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Fox, George 1624-1691

Founder of the Society of Friends, or Quakers; born in Drayton, Leicestershire, England, in July, 1624. His father, a Presbyterian, was too poor to give his son an education beyond reading and writing. The son, who

George Fox.

was grave and contemplative in temperament, was apprenticed to a shoemaker, and made the Scriptures his constant study. The doctrines he afterwards taught were gradually fashioned in his mind, and believing himself to be called to disseminate them, he abandoned his trade at the age of nineteen, and began his spiritual work, leading a wandering life for some years, living in the woods, and practising rigid self-denial. He first appeared as a preacher at Manchester, in 1648, and he was imprisoned as a disturber of the peace. Then he travelled over England, meeting the same fate everywhere, but gaining many followers. He warmly advocated all the Christian virtues, simplicity in worship, and in manner of living. Brought before a justice at Derby, in 1650, he told the magistrate to “quake before the Lord,” and thereafter he and his sect were called Quakers. Taken before Cromwell, in London, that ruler not only released him, but declared his doctrines were salutary, and he afterwards protected him from persecution; but after the Restoration he and his followers were dreadfully persecuted by the Stuarts. He married the widow of a Welsh judge in 1669, and in 1672 he came to America, and preached in Maryland, Long Island, and New Jersey, visiting Friends wherever they were seated. Fox afterwards visited Holland and parts of Germany. His writings upon the subject of his peculiar doctrine—that the “light of Christ within is given by God as a gift of salvation” —occupied, when first published, 3 folio volumes. He died in London, Jan. 13, 1691.

When the founder of the Society of Friends visited New England in 1672, being more discreet than others of his sect, he went only to Rhode Island, avoiding Connecticut and Massachusetts. Roger Williams, who denied the pretensions to spiritual enlightenment, challenged Fox to disputation. Before the challenge was received, Fox had departed, but three of his disciples at Newport accepted it. Williams went there in an open boat, 30 miles from Providence, and, though over seventy years of age, rowed the vessel himself. There was a three days disputation, which at times was a tumultuous quarrel. Williams published an account of it, with the title of George Fox digged out of his Burrowes; to which Fox replied in a pamphlet entitled, A New England Firebrand quenched. Neither was sparing in sharp epithets.

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