Skip to main content

Seekers

SEEKERS

A minor nonconformist group of left-wing Puritan societies in early 17th-century England, living principally in Cumberland, Westmorland, and Yorkshire, who represented, along with the Dutch "Collegiants," the culmination of continental pietistic religion. They were closely allied to the Society of friends, which most of them had joined by 1652. Although different in views and practice from the Ranters and Fifth Monarchy Men, the Seekers likewise exhibited Antinomian and Millenarian ideas and were identified with the Independents of the Civil War and Interregnum periods. (see millenarianism.) The Seekers, finding neither truth nor spiritual satisfaction in any formal, ritualistic church, formed small communities of worshippers who were seeking and waiting for God's manifestation of the true church through new prophets and miraculous revelations. Their emphasis on a vital inner faith unfettered by reliance on the Scriptures, the Sacraments, preaching, and dogma was based on the principles of 16th-century German and Dutch spiritual reformers, including Kaspar Schwenckfeld of Silesia, Sebastian Franck of Schwabia, and Dirck Coornhert of Holland. Schwenckfeld held that the visible church had forsaken its authority and power, and Franck expected God, in the fullness of His plan, to restore the church to the purity and evangelical power of Apostolic Christian times. The term "Seeker" allegedly first appeared in England in J. Morton's tract, Truth's Champion (1617), but the Seeker Bartholomew Legate suffered martyrdom at Smithfield in 1612.

Although the unceremonious Seekers eschewed precise doctrinal definition, they generally agreed that all churches that had a visible organization and an ordained ministry, relied on the Bible as a source of faith, and administered Sacraments had fallen into apostasy because the infallible Divine Will had abandoned them. Since Seekers had questioned the efficacy of the Sacraments, even Baptism, and renounced Scripture as a sure means of salvation because of the loss of the true texts, although some Seekers studied it, Seeker services consisted of silent gatherings of families in homes and austere chapels wherein men would speak only when divine inspiration aroused them. Occasionally one among them would lead the meetings. The Seekers were among the first Englishmen to advocate absolute religious freedom for all. Seeker views were so similar to those of the Quakers that George fox made hundreds of converts among them, including such prominent leaders as Francis Howgill, Thomas Taylor, and John Audland, during a trip into the North Country in the early 1650s. John Saltmarsh, the Antinomian divine of the Parliamentary army, O. Cromwell's daughter, Claypole, and Roger Williams of Rhode Island professed Seeker ideas. Seekers authored numerous tracts until the Restoration, by which time their communities had generally dispersed.

Bibliography: r. m. jones, Studies in Mystical Religion (London 1909); Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries (Boston 1914; pa. reprint 1959). j. hastings, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion & Ethics, 13 v. (Edinburgh 190827) 11:350351. w. c. brattwaite, The Beginnings of Quakerism (2d ed. Cambridge, England 1955). g. fox, Journal, ed. j. l. nickalls (rev. ed. Cambridge, England 1952). d. masson, The Life of John Milton, 7 v. (London 185994; reprint Gloucester, MA 1962) v. 3, 5.

[m. j. havran]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Seekers." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Seekers." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/seekers

"Seekers." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/seekers

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.