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taught to this effect : " That the Bishops function is an Anti-
christian calling, and the Deanes and Prebends, are the Frogs
and Locusts mentioned in the Revelation, there is none of
these Bishops (saith he) but have a Pope in their bellies, yea
they are Papists in grain, and all of them vnleavened soules,
& we have turned them over to be buffetted by Satan, and
such like Shismaticall [sic\ Phrases, as the evill Spirit moves

The manner in which these London separatists generally
held their meetings is vividly described as follows': —

In that house where they intend to meet, there is one appointed
to keepe the doore, for the intent, to give notice if there should be
any insurrection, warning may be given them.

They doe not flocke all together, but come 2. or 3. in a company,
any man may be admitted thither, and all being gathered together,
the man appointed to teach, stands in the midst of the Roome, and
his audience gather about him.

He prayeth about the space of halfe an houre, and part of his
prayer is, that those which come thither to scofFe and laugh, God
would be pleased to turne their hearts, by which meanes they
thinke to escape vndiscovered.

His Sermon is about the space of an houre, and then doth
another stand up to make the text more plaine, and at the latter
end, he intreates them all to goe home severally, least the next
meeting they should be interrupted by those which are of the
opinion of the wicked, they seeme very stedfast in their opinions,
and say rather then they will turne, they will burne.

It can readily be seen from what has been said of these
Brownist congregations in London, that they could hardly be

1 " The Brownista Synagogve ", 1641, pp. 5-6.

208 Early English Dissenters

called churches, or even organizations. They appear rather to
have been only informal gatherings of people who were beginning
to think for themselves, and to wonder whether the Church of
England was really of any value to them. They were certainly
little aware of the fact that they were on the eve of one of the
greatest political and religious upheavals of modem times, but
they were, nevertheless, all silently helping to bring about the
Civil Wars and the establishment of the Commonwealth.



I. The Family of Love, or Familists.

After what has been written concerning the Family of
Love by Dr F. Nippold^ and by Mr Kobert Barclay^ there
seems little need to devote much time to that rather mysterious
society. The Familists appear not to have been a body of
separatists from the Church of England, or even from the
Church of Rome, and yet they certainly held private gatherings,
and at an early date were evidently confused with the Seekers,
who especially after 1641 had a very important influence on the
development of English separatism. In the popular mind the
Family of Love also seems to have been erroneously regarded
as a branch of the Anabaptists, and this fact gives added reason
why the Familists should at least be mentioned in this work.

For an account of the life of Henry Niclaes, or Nicholas,
who was commonly referred to in the late sixteenth, and early
seventeenth, centuries as " H. N.", and whose initials were said
by his followers to have a mystic meaning, one may turn to the
previously mentioned article by Dr Nippold. This pays much
attention to Niclaes' many books, which were originally written
in Low German and most of which, if not all, were translated
into Latin, French, and English, and gives an elaborate de-
scription of the Family of Love which he organized.

1 In his article entitled, "Henrioli Niclaes und das Haus der Liebe.
Ein monograpMsoher Versuch aus der Secten-Geschichte der Eeforma-
tionszeit...Erster Artikel: Leben des Niclaes", contained in the "Zeit-
sohrift fur die historiscbe Theologie", Gotha, 1862, pp. 323-94.

2 In "The Inner Life of the Religious Societies of the Copamonwealth"
Third Edition, London, 1879, pp. 25-32, etc.

B. 14

210 Early English Dissenters

It was about 1574 that the appearance of English trans-
lations of Niclaes' works began to disturb the then comparatively-
peaceful religious atmosphere of England. By 1579 they were
being vigorously attacked. What appear to be exaggerated, if
not unwarranted charges, moreover, were at that time and later
brought against the Familists, — charges which until recent
times clung tenaciously to their name. Queen Elizabeth did
what she could to suppress this sect as it was mistakenly called,
but her efforts seem to have failed, for the Family of Love was
certainly well known in England as an existing society during
the reigns of James I and Charles I.

At the present time the Library of the British Museum is
well stocked with the English editions of the writings of
" H. N." For any study of the organization of the Familists,
however, three manuscripts are of exceptional importance.
These are described as follows by Dr Nippold, and are to be
found in the " Bibliothek der Maatschappy van Nederlandsche
Letterkunde " at Leyden : —

1. Chronika (oder Cronica) des Hiisgesinnes der Lieften: Daer-
inne betuget wert de Wunderwercken Godes tor lester tydt, iinde
idt jene dat H.N. unde dem Hiisgesirme der Lieften wederfaren
is. — Dorch Daniel, ein Mede-older mit H. N. ia dem Husgesinne der
Lieften, am dach gegeven. Psalm 46 ; 65. (53 cap. 160 fol.).

2. Acta H. N. — De Grescheften H. N. unde etlicke hemmelsche
Werckinge des Herrn undt Godes, die H. N. van syner joget arm
wedderfaren zynt. — Dorch Zacharias, ein Mede-Older in dem Hiisge-
sinne der Lieften, am dach gegeven. Psalm 46. 4. Prov. 2. (25
cap. 70 fol.).

3. Ordo Sacerdotis — De Ordeningen des priesterlicken States
in dem Husgesinne der Lieften, also H. N. desulve uth dem Munde
unde Worde des Herrn, na idt waeraf tige Wesen, sulvest geschreven,
unde den Olderen unde Ministeren in dem Husgesinne der Lieften
overandtwordet heft. Psalm 32. Prov. 1. Jes. 61. 1. Petr. 2.
(27 cap. 70 fol.).

In England there are probably no manuscripts related to
this subject as important as the last of these three, but I have
come across several which are of considerable interest. One of
these, which may be mentioned here, is apparently an unique
copy of an English Familist Hymn Book, translated from one
of the Dutch editions of " H. N." 's Hymns. This seems to

The Family of Love and the English Seekers 211

have been intended for publication^ and use at the private
meetings of the English Family of Love. The work is en-
titled, "Psalmes and Songes/ | brought-forth through H | N.
when the Lorde tottched hym | with the Rodd of his Chasten-
inge/ I and lett hym see that Horrible-dis|triiction of all the
Vngodlie / that | Endeof the Wicked-worlde: | makinge manifest
eiienso vnto hym | the new-daye of the Lotie / that | kingdome
of Godes heaiienlie Fair* | nes [?] /the Lordlie-tocominge of |
Christ / to the renewinge of | Earth | with Rightttosnes. | ..."
The manuscript is carefully written on paper^ and though
undated was probably prepared between 1574 and 1600.

After an introduction of twenty-eight pages come various
Psalms and then follow fourteen " Songes " or hymns. Here is
a portion of one of the Psalms : —

The Firste Psallme.

...O Lorde my harts quaketh / my Legges wex feble / SorrowfuUnes /
Paine / Suflferringe / and Smarts ousrfalleth [?] mes.

Eusnso f eare I/O Lords / thy chasteninge /. For in thy
rsprousinge makest thoii my Sinnes knowen vnto mes / and
thou lettest mee sse the Wicked thingss / which haus captiusd

Willt not thoii / O God / releace mee from the same ? so byds I
then in mysterie / and musts feare thy Hande all wayes.

But thou / lorde / arte one that woiindeste / and maksst hoall
againe : hslps mse therf ore eusn as thou arte wonte.

Lett that sichings [ssarching ?] out of the Deepnes of my harts
come before the and wind not awaye thy mercy fullnes froms mss.

Among the hymns the following may be given as an
illustration : —

A Songe after the tune :

The Days appsareth in the Easte &c.

1 Awake lorde nowe vnto mee /
vnstoppe the Fares thine /

my harte I turne then to thee /
herken to the Compleinte myne.

2 The heauines of my wickednes /
bringeth my harte frome eas /

1 But I do not think it was ever published.

2 MS. 869 in Lambeth Palace Library. I give only the original text
without additions or marginal notes.


212 Early English Dissenters

my Sorrowe must I conf esse /
If it mought O Lorde the please.

3 Witsafe [?] to mee to winde /

my Greef O Lorde beholde & see /
let not the Synnes mee blinde /
but enlarge thy Grace oiier mee.

4 O lorde beholde my heauines /
and the great sorrowe of myne /
geue mee y' Comforte in Distres :
in this my needye tyme.

5. Eiiell hath aught my hartes liist /

and in sorrowe brought mee :
I longe for thy Deliuerance iust /
lorde pluck not that away to y*.

6 Clens nowe O lorde my harte /

and geiie to mee y' Spirite of rest :
the Euell it doth bringe my smarte /
and maketh also in mee tempest.

There are in all ten stanzas of this hymn, but as translated
none of them are of any poetical merit. Who would ever read
them to-day except as curiosities of expression ? One of the
hymns (No. 14) is entitled, " A. Daunsing Songe ", but this also
is as lacking in rhythm as the others.

Before 1600 the Family of Love can have attracted few
converts in England, and even until 1620 and later it must
have made slow progress. Edmond Jessop, however, about
1620 after he had become an Anabaptist, nearly fell into the
meshes spread for him by the ardent followers of " H. N." He
knew therefore from experience what the Family of Love was
really like and what was taught its members. The following is
Jessop's account of it : —

some others [other Anabaptists] (who being, as it were, distracted
with these things) haue fallen to another (the most blasphemous and
erronious sect this day in the world) commonly called by the name
of the Family of hue, whose author was one Henrie Nicolas, or H. N.
for so they will haue him called, that is (as they expound it) Homo
Nouus, the new man, or the holy nature, or holinesse, which they
make to be Christ, and sin they will haue to be Antichrist, because
it is opposite to Christ. They say, that when Adam sinned, then
Christ was killed, and Antichrist came to line. They teach, that
the same perfection of holinesse which Adam [had 1] before he fell,
is to be attained here in this life ; and affirme, that all their Family

The Family of Love and the English Seekers 213

of loue are as perfect and innocent as he. And that the resurrection
of the dead, spoken of by Saint Paul in the 1. Cor. 15. and this
prophesie, Then shall he fulfilled the saying which is written, death,
where is thy sting ? graue, where is thy victory ? is fulfilled in
them, and denie all other resurrection of the body to be after this
life. They will haue this blasphemer FT. N. to be the sonne of God,
Christ, which was to come in the end of the world to iudge the
world; and say, that the day of iudgement is already come; and
that H. N. iudgeth the world now by his doctrine ; so that whoso-
euer doth not obey his Gospel, shall (in time) be rooted out of the
world ; and that his Family of loue shall inherite and inhabite the
earth for euer, world without end ; only (they say) they shall die in
the bodie, as now men do, and their soules go to heauen, but their
posterities shall continue for euer. This deceiuer describeth eight
through breakings of the light (as he termeth them) to haue beene
in eight seueral times from Adam to the time that now is, which
(as he saith) haue each exceeded other; the seuenth he alloweth
lesus Christ to be the publisher of, and his light to be the greatest
of all that euer were before him ; and he maketh his owne to be the
eigth, and last, and greatest, and the perfection of all, in and by
which Christ is perfected, meaning holinesse. He maketh euery
one of his Family of loue to be Christ, yea and God, and himselfe
God and Christ in a more excellent manner, saying, that he is
Godded with God, and codeified with him, and that God is homini-
fied with him.

These horrible blasphemies, with diuers others, doth this H. N.
and his Family teach to be the euerlasting Gospel, which the Angell
is said to preach in Reuelation 14. 6. and himselfe to be the Angell,
yea and the Archangell which is said to sound the great and last
trump, Reuel. 11. 15. They prof esse greater loue to the Church of
Rome, and to all her idolatries and superstitions, then they do to
any Church else (whatsoeuer) except themselues. They wickedly
abuse these words of Christ, / must walke to day, and to morrow, and
the third day I shall he perfected ; and say, that by to day is meant
the time of lesus Christ and his Apostles ; afid by to morrow, all
the time of the religion of the Church of Rome ; and by the third
day, this their day of H. N. and his Family, wherein they wil haue
Christ to be perfected!\ And they doe compare all the whole
religion of the Church of Rome, to the law of Moses; affirming,
that as God did teach his people by those shadowes and types till
lesus Christ came, so he hath taught the world (euer since) by the
images, sacrifices, and filthy heathenisme of the Church of Rome,
till this wretch H. N. came, and now he must be the onely chief e
teacher, Gods obedient man, yea his sonne, as they blasphemously
call him ; he (by his Gospell) must make all perfect. They will
outwardly submit to any kind of religion, and to any idolatrous
seruice whatsoeuer, pretending it is not the bodie that can sinne,
but the soule. They will be Priests in the (Thurch of Rome, and

214 Early English Dissenters

act their Seruice after their maner of deuotion ; and as Satan can
transforme himselfe into an Angell of light, so they can thrust
themselues (hkewise) to be pubhke Ministers and Preachers in the
Church of England ; yea into the Kings Chappell, and to be of his
officers and messengers, so bold they are, euen at this present ; and
so close and cunningly they can carry themselues (being directed
thereto by their Master H. N.) that yee shall hardly (euer) find them
out. They will prof esse to agree in all points with the Church of
England, as also with the Church of Rome, if they should be
examined by them, onely this, they will not (lightly) deny their
Master H. N. nor speake euill of him or his writings, if they should
be put to it : and there is no way but this whereby to discouer
them, I say, to put them to the deniall and abiuring of him and his
writings, and to pronounce him a blasphemer, and his doctrine
blasphemous ; this they will hardly doe, vnlesse they be not yet his
full disciples'.

II. The Legatine- Avians, or English Seekers.

Somewhat closely allied to the Familists, but apparently
distinct, though perhaps originally derived, from them, were
the English Seekers. How early they arose is uncertain, but
it seems probable that the three brothers Legate were their
first representatives in England, and that they began to cham-
pion Seeker views about 1600, possibly even before that date.
The Seekers believed that since Antichrist had ruled so
long over the Church, no true church and true church-officers
existed any longer in all the world, and furthermore that
they could not be secured until God sent new apostles or
prophets to ordain new elders and establish entirely new
churches. They claimed also that it was undesirable for
any man to seek to hasten God's own peculiar business, — an
opinion, of course, which was particularly distasteful to those
English separatists who saw no need of delaying the preaching
of the Gospel and the organization of new churches. Among
those to oppose the views of the Seekers were the English
General Anabaptists, who as early as 1611 seem to have con-
founded them with the Family of Love, though the Familists so
far as I am aware, never held the previously mentioned views

' Edmond Jessop's "A Discovery of the Errors of the English Ana-
baptists", London, 162.3, pp. 88-91.

The Family of Love and the English Seekers 215

which were evidently peculiar to the Seekers. Inasmuch,
however, as at a later period also the Familists and the Seekers
were confused in the same way, we may cite the General Ana-
baptist, Thomas Helwys, on this point as apparently one of the
first, if not the first, to make this mistake. He says^: —

wee passe by the most vngodly & vnwise Familists and scattered
flock, that say he [Christ] is in the desert, that is no where to be
found in the profession of the gospell according to the ordinances
thereof vntill their extraordinarie men (they dream of) come,
which shall not be, vntil there come a new Christ, & a new

Helwys is here, it seems to me, not describing the Familists,
but only the Seekers, whom he here styles the "scattered
flock", a name sometimes given to them before 1620.

At first the English Seekers seem to have been known as
English Arians, or Legatine-Arians, after the name of the three
brothers Legate. Henoch Clapham in his "Antidoton",
published at London in 1600, apparently makes the earliest
reference to them, when he says": —

Touching our English Arrians, they deny all Baptisme and Ordina-
tion, till new Apostles be sent to execute those parts to the Gentiles,
and Elias the Thisbite do come for that end vnto the lewes.

Later, in 1608, in " ERROVR | On the Right hand "',
Clapham also speaks of the English Seekers as Legatine-Arians.
He does not confuse their teaching with that of the Familists,
but he attributes to the Familists views which, though popularly
ascribed to them, are only suggested or are certainly uncommon,
if they ever appear, in genuine Familist publications. Edniond
Jessop, who came very near joining the Familists, and who,
therefore, well knew their teaching, only remotely hints at such
opinions, and clearly differentiates the Seekers from the Familists.
Jessop also does not use the term Seekers. In fact he gives the
followers of the Legates no special name. The name Seekers is
said to have been used by John Murton in 1617S but in 1620 in

1 In "AN AD;|vertisement or admonition, | unto the Congrega-
tions,...", 1611, p. 51.

2 P. 33. 2 Pp. 28-34.

* See Robert Barclay's "The Inner Life of the Religious Societies of
the Commonwealth ", Third Edition, London, 1879, pp. 411-12.

216 Early English Dissenters

" A Discription of what God hath Predestinated ", he does not
employ that term, though he answers their argument, that a
true church cannot be organized before a prophet like John the
Baptist or new apostles arise, by quoting the passage " that the
least in the Kingdome of God is greater then he"'. The word
Seeker came to be well known not long after 1640, but as yet 1
am not satisfied that the term was ever used before 1620, or even
before 1640.

We may now turn to Edmond Jessop's account of the rise of
the English Seekers": —

there were (among others) three Brethren, ancient Separatists from
the Church of England, lining sometimes in the Cittie of London,
their names were Legat, these held it stifly, that their must be new
Apostles, before their could be a true constituted Church, and they
drew it from this their ground, the one was called Walter Legat,
who about twenty yeares since was drowned, being with one of his
brethren washing himselfe in a riuer, called the Old Foord ; Another
of them called Thomas Legat, died in Newgate about sixteene yeares
since, being laid there for the Heresie of Arius ; The third called
Bartholomew Legat, was burnt in Smithfield about ten yeares since,
being condemned for the same Heresie of Ariics, for they all held,
and stood stoutly for the same also. These LegaU had a conceit,
that their name did (as it were) foreshew and entitle them, to be
the new Apostles, that must doe this new worke ; but you see what
became of them.

Among the Legatine-Arians, or English Seekers, as has
already been said, Edward Wightman should probably be
included. Fortunately the original manuscript relating to his
trial appears to be catalogued among the Ashmole Manu-
scripts' in the Bodleian Library. This gives a minute and
accurate description of his views, and as yet has been little
used". The document is entitled, "The proceed[ings a(?)]t

1 P. 161.

* "A Discovery of the Errors of the English Anabaptists^', London,
1623, pp. 76-7.

3 Ash. MS. 1521 (vii). Dr John T. Christian deserves the credit of
having first called attention to this valuable MS.

* The writer of the article on Wightman in the Dictionary of " National
Biography " does not mention this trial record, but draws his information
from an account of the case, written by Bishop Neile twenty-seven yeai's
after Wightman's execution, and preserved in the Public Record Office,

The Family of Love and the English Seekers 217

Lichfield in .7. | Court dayes [against ?] Edward Wightman | in
case of b[lasphemie & (?)] heresie", etc., and is dated 1611.
The seven court days are specified as Nov. 19, 26, 29, and
Dec. 2, 3, 4, 5 of that year. The record is written partly in
Latin and partly in English. From it we may gain a very
good idea of the character of Wightman, who is said to have
been the last person in England to be burned at the stake solely
on account of his religious beliefs.

Wightman had evidently been imprisoned for over half
a year at least before his trial. He was first examined on
April 18, 1611, again on May 6, as to certain "Articles
ministred by his Maiestes Commissioners for causes ecclesi-
asticall", and still further on Sept. 9, Oct. 8, and twice on
Oct. 29, of the same year. The first day's trial on Nov. 19 was
held in the Consistory of the Cathedral Church of Lichfield in
the presence, and by the permission, of Richard Neile, Bishop of
Coventry and Lichfield. We learn that Edward Wightman was
a draper of the parish of Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire in
the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, and that he was tried for
heretical depravity, having written with his own hand and
delivered to the king a certain book in manuscript covering
eighteen leaves. This little work began with the words: "A
letter Written to a learned man [? Anthony Wotton]^ to discover
and confu[t]e the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes very mightely
defended with all the learned of all sortes, and most of all hated
and abhorred of God himself, because the Wholl world is
drowned therein : And seeing he hath promised to answere he
knewe not vnto What, and least he should allsoe deale with
me as the men of that faccion haue done allready" etc. It
concluded thus : " And say glorie be to God alone which
dwelleth in the high heavens, whose good will is such towardes
men that he will now at the last, plante peace on the earth, and
lett all people say, Amen. By me Edward Wightman ". It is
to be hoped that this writing may some day be found.

1 One Mr [Anthony ?] Wotton seems to have promised Wightman
that he would read the book, and "giue him an Answere". See p. 2
of the trial record, but the work was eventually presented to King
James I, and may have been ultimately intended for him.

218 Early English Dissenters

On Nov. 26, the second day of the trial, the number of
people who wished to be present was so great that the Bishop
could not get into the Consistory, and he accordingly ordered
the session to be held in the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin,
which he entered between one and two o'clock in the afternoon.
The third day's trial was held in the same chapel, the fourth in
the Consistory.

From what was said on the fourth day it appears that
Wightman was born in England and baptized in the Church of
England, " And that from the tyme of his Infancy vntill within
theis Two yeares last past he did hould and beleive the Trinity
of persons in the vnity of the diety ''. The fifth and sixth days'
examinations were held in the Consistory. The seventh day
was appointed for the hearing of the sentence.

It is interesting to note that among those who took part in
this trial was " magister Willelmus Laude Presidens CoUegij
divi lohannis baptistae in Academia Oxoniensi." This may
have been Laud's first experience with a heretic, and here
perhaps he began to develop his mistaken views of the necessity
of maintaining uniformity of religious belief

Wightman's trial, it should be said, is simply, and, so far as
the present writer can judge, impartially described. From this
record, as already stated, we learn that Wightman began to
hold new views about 1609, and from that time he had

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