Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 373 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PHILADELPHIANS, a sect of religious mystics, founded in London in the latter part of the 17th century. In 1652 Dr John Pordage (1607-1681), rector' of Bradfield, Berkshire, gathered together a few followers of Jakob Boehme, the chief of whom was Jane Lead or Leade (nee Ward; 1623-1704). Pordage was ejected from his living by the Triers in 1655, but was restored in 166o. Mrs Leade had been from girlhood of a mystical temperament, and experienced phantasms which she recorded in a diary entitled A Fountain of Gardens, beginning in 167o, in which year the Philadelphian society was definitely organized. She drew up for it " The Laws of Paradise," which show that the enterprise was designed " to advance the Kingdom of God by improving the life, teaching the loftiest morality, and enforcing the duty of universal brotherhood, peace and love." Its members had a strong faith in what they called the " Divine Secrets," the wonders of God and nature, the profound spiritual experiences of regeneration and soul-resurrection, and the second Advent. In 1693 some of Mrs Leade's writings were translated into Dutch, and by this means and her acquaintance with Francis Lee (1661-1719), an Oxford scholar who studied medicine at Leiden and became her son-in-law, a connexion was opened up with Germany and Holland. In 1703 the Philadelphians drew up their confession, but they made no further progress and soon declined. The Holland branch withdrew, and the English government forbade the society to meet. For many years, however, a considerable number of people regarded Mrs Leade's visions, which were published in a long series of writings, as proofs of her divine calling. In her later years she had a severe struggle with poverty, which was relieved by a pension granted by Baron Kniphausen.

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