Thursday, August 5, 2010

George Fox's Message Via His Scripture Quotations - Part 1

This was my School of the Spirit research paper. I'm finally getting around to posting it, after investigating another avenue of publication. I didn't think the full title would fit in the blog, since it is: "The Message of that Eminent and Faithful Friend and Minister of Christ Jesus, George Fox, As Revealed by the Quotations of Scripture in his Epistles Unto Friends."


George Fox has always been famous for his knowledge of the bible. His writings are infused with scripture references, frequently containing only snippets of verses, and usually without providing the chapter and verse that he is quoting. Fortunately, Esther Mu ̈rer has endeavored to track down Fox’s scripture references, as well as those of other early Friends, and has made them available on the Quaker Bible Index (

In 2007, I used the Quaker Bible Index to compile a list of the bible verses that George Fox quoted most often. I was particularly looking for devotional or inspirational verses. After some online discussions with Kirk Wattles, I realized that my list included quotes used to defend Quaker doctrines and teaching. I compiled a new list using only those verses appearing in Fox’s epistles, reasoning that the epistles were more pastoral in nature and I wanted the verses that Fox would quote when writing to other Friends.

From this set of verses, and looking at the way Fox used them, I pieced together a description of Fox’s message that, while possibly incomplete, shows the major parts of that message and their scriptural foundation. Essentially, this message is:

Christ, the light or the seed, enlightens every one in the world, and is known inwardly and spiritually, not by the teachings of humans. He destroys sin, purifying those who obey him, and restoring them into the image of God in which they know peace and love. Those who obey Christ as the ultimate ruler become members of the body of Christ, and are brought into unity with him and with each other, and are called to fight a spiritual war against evil, for which they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

This paper continues in part 2.


  1. Hi Steve,
    Yes, I have read Barclay's Apology and I mostly find it enjoyable. It is a bit different from what Fox was writing in his epistles, though. Barclay is trying to describe Friends' theology and doctrines, but Fox was trying to encourage Friends in their life in the Spirit.

    The last time I read Barclay's Apology, I just had to put it down after he went into a rant about Catholics. It hadn't been long since Sister Denise Mosier had spoken at our School of the Spirit residency, and I asked myself "would I ever say these things about Sister Denise?" It is easy to get caught up in the "why we are different from other religions" that early Friends were espousing, but I try to stay on the side of "what are we called to do".

    Sadly, Sister Denise died on 8/1 in a car accident.

    With love,

  2. Your summary of Fox’s pastoral message is quite wonderful.

    I hope, though, that your readers will understand that the rather different message Fox expressed, when he was declaring the Quaker Gospel to audiences of non-Friends, was a central part of his message — just as it was a central part of his life’s work — despite the fact that he did not repeat it in his letters to the already-convinced!

  3. Marshall,
    I don't see Fox's message to non-Friends as being that different. He might spend more time elaborating on various parts of scripture and showing how they are actually consistent with Friends' experience of Christ, but I see the same things about turning to the light, obeying it, and being transformed. Could you elaborate on what you see the differences being?
    With love,

  4. every time i hear the emphasis on obedience i think of 1corr13 that anything without godlove("love one another as i have loved you" and god loved us first and we in turn thru grace loved him back with that same love) is nothing and gains nothing........the essence of the new covenant being the three commandments of love........knowing we cannot love god unless we are loving our brother also.

  5. Justin, I agree that the core message remains the same. I am wondering if Marshall was alluding to the amount of time that Fox spends denouncing the "religions of Man".

    feetxxxl, I have found that many Friends get uncomfortable with the word "obedience" when I present this material. Yes, we are commanded to love, but we are also commanded to do various things at various times by the Holy Spirit. Obedience to those commands whispered to us by the spirit of Christ within is one way we manifest that love. Perhaps we will have more discussion on this when we get to that section tomorrow.

    With love, Mark

  6. Very clear and well written, I agree completely.

    Praise His name
    and bless the friends,