George Fox's Message Via His Scripture Quotations - Part 5
This is a continuation of part 4 of my School of the Spirit research paper.
The Ultimate Ruler, Who Must Be Obeyed
It isn’t enough to say that Christ is known inwardly, he must also be obeyed. Fox refers to Christ using various terms denoting leadership. For example, he refers to Christ as the head, referring to Colossians 1:18, which says that "[Christ] is the head of the body, the church." Fox emphasizes not just that Christ is the head of the church, but that the church is defined as a community that recognizes Christ as its head. In epistle 230, he writes "there is no true church but where Christ exercised his offices in an amongst them." By offices, Fox is referring to the various roles Christ takes on as the head of the church -- prophet, shepherd, counsellor, commander, bishop, priest.[5, p. 54] In one of his doctrinal epistles, addressed to “all Kings, Princes, and Governors in the whole world”, Fox gives some examples of how Christ is known in various offices:
His office, as he is a counsellor; do you hear his voice from heaven, concerning your heavenly state: his office, as he is a leader to lead you out of sin and evil, and to rule in your hearts by faith, as a commander: his office, as he is a shepherd, are you his sheep? and do ye hear his voice?
Fox also draws numerous titles and images from Isaiah 9:6-7, which is familiar to fans of Handel’s "Messiah":
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
The title "Prince of Peace" occurs quite frequently in Fox’s epistles, often accompanied with the title "Prince of Life." The kingdom and government of Christ also get mention from Fox. He often refers to the kingdom as the "everlasting kingdom", touching on Daniel 9:4, which says "How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation." Not surprisingly, Fox also refers to the "kingdom of God" that occurs throughout the New Testament.
As usual, Fox’s emphasis is not on giving Christ these titles, but in acting accordingly. For example, in epistle 49 Fox emphasizes that "the kingdom of God ye may all come to see, waiting in the light, taking heed to it, which calls to repentance, which informs your minds towards the kingdom of God, where there is no end, but love, joy, and peace for evermore." The kingdom, in this case, is realized through obedience to the light.
Fox often encourages this obedience through the phrase "walk in the light", which refers to 1 John 1:7: "But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
The well-known Fox phrase "walk worthy of your calling" may come from Ephesians 4:1, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called", although it could also refer to 1 Thessalonians 2:12 "That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory."
Fox also warns against disobedience in various ways. He often warns Friends not to "grieve the spirit" or to "take heed of grieving the spirit", referring to Ephesians 4:30 "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." One Fox’s favorite terms for disobeying or ignoring the spirit is "quenching the spirit", which comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:19 "Quench not the spirit." Instead, Fox exhorted Friends to walk "as becometh the gospel" echoing Paul in Philippians 1:27 "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." In Fox’s time, the word "conversation" didn’t just mean talking, it referred to one’s whole manner of being, the way one carried one’s self.
This paper continues in part 6.