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March 19, 2006

A Prayer of George Fox

On page 2 of Fox's Epistles (Volume VII of his Works), a prayer appears just before the first epistle:

Upon the Fourth-day of the First month, 1650, I felt the power of the Lord to spread over all the world in praise.

Praise, honour, and glory be to the Lord of heaven and earth! Lord of peace, Lord of joy! thy countenance maketh my heart glad. Lord of glory, Lord of mercy, Lord of strength, Lord of life, and of power over death, and Lord of lords, and King of kings! In the world there are lords many, but to us there is but one God the Father, of whom are all things; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things: to whom be all glory, who is worthy! In the world are many lords, and many gods, and the earth maketh lords, coveting after riches, and oppressing the creatures; and so, the covetous mind getting to itself, lords it above others. This nature of lordly pride is head, until subdued by the power of God: for everyone in that state, doth strive to be above another; few will strive to be the lowest. Oh! that everyone would strive to put down in themselves, mastery and honour, that the Lord of heaven and earth might be exalted!

George Fox's Works

In 1831, defending themselves against charges that they had strayed from Quakerism, Hicksite publishers assembled and printed an 8-volume collection of The Works of George Fox. That collection was reprinted in 1975 by AMS for libraries, and again in 1990 for the George Fox Fund and the New Foundation Fellowship. Its contents are also available through Earlham School of Religion's Digital Quaker Collection.

(The easiest way for me to navigate through Fox's works in the DQC and elsewhere is through the Quaker Heritage Press's catalog entry for Fox.)

The eight volumes break down as follows:

  • Volumes I-II are George Fox's Journal, in the version edited by Thomas Ellwood, including the preface by William Penn.

  • Volume III, a book responding to a vast number of critics of Quakerism, is usually referred to as The Great Mystery, but the full title and explanation is The Great Mystery of the Great Whore Unfolded; and Antichrist's Kingdom Revealed Unto Destruction, with another two paragraphs of similarly contentious description on the title page. Fox definitely expressed his opinions strongly!

  • Volumes IV-VI are the "Doctrinal Books", containing a wide variety of publications Fox wrote. It lacks a Table of Contents, but the catalog entry for Fox breaks out individual titles of pieces included here.

  • Volumes VII-VIII are Epistles of George Fox, letters organized chronologically. It's a wonderful volume to open to random pages and read for inspiration, though I'm also trying to read it in sequence.

The collection isn't quite complete, as, for example, A New England Fire-brand Quenched isn't in it. (I've tracked that down on microfilm.) Still it's a vast set of George Fox's writings that goes well beyond the Journal, and which provides endless material for contemplation.

March 10, 2006

He that doeth good is of God

Another verse from John's Epistles worth contemplating, this one from the Third Letter, 1:11.

Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

It fits well with Quaker expectations of the behavior of those who encounter God through the Light, and "seen" suggests experience, a personal encounter.

March 2, 2006

God is Love

The First Letter of John, 4:7-21 is a section of the Bible that seems to embody a good deal of Quaker belief. While "God is love" is commonly quoted, I've also heard people challenge that phrase. Sometimes they've argued that it is too reductionist, and other times it just doesn't seem to fit with people's notions of a more squarely authoritarian God.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.

God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

I'm quoting from the King James Version, as it is a version early Friends had available. (They may also have had the Geneva Bible, though it's hard to imagine George Fox enjoying the severely Calvinist notes.)

"God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." There's a powerful source of hope.