chapter  8
Conclusion: Muggletonians – the Proper Historical Context?
Pages 22

For if all things had been made known in the Books of the Law and Gospel, there would have been nothing left to be made known by the Record of the Spirit.

James Frost to Mrs Elias Noakes, 4 November 1857

John Harrison and I used to run a seminar at the University of Sussex on popular millenarianism entitled ‘The Second Coming’. On our way to a class one day we were confronted by an agitated university chaplain. With his clerical collar bobbing, he asked us, ‘When does The Second Coming start?’ As one, we replied, ‘You tell us.’ John Harrison’s book with that title was published in 1979 – that is, the year of the Last Muggletonian’s death. By then, scholars were aware that the sect had survived until recent times, although the complete archive had yet to be excavated. Harrison nevertheless gave this obscure religious group a characteristically sympathetic hearing. Where there were affinities with others of his millenarian sects he pointed these out. Their circulation of the Prophets’ manuscripts among themselves reminds him of the way in which ‘the old Southcottians’ honoured the teachings of Joanna in the late nineteenth century. Their reprinting of Muggletonian works in the 1750s and 1760s – including the controversial fourth edition of A Divine Looking Glass – has its counterpart in the reprinting of Jacob Boehme’s works by William Law. He quotes an 1800 pamphlet which emphasizes similarities between Muggletonian and Swedenborgian doctrines.1 Even so, his claims for their inclusion in his study are modest: they familiarize ‘millenarian-type thinking’; they strengthen ‘the idea of latter-day prophets’; and so they contribute to ‘that milieu of popular religious culture’ which interested him. We know little about what ordinary people ‘think and feel’, he had concluded. Do we know more, now that we have trawled the Muggletonian archive?2