George Fox’s use of Conscience

Source: A journal or historical account of the life, travels, sufferings, Christian experiences, and labour of love in the work of the ministry of that ancient, eminent, and faithful servant of Jesus Christ, George Fox Vol. 1

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One use of “Conscious”

“And the judgment ought to be in the prisoner's hearing, not behind his back; as if the judge were so conscious of the error thereof, that he dares not give it to the face of the prisoner.”

1. Jerusalem into request, the mother of the sons of the gospel day. Wherefore, no more at old Jerusalem, nor at the mountain of Samaria, will God be worshipped above other places; for, behold, he is, By his own son, declared and preached a spirit, and he will be known as such, and worshipped in the spirit and in the truth. He will come nearer than of old time, and he will write his law in the heart, and put his fear and spirit in the inward parts, according to his promise. Then signs, types, and shadows flew away, the day having discovered their insufficiency, in not reaching to the inside of the cup, to the cleansing of the conscience ; and all elementary services were expired in and by him that is the substance of all. And to this great and blessed end of the dispensation of the son of God, did the apostles testify, whom he had chosen and anointed by his spirit, to turn the Jews from their prejudice and superstition, and the Gentiles from their vanity and idolatry, to Christ's light and spirit that shined in them; that they might be quickened from the sins and tres passes in which they were dead, to serve the living God in the newness of the spirit of life, and walk as children of the light, and of the day, even the day of holiness : for such ' put on Christ,' the light of the world, ' and make no more provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.' pg. V

2. For as it reached the conscience, and broke the heart, and brought many to a sense and search ; so what people had been vainly seeking without, with much pains and cost, they by this ministry found within; where it was they wanted what they sought for, viz. the right way to peace with God. For they were directed to the light of Jesus Christ within them, as the seed and leaven of the kingdom of God; near all, because in all, and God's talent to all. A faithful and true witness and just monitor in every bosom. pg X

3. And christianity set aside, if the costs and fruits of war were well con sidered, peace, with its inconveniences, is generally preferable. But though they were not for fighting, they were for submitting to government ; and that not only for fear, but for conscience sake, where government doth not interfere with conscience, believing it to be an ordinance of God, and where it is justly administered, a great benefit to mankind : though it has been their lot, through blind zeal in some, and interest in others, to have felt the strokes of it with greater weight and rigour than any other persuasion in this age ; whilst they, of all others, (religion set aside,) have given the civil magistrate the least occasion of trouble in the discharge of his office. pg. XV

4. in that the holy ghost is not their foundation, but human arts and parts. So that it is not matter of humour or sullenness, but pure conscience towards God, that they cannot help to support national ministers where they dwell, which are but too much and too visibly become ways of worldly advantage and preferment. XVI

5. Which ceremonies they have refused, not out of humour, but conscience reasonably grounded, inasmuch as no scripture example tells us, that the priest had any other part of old time than that of a witness among the rest, before whom the Jews used to take one another : and therefore this people look upon it as an imposition to advance the power and profits of the clergy. pg. XVIII

6. They reached to the inward state and condition of people, which is an evidence of the virtue of their principle, and of their ministering from it, and not in their own imaginations, glosses, or comments upon scripture. For nothing reaches the heart but what is from the heart, or pierces the conscience but what comes from a living conscience; insomuch, as it hath often happened, where people have under secrecy revealed their state or condition to some choice friends for advice or ease, they have been so particularly directed in the ministry of this people, that they have challenged their friends with discovering their secrets, and telling the preachers their cases; yea, the very thoughts and purposes of the hearts of many have been so plainly detected, that they have, like Nathaniel, cried out of this inward appearance of Christ, ' Thou art the son of God, thou art the king of Israel.' pg. xxiii

7. A coercive power to whip people into the temple ; that such as will not conform, though against faith and conscience, shall be punished in their persons or estates; or leaving all loose and at large as to practice, un accountable to all but God and the magistrate. To which hurtful ex treme nothing has more contributed, than the abuse of church power by such as suffer their passions and private interests to prevail with them to carry it to outward force and corporal punishment : a practice they have been taught to dislike by their extreme suffe rings, as well as thAnd he showed me that the priests were out of the true faith, which Christ is the author of; the faith which purifies, gives victory, and brings people to have access to God, by which they please God ; the mystery of which faith is held in a pure conscience. He showed me also, that the lawyers were out of the equity, out of the true justice, and out of the law of God, which went over the first transgression, and over all sin, and an swered the spirit of God, that was grieved and transgressed in man.eir known principle for a universal liberty of conscience. pg. xxviii

8. But as in the primitive time some rose up against the blessed apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, even from among those that they had turned to the hope of the gospel, and who became their greatest trouble, so this man of God had his share of suffering from some that were convinced by him, who through prejudice or mistake ran against him as one that sought dominion over conscience ; because he pressed, pg. xxxiv

9. And wherever it is observed that any one does minister more from gifts and parts than life and power, though they have an enlightened and doctrinal understanding, let them in time be advised and admonished for their preservation; because insensibly such will come to depend upon self-sufficiency, to forsake Christ the living fountain, and to hew out unto themselves cisterns that will hold no living waters, and by degrees draw others from waiting upon the gift of God in themselves, and to feel it in others, in order to their strength and refreshment, to wait upon them, and to turn from God to man again, and so to make ship wreck of the faith once delivered to the saints, and of a good conscience towards God; which are only kept by that divine gift of life that begat the one, and wakened and sanctified the other, in the beginning. pg. xl

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10. And he showed me that the priests were out of the true faith, which Christ is the author of; the faith which purifies, gives victory, and brings people to have access to God, by which they please God ; the mystery of which faith is held in a pure conscience. He showed me also, that the lawyers were out of the equity, out of the true justice, and out of the law of God, which went over the first transgression, and over all sin, and an swered the spirit of God, that was grieved and transgressed in man. pg 85

11. Having thus far cleared my conscience to them, I waited in the holy patience, leaving the event to God, in whose will I stood. After some time I was moved to write again to the justices that had committed me, to lay their evils before them, that they might repent. pg. 101

12. While I was there in prison divers professors came to discourse with me. I had a sense before they spoke, that they came to plead for sin and imperfection. I asked them, whether they were believers, and had faith? They said, yes. I asked them, in whom? They said, in Christ. I replied, if ye are true believers in Christ, you are passed from death to life ; and if passed from death, then from sin that bringeth death : and if your faith be true, it will give you victory over sin and the devil, purify your hearts and consciences, (for the true faith is held in a pure conscience,) and bring you to please God, and give you access to him again. But they could not endure to hear of purity, and of victory over sin and the devil. They said, ' They could not believe any could be free from sin on this side the grave.' pg. 104

13. But love mercy and true judgment and justice, for that the Lord delights in. I do not write with hatred to you, but to keep my conscience clear : take heed how you spend your time.' pg. 110

14. Thus having cleared my conscience to the priests, it was not long before a concern came upon me to write again to the justices, which I did as followeth. pg. 111

15. When I had cleared my conscience amongst them, I went to Swarthmore again. pg. 151

16. How are the wise men turned backward! View thy ways I take notice with whom thou hast taken part. That of God in thy conscience will tell thee. The Ancient of Days will reprove thee. pg. 164

17. To that of God in thy conscience I speak, which will witness the truth of what I write, and will condemn thee. And when thou art in thy torment, (though now thou swellest in thy vanity, and livest in wickedness,) remember thou wast warned in thy lifetime. When the eternal condemnation is stretched over thee, thou shalt witness this to be the word of the Lord God unto thee ; and if ever thine eye should see repentance, thou wouldst witness me to have been a friend of thy soul.' G. F. Having thus cleared my conscience to the justice and the priest of Ulverstone, who had raised the first persecution in that country, it was upon me to send this warning in writing to the people of Ulverstone in general. pg. 166

18. Therefore to the light in you I speak; and when the book of conscience shall come to be opened, then shall you witness what I say to be true, and you all shall be judged out of it. pg. 167

19. ' To the light in thy conscience I appeal, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of righteousness ; the Lord will strike thee down, though now for awhile in thy wickedness thou mayst reign. pg. 169

20. To that of God in thy conscience I speak, which will wit ness the truth of what I say. Thou art one that goest in Cain's way, in envy, an enemy to God, and from the command of God. Thou art one that goest in Balaam's way, from the spirit of God, for gifts and rewards, the wages of unrighteousness. Thou son of Balaam, thou art worse than thy father: for though he loved the wages of unrighteous ness, yet he durst not take it; but thou not only takest it, butsiiest men at the law if they will not give it thee : which no true minister of Jesus Christ ever did. Therefore stop thy mouth for ever, and make no mention of them, nor profess thyself one of them. With the light thou art seen and comprehended ; who art light and vain, and speakest a divination of thy own brain, and deceivest the people. That in thy conscience will witness what I say, and will condemn thee, who art one of those that bear rule by their means, which the Lord sent Jeremiah to cry against, Jer. v. and so thou holdest up the " horrible and filthy thing, that is committed in the land." pg. 170

21. After I had cleared my conscience to the priests and people near Swarthmore, I went again into Westmoreland. pg. 171

22. When they were gone, John Wilkinson, preacher of that parish, and of two other parishes in Cum berland, began to dispute against his own conscience for several hours, till the people generally turned against him : for he thought to have tired me out ; but the Lord's power tired him out, and the Lord's truth came over him and them all. pg. 176

23. 'And,' said I, 'thou carriedst thyself foolishly the other day, and spakest against thy conscience and reason, insomuch that thy hearers cried out against thee.' So I left him, and went on ; for he saw it was in vain to oppose, the people were so affected with the Lord's truth. When I came into the steeple-house yard, a professor asked, if I would not go in the church? pg. 177

24. Thither came Samuel Fisher, an eminent preacher among the Baptists, who had had a parsonage reputed worth two hundred pounds a year ; which for conscience sake he had given up. There was also the pastor of the Baptists, and abundance of their people. The power of the Lord was so mightily over the meeting, that many were reached, and one greatly shaken; and the life sprang up in divers. One of the pastors of the Baptists, being amazed at the work of the Lord's power, bid one of our Friends that was so wrought upon, have a good conscience. pg. 222

25. Who live in pleasures are dead while they live, and who live in wantonness kill the just. This we know by the spirit of God which gave forth the scriptures, which God the Father hath given to us, and hath placed his righteous law in our hearts ; which law is a terror to evil doers, and answers that which is of God in every man's conscience. They who act contrary to the measure of God's spirit in every man's conscience, cast the law of God behind their backs, and walk despitefully against the spirit of grace. The magistrate's sword, we see, is borne in vain, whilst evil doers are at liberty to do evil, and they that cry against such are, for so doing, punished by the magistrate, who hath turned his sword backward against the Lord. pg. 236

26. To the measure of God's spirit in thee I speak, that thou mayst consider and come to rule for God : that thou mayst answer that which is of God in every man's conscience ; for that is it which bringeth to honour all men in the Lord.

27. What do these people here at this time of night V So he se cured John Crook, Amor Stoddart, Gerrard Roberts, and me ; but we had leave to go to our inn, and to be forth-coming in the morning. The next morning many rude people came into the inn, and into our cham bers, desperate fellows ; but the Lord's power gave us dominion over them. Gerrard Roberts and John Crook went to the bailiff to know what he had to say to us. He said, we might go our ways, for he had little to say to us. As we rode out of town, it lay upon me to ride to his house, to speak to him, and to let him know, ' that the protector having given forth an instrument of government, in which liberty of conscience was granted, it was very strange that, contrary to that instrument of government, he would trouble peaceable people that feared God.' The Friends went with me, but the rude people gathered about us with stones. One of them took hold of my horse's bridle, and broke it; but the horse drawing back threw him under him. Though the bailiff saw this, yet he did not stop, nor so much as rebuke the rude multitude ; so that it was much we had not been slain or hurt in the streets ; for the people threw stones and struck at us as we rode along the town. pg. 242

28. And in meekness and lowliness abide, that the witness of God in thy conscience may be heard to speak and judge in this matter : for thou and we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive accord ing to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad. pg. 263,264

29. And bonds hast thou cast and continued upon us until this day, under an unreasonable and cruel jailer, for not performing that thy condition, for conscience sake. But thinkest thou that this thine own conditional justice maketh void the law? or can it do so? or absolve thee before God or man ? or acquit the penalty mentioned in the laws aforesaid ? unto which hast thou not consented and sworn? viz. " And in case ye be from hence forth found in default in any of the points aforesaid, ye shall be at the king's will, of body, lands, and goods, thereof to be done as shall please him." And is not thy saying, " if ye will be uncovered, (or put off your hats,) I will hear you, and do you justice ;" and because we could not put them off for conscience sake, thy denying us justice, and refusing to hear us, as to wrong, who had so unjustly suffered, a default in thee against the very essence of those laws, yea, an overthrow thereof, for which things' sake, (being of the highest importance to the well-being of men,) so just, so equal, so necessary those laws were made, and all the provisions therein? pg. 266

30. ' Surely, friend, that must needs be a very great offence, which de prives a man of justice, of being heard as to wrong, of the benefit of the law, and of those laws afore rehearsed ; to defend the justice and equity of which, a man hath adventured his blood and all that is dear to him. But to stand covered, (or with the hat on,) in conscience to the com mand of the Lord, is made by thee such an offence, (which is none in law,) and rendered upon us, (who are innocent, serving the living God,) effectual to deny us justice ; though the laws of God, and of man, and the oath, and equity and reason say the contrary, and on it pronounceth such a penalty. " If ye will be uncovered, (saidst thou,) I will hear you, and do you justice:" but justice we had not, nor were we heard, because Jesus Christ, who is the higher power, the lawgiver of his people, in our consciences commanded us not to respect persons ; whom to obey we choose rather than man. And for our obedience unto him hast thou cast us into prison, and continuest. pg. 267

31. … respect to thine or any man's person, (for we said, we honoured all men in the Lord, and owned authority, which was a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well ; and our souls were subject to the higher powers for conscience sake,) as thou causedst them to be taken off, and to be kept so, when thou calledst the jury to find us transgressors with out a law? What ado hast thou made to take away the righteousness of the righteous from him, and to cause us to suffer further, whom thou knewest to have been so long wrongfully in prison contrary to law ? Is not liberty of conscience a natural right 1 Had there been a law in this case, and we bound up in our consciences that we could not have obeyed it, was not liberty of conscience there to take place ? For where the law saith not against, there needs no plea of liberty of conscience : but the law have we not offended; yet in thy will hast thou caused, and dost thou yet cause us to suffer for our consciences, where the law re quires no such thing : and yet for liberty of conscience hath all the blood been spilt, and the miseries of the late wars undergone, and, as the pro tector saith, this government undertaken, to preserve it ; and a natural right, he saith, it is ; and he that would have it, he saith, ought to give it. pg. 268

32. But when he, who is to judge according to the law, shall beforehand threaten and menace the prisoner contrary to the law, how can the mind of the prisoner be free, to plead his innocency before him ? or expect equal judgment from him, who before he hears him, threatens what he will do to him ? Is not this the case between thee and us? Is not this the measure we have received at thy hands? Hast thou herein dealt according to law? or to thy duty ? or as thou wouldst be done unto? Let that of God in thy conscience judge. pg. 270

33. This saith the righteous law of God ; which is agreeable to that of God in every man's conscience. Are not such forms of iniquity to be denied, which are so contrary to the law of God and man ? which serve for the gendering of strife, and the kindling of contention! pg. 273

34. Ye pretend liberty of conscience, yet one shall not carry a letter to a Friend, nor men visit their friends, nor visit prisoners, nor carry a book about them, either for their own use or for their friends! pg. 277

35.  Liberty of Conscience a Natural Right

And as to the liberty of conscience, which is a natural right, and a fundamental, and the exercise of it by those who profess faith in God by Jesus Christ, it is to be protected, as by the instrument of government appears, though they differ in doctrine, worship, and discipline; provided the liberty extend not to Popery, or prelacy, nor to licentiousness. Where these rights are denied us, our liberties are infringed, which are the price of much blood and treasure in the late wars. Yet in the power of God over all, by which all are to be ruled, are we, and in it dwell, and by it alone are guided to do the will of God ; whose will is free, and we, in the freedom of his will, walk by the power, either as it commands or permits, without any condition or enforcement there unto by men ; but as the power moves, either by command or permission. And although we cannot covenant or condition to go forth of these parts, or to do this or that thing, if the Lord permit, (for that were to do the will of man by God's permission,) yet it is like we may pass forth of these parts in the liberty of the will of God, as we may be severally moved and guided by the pure power, and not by necessity. pg. 291

NOTE: Liberty of Conscience and Consciousness in immediate revelation is a natural right of being not bound to outward laws and institutions. The role of government is the protect of this LIberty.

36. And whereas ye mention a decree or edict that was made against the said persecuted Protestants, all such decrees or edicts proceeded from the ground of the pope's religion and supremacy, and therein stand his tyranny and his cruelty, acted in that will which is in that nature which exerciseth lordship over one another, as ye may read, Mark x. 42. Luke xxii. 25. as all the heathen do, and ever did ; and in the heathenish nature is all the tyranny and persecution exercised by them that are out of the obedi ence to the light of Christ Jesus in the conscience, which is the guide and leader of all, who are tender of that of God in the conscience. But who are not led by this, know not what it is to suffer for conscience sake. pg. 378

37. And though ye ac count the way of truth they walk in heresy, yet therein do they exercise themselves, to have always a " conscience void of offence towards God and man ;" as ye may read the saints of old did, Acts xxiv. 14, 15, 16. not wronging any man, neither giving any just cause of offence, only being obedient to the commands of the Lord, to declare as they are moved by the holy ghost : and standing for the testimony of a good conscience, speaking the truth in Christ, their consciences bearing them witness that they lie not : for this do they suffer under you, who in words profess the same thing for which they suffer. pg. 379

38. To the light of Christ Jesus in your consciences, which searcheth and trieth you, turn your minds; stand still, and wait there to receive the righteous law, which is according to that of God in the conscience, which is now rising and bearing witness against all ungod liness and unrighteousness of men ; and they whom ye persecute are manifest to God, and that of God in all consciences shall bear witness for us that we are of God ; this ye shall one day witness, whether ye will hear or forbear. Our rejoicing is in the testimony of our con sciences, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, (not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God,) we have had our conversation in the world, not handling the word of God deceitfully, but in the manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God ; and if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. For witnessing the holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience do we suffer, and are subject for conscience sake. This is thankworthy, if a man, for conscience sake, endure griefs and sufferings wrongfully. Id this is our joy and rejoicing, having a good conscience, that whereas we are evil spoken of as evil doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse our good conversation in Christ; which is not only the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This we witness made mani fest, (eternal praises to the living God !) and bear testimony to that which spoke it in the apostle in life and power. pg. 380

39. Friends, now are the prophecies fulfilled and fulfilling upon you. which have been spoken to you by the people of God in your courts, in your steeple-houses, in your towns, cities, markets, highways, and at your feasts, when ye were in your pleasures, and puffed up, that ye would neither hear God nor man ; when ye were in your highness and height of authority, though raised up from a mean state, none might come nigh you without bowing, or the respect of persons, for ye were in the world's way, compliments, and fashions, which for conscience sake towards God, they could not go into, being redeemed therefrom : therefore they were hated by you for that cause, but how are ye brought low, who exalted yourselves above your brethren, and threw the just and harmless from among you, until at last God hath thrown you out : and when ye cast the innocent from amongst you, then ye fell a biting one another, until ye were consumed one of another. pg. 392

40. When we have been wronged we have not sought to revenge ourselves ; we have not made resistance against authority; but wherein we could not obey for conscience sake, we have suffered the most of any people in the nation. pg. 423