July 1624 – 13 January 1691
Influential to the Quaker Movementby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
During the Commonwealth of England, a period loosely said to be from 1640-1660, the Christian religion went through a crisis. The theology of that time had largely compromised with medieval thought. It was partly for this reason that many people living during that time were religiously restless. They felt that a change was necessary, such as the removal of an authoritative Church, yet nothing new came up.1 That is, nothing until George Fox emerged.
Fox's exact birth date appears to be unknown, but he was born at Drayton-in-the-Clay, now called Fenny Drayton, in Leicestershire in July of the year 1624. Fox's father was a weaver named Christopher Fox and his mother's name was Mary. As a young boy, Fox was taught how to stay pure in the Lord's eyes by his parents. It was also revealed to him that he should not act in accordance to what he saw in the world: deceit and irresponsibility. Although his relatives desired for him to become a priest, others persuaded him to become a shoemaker. Therefore, he began to train under a shoemaker, whom Fox blessed with his presence.2
Near the end of his teenage years, Fox received a command from the Lord. He said, “Thou seest how young people go together into vanity, and old people into the earth; thou must forsake all, young and old, keep out of all, and be as a stranger unto all.”3 So, in September of 1643, Fox left his family and friends and began traveling the country. When his early twenties came around, Fox went through a period of temptations and trials. It was around this time that he realized his family's desire for him to return home, so he fulfilled their wish.
After returning home, Fox's relatives and friends desired for him to be married or join the army, but he did not wish to do so and refused. Even at this time his troubles had not ceased, so he began to seek counseling from local priests. Sadly, they were of no help; on the contrary, they quite often worsened his condition. Through the strength of God, however, Fox persevered.
In 1646 Fox began to develop a deeper relationship with God, and a deeper understanding of His Word. It was during this time that Fox began to understand how Christians in different denominations could all be true believers. At another time, the Lord revealed to Fox that, contrary to popular belief, merely attending a university to become a minister did not make a person qualified to become a minister. Later on, it was revealed to Fox that God lived not in physical temples built by men, but the temple of the soul. Because of these revelations, Fox began to further admire God's goodness.
After several other similar revelations, Fox slowly developed a friendship with others of similar beliefs, and they called themselves the Children of Light. He referred to others of this new denomination as Friends, so they soon became the Religious Society of Friends. This new society had different beliefs than many of the other denominations at that time. For example, Fox was careful to note the difference between a church and a building. He labeled the entire community of believers the church, while the building itself was a steeple-house. In addition, Fox was against infant-baptism as it was not the child's personal choice, while others firmly argued that it was a good thing. Also important to the Friends was that a personal relationship with Jesus was necessary. Listening to mortal humans alone could not give a person the necessary spiritual nourishment. So, as the Lord revealed Himself to Fox, he adjusted his beliefs to fit God's will, and preached them to others.
While he preached, Fox also felt the calling to “speak truth to power.”5 His way of accomplishing this was by approaching political leaders with his beliefs and messages. One person Fox approached was Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England. In 1654, Fox wrote this to Cromwell:
“God is my witness, by whom I am moved to give this forth for the Truth's sake, from him whom the world calls George Fox; who is the son of God who is sent to stand a witness against all violence and against all the works of darkness, and to turn people from the darkness to the light, and to bring them from the occasion of the war and from the occasion of the magistrate's sword...”6
George Fox was strongly against violence. He also tried to convert influential politicians to his beliefs, just as he did so with Cromwell. It is unknown, and unlikely, that Cromwell obeyed Fox's demands, but it definitely made a point, and at least it was a good witness for his denomination.
By the late 1640's and the early 1650's there were many people that shared Fox's beliefs. They held meetings in many towns where they discussed and preached their beliefs. As Fox would travel, he would go to these meetings and share what God put on his heart. He said, “thus the work of the Lord went forward, and many were turned from the darkness to the light...” Throughout his life, Fox continued to spread the Gospel in the way that God had revealed it to him, and the group of Friends grew.
In a time where religion had compromised its ideologies with other ideas, George Fox preached the whole Truth as he was motivated by God. He was steadfast in his beliefs, yet peaceable at the same time. He was a great leader and encourager for many while he lived. To note all the wonderful things Fox did would be too much for a short essay, but his life is a great example to all of how God can use a person for His work if he or she will surrender all.
1. Jones, Rufus. George Fox – An Autobiography: Introduction. Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press, 2006. Digital. <http://www.strecorsoc.org/gfox/intro.html>
2. Fox, George. George Fox – An Autobiography: Chapter One – Boyhood – A Seeker. Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press, 2006. Digital. <http://www.strecorsoc.org/gfox/ch01.html>
4. Fox, George. George Fox – An Autobiography: Chapter Two – The First Years of Ministry. Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press, 2006. Digital. <http://www.strecorsoc.org/gfox/ch02.html>
5. Tolles, Frederick. "Quakerism and Politics." (1956) Web.22 May 2009. <http://www.quaker.org/pamphlets/ward1956a.html>
1. Fox, George, and Rufus Jones. The Journal of George Fox. Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press, 2006. Digital. <http://www.strecorsoc.org/gfox/title.html>
2. Tolles, Frederick. "Quakerism and Politics." (1956) Web.22 May 2009. <http://www.quaker.org/pamphlets/ward1956a.html>