Sunday, January 17, 2021

The year was 1677. We remember Ludovick Muggleton. The reading is "If Birds that neither Sow nor reap" by Roger Williams.

It is the 17th of January 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at I'm Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1677.

There is a tendency to look at the 1670s in England, a very momentous decade, and make the Popish Plot the center about which everything else is the circumference. You might remember the Popish Plot. We've discussed it here before. It was a conspiracy theory that proposed a secret Jesuit plot to kill the King to replace him with his Catholic brother. Yes, these are the spiritual forebears of Charles Chiniquy, blaming the Jesuits for everything.

This is highlighted in some traditional histories highlighting the Protestant/Catholic divide and seeing everything as a prelude to the Glorious Revolution. Historian John Spurr wrote his "England in the 1670s: This Masquerading Age" to refute the tired bifurcation. In the 1670s, England was an age of play and wit, of toleration for some, and new radical movements. Never a stranger to some of the more peculiar sects in this age, England was as concerned with internecine Protestant issues as it was the specter of a Popish plot.

In this decade, William Penn was once again on trial for a public sermon that espoused the Quakers' anti-clericalism. Charles II was the cause of a brief celebration when he issued his Royal indulgence granting religious freedom to nonconformists and Catholics. The Parliament quickly squashed this but correctly showed us the connection between nonconformists and Catholics in the popular British mind at the time.

But if folks weren't exactly fixated with local parish happenings, you might forgive them. After all, this is the age of the Anglo-Dutch Wars. Luckily the English and the Dutch made up with the marriage of William of Orange and Mary. English folk would also likely be intrigued by the news of migration to 13 colonies in North America.

Arresting a Quaker or trapping a secret Catholic with an oath was becoming more commonplace. For a religious controversy to tickle the ears, it had to be extraordinary. There was perhaps no more extraordinary religious figure, self-proclaimed prophet, and wonderfully named Ludovick Muggleton. The eponymous Muggletonians would take their name from him, and until 1979 you could meet one in person. They are now extinct.

Muggleton captured the English's attention in the second half of the 17th century with his increasingly bizarre interpretations of the book of Revelation, the most famous of which named him and a companion as the two prophets of Revelation 11:3. His exploits would eventually have him arrested, and it was on this, the 17th of January in 1677, that Ludovick Muggleton was tried at the Old Bailey for "Declaring himself the Last Witness of God with "absolute and irrevocable power to save and damn whom [he] pleas'd."

Ludovick had been raised with Puritan leanings, but he recounted, leaving them when he felt as if he was sure he was damned. He spent time looking for holy men, eventually falling in with suspected Magi. For reals. The stories are wild. Eventually, Ludovick left them for another guru, John Reeve. It is with Reeve that he wound found the group known as the Muggletonians.

That he claimed to be the faithful messenger of God and wrote a book with a title like "The Neck of the Quakers Broken" would certainly be frowned upon, but it was the zeal of his followers that especially concerned the magistrates. Millenarianism, of which Muggleton was the chief proponent, was popular with the disenfranchised who saw the second coming as their only hope. By identifying himself with the disenfranchised, and as the last prophet of the age, his popularity might be better understood.

Muggleton's trial ended in a guilty verdict, and he was sentenced to the pillory, where he was held on public display for three days. He was mocked and physically abused. He lived a relatively quiet life until he died in 1698. His writings were published posthumously by his devoted followers.

In 2000, a sometimes-cranky Catholic periodical became very concerned that Harry Potter readers would associate the Muggles of J.K. Rowling with Ludovic Muggleton. As we saw the other day with St. Mungo, Rowling often liked to take fun-sounding British names and put them in her books. Ludovic Muggleton has a name for the ages and a story highlighting English religious sects in the second half of the 17th century. He was tried for his offenses on the 17th of January in 1677.

The reading for today comes from a contemporary troublemaker but on the other side of the Atlantic. This is "If Birds that neither Sow nor reap" by Roger Williams.

If birds that neither sow nor reap
Nor store up any food
Constantly find to them and theirs
A Maker kind and good;

If man provide eke for his birds,
In yard, in coops, in cage;
And each bird spends in songs and tunes,
His little time and age;

What care will man, what care will God
For wife and children take?
Millions of birds and worlds will God
Sooner than His forsake.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 17th of January 2021 brought to you by 1517 at The show is produced by a man that not even the Jesuits can plot against, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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