|George Fox, 1624-1691|
George Fox - An Autobiography
Edited by Rufus M. Jones
"Boyhood - A Seeker"
"But my relations were much troubled that I would not go with them to hear the priest; for I would go into the orchard or the fields, with my Bible, by myself. I asked them, 'Did not the Apostle say to believers that they needed no man to teach them, but as the anointing teacheth them?' Though they knew this was Scripture, and that it was true, yet they were grieved because I could not be subject in this matter, to go to hear the priest with them. I saw that to be a true believer was another thing than they looked upon it to be; and I saw that being bred at Oxford or Cambridge did not qualify or fit a man to be a minister of Christ; what then should I follow such for? So neither them, nor any of the dissenting people, could I join with; but was as a stranger to all, relying wholly upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
At another time it was opened in me that God, who made the world, did not dwell in temples made with hands. This at first seemed a strange word, because both priests and people used to call their temples, or churches, dreadful places, holy ground, and the temples of God. But the Lord showed me clearly that He did not dwell in these temples which men had commanded and set up, but in people's hearts; for both Stephen and the apostle Paul bore testimony that He did not dwell in temples made with hands, not even in that which He had once commanded to be built, since He put an end to it; but that His people were His temple, and He dwelt in them."
"The knowledge of Thee in the Spirit is life; but that knowledge which is fleshly works death.
While there is this knowledge in the flesh, deceit and self will conform to anything, and will say Yes, Yes, to that it doth not know. The knowledge which the world hath of what the prophets and apostles spake, is a fleshly knowledge; and the apostates from the life in which the prophets and apostles were have got their words, the Holy Scriptures, in a form, but not in the life nor spirit that gave them forth. So they all lie in confusion; and are making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof, but not to fulfil the law and command of Christ in His power and Spirit. For that they say they cannot do; but to fulfil the lusts of the flesh, that they can do with delight."
"My desire after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book, or writing. For though I read the Scriptures that spoke of Christ and of God, yet I knew Him not, but by revelation, as He who hath the key did open, and as the Father of Life drew me to His Son by His Spirit. Then the Lord gently led me along, and let me see His love, which was endless and eternal, surpassing all the knowledge that men have in the natural state, or can obtain from history or books; and that love let me see myself, as I was without Him."
"The Challenge and First Taste of Prison"
"Now, as I went towards Nottingham, on a Firstday, in the morning, going with Friends to a meeting there, when I came on the top of a hill in sight of the town, I espied the great steeple-house. And the Lord said unto me, 'Thou must go cry against yonder great idol, and against the worshippers therein.'
"I said nothing of this to the Friends that were with me, but went on with them to the meeting, where the mighty power of the Lord was amongst us; in which I left Friends sitting in the meeting, and went away to the steeple-house. When I came there, all the people looked like fallow ground; and the priest (like a great lump of earth) stood in his pulpit above.
"He took for his text these words of Peter, 'We have also a more sure Word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts.' And he told the people that this was the Scriptures, by which they were to try all doctrines, religions, and opinions.
"Now the Lord's power was so mighty upon me, and so strong in me, that I could not hold, but was made to cry out and say, 'Oh, no; it is not the Scriptures!' and I told them what it was, namely, the Holy Spirit, by which the holy men of God gave forth the Scriptures, whereby opinions, religions, and judgments were to be tried; for it led into all truth, and so gave the knowledge of all truth. The Jews had the Scriptures, and yet resisted the Holy Ghost, and rejected Christ, the bright morning star. They persecuted Christ and His apostles, and took upon them to try their doctrines by the Scriptures; but they erred in judgment, and did not try them aright, because they tried without the Holy Ghost.
"As I spoke thus amongst them, the officers came and took me away, and put me into a nasty, stinking prison; the smell whereof got so into my nose and throat that it very much annoyed me.
"But that day the Lord's power sounded so in their ears that they were amazed at the voice, and could not get it out of their ears for some time after, they were so reached by the Lord's power in the steeple-house. At night they took me before the mayor, aldermen, and sheriffs of the town; and when I was brought before them, the mayor was in a peevish, fretful temper, but the Lord's power allayed him. They examined me at large; and I told them how the Lord had moved me to come. After some discourse between them and me, they sent me back to prison again. Some time after, the head sheriff, whose name was John Reckless, sent for me to his house. When I came in, his wife met me in the hall, and said, 'Salvation is come to our house.' She took me by the hand, and was much wrought upon by the power of the Lord God; and her husband, and children, and servants were much changed, for the power of the Lord wrought upon them.
"I lodged at the sheriff's, and great meetings we had in his house. Some persons of considerable condition in the world came to them, and the Lord's power appeared eminently amongst them."
"One Man May Shake the Country For Ten Miles"
"Being again at liberty, I went on, as before, in the work of the Lord, passing through the country into Leicestershire, having meetings as I went; and the Lord's Spirit and power accompanied me.
"As I was walking with several Friends, I lifted up my head and saw three steeple-house spires, and they struck at my life. I asked them what place that was. They said, 'Lichfield.' Immediately the Word of the Lord came to me that I must go thither. Being come to the house we were going to, I wished the Friends to walk into the house, saying nothing to them of whither I was to go. As soon as they were gone I stepped away, and went by my eye over hedge and ditch till I came within a mile of Lichfield, where, in a great field, shepherds were keeping their sheep.
"Then was I commanded by the Lord to pull off my shoes. I stood still, for it was winter; and the Word of the Lord was like a fire in me. So I put off my shoes, and left them with the shepherds; and the poor shepherds trembled, and were astonished. Then I walked on about a mile, and as soon as I was got within the city, the Word of the Lord came to me again, saying, 'Cry, "Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield!"' So I went up and down the streets, crying with a loud voice, 'Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield!' It being market-day, I went into the market-place, and to and fro in the several parts of it, and made stands, crying as before, 'Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield!' And no one laid hands on me.
"As I went thus crying through the streets, there seemed to me to be a channel of blood running down the streets, and the market-place appeared like a pool of blood.
"When I had declared what was upon me, and felt myself clear, I went out of the town in peace, and, returning to the shepherds, I gave them some money, and took my shoes of them again. But the fire of the Lord was so in my feet, and all over me, that I did not matter to put on my shoes again, and was at a stand whether I should or no, till I felt freedom from the Lord so to do; then, after I had washed my feet, I put on my shoes again.
"After this a deep consideration came upon me, for what reason I should be sent to cry against that city, and call it the bloody city! For, though the Parliament had had the minster one while, and the King another, and much blood had been shed in the town during the wars between them, yet that was no more than had befallen many other places. But afterwards I came to understand, that in the Emperor Diocletian's time a thousand Christians were martyred in Lichfield."
[Diocletian was Emperor of Rome, 284-305 AD]
"A New Era Begins"
"When I had cleared my conscience towards them, I went up to Swarthmore again, whither came four or five of the priests. Coming to discourse, I asked them whether any one of them could say he had ever had the word of the Lord to go and speak to such or such a people. None of them durst say he had; but one of them burst out into a passion and said that he could speak his experiences as well as I.
"I told him experience was one thing; but to receive and go with a message, and to have a Word from the Lord, as the prophets and apostles had had and done, and as I had done to them, this was another thing. And therefore I put it to them again, 'Can any of you say you have ever had a command or word from the Lord immediately at any time?' but none of them could say so.
"Then I told them that the false prophets, the false apostles, and the antichrists, could use the words of the true prophets, the true apostles, and of Christ, and would speak of other men's experiences, though they themselves never knew or heard the voice of God or Christ; and that such as they might obtain the good words and experiences of others. This puzzled them much, and laid them open.
"At another time, when I was discoursing with several priests at Judge Fell's house, and he was by, I asked them the same question, -- whether any of them had ever heard the voice of God or Christ, to bid him go to such and such a people, to declare His word or message unto them. Any one, I told them, that could but read, might declare the experiences of the prophets and apostles, which were recorded in the Scriptures. Thereupon Thomas Taylor, an ancient priest, did ingenuously confess before Judge Fell that he had never heard the voice of God, nor of Christ, to send him to any people; but that he spoke his experiences, and the experiences of the saints in former ages, and that he preached. This very much confirmed Judge Fell in the persuasion he had that the priests were wrong; for he had thought formerly, as the generality of people then did, that they were sent from God."
"I was moved of the Lord to speak; and as soon as I began, priest Marshall, the orator for the rest of the priests, went his way. That which I was moved to declare was this: that the holy Scriptures were given forth by the Spirit of God; and that all people must come to the Spirit of God in themselves in order to know God and Christ, of whom the prophets and apostles learnt: and that by the same Spirit all men might know the holy Scriptures. For as the Spirit of God was in them that gave forth the Scriptures, so the same Spirit must be in all them that come to understand the Scriptures. By this Spirit they might have fellowship with the Father, with the Son, with the Scriptures, and with one another: and without this Spirit they can know neither God, Christ, nor the Scriptures, nor have a right fellowship one with another.
"I had no sooner spoken these words than about half a dozen priests, that stood behind me, burst into a passion. One of them, whose name was Jackus, amongst other things that he spake against the Truth, said that the Spirit and the letter were inseparable. I replied, 'Then every one that hath the letter hath the Spirit; and they might buy the Spirit with the letter of the Scriptures.'
"This plain discovery of darkness in the priest moved Judge Fell and Colonel West to reprove them openly, and tell them that according to that position they might carry the Spirit in their pockets as they did the Scriptures. Upon this the priests, being confounded and put to silence, rushed out in a rage against the justices, because they could not have their bloody ends upon me. The justices, seeing the witnesses did not agree, and perceiving that they were brought to answer the priests' envy, and finding that all their evidences were not sufficient in law to make good their charge against me, discharged me."
"In Prison Again"
"After some time I went to a meeting at Arnside, where was Richard Myer, who had been long lame of one of his arms. I was moved of the Lord to say unto him amongst all the people, 'Stand up upon thy legs,' for he was sitting down. And he stood up, and stretched out his arm that had been lame a long time, and said, 'Be it known unto you, all people, that this day I am healed.'Yet his parents could hardly believe it; but after the meeting was done, they had him aside, took off his doublet, and then saw it was true.
"He came soon after to Swarthmore meeting, and there declared how the Lord had healed him. Yet after this the Lord commanded him to go to York with a message from Him, which he disobeyed; and the Lord struck him again, so that he died about three-quarters of a year after."
"The next day we came into Cumberland again, where we had a general meeting of thousands of people on top of an hill near Langlands. A glorious and heavenly meeting it was; for the glory of the Lord did shine over all; and there were as many as one could well speak over, the multitude was so great. Their eyes were turned to Christ, their teacher; and they came to sit under their own vine; insomuch that Francis Howgill, coming afterwards to visit them, found they had no need of words; for they were sitting under their teacher Christ Jesus; in the sense whereof He sat down amongst them, without speaking anything."
"A Visit to the Southern Counties Which Ends in Launceston Jail"
"While I was in prison here, the Baptists and Fifth-monarchy men prophesied that this year Christ should come, and reign upon earth a thousand years. And they looked upon this reign to be outward: when He was come inwardly in the hearts of His people, to reign and rule; where these professors would not receive Him. So they failed in their prophecy and expectation, and had not the possession of Him. But Christ is come, and doth dwell and reign in the hearts of His people. Thousands, at the door of whose hearts He hath been knocking have opened to Him, and He is come in, and doth sup with them, and they with Him; the heavenly supper with the heavenly and spiritual man. So many of these Baptists and Monarchy-people turned the greatest enemies to the followers of Christ; but He reigns in the hearts of His saints over all their envy."
"Great Events in London"
"But it was a time of great sufferings; for, besides imprisonments, through which many died, our meetings were greatly disturbed. They have thrown rotten eggs and wild-fire into our meetings, and brought in drums beating, and kettles to make noises with, that the Truth might not be heard; and, among these, the priests were as rude as any, as may be seen in the book of the fighting priests, wherein a list is given of some priests that had actually beaten and abused Friends."
"I wrote to Oliver [Cromwell] several times, and let him know that while he was persecuting God's people, they whom he accounted his enemies were preparing to come upon him. When some forward spirits that came amongst us would have bought Somerset-House, that we might have meetings in it, I forbade them to do so: for I then foresaw the King's coming in again. Besides, there came a woman to me in the Strand, who had a prophecy concerning King Charles's coming in, three years before he came: and she told me she must go to him to declare it. I advised her to wait upon the Lord, and keep it to herself; for if it should be known that she went on such a message, they would look upon it to be treason -- but she said she must go, and tell him that he should be brought into England again.
"I saw her prophecy was true, and that a great stroke must come upon them in power; for they that had then got possession were so exceeding high, and such great persecution was acted by them, who called themselves saints, that they would take from Friends their copyhold lands, because they could not swear in their courts.
"Sometimes when we laid these sufferings before Oliver Cromwell, he would not believe it. Therefore Thomas Aldam and Anthony Pearson were moved to go through all the jails in England, and to get copies of Friends' commitments under the jailer's hands, that they might lay the weight of their sufferings upon Oliver Cromwell. And when he would not give order for the releasing of them, Thomas Aldam was moved to take his cap from off his head, and to rend it in pieces before him, and to say unto him, 'So shall thy government be rent from thee and thy house.'
"Another Friend also, a woman, was moved to go to the Parliament (that was envious against Friends) with a pitcher in her hand, which she broke into pieces before them, and told them that so should they be broken to pieces: which came to pass shortly after."
"Labors, Dangers and Sufferings"
"Many ways were these professors warned, by word, by writing, and by signs; but they would believe none till it was too late. William Sympson was moved of the Lord to go at several times for three years naked and barefooted before them, as a sign to them, in markets, courts, towns, cities, to priests' houses, and to great men's houses, telling them, 'So shall ye be stripped naked as I am stripped naked!' And sometimes he was moved to put on hair-sackcloth, and to besmear his face, and to tell them, 'So will the Lord God besmear all your religion as I am besmeared.'
"Great sufferings did that poor man undergo, sore whippings with horse-whips and coach-whips on his bare body, grievous stoning and imprisonments, in three years' time, before the King came in, that they might have taken warning; but they would not, and rewarded his love with cruel usage. Only the mayor of Cambridge did nobly to him, for he put his gown about him and took him into his house.
"Another Friend, Robert Huntingdon, was moved of the Lord to go into Carlisle steeple-house with a white sheet about him, amongst the great Presbyterians and Independents there, to show them that the surplice was coming up again; and he put an halter about his neck to show them that an halter was coming upon them; which was fulfilled upon some of our persecutors not long after."
"About this time we had an account that John Love, a Friend that was moved to go and bear testimony against the idolatry of the Papists, was dead in prison at Rome; it was suspected he was privately put to death. Also before this time we received account from New England that the government there had made a law to banish the Quakers out of their colonies, upon pain of death in case they returned; that several of our Friends, having been so banished and returning, were thereupon taken and actually hanged, and that diverse more were in prison, in danger of the like sentence being executed upon them. When those were put to death I was in prison at Lancaster, and had a perfect sense of their sufferings as though it had been myself, and as though the halter had been put about my own neck, though we had not at that time heard of it."
"But I told them that the whore was alive in them, and was not burned with God's fire, nor judged in them with the same power and Spirit the Apostles were in; and that their looking for Christ's coming outwardly to set up His kingdom was like the Pharisees' 'Lo here,' and 'Lo there.' But Christ was come, and had set up His kingdom above sixteen hundred years ago, according to Nebuchadnezzar's dream and Daniel's prophecy, and He had dashed to pieces the four monarchies, the great image, with its head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and its feet part of iron part of clay; and they were all blown away with God's wind, as the chaff in the summer threshing-floor."
"A Year in Scarborough Castle"
"The very next day after my release, the fire broke out in London [The Great Fire of London, 1666], and the report of it came quickly down into the country. Then I saw the Lord God was true and just in His Word, which he had shown me before in Lancaster jail, when I saw the angel of the Lord with a glittering sword drawn southward, as before expressed.
"The people of London were forewarned of this fire; yet few laid to heart, or believed it; but rather grew more wicked, and higher in pride. For a Friend was moved to come out of Huntingdonshire a little before the fire, to scatter his money, and turn his horse loose on the streets, to untie the knees of his trousers, let his stockings fall down, and to unbutton his doublet, and tell the people that so should they run up and down, scattering their money and their goods, half undressed, like mad people, as he was sign to them; and so they did, when the city was burning.
"Thus hath the Lord exercised His prophets and servants by His power, shown them signs of His judgments, and sent them to forewarn the people; but, instead of repenting, they have beaten and cruelly entreated some, and some they have imprisoned, both in the former power's days and since.
"But the Lord is just, and happy are they that obey His word."
"At the Work of Organizing"
"When we came before Dublin [Ireland], we took boat and went ashore; and the earth and air smelt, methought, of the corruption of the nation, so that it yielded another smell to me than England did; which I imputed to the Popish massacres that had been committed, and the blood that had been spilt in it, from which a foulness ascended."
"Passing thence about four and twenty miles, we came to another place, where we had a very good, refreshing meeting; but after it some Papists that were there were angry, and raged very much. When I heard of it, I sent for one of them, who was a schoolmaster; but he would not come.
"Thereupon I sent a challenge to him, with all the friars and monks, priests and Jesuits, to come forth, and 'try their God and their Christ, which they had made of bread and wine,' but no answer could I get from them. I told them they were worse than the priests of Baal; for Baal's priests tried their wooden god, but these durst not try their god of bread and wine; and Baal's priests and people did not eat their god as these did, and then make another."
"A good, weighty, and true people there is in that nation [Ireland], sensible of the power of the Lord God, and tender of His truth. Very good order they have in their meetings; for they stand up for righteousness and holiness, which dams up the way of wickedness. A precious visitation they had, and there is an excellent spirit in them, worthy to be visited. Many things more I could write of that nation, and of my travels in it; but thus much I thought good to signify, that the righteous may rejoice in the prosperity of truth."
"Whilst I was under this spiritual suffering the state of the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven was opened to me; which some carnal-minded people had looked upon to be like an outward city dropped out of the elements. I saw the beauty and glory of it, the length, the breadth, and the height thereof, all in complete proportion. I saw that all who are within the Light of Christ, and in His faith, of which He is the author; and in the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, which Christ and the holy prophets and apostles were in; and within the grace, and truth, and power of God, which are the walls of the city; -- I saw that such are within the city, are members of it, and have right to eat of the Tree of Life, which yields her fruit every month, and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.
"Many things more did I see concerning the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, which are hard to be uttered, and would be hard to be received. But, in short, this holy city is within the Light, and all that are within the Light, are within the city; the gates whereof stand open all the day (for there is no night there), that all may come in."
Vengeance in New England