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Muggletonians

Summary

The radical religious sect known as the Muggletonians developed out of the aftermath of the English Civil War. They are sometimes referred to as "Radical Puritans". They would continue in relative obscurity into the 20th Century.

Muggletonians did not actively proselytize for new members, they waited for the faithful to come to them in their own good time. Once having asked to received the revealed Word they were encouraged to join, those who rejected the revealed Word were condemned. This contributed to a limited membership which gradually declined over time.

Muggletonians has a two part history into the seventeenth century. From 1652-58, under the primary leadership of John Reeve (1608-1658), or Reeves, the "Prophet of God" and his cousin Lodowick Muggleton(1609-1698). The second period from 1658-98, under the general leadership of Lodowick Muggleton.

According to the Book of Revelations, Chapter XI, in the latter days God would appoint "two witnesses" who will preach to an ungodly world in preparation for the beginning of the final days. Reeve and Muggleton were celebrated by many as the "two witnesses" according to scripture for their followers. The Millennium theme was a powerful biblical message during the Interregnum.

As an historical note, in 1636 two Colchester weavers had claimed to be the "two witnesses" of the Book of Revelations. They both died in prison in 1642 just ten years before Reeve and Muggleton had their own "visions" from God.

The early movement revolved around the three "visions" and the "commission from God" to one John Reeve, a London tailor on February 1652 to be His appointed Prophet. And to Reeve's cousin, Lodowick Muggleton, who had also experienced similar but unreported visions, and became the appointed Voice of the last Prophet of God.

John Reeve functioned as the spiritual leader of the community, and and God's appointed Prophet from 1652-58. His teachings tended to embrace some of the teachings of the Ranters and the more conservative Familists and Behmenist traditions. Reeve served up a large portion of predestinarianism, and the elect of God, as the Last Prophet of God. The Millennium was imminent and Mankind needed to prepare for the Later Days.. Both Reeve and Muggleton were imprisoned in the Old Bridewell Prison 1653 for their beliefs. The prison was a busy location, par tof the Bridewell Hospital site, modern Bridewell Court (London).

Reeve's early pronouncements dealt with the pending doom of Mankind, and preparing for the rule of the Saints, the reoccurring themes of the Millennium. Proclaimed as a Prophet of God, his authority was unquestioned by most of his followers. his followers. Reeve "the Prophet" had been enlightened by God to know who would or would not be saved. Believers feared the condemnation of God's chosen messenger, as did others.

Muggleton was arrested and imprisoned on charges of blasphemy in 1653. Both Reeve and Muggleton were sentenced to six months in Bridewell Prison in 1654 for cursing at the Reverend Mr. Goffin who died very shortly after having been cursed. This was a widely reported event of the period that helped to spread the mystic power, and fear of the Muggletonians.

After an early debate in 1654 with George Fox (1624-91)a Quaker leader, there developed a long protracted antagonism between them, and George Fox. Reeve also attacked the Baptists' religious positions in pamphlets.

An early supporter of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Reeve's support waned after the ill fated Barebone's Parliament closure in 1653, and the rise of the Protectorship. The disillusionment with the Monarchy, the Nobility, and the State Church were common themes of the period. Reeves' message attracted a good following among the common folk.

Muggleton acted as the principal organizer and promoter of the movement before 1658. He with his cousin John Reeve co-authored many of the early texts and doctrines of the sect.

The term "Reeveonian" was developed in the Victorian Era to describe the movement during John Reeve's leadership (1652-58). Reeve died in 1658 before the proclaimed Second Coming. With Reeve's death in 1658, an initial vacuum was created within the leadership of the sect.

Muggleton struggled to establish and maintain his own leadership after 1658. In 1660, Laurence Clarkson (1615-1667), a former Ranter leader, and a self proclaimed heir apparent to John Reeve attempted to oust Muggleton from his leadership. In 1671, there ensued another rather bitter struggle for the leadership control between Muggleton, and two rival members: Walter Buchanan and William Medgate.

After 1658, Muggleton would softened and revised some of Reeve's earlier views, and moved the Millennium message farther into the background. Muggleton had his own more moderate vision of the world. Even the celebrated work Divine Looking-Glass (1656) was revised and republished by Muggleton in 1661.

The term Muggletonian came into vogue about 1676. Muggletonian may more properly refers to the later period under the leadership of Lodowick Muggleton and his teachings from 1658-98. Muggleton was arrested again for blasphemy in 1676, he was convicted and fined £500.00, a great deal of money for the era.

Lodowick Muggleton preached that God took no "immediate notice" of his creation on a daily basis, an early form of Deism. This led to the general belief that such things as prayer, worship, or overt acts of religious faith or piety such as martyrdom were without purpose and unnecessary in the sight of God.

Muggleton preached a form of anti-Trinitarianism, or early Unitarianism. The Man Jesus was the true God who had come down to Earth while the Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Moses, kept an eye on Heaven. Man was in the Third Age of the Spirit, according to the twelfth-century Joachimite tradition based on the works of Joachim of Flores (1132-1202), or Spiritual Francanciscans or the Third Commission according to some.

Toleration and a lack of strict religious doctrines attracted numerous disheartened followers from other radical sects of the Interregnum, such as the Ranters. Muggleton preached more of a heaven on earth rather than an afterlife. A strong dose of both Reason and Faith, sometimes alluded to as the "two seeds" were instilled in the faithful.

Common themes of Muggletonians were: the soul was mortal; Hell existed within Man; no need for formal religious ceremonies. A private gathering at a local inn or tavern with a reading or two from the Bible, and the singing of the "Divine Songs" to a popular traditional tunes over a few beers would be considered a "service". These meetings generally went unnoticed as simply private parties rather than as religious meetings. Not the high profile of other dissident groups after the Conventicle Act (1664) which declared religious meetings of five or more illegal.

Unlike many of the other radical sects of the period the Muggletonians enjoyed a happy middle ground of political and religious thought. Muggletons' own lack of extremism lessened the attacks and persecutions on the group after the Restoration (1660).

Muggletonians as the Lollards before them found local support at the grass root levels of English society. Centers in London, Derbyshire, the South and the Midlands were primary areas of support.

Muggletonians included large numbers of women who actively participated in the society. The Muggletonians simple message and traditions found supporters in the countryside, and in the factory towns of England into the twentieth century.

As a group the Muggletonians never commanded large numbers of believers. Not unlike the Gnostics before them, their membership slowly dwindled away by attrition by the mid-twentieth century when the last known reported member died. The Muggletonians were unique in their message, and their longevity.

A SELECT MUGGLETONIAN BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

[Anon.] A Brief and True Account of the Notorious Principles and Wicked Practices of the Grand Imposter, Lodowick Muggleton, ... and is to take his tryal at the Sessions-House in the Old-Bayly [1676?;] [EEb, 1641-1700 ; 16:18] [Wing B4532A]

______,[Another edition?] A True Narrative of the Proceedings at the Sessions-House in the Old-Bayly ... on ... the 17th of January 1676/7. Giving a Full Account of the true Tryal and Sentence of Lodowick Muggleton for blasphemous words and books ... (1676/7)

[Anon,] Life of Muggleton (1676), InHarleian Miscellany (1744-6)

[Anon,] An Elegy on the Death of Mr. Lodowick Muggleton, great teacher and Chief Pillar of a society of people (from him) so called, who departed this life on Monday the 24th of this instant March, ... (1698)

[Anon,] A True Account of the Trial and Sufferings of Lodowick Muggleton (1808)

Bonell, Arden, The Principles of the Muggletonians Asserted, under the following heads. I. On the ternity of matter. ... VII. Concerning John Reeve's and Lodowick Muggleton's commission, ... (1735); [18th Century; reel 8122, no. 06] [ESTCT68949]

______, [Another ed.] (1735); [18th Century; reel 8791, no. 19][ESTCN20711]

Clarkson, Laurence, [1615-1667], An Epistle ... for the Believers of the Commission in London

______, The Lost Sheep Found: or, ... (1660); [EEb, 1641-1700 ; 1523:19] [Wing C4580]

Crouch, Nathaniel, [1632?-1725?] The strange and prodigious religions, customs, and manners, of sundry nations. (1683); [EEb, 1641-1700; 1421:19] [Wing (CD-ROM, 1996), C7348] [ESCTR29494]

______, [Another ed.](1688); [EEb, 1641-1700; 2351:12] [Wing (CD-ROM, 1996) C7348A] [ESTCR225682]

[Farnworth, Richard, [d.1666]]. Truth Ascended, or, The Annointed and sealed of God defended, &c. [1663;]

[Fleming, Caleb, [1698-1779]], Observations on some Articles of the Muggletonian Creed, ... Proposed more immediately to the consideration of the principal of the modern Muggletonians, (1735); [ESTCT39686]

Fox, George, [1624-1691] Something in answer to Lodowick Muggleton's book, which he calls, The Quaker's neck broken. Wherein, in judging others he hath judged himself, and proved himself to be the same ...(1667)

______, [Another ed.] (1756)

Henderson, William, [fl. 1717-1740]. Truth and reason defended against error and burning envy [1728?;] [18th Century; reel 8740, no. 20]

______, A Replication to Sixteen Articles of the Muggletonian Arguments ... [18th Century; reel 8740, no. 20]

Muggleton, Lodowick [1609-1698]. A True Intrepretation of the Eleventh Chapter of the Revelation of St. John, and other texts in that book, ... (1662);[EEb, 1641-1700; 721:14) [Wing M3050]

______, The Neck of the Quakers Broken, or cut in sunder by the Two-edges Sword of the Spirit which is put into my mouth ... (1663); [EEb, 1641-1700; 769:18] [Wing M3048]

______, A Letter sent to Thomas Taylor, Quaker, in the year 1664, in answer to many blasphemous sayings of his in several pieces of paper and in the margent of a book ... (1665); [EEb, 1641-1700; 1406:26] [Wing M3044]

______, A Looking-Glass for George Fox, the Quaker, and other Quakers; wherein they may see Themselves to be right Devils. In answer to George Fox's book, called, Something in Answer to Lodowick Muggleton's book, wich he calls, The Quaker's neck broken (1667)

______, [Another ed.] (1756)

______, An answer to Isaac Pennington, Esq. : his book entituled, "Observations on some passages of Lodowick Muggleton's intrepretation of the 11th Chapter of the Revelations": also, some passages of that book of his entitules, "The Neck of the Quakers broken" and his letter to Thomas Taylor: ... [1669; ]

______, [Another ed.] (1719); [18th Century; reel 5466, no. 13] ESTCT93652]

______, A True Intrepretation of the VVitch of Endor, spoken of in I Sam. 28, begin. at the 11. verse ... (1669); [EEb, 1641-1700 ; 429;14] [Wing M3051]

______, An Answer to William Penn, Quaker : his book entitled "The new witnesses proved old Hereticks" ... (1673)

______, [Another ed.] (1673); [Wing (2nd ed.) M3041] [ESCTR213375]

______, A Discourse Between John Reeves and Richard Leader, Merchant. Recited by Lodowick Muggleton, one of the last two witness and prophets of them most high God, the man Christ Jesus in glory (1682); [EEb, 1641-1700 ; 1575:21] [ESTCR35057]

______, [Another ed.] [1698?;][EEb, 1641-1700; 1872:6] [ESTCR218397]

______, [Another ed.] (1753)

______, Muggleton's Last Will and Testament (who died Novemb. 30, 1679), being an absolute and real Recantation of his former Notorious Blasphemous Doctrine, ... (1679) [EEb, 1641-1700 ; 163:21] [Wing B115]

______, A Discourse between John Reeves and Richard Leader, ... [1682;] [EEb, 1641-1700; 15] [Wing (CD-ROM, 1996) M3042] [ESTCR35057]

______, The Acts of the Witnesses of the Spirit in five parts. (1699); [EEb, 1641-1700 ; 769:17] [Wing M3040] [ESTCR11186]

______, [Another ed.] (1764)

Pennington, Isaac, [1616-1679]. Observations on some Passages of Lodowick Muggleton, in his Interpretation of the 11th chapter of Revelations. ... [1668]

Penn, William, [1644-1718]. The new Witnesses proved old Hereticks, or, Information to the ignorant in which the doctrines of John Reeve and Lodowick Muggleton, which they stile, mysteries never before known, revealed, or heard of from the foundation of the world, are proved to be mostly ancient whimsies, blasphemies and heresies, ... (1672); [EEb, 1641-1700 : 574:8] [Wing P1326] [ESCTR15258]

Powell, Nathaniel, A True Account of the Trial and Sufferings of Lodowick Muggleton : one of the last last prophets and witnesses of the Spirit, ... [1808]

______, [Another ed.] [1983, reprint]

Reeve, John, [1608-1658]. An Epistle of the Prophet Reeve. Written in the year, 1656 [1670?;] [EEB, 1641-1700; 1839:01] [Wing R677] [ESTCR223718]

______, The Baptist Commission, Counterfeited (1658)

______, The Prophet Reeve's Epistle to his Friend, Discovering the dark light of the Quakers, written in the year 1654. [1660?;] [EEb, 1641-1700; 1938] [Wing R681] [ESCTR217554]

______, Hymnes, and spiritual songs, extracted from Scripture; ... (1682) [EEb, 1641-1700; 1555:10] [Wing R672][ESTCR33519]

______, An Epistle to a Quaker [1710?;] [ESTCT109822]

______,Sacred Remains, or, a Divine Appendix; being a Collection of several treatises, epistolary and publick. [1706] [ESTCT109763]

______, [Another ed.][1751?] [18th Century; reel 9871, no. 06]

______, and Muggleton, Lodowick, 1609-1698. A Transcendent Spiritual Treatise upon Severall Heavenly Doctrines from the Holy Spirit of the man Jesus, the only true God, ...(1652); [EEb, 1641-1700; 1660:22] [Wing R682]

______, [Another ed.] [1652;] [EEb, 1641-1700 : 1534:1][Wing (CD-ROM, 1996) R683] [ESTCR40094]

______, [Another ed.] [1653?] [Wing (2nd ed.) R683A] [ESTCR201087]

______, and Muggleton, Lodowick, [1609-1698]. A Remonstrancetr from the Eternall God, declaraing Severall Spirituall Transactions unto the Parliament, and Common-wealth of England, ... (1653); [EEb, 1641-1700; 1660:21] [Wing (CD-ROM, 1996) R682] [ESTCR40093]

______, [Another ed.] (1793 reprint)

______, and Muggleton, Lodowick, [1609-1698]. A Letter Presented unto Alderman Fouke, Lord Mayor of London, from the two witnesses and prisoners of Jesus Christ in Newgate as an eternal witness unto him, ... [1653;] [EEb, 1641-1700; 209:7, 1534:16] [Wing R680] [ESTCR22813]

______, and Muggleton, Lodowick, [1609-1698]. A General Epistle, from the Holy Spirit:unto all prophets, ministers, or speakers in the world ... [1653;] [EEb, 1641-1700; 1621:35] [Wing (CD-ROM, 1996) R678] [ESTCR38216]

______, and Muggleton, Lodowick,[1609-1698]. Answers to Several Queries (1654)

______, and Muggleton, Lodowick, [1609-1698]. A divine looking-glass, or, The third and last statement of Our Lord Jesus Christ ... (1656)

______, [Another ed.] ... Since Reviewed and Reprinted for Lodowick Muggleton, ... (1661); [EEb, 1641-1700; 1577:7] [Wing (CD-ROM, 1996) R676] [ESTCR35141]

______, and Muggleton, Lodowick, [1609-1698], Joyful News from Heaven, or, The Last Intelligence from our Glorified Jesus above the stars ; wherein is Recorded what is that which sleeps in the dust (1658); [EEb, 1641-1700; 1534:1] [Wing (CD-ROM, 1996) R679] [ESTCR32277]

______, [Another edition] ... Since reviewed by and reprinted by Lodowick Muggleton, ... (1661) [EEb, 1641-1700; 1577:7] [Wing R676]

______, and Muggleton, Lodowick, [1609-1698]. Verae fidei gloria est corona vitae. A volume of spiritual epistles, being the copies of several letters, ... (1755) [ESTCT91018]

______, and Muggleton, Lodowick, ;[1609-1698]. A Stream from the Tree of Life, or, The third record vindicated : being the copies of several letters and epistles wrote by the two last witnesses of Jesus Christ Wherein Truth rides triumphant, and Imagination is confounded ... (1758) [18th Century; reel 2082, no. 10] [ESTCT91012]

______, and Muggleton, Lodowick, [1609-1698], Supplement to The book of letters (1831)

______, and Muggleton, Lodowick, [1609-1698], The Works of John Reeves and Lodowick Muggleton ... Frost, J., and Frost, I. (eds.) [3 vols.] (1832) [Univ. of Michigan. Univ. Library (35 mm. microfilm, 1998)]

Saddington, John, [1634?-1679]. The articles of true faith, depending ipon the commission of the Spirit, drawn up into forty-eight heads [1675]

______, [Another ed.] (1830, reprint 1880)

______, A Prospective-glass for Saints and Sinners, Whereby may appear and be seen, ... (1673); [EEb, 1641-1700; 1622:10] [Wing (2nd ed.) S264] [ESTCR38136]

Tomkinson, Thomas, [1631-1710?], The Muggletonian Principles Prevailing, being an answer in full to a scandalous and malicious pamphlet, intituled: A true representation of the absurd and Mischevious principles of the sect called Muggletonians: ...(1695); [EEb, 1641-1700; 927:21] (Wing T1840] [ESTCR18719]

______, A System of Religion, ... (1729)

______, [Another ed.] (1857 reprint)

______, The Harmony of the Three Commissions, or, None but Christ ... (1757)

______, A practical discourse upon the Epistle of Jude (1823)

______, The Mystery of Faith [n.d.]

Whitehead, George, [1636-1723]. The Quakers Plainness Detecting Fallacy. (1674); [EEb, 1641-1700; 1109:18] [Wing (CD-ROM, 1996) W1949] [ESCTR38608]

Williams, John, [1636?-1709]. The True Representation of the Absurd and Mischevious principles of the sect, commonly known by the name of Muggletonians [1694;] [EEb, 1641-1700; 1137:8] [Wing (2nd ed.) W2735] [ESTCR38943]

Secondary Sources

Eichinger, J.A., The Muggletonians, a People Apart, Ph.D.(thesis), Western Michigan University (1999)

Frost, I., [Two systems of astronomy : plates] (1846)

Frost, J., Divine Songs of the Muggletonians : in grateful praise to the only true God, the Lord Jesus Christ (1829)

______, General index to John Reeve & Lodowicke Muggleton's works ... (1831)

______,A List of books with part of their title pages and the price of each book of the Third and Last Testament of the only God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, written by John Reeves and Lodowick Muggleton (1843)

Garrett, A., A Muggletonian Collection: the Books of a 17th century religious sect (1978)

Gordon, A.P.,The Origins of the Muggletonians (1869)

______,Ancient and Modern Muggletonians ... (1870)

Greene, D.G., "Muggletonians and Quakers: A Study in the Interaction of Seventeenth-Century Dissent", Albion, 15,1983

Hill, C., "The Muggletonians: An Introductory Survey", In The World of the Muggletonians, Hill, C. et al (eds.) (1984)

______, and Reay, B.,"The Muggletonians", Past and Present 104,1984

______, and Reay, B., and Lamont, W. (eds.), The World of the Muggletonians (1983)

Holton, R., "Reason, value and the Muggletonians", Australasian journal of philosophy 74,1996

Lamont, W., "The Muggletonians 1652-1979: A Vertical approach", Past and Present, 99,1983

______, Puritanism and historical controversy (1996)

______, "Lodowicke Muggleton (1609-1698)", In Puritanism and Historical Controversy (1996)

Smith, J., Bibliotheca anti-Quakeriana

Underwood, T.L. (ed.), The Acts of the Witnesses : an Autobiography of Lodowick Muggleton and other early Muggletonian writings (1999)

Williamson, G.C.,Lodowicke Muggleton: a paper (1919)

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