Wednesday, August 11, 2010

George Fox's Message Via His Scripture Quotations - Part 7

This is a continuation of part 6 of my School of the Spirit research paper.

Empowers to Fight the Lamb’s War

Fox often refers to victory because he believes that part of the life in the Spirit means engaging in a spiritual war against Satan. This battle is often referred to as the Lamb’s War, as described in Revelation 17:14, "These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful." Fox writes that "the lamb must have the victory", which seems to allude to this verse. Another favorite verse that refers to the Lamb’s War is Revelation 12:17, "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." While he occasionally mentions the dragon, Fox usually quotes the latter part of this verse, emphasizing that Friends should keep the testimony of Jesus.

Epistle 55 is titled "Concerning the spiritual warfare" and illustrates what this spiritual war entails. For example, Fox writes "Arm yourselves like men of war, that ye may know, what to stand against. Spare not, pity not that which is for the sword (of the spirit,) plague, famine, and set up truth, and confound the deceit, which stains the earth and cumbers the ground." Setting up, or establishing truth, and confounding or trampling deceit is a major theme of Fox’s epistles, and is the way this spiritual war is fought. There are different aspects to this deceit. On one hand, it is simply the way Satan blinds you to the light of Christ in your own heart. It can also be the various false doctrines, practices, and organizations in the world that Fox and other early Friends were often critical of. In epistle 55, Fox also encourages Friends to "go on in the work of the Lord, that ye may trample on all deceit within and without," thus emphasizing that the spiritual warfare is not just fought by outward ministry, but by the inward work of waiting in the Light.

The sword of the spirit mentioned in epistle 55 is the word of God, according to Ephesians 6:17. Now, traditional Christianity refers to the bible as the "word of God". For example, the original King James Bible contains a message from the translators to the reader that says that the bible "containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God." For these Christians, then, the sword of the spirit is the bible. To this day, many Christian children in sunday school participate in "sword drills" in which they must look up verses in the bible as fast as they can. Friends, however, maintained that Christ is the word of God. In responding to an opponent who claimed that the scriptures are the word of God, Fox says that "the scriptures of truth are God’s words, which Christ, the word, fulfils. They are not the word of God, which thou has blasphemously affirmed, but Christ is the word of God." Thus, for Fox, it is Christ who is the sword of the spirit by which the spiritual war is fought -- the spirit of Christ in one’s heart that leads one to speak and act in various ways, is a sword against evil and deceit.

This usage of the "word of God" as the "sword of the spirit" is another variation of Christ as the seed who bruises the head of the serpent. In fact, the purifying and transforming action of the seed within the individual is at the center of the Lamb’s War. It is in turning people towards the light of Christ within themselves that evil is defeated. Fox often speaks of his mission the same way Paul does in Acts 26:18, in which he was "to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." In epistle 216, Fox ties together the themes of turning people to the light, purification, and the defeat of evil: "Yet work ye and labour in the power of the Lord God ... to the renewing of people’s minds in the light and power of God, and knowledge of Christ Jesus, turning them from the enmity and the darkness, (the power of satan,) to the light, and to God, that they may be renewed into his image and likeness; that the image of the devil, and his likeness, may be defaced."

In addition to the "sword of the spirit", Fox also seems to like the metaphor of the word as a hammer or as a fire, as found in Jeremiah 23:29, "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" In epistle 23 he writes that the word "saves the soul, and hammers down, and throws down, and burns up that which wars against it."

Fox is careful to distinguish spiritual warfare from worldly warfare, often referring negatively to carnal weapons as found in 2 Corinthians 10:4, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." For example, in epistle 205, he writes that "in the spirit ye will worship God, and have fellowship and spiritual weapons, and come to be spiritual men, and not as the carnal world that rule and wrestle with carnal weapons, and with flesh and blood." In addition to 2 Corinthians 10:4, this one sentence also brings in John 4:24 (that God is worshipped "in spirit and in truth"), and also Ephesians 6:12, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

Fox often emphasizes the importance of ministry and that it proceeds from the light and not from human reason. He also emphasizes not the words, but the spirit that gives them forth. This flows, to a large extent, from the understanding that the gospel is not simply a message, but is the power of God. This idea comes from Paul, who writes in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." In epistle 372, Fox equates the gospel with Christ, and emphasizes over and over that the gospel itself is power: "Now the gospel being preached to, or in, every creature under heaven; which gospel is the power of God to salvation, to every one that believes; so all that receive this gospel, the power of God unto salvation, in their hearts, receive Christ, (the power of God,) and his government and order in the power. And Christ reigns in their hearts in his power; and such come into the gospel order."[5, p. 207] Fox’s subtle insertion of "or in" to his quotation of Colossians 1:23 (“the gospel ... which was preached to every creature”) is very telling, in that it emphasizes the internal work of Christ on the heart, and not simply a message that one must accept.

Not surprisingly, Fox also makes use of Ephesians 6:13-17, which identifies the equipment for spiritual warfare:

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

In addition to the sword of the spirit, Fox mentions both the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation numerous times. In epistle 206, Fox makes the interesting connection between salvation and Christ through the helmet metaphor, saying "Christ Jesus being your helmet and your head." In epistle 314 he suggests that "your heads [are] preserved by the helmet of salvation, and your hearts fenced with the breast-plate of righteousness." In epistle 377, Fox provides a variation on the spiritual armor theme that has a wonderfully gentle feel: "And therefore mind the Lord in all your sufferings, and keep all low, and in the humility of heart, and there you will feel that he that inhabits eternity, dwells with an humble heart, and he will be your shield and buckler, and defender in time of trouble."[5, p. 215]

In carrying on the Lamb’s War, Fox frequently urges Friends to be "valiant for the truth upon the earth." This is a variation on Jeremiah 9:3, "And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me." Because this verse describes those that are not valiant, the implication of “be valiant” is not just to be brave, but to be truthful and to know God.

This paper concludes in part 8.

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