Winstanley and Baptist thought

Hessayon, Ariel. 2014. Winstanley and Baptist thought. Prose Studies, 36(1), pp. 15-31. ISSN 0144-0357 [Article]

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Of all the enigmas about Gerrard Winstanley, perhaps the greatest is how did a man of unremarkable origins come to articulate one of the most penetrating and damning critiques of his own society in such powerful and crafted prose? The answer to this question has as much to do with Winstanley's spiritual progress and broadening intellectual horizons as with his increased engagement in local and national politics, which became more pronounced after the establishment of the Digger plantation. Accordingly, this essay focuses on an aspect of Winstanley's development, namely his interpretation, adaptation, and articulation of teachings characteristically – albeit not always exclusively – maintained by certain prominent Baptists and their followers. I have suggested elsewhere that the outlines, if not the precise moments, of Winstanley's spiritual journey can be reconstructed with confidence. Beginning in either childhood, adolescence, or some point in adulthood, he was a puritan; then perhaps a separatist; then, it can be inferred, a General Baptist; then he dispensed with the outward observance of gospel ordinances (analogous to a “Seeker”) before falling into a trance. Here, I want to build on my own work together with John Gurney's important recent studies by locating Winstanley within a milieu that makes his beliefs and subsequent practices explicable. For it appears that despite his undoubted gift for original thought, Winstanley did not always give credit where it was due.

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28 May 2014Published

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20 Jun 2016 11:16

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29 Apr 2020 16:22

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