As a Quaker, it would be difficult for me to over emphasize the importance of George Fox, because he has gone down in history as one of the founding fathers of Quakerism. Still widely read today, The Journals of George Fox is the autobiography of an extraordinary man. It chronicles his passage through life from his earliest years, when he had a crisis of faith at the age of nineteen, through the social upheavals of the English Civil War – when he met with Lord Protector Cromwell himself – to his twilight years when Quakerism had been firmly established as a spiritual force in the land.
He realised very early on, that priests, liturgy and churches were not necessary, ” The Lord showed me, so that I did see clearly, that he did not dwell in these temples which men had commanded and set up, but in people`s hearts…..his people were his temple, and he dwelt in them.” This was a shocking revelation to those who belonged to the established church of the day: a great many people`s livelihoods, and reason to exist, depended upon the enormous paraphernalia associated with state religion.
George Fox came to the conclusion that the Christian religion as it stood, could not offer him spiritual satisfaction and enlightenment; he had searched without for spiritual peace, now he concluded that he would only find power and wisdom from within, as John 1:12 indicates, accept the Light that already shines inwardly by putting faith in it alone. He felt that the Church had tricked him: God`s power was to be found inside every individual, and not in a great church, presided over by sermonizing priests surplus to requirements.
He travelled widely throughout England to spread his new found, spiritual convictions, and “convinced” a great many people. But, he also found obdurate opposition from magistrates and people of power, who, fearful of their influence being diminished and sidelined by his preaching, imprisoned him on numberless occasions. He gained strength in these dark days of persecution, torture and incarceration by citing John 4:24 – “God is spirit.” – “God is love.” Also, Matthew 5:44-48 – “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
George Fox laid the moral framework which all Quakers live by: “Walk cheerfully over the earth answering to that of God in everyone.” To a Quaker, everyone has “that of God” in them, whether they acknowledge it or not: this makes everyone equal in the eyes of God, so there`s no doffing of caps to supposed superiors, saying “sir”, or bending the knee. During his journey throughout the land of his birth, he wrote copious notes on the people he met, where and how they lived, and the gradual drawing together of the various strands of his thoughts on the Quaker doctrine of moral perfection.
George Fox became clear in his mind, where we encounter God, not in churches, but in the heart: he was instrumental in forming the Quaker doctrine of no church hierarchy or establishment, pacifism and equality of all humanity without exception. The Journal of George Fox offers up a unique opportunity to take a walk through one of the most remarkable, and innovative minds in history; a mind which has shaped and influenced the lives of all those who have found themselves drawn towards the Religious Society Of Friends and it`s commitment to peace and fair treatment of all humanity.