Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Quakers today who eagerly affirm the Biblical truth of the Spirit of Christ now being present, available and personally leading all who practice the Christian faith in Spirit and truth are just as eager to minimize the use of Scripture by the early Quakers. The extremely important use of Scripture is revealed in a few passages found by a review of some of Fox's writings. Fox admitted he built his beliefs and practices on the history and world view as presented in Scripture, the New Covenant in Christ bringing the Spirit into each heart so that it may be transformed into eternal life or hardened into an enslaved, selfish and evil heart. The following quotes from Fox's writings show how he depended on Scripture to convince his audience to become Quakers.
Fox Journal Vol 1 page 335 "What I spoke, reached to the witness of God in the man; who was so affected therewith, that he had us to his house, and entertained us very civilly. He and his wife desired us to give them some scriptures, both for proof of our principles, and against the priests. We were glad of the service, and furnished him with scriptures enough; and he wrote them down, and was convinced of the truth, both by the spirit of God in his own heart, and by the scriptures, which were a confirmation to him."
Fox Journal Vol 2 page 342 "From this place we went to a great meeting in a steeple-house yard; where was a priest, and Walter Jenkin, who had been a justice, and another justice. A blessed glorious meeting we had. There being many professors, I was moved of the Lord to open the scriptures to them, and to answer the objections which they stuck at in their profession, (for I knew them very well,) and to turn them to Christ, who had enlightened them; with which light they might see the sins and trespasses they had been dead in, and their saviour who came to redeem them out of them, who was to be their way to God, the truth, and the life to them, and their priest made higher than the heavens; so that they might come to sit under his teaching.' A peaceable meeting we had; many were convinced, and settled in the truth that day."
In "Concerning such as have forbidden preaching, or teaching in the name of Jesus", Fox used scripture to show how to be saved. " The Jews and their priests said unto the apostles, and threatened them, ‘that you speak henceforth to no man in this name' Jesus. Acts iv. 17. And they said again (in verse 18,) to the apostles,'that they should not teach in the name of Jesus.' And in Acts v. 28. they again said, ‘that they should not teach in the name of Jesus,' mark, not to teach in the name of Jesus. And in verse 40, they said again to the apostles, that they should not speak in the name of Jesus; mark, not so much as to speak in the name of Jesus. And yet the apostle said, 'With the heart man believeth, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. And if you confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and that God has raised him up from the dead, you shalt be saved.' Rom. x. 9, 10."
Then there is a quote from Nigel Smith's edition of Fox's Journal, 1998 page 465. "And on the third day of the eighth month we came to the general meeting of all the Maryland Friends. .... a great convincement there is, and a great enquiring after the truth, among all sorts of people and the truth is of a good report and friends are much established, and the world convinced, and they said, they had never heard the scriptures so clearly opened before, for said they,'he has them at his fingers' ends, and as a man should read them in a book, and hold it open before him' and the people were satisfied beyond words ...."
The 1831 edition of the Journal page 132 about this same incident omits the note about opening scripture and says instead, "It was a very heavenly meeting, wherein the presence of the Lord was gloriously manifested, Friends were sweetly refreshed, the people generally satisfied, and many convinced; for the blessed power of the Lord was over all: everlasting praises to his holy name for ever!"
George Fox does uses "bend" in his writings in three different ways. In the this paragraph the first way is that we are to be bent by the teaching of Christ. Fox Letters Works Vol 7and 8 Page 227 CCXXII. You must bow at the cross of Christ, which is the power of God, which since the apostles' days the apostate christians have lost; and therefore they bow to a cross, a stick, a stone, a piece of iron, a piece of wood. Now bowing to the cross of Christ, which is the power of God, that strikes over the nature of fallen man; for who bends , and submits, and yields, and bows to the power of God within, feels it to rise over and strike over, and work over the carnal part, and that part that turns into ungodliness, and all that is bad, and is a cross to it.
The second way is if we do not bend to Christ, we end up bending the scriptures to fit our selfish, malevolent desires. Vol 3 Works p 297 "This is your own condition, and the Papists', who cannot own the scriptures as they speak; but you will make the scriptures bend to your own wills, and wrest them as the Pharisees did, and as you and the Papists do Christ's words."
And lastly it is true that Fox writes he will use scripture to bend people to the truth of Christ. Fox's Journal Nigel Smith ed. 1998 page 223 and 224 "The priest Tombs cries out: ‘That is a natural light and a made light!" And I desired all the people to take out their Bibles: and then I asked him whether he did affirm that was a created, natural made light that John (a man that was sent from God to bear witness to) did speak of, who said in him was life (to wit) the word: and this life was the light of men. And so I asked him whether this light was that created, natural made light he meant on and affirmed and he said,"Yes." Then said I: ‘Before I have done with you I will make you bend to the Scriptures."
In The Beginning of Quakerism, Braithwaite page 390 mentions this occasion. "Fox bid all the people take out their Bibles, for, he writes,'I would make the scriptures bend him though he did not matter of the Spirit.'" Braithwaite had a footnote at this point, "I quote from the so-called Short. Journ. The Camb. Journ. also uses the word ‘bend' I. 275" The word bend does not occur in the 1831 edition used by Earlham School of Religion DQC and The New Foundation Publication.
There are people, never appreciated, always described in negative terms, mentioned in Fox's writing who point out the appearance of discrepancies between the teaching of Quakers and the scriptures. One of Fox's best know statements of belief, In For the Governor of Barbadoes, Fox writes ‘Whereas many scandalous lies and slanders have been cast upon us, to render us odious; as that "We deny God, and Christ Jesus, and the scriptures of truth," .... This same thought is stated in various places in early Quaker writings when the enemies of Quakers accused them of denying and distorting scripture forcing Quakers to disprove this in print, in debates and in court proceeding even though these slanderers were saying nothing more then many modern Quakers say when describing their use of Scripture.