George Fox's powerful testimony affirming the sufficiency of the immediacy of the presence of Christ.

When this testimony was shared with me around 30 years ago, my personal experience of the sufficiency of Presence was affirmed.  These words testify to the Rock of Ages, inwardly experienced; starting me on a lifelong journey toward and struggle with a consciousness anchored and a conscience informed by the immediacy of Presence.

Here, George Fox in his own words and in context: 

Now, reader, whosoever thou art that readest this following volume, if thy mind be sober, and thy heart right towards God, thou may come to a good understanding of the ground and cause of this great controversy, between the priests and the professors of this nation, and us who are in scorn called Quakers, for it is not unknown to nations. Of this great debate and battle, now for some years of continuance in this nation, no man can be ignorant. What putting in prisons, and what persecuting, and what preaching and printing against us, and what reports and fame have been through this nation for some years past! And the Quakers, so called, have written, and spoken, and printed against the priests, and their worships, and ways, and doctrines, and declared against them, as deceivers and false prophets, and such as never were sent of God. And on the other hand, thus have the priests, and more abundantly, cried out against, and printed against the Quakers, as heretics, and deceivers, and witches, and all that they could say that was evil. And these things being not unknown, but publicly brought to pass, it will be good to discover unto every man, the first ground and cause of this great strife, and the matter of it, and its beginning, so that all may know the certainty of these things, and know they are not without good ground and sufficient reason on our part, to wit, that we have just cause to do, and strive against that generation of priests and teachers, and that we do nothing rashly, and without sufficient reason.


It is now about seven years since the Lord raised us up in the north of England, and opened our mouths in this his spirit; and what we were before in our religion, profession, and practices is well known to that part of the country; that generally we were men of the strictest sect, and of the greatest zeal in the performance of outward righteousness, and went through and tried all sorts of teachers, and run from mountain to mountain, and from man to man, and from one form to another, as do many to this very day, who yet remain ungathered to the Lord. And such we were, (to say no more of us,) that sought the Lord, and desired the knowledge of his ways more than any thing beside, and for one I may speak, who, from a child, even a few years old, set my face to seek and find the saviour, and, more than life and treasure or any mortal crown, sought with all my heart the one thing that is needful, to wit, the knowledge of God.


And after our long seeking the Lord appeared to us, and revealed his glory in us, and gave us of his spirit from heaven, and poured it upon us, and gave us of his wisdom to guide us, whereby we saw all the world, and the true state of things, and the true condition of the church in her present estate. First the Lord brought us by his power and wisdom, and the word by which all things were made, to know and understand, and see perfectly, that God had given to us, every one of us in particular, a light from himself shining in our hearts and consciences; which light, Christ his son, the saviour of the world, had lighted every man withal; which light in us we found sufficient to reprove us, and convince us of every evil deed, word, and thought, and by it, in us, we came to know good from evil, right from wrong, and whatsoever is of God, and according to him, from what is of the devil, and what was contrary to God in motion, word, and works. And this light gave us to discern between truth and error, between every false and right way, and it perfectly discovered to us the true state of all things; and we thereby came to know man, what he was in his creation before transgression, and how he was deceived and overcome by the devil, and his estate in transgression, and in disobedience, and how he is driven and banished from the presence of the Lord, and the sorrow and anguish which he is in and to undergo. And also by the light in us, we perfectly came to know the way of restoration, and the means by which to be restored, and the state of man when come out of transgression and restored. These things to us were revealed by the light within us, which Christ had given us, and lighted us withal; what man was before transgression, and what he is in transgression, and what he is being redeemed out of transgression. And also as our minds be came turned, and our hearts inclined to the light which shined in every one of us, the perfect estate of the church we came to know; her estate before the apostles' days, and in the apostles' days, and since the days of the apostles. And her present estate we found to be as a woman who had once been clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, who brought forth him that was to rule the nations; but she was fled into the wilderness, and there sitting desolate, in her place that was prepared of God for such a season, in the very end of which season, when the time of her sojourning was towards a full end, then were we brought forth. If any have an ear they may hear. So that all these things concerning man, and concerning the times and seasons, and the changing and renewing of times, and all things that pertain to salvation, and redemption, and eternal life, needful for man to know, all these were revealed, discovered, and made known to us, by the light which was in us, which Christ had lighted us withal.


And we found this light to be a sufficient teacher, to lead us to Christ, from whence this light came, and thereby it gave us to receive Christ, and to witness him to dwell in us; and through it the new covenant we came to enter into, to be made heirs of life and salvation. And in all things we found the light which we were enlightened withal, (which is Christ,) to be alone and only sufficient to bring to life and eternal salvation; and that all who did own the light in them which Christ hath enlightened every man withal, they needed no man to teach them, but the Lord was their teacher, by his light in their own consciences, and they received the holy anointing.


And so we ceased from the teachings of all men, and their words, and their worships, and their temples, and all their baptisms and churches; and we ceased from our own words, and professions, and practices in religion, in times before zealously performed by us, through divers forms, and we became fools for Christ's sake, that we might become truly wise. And by this light of Christ in us were we led out of all false ways, and false preachings, and from false ministers, and we met together often, and waited upon the Lord in pure silence from our own words, and all men's words, and hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and felt his word in our hearts, to burn up and beat down all that was contrary to God; and we obeyed the light of Christ in us, and followed the motions of the Lord's pure spirit, and took up the cross to all earthly glories, crowns, and ways, and denied ourselves, our relations, and all that stood in the way betwixt us and the Lord; and we chose to suffer with and for the name of Christ, rather than enjoy all the pleasures upon earth, or all our former zealous professions and practices in religion without the power and spirit of God, which the world yet lives in. And while waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together, with our minds and hearts toward him, being staid in the light of Christ within us, from all thoughts, fleshly motions, and desires, in our diligent waiting and fear of his name, and hearkening to his word, we received often the pouring down of the spirit upon us, and the gift of God's holy eternal spirit as in the days of old, and our hearts were made glad, and our sum/ life and immortality were brought to light, power from on high and wisdom were made manifest, and the day everlasting appeared unto us, and the joyful sun of righteousness did arise and shine forth unto us and in us; and the holy anointing, the everlasting comforter, we received; and the babe of glory was born, and the heir of the pro mise brought forth to reign over the earth, and over hell and death, whereby we entered into everlasting union, and fellowship, and cove nant with the Lord God, whose mercies are sure and infinite, and his promise never fails. We were raised from death to life, and changed from satan's power to God, and gathered from all the dumb shepherds, and off all the barren mountains, into the fold of eternal peace and rest, and mighty and wonderful things hath the Lord wrought for us, and by us, by his own outstretched arm.tongues loosed, and our mouths opened, and we spake with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and as his spirit led us, which was poured down upon us, on sons and daughters. And to us hereby were the deep things of God revealed, and things unutterable were known and made manifest; and the glory of the Father was revealed, and then began we to sing praises to the Lord God Almighty, and to the Lamb for ever, who had re deemed us to God, and brought us out of the captivity and bondage of the world, and put an end to sin and death; and all this was by and through, and in the light of Christ within us. And much more might be declared hereof, that which could not be believed if it were spoken, of the several and particular operations and manifestations of the ever lasting spirit that was given us, and revealed in us. But this is the sum/ life and immortality were brought to light, power from on high and wisdom were made manifest, and the day everlasting appeared unto us, and the joyful sun of righteousness did arise and shine forth unto us and in us; and the holy anointing, the everlasting comforter, we received; and the babe of glory was born, and the heir of the pro mise brought forth to reign over the earth, and over hell and death, whereby we entered into everlasting union, and fellowship, and cove nant with the Lord God, whose mercies are sure and infinite, and his promise never fails. We were raised from death to life, and changed from satan's power to God, and gathered from all the dumb shepherds, and off all the barren mountains, into the fold of eternal peace and rest, and mighty and wonderful things hath the Lord wrought for us, and by us, by his own outstretched arm.

The Works of George Fox, Vol. 3 (Gould and Hopper 1831)  pages 11-14

 

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Comment by Keith Saylor on 3rd mo. 8, 2014 at 9:13am

There is little ambiguity in these words of Fox. First, he establishes the "first ground and cause of this great strife," between Quakers and Protestants is the Quaker testimony to "a light from himself shining in our hearts and consciences; which light, Christ his son, the saviour of the world."

They searched outward intellectual system after outward intellectual system. Then the light of Christ showed them a different way; a consciousness anchored and a conscience informed by the immediacy of the presence of Christ through personal experience. This consciousness anchored in and conscience informed by the immediacy of Presence was sufficient in itself as the guide and Principle or Rule.

... which light in us we found sufficient to reprove us, and convince us of every evil deed, word, and thought, and by it, in us, we came to know good from evil, right from wrong, and whatsoever is of God, and according to him, from what is of the devil, and what was contrary to God in motion, word, and works.

In this consciousness anchored in and conscience informed by the immediacy of Presence they:

... ceased from the teachings of all men, and their words, and their worships, and their temples, and all their baptisms and churches; and we ceased from our own words, and professions, and practices in religion, in times before zealously performed by us, through divers forms, and we became fools for Christ's sake, that we might become truly wise.

The inward light of Christ established and anchored their very being, consciousness, awareness, in the light itself. The light is sufficient as the Guide. So they ceased from all outward forms and deepened down into the silence, the Quiet as sufficient. 

This testimony is the reason for the strife between the early Quakers and the Protestant churches of their time. It is also the reason for the labor between Wilbur and Gurney without Quakerism itself. It is also the source of tensions manifest in various threads here on this website.

There are those whose faith, generally speaking, is anchored in and informed by the immediacy of Presence. There are those whose faith, generally speaking, is anchored in and informed by outward forms like religious institutions, scripture, religious ceremony, institutional process, etc. 

The early Quakers were those who, through the presence of Christ within, were anchored in and informed by a renewed mind that no longer anchored consciousness and informed conscience in outward forms, but in the direct personal experience of the Presence which was (and is) sufficient in itself.

Fox and those who labored against him had a propensity to demonize one another; as did Wilbur and those who labored against him. This propensity unfortunately distracted from the true distinguishing characteristics. It is one thing to distinguish by demonization. It is another to distinguish clinically, without demonization. 

In distinction without demonization there is a clarity which is edifying. 

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 3rd mo. 8, 2014 at 9:24am

I am so grateful for George Fox's faithfulness and righteousness, as he left us testimony and evidence of the power of the Lord to lift up our consciousness into a new way of being - Christ Within. My experience is very much like yours, Keith, even to the year: the "babe of glory was born" 31 years ago (the watershed moment of my life), and a year later I discovered Quaker meeting, and two years later found Fox's writings, which affirmed my inward experience of several years before. Been reading him ever since, along with Scriptures, which was also new material for me. 

Although  I've recognized for decades the astonishing affinity with the early Friends' understanding, it has been a slow process for me to discard the psychological gestalt of individualism that informed my modern and American sensibility. I've gradually come to see the unchanging spiritual forces that are and have always been in conflict, so clearly identified in Fox's writings, as well as Scripture. Having come to the early Quaker understanding, I know that my purpose is to remain grounded in Presence and to present the world with the testimony that this new consciousness that early Friends evidenced is possible, and called forth today. This is ministry of the gospel, which is the power of God. Thanks for this writing that summarizes the longing for transcendence of the human condition, and the consummation of that drive to have the soul live, i.e. participate in the living God: the Truth does make us free from sin and death, that is to say, from alienation from God.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 3rd mo. 9, 2014 at 9:52am

I've gradually come to see the unchanging spiritual forces that are and have always been in conflict, so clearly identified in Fox's writings, as well as Scripture. Having come to the early Quaker understanding, I know that my purpose is to remain grounded in Presence and to present the world with the testimony that this new consciousness that early Friends evidenced is possible, and called forth today.

Thank you for this testimony Patricia. 

Comment by Keith Saylor on 3rd mo. 9, 2014 at 10:15am

Now Isaac Peningtion in his words:

I have smarted deeply for these things, and have been taught by the briars and thorns of the wilderness, whereby my ears came to be opened, to hear the sound of the everlasting gospel, to which they were before through ignorance stopped. For I also did believe and expect great things in a church-state and way of worship; and in simplicity of heart did I enter into it, and walk in it, and was not without knowledge, warmth, and experiences there. But all this the Lord broke down by a strong hand, in one moment; and hath taught me since to throw away all my gains here, and elsewhere, and to count them but dross and dung, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. And having tasted, having seen, having felt, having handled, I cannot but commend the life ; and dissuade all men from all knowledge, all worship, all religion, all ways, and practices (though ever so taking, pleasant, and promising), out of the life. And this is to know Christ; namely, to know the life: and this is to obey Christ, to obey the life: and this is the kingdom of Christ which is to come, to have the life reign in power and great glory. But the knowing or believing of a history concerning Christ, this is not the knowledge or the faith: antichrist all along the apostasy, in all his various forms and dresses, hath known and believed thus: and this kind of knowledge must pass away, further  than it can find a place and service in the life. Be not angry at my testimony; it flows from pure love, and comes forth in great good-will to your souls.

 Here, Penington affirms the very experience of  Fox. This is the distinguishing characteristic of the early Quaker experience amongst Protestantism and Catholicism; the de-institutionalization of the spirit of Christ. The characteristic was and is not unique to the early Quakers, however, to turn from institutionalization to the sufficiency of the immediacy of Christ experienced inwardly put early Quakers, and some Quakers today, at odds the rest of Protestantism and Catholocism. Today, those who share the early Quaker faith in and experience of  a consciousness anchored in and a conscience informed by the immediacy of Presence, are odds with much of modern Quakerism in the same way Wilbur and Gurney were at odds. Notice, Penington felt the asks the reader to "be not angry at my testimony" because he experienced directly the wrath of those who do not share a faith in and experience the immediacy of Presence in all things.

This is the power of the early Quaker experience. To know and experience a consciousness anchored in and a conscience informed by direct experience of the presence of Christ; a consciousness no longer institutionalized; a consciousness seated in Eternity rather than mediated through outward form.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 3rd mo. 10, 2014 at 2:27pm

Penington is his essay "Some Great Things of Concernment to All ...

“Written in the time of my confinement in Aylesbury, when Love was working in me, and the Life of God in me travailing and wrestling with the Lord for the salvation of others.”

There is none knows what is felt inwardly by the followers of the Lamb, but those that travel with him in the living path; they are often sensible of that they meet with in their travels, and how hard it is to abide in the path of salvation, insomuch as they understand the truth of that saying: "If the righteous scarcely be saved." It is scarcely indeed! so subtle, so strong, such a many holds, so many stratagems hath the subtle, twining, crooked, piercing leviathan, to ensnare, perplex, over-run, and entangle them with. And then outwardly, the same flesh, the same earthly spirit and wisdom, the same crooked, hellish will, is striving in men without also, to bear down and subject the pure principle in them who are born of God, to their devices and institutions, decrees, ways, customs, &c., which are of the will and wisdom of the flesh.


Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 3rd mo. 12, 2014 at 10:13am

The words of Fox that come to mind as I read this Penington excerpt are these: "I therein saw clearly that all was done and to be done in and by Christ." These Friends could see the powerful spiritual forces that were at war both within themselves and within society, and they also saw that the power of the Lord was over all opposition, as well as all benevolent devotion. Coming to this understanding was/is no cakewalk, as Penington clearly points out here, but we do have our tradition to supplement the guidance of our consciences, and to stand alone as an admonishment should a conscience be seared into dysfunction.

We do have the responsibility to Prepare the Way of the Lord, as Isaiah and John the Baptist cried out in the wilderness. And for that we need all the determination and clear-sightedness we can muster, knowing all the while it is only the grace and truth that comes by Jesus that can truly overcome this briery, thorny wilderness - both within and without.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 3rd mo. 12, 2014 at 4:51pm

Dear Patricia,

I enter into the writings of Fox and Penington as entering into fellowship with individuals who share a faith in and experience of the sufficiency of Christ. During this fellowship, their words are of only secondary value. During this fellowship, Presence in primary. Should their words and tradition somehow go away in a moment and for all times, our fellowship in Presence will sustain. The value is not in the words that came through Presence, but in Presence itself.

All words, traditions, ways, scripture, institutions, processes, etc., are given over to Presence. In Immediacy, these things have, at best, only secondary value. In Presence, Quakerism is not valued, religion is not valued, institutions are not valued. A consciousness anchored in and a conscience informed by Presence values the primacy of Presence in and of itself. The self-conscious ego sustained in Presence is free from outward forms ... a new Self.

Penington, in his essay, "A Question to the Professors of Christianity" writes:

Now there is a vast difference between knowing the relations concerning a thing, and knowing the thing related of.  And there is also a great deal of difference between believing the relations concerning a thing, and believing in the thing which is related of. Spiritual things cannot be savingly known, but in union with them, in the receiving of them. A man can never really know the Spirit of God, by all that can be said concerning it, but he must first feel somewhat of it, whereby he may truly know it. Ho the peace, the joy, the life, the power, — they pass the understanding; and a man can never rightly know them by reading, or comprehending ever so much concerning them; but by coming out of himself, and travelling thither where they are given and made manifest, he may come into acquaintance with them. And if the peace which Christ gives, the joy, the life, the power, cannot be thus known by literal descriptions; how can he, who is the fulness of all, the fountain of them all, the treasury of all perfection, in whom are hid all the riches and treasures of wisdom and knowledge, — how can he be known by outward and literal descriptions?

Now we have travelled through these things. We knew formerly what ye know now; and we also know now, what God hath given us further; and what our former knowledge was, and what our present knowledge is. And this is it which gives us satisfaction.

Our knowledge is in a principle, wherein we receive our capacity of knowing, and wherein the Father (from whom the principle came) teacheth us. And this is his way of teaching us; by making us one with the thing he teacheth. Thus we learn Christ, by being born of him, by putting him on.

"We have travelled through these things." Like the early Quakers, in Presence, I and others today have traveled through outward forms. We know that which the forms came through. We have found Presence, our principle, our rule, our tradition, and have found it sufficient in all things and in all ways. We have travelled through these things in fellowship with those before us. In the same essay he writes further:

And this may be a great evidence to professors, that they know not indeed Christ in his nature, Spirit, life, and power; because they speak not of him as persons who feel the thing, and speak from the present sense of it, and acquaintance with it, but only as persons that bring forth a notion they have received into their understandings ...

There is an understanding and wisdom of man, and there is a witness of God, which witness gives true judgment. Man (at best) judgeth but according as things appear to him from the Scriptures; hut the witness judgeth of the things of God in the demonstration of the Spirit, according as they arc felt and known to be in him ...

And wait to feel the rock laid as a foundation in you, even the seed of God, the life of Christ, the Spirit of Christ revealed in you, and your souls born of it, and built upon it. Oh that ye could come out of your own understandings, that ye might feel and receive the love of my heart, and know the travail of my bowels for you; that ye might be born of the truth, and know and receive it as it is in Jesus, and as it is felt in the Spirit, and its own pure power!

Holding firm in the pure power of Presence in the fellowship of inward Christ, and finding its immediacy sufficient is the blessing I speak to. Presence is the witness in all things. A consciousness anchored in and a conscience informed by the immediacy of Presence is the living principle, the living rule, living tradition, the living way, the living doctrine, the living theology, the living Church, the living Gospel, the living Word.

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 3rd mo. 13, 2014 at 10:26am

There is a difference between gathering manna daily and using what has been stored.

The old writings still have some authority in the world, and in part that's why I rely on them. I believe you're saying that what is instead needed is speaking with authority  (that is, speaking from the Spirit itself) and not as the scribes. It's a valid criticism, and helpful. 

 

Comment by Keith Saylor on 3rd mo. 13, 2014 at 2:49pm

Blessings Patcricia. I am thankful for the blessing of the daily, and moment by moment, experience of the free flow of manna from Presence; sustained in Immediacy itself. This gift of grace is living joy and living gratitude.


 

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