The Prophethood of All Believers: George Fox, Prophecy, and the Quaker Quest for Respectability, 1647-1691
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The early years of the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, were synonymous with erratic behaviour and ecstatic prophecy. Individual Friends let themselves be guided by the inward light (God’s spirit) to prophesy which led many to ‘go naked’ or interrupt church services to share Quaker doctrines. During the Interregnum Quakers were viewed as a threat by English society as their number surpassed those of all other Protestant non-conformists. This thesis studies the efforts by Quakerism’s founder, George Fox, to stop ecstatic prophecy and thus gain the respect of English society. It argues that Quaker prophecy was distinctive in allowing all members of the sect to connect directly with God. Fox, however, could not reconcile the practice of ecstatic prophecy with the new respectable image of Quakerism and abandoned the practice for a quiet, individual experience of prophecy that was no longer radical and not disturbing to English society.