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The Seekers were more of a religious society rather than an organized religious sect per se. The Seekers developed in the late 1620's. They rejected all forms of official religion and rituals. When all forms of religion are being questions, no religion was less stressful was a commonly held view.

The early roots of the English Seekers may be traced to the family Legatt: Walter, Thomas, and Bartholomew Legate, all brothers, and early Separatists preachers. They were active in and around the London area ca. 1590's to 1612.

They preached on the corruption of all the established Churches, and the need to establish a new true Church with a new group of Apostles to oversee it. The Legatt would considered themselves as the appointed Apostles of God's new uncorrupted Church. This was not an commonly held belief for the Second Coming by many of the period. The Legates were charged with holding Antinomian and Anabaptists beliefs by their critics.

Sometimes called the Legatine-Arians, the Legate's did not prosper long. Walter drowned; Thomas died while being held for heresy in Newgate Prison. The brotherBartholomew Legate (d. 1612) was burned at the stake for heresy in 1612. Edward Wrightman (d.1612) was convicted of heresy and burned at the stake with Bartholomew Legate for holding similar views. They were probably the last two public burnings at the stake in England for heresy.

Information on the early Seekers views, and organization between 1612 and 1640 is still rather vague. Seekers as a sect tended to remain in the background and maintained a low profile in society. We are aware of some Seekers centers being established. From an organizational point of view, the Seekers may have existed as small local assemblies in a loose association across the county, or by regions. The Quakers after 1660 may have adopted some aspects of the earlier Seeker organizational structure, and religious views

The Seekers not unlike some Seperatists, saw the Roman Church as having corrupted itself and all other churches in the process, i.e., the Church of England. Since all churches were corrupt, only a new "true" Church established by Christ and His new Apostles could possess His grace and perform true miracles.

In anticipation of this seminal event of the Spirit of Christ being received, the Seekers would hold meetings rather than elaborate religious services. Members would wait in silence in a quite setting, or structure for the Lord to come and reveal Himself to them. For this reason, they have often been referred to as "Waiters".

Seekers respected all religions, but accepts none as authoritative. This did not keep the Seekers from expressing their own view and opinions in writing on other theological views of other religious sects of the period. Seekers embraced a broad spectrum of ideas and positions. Seekers were also concerned about the status on Man in society, especially the poor, the sick, the children, and the hungry in society. Seekers envisioned a more christian and humanitarian values in society.

Individuals such as John Saltmarsh (d.1647), and William Walwyn (1600-1680) were identified as holding Seekers views. John Saltmarsh's work: The Smoke in the Temple (1646) is a statement of Seekers views and principles of the period by a prominent Seeker.

William Erbery (1604-1654)

William Erbery (1604-1654) (or, Erbury) was considered one of the preeminent Seekers of his day. He is credited with converting Oliver Cromwells' daughter to a Seeker.

Erbery graduated from Brasenose College (Oxford) getting a B.A. in 1623. He was ordained and served in Cardiff, Wales. He served as an Army chaplain during the Civil War. By the late 1640's, Erbury was being criticized for his religious positions. By the mid-1640's, he was busy out preaching across the country with some Socinians leanings with anti-clerical views, and questions of the King and Parliament positions. Erbury sought peace in society, temporal reforms, and waiting for the Spirit and the second coming of Christ. He may have had some connections with the early Quakers.

Seekers anticipated many of the later views of Quakerism and other sects. The Quakers would seem to have embraced many of the Seekers tenets. Large numbers of Seekers were converted to Quakerism. Seekers groups paid their respects at the funeral of George Fox (1624-1691). English Seekers continued into the 18th Century.

The term "Seeker" also came into general use as a title of distinction to describe certain selected individuals who embodied certain characteristics of mind. Individuals given that appellation included: William Walwyn (1600-80), Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), and John Milton (1608-74)


Primary Sources

[Anon.], A Catholick Answer to the Seekers Request in a letter directed to the Seeker, proving the Real Presence, by the Scripture only (1687);, [EEb 1641-1700 : 1730:11]

[Anon.] Poor Robin turn'd Seeker, or, The Seekers Ballad to the Tune of 49 (1674); [Wing P2874A]

Barbon[e], Praisegod, A Discourse tending to Prove the Baptisme (1642)

Baxter, Richard, 1615-91. A Key for Catholics (1659)

Brayne, John, The rules of dispute, practiced by Christ and his Apostles, for Deciding the Controversies of that age, ... (1653); [Wing (2nd ed.) B4331] [ESTCR207261]

______, The New Earth, or, The true Magna Carta of the past, ages, and of the ages or World to come, called The Jews Commonweal (1653); [Wing (2nd ed., 1994) B4330] [ESTCR207239]

Clarkson, Laurence, The Pilgrimage of Grace, by Church cast out, in Christ found, Seeking Truth (1646)

Erbery (Erbury), William 1604-1654, The Testimony (1658)

Howgill, Francis, 1618-1669, Gray Ridge : the Book of Francis Howgill, Hayes, W. (comp.) (1942)

Jackson, John, fl. 1651-1657, A Sober Word to a Serious People, or, A Moderate Discourse Respecting as Well the Seekers, (so called) as the Present Churches (1650)

______, [Another ed.] (1651); [Wing (2nd ed.) J78A]

Jessup, Edmond, A Discovery of the Errors of the English Anabaptists (1623)

Killcop, Thomas, Seekers Supplyed (1646)

______. The Unlimited Authority of Christs Disciples Cleared, or the Present Church and Ministery Vindicated (1651); [Wing (2nd ed.) K441] [ESTCR209289]

Nelson, Robert, 1565-1715. Transubstantiation Contrary to Scripture, or, The Protestants' Answer to the Seeker's Request (1688)

Saltmarsh, John, d. 1647, Poemata sacra (1636)

______. Holy Discoveries and Flames (1640)

______. A Peace but No Pacification (1643)

______. Free Grace (1645)

______. Dawnings of Light (1645)

______. Groanes for Liberty (1646)

______. Reasons for Unitie, Peace, and Love (1646)

______, The Smoke in the Temple (1646)

______. Sparkles of Glory (1647)

______, A Letter from the Army (1647)

Scantlebury, Thomas, d. 1821. The Rights of Protestants asserted, and Clerical Incroachment Detected. In Allusion to Several Recent Publications, in Defence of an Exclusive Priesthood, Establishment, and Tiths, by Daubeny, Church and others ... (1798)

Shepherd, Samuel. The Joviall Crew, or, The Devill turn'd RANTER (1651)

Smyth, Zephaniah, [fl.1646-48], Directions for Seekers & Expectants, or a Guide to Weake Christians in these Distracted times ...(1646)

Walwyn, William, 1600-80, A Whisper in the Eare of Mr. Thomas Edwards (1646)

Webster, John, The Testimony of William Erbery (1658)

Williams, John, 1636?-1709, The Protestant's Answer to the Catholick letter to the seeker, or, A Vindication of the Protestant's Amswer to the Seeker's Request (1688)

Wormall, Henry. The Prisoners' Defence Supported, or, An answer to the Charges and Allegations of George Markham, vicar of Carlton, in Yorkshire, Contained in his Book entitles, "More Truth for the Seekers" (1798)

Secondary Sources

Acheson, R. J., "Happy Seeker, Happy Finder: The Seeker", in Radical Puritans in England 1550-1660 (1995 pap.)

Jones, R. M., Mysticism and Democracy in the English commonwealth; being the William Belden Nobel Lectures Delivered in Harvard University, 1930-1931 (1965, 1932)

McGregor, J. F., "Seekers and Ranters", In Radical Religion in the English Revolution, McGregor, J. F. and Reay, B (eds.) (1984)

Vogel, D., Religious seekers and the advent of Mormonism (1988)

White, B.R., "William Erbury (1604-1654) and the Baptists", Baptist Quarterly 23,1969-70

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