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The Ranters Ranting: Reflections on a Ranting Counter Culture

  • G. F. S. Ellens (a1)


The Ranter counter culture was a phenomenon of Puritan England. It was a movement among lower-class people numbering several thousands—we do not know exactly how many—widely distributed in London and rural England. In describing this phenomenon as a movement, however, one must be cautious since this was not a movement towards a goal: it was a movement of repulsion away from English society as represented by the Puritans. It implied a rejection of the Puritan Establishment—its ethics, its values, and its goals.



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1. A study of Ranters and of influences upon them is made in Ellens, G. F. S., Case Studies in Seventeenth Century Enthusiasm, Especially the Ranters (unpublished Columbia University Doctoral Dissertation, 1968).

2. Edwards, , Gangraena, 3rd. ed. (London, 1646), Sec. 2, Part 1.

3. Pagitt, E., Heresiography (London, 1661), pp. 259ff.

4. Baxter, R., Reliquiae Baxterianae (London 1696), ed. by Thomas, J. M. Lloyd (London: Dent, 1925), passim.

5. Fox, G., Journal, rev. ed. by Penney, 1911 (London: Dent, 1924.)

6. See Nuttall, G. F., Richard Baxter, (London: Thos. Nelson, 1965), p. 37.

7. Fox, , journal, vol. II, p. 125; but in America in 1672; see p. 222.

8. Whiting, C. E., Studies in English Puritanism from the Restoration to the Revolution, 1660–1668 (London: S.P.C.K., 1931), p. 272; cf. Barbour, H., The Quakers in Puritan England (New Haven, Conn.: Yale U. Press, 1964), p. 101. Almost nothing is presently known about Banters in America.

9. [Anonymous], A Nest of Serpents Discovered or a Knot of Heretiques revived Called the ADAMITES (No publisher, printer or place of origin is given).

10. Fox, , journal, pp. 2728.

11. Edw., Stokes, The Wiltshire Rant (London, 1652).

12. Stubs, T., The Ranters Declaration (London, 1650).

13. [Anonymous], The Ranters Ranting (London, 1650).

14. The only surviving evidence concerning Bauthumley's active antinomianism accuses him of Ranter cursing. In the army his tongue was bored through.

15. A product of this concern was a sermon “The Cure of Melancholy and Overmuch Sorrow by Faith and Physick,” published in 1683. It went at once through several editions and several more in the early 1700s.

16. Lodowicke Muggleton, born 1609, founded his sect c. 1651, died 1698. See his Acts of the Witnesses (London, 1699), esp. pp. 10, 1618.

17. Muggleton, , Acts, p. 18.

18. Baxter, , Rel. Bax., p. 8, who writes much about this problem describes in detail the case of a friend who was horribly oppressed with guilt for weaknesses which he could not rectify and whose “conscience could have no relief or ease but in changing his judgment and disowning the teachers and doctrines which had restrained him.…’

19. Clarkson, L., a Ranter leader, makes this quite clear in his The Lost Sheep Found (London, 1660).

20. Burton, R., The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) wrote: “But who shall dwell in these vast bodies, Earths, Worlds ‘if they be inhabited? rational creatures’? as Kepler demands, ‘or have they souls to be saved? or do they inhabit a better part of the world than we do? Are we or they Lords of the World? And how are all things made for man’?”

21. David, Mathew, The Age of Charles I (London: Eyre and Spottiswood, 1951), pp. 120121.

22. Anthony à Wood, Athenae Oxoniensis (ed. of 1815), vol. iii, pp. 959f. and 1009.

23. Clarkson admits to this same procedure in his Lost Sheep Found.

24. Coppe, A. in A Second Fiery Flying Roll (London, 1650), pp. 1011 writes: “.… yet I can if it be my will, kisse and hug Ladies, and love my neighbour's wife as my selfe, without sin.”

25. Coppe, A., Some Sweet Sips of Some Spiritual Wine (London, 1649), p. 54.

26. Coppe, ibid., p. 55.

27. Coppe, ibid., “Contents.”

28. Coppe, A., Coppes Return to the Wayes of Truth (London, 1651), “Preface.”

29. Otto, R., The Idea of the Holy, tr. Harvey, J. W. (London: O.U.P., rev. ed. 1928), p. 16. Other references applicable to Coppe are on pages 31, 57, 113.

30. Clarkson's Lost Sheep Fownd provides a good picture of Ranter revellings.

31. Coppe, A., A Fiery Flying Soil (London, 1650), “Preface.”

32. Coppe, ibid., p. 7.

33. Coppe, ibid., p. 1.

34. Coppe, A Second Fiery Flying Roll, ch. V.

35. This theme is developed by Cohn, N., The Pursuit of the Millenium, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1961), pp. 195ff.

36. Thomas Underbill in. his Hell Brolce Loose (London 1660) says of Ranters that they “danced and roared … and went into frenzies, and lay with their bodies swollen, acted strangely, and fell into raptures and blasphemings.”

37. Barclay, R., The Inner Life of the Religious Societies of Commonwealth (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1876), p. 415.

38. [Anonymous], The Banters Recantation (London, 1650), unpaginated.

39. A dictum of Goethe's was, “Wie ein Mann ist so ist seiu Gott.”

40. [Anonymous], The Banters Banting (London, 1650).

41. Ed.Hyde, , A Wonder and Yet No Wonder, a Great Red Dragon in Heaven (London, 1651), p. 24.

42. Coppe, , A Fiery flying Roll, p. 12.

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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