Lewis Benson

(Philadelphia: The Tract Association of Friends, 1948.)

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At the time of the rise of the Protestant Reformation another reform movement was taking place that historians call the Spiritual Reformation. This other Reformation was a much smaller movement that sought above everything else to free Christianity from the weight of all corrupting encumbrances so that the pure light of the Gospel might shine forth and transform the whole moral life of man. This Spiritual Reformation culminated in the life and teaching of George Fox (1624-1690) and in the spiritual movement that he started.

Fox's message lays special emphasis on two things: the relationship between God and the individual Christian, and the nature and mission of the Church.

He declared that faith in Jesus Christ always means direct acquaintance with the living Christ and obedience to His "voice and command." Just as the hebrew prophets conveyed the mind of the Lord to the children of Israel, said fox, so does the living Christ make God's will known to the believing Christian. He brings us an authoritative word of Truth concerning what God requires of us in the moral decisions that confront us day by day. He is "the prophet who speaks from heaven."

It followed from this belief in a direct and daily contact with God through Christ that man must be capable of receiving this word of Truth - a capability which Fox called "that of God in every man."

He is careful to make clear, however, that the means of Salvation do not lie in man's own Spiritual resources. Man's capacity to receive Truth is a conspicuous part of Fox's message but his main concern deals with the manner in which God's Truth is imparted and the means by which it reaches our receptive capacities. The living word of Truth comes from the living Christ. He is the prophet, like unto Moses, who is to be heard in all things. Fox is never more serious than when he is exhorting all to hear and believe the prophetic word of the living Christ. The true Christian, according to Fox, is the man who, through "that of God" in him, is in constant communion with the Lord by means of the mediating power of Christ.

At the moment of moral decision, then, man has access to a standard of Truth whose author is the creator of the universe. There is a living word of Truth that reaches man's contemporary m oral situation through day to day instruction from the living prophet of God's truth. When moral decisions are reached in this way it produces the maximum of moral certainty and this, in turn, results in the greatest possible release of moral energy.

Fox's message on the relationship between God and the individual Christian is wonderful good news for this age. Through faith in the living word of the living Christ we can know what God wants us to do and we can do it.

Fox's conception of the Church is no less daring and no less important. To him, the basic unit of human society is the Church for it is here that the rule of Christ is recognized and accepted and obeyed. He taught that this true Church must be gathered on the basis of common devotion to Christ and to the Truth that He reveals. The true Church must demonstrate that it is under Christ's rule by doing his will. It has a corporate testimony to bear to the moral Truth that Christ reveals and to His supreme authority over those who are gathered in His Name. The Church that is so gathered is the people of God whose corporate life is directed and sustained through constant communion with its living high priest - Jesus Christ. Insofar as there is a meaningful future for mankind it consists in becoming gathered into this witnessing fellowship of which Christ is the living Head.

Moreover, the Church is, in Fox's view, the only lasting human fellowship. To him, every other form of human society is ephemeral but the Church that is gathered together through fellowship with Christ is His suffering is an everlasting fellowship. It will outlast every combination that appears against it. It is absolutely secure. Its ground is Truth.

This then is what Fox had to say three hundred years ago. His message is still good news to all who seek a foundation that cannot be shaken. It is still a message of hope for all who seek to know the will of the Lord and to do it.