Cambridge was not enough to fit and qualify men to be ministers of Christ.”  It was at about this same time that Fox concluded that “there was an anointing within man to teach him, and that the Lord would teach His people Himself.”  He was thereupon denounced by the clergyman Stephens for “going after new lights”.

Although he would have “great openings” during this time, and periods of “heavenly joy”, he nonetheless struggled with trouble and temptation so that “when it was day I wished for night, and when it was night I wished for day”.  Indeed, there is a pattern in Fox’s travails of receiving an “opening” or even an audible voice from God after which he would experience a period of darkness and distress.  He continued to frequent solitary places where he would remain until night and describes himself as “a man of sorrows in the time of the first workings of the Lord in me” and “being afraid of both professor and profane” alike and “afraid of all carnal talk and talkers, for I could see nothing but corruptions and the life lay under the burden of corruptions.”  He writes:

As I cannot declare the misery I was in, it was so great and heavy upon me, so neither can I set forth the mercies of God unto me in all my misery.  O the everlasting love of God to my soul, when I was in great distress!  When my troubles and torments were great, then was His love exceeding great.

Ultimately, Fox began to perceive the love of God and was “filled with admiration at the infiniteness of it”.  In this condition he received the revelation. . .

 . . . that all was done and to be done in and by Christ, and how He conquers and destroys this tempter the devil, and all his works, and is atop of him; and that all these troubles were good for me, and temptations for the trial of my faith, which Christ had given me. . . My living faith was raised, that I saw all was done by Christ the life, and my belief was in Him.

As a result of this spiritual break-through (or “opening” as he calls it) Fox indicates that the Lord “opened [his] mouth” so that he was able to open the Scriptures to men with force and effect. About this time a man named “Brown” prophesied that Fox would be instrumental to the Lord.  Fox says that when Brown died, a great work fell upon him (ie. upon Fox) so that he felt even changed in his body.  He writes of this time that he “could have wept night and day with tears of joy to the Lord, in humility and brokenness of heart.”   Fox describes thereafter possessing a mighty anointing to pray so that the Lord’s power was great whenever he was moved upon to pray in an assembly – but only at such times as he was “moved upon”.

Thus the message brought by George Fox was preceded by several years of a spiritual-conviction and personal-distress that persisted a number of years until he arrived at a crisis-point relief similar to that described by many early-Methodists.

ii.  A Mystic

Fox went about England with what he describes as a mighty power upon him.  He describes an event in 1651 that seems to be the first post-Reformation record of  “falling under the power”.  As he was taken before a local justice, Fox began to preach to him that he turn to Christ.  He writes:

As I admonished him, I laid my hand upon him, and he was brought down by the power of the Lord; and all the watchmen stood amazed.[3]

Upon his release he went; “warning people in towns and villages to repent and directing them to Christ Jesus, their teacher”.  He would enter churches and begin preaching, attributing their subdued response to “the power of God com[ing] over them”.  He would make prophetic-declarations[4] and performed miracles of healing, e.g.:

After some time I went to a meeting at Arnside, where was Richard Myer, who had been long lame of one of his arms.  I was moved of the Lord to say unto him amongst all the people, “Stand up upon thy legs!”  for he was sitting down.  And he stood up, and stretched out his arm that had been lame a long time, and said, “Be it known unto you , all people, that this day I am healed.” [5]

Fox describes instances in which he was moved upon for prophetic-missions .  For instance he states that in 1651 he received a prophetic word that he must go to the city of Litchfield.  He writes:

. . . was I commanded by the Lord to pull off my shoes.  I stood still for it was winter; and the world of the Lord was like a fire in me . . . as I got within the city, the word of the Lord came to me again saying; “Cry, ‘Woe to the bloody city of Litchfield!’”  So I went up and down the streets crying with a loud voice; ‘Woe to the bloody city of Litchfield!’” . . . . . . there seemed to be a channel of blood running down the streets, and the market-place appeared like a pool of blood.[6]

At one time he confronted the ruler of England, Oliver Cromwell:

After a little time Edward Pyot and I went to Whitehall to see Oliver Cromwell; and when we came before him, Dr. Owen, vice-chancellor of Oxford, was with him.  We were moved to speak to him concerning he sufferings of Friends, and laid them before him; and we directed him to the Light of Christ, who had enlightened every man that cometh into the world.  He said it was a natural light; but we showed him the contrary; and proved that it was divine and spiritual, proceeding from Christ the spiritual and heavenly man; and that that which was called the life in Christ the Word, was called the Light in us.   The power of the Lord God arose in me, and I was moved in it to bid him lay down his crown at the feet of Jesus.  Several times I spoke to him to the same effect.  I was standing by the table, and he came and sat upon the table’s side by me, saying he would be as high as I was.  So he continued speaking against the Light of Christ Jesus; and went his way in a light manner.  But the Lord’s power came over him so that when he came to his wife and other company, he said, “I never parted so from them before”, for he was judged in himself. [7]

In the late 1660’s Fox describes a heavy spiritual burden that began to grow upon him until he was finally bedridden without vision or hearing.  Faithful Friends came from far off to gather around him.  He writes of the event:

. . . though I  could not see their persons, I felt and discerned their spirits, who were honest-hearted, and who were not.  Diverse Friends who practices physics came to see me, and would have given me medicines, but I was not to meddle with any; for I was sensible I had a travail to go through; and therefore desired none but solid, weighty Friends might be about me.  Under great sufferings, and travails, sorrows, and oppressions I lay for several weeks, whereby I was brought so low and weak in body that few thought I could live.[8]

 Fox writes that during this period of suffering of things “beyond what [he had] words to declare” that he:

. . . was brought into the deep, and saw all the religions of the world, and people that lived in them.  And I saw the priests that held them up l who were as a company of men-eaters, eating up the people like bread, and gnawing the flesh from off their bones.  But as for true religion, and worship, and ministers of God, alack!  I saw there was none amongst those of the world that pretended to it. [9]

He also reports that during this period of . . .

spiritual suffering the state of the New Jerusalem which comes down from heaven was opened to me; which some carnal-minded people had looked upon to be like an outward city dropped out of the elements. . . . Many things more did I see concerning the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, which are hard to be uttered, and would be hard to be received.  But, in short, this holy city is within the Light, and all that are within the Light, are within the city; the gates whereof are open all the day (for there is no night there), that all may come in.

Although profoundly infused with the mystical, Fox lived in a time when Christian mystical experience was rare, or at least rarely reported.  However, the mystical found place within the religious society he founded called Friends or Quakers.

            iii.  His Ministry

Upon his abandonment of the institutional-church as void of true-grace, Fox claimed to the revelation that; “there was an anointing within man to teach him, and that the Lord would teach His people Himself.” [10] In 1652 while on a mountain in Yorkshire Fox had a vision of the work of God that was ahead of him.  He saw people “as thick as motes in the sun” that were to be gathered for the Lord and was directed toward the north as the direction in which his message would be received.

While Fox often uses the word “Christ” in the account of his spiritual-break-through, references to the name “Jesus” or to the “blood” of His “cross” are sparing, as he focuses upon allusions to such things as; “light”, “love” and “spirit”.  Concluding the clergy to be devoid of true insight into God, he wrote them off as imposters and set himself upon a pattern of public-confrontations with clergymen even in their own churches during and after church-services. Fox soon became feared and hated by the clergy and (perhaps most parishioners) of the church of England for his defiant-disruptions of church-services and shouting what he proclaimed to be the truth of the “inner light”, and that man did not need the teachings of the church, because every man had the light of Christ within himself.  He gathered many to his teaching, who followed suit in disrupting public worship services and decrying the wickedness of their generation.  While they took the name Friends, they became better-known by the pejorative term that was applied to them in 1650 by a; “Justice Bennet, of Derby, who was the first that called us Quakers because I bad them tremble at the word of the Lord”.[11]

The Quakers became known for civil-disobedience and Fox and his followers suffered constant imprisonments and court-battles over their beliefs and audacious-methods of advancing them.  The severity of their persecution by the authorities was in itself perceived and asserted by the Quakers as proof of the legitimacy of their beliefs.

b.  The Quaker Gospel

The “gospel” as advanced by George Fox was rather-nebulous.  While he certainly used gospel- terminology, his teachings gravitated heavily toward the mystical-aspects of Christianity arguably at the expense of its more definite and concrete aspects.  Rather than emphasizing the tangible and manifest appearance of Jesus Christ in the flesh, his teachings emphasized the more esoteric-allusions of the gospel to such things as “light”, “power”, “love”, etc.    Rather than being characterized by objectively false teaching, Fox’s gospel was characterized by forceful, yet subjectively-vague teaching.  In fact, his rejection of the sacraments was one his few teachings objectively inconsistent with Scripture.  His rejection of water-baptism and the communion was based upon the supposition that since they represented spiritual principles, they need not be literally-observed by the true-believer.  Further, the Quakers made great headway in their vigilant-opposition to certain common practices in which they certainly had the authority of Scripture, such as the swearing-of-oaths – a stand that caused particular suffering for the early-Quakers in terms of persecution and imprisonment.[12]

Fox also taught a doctrine of sinless perfection quite in-advance of the time of John Wesley.  If the concept of being entirely-delivered from sin’s bondage was novel in Wesley’s time, it was certainly novel in Fox’s.  Given that Wesley’s early ministry was commonly attended by the witness of the Holy Ghost which may have been attributable to his doctrine of divine-deliverance and sinless-perfection, this may account for the convicting strength that apparently attended Fox’s ministry.  However one tremendous distinction  between Fox’s doctrine and that of Wesley’s was that Wesley pointed to the perfection of Jesus Christ as the object of God’s work whereas Fox pointed to the initial-innocence of Adam, a doctrinal-novelty that instigated much criticism of his teaching as an adulteration of the gospel.  Despite the ambiguity of the Quaker-message, it was advocated with tremendous passion, the weight of conviction, and the air of authority.

Fox developed a stable of preachers throughout the 1650’s that were referred to as; “the Valiant Sixty”.  These proclaimed the “light within”, a “gospel” that included such points as:

1)  directing men to thir own “light within themselves” on the premise of John 1:9, which reads:         That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.                                                                                     John 1:9

Fox declared that “all men have the spirit of Christ”, and a typical account of his preaching may be related in his own words.  He describes entering a church and challenging the clergy, saying:

 I directed them to the Spirit of God in themselves, by which they might know the Scriptures, and be led into all truth; and by the Spirit might know God, and in it have unity one with another.[13]

2)  advancement of the doctrine that Christ came to restore man the spiritual-estate of Adam before the fall.

3)  a generalized-emphasis upon the “power of truth”, rather than a focus upon the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

4)  a subordination of the Scriptures to the mystical “inner light”.

This prioritization of the “inner light” had manifestation in Fox’s unusual sayings and mannerisms which included his appending such statements as; “the Lord moved upon me” (ie. to do it, or to say a thing).  Likewise did the Quaker-leadership presume upon themselves a prophetic-air not just in their preaching, but also in their casual-discourse.   They spoke with an air of confidence and certitude under the assumption that Christ Himself was directing their words.  Naturally, this tended toward a negative-impression to the public.  Added to this was a wide-array of possibly-spiritual manifestations, such as shaking, and falling under the power, that when combined with other ecstatic-experience in worship alienated non-Quaker observers.

Additionally, the Quakers maintained a defiance of convention and of the Anglican church in regards to the role of women.  Fox, and particularly his wife (Margaret Fell) vigorously advanced the rationale that since there was no “male or female” in Christ,[14] that women should be at liberty to speak and to teach as well as men.  However, given the conventions of the time and Paul’s direct-teachings to the contrary[15] this doctrine further-served to isolate the Quaker community.

c.  Pamphlet-Debate of Edward Burrough & John Bunyan (1656-57)

The controversy of the Quakers was brought squarely into the public eye through the means of a pamphlet-debate that began in 1656 when John Bunyan published a paper for the benefit of his countrymen who were faced with the novel-doctrines and controversies sweeping England as a result of the Quaker-movement.   Bunyan is best-known as the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress; a book he wrote while serving a prison-sentence for preaching.  Bunyan’s ministry was remarkable in that while he came from a poor, lower-class family and did not have the education of the clergy of England, he became one of England’s most-respected handlers of the Gospel.

Rather than a telling of his personal or professional life, Bunyan’s autobiography entitled; Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners consists of his testimony of coming into faith in Jesus Christ.  In this book, Bunyan details the lengthy process of his conversion, beginning with a life of sin, followed by the Spirit’s conviction, torments of conscience over personal-sin, bouts with fear and depression that seemed to spring from apprehensions concerning Scripture, until finally Christ was manifested to him with the profound assurance that he had been given saving-faith.  Bunyan’s conviction-experience differs from that of Fox who does not describe his own conviction as focusing particularly upon the issue of his sin.  Fox describes his years of conviction as focusing rather upon the wickedness of men generally and the godlessness of the clergy.

At the time that he wrote the treatise giving rise to this debate, Bunyan was a member of the church at Bedford pastored by John Burton.  Bunyan would preach in the church in an unofficial and unpaid capacity.[16]  As the Quaker-movement was gathering steam, Bunyan felt led to publish a clear treatise warning of the danger of certain Quaker teachings, the preface of which was written by his pastor, Mr. Burton.  The treatise was entitled; Some Gospel Truths Opened, and constitutes a striking-example of a clear and precise message concerning the Person and work of Jesus Christ.  His article was a clear and non-ambiguous communicating of the gospel of Christ designed to shed light upon what he believed was an ambiguous-gospel being promulgated with power by George Fox and his “Valiant-Sixty”.

The Quakers offered a published response later that year through Edward Burrough, himself a member of the “Valiant-Sixty”.  Far from a well-reasoned reply, Burrough met Bunyan’s article with vitriolic rhetoric and strained personal-attacks that could not have helped the Quaker-cause.   The first few pages of Burrough’s pamphlet consist of little-more than railing-accusations against Bunyan for daring to speak against the Quaker doctrines, a few examples of which are:

–  “your name shall rot, and your memorial shall not be found; and the deeper you have digged the pit for another, the greater will be your own fall, and the more miserable your desolation.”

–  “your dens are in darkness, and your mischief is hatched upon your beds of secret whoredoms.”

–  “yet doth your king, the prince of darkness accept your labor”

 – “this is thine own condition, and thou has read thy own character who art pufft up in     thy lies and slanders, and advances thyself upon the innocent.”

After lengthy name-calling wherein he accuses Bunyan of lies, deceits, hypocrisies, and having an “impudent tongue”, Burrough finally joins the argument marginally when he picks and chooses which of Bunyan’s points to refute; claiming that he does not have refute anything asked with a “bad spirit”.  The points he is willing to debate, are not met without condemnatory-rants against Bunyan.  Neither can we suppose Burrough’s rhetoric outside the Quaker-norm!  Such quickness-to-condemn was an attribute contributing to their public-reproach.  For instance, consider the word’s of Margaret Fell’s eight-year old daughter when writing to the priest of her parish:

“Lampitt, the plagues of god shall fall upon thee and the seven vials shall be poured out upon thee and the millstone shall fall upon thee and crush thee as dust beneath the Lord’s feet how can thou escape the damnation of hell.”[17]

When we consider what John Bunyan actually wrote in his own treatise, we find it to be a clear and loving plea to those he exhorts to come to faith in Jesus Christ.  We read a well-reasoned, Scripture-based response to the confusion created by the Quaker-“Gospel” that stands as an example of a clear message proclaiming, the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.   Bunyan therein urged the Quakers, along with all men to rest their hope upon the real-man, Jesus Christ, and to; “be sure to meditate upon the blood of the man Christ Jesus, who also is the true God”.[18]  He goes on to encourage them not to be undone by the greatness of their sins, but rather to plead the blood of Jesus Christ in that day as so powerful a consideration to the mind of God so as to prevail in the wake of the greatest of sins.  Bunyan writes:

But if you say, (as if often the speech of poor souls lying under a sense of sin) “I cannot apply the promises to my own soul; and the reason is, because my sins are so great, and so many.”  Consider, & know it for a truth, that the more and grater (sic) thou seest thy sins to be, the more cause hast thou to believe, yea thou must therefore believe because they sins are great.  David made it an encouragement to himself, or rather the Spirit of the Lord made it his encouragement, to crave, yea, yea, to hope for pardon, because he had greatly transgressed.   (Ps. 25:11)  “For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, (saith he) pardon my iniquity, for it is great.”    As if he said, “O Lord, Thy name will be glorified, the riches of Thy grace will be more advanced, Thy mercy and goodness will more shine, & be magnified in pardoning Me who am guilty of great iniquity, then if thou pardonest many others who have not heinous offenses.  . . . “Though thy sins be as red as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Is. 1:18) . . . Wherefore thou does not say, ‘My sins are too big’; but thou must say, because I am a great sinner, yea, because I have sinned above many of my companions, and am nearer to hell & eternal damnation than they; because of my sins, therefore, will I cry unto the Lord, & say, “O Lord, pardon my sins, for they are great!”

We are exhorted by the apostle Paul for clarity in the message:

For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?                                                                                    I Cor. 14:8

Bunyan’s treatise presented a brilliantly-clear message of the Gospel-basis for salvation via the Person of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross – a message in clear contrast to the subjective-interpretation of one’s own “light within”.  On the other-hand, nothing of so much quality came from the pen of the poor Edward Burrough as would be evident to the conscience of any reader.

d.  James Nayler & the Bristol Incident

Bunyan’s warnings that delusion would be the result of the vague Quaker “Gospel” seemed almost prophetically-timed when during that October one of the most notable of the Quaker “Valiant-Sixty” fell into a scandal that shook the Quaker-movement and provoked the scorn of all England.  James Nayler, who was arguably the most popular and ablest-communicator of the Quaker-message and  had represented the movement in several publicized debates with church-leaders.  He wore the battle-scars of persecution including at least one event where he was beaten in the company of  George Fox himself.  Nayler had suffered numerous imprisonments, deprivations, and beatings for the Quaker-cause.  But in 1656 he would participate in a grotesque-display that would stain the Quaker-reputation for centuries to come.

The trouble began when a woman by the name of Martha Simmonds was rebuffed  by some of the Quaker elders for her forwardness in the church.  At one point she had demanded that George Fox bow down to her, and when asked why he should, her response was because he had a; “lordly spirit”.  She testified in court that she; “was moved by the power” to go to James Nayler for justice.  At first Nayler resisted her, but seemed to fall into a sort of oppression.  Simmonds describes the incident as follows:

. . . at length, these words came to me to speak to him, which I did, & struck him down; “How are the mighty men fallen; I came to Jerusalem & behold, a cry, & behold, an oppression”, which pierced & struck him down with tears from that day; & he lay from that day in exceeding sorrow for about 3 days, & all that while the power arose in me, which I did not expect, seeing I knew was in that condition. But after 3 days he came to me & confessed I had been clear in service to the Lord, & that he had wronged me, & should have done justice, but did not do it.  And then he lay at my house 3 days . . .”[19]

Simmonds was thereafter accused of “bewitching” Nayler by Quaker elders, including George Fox.  The Quakers made every effort to separate Simmonds from Nayler, but Simmonds continued to find him.  After another short stay in a London jail, Nayler was released  with the help of Martha Simmonds, and a cult began to develop amongst several persons around the figure of James Nayler, the core of which seemed to consist of three women; Martha Simmonds, Hannah Stranger, and Dorcas Erbury.

In October of 1656, James Nayler came riding into the city of Bristol on horseback surrounded by several persons (including the three women) singing; “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Israel”.  They were arrested, and found in Nayler’s possession were several adoring-letters confessing him to be such things as; “the prophet of the most high God”, “whose mother is a virgin and whose birth is immortal”, “everlasting Son of Righteousness and Prince of Peace”, and the “clear unspotted image of holiness and purity”. Nayler had apparently allowed himself to become an object-of-worship.

Given its notoriety, Nayler’s trial was conducted by the Parliament of England itself, which convicted him of blasphemy.   The sentence was carried out early in 1657, which consisted of:

–  his forehead being branded with a large “B” for blasphemer”,

–  his tongue being bored-through with a red-hot poker,

–  two-years imprisonment with hard labor.

Nayler later recanted his activities and was restored to the Quaker community after his release from prison in 1659.  As part of his restoration he was required to kneel before George Fox and ask his forgiveness.  He was described as being a physically-“broken” man by this time.  In October of the following-year while traveling back to his family-home on the road to Yorkshire he was brutally-attacked and left for dead.  He was taken to the home of a local-doctor where he died two-days thereafter.  Two hours before he died he made a moving statement that has become one of the most cherished of the Quaker-religion, entitled; There is a Spirit.

e.  The Discredited Quaker-Reputation

The Quaker-reputation suffered enormously due to the incident at Bristol.  Likewise, the Quaker community suffered serious upheaval, as thousands of Quakers were jailed and forbidden to travel.  No doubt, this delusion must have caused a great many Quakers considerable confusion and possibly into condemnation.   Curiously, while George Fox’s autobiography deals in minute-detail regarding his various experiences, travels, confrontations, and quarrels, he makes little-more than a passing-reference to Mr. Nayler.  Nayler’s name is conspicuous in its absence even though Fox otherwise makes liberal mention of the names of his Quaker brethren and traveling companions.[20]  In fact, there is some evidence that George Fox may have himself engaged in similar tendencies as acknowledged by Quaker-author, Thomas Hamm:

Fox, for example, implied in some of his early writings that he was Christ himself returned to earth and could perform miracles, and rumors of such claims spread.[21]

Nayler’s is an example of an ambiguous-“Gospel” leading to spiritual-confusion, and from there to Satanic-delusion.  Instead of resonating a brilliant tone, the Quaker-trumpet gave a confused warble.  Instead of the clear “gospel of Christ”, they advanced a teaching that rather diminished the significance and authority of the Word of God.  Although they would dispute-so, the movement advanced a teaching that neglected the centrality of Jesus Christ and the blood of His cross as the true foundation of faith and basis of true fellowship.  Quakerism advanced a gospel that directed man inward within himself in search of his “inner light” that would teach him about God.  Thus the early-Quakers were directed to follow the dictates of an ill-defined “inner light” above the authority of God’s Word and were told to look to the innocency of Adam before the fall as if that were the object of our hope.  Quakerism pointed to the restoration of Adam rather than to the risen Lord of glory who would transform the sons of Adam into the sanctified saints of God, clothed with the righteousness of true holiness, purchased of God, by Christ.

For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?                                                                                    I Cor. 14:8

As well, and rather than the needless formality the Quakers presumed it to be, water-baptism was a vital-safeguard identifying the believer as “in-Christ” before both God and man.  Dereliction  of the divinely-appointed sacraments of water-baptism and the Communion must certainly have exacerbated the Quaker-condition as vitally-in-need of grace in the wake of the judgments that came – sacraments attesting-to- and strengthening identification within the body of Christ and the vicarious-justification that flows unto His own.

Despite their own failure in clarity, the Quakers were in fact given the benefit of the true-counsel of God coming from the pen of one able-scribe – John Bunyan, whose urgings Edward Burrough disdainfully rejected due to (in his own words); “the mind of the penman’s spirit”.   While Burrough’s reply gave his own-followers little cause to hope in the mercies of God, God’s provision for them was nonetheless expressed in the form of holy-counsel from; “the mind of [that] penman’s spirit” if only they found a way to read and to believe!

The Quaker-movement is worthy of review in the context of the recovery of apostolic-doctrine in that it appears to have been one of the first-substantial post-reformation movements attended by miraculous-signs, and therefore a presage of the return of supernatural-phenomenon in Christianity. Quaker-leadership looked to the supernatural as confirmation they were “in the truth”.  Such signs included, claimed incidences of dramatic physical-healing,[22] “falling under the power”,[23] and inspired utterances, [24] etc.  In fact, Fox even asserted that the supernatural-phenomenon said to accompany his message established that anything of an apparent lesser-power to be of Satan.  He writes in his autobiography: [25]  

Then I asked them how many powers there are, – whether there are any more than the power of God and the power of the devil.    They said there was not any other power than those two.  Then said I, “If you have not the power of God that the apostles had, you act by the power of the devil.”  Many sober people were present, who said they have thrown themselves on their backs.   Many substantial people were convinced that night; a precious service we had there for the Lord, and His power came over all.

That the Quaker-movement represented the principal-controversy to orthodoxy in the latter half of the seventeenth and well into the eighteenth centuries is evident when reading the letters, articles, and sermons of the notable Christian leaders of that period who would often make reference to the “Quaker-error” as to imply a common-understanding of its non-orthodoxy and folly.  This backdrop seems to have run much to the prejudice of later movements and ministries that were attended by miraculous or ecstatic phenomenon.

In a world that had recovered only the bare-rudiments of the apostolic-doctrine, any movement that came with signs and wonders was immediately feared and distrusted.  The Quaker-experience exacerbated this distrust of supernatural-phenomenon and served to solidify resistance against ecstatic-demonstration for the remainder of Seventeenth-Century Christianity and lasting even throughout the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.

 


[1] This according to William Penn writing the introduction to Fox’s autobiography.

[2] The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter I; Boyhood – A Seeker (1624-48)

[3] The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter V; One Man May Shake in the Country for Ten Miles

[4] ie. “Justice Benson told Judge Fell  that now he saw George was a true prophet; for Oliver had broken up the Parliament” The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter VII; In Prison Again (1653)

[5] The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter VII In Prison Again (1653)

[6] The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter  V; One Man May Shake the Country of Ten Miles (1651-52)

[7] The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter X; Planting the Seed in Wales (1656-57)

[8] The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter XVII; At the Work of Organizing (1667-1670)

[9] The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter XVII; At the Work of Organizing (1667-1670)

[10] The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter I; Boyhood – A Seeker (1624-48)

[11] The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter IV; A Year in Derby Prison (1650-51)

[12] This is because Fox and the early Quakers lived in an era in which oaths of loyalty were commonly required to be offered to the government of England.

[13] The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter IX; A Visit to the Southern Counties Which Ends in the Launceston Jail  (1655-56)

[14] Citing to Paul’s words at Galatians 3:28

[15] I Corinthians 11th chapter & I Timothy 2:12-14

[16] This is a fact that came back to the discredit of his Quaker-disputers who mistakenly-published insinuations he was a hireling of the church (ie. and therefore hypocritical).

[17] The Quakers in America, by Thomas D. Hamm © 2003 Columbia University Press, pg. 20

[18] Some Gospel Truths Opened, by John Bunyan The Author to the Reader (pg.14 of my copy)

[19] Excerpted from contemporary-account entitled; Satan Enthroned on His Chair of Pestilence or “Quakerism in its Exaltation” printed for Edward Thomas (1657)

[20] This observation runs consistent with the observation of Quaker-author Thomas Hamm who writes of Fox’s journal; As in the case with any autobiography, historians find evidence of selective memory, choosing the incidents that reflected well on his abilities and those of his followers, omitting those that were embarrassing or might even become dangerous with the passage of time.  The Quakers in America, by Thomas D. Hamm © 2003 Columbia University Press, pg. 14.

[21] The Quakers in America, by Thomas D. Hamm © 2003 Columbia University Press, pg. 19.

[22] “. . I went to a meeting at Arnside, where was Richard Myer, who had been long lame of one of his arms.  I was moved of the Lord to say unto him amongst all the people, ‘Stand up upon thy legs,’ for he was sitting down.  And he stood up, and stretched out his arm that had been lame a long time, and said, ‘Be it known unto you all people that this day I am healed.’  Yet his parents could hardly believe it; but after the meeting was done, they had him aside, took of his doublet, and saw it was true.”  The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter VII; In Prison Again (1653)

[23] For instance, Fox describes an incident of this occurring after he rebuked a local justice.  He writes; “As I admonished him, I laid my hand upon him, and he was brought down by the power of the Lord; and all the watchmen stood amazed.”  The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter V, One Man May Shake the Country for Ten Miles (1651-52). 

[24] ie. “I was moved to tell them that before that day two weeks the Parliament should be broken up, and the Speaker plucked out of his chair.  That day two weeks Justice Benson told Judge Fell that now he saw George was a true prophet; for Oliver had broken up the Parliament.” The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter VII; In Prison Again (1653)

[25] The Autobiography of George Fox, Chapter IX; A Visit to the Southern Counties Which Ends in the Launceston Jail (1655-56)

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About Lamp-Stand

I was converted to the faith of Jesus Christ in 1982 at which time I received water baptism and Spirit baptism. In the Spring of 2008 I was led of the Spirit through a process of repentance upon which I had an encounter with Christ that worked a profound change upon my inner being. I became aware that I had been forgiven a great debt of sin. I soon felt the Lord's direction that I close my office that my energies not be divided from the study of doctrine.
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