II.B.3 An Assessment of the Fox Ministry

Part II  –  Application to Reformed & Evangelical Theology

SUBPART B – QUAKERISM; Faltering Beginnings of Christian Mysticism

Article 3 – An Assessment of the Fox Ministry

 a.  Later Characteristics of Ministry

b.  The Light Within

c.  The Restoration of Adam


 a.   Later Characteristics of Ministry

While we do not think of Quakerism as a particularly evangelistic Christian-sect, early Quakerism was highly-evangelistic. George Fox seemed to have been even more intensely-so toward the end of his life.  We might also detect a preoccupation with title and power.  His account of the missionary-tour he undertook to the American colonies is remarkable for its celebration of rank and nobility of those attending his meetings.  Here are some examples from his diary:

A very large meeting this was, and it held four days to which, besides Friends, came many other people, several of whom were of considerable quality in the world’s account.

Several persons of quality in that country were at it, two of whom were justices of the peace.

. . . we had a large meeting, to which came the deputy-governor and several justices who were mightily affected with the Truth.

. . . the governor came and invited me to his house, and afterwards desired me to lodge there;

. . . to which one of the judge’s came.  . . where were some hundreds of people, four justices of peace, the high sheriff of Delaware, and others.  There were also an Indian emperor or governor, and two others of the chief men among the Indians.

After the meeting there came to me a woman whose husband was one of the judges of that country, and a member of the assembly there.

Amongst these were several magistrates and their wives, and other persons of chief account in the country.

Amongst them were several justices, captains, and the sheriff, with other persons of note.

. . had a large and precious meeting at William Coale’s, where the speaker of their assembly, with his wife, a justice of peace, and several people of quality were present.

There came to it Colonel Dewes, with several other officers and magistrates, who were much taken with the Truth declared.

Amongst others came Nathaniel Batts, who had been governor of Roanoke;

Fox’s account of his American-tour does seem to digress into name-dropping in his exuberance over the kings of the earth flocking to his ministry.  Is he forgetful that it was the world’s nobility that was the cause of so much of his early suffering given his uncompromising-posture on issues of faith?  And yet, his final memoirs attest to a fascination with those of the class that persecuted him in his early years.   Are these now his allies in Truth?  Rather Fox has now been accepted as a celebrity worthy of  admiration – and these men of status are simply following the source of their strength – the goodwill of the multitude.

Fox is by no means alone in this mindset as this seems a common trait for the orthodox and heterodox ministers alike who share that common malady of the aging witness of man when once it has spent its worth it begins to look after those things which tend to vindicate the legitimacy of the life-lived – and particularly, the quality and quantity of the converts-made.  In fact we find the latter-portion of the autobiography of the much respected-evangelist Charles Finney to bear similar traits.  As the light of the witness diminishes he that held the lamp begins to search-out some natural, observable-confirmation attesting to the worth of his testimony.  In settling his eyes upon men there seems a stumbling-block into like-mediocrity – to become that thing that God had even called him forth to confront.  Therefore the Lord speaks to John the Baptist as his faith is dampening in the dungeon of the king whose sin he had denounced; “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.”[1] 

b.  The Light Within

Whatever his latter-day faults, there are more troubling aspects of Fox’s ministry and the Quaker-movement that bear emphasis – not the least of which being his Gospel of the “inner light” that directed men to the Spirit of God in themselves for truth rather than to the Christ-above and at the right hand of the Father.  In this respect, Fox walked a very narrow line between heterodoxy and apostasy, e.g.

I directed all to the Spirit of God in themselves; that they light be turned from darkness to Light, and believe in it;[2]

. . our labour is to bring every one to his own Teacher in himself.[3]

I answered, “Nay, for I and my Friends direct all people to the Spirit of God in them, to mortify the deeds of the flesh.[4]

When I appealed to that God in their consciences, the Light of Christ Jesus in them, they could not abide to hear it.[5]

Then I directed them to the Light of Christ and Spirit of God in their own hearts, that by it they might come to know their free teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ.[6]

In his doctrine of the “Inner Light” Fox took a distinct departure from the apostolic-Gospel – those faithful messengers of whom it can be said:

No one in it is weary or stumbles, none slumbers or sleeps; nor is the belt at its waist undone, nor its sandal strap broken.                     Is. 5:27

The mystical sandal or shoe stands as a Gospel-metaphor for the equipping of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – of whom Isaiah also prophesies:

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,            Who announces peace & brings good news of happiness,   Who announces salvation, & says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”                       Is 52:7

 The sending-forth of the gospel message of redemption is accomplished by means of earthly “feet”.   Paul repeats this prophecy, even clarifying it as a reference to the gospel messenger:

  And how shall they preach, except they be sent?     As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace,    & bring glad tidings of good things!                       Rom 10:15

Therefore Paul exhorts the saints at Ephesus, that as part of their spiritual-equipment, they add this:

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;                                                                                     Eph 6:15

Prophecy’s broken sandal-strap is an allusion to a broken and inadequate gospel message wherein Truth is lacking to the detriment of the Kingdom of God.  Spiritual stumbling occurs.   While innumerable men have been sent in every generation, history limits itself to the relatively few of them that inspired a new religious-denomination or spiritual-movement; men such as George Fox or John Wesley.  Others are remembered for their broad impact, such as George Whitefield or Charles Finney.  Others are remembered for their writings, such as John Bunyan and Jonathan Edwards.  But the gospel has been faithfully preached by men sent from God in many places and in every generation.   Even men truly and divinely-empowered are apt to stumble in their message and cause others to stumble with them.  The proclamation of the gospel carries the innate paradox of a truth that is perfect and immutable (ie. the herald of the perfect witness of Christ), and yet is itself the imperfect communication of imperfect men.  Therefore when the Lord referred to the preaching of John the Baptist, He qualified His witness with this statement:

  You sent unto John, & he bare witness unto the truth.  But I receive not testimony from man:    but these things I say, that you might be saved.                                                                                      John 5:33-34

 Even though John was sufficiently-true to his ministry that the Lord could say of him; “he bare witness of the truth”, yet even so, it bore the mark of earthly-imperfection.  And if imperfect, there would have been occasion to stumble.  Therefore when we consider other notables throughout history, we may recognize certain aspects of their life or certain doctrines they held that fell short of the pure-Gospel-of-God.

George Fox, although he preached with power and (by various-accounts) the power of God was present in his message, he rejected the basic sacrament of water-baptism, which must have been a great cause for stumbling in his converts at such time they may have come into judgment.  His testimony is extremely compelling, including that aspect of his testimony wherein he experienced the “inner light” of Christ illuminating his being.  However, Fox’s preaching to the world that they should recognize and follow a “light within” was an assumption that all men indeed possessed the illumination of Christ! – an assumption contradicted by the Gospel.  Recall Paul’s words:

  But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,  if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.     Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.   Rom 8:9

The implication of Paul’s words is clearly that all men do not have the indwelling Spirit of Christ.  Therefore to teach the world to follow the light each man of his own conscience under the mis-designation that they are thereby following the Spirit of Christ is false teaching – and that, to such a degree that John Bunyan began to denounce the Quaker theology as out-of-balance and a sleight of the Word of God.  In other words, Bunyan protested that something was loose in the Quaker sandal strap.

The testimonies of men with genuine callings to preach the gospel vary to great extent.  Some experience darkness followed by light, such as Fox and Bunyan.  Some describe years of self-doubt followed by a calm-assurance such as Wesley.  Others are powerfully anointed for ministry with less  pronounced periods of mental or spiritual struggle, such as Finney or Durham.  Despite the doctrinal limitations of the era and despite the destructive innovations of George Fox, there did exist sufficient truth in the lifting up of the crucified and resurrected Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, for the men of Fox’s era, including his Quaker brethren to close with salvation; if not from the preaching of Fox and his Valiant Sixty, then certainly from the pen of their countryman and contemporary, John Bunyan.

c.  The Restoration of Adam

Fox taught that Christ came to restore Adam to his original estate prior to the fall.  This was, however, not the testimony of the Apostles.  We find that nowhere do the apostles preach the restored life of Adam.  Rather it is the death of Adam to which Paul points as bringing apprehension of the life of Christ:

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Himthat our body of sin might be done away with,   that we should no longer be slaves to sin.                   Rom. 6:5

Zechariah’s prophecy admonishes all flesh “keep silent” before the Lord – an allusion to the mortification of sin’s power by virtue of the Lord’s presence in the man; ie. the mortifying and regenerative operation of the Spirit in the body of Christ.

 For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.                   Rom 8:13

To be sanctified in Christ is to no longer be a “debtor to the flesh.”[7]  Rather the Spirit of Christ dwelling within us[8] constitutes the release from the spiritual bondage of servitude to sin.[9]    And Paul writes:

  Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth;   fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, & covetousness, which is idolatry:                                                                                     Col 3:5

While Fox spoke of a mortification of sin, his doctrine was hamstrung given he did not present Adam as dead, but rather an entity to be corrected, restored, and made acceptable by the offices of Christ working within.  But this is not the way in which we are directed by Scripture.  Sin is not mortified as if extrinsic to our nature.  Rather it is nullified by death – but a death followed by resurrection life as a new spiritual principle.[10]  Those that belong to Christ have crucified not the sin, but that which gave sin its power – the flesh in which it innately resides.  The difference is that those regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit by means of faith in Jesus Christ have mortified sin (ie. “the deeds of the body”) through overcoming sin in the realm of deed, word, and thought through the indwelling Spirit of Christ.  But as far as Adam, his role in the operation is to diminish and to die that the life of Christ may increase.

They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  Gal. 5:24

 Mortified are the actions, words, and thoughts, that constitute an affront to holiness.  These are the things that defile God’s temple, as the Lord indicated:

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts,  fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.    All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”      Mark 7:20-23

If those things proceeding from the heart defile the man, then those things proceeding from the heart of the confessor of Jesus Christ would defile His temple unless they were wrought upon by a greater authority; that authority is the presence of Christ within the man.  Therefore the eternal word of God is; “Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD.”   Once this command is comprehended through the means of faith; the power and presence of Christ will illuminate and mortify sin in our members.  Suddenly there is a greater authority than we knew before; an authority that takes its dominion over natural things as those things acting in opposition to the eternal purposes of God.  Therefore Paul writes:

  But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,  if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.     Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.                                                                                      Rom 8:9

Thus power to mortify our members and to cease from sin comes from the presence of Christ within the man[11] – not as any restoration of the natural man, but as a giving over of the natural man unto the death God has ordained for him – the death that He sent His Son into the world to die that we amight be raised again with Him.

The Fox message did not rightly deal with that fundamental aspect of the apostolic Gospel; the principle of Sin.  Neither did the Fox message point clearly to the provision of God in the atonement offered by Jesus Christ, but rather misdirected men into a search for Truth as an entity residing innately within themselves.  Though confused, the Quaker message was nonetheless empowered as a witness and therefore was effective in gathering men unto its call.  Because it was confused, it represented a profound occasion for stumbling for those who embraced Fox’s gospel.

[1] Matthew 11:6, Luke 7:23

[2] Autobiography of George Fox; Chapter VI – A New Era Begins 1652

[3] Autobiography of George Fox; Chapter

[4] Autobiography of George Fox; Chapter XV – In Prison for Not Swearing 1662-1665

[5] Autobiography of George Fox; Chapter VIII – A Visit to Oliver Cromwell 1653-1654

[6] Autobiography of George Fox; Chapter VIII – A Visit to Oliver Cromwell 1653-1654

[7] Romans 8:12

[8] Romans 8:11

[9] Romans 8:15

[10] This principle is typified in the Mosaic Feast of First-fruits, which we shall study in Part II.

[11] See commentary on Ezekiel 13:18  “. . and preserve his life.” for discussion of this principle of death and “resurrection-life” that constitutes the presence of Christ within the man.


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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