Thursday, May 21, 2009

Epistle 10 in Modern English

In a comment on a previous post, Ali Reid wondered if there was a Modern English version of George Fox's Epistle #10, and whether it would have the same power. I thought I might give it a try. I realize that adding capital letters in certain places is more of an alteration, but I think it emphasizes the references to God and the Divine Seed:

To Friends, to stand still in trouble, and see the strength of the Lord.

The tempter comes in the form of anything you are addicted to. And when he can trouble you, he has the advantage, and you are lost.
    After you see yourselves, stand still in That Which is Pure
            and mercy will come.
    After you see your thoughts and temptations, don't think, just submit,
            and power will come.
    Stand still in That Which Shows and Discovers
            and strength will immediately come.
    Stand still in the Light, and submit to it
            and the tempter will be hushed and gone
            and content will come.

When temptations and troubles appear, sink down in That Which is Pure, and your troubles will be hushed and fly away. After you have seen yourselves, your strength is in standing still. Whatever addictions you see in yourselves – temptations, corruption, uncleanness, you think you will never overcome them. Your earthly reason tells you that you will lose everything. Don't listen to it! Stand still in the Light that shows you your addictions, and you will receive strength from the Lord, and help beyond all your expectations.

Then you will grow up in peace, and no trouble will move you. David fretted when he looked out, but when he was still no trouble could move him. When your thoughts are out and abroad, that's when troubles move you. But keep your minds on that Spirit that existed before the letter and you'll learn to read the scriptures the right way. If you do anything by your own will, you tempt God, so stand still in that Power that Brings Peace.
    George Fox


  1. Friend,
    thanks for this. I was not aware of Fox's epistle 10 and it speaks to my condition right now.

  2. For that matter, what are the "addictions" of modern Friends who don't happen to smoke, drink, or use narcotics? Television? The New York Times and a cup of coffee on Sunday morning? Do these lead us into temptations?

  3. You beat me to it, Mark! I'm still open to having a go at another version myself - but it will have to be really inspired to be better than yours. I certainly feel that the power of the original comes clearly through your words, thanks a lot.

  4. Rich,
    I did struggle with "addicted" a little, and I'm open to alternatives. I agree that we often think of physical substances today. I believe Fox did mean it in a broader sense since he later says "whatsoever ye see yourselves addicted to, temptations, corruption, uncleanness, etc". "Habit" seems reasonable, but I also feel like Fox is referring to things that really have a grip on you, that you think you just can't stop. If so, habit may not be strong enough.

    In response to your second post, I think politics can become an addiction, in the way it can consume our thoughts, just as the news in general can (yes, even NPR), or work. I struggle with leaving work behind when I come home each day. Usually I succeed, but there are times when I can't do it by myself. There are probably attitudes towards other people that could be considered addictions as well.

    There's another word I struggled with in this epistle and it was "out" in the phrase "when David looked out". It felt like maybe Fox was using it in opposition to looking inwardly, but I also felt like by narrowing it I was reducing the possibility that it could also just mean "out at the world" (which I also had tried at one point).

    If you do feel led to have a go at another version, I would love to see it! And thanks for inspiring me to try it, I never would have otherwise.

    With love,

  5. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), "addicted" has only been used in reference to narcotics since the beginning of the 20th century (although there is a 1612 reference to an addiction to wine). The source is Latin "addictus", meaning "to pronounce", as in "to assign by decree" (e.g., pronounce judgement). The various English meanings evolved out of that. To generalize from the various OED definitions, for George Fox, "addicted" would have had the sense of "attached to", "devoted to", "inclined to", or even "bound by". An OED example from 1660 is: "He was much addicted to civil Affairs," which sounds like Mark's reference to an addiction to politics. I would stick to the word "addicted" in the paraphrase because I think we're getting back to using the word in a broader sense than just physical addictions. Your paraphrase is good, by the way. -- As for "when David looked out...": this most likely refers to a specific verse in the Bible. If you find that context, the word "out" will make more sense.