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Revelation Restored: The Apocalypse in Later Seventeenth-Century England

Revelation Restored: The Apocalypse in Later Seventeenth-Century England

Volume: 27
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Revelation Restored: The Apocalypse in Later Seventeenth-Century England
    Book Description:

    Revelation Restored' is a study of apocalyptic thought in the later seventeenth century in England. It explores an under-examined aspect of early modern British history: despite the prominence of millenarian beliefs in historians' explanations of the early modern English church and state up to 1660, little has been said about these convictions in the years following the Restoration. The examination of applications of prophetic language and interpretation to explain the events in England from 1660 to 1700 illustrates their continued capacity to comprehend ecclesiastical and political developments. The book demonstrates that, far from having disappeared from the intellectual landscape, apocalyptic ideas still held the potential to animate opinions in the mainstream of political debate in the later seventeenth century. These responses were outlets both for demonstrations of dissent and for endorsements of authorised powers in response to crises in authority and efforts at religious settlement. In addition, this book contends that any strict periodization that segregates the concerns of early seventeenth-century England from those of the later seventeenth century has been too sharply drawn. Analysis of the nature of apocalyptic and millennial beliefs reveals that the concerns prominent in England in the early seventeenth century had not abated after 1660. WARREN JOHNSTON is an Assistant Professor at Algoma University in Ontario, Canada.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-981-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Note on quotation, citation, and abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Synopsis of apocalyptic scripture
    (pp. xi-xxii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    According to the Presbyterian minister William Sherwin ‘no one subject contained in the whole Bible, that respecteth Jesus Christ, or his Religion in any other branch thereof … hath so much, and with greater strength and evidence set down therein for it, then [than] the things relating to Christs Kingdom on earth’ in the prophecies in the Book of Revelation.¹ That Sherwin confirmed the importance of apocalyptic prophecy in England during the seventeenth century will not strike many historians as unusual; that he made this statement in 1671 might be regarded as more exceptional.

    From the times of the early...

  8. 1 Conventions in Restoration apocalyptic interpretation
    (pp. 23-66)

    In order to recognize the application of apocalyptic imagery and beliefs within the political and religious discourse of later seventeenth-century England, it is necessary to become acquainted with the interpretive structure within which ideas were expressed and contemporary events were framed. Debate over the meaning of the prophecies of Revelation and Daniel existed in the period after 1660 but there was widespread agreement on a number of essential principles of interpretation. These similarities across divergent religious traditions and backgrounds demonstrate where a shared understanding of apocalyptic beliefs existed. This common foundation provided a familiar language within which variations in interpretation...

  9. 2 The apocalypse, radicalism, and reaction in the early Restoration
    (pp. 67-90)

    The principal contentions of this book are that apocalyptic thought remained as means of understanding the political and ecclesiastical circumstances of later seventeenth-century England, and that, at least until the settlement of the Revolution of 1688–1689, those civil and religious circumstances were dominated by confessional concerns that also continued from the first half of the century. In asserting these things, it demonstrates that a wide variety of authors with diverse attitudes toward the affairs of church and state used such prophetic beliefs to explain events and circumstances during the Restoration. In part, this refutes the idea that apocalyptic convictions...

  10. 3 The apocalypse and moderate nonconformity
    (pp. 91-124)

    The preceding chapter argued for a necessary distinction between radicalism and more moderate forms of nonconformity in Restoration apocalyptic expression. While radicals voiced, and at times acted upon, aspirations to bring down the re-established monarchy and Church of England in order to set up Christ’s kingdom on earth, moderate nonconformists turned their attention to the significance of the Restoration religious and civil settlement in the apocalyptic scheme, spurning violent, aggressive sentiments, and actions in an effort to avoid association with sedition or rebellion. Although moderate nonconformists did confront and defy the policies of civil and ecclesiastical authorities, their opposition advocated...

  11. 4 The Anglican apocalypse
    (pp. 125-151)

    The distinct set of apocalyptic ideas associated with moderate nonconformity incorporated the grudging acceptance of – or at least the lack of militant opposition to – the political settlement of 1660 and criticism of the imposition of laws by civil and ecclesiastical authorities that impeded freedom of religious worship and conscience. While the presence of apocalyptic beliefs in support of moderate dissent dispels the opinion that the continued articulation of these convictions in the later seventeenth century was inevitably associated with radicalism, their use within Restoration nonconformity may not be so surprising: apocalyptic prophecy has often been the domain of groups seeking...

  12. 5 The Popish Plot and apocalyptic expectation
    (pp. 152-188)

    The abundance of apocalyptic ideas in the works of dissenting and Anglican authors reveals the persistence of these beliefs in the later seventeenth century in England. Their prevalence in those writings not only refutes claims that apocalyptic convictions only manifested themselves in radical and marginalized forms, but also displays the underlying religious and political divisions still present in Restoration society. Confessional concerns were not limited to anti-Catholic argument but were also apparent in unresolved issues of ecclesiastical dispute within England itself. Questions of the place of further reform and the need for acceptable political and religious settlement continued to motivate...

  13. 6 Apocalyptic thought and the Revolution of 1688–1689
    (pp. 189-224)

    Just as the period from James II’s accession to the resolution of the Revolution of 1688–1689 saw contention over political and religious issues that remained from Charles II’s reign, the events of these years also engaged the apocalyptic concerns from the Restoration period. Response to the crisis of authority and jurisdiction that developed in James’s reign, and to the settlement achieved during the first years of William and Mary’s rule, was expressed in prophetic terms that had endured over the previous three decades. Anti-Roman Catholic sentiment, expressions of nonconformity, endorsement of the established Church of England, and attitudes toward...

  14. 7 Conclusion: the apocalypse to 1700
    (pp. 225-248)

    Perhaps the best-known instance of English apocalyptic belief of the late seventeenth century is the movement associated with John Mason in Buckinghamshire. Mason was the Church of England rector of the parish of Water-Stratford, and in the early 1690s he preached a sermon entitled The Midnight-Cry. In it Mason assured his audience of the impending advent of the millennial reign. This kingdom, inaugurated by Christ’s personal appearance on earth, would be ruled by the saints and accompanied by the conversion of the Jews. It would also accomplish what no earthly monarch had been able to achieve: there would be ‘Unity...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-280)
  16. Index
    (pp. 281-290)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-295)