George Fox was born at Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire in 1624, the son of a weaver, and was himself apprenticed to a shoe-maker. He became something of a wayfarer from 1643 for about three years, loosening all ties with his family and friends. The ‘Inner Light of the Living Christ’ became his watchword in 1646 and he began to preach that the truth could only be found through the Inner Voice speaking directly to each soul. His society of ‘The Friends of Truth’ was formed at about this time, clearly a protest against the authoritarianism of the Presbyterian system, and many believers joined. Because of welcoming God into the soul often whilst in a state of trance, which caused much body movement, Gervase Bennet nicknamed them the Quakers in 1650; although meant as a term of abuse, it quickly became a name they themselves adopted. Fox spent several spells in gaol because of his determination to preach where he would and what he willed; he also made many missionary journeys around England, on the continent and to North America and the West Indies. He had a charismatic personality combined with excellent organisational abilities, which proved a solid foundation for ensuring the continuance of his beliefs and practices. He died on this day in 1691.
Proverbs 8. 1–11
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: ‘To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to one who understands and right to those who find knowledge. Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
One of our more unusual wedding gifts was ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’ as approved by the British Yearly Meeting in 1994. It is a resource which I have returned to on many occasions. In thinking about wisdom and the witness of George Fox I have come across these words, written by Fox in 1656 while in prison in Cornwall.
‘Keep in the wisdom of God that spreads over all the earth, the wisdom of the creation, that is pure. Live in it, that is the word of the Lord God to you all, do not abuse it; and keep down and low; and take heed of false joys that will change…….And this is the word of the Lord God to you all, and a charge to you all in the presence of the living God: be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.’
As we seek to be people ‘Walking the way, living the life of Jesus today’ Fox’s instruction to live in the wisdom of God, found in creation; found in the Word of God; found in acknowledging that of God in everyone, seems to me to be a helpful encouragement. Whereas the writer of the Wisdom of Solomon talks about speaking words of wisdom, Fox encourages those who receive his letter to be patterns and examples so ‘that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people.’ Being a disciple engages every part of our being and every facet of our living – may we be patterns and examples of life in the wisdom of God in our speaking, our actions, our economic choices, our relationships, our care for creation and for all God’s people.
May the Inner Light of the Living Christ dwell deeply within us this day, to bless us through our interactions with others to guide us in the decisions we make whether large or small to encourage us so we too may walk cheerfully over the world, sharing the love and wisdom of God with those we encounter.
The Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson, Minister, East Kilbride and Hamilton Joint Pastorate.