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Though willing to bow before the decision of public opinion, and prepared to curtail, in any new edition, my account of those maniacal congregations, I am by no means satisfied, that the sect was, or is, so extremely contemptible as has been represented. It will be remembered, that at the time when my second volume was published, the Joannites could boast of five crowded places of regular worship, in and near the metropolis; many intelligent, learned, and respectable patrons, and 20,000 sealed adherents in the North and West of England. Many sects have been held formidable, not less in a political than a religious view, both in this and in other countries, who never were able to muster the fourth part of such a force. Many sects, and many religious systems, whose ultimate influence became extensive, struggled in their cradle, against less favourable auspices. Mahomet, in twelve years, had hardly gained twelve disciples : nor had Methodism or . Quakerism a much more propitious origin. Besides, it was never the leading object of this History, to consider sects only as politically formidable. It is their religious errors which are
the main objects of our concern. It is their religious opinions that our refutations strive to overcome. The commonalty are the people; and when errors, how absurd soever, are propagated and received among them, argument must be tried to restore the wholesome influence of truth. The complainants, too, enjoy the advantage of pronouncing their decision, after the death of the pretended prophetess, and the failure of her chief predictions, had proved the delusion or exposed the imposition; and thus made her adherents ashamed of the public avowal of a confidence so very grievously disappointed. But though these consummations of her : ravings might have been easily and were foreseen, it was not so evident that the sect would have taken the turn of silence: nor is it certain that the imposture has in the minds of its 20,000 dupes, actually refuted itself. In fact, the adverse fortunes of this heresy may be traced to three causes, all of them contrary to the probabilities of any previous calculation. First, they possessed no preacher of combined fervour and abilities, who might embody their principles in glowing and ingenious oratory, and
entwine them with the passions of the enthusiastic, or adapt them to the reasoning intelligence of the considerate. They were a sect of wrongheads, rather than enthusiasts ; and their preachers were mere drivellers. Nothing could be 'more contemptible, than the bungling, dull, prosing, vulgar, ungrammatical nonsense, uttered by Tozer and Turpin. Could they have boasted a Whitfield or a Wesley, an Elias Carpenter, a Rowland Hill, a Matthew Wilks, who should have possessed the sense or the cunning to have suppressed, or softened the more revolting and blasphemous parts of the system; to have infused elegance, poetry, feeling, and fervour into the hymns; and to have brought the treasures of a glowing imagination and impassioned mind, to bear. on the peaceful visions of a millennium, or the more beatific glories of the invisible world; in that case, neither the death of the prophetess, nor the failure of her predictions, would have checked the wildfire progress of the delusion. Had this sect even possessed the common prudence of avoiding the opening of chapels altogether, and confined themselves to the mysterious sealing; the sigil trade might, to this hour, have brought great gain to the craftsmen, while the dupery would have spread itself far and wide, and silently mingled with the Establishment and every sect. But by bringing their blas. phemies and fooleries to the test of preaching, and that preaching poor, low, tame, flat, and unattractive, they submitted them to an instructed populace, who must have some speciousness of reason, some warmth of feeling, to employ their understandings and excite their imaginations. The Joannites, in consequence, were unable to bear up, PUBLICLY, against universal derision.
A second cause of the failure of this sect, was want of sufficient opulence. Could they have enlisted thirty or forty Miss Townlys, instead of one, they might have erected splendid chapels at the several watering-places, provided them with able orators and delicious music, and bribed congregations, composed of a shoal of nominal churchmen and pseudo-dissenters, who will not serve God for nought, but are ready to lend conviction to the highest bidder. The woman clothed with the sun, was supported in a comfortable house; she had green
peas at a guinea a quart, and a coach at com. mand to take airings in the Park; but this, and the superb outfit for the promised birth, exhausted the coffers of the Joannites.
But the extinguished honours of these heretics are chiefly to be ascribed to their acknowledged want of artifice. They were an infatuated, but an honest people. They carried the last trial of their principles into the arena of full publicity; and, their expectations being baffled, confessed that they had no more to say; that they had no further claim on public attention. But had cunning presided over their counsels, had they removed the Pythoness latterly to the far-famed Delamere Forest, pronouncing that retirement to be the woman's flight into the wilderness; and had they succeeded, as they might have easily done, in imposing a child upon the world, it is difficult to ascertain the extent to which their delusion might have spread among the people. And since it was a fairer conjecture that they should have adopted this stratagem, than pursued the course of simplicity which ended in their shame, they were not, while they flourished, to be overlooked as