Fox, George

Fox, George founder of the Society of Friends, was born at Drayton, Leicestershire, England, in July, 1624. His parents were pious members of the Church of England, and brought him up carefully. "His rather, Mary Lago, was of thee martyr stock, and had inherited their intense feelings and religious enthusiasm. To her he probably owed his education and many of the determining impulses of his life; as to his father, he was indebted for the incorruptible integrity and tenderly scrupulous regard for truth by which he was characterized. As a child, he was singularly quiet, docile, observant, and meditative. He sat among his alders silently, watching their frivolity, untruthfulness, gluttony, and intemperance, and inwardly resolving, 'If ever I come to be a man, surely I shall not do so, nor be so wanton.' Some of his relatives would have had the thoughtful lad trained for a clergyman, but others objecting, he was apprenticed to a person who, as the manner then was, combined a number of trades — shoemaking, wool-stapling, cattle- dealing, and so on. George proved a valuable assistant to him. The fear of God rested. mightily upon him, and he was anxiously watchful in all things to maintain strict integrity. 'Verily' was a favorite word of his, and it became a common saying among those who knew him, 'If George says "Verily" there is no altering him' (Christian Times). His early religious experience was very deep; and, after the termination of his apprenticeship, he felt himself impelled by a divines monition (1643) to leave his home and friends, seeking "light." For economy's sake, in these travels he wore a leathern doublet. In 1647, after, as he says, "I forsaking the priests and the separate preachers also, and those esteemed the most experienced people.," none of whom could " speak to his condition," he "heard a voice" calling him to Christ, and his "heart leaped for joy." This was in 1647, in which year he, began the ministry, which lasted during his life. When he began his work the mind of England was in a state of ferment, and he found many willing auditors. His personal peculiarities of dress and manner attracted attention and persecution. "When the Lord sent me forth into the world, he forbid me to put off my hat to any, high or low, and I was required to 'thee' and 'thou' all men and women, without any respect to rich or poor, great or small; and as I travelled up and down, I was not to bid people 'good-morrow' or 'good-evening,' neither might I bow or scrape with my leg to any ones; and this made the sects and professions to rage" (Journ 1648). He taught (Journ. 1649, page 26) that "it is not the Scriptures, but the Holy Spirit, by which opinions and religions are to be tried." Of course these novel and earnest views excited great opposition; Fox was imprisoned for some time as a "disturber of the peace." He continued, however, to travel up and down England, preaching, and exhorting, and leaving permanent traces behind him almost everywhere. 'His followers were first called "Quakers" at Derby, in 1650, by Justice Bennetas Fox says, "because I bid them tremble at the word of the Lord." In 1655 he was brought before Cromwell, who pronounced favorably upon both his doctrines and character. Nevertheless, he was frequently imprisoned by country magistrates. "In 1669 he married the widow of Judge Fell. He then went to America, where he spent two years in propagating his views with much success. On his return to England in 1673, he was imprisoned for some time in Worcester Jail, under the charge of having 'held a meeting from all parts of the nation for terrifying the king's subjects.' On his release he visited Holland, and afterwards Hamburg, Holstein, and Dantzic, always endeavoring to persuade men to. listen to the voice of Christ within them. He died in London, January 13, 1691" — (Chambers, Cyclopaedia, s.v.).

The personal character of George Fox was, in many respects, a lofty one. — In self-sacrifice, earnestness, and purity, he was a model. His intellectual powers were not of a vary high order. His doctrine of the "inner light" was elaborated by Robert Barclay. (q.v.) with a clearness and method of which Fox was incapable. Fox carried this doctrine, and also his abhorrence of "a hireling ministry," to almost absurd extremes. "But, amid all his extremes and obscurities, the substance of George Fox's 'testimony' was a truth of which every generation is in danger of forgetfulness, and of which no generation ever so much needed to be reminded as this, namely, 'that the kingdom of God is not meat and drink — not forms and ceremonies — not creeds, however sound — not organizations, however efficient, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Christian Times). Sir James Mackintosh calls Fox's Journal "one of the most extraordinary and instructive narratives in the world, which no reader of competent judgment can. peruse without revering the virtue of the writer, pardoning his self-delusion, and ceasing to smile at his peculiarities" (Works, London, 1851, page 362). See Collection of Christian Epistles written by George Fox (London, 1698, 2 volumes, fol.); Journals of George Fox (London, 1691; Leeds, 1836, 2 volumes); Works of George Fox (Philadel. 8 volumes); Sewell, History of the Quakers (1795, 2 volumes); Neal, History of the Puritans, Harper's edition, 2:118; Janney, Life of George Fox, with Dissertations, etc. (Philadelphia, 1853, 8vo); Marsh, Life of George Fox (London, 1847, 8vo); Westminster Review, 47:371.

 
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