Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Pr. He saith, If they can but destroy all formes, the power will fall with it; for the form preserves the power, page 37.
Answ. Contrary to the Apostle; many have the form, but deny the power. The power preserves the forme, sees the end of forms, and destroys them, and brings to see before forms were, where forms are not. For the Apostles who lived in the power, denied the Jewes forms, and Gentiles both, as we do now deny the Popish forms, and yours which you have invented and set up.
In 1659, George Foxes The Great Mystery of the Great Whore was published. The document is largely made up of Foxs' responses to various criticisms of Quakers from various people. These responses are in the form of a dialogue between authors of pamphlets and Fox; making up a rich tapestry of opinion and argumentation.
I have begun keyboarding The Great Mystery of the Great Whore with the goal of integrating the text into the Christonomy Project. I am deeply compelled by this document as there are many threads to follow and connect to within the document itself and outside the document in other texts from various Quaker writers. At first consideration, I was not enthused about keyboarding the document. The text is small and the topography is intricate. I am keen on staying true to the topography of the original text. However, I found myself often referring to the document when keyboarding and researching other early Quaker documents. Foxs' answers to principles of Christian Professors are concise and often, to the point. I can envision a time when this document will be cross-referenced to almost all the documents in the Christonomy library. But not just that, other documents will also carry cross-references back to The Great Mystery of the Great Whore; along with Foxs' Journal and Gospel Truth Demonstrated 1706 and other documents. A nuanced and intricate web will manifest as more and more of Fox’s documents become integrated with the Project as a whole. This will open the researcher to various opportunities to follow and connect multiple threads not easily teased out without the help of searchable and painstakingly connected and cross-referenced and linked documentation. The spiritual natural history of the early Quakers will become dynamic and interactive rather than static and limited relatively speaking.
In any case, the dialogue above is from page 5 of The Great Mystery… which is the first dialogue in the book, being a response to Samuel Eaton’s The Quakers Confuted … Eaton is here arguing that the destruction of the Protestant religious forms will result in the undermining of the Power of God. The Church forms he writes preserve the power of God. Fox responses by writing the Eaton has it backward. It is the Power of God that preserves the forms. However, Fox goes further in acknowledging that the power of God also sees the end of forms and destroys them, and brings to see before forms were, where forms are not. There is a nuanced quality to the Power of God in relation to form. For while, certain forms may be preserved in the Power, the power also brings to see before forms and where forms are not.
There are points in my journey through the forest early Quaker literature where my path leads me to these pleasant hostels containing a large roll-top desk with curious little draws and cubbies. Within these drawers I sometimes find a key that opens a door revealing a path otherwise unseen. The dialogue quoted above is one of those keys. For, at least in this instance, Fox acknowledges the power of God can bring to see the end of forms and where forms are not and at the same time acknowledging the power preserves form in other circumstances. The threads in the early Quaker tapestry are so curious!