“I am the light of the world,” saith Christ, and he doth enlighten every one that cometh into the world; and he that loves the light, and walks in the light, receives the light of life: and the other, he hates the light, because his deeds are evil, and the light doth reprove him (Works, VII, 51).
George Fox’s Epistle 42 was the focus of our New Foundation Fellowship study on Third month, the 21st, which was attended by 11 people. The writing can be found in the 1831 edition of The Works of George Fox in volume 7 on pages 50-51. Preceding the body of this epistle addressed to Friends, Fox informs us of its subject: the Light in which people “may see their saviour, and the deceivers” (50). He proceeds to contrast the nature and capacities of those who dwell in the Light with those opposed and who turn from it. Dwelling in the light, people are “new creatures,” “led by the spirit” in which there is “no condemnation”; they “see the deceivers.” By contrast, the deceivers “are turned from [the Light] and hate it.” Fox lists many specific behaviors that are common to deceivers, false prophets, and antichrists: they “bear rule by their means,” “have chief seats in the assemblies,” “speak a divination of their own brain,” and “steal words from their neighbors”; these are a few of the many evil deeds pointed out. From start to finish, this 1653 epistle is a litany of contrasts between the elect who dwell in the light and those who turn from it.
Our discussion began and largely remained centered on how one may distinguish the natural capacity for discernment – by means of reason and conscience – from the perfect guidance of the Light of Christ. Some participants answered this question by alluding to the attentive waiting that precedes Christ’s appearance; some gave examples of the Light’s guidance in their personal history; and some described the different quality of the experience of knowing Christ, compared to that found in natural discernment. Much of the epistle dwelt on the capacity given to see, comprehend, and cry against deceivers, which extended the discussion contrasting natural discernment with Light-given knowledge.
The recording has been edited to reduce silence between speakers.