Editor's note:

Born and raised in the tur­moil of sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry Puri­tan Eng­land, George Fox (1624 – 1691) became the founder and most promi­nent leader of the Quak­ers (the Soci­ety of Friends). His famous Jour­nal reveals a bold and pas­sion­ate, even prophet­ic, man who act­ed with the cer­tain­ty of one who knows God first­hand, not by hearsay. He was quick to con­front those who did not pos­sess what they pro­fessed.” He laid bare pom­pos­i­ty and pre­tense. He also called thou­sands to a direct, inti­mate knowl­edge of Christ who was present to teach and empow­er them.

If the Jour­nal por­trays a fiery pub­lic fig­ure, George Fox’s Let­ters show us a lov­ing pas­tor. In forty years, Fox wrote over three thou­sand let­ters, most­ly to groups. These ten­der, prac­ti­cal let­ters dis­play a full range of pas­toral con­cern, from the life of prayer and wor­ship to fam­i­ly life to the life of com­merce. The fol­low­ing selec­tions give us a glimpse into Fox’s lov­ing call to con­fi­dent and com­plete Chris­t­ian living. 

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Devotional Classics

EXCERPTS FROM The Let­ters of George Fox

1. The Liv­ing God

He is the liv­ing God, that clothes the earth with grass and herbs, caus­es the trees to grow and bring forth food for you, and makes the fish­es of the sea to breathe and live. He makes the fowls of the air to breed and caus­es the buck and the doe, the crea­tures, and all the beasts to bring forth where­by they may be food for you. He is the liv­ing God, that caus­es the sun to give warmth to you, to nour­ish you when you are cold. He is the liv­ing God, that caus­es the snow and frost to melt and caus­es the rain to water the plants. He is the liv­ing God, that made heav­en and earth, the clouds, caus­es the springs to break out of the rocks, and divid­ed the great sea from the earth. He divides the light from the dark­ness, by which it is called day and the dark­ness night, and divid­ed the great waters from the earth, gath­ered them togeth­er, which great waters he called sea and the dry land earth. He is to be wor­shiped that does this. He is the liv­ing God that gives you breath, life, and strength and gives you beasts and cat­tle where­by you may be fed and clothed. He is the liv­ing God, and he is to be worshiped.

This is the King of kings and Lord of lords, in whose hand is the breath of all mankind. [Let­ter 292]

2. Walk­ing in the Pow­er of God

My lit­tle chil­dren in the Lord God Almighty, this is my joy that you all be ordered and guid­ed by the mighty pow­er of God. Know that Voice that speaks, the sound of the words, and the pow­er of them. For words with­out pow­er destroy the sim­plic­i­ty, bring up into a form and out of obe­di­ence of the Truth. There­fore, walk in the pow­er of the Truth that the name of the Lord God may be glo­ri­fied among you, his renown may be seen in you and among you, and all the world may be aston­ished, and the Lord admired in the order­ing of his peo­ple who are guid­ed by his wisdom.

Let no strife be among you. Let none seek for the high­est place, but be low­ly mind­ed, con­de­scend­ing one to anoth­er. Bear with one anoth­er in patience.

There­fore all Friends, mind that which is of God in you, to guide you to the Father of life, who gives you food and rai­ment and strength that you may flour­ish, your souls delight them­selves in fat­ness, feed and eat of the abun­dance of rich­es with him and of the dai­ly bread which comes from above, the Bread of Life” (John 6:35). [Let­ter 79]

Dwell in patience and in peace and love and uni­ty one with anoth­er. And be sub­ject in the Pow­er, Life, and Wis­dom to God and to one anoth­er. That in it you may be as a pleas­ant field to the Lord God, and as the lilies, the flow­ers, and the buds feel­ing the pleas­ant show­ers and streams of Life from the liv­ing God flow­ing upon you, where­by the pres­ence and bless­ing of the Lord God Almighty amongst you all may be felt. [Let­ter 183]

3. Singing in the Spirit

My dear Friends, be not car­ried away by good words and fair speech­es, but every­one have hold of the Truth in your­selves by which you may be stayed upon Christ, your bread of life, the staff of your heav­en­ly and eter­nal life.

Now Friends, who have denied the world’s songs and singing, sing you in the Spir­it and with grace, mak­ing melody in your hearts to the Lord. You that have denied the world’s for­mal pray­ing, pray always in the Spirit.

You that have denied the world’s giv­ing thanks and their say­ing of grace and liv­ing out of it, do you in every­thing give thanks to the Lord through Jesus Christ. And you that have denied the world’s prais­ing God with their lips, while their hearts are far off, do you always praise the Lord night and day.

And you that have denied the world’s fast­ings, keep the fast of the Lord that breaks the bond of iniq­ui­ty and lets the oppressed go free, that your health may grow and your Light shine as the morn­ing. [Let­ter 167]

4. Truth Can Live in the Jails

Dear Friends, who suf­fer for your tes­ti­mo­ny and to all the rest in your coun­ty, I am glad to hear of your faith­ful­ness and of your stand­ing for the Church which Christ is the head of, which is in God, and [you] are become his liv­ing mem­bers. And there­fore wher­ev­er you are, in prison, or out of prison, where two or three are gath­ered togeth­er in his name, there is a Church, and Christ the liv­ing Head in the midst of them: a prophet, to open to his Church the things of his King­dom; and a bish­op, to over­see his liv­ing mem­bers, that they be pre­served in his Light, Grace, Truth, Spir­it, and Gospel; and he is a shep­herd, to feed with heav­en­ly food; and a priest, who has offered him­self up a sac­ri­fice for the sins of the whole world, who cleans­es, wash­es and puri­fies his Church. And there­fore feel and see Christ exer­cis­ing his offices, and rul­ing in your hearts. [Let­ter 368]

Sing and rejoice you chil­dren of the Day and of the Light. For the Lord is at work in this thick night of dark­ness that may be felt. Truth does flour­ish as the rose, the lilies do grow among the thorns, the plants atop of the hills, and upon them the lambs do skip and play.

Nev­er heed the tem­pests nor the storms, floods or rains, for the Seed, Christ, is over all and does reign.

And so, be of good faith and valiant for the Truth. For the Truth can live in the jails. Fear not the loss of the fleece, for it will grow again. And fol­low the Lamb, if it be under the beast’s horns or under the beast’s heels, for the Lamb shall have the vic­to­ry over them all. [Let­ter 227]

5. Doing Truth to All

So, this is the word of the Lord God to you all. Do right­ly, whether you be trades­men, of what call­ing or pro­fes­sion or sort so ever, or hus­band­men. Do right­ly, just­ly, tru­ly, holily, equal­ly to all peo­ple in all things; and that is accord­ing to that of God in every­one, and the wit­ness of God, and the wis­dom of God, and the life of God in yourselves.

What­ev­er your call­ing, live in the pow­er of Truth and wis­dom of God to answer that just prin­ci­ple of God in all peo­ple upon the earth. So, let your lives preach, let your light shine, that your works may be seen, that your Father may be glo­ri­fied. This has the praise of God, and they who do so come to answer that which God requires, to love mer­cy, do just­ly, and to walk humbly with God.

So every­one strive to be rich in the Life, and the things of the King­dom that has no end; for the per­son that cov­ets to be rich in the things of this world falls into many snares and hurt­ful lusts. There­fore, let the one that buys, or sells, or pos­sess­es, or uses this world be as if he did not. Let them be mas­ters over the world in

the pow­er and Spir­it of God, and let them know that they owe no one any­thing but love; yet serve God in Truth, and one anoth­er in their gen­er­a­tion. [Let­ter 200]

6. Con­sid­er­ing Your Promises

And now dear Friends, in all your words, in all your busi­ness and employ­ments, have a care of break­ing your words and promis­es to any peo­ple. Con­sid­er before­hand, that you may be able to per­form and ful­fill both your words and promis­es to peo­ple, that your Yea be Yea and Nay, Nay in all things, which Christ has set up instead of an oath.

There­fore all are to con­sid­er afore-hand, before they speak their Yea, Yea, what they are able to per­form. It will pre­serve you out of all rash, hasty words and promis­es, for such kind of incon­sid­er­ate and rash speak­ing is not in the ever­last­ing covenant of light, life, and grace.

Christ says, If you have not been faith­ful with the dis­hon­est wealth, who will entrust you the true rich­es?” (Luke 16:11). There­fore there must be a just­ness and faith­ful­ness in the out­ward rich­es between indi­vid­u­als if you will have a place in your hearts for the true heav­en­ly rich­es. The inward faith­ful­ness to God brings forth faith­ful­ness to peo­ple in out­ward things. [Let­ter 380]

7. The Bright Morn­ing Star

All dear Friends every­where, who have no helper but the Lord, who is your strength and your life, let your cries and prayers be to him, who with his eter­nal pow­er has kept your heads above all waves and storms. Let none go out of their habi­ta­tions in the stormy time of the night, those whose habi­ta­tion is the Lord, the Seed, Christ Jesus.

In this Seed you will see the bright and morn­ing Star appear which will expel the night of dark­ness, by which morn­ing Star you will come to the ever­last­ing Day which was before night was.

So, every­one feel this bright morn­ing Star in your hearts, there to expel the dark­ness. [Let­ter 280] (Abridged and revised for the mod­ern read­er by Howard R. Macy.)


Reflec­tions by Richard J. Foster

I nev­er tire of hear­ing the sto­ries of George Fox. He was always so alive to Christ liv­ing and present among you.” Even in the most dis­cour­ag­ing of cir­cum­stances he would declare that the pow­er of the Lord is over all.” On one occa­sion Fox was preach­ing in the open air and a drunk­en sol­dier stuck a sword to his throat, demand­ing that he stop preach­ing. Fox looked straight at the man and declared, Hack away, your sword is noth­ing to me but a straw!” Dra­mat­i­cal­ly the pow­er of God fell upon the sol­dier; he stag­gered back­wards, fell to the ground, and was converted.

Fox’s lega­cy is one of courage and faith­ful­ness. And he would urge us, as he did those of his own day, to be valiant for the truth upon the earth.”

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Excerpts tak­en from Devo­tion­al Clas­sics: Select­ed Read­ings for Indi­vid­u­als and Groups (Richard J. Fos­ter & James Bryan Smith, Edi­tors. Harper­Collins, 1993.) and used with permission.

Pho­to by Diana Park­house on Unsplash

Originally published December 1989