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.”

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 January 1990.