Fox's Pulpit

KP and I recently visited an exposed stone atop one of the fells by Sedbergh. It is known as Fox’s Pulpit, for it is where George Fox preached to over a thousand folk in June 1652. Fox was one of the most prominent early Quakers; his faith was rather more evangelical and Christ-centred than that of his modern followers, many of whom disown the name of Christ completely.  

The account from his journal states:

While others were gone to dinner, I went to a brook, got a little water, and then came and sat down on the top of a rock hard by the chapel. In the afternoon the people gathered about me, with several of their preachers. It was judged there were above a thousand people; to whom I declared God’s everlasting truth and Word of life freely and largely for about the space of three hours. I directed all to the Spirit of God in themselves; that they might be turned from darkness to Light, and believe in it; that they might become the children of it, and might be turned from the power of Satan unto God, and by the Spirit of truth might be led into all truth, and sensibly understand the words of the prophets, of Christ, and of the apostles; and might all come to know Christ to be their teacher to instruct them, their counsellor to direct them, their shepherd to feed them, their bishop to oversee them, and their prophet to open divine mysteries to them; and might know their bodies to be prepared, sanctified, and made fit temples for God and Christ to dwell in. In the openings of heavenly life I explained unto them the prophets, and the figures and shadows, and directed them to Christ, the substance. Then I opened the parables and sayings of Christ, and things that had been long hid.

Now there were many old people who went into the chapel and looked out at the windows, thinking it a strange thing to see a man preach on a hill, and not in their church, as they called it; whereupon I was moved to open to the people that the steeple-house, and the ground whereon it stood were no more holy than that mountain; and that those temples, which they called the dreadful houses of God were not set up by the command of God and of Christ; nor their priests called, as Aaron’s priesthood was; nor their tithes appointed by God, as those amongst the Jews were; but that Christ was come, who ended both the temple and its worship, and the priests and their tithes; and that all should now hearken unto Him; for He said, “Learn of me”; and God said of Him, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.”

The nearby Firbank chapel is long gone, though the odd gravestone survives. The outcrop upon which he stood and preached is still there, with a plaque attached, which states:

Let your lives speak.  Here or near this rock George Fox preached to about one thousand Seekers for three hours on Sunday June 13, 1652.  Great power inspired his message and the meeting proved of first importance in gathering the Society of Friends known as Quakers.  Many men and women convinced of the truth on this fell and in other parts of the northern counties went forth through the land and over the seas with the living word of the Lord enduring great hardships and winning multitudes to Christ.

We could do with another Fox among the fells: plain-hearted, gospel preaching men who forsake popularity and worldly praise for a faithful ministry. My own seventeenth-century Airey ancestors came from Westmorland, and I pray they would have been touched by faithful gospel witness. I pray those around today might be touched by ours.

I declared unto them that the Lord God had sent me to preach the everlasting gospel and Word of life amongst them, and to bring them off from all these temples, tithes, priests, and rudiments of the world, which had been instituted since the apostles’ days, and had been set up by such as had erred from the Spirit and power the apostles were in. Very largely was I opened at this meeting, and the Lord’s convincing power accompanied my ministry, and reached the hearts of the people, whereby many were convinced; and all the teachers of that congregation (who were many) were convinced of God’s everlasting truth.


The view from the top

Excerpts from THE JOURNAL OF GEORGE FOX, Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Rufus M. Jones

With an Essay on the Influence of the Journal by Henry J. Cadbury. 1694 First Edition

Introductory Essay © 1963, by Henry J. Cadbury

Capricorn Books Edition, 1963