"For God hath raised up his own seed in his saints, which seed, Christ, is but one in all....So in that, which is raised up in us, which trampleth upon the earthly, dark power, have we unity with God, and fellowship with his son, and unity one with another.... And so, our unity and fellowship with vain man are lost, and all his evil ways are now turned into enmity; and all his profession is now found to be deceit, and in all his fairest pretences lodgeth cruelty; and the bottom and ground of all his knowledge of God and Christ is found sandy, and cannot endure the tempest. For being brought off from that foundation, and having suffered the loss of all, which seemed beautiful upon the sand...we declare against that bottom and foundation, by the power of God, in that light of Christ, which discovers all false foundations, and makes manifest all sandy bottoms, which man hath builded upon. For where the only true seed takes root, there all man's plants and plantations are plucked up; for there the earth, in which the earthly plants grow, is broken up, ploughed up, and ripped up, and all things made manifest, which have lain hid in it. For in the earth dwell all the noisome creatures, and the evil beasts, which are hurtful to the creation: for in the earth the devil dwells and walks; but the earth being ploughed up, he is made manifest, and the seat of his dwelling is broken up." (Works, Vol. 7, pp. 31-32)
Unity begins in Christ, the seed of God, being raised up within us. This is God's work and is not accomplished by man's efforts. This is a unity based upon having one heart and one mind centered upon knowing and doing the will of the Father in Heaven. This unity is distinct from all man's attempts of unity by imposing a general acceptance of all points of view. Here, in this seed raised up by God, begins a sharp and clear division between what is righteous and what is not righteous, between what is life and what is death, between what is light and what is darkness, between what is to be joined with and what to be separated from. The Serpent's promise is that we can be liberated from the tyranny of God's rule. But only bondage, not liberty, exists in death, and there is no freedom in the darkness. Apart from God, there is neither light nor life. "And so, our unity and fellowship with vain man are lost..."
Those who know Christ, the seed of God, raised up within can no longer participate in building the tower and the city of Babel. Our hearts speak with a different tongue, and we have a different purpose. We have no need to storm the ramparts of heaven. We possess what we profess, we live now in the kingdom of God. We have come to The Truth and have neither need nor desire for the lie. We have come to life and dwell in life. Death and the fear of death no longer hold power over us. We have found The Way and have no desire to wander lost in the labyrinth of this world.
All profession of God and Christ that is not built upon hearing His voice speaking to us by His light within is built upon a sandy foundation. That profession is deceitful and cruel because at the time we most need a firm foundation, it will fail.
We have suffered the loss of all that appeared beautiful upon the sand and have come to stand on that rock that will not move. By the command and power of God we call all to turn away from their lifelessness and turn to Christ the life, to come out of their darkness and walk in Christ the light, to abandon their deceived-ness and to receive Christ the truth, and to come out of their lostness to find Christ the way. Where this seed takes root and grows, all man's plantations are ripped up and plowed up because they lead to death not life. This is the love of God to remove from us, His creation, the source of death and to bring us into that which gives us life. This is the work of the plowman, to expose the roots of all man's plants that they may die and the fields made ready to receive the good seed.
"You are divisive." "You are the disturber of our peace." "Who are you to call me to account for the way I am living and have lived my life?" "Who gave you authority to say what I am doing is not good enough?" This is the cry raised by all against those who have found and live upon the foundation of hearing and obeying the voice of Christ. And so our purpose is contrary to the purpose of the world and to the purpose of the ruler of this world.
Edward Burrough put it thus:
"Then having thus armed us with power, strength, and wisdom, and dominion, according to his mind, and we having learned of him, and being taught of him in all things, and he having chosen us into his work, and put his sword into our hand, and given us perfect commission to go forth in his name and authority, having the word from his mouth what to cut down and what to preserve, and having the everlasting gospel to preach to the inhabitants of the earth, and being commanded in spirit to leave all, and follow him, and go forth in his work, yea an absolute necessity was laid upon us, and wo unto us if we preached not the gospel. For when we looked abroad and beheld the world, behold it was altogether darkness, and even as a wilderness, and desolate, and barren of good fruit; and death reigned over men, and no good fruit was brought forth to God, but leaves we beheld upon every soul." (Works of Fox, Vol. III, p. 14)
And so "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted... (Ecl. 3:1) There is a time to know the birth of God's seed, Christ, within and a time to know the plantations of man to be plucked up, plowed up, and destroyed. There is a time to know God's instruction, empowerment, and commission; a time to preserve and a time to cut down; a time to expose the nakedness of leaf-covered souls and a time to show them the gospel covering of life. If there is to be a harvest of life, now is the time to plow that there may be a time to plant. Only then will will come the harvest.
Are you are interested in participating in a monthly conference call for the purpose of reading and discussing the writings of George Fox? You can reach me at siteadmins at nffquaker.org for more information.
I'm grateful for the clarity of vision that early Friends had and preserved in their writing, and for your continuation, Ellis, of the gospel work they undertook. This is clear, strong writing.
First Friends insisted on the need to receive the person of Christ, not substituting instead (as do so many Quakers today) the values assumed to be entailed in his coming; or (more to the point in our secular world) values assumed to be virtuous; or, declining further, values that are simply practical; or, disastrously, values that just seem advantageous.
Only in knowing Christ to be the Lord, can we have a firm foundation for our being, and His righteousness transcends any fair pretenses humans can manage.