Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
This morning in worship, I felt led to share the first couple of paragraphs from George Fox's letter to Lady Claypole.
It contains much useful spiritual counsel, and reveals much about how Fox viewed the interior world of human spiritual experience.
One of our attenders, whose first language is not English, asked questions about one particular passage;
"When you are in the transgression of the life of God in your own particular way, the mind flies up in the air, the creature is led into the night, nature goes out of its course, an old garment goes on, and an uppermost clothing: and your nature being led out of its course, it comes to be all on fire in the transgression, and that defaces the glory of the first body." (1658)
These are all ways of describing the experience of not being Light of Christ, in spiritual darkness, in the state of disobedience. We are led into wild thoughts and our own imaginations. The end of this, is to be inwardly burnt with God's Fire.
One part of this, though, I had never noticed before, and that is part where Fox describes the transgression "that defaces the glory of the first body".
I must confess that I am puzzled as to what this means; particularly the 'glory of the first body'.
I putting this out as a question to other New Foundation workers, to see if anyone can explain where this phrase comes from and open it's deeper spiritual meaning to us.
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There is a glory, a wonder-filled amazement, associated with our created bodies. Apart from the mechanic's grumbling about not having enough joints to reach around the corner and loosen that one bolt that is stopping all further progress, creation is awe inspiring. Much of what passes for "modernity" transgresses and leads nature out of course. This can include "accepted" ways of acting, thinking, eating, drinking... Physical and mental habits can affect body, mind, and soul that deface the glory of creation.
If there is more to that statement, I have not seen it yet.
Allistair, you've asked where the phrase the "glory of the first body" comes from. I feel fairly certain that its origin is in I Cor.15:35-49. The phrase is not a direct quotation from that passage, but Fox regularly uses biblical language and imagery in a creative way that is in accord with the content and spirit of Scripture without parroting it. In this Bible passage, Paul is working with both the idea of the "natural body" and the "spiritual body" (44), with there being different "glory" given to different bodies (40), and with what comes "first" and what comes "second" (45-48). All of these components are encapsulated in Fox's phrase: "the glory of the first body." The word "body" is not to be taken literally as referring to the physical body, for Fox's understanding is in accord with Paul, who is not referring to the physical body but to all the glory that is given by God to Man in the first birth: specifically the glory of having a "living soul" (45). The glory of the first body is defaced, the living soul is defaced, when man is "in the transgression of the life of God in the particular [meaning specific wrong-doing, not just his pervasive fallen condition], the mind flies up in the air, and the creature is led into the night, and nature goes out of his course" etc. (Nickalls, 346). Fox uses the phrase one more time in the letter to Lady Claypole: "And from thy own will, that is, the earthly, thou must be kept. Then thou wilt feel the power of God, that will bring nature into his course, and to see the glory of the first body" (347). When our human nature is as God intended it to be, i.e. receiving His wisdom, virtue, and love, then we can see and enjoy the glory of that nature he has provided to us as sons and daughters of God who are made in His image.
One of the great joys of having received "the image of the heavenly" (48) is to enter into discussion with the Scriptures and prophets, such as Fox, who have likewise engaged and responded to Scriptures' wisdom and power. It is wonderfully satisfying to feel oneself enter into the prophetic stream that has endured for millenia and will endure forever. It is my hope that NFF will continue to be worthy of this task of interpreting the words of God, and presenting the Word of God, in our time.