“To all Friends” — an Adaptation

Epistle CXXX, “To all Friends, to dwell in the truth, the life of God, the light, &c.” (1656) by George Fox — a 21st-century adaptation by George Amoss Jr.

This adaptation, revised from versions originally published at the Quaker Electronic Archive Website in 2008 and 2009, modifies Fox’s Epistle 130 in a number of ways. Some passages have been cut. Language has been modified for clarity and readability. Most significantly, the word “God” has been replaced throughout the epistle by the word “Love” — because, as the apostle asserts (1 John 4:16b), “God is love (agapē), and any who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (I won’t make further arguments about that now, except to quote the statement of early Quaker Isaac Penington, in his “Concerning Love,” that love is the “nature of God, flowing up through his seed of life into the creature, and of all things making the creature most like unto himself, both in nature and operation.” However, I plan to follow this post with a close reading of the scripture which will include an excursus on that topic. (UPDATE: that post is A Quaker Reading of 1 John 4.) Fox’s original epistle can be found in Vol. 7 of The Works of George Fox, pp 122-126 in the 1831 edition.

All Friends, dwell in the truth. You know the life and power of Love: don’t stray from that. Don’t heed words that have no life, but heed that which lets you see and know Love. For mountains of religious delusion surround you. But this is the word of Love, and a charge to you all: heed the life and power, the power which you have already tasted and known, for it brings you to the kingdom of Love, to stand in justness, in faith, in charity, and in peace. It will bring you to discern and understand deceit, and it will lift you above the deceit of the world.

So heed the power of Love in you, and it will remove that which brings trouble into your minds. If you stray from that power, you will turn outward to look for signs and wonders. But the power of Love is the gospel; and therefore you who have inwardly received the power of Love have received the gospel. And, even if they are angels from heaven, they are cursed who preach any gospel other than the power of Love. For Christ, to whom the angels must bow, is the power of Love. I urge all of you who are turned to the light, each one in particular, to wait to have him born in you.

“I am the light of the world,” says Christ, by whom the world was made, who “enlightens everyone who comes into the world.” Christ is the “bread of life, that came down from above; and whoever eats of this bread lives forever.” Every one of you has a light from Christ, the bread of life: wait in that light, and with it and from it you will see, and know, and have your nourishment in due season. Everyone in this world has a light from Christ who is not of this world, and if they turn to that light they are turned to Christ. So here, none shall say “Lo, here is Christ,” or “Lo, there is Christ;”* but everyone shall see Christ by the light that comes from Christ, and shall have dominion over everything that is contrary to the light, both in the male and in the female. Everyone in this world has a light from him who gives the “light of the knowledge of the glory of Love, in the face of Christ Jesus.” That light shines in your hearts; and there you will feel your treasure in the earthen vessel: the power that is of Love. Now, whoever goes from that light goes into the darkness, running out wondering and gazing, looking for signs and wonders in the dark, and saying, “Lo, he is here; lo, he is there.” But Christ says, “I am come a light into the world, with which every one who comes into the world is enlightened”: that inward light is itself the new covenant; and every one who lives in that light is in the covenant with Love.

So Friends everywhere, keep your meetings, and do not heed the “Lo, here”s and “Lo, there”s, and do not be troubled. But heed everywhere the life of Love, and do not stray from the truth within; dwell in that inward truth, that you may be kept out of all high-swelling storms and tempests, and that you may be kept above the world, to him and in him who is not of the world. And don’t deny the truth: whoever does that goes out from the light within them into the darkness, out into the delusion of signs and wonders. And those who go from the light within, they go from the Emmanuel (“Love-with-us”), from the savior within, and from the truth in the inward parts, and from the mediator between them and Love, and from the vine, and so they bear no fruit to the glory of Love. And going from the light within, you go from your peace, and from the life. Going from the light within, you go from the increase of Love. You go from the anointing [the Christing] within you, and so you do not continue to live in Love. Going from the light within, you go out of the covenant of eternal life. But everyone who walks in the light shall inwardly receive the bread of life, Christ, from whom the light comes. And so, having your food within, you shall not go forth to gather it: those who are in the light, who trust in it, come to know the storehouse into which the wheat is gathered, and to discern the chaff that is to be burned with unquenchable fire when the threshing floor is thoroughly purged.

Therefore, all Friends, keep in the power, and know the power of Love in yourselves and in one another, and know the life that stands in Love; that you may be brought out of all dryness and barrenness, and be kept in the living and eternal spirit and power. And so may glorious Love keep you from the evil that is in the world, keeping you — every one in your measure — in glory and in unity. Now, the power of Love will never be shaken; that which is to be shaken is out of the power, and the power remains: therefore dwell in the power which throws down all that which may be shaken and which raises up that which can never be shaken or thrown down: dwell in the power and life of Love, which comprehends the world, and reaches over it all. Live in that power and life, and there will be your peace; it will keep you out of strife. For strife, and all that branches out from it, is judged and chained down by the eternal power, and bound and bundled up for the fire, so that nothing may reign but life itself. So wait to know all of this: here is the path of justness and purity, and nothing shall stand but Love. Glory to Love in the beauty of holiness which is felt and seen! Being kept in the light, and walking in it, you cannot be in strife; for enmity is out of the light: it comes to nothing; it is judged and condemned.

When you meet together in the light, hearken to that light, that you may feel the power of Love in every one of you. So your spiritual ear will be opened to hear the counsel of Love, and your spiritual eye will be opened to see the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of you, you all sitting under your vines.** So, each of you wait inwardly upon him, and know the son of Love to be revealed in you. And know the seed in you, which is Christ, to which the promise of Love is made; that you may all witness that you have come to him who was in the beginning, to the seed of the woman that bruises the serpent’s head in every one of you in your own particulars. Then you all will come to feed on the bread of life. And all who witness those events within are redeemed out of the transgression. Those who are in the truth and in the spirit are above the world, above the serpent that lives in lies; their feet are shod with truth. So when you come to the light you come to your armor, and you come to that which lets you see sin: the light is the armor against sin, and it is the eye with which you see that which must be cut down and judged to death. In that truth, which is the light, we have fellowship one with another.

And this is the counsel of the Lord to you: dwell in the power of Love, which is the gospel of peace. The power of Love is the cross of Christ; and when you feel the power of Love, you feel Christ, for Christ is the power of Love. The power of Love is but one, and the light is but one, and the cross of Christ is but one, and the gospel of truth is but one: it is all the power of Love, and there is no other. You that come to know this, look for no other. And Christ is that one seed, in the male and in the female, to which the promise of Love is given: wait to find and receive him within. “Know ye not,” wrote the apostle Paul, “that Christ Jesus is in you, except you are reprobates?” So now, if you are reprobates, you are wonderers and gazers in the first Adam, still looking here and there, in transgression, out of the light, out of the life, out of the power, out of the truth, out of the way which is Christ. But if you are in the life, you are in the way and the truth; you are in the power of Love, in Christ, in the second Adam, redeemed out of the transgression of the first Adam. If Christ Jesus is in you, the body of sin is dead, and you are brought to Love; and the Emmanuel being known, “Love with us” is witnessed by every one of you. So, if Christ Jesus is in you, and you in him, you are dead to sin and alive to justness, and death itself is brought into death.

Friends, dwell all in the light, and then you will dwell in covenant with Love, and you will have peace. Dwell in the light, that you may receive the living wisdom by which all things were created; with which wisdom you may come to understand all creatures. And be low, as babes and little children, for the little children receive Love’s kingdom. And know the promise which is given to the seed; and know the seed of Love in one another, that there shall be no master but Christ, who bruises the serpent’s head — for it is there that debate and enmity, which are the cause of strife, are found. So let the seed Christ be master in the male and in the female, that the ground of strife, which would be master, may instead be kept under, and the seed, which the grave could not keep under, may rule; so that you may witness within you the rock that the gates of hell, the temptations of evil, cannot prevail against.


* Luke 17:20-21 — And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: [21] Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

** Mic 4:1-5 — But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. [2] And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. [3] And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. [4] But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. [5] For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.

6 thoughts on ““To all Friends” — an Adaptation

  1. Pingback: “To all Friends” — an Adaptation — The Postmodern Quaker | Ecumenics and Quakers

  2. Pingback: “To all Friends” — an Adaptation — The Postmodern Quaker | Quaccheri cristiani ecumenici per fare il bene

  3. To say that “God is love” is one thing; to say that “Love is God” is another. Just as to say that all cats are mammals is true, but to say that all mammals are cats is not true.

    Loving the truth and the faith that works by love–and offended by any meddling with either–I don’t think George Fox’s writing and theology benefit from George Amos’s changes.

    • Your response is not unexpected, Patricia: we’ve discussed this topic before in what I understand to be our inter-religious dialogue. (For example, this from 2012.)

      As noted in the introduction to this post, I intend to elaborate (again) on the definition of God as love in a subsequent post. For now, I’ll just suggest that the use of “to be” with an implied predicate — all cats are classified as mammals, etc. — differs from the use of it to state simple identity. As divers interpreters such as Augustine of Hippo and Friend Isaac Penington understood, 1 John asserts that love is the nature, not that it is a predicate, of God. Not all mammals are cats, and yet “whoever lives in love lives in God and God lives in them” (1 Jn 4:16b). So it “depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” (1 Clinton 8:98), and the meaning here is simply “is,” with nothing added or taken away.

      • God is beyond human assumptions of what love is. People have many ideas about love; none of those ideas are God. For example, people who do not know God love those that love them (Lk. 6:32). Therefore, is the sinful nature manifesting God, in its love of those who love them? God is light and in him there is no darkness at all (1 Jn. 1:5). God is not where there is the darkness of sin, even though the sinful who are in darkness love those who love them. Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Is therefore God a fruit of the Spirit? How can the Creator be a created thing, i.e., a fruit? Does a fruit have a will? God has a will, and those who know it and love it are obedient to the will of God, which means we do not add to the things of prophecy, not do we take away from the things of prophecy. George Fox was a prophet, a mighty prophet, and you do well not to meddle with his words, in your pride. Write your own words, and see if they can stand scrutiny of those who know the truth, and mix not your ideas with the excellent understanding of prophets. This is a warning to you in your pride.

        • [This comment has been revised for clarity.]

          Love, in the sense used here, is not an idea, Patricia. As Jesus taught, it is response to the other’s need. The concept of love is equivocal, and the single polysemous word “love” in English, as opposed to the half-dozen in Greek, can compound confusion.

          But if “love” for you signifies an idea, why then does “fruit” signify a physical object? You seem to be giving words whatever signification seems to strengthen your argument.

          The scripture (1 John 4:7) says that whoever loves — in the sense of agapē, the activity (“fruit,” or natural flowering) of the divine nature — knows God. I leave it to you to harmonize that with your comment above.

          I take your warning to be referring to divine wrath, and, although I have no fear of such things, I thank you for whatever kindness may have motivated you.

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