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A New England Fire-Brand Quenched

Most of George Fox's published writing is available somewhere on the Web, often at the Earlham School of Religion's Digital Quaker Collection. Some discussion on the Quaker Texts mailing list revealed the largest piece which isn't freely available, A New England Fire-Brand Quenched, was written by Fox with John Burnyeat in 1679. I'll be trying to make that 450-page volume available over the next few years here.

The book is, much like The Great Mystery, a point-by-point reponse to criticism. Unlike that book, which responded to a wide variety of critics, A New England Fire-Brand Quenched is a detailed response to a single critic, Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, champion of religious freedom, and a religious dissident himself. H. Larry Ingle provides some background to the dispute between Williams and Fox in his First Among Friends, exploring the ways their similarities would lead them to greater conflict:

Roger Williams... was himself so rigid that he found it difficult to get along with anyone in religious matters; the Friends' reputation for a free-wheeling theology made it impossible for him ever to hit it off with them. Considering them the worst kind of antinomians, nearly anarchists, he castigated them as "anti-Christian," "blasphemous," "scornful," "censorious," and tossed the catch-all label "Ranter" right back at them for encouraging women to strip naked....

An irascible Roger Williams [who had just lost an election to Quaker forces], his teeth on edge, licked his political wounds and determined to have it out with the Quaker invaders.

Actually, Fox and Williams had much in common, in both their styles and their ideas. Blunt and forthright, disdaining the niceties of polite society, they were principled and argumentative men, and each insisted on the rightness of his own convictions. Both profoundly disliked hireling ministers. Williams was a committed democrat politically, if less willing than Fox to adapt these principles to his religious predilections - he deemed allowing women to speak as something he called "will worship." He referred to himself as a "Seeker." They each wanted active government, though Williams was not as thorough-going as Fox, who had glimpsed the possibilities of a true revolution at home.

Both found much to respect in Indian ways and wanted Europeans to deal justly with the Native Americans. Curiously, they got on better with the aboriginals, despite the gulfs of cultural differences and language, than they coould with each other or with those of their own people with whom they disagreed on theological matters; each, in other words, only practiced tolerance up to a point of ideological closeness. Fox thus reserved his choicest anathemas for any adherent who dared carry his principles too far, while Williams, unable to vouch for his wife's salvation, refused to take communion with her. (238-9)

Williams and Fox seem to have been just close enough to ignite their strongest fighting passions, though Fox left Rhode Island before Williams' invitation to a debate arrived, and the debate between Fox and Williams wound up in print instead, as the title page of this book records:

A NEW-ENGLAND Fire-Brand Quenched, Being an ANSWER unto a Slanderous Book, Entituled; GEORGE FOX Digged out of his Burrows, &c. Printed at Boston is the Year 1676. by Roger Williams of Providence in New-England.

Which he Dedicated to the KING with Desires, That, if the Most-High please, Old, and New-England may Flourish, when the Pope & Mahomet & Constantinople are in their Ashes.

Of a DISPUTE upon XIV. of his Proposal held and debated betwixt him, the said Roger Williams, on the one part, and John Stubs, William Edmundson and John Burnyeat on the other.

At Providence and Newport in Rode-Island, in the Year 1672, IN which his Cavils are Refuted, & his Reflections Reproved.

In Two Parts

AS ALSO, An ANSWER to R.W.'s APPENDIX, &c. WITH A POST-SCRIPT Confuting his Blasphemous Assertions, viz. Of the Blood of Christ, that was Shed, its being Corruptible and Corrupted; and that Salvation was by a Man, that was Cor- ruptible, &c. Where-unto is added a CATALOGUE of his Railery, Lies, Scorn & Blasphemies: And His TEMPORIZING SPIRIT made manifest. Also, The LETTERS of W. Coddington of Rode-Island, and R. Scot of Providence in New-England concerning R.W. And Lastly, Some TESTIMONIES of Ancient & Modern Authors concerning the LIGHT, SCRIPTURES, RULE & the SOUL of Man.


Printed in the Year M DC LXXIX.

A "CATALOGUE of his Railery, Lies, Scorn & Blasphemies" ? Should be interesting reading. I'll be posting this in pieces as I manage to type them in, so there's much much more to come.

Update: I've created a category containing all the pieces I type in, if you want to find it in one place.


Bravo -- I have a bunch of old Qr texts that aren't widely available (mostly non-Fox from the 1650s), but haven't gotten around to putting any online yet. I'll be impressed if you pull off 450 pages... I get tired from a 10-page pamphlet.

You could also put it on Wikisource if you feel so inclined...