The Mystery of Faith in a Pure Conscience

Our rejoicing is in the testimony of our consciences, that in simplicity and godly sincerity (not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God,) we have had our conversation in the world, not handling the word of God deceitfully, but in the manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God; and if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. — The Works of George Fox, vol. 1, p. 377

The New Foundation Fellowship monthly study of Fox’s Journal met on the morning of February 13, eight people present. The text considered was Fox’s 1658 letter to Oliver Cromwell and chief magistrates, written “to make them sensible of their injustice and self-condemnation in blaming Papists for persecuting the Protestants abroad, while they calling themselves Protestants, were at the same time persecuting their Protestant neighbours and Friends at home” (377). Throughout this letter, Fox puts the guilt before the nation’s governors that they held in common with Papists whose persecution in central Europe these same governors had decried. 

Fox directs his readers to attend to the light in their consciences as the “touchstone” for righteousness, and to not turn to “profession and tradition” (377), “the commandments of men,” or “profess[ing] scriptures” (378) as guide to conversation and behavior: as these guides are outward standards, which can usurp the true inward guide: the light of Christ in the conscience. “These that teach for doctrine the commandments of men, are they that ever persecuted the life and power, when it came”(378). To the list of inadequate, outward standards, we added “social norms.” Discussion of the difference between heeding the conscience or, contrarily, heeding social norms begins at 48:45 in the recording. Neither heeding social norms nor other outward standards allow people to “exercise themselves to have always a ‘conscience void of offence towards God and man’”(379); that blessed condition occurs “only [through] being obedient to the commands of the Lord, to declare as they are moved by the holy ghost”(379).

Also of interest is some clarification on how prophetic ministry differs from persecution. This distinction was made beginning at 23:37; and then followed by a reading of Fox’s commission to minister the gospel (90), including more clarification on prophetic ministers’ work to overcome error and falsehood. We then heard some thought on the temptation to not risk offending others by confronting their error and falsehood, in order to avoid the typical resentment that follows, and the minister’s need to overcome this temptation and be willing “to suffer for conscience sake”(378).

If ye say, ‘how shall we know that these people, who say they witness these things do so or no?’ I answer, turn your minds to the light which Christ Jesus hath enlightened you withal, which is one in all (379).

The recording has been edited to reduce silence between speakers.

NFF discussion 2/13/21
Jerome Removing Thorn from Lion, 1445 Colantonio
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