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FOUNDER OF THE QUAKER SECT
(INTRODUCTORY NOTE) Of George Fox's “Journal” of his life, the celebrated poet and critic Coleridge said: “There exist folios on the human understanding and the nature of man, which would have a far juster claim to their high rank and celebrity if in the whole huge volume there could be found as much fullness of heart and intellect as bursts forth in many a simple page of George Fox.” Another almost equally noted critic calls the book “one of the most extraordinary and instructive narratives in the world.” The “Journal” is thus as valuable for its judgment and insight as it is for its picture of the writer's remarkable career.
Fux was an English peasant youth, a tender of sheep, who became convinced of his inspiration from God to preach a new form of Christianity. About the year 1647 he began to travel over the country preaching in the open air and sternly rebuking other preachers whom he regarded as lacking in true Christianity. His vehement attacks and rebukes often got him into trouble. He was beaten by his enraged victims with fists and clubs and more than once almost slain. He, however, refused always to strike back or even to complain, and his splendid endurance won him a half-admiring tolerance even from those he most abused. From his peculiar costume he became known throughout England as “the man with the leather breeches,” and as such he gradually grew to be a power in the land. Thousands accepted his teachings, and many of his followers began to imitate him in shouting out denunciations of others whenever “the spirit moved" them.
Fox early adopted many of the striking oddities of the Quakers. He would bow to no one; he persisted in keeping on his hat in presence of even the highest authorities, and was so imbued with the essential equality and brotherhood of men that he adopted the familiar and affectionate “thou” as his universal form of address. He and his followers came to know the inside of all the jails in England, and thus Fox became an early leader in prison reform. In his wanderings he visited other countries including the American colonies which he traversed from New
England to the Carolinas. Before his death he had made of the Quakers a numerous, widespread and important sect.
THE JOURNAL OF GEORGE FOX
That all may know the dealings of the Lord with me, and the various exercises, trials, and troubles through which he led me, in order to prepare and fit me for the work unto which he had appointed me, and may thereby be drawn to admire and glorify his infinite wisdom and goodness, I think fit (before I proceed to set forth my public travels in the service of Truth) briefly to mention how it was with me in my youth, and how the work of the Lord was begun, and gradually carried on in me, even from my childhood.
I was born in the month called July, 1624, at DRAYTON-INTHE-CLAY, in LEICESTERSHIRE. My father's name was Christopher Fox: he was by profession a weaver, an honest man; and there was a seed of God in him. The neighbors called him Righteous Christer. My mother was an upright woman; her maiden name was Mary Lago, of the family of the Lagos, and of the stock of the martyrs.
In my very young years I had a gravity and staidness of mind and spirit, not usual in children; insomuch, that when I saw old men behave lightly and wantonly towards each other, I had a dislike thereof raised in my heart, and said within myself, “If ever I come to be a man, surely I shall not do so, nor be so wanton.”
When I came to eleven years of age, I knew pureness and righteousness; for while a child I was taught how to walk to be kept pure. The Lord taught me to be faithful in all things, and to act faithfully two ways, viz., inwardly to God, and outwardly to man; and to keep to Yea and Nay in all things. For the Lord showed me, that though the people of the world have mouths full of deceit, and changeable words, yet I was to keep to Yea and Nay in all things; and that my words should be few and savory, seasoned with grace; and that I might not eat and drink to make myself wanton, but for health, using the creatures in their service, as servants in their places, to the glory of Him that created
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them; they being in their covenant, and I being brought up into the covenant, and sanctified by the Word which was in the beginning, by which all things are upheld; wherein is unity with the creation.
But people being strangers to the covenant of life with God, they eat and drink to make themselves wanton with the creatures, wasting them upon their own lusts, and living in all filthiness, loving foul ways, and devouring the creation; and all this in the world, in the pollutions thereof, without God: therefore I was to shun all such.
Afterwards, as I grew up, my relations thought to make me a priest; but others persuaded to the contrary: whereupon I was put to a man, a shoemaker by trade, but who dealt in wool, and was a grazier, and sold cattle; and a great deal went through my hands. While I was with him, he was blessed; but after I left him he broke, and came to nothing. I never wronged man or woman in all that time; for the Lord's power was with me, and over me to preserve me. While I was in that service, I used in my dealings the word Verily, and it was a common saying among people that knew me, “If George says Verily, there is no altering him.” When boys and rude people would laugh at me, I let them alone, and went my way; but people had generally a love to me for my innocency and honesty.
When I came towards nineteen years of age, being upon business at a fair, one of my cousins, whose name was Bradford, a professor [of religion), and having another professor with him, came to me and asked me to drink part of a jug of beer with them, and I, being thirsty, went in with them; for I loved any that had a sense of good, or that sought after the Lord. When we had drunk each a glass, they began to drink healths, calling for more, and agreeing together, that he that would not drink should pay all. I was grieved that any who made profession of religion, should do so. They grieved me very much, having never had such a thing put to me before, by any sort of people; wherefore I rose up to go, and putting my hand into my pocket, laid a groat on the table before them, and said, “If it be so, I will leave you.” So I went away; and when I had done what business I had to do, I returned home, but did not go to bed that
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