“At another time it was opened in me that God, who made the world, did not dwell in temples made with hands. This at first seemed a strange word, because both priests and people used to call their temples, or churches, dreadful places, holy ground, and the temples of God. But the Lord showed me clearly that He did not dwell in these temples which men had commanded and set up, but in people`s hearts: for both Stephen and the apostle Paul bore testimony that He did not dwell in temples made with hands, not even in that which He had once commanded to be built, since He put an end to it; but that His people were His temple, and He dwelt in them.”
George Fox is recognised as the founder of the Quakers; a dissenting, non-conformist Christian religious sect that emerged around the time of the English Civil War. His views on religious practice and non-violence were not revolutionary from a Christian viewpoint, but were considered so by the established religious and social elites of the time. They saw his preaching of being non judgmental, simplicity, equality, truth and peace as a threat to the established social pecking order as much as a revolutionary religious standpoint.
George Fox was not a revolutionary; Quakerism was a return to the basic Christian values of Jesus: but Quakers, along with other dissenting movements such as the Ranters and Levellers, was seen as rocking the rather big, self serving, morally corrupt boat steered by a ruling class that prefered to keep its hands upon the rudder, rather than allow the uneducated rabble to run it aground on the rocks of social equality.
But society was in flux: the king`s idea of absolutism had been brought down by war against a parliament that no longer wished to be told what to do by an incompetent king. War had unleashed a free press, awash with a plethora of revolutionary ideas. Because of this, the “rabble” were better educated than ever before.
Despite his many years of incarceration, humiliation and physical punishment, George Fox continued his God given vocation of convincement of others to his pacifist beliefs and of a society of equals. He even came to enjoy the ear of Lord Protector Cromwell; a man with a stern reputation, but who nevertheless, enjoyed lively religious debate with those of an intellectually nimble inclination. Cromwell was not blind or deaf to the views of others – even if they contradicted his own, and so George Fox was accommodated.
George Fox came to see the view of an internalised God in the New Testament scriptures; people did not need temples of stone and brick within which to worship the Lord, the Light of God was in everyone, and God lived, breathed and walked within us all.
It`s such a wonderfully simple way of seeing the world: no need to physically visit a temple of stone to talk to God because God is found within, not without.
There is also no requirement for clergy, sermons, the pomp and ceremony of religious carnival to wow and visually awe the senses; the internal senses of the heart and mind are what is important, not the visual and oral.
While it`s peers such as the Levellers, Ranters and others came and went, the Quakers hunkered down and maintained their foothold.
What point are the Quakers to the modern world?
Well, look at the social laws and freedoms we now enjoy, so many were advocated and constantly lobbied for until passed, by Quaker activism. Quakerism has always been relevant to it`s times by pushing for reform and social improvement for all.
Although he would not have pushed himself forward in any capacity as a great man (Quakerism is big on equality), George Fox is one of the all time hidden greats. I would much prefer to call a person great for advocating peace and goodness in the world, than for conquering and killing.