I have spent thirty years reading, studying, and writing about George Fox’s Pastoral Letters which were written in the seventeenth century. Why should you, the reader, with so many plans around for how to live your life pay especial attention to Fox’s plan?
In the year 1643 the Lord sent George Fox, an innocent lamb, young in years, to “turn people from darkness to the Light.” Fox founded the Religious Society of Friends or, Quakers (the name that Quakers have for themselves is Friends). He is a mystic, a passionate lover of God, theologian, social reformer, and an extraordinarily good and kind human being.
He writes of his experience of God’s love beautifully in his more than 400 pastoral letters, showing that it is possible to know and love God. He has a very intimate, immediate relationship with God and believes that everyone else may too. No intermediary is necessary; God is accessible to everyone.
He has great insight into the nature of God and Christ the Light. The word that he uses most often in writing of them is POWER.
I agree with William Penn when he says that Fox “is no man’s copy.” He is unique. What is best is that Fox is able to communicate this passionate love for God and his belief that it is possible to know and to see God through his writings. Although he certainly has had a conversion experience, he does not think that this is necessary for others to have had one in order to know God. In a rare insight he understands that, not he alone, but everyone is specially chosen and loved by God and may know Him!
This getting to know God must be done in fear, reverence and awe. But Fox makes it sound easy. He turns his mind within and waits until an entrance is made into his soul.Fox believes that it is possible to know the things of God, the Life that stands in God, know Him by whom the world was made. This is not only possible, it is everyone’s job in life.
The crown of Fox’s experience is this knowledge and passionate love of God and his ability to communicate it to others. He shows that it is possible to know and love God. He wrote about this love and his deep belief in Him in an extraordinary way that few people have. An expert in knowing and loving God, he doesn't compartmentalize, put God in a corner of his life. His love of God fills his whole life. There is a goodness, wholesomeness, depth and genuine excitement to this belief that isn't often found in this world.
Fox made whole what others only saw in part, a complete plan for how to live a holy and peaceful life. He gives the answers to such questions as:
- Who is God?
- What is our relationship with God? What is His relationship to us?
- How are we to live in the world?
- How do we behave, what are our responsibilities toward others, to ourselves?
- What is moral and good and what is not?
- How do we live a peaceful life?
Fox has a consistent and orderly world view keeping the inner spiritual and outward physical life in harmony. Spiritual values permeate all his beliefs; every aspect of his life has a spiritual component.
He simplifies the complex. By stating that truth is the only way to communicate with others. Truth is absolute; the “white lie” has no place in Fox’s thought.
One of Fox’s new ideas is that there should be genuine equality for both men and women. He lives in a time when rigid class structure exists with no real equality for men, let alone for women. In our own time – where there is most probably the closest approach to equality for women in the United States that there has ever been – it is not the genuine equality that Fox envisioned. He believes that men and women have equal access to God and equal responsibilities and obligations in marriage. Both men and women may use the gifts that God has given them, making the idea of women having careers a reality.
Fox’s belief in the idea of equality and value for all people because God lives within them and has created them in His image is an important one. In a world in which people behave as if created in God's image, there would be genuine equality for all. Everyone would be free to do God's will in their lives; they would be creative and live up to the image of God within them.
He is a good and generous man who likes people and wants them to lead lives of peace and prosperity. He is a kind man who shows concern for those in need. A pacifist, he is a man filled with peace and joy.
He also loved people which is much harder.
He has a rare insight and clarity in knowing what is right and what is wrong and how to tell which is which. He knows how people should treat each other; how husbands should treat wives and vice versa; how parents should treat their children; and business people their customers.
He believes that everyone may distinguish good from evil, light from darkness. He believes that everyone may lead a holy life, treating others fairly and with Truth. He asks a great deal of his followers including suffering and imprisonment but he never asks anything of them that he is not willing to endure himself.
He understands people, sin, temptation, and addiction. Whatever any one is addicted to, the tempter will come in that thing. He will use it to take control of them. Even if the individual thinks that he or she will never overcome the temptation, help will come despite their expectations. The Light, the God within, will show the temptation. Fox makes withstanding temptation sound easy. “When it troubles you,” he writes, “just sink down in that which is pure and all will be healed, hushed and fly away.”
Fox does not condone war in any form or participate in it for any reason. In his personal conduct he never resists personal attacks or threats of violent death. He might rebuke or stare down his persecutor or overcome his assailants by an appeal which shamed them or made them loving. He might try to evade his pursuers or rely on the non-violent help of Friends. He is often bloodied, sore and bruised, but by the power of the Lord he is refreshed.
He prays for and blesses his persecutors.
The Grace of God brings Salvation to all human beings. (Both Fox and the King James Version of the Bible say “man” but the Greek word anthropos means human being.) Fox believes in a Universal God, One who pours out His Spirit on all men and women, young and old, rich and poor, with dark or light colored skin, so that everyone may know and worship Him.
Fox uses universal, inclusive language – words like “all, everyone, people everywhere, company of people, citizen, every man and woman”– when he writes of those individuals whom God loves, and for whom Christ died. Christ died, not for the sins of Christians only, but for the sins of the whole world.
At his universal best Fox writes of spreading the Truth abroad, that all people – Jews, Christians, and Heathen – may know and love God and share in the Peace, Life, Joy, dominion and prosperity of His earthly kingdom. They may live for eternity in His heavenly Kingdom.
This universality, brotherhood of all people, is demonstrated in the peace testimony.
His faith is anchored in the Bible but he didn’t write a new belief
system in his own image. He believes in the religion of the Apostles and
Prophets. He read the King James Version and other English translations.
The Bible authenticates his authority. Christ the Light inspired the
scriptures and now helps us to understand them. But they are only a
declaration of the fountain, not the fountain itself. After giving a
long and elaborate biblical argument to prove a certain premise, Fox writes that Christ is sufficient.