In Fox's Journal we are presented with a first-hand record-Fox looking back from his old age to the momentous events and decisions of his youth-of a great soul coming to the ultimate mystical experience of spiritual enlightenment; and in going out into the world to share it with others. Any such is extremely rare.
That all may know the dealings of the Lord with me, and the various exercises, trials and troubles through which he led me, in order to prepare and fit me for the work unto which he had appointed me, and thereby may be drawn to admire and glorify his infinite wisdom and goodness, I think fit briefly to mention how it was with me in my youth, and how the work of the Lord was begun, and gradually carried on in me, even from my childhood.
I was born in the month called July, 1624, at Drayton-in-the-Clay, in Leicestershire. My father's name was Christopher Fox; he was by profession a weaver, an honest man; and there was a seed of God in him. The neighbours called him Righteous Christer. My mother was an upright woman; her maiden name was Mary Lago, of the family of the Lagos, and of the stock of the martyrs.
In my very young years I had a gravity and stayedness of mind and spirit, not usual in children; insomuch that when I saw old men behave lightly and wantonly towards each other, I had a dislike thereof raised in my heart, and said within myself "If ever I come to be a man, surely I shall not do so, nor be so wanton".
Afterwards, as I grew up, my relations thought to make me a priest; but others persuaded them to the contrary: whereupon I was put to a man, a shoemaker by trade, but who dealt in wool and was a grazier and sold cattle; and a great deal went through my hands.. While I was in that service, I used in my dealings the word verily, and it was a common saying among people who knew me "If George says verily, there is no altering him". People had generally a love to me for my innocency and honesty.
Then at the command of God, on the ninth day of the seventh month 1643, I left my relations and broke off all familiarity or fellowship with young or old.
Now during the time that I was at Barnet, a strong temptation to despair came over me. Then I saw how Christ was tempted, and mighty troubles I was in; sometimes I kept myself retired in my chamber, and often walked solitary in the Chase there, to wait upon the Lord. I wondered whether I had forsaken my relations I had done amiss against them; But temptations grew more and more, and I was tempted almost to despair. I was about twenty years of age when these exercises came upon me. I continued in that condition some years, in great trouble, and fain would have put it from me. I went to many a priest to look for comfort, but found no comfort from them.
From Barnet I went to London, where I took a lodging, and was under great misery and trouble there. I returned homewards into Leicestershire again, having a regard unto my parents and relations lest I should grieve them-who I understood were grieved at my absence.
My relations would have had me marry, but I told them I was but a lad, and I must get wisdom. Others would have had me into the auxiliary band among the soldiery, but I refused; and I was grieved that they proffered such things to me, being a tender youth.
After this I went to another ancient priest at Mancetter, in Warwickshire, and reasoned with him about the ground of despair and temptations; but he was ignorant of my condition, he bade me take tobacco and sing psalms. Tobacco was a thing I did not love, and psalms I was not in a state to sing-I could not sing.
After this I went to another, one Macham, a priest in high account. He would needs give me some physic, and I was to have them let blood; but they could not get one drop from me my body being as it were dried up with sorrows, grief and troubles. When the time called Christmas came, while others were feasting and sporting themselves, I looked out poor widows from house to house, and gave them some money. When I was invited to marriages (as I sometimes was) I went to none at all, but the next day or soon after I would go and visit them, and if they were poor I gave them some money-for I had wherewith both to keep myself from being chargeable to others, and to administer something to the necessities of [those who were in need].
About the beginning of the year 1646, as I was going to Coventry and approaching towards the gate, a consideration arose in me, how it was said that "all Christians are believers, both protestants and papists"; and the Lord opened to me that, if all were believers, then they were all born of God.
At another time, as I was walking in a field on a first-day morning, the Lord opened to me "that being trained at Oxford or Cambridge was not enough to fit and qualify men to be ministers of Christ" and I wondered at it, because it was the common belief of people.
Another time it was opened to me "That God, who made the world, did not dwell in temples made with hands". This at first seemed a strange word, because both priests and people used to call their temples or churches dreadful places, holy ground, and the temples of God. But the Lord showed me clearly that he did not dwell in these temples which men had commanded and set up, but in people's hearts.
After this I met with people that held women have no souls-adding (in light manner) no more than a goose. But I reproved them and told them that was not right, for Mary said "My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my saviour".
Now although I had great openings, yet great trouble and temptation came many times upon me; so that when it was day I wished for night, and when it was night I wished for day. Although when I had openings they answered one another, and answered the scriptures; for I had great openings of the scriptures.
But my troubles continued, and I was often under great temptations. I fasted much, and walked abroad in solitary places many days, and often took my bible and went and sat in hollow trees and lonesome places till night came on; and frequently in the night walked mournfully about by myself. For I was a man of sorrows in the times of the first workings of the Lord in me. During all this time I was never joined in profession of religion with any, but gave up myself to the Lord; having forsaken all evil company, and taken leave of father and mother and all other relations, and travelled up and down as a stranger upon the earth, which way the Lord inclined my heart. I kept myself much as a stranger, seeking heavenly wisdom and getting knowledge from the Lord, and was brought off from outward things to rely wholly on the Lord alone.
Though my exercises and troubles were very great, yet they were not so continual that I had some intermissions, and was sometimes brought into such a heavenly joy that I thought I had been in Abraham's bosom. As I cannot declare the misery I was in it was so great and heavy upon me, so neither can I set forth the mercies of God unto me in all my misery. Oh! the everlasting love of God to my soul when I was in great distress; when my troubles and torments were great then was his love exceedingly great.
But as I had forsaken all the priests, so I left the separate preachers also and those esteemed the most experienced people, for I saw there was none among them all who could speak to my condition. When all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me nor could tell what to do, then oh! then I heard a voice which said "There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition"; and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give him all the glory-that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence-who enlightens and gives grace and faith and power. Thus when God does work, who shall hinder it? And this I knew by experience.
My desires after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God and of Christ alone. Then the Lord gently led me along, and let me see his love which was endless and eternal, surpassing all the knowledge that men have in the natural state or can obtain from history or books..
When I myself was in the deep, under all shut up, I could not believe that I should ever overcome; my troubles, my sorrows, my temptations were so great that I thought many times I should have despaired, I was so tempted. But when Christ opened to me how he was tempted by the same devil, and overcame him and bruised his head, and that through him and his power, light, grace and spirit I should overcome also, I had confidence in him. So he it was that opened to me, when I was shut up and had no hope nor faith. Christ it was (who had enlightened me) that gave me his light to believe in; and gave me hope, which is himself, revealed himself in me, gave me his spirit and gave me his grace, which I found sufficient in the deeps and weakness. Thus, in the deepest miseries and in the greatest sorrows and temptations that many times beset me, the Lord in his mercy did keep me.
I saw the pure and perfect law of God is over the flesh, to keep it, and its works which are not perfect, under. And the perfect law of God answers the perfect principle of God in every one. None knows the giver of this law but by the spirit of God, neither can any truly read it or hear its voice but by the spirit of God. They that walk in the light come to the mountain of the house of God, established above all mountains, and to God's teaching who will teach them his ways. These things were opened to me in the light.
I saw also the mountains burning up and the rubbish, the rough and crooked ways and places made smooth and plain, that the Lord might come into his tabernacle. These things are to be found in man's heart. But to speak of these things being within seemed strange to the rough and crooked and mountainous ones. I saw many talked of the law who had never known the law to be their schoolmaster; and many talked of the gospel of Christ who had never known life and immortality brought to light in them by it.
Now was I come up in spirit through the flaming sword, into the paradise of God. All things were new, and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing but pureness and innocency and righteousness, being renewed up into the image of God by Christ Jesus; so that I say that I was come up to the state of Adam which he was in before he fell. The creation was opened to me, and it was showed me how all things had their names given them according to their nature and purpose. I was at a stand in my mind, whether I should practise medicine for the good of mankind, seeing the nature and virtues of things were so opened to me by the Lord. But I was immediately taken up in spirit to see into another or more steadfast state than Adam's innocency, even into a state in Christ Jesus that should never fall. And the Lord showed me that such as were faithful to him, in the power and light of Christ, should come up into that state in which Adam was before he fell; in which admirable works of creation and the virtues thereof may be known, through the openings of the divine wisdom and power by which they were made.
Great things did the Lord lead me into, and wonderful depths were opened unto me, beyond what can by words be declared. But as people come into subjection to the spirit of God, and grow up in the image and power of the almighty, they may receive the word of wisdom that opens all things, and come to know the hidden unity in the eternal being.
While I was in the Vale of Beavor the Lord opened to me three things, relating to those three great professions in the world, physic, divinity (so called) and law. He showed me that the physicians and doctors of physic were out of the wisdom of God, by which the creatures were made; and so knew not their virtues. He showed me that the priests were out of the true faith, which Christ is the author of. He showed me also that the lawyers were out of the equity and out of the true justice, and out of the law of God. And that these three ruled the world out of the wisdom, out of the faith, and out of the equity and law of God; the one pretending the cure of the body, the other the cure of the soul, and the third the property of the people. But I saw they were all out of wisdom, out of the faith, and out of the equity and perfect law of God.
As the Lord opened these things unto me, I felt his power went forth over all, by which all might be reformed if they would receive and bow unto it. The priests might be reformed, and brought into the true faith which was the gift of God. The lawyers might be reformed, and brought into the law of God, which answers that of God, which is transgressed in everyone, and brings to love one's neighbour as himself. This lets man see that if he wrongs his neighbour he wrongs himself; and this teaches him to do unto others as he would they should do unto him. The physicians might be reformed, and brought into the wisdom of God by which all things were made and created; that they might receive the right knowledge of them and understand their virtues, which the word of wisdom by which they were made and are upheld has given them. Abundance was opened concerning these things.
Moreover, the lord God let me see-when I was brought up into his image in righteousness and holiness, and into the paradise of God-the state how Adam was made a living soul; and also the stature of Christ, the mystery that had been hid from ages and generations-which things are hard to be uttered and cannot be borne by many. For, of all the sects in Christendom (so called) that I discoursed withal, I found none that could bear to be told that any should come to Adam's perfection, into that image of God.
Now the Lord opened to me by his invisible power "that every man was enlightened by the divine light of Christ", and I saw it shine through all. And that they that believed in it came out of condemnation to the light of life, and became the children of it. But they that hated it and did not believe in it were condemned by it, though they made a profession of Christ.
This I saw in the pure openings of the light, without the help of any man.
On a certain time as I was walking in the fields the Lord commanded me to go abroad into the world, which was like a briery thorny wilderness. When I came, in the Lord's mighty power with the word of life into the world, the world swelled and made a noise like the great raging waves of the sea. Priests and professors, magistrates and people, were all like a sea-when I came to proclaim the day of the Lord amongst them and to preach repentance to them.
I was sent to turn people from darkness to the light, that they might receive Christ Jesus; for, to as many as should receive him in his light, I saw that he would give power to become the sons of God-which I had obtained by receiving Christ. I was to direct people to the spirit, that gave forth the scriptures, by which they might be led into all truth and so up to Christ and God, as they had been who gave them forth.
I was to turn them to the grace of God, and to the truth in the heart which came by Jesus; that by this grace they might be taught-which would bring them salvation-that their hearts might be established by it and their words might be seasoned, and all might come to know their salvation nigh.
I saw that Christ had died for all men and was a proclamation for all; and enlightened all men and women with his divine and saving light; and that none could be a true believer but who believed in it.
I saw that the grace of God, which brings salvation, had appeared to all men, and that the manifestation of the spirit of God was given to every man, to profit withal.
These things I did not see by the help of man, nor by the letter (though they are written in the letter), but I saw them in the light of the lord Jesus Christ, and by his immediate spirit and power-as did the holy men of God by whom the holy scriptures were written.
I could speak much of these things, and many volumes might be written, but all would prove too short to set forth the infinite love, wisdom and power of God, in preparing, fitting and furnishing me for the service he had appointed me to-letting me see the depths of Satan on the one hand, and opening to me on the other hand the divine mysteries of his own everlasting kingdom.
About this time I was sorely exercised in going to the courts to cry for justice, and in speaking and writing to judges and justices to do justly; in warning those who kept public-houses for entertainment, that they should not let people have more drink than would do them good; and in testifying against their wakes or feasts, May-games, sports, plays and shows, which trained up people to vanity and looseness, and led them from the fear of God-the days they had set forth for holy-days were usually the times wherein they most dishonoured God by these things.
In fairs, also, and in markets, I was made to declare against their deceitful merchandise, cheating and cozening, warning all to deal justly, to speak the truth, to let their yea be yea, and their nay be nay; and to do unto others as they would have others do unto them.
I was moved also to cry against all sorts of music, and against the mountebanks playing tricks upon their stages, for they burdened the pure life and stirred up people's minds to vanity.
I was much exercised, too, with school-masters and school- mistresses, warning them to teach their children sobriety in the fear of the Lord, that they might not be nursed and trained up in lightness, vanity and wantonness.
Likewise I was made to warn masters and mistresses, and fathers and mothers in private families, to take care that their children and servants might be trained up in the fear of the Lord; and that they themselves should be therein examples and patterns of sobriety and virtue to them. So all Christians and all who made a profession of Christianity ought to train up their children and servants in the new covenant of light, Christ Jesus. .
But in this free spirit of the lord Jesus was I sent forth to declare the word of life and reconciliation freely, that all might come up to Christ, who gives freely and who renews up into the image of God, that they might sit down in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.