1624 – 1691
George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers), was born at Drayton-In-The-Clay, Leicestershire, England, the son of Puritan parents. Little is known of his early life apart from what he wrote in his journal:
In my very young years I had a gravity and stayedness of mind and spirit not usual in young children: insomuch that when I saw old men behave lightly and wantonly toward each other, I had a dislike thereof raise in my heart, and I said within myself, “If ever I come to be a man, surely I shall not do so, nor be so wanton.”
At the age of nineteen he gained deep personal assurance of his salvation and began to travel as an itinerant preacher seeking a return to the simple practices of the New Testament. He abhorred technical theology and preached a faith born of experience, freshly fed, and guided by the immediate presence of the Holy Spirit.
Fox was persecuted almost daily, yet his power of endurance was phenomenal. He was beaten with dogwhips, knocked down with fists and stones, brutally struck with pike staves, hard beset by mobs, incarcerated eight times in the pestilential jails, prisons, castles and dungeons: yet he went straight forward with his mission as though he had discovered some fresh courage which made him impervious to man’s inhumanity.
He undertook as far as possible to let the new life in Christ take its own free course of development in his ministry. He shunned rigid forms and static systems and for that reason he refused to head a new sect, or to start a new denomination, or to begin a new church. He would not build an organization of any kind. His followers at first called themselves, “Children of the Light” and later adopted the name, “The Society (or Fellowship) of Friends.”
Fox preached and travelled for forty years throughout England, Scotland, Holland, and America. His life demonstrated the truth of his famous saying, “One man raised by God’s power to stand and live in the same spirit as the apostles and prophets can shake the country for ten miles around.”