Our New Foundation Fellowship study group met on December 20th to discuss George Fox’s epistle 39, which can be found in The Works of George Fox (1831) on pages 48-49 of volume 7. Fox wrote this short epistle in 1653 to Friends in the north of England, and in it he offers encouragement to keep in the spirit of the living God. The epistle draws attention to the many benefits that accrue from continuing in this spirit: Friends will have dominion over earthly spirits, will know one another, enjoy the Lord’s presence, rightfully judge all that is contrary, receive wisdom, be preserved pure, be ordered to the glory of the Lord, and come to see the lamb of salvation.
Four participated in the discussion that begins with the observation that there are many references in this epistle to the living God; the words “living” and “life” appear frequently. The discussion moves into an exploration of the meaning of the words “believe” and “God” (4:50), and from there to “trust” and “obey” (noting the Greek etymology of the word “believe”). Then set forth is a theory that to be human (10:25) is to be righteously obedient to God. There follows an illustration and discussion of the inward sense of “an abundance of life” (13:25), and the dynamic of moving toward God is affirmed as entering joyful fulfillment. That this life is “the main thing” in Quaker faith, and yet unknown in most Quaker communities, is asserted (28:50), and this observation draws forth some thoughts on obstacles found in meeting communities that inhibit the finding of faith, which the human heart longs for in every age (31:27). A recounting of the end of Stephen Crisp’s tale “A Short History of a Long Travel from Babylon to Bethel” (44:35) underscores the paradox that coming into the faith entails both loss and gain. The discussion nears its end with some thoughts on faith and a reference to Hebrews 11:1.