|John Wilson, Roger Brereley|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Yorkshire and Lancashire, England|
The Grindletonians were a Puritan sect that arose in the small community of Grindleton in Lancashire, England, around 1610. The sect remained active in the north of England until the 1660s. The most notable leader was Roger Brearley (or Brereley). Grindletonian beliefs were Antinomian.
John Wilson, who led the congregation at Kildwick before Grindletonism appeared, has been called a religious radical and may have introduced some of the basic concepts. The community may therefore have held some Grindletonian beliefs before Brearley arrived. Roger Brearley, the curate at Grindleton from 1615-22, was the main leader of the Grindletonians. John Everard (c. 1584–1641) was a friend of Brearley and may have influenced him. Brereley had a local following, attracting worshippers from the nearby Giggleswick parish of Christopher Shute, but became more widely known after the proceedings against him.
Brearley was brought before the York High Commission in October 1616 to answer charges that he was a radical nonconformist, that he relied on the motion of the spirit and that he thought that all doubt about their salvation would be removed from believers. He was also asked to respond to fifty erroneous beliefs that he and his followers allegedly held. Brearley seems to have renounced his views in order to escape punishment, and to have promised to conform in future. However, Grindletonism continued to grow between 1615 and 1640, gaining a large number of followers in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and spinning off other antinomian sects.
Brearley moved ten miles to teach at Kildwick, staying there until 1631. In Grindleton in 1634 he was followed by John Webster (1610-1683), who taught similar beliefs. In 1618 the diarist Nicholas Assheton records the burial of one John Swinglehurst as of a follower of 'Brierley'. Thomas Shephard knew of him in 1622.
In a sermon preached at Paul's Cross on 11 February 1627, and published under the title of The White Wolfe, 1627, Stephen Denison, minister of St. Catherine Cree, charges the 'Gringltonian (sic) familists' with holding nine points of an antinomian tendency. These nine points are repeated from Denison by Ephraim Pagitt in his Heresiography (2nd ed. 1645, p. 89), and glanced at by Alexander Ross, Πανσεβεια (2nd ed. 1655, p. 365). In 1635 John Webster, curate at Kildwick, was before a church court charged with being a Grindletonian. At the same time John Winthrop thought that Anne Hutchinson was one in New England. A preacher named Robert Towne carried the Grindletonian message into western Yorkshire and eastern Lancashire in the 1640's. The last known Grindletonian died in the 1680s.
Some of Brearley's ideas would have been drawn from the Theologia Germanica. Brearley's teachings were Antinomian. He thought that the power of God's Spirit was sufficient alone to bring a person to salvation. Grindletonians thought that a true Christian who has the Spirit within them does not sin. The Grindletonians were close to the Familists in their beliefs. They thought the Spirit was privileged over the Bible, anyone who had the inner light was qualified to preach, whether or not they were ordained, a person could live without sin and for such a person heaven could be attained on earth.
The community of Grindleton is below Pendle Hill, where George Fox (1624–1691), the founder of Quakerism, received the visions that convinced him to launch this sect. A number of other unorthodox sects arose in the region around the same time. It is possible that Fox was influenced by Grindletonian thinking. The Quakers Francis Howgill (1618-69) and John Camm (1605-1657) were Grindletonians who became Seekers and then Quakers. Antinomianism or Grindletonianism may have had an influence on Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643).
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