January 13 – George Fox

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

George Fox, renewer of society


George Fox was first amongst Quakers, a weaver’s son, a revolutionary in his time, who lived in the power of the Spirit of Christ without compromise even to his personal harm. A man who suffered with gladness the often violent retribution of those who saw him as a devil intent on destroying their livelihood, the established church and by extension the state. Irascible for the truth and justice as he saw it, never loosing an argument, yet deeply empathetic to those who recognised the error of their ways. A charismatic figure, with a gift for debate and an encyclopedic knowledge of the bible much loved by his friends and followers.

Born in The small village of Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire, little is known of his early life except that he worked as a shepherd and that he was of a more serious nature amongst his siblings and contemporaries. He particularly stood out in religious matters.

At the age of 19 he went away seeking himself, wisdom and the calling God had laid out for him. He found no comfort from any he turned to, particularly priests and ministers, recognising that they did not possess what they professed. In his searching he became a man of sorrows, often alone and despairing until he realised that all his hopes in men were gone and he had nothing outwardly to help him. Then he had a revelation from his own experience “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”[1]. This was the turning point of his life and also the kernel from which Quakerism would grow. He listened to his inward teacher and gained in truth and power that none could gainsay him. He lived and worked among ordinary people for several years after this gaining a small following.

In 1652 while alone in prayer on Pendle Hill in Lancashire, he had a vision of a great people gathered as sheep under the one shepherd and from this point onwards where ever he went he began to preach as the Lord commanded. Slowly but surely the ‘Friends of the Truth’, later simply Friends, began to evolve. There was however much opposition and consequently much suffering with assaults, estrangements of goods, imprisonment and even death common amongst these gathering people. George Fox was imprisoned 8 times during his life and he was beaten unconscious on more than one occasion, but he was fearless in these situations and would challenge his attackers to hit him again.

Later in 1652, while preaching in Ulverston in Cumbria, Margaret Fell, wife of the local Judge Thomas Fell became a convert and under her patronage and Thomas’s protection, the Society of Friends began to grow.

In 1661 George met with Charles II and repeated his declaration to Oliver Cromwell of 1651 that he and all Quakers ‘utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatever’[2]. He was attempting to halt the persecution of Friends and this happened eventually. This was the foundation of the Quaker peace testimony.

In 1669, 11 years after Judge Fell’s death Margaret married George though they spent little time living together as they were constantly traveling and labouring in the Ministry when they were not in prison.

William Penn said of him “He had an extraordinary gift in opening the scriptures…. But above all he excelled in prayer….. And truly it was a testimony that he knew and lived nearer to the Lord than other men”[3]

Anthony Buxton, Society of Friends


[1] Journal of George Fox. Edited John.L. Nickalls 1997 page 11.

[2] Quaker Faith  & Practice fifth edition 2013 Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain 24.04

[3] Op City 2.72.