August 15, 2010
We as the people of God, especially in the Western World, are in rather short supply of contemporary role models of effective propagation and evangelization. From the annals of church history comes a hero, imperfect, yet impassioned with the Gospel.
George Fox (1624-1691), born in the English Midlands of an early age, was a dauntless searcher for religion with substance. He sought counsel fro priests and adherents of Christianity only to conclude that “they did not possess what they professed.” Although a seeker, he opted out o formal theological training, stating “for the Lord opened to me that being bred at Oxford or Cambridge was not enough to fit and qualify men to be ministers of Christ.” Fox labeled himself “a man of sorrows,” choosing to embrace a life of fasting and separateness. The, at a time of deep despair, his answer came, “There is one, even Jesus Christ, that can speak to thy condition.” Fox’s life was forever transformed.
By 1647 Fox embarked on a personal mission to “bring people off from all the world’s religions which are vain, that they might know pure religion…vain traditions, ceremonies, ‘windy doctrines’ and “beggarly elements” were keeping people from the experiential reality of knowing Christ.
Fox and his growing band of Quakers (who were so named due to bodily trembling in God’s presence and from their quivering as they publicly preached the Gospel) became increasingly iconoclastic, condemning churches as steeple houses and interrupting liturgical services with the disruptive sharing of their salvation testimonies.
Quaker commitment to influence their generation can be seen in John Audland’s bold preaching in Bristol in 1654: “I proclaim spiritual war with the inhabitants of the earth who are in the fall and separation from God.” He continued preaching with many falling to the ground in deep conviction.
A popular Quaker expression was the “Lamb’s War”. Edward Burroughs wrote: “The Lamb hath called us to make war in righteousness for His Name’s Sake, against Hell and death and all the powers of darkness…and they that follow the Lamb shall overcome and get victory over the beat and over the dragon and over the gates of Hell!”
The phenomenal numerical growth of the Quakers between 1650 and 1690 has been dubbed the fasted growing movement in Western history. From one of Fox’s eight imprisonments he sent this command, “This is the word of the Lord God to you all…be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations…walk cheerfully over the world…” Quakers swarmed over Great Britain, Europe, Asia Minor, the American colonies and the Caribbean. Quakers went to evangelize the Sultan of Turkey and were courteously heard and they went to Rome to convert the Pope and were jailed. Hundreds of Quakers crisscrossed the globe following their “inner leadings”. One Mary Fisher went to the West Indies in 1655, New England in 1656, the Indies again in 1658, Constantinople in 1660 and finally to South Carolina. Such was the evangelistic journeys of these anointed lay people.
The radical style of their witness in the midst of an intolerant religious climate, caused nearly fifteen thousand of them to be jailed by 1689, with hundreds perishing in the vile prisons. They paid a high price for faithfulness.
With each fresh visitation of God comes a heaven-sent impetus to proclaim truth to one’s generation. If this impetus has been true with each restoration move in previous generations, how much more is it true for those to whom the ends of the ages have come?