Swarthmore Friends Meeting

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania








Quaker Beginnings in George Fox

Friends began their radical redefinition of Christian Truth in England in the 17th century. George Fox was the great driving force of the early years. He was born in 1624 the son of a reasonably prosperous weaver and an intensely religious mother. A serious, introspective, physically powerful youth, he was at an early stage drawn to religious concerns. But he was genuinely shocked by the failure of the 'professors,' the professing Christians, to live their beliefs.

At the age of 19, George left home on a spiritual quest. He sought out and challenged religious leaders everywhere to answer his questions. His searching and wandering lasted four years, but no one seemed to understand him and no one accepted the reality of his inner conflict. Gradually his conviction grew that God had given him the answer within himself. In 1647, he heard a voice which said, "there is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy condition." This experience changed his life, his religious conceptions, and his view of the human-divine relationship. He devoted the rest of his life to sharing this new understanding.

George Fox was imprisoned eight times for spreading his religious beliefs and for drawing the radical consequences from them. He suffered cruel beatings, great strain and deprivation. He proved to be a heroic and resolute person and a true religious genius. His Journal and other writings continue to be basic works of the Religious Society of Friends, of which he is generally accepted to be the founder. He knew the Bible so well that most of his writings draw on biblical sources.

George Fox never intended to found a new religious sect. He believed that his discovery was universal, that he had rediscovered original Christianity. Embracing this insight went far beyond the institutional limits of the Christian Church. The sense of joyful release that he discovered has been echoed down the Quaker history up to the present. It strengthened Friends in their conviction that people can find new understanding if they trust in and respond to the life that Jesus lived.

The books, brochures and leaflets listed in the Bibliography were used to edit the text of this publication. Most of these titles are still available from the Friends Book Centre and the FWCC World Office in London or Friends General Conference in Philadelphia