William Erbery

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from William Erbury)
Jump to: navigation, search

William Erbery or Erbury[1] (1604 – April 1654) was a Welsh clergyman and radical Independent theologian.


Erbery was born in Glamorganshire. He graduated from Brasenose College, Oxford, England in 1623.[2]

He was ejected in 1638 from his Cardiff parish of St Mary's, under the Bishop of Landaff who had branded him a schismatic,[3] after several citations before the Court of High Commission. His offence was refusing, along with fellow Dissenters Walter Craddock and William Wroth, to read the Book of Sports.[4] He became chaplain, when the English Civil War broke out in 1642, to the regiment of Philip Skippon in the Parliamentary Army. According to Christopher Hill[5]

From there he retired to the Isle of Ely.[6] He was a Seeker;[7] in Ely he expanded the Seekers in the 1640s.[8]

He expected that a regime of ‘saints’ would (in the later 1640s) carry out God's will in England.[9] He looked to the Army and Cromwell for reforms such as the abolition of tithes and the state church. In 1646 he took part in a high-profile dispute with the orthodox Presbyterian and heresy watchdog Francis Cheynell.


With a disillusioned attitude to the movement of the times, though accepting Cromwell's Protectorate, he was a suspected Ranter.[10]

He favoured broad religious tolerance, and was dismissive of churches, believing that ‘apostasy’ had set in early in Christian times;[11] and criticized much even in the Independent churches of his time.[12] He attacked the assumption of the sufficiency of scripture, but doubted the Trinity had Biblical support. He believed free grace had been brought forth by John Preston and Richard Sibbes,[13] preached universal redemption,[14] and denied the divinity of Christ.[15] His millennarian views included a Second Coming, but realised by and within 'saints'.[16]

He opposed the Baptists, for example in his 1653 pamphlet A Mad Man's Plea.[17]


  • Christopher Hill, 1984, "The Experience of Defeat: Milton and Some Contemporaries", Ch. 4 I
  • Christopher Hill, 1972, "The World Turned Upside Down", Ch. 9 II


  1. ^ Also Earbury.
  2. ^ Concise Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ CNDB
  4. ^ Hill, Change and Continuity in 17th-Century England, p. 21.
  5. ^ The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century Revolution (1993), p. 217.
  6. ^ Hill, English Bible, p. 146.
  7. ^ [1]; Hill, Change and Continuity p. 229.
  8. ^ Hill, The World Turned Upside Down (Penguin edition) p. 47.
  9. ^ Hill, Experience of Defeat, p. 82 names William Sedgwick, Peter Sterry and Joshua Sprigge as highest in Erbery’s estimation.
  10. ^ Hill, A Nation of Change and Novelty, pp. 188–9: William Erbery, for example, had many Ranterish views, and came to visit Clarkson in jail. He was examined by Parliament as a suspect Ranter in 1652.
  11. ^ Hill, World Upside Down, p. 194; Hill, Milton and the English Revolution (1977), p. 84.
  12. ^ Hill, Liberty Against the Law (1996), p. 185.
  13. ^ Hill, World Upside Down, p. 186.
  14. ^ Hill, Milton, p. 272-3: Winstanley, Walwyn, Coppin, John Robins, Erbery and the author of Tyranipocrit Discovered thought that all men shall be saved.
  15. ^ Hill, World Upside Down, p. 192.
  16. ^ Hill, Milton, p. 309: William Erbery, Gerrard Winstanley, Joseph Salmon, Jacob Bathumley, Richard Coppin, Laurence Clarkson and other Ranters held the Familist view that the Fall, the Second Coming, the Lat Judgement and the end of the world were all events which take place on earth within the individual conscience. Also p. 304.
  17. ^ Hill, World Upside Down, p. 281; Alfred Cohen, Two Roads to the Puritan Millennium: William Erbury and Vavasor Powell, Church History, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Sep., 1963), pp. 322–338.

External links[edit]