George Fox Series, Part 7: Heavens In the Heart

In Part 4 of this series, we considered three “openings,” or revelatory insights, that George Fox described as occurring soon after his depression had begun to heal. It will be useful to recall the content of those openings. Here’s Fox’s own summary.

[1] I saw that to be a true believer was another thing than they looked upon it to be; …

[2] and I saw that being bred at [university] did not qualify or fit a man to be a minister of Christ;

[3] … the Lord showed me clearly, that he did not dwell in those temples which men had commanded and set up, but in people’s hearts.

Fox has decided that the problem is not in the faith of Christ, but in the interpretations and practices of the self-identified Christians whose behavior has depressed him. Given the evil behavior and Antichristian doctrine of the churches, it is evident that virtually all of Christianity is wrong and has been wrong for a very long time. Fox is rediscovering the original, true faith. He is doing that, as we have seen in previous posts, by returning to the source, the scriptures, and reading them in light of the apostasy of Christianity.

I’ll pick up now where we stopped in the Journal, about a page before Fox relates the famous “There is one” experience. Here, Fox is describing his condition: depression alternating with experiences of insight and hope.

Though I had great openings, yet great trouble and temptations came many times upon me, so that when it was day I wished for night, and when it was night I wished for day; and by reason of the openings I had in my troubles, I could say as David said, ‘Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge’ [Psalm 19:2]. When I had openings they answered one another, and answered the scriptures; for I had great openings of the scriptures; and when I was in troubles, one trouble also answered to another.

“When it was day I wished for night, and when it was night I wished for day” describes the depression, the “troubles,” but repeatedly breaking into that depression are the openings, the revelations of a new day: “day unto day uttereth speech [of God’s glory: see below], and night unto night sheweth knowledge.” Psalm 19 expresses Fox’s realization of the falsity and mind-seducing evil of “the whore” Christianity as well as his conviction that God is to now be known within the human heart as Christ returns in — and as — power that overcomes evil.

[Ps. 19:1] The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. [2] Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. [3] There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard [i.e., all peoples can understand the heavens’ testimony to God’s glory]. …

Human teachers are not needed. Revelation is an ongoing, universally present event for those who have “eyes to see.” The passage would have reminded Fox of Romans 1, which we will discuss below: in the passage in Romans, which builds on the psalm, revelation is found within. Continuing with Psalm 19:

[7] The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. [8] The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

Verses 7 and 8 can be related to Fox’s openings. (1) True believers are those who are converted to God’s perfect law. (2) God speaks to the simple true believers, who have no university education, making them wise. (3) The perfect law is “written” in the heart, in the speaking of God within: the new covenant (see Jer. 31:31-34) is a reality.

[9] The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether…. [11] Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. [12] Who can understand his [own] errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

Fox knew the Geneva Bible, which provided commentary for many verses. The Geneva commentary on verse 9b, “the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether,” is of interest: “So that all man’s inventions and intentions are lies,” says the commentary; “Everyone without exception.” (We should recall that statement when we discuss the “There is one” experience.) Fox is beginning to understand the reason for his “troubles”: he is being taught that all people “are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief,” as he will later say; and he is being cleansed from the “secret” or hidden sin, the error, which he did not at first recognize as sin in himself, of allowing himself to be tempted by the false religion of “man’s inventions.”

[13] Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. [14] Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Fox will not be subject to the Antichrist that is the Christian church; he will keep himself separate, and, more, will attack that church and lead people out of it. He will think and speak not from the perspective of Christianity, nor from his own: the meditations of his heart, which is where God dwells, will be from God, and, after Fox’s purification (see Isaiah 6:6-13), his prophetic words will carry them to the world.

As we noted above, Psalm 19’s “the heavens declare the glory of God” would surely have reminded Fox of the passage, in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, from which he would derive the favorite Quaker phrase “that of God in every one” (which we are to “answer” even as Fox’s openings “answered one another, and answered the scriptures; for I had great openings of the scriptures; and when I was in troubles, one trouble also answered to another”).

[18] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; [19] Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them [“in their hearts,” the Geneva Bible’s commentary says]; for God hath shewed it unto them. [20] For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: [21] Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. [22] Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, [23] And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. [24] Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: [25] Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Those “who hold the truth in unrighteousness” are the “professors” of Christianity, those who believe and teach religion that appears to be Christian but actually leads people away from the power of Christ in their hearts. But God’s wrath against them, because they ignore that which is “clearly seen” in them if only they would turn to it, is revealed to George Fox in their dishonor. They are about to be overturned.

The Geneva Bible’s commentary on verse 18b of Romans 1 says, “By ‘truth’ Paul means all the light that is left in man since his fall, not as though they being led by this were able to come into favour with God, but that their own reason might condemn them of wickedness both against God and man.” But Fox will recognize that “that which may be known of God … in them” is not a natural human light but is “the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9); it is Christ himself, the divine Word, who is certainly able to lead us into favor with God.

By now, George Fox has a clear understanding of both the problem and what he is called to do about it. Now he must be further cleansed from secret fault. He must undergo the metanoia and metamorphosis that will make him fully one with Christ, “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh” (see Ephesians 5:30 and Genesis 2:23).

But before he describes that process in the Journal, Fox will present us with a narrative that sums up his new understanding in an unforgettable event: he will describe his experience of and reaction to hearing the words, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.” I hope to examine that narrative in the next post in this series.

Next post in this series: “There Is One”.
Previous: “George Fox’s Revival”.

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