The New Church Order
When George Fox emerged on the scene, something new appeared in Christendom. The message Fox was commanded to preach laid an unheard of foundation for one’s life in God. So unheard of that it was often labeled “the Quaker’s new gospel.” The scriptures record the voice of God saying on the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my son, my chosen one. Hear him.” Fox maintained by argument and convincing demonstration that the builders of the churches of his day began by rejecting God’s cornerstone of hearing and following the voice of the Son.
Fox often returned to the theme of three teachers. God was the first teacher in Paradise. As long as man adhered to the teaching of God, they abode in the image of God. The Serpent the second teacher who taught man to disobey God and brought them into death. Christ is the third teacher, by whose teaching we are brought out of death, away from the Serpent’s teaching, and renewed up into the image of God. It is to this end that God’s command was “Hear him” and Christ’s command is “Learn from me.” Therefore, when Fox preached the gospel, his purpose was to show people where they could find this teacher that would deliver them from the teaching and power of the Serpent. This message was not only unheard of, it greatly offended the Church leaders of his day.
But this is only half of the story. The other half is the subject of Lewis Benson’s Moorestown Lecture #5.
But George Fox saw that the great work to which he had been called was to go farther than restoring the lost gospel worship and gospel fellowship…The “great people” that Fox saw was to be raised up by the power of the gospel was not, in his vision, to be a great sect or great denomination, but a restoration of God’s people in the New Covenant, which would be ordered by the order that belongs to the gospel and that covenant.
This lecture along with chapter three, The Quaker Conception of Christian Community and Church Order, in Catholic Quakerism (4th printing, 1983, starting on page 43) do an excellent job of introducing the reader to Fox’s teaching and understanding of the role of the Church. The experience of the gospel, i.e. hearing and following the voice of Jesus Christ, leads to the community that hears and follows the voice of Jesus Christ. This leads to the question: Why is this is not common among all the churches of Christendom?
This heavenly order of the gospel is only possible when the individuals and the community are built upon God’s cornerstone. Where some other order is displayed, some other foundation is beneath it.
Penington says that the sign by which the church is known and “which distinguisheth her from all other assemblies and gatherings” is “the nature, life and presence of the head with her and in her. This none hath but the true church, the gathered body.…” (Catholic Quakerism, p. 52)
Our testimony for our meetings, gathered in the authority of Jesus, is not only a testimony to the presence and power of Christ. It is also a testimony against the falseness of man-made religious institutions, commonly called churches. If we live in the power of hearing and following the voice of the Son, by word and deed we show the emptiness and the powerlessness of all other builders building upon some other foundation.