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 religion and rituals. When all forms of religion
are being questions, no religion was less stressful.
The early roots of the English Seekers may lie with the family Legatt:
Walter, Thomas, and Bartholomew Legate, all early separatists. They
were active in and around London ca. 1590's-1612.
They preached the corruption of all the established Churches, and the
need to establish a new true Church with a new group of Apostles. The
Legatt considered themselves the new Apostles of God's new uncorrupted
Church. The Legates were charged with holding Antinomian and Anabaptists beliefs.
Sometimes called the Legatine-Arians, or English Seekers, the Legate's
did not prosper long. Walter drowned; Thomas died while being held for
heresy in Newgate Prison; and, Bartholomew 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 between 1620-1640 is rather vague. Seekers tended to remain
in the background and maintained a low profile. We are aware of some
Seekers centers being established. From an organizational point of view
the Seekers may have existed as local chapters or assemblies.
The Seekers saw the Roman Church as having corrupted itself and all
other churches in the process. 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, the Seekers would hold meetings
rather than religious services. Members would wait in silence for the
Lord to come and reveal Himself to them. 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.
Individuals such as John Saltmarsh (d.1647), and William
Walwyn (1600-1680) were identified as Seekers. John
Saltmarsh's work: The Smoke in the Temple (1646) is a statement
of Seekers views and principles 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.
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).
[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
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
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
Smyth, Zeph[aniah], 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
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"
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.)
Vogel, D., Religious seekers and the advent of Mormonism (1988)