1637/38

Giles Creech who had clearly been mixed up with Familist or Antinomian views, decided to spill the beans on his former associates. He claimed that he had been forced to turn informant because – for whatever, unspecified reason – they were about to implicate him. Creech claimed that he had been saved by a well-timed sermon from Archbishop Laud and it was to Laud he initially petitioned in January 1637/38. Laud immediately referred the matter to Sir John Lamb, Chancellor to Charles’ ostentatious Catholic Queen, Henrietta Maria. Creech’s bizarre story, which initially smacks of the imaginings of a desperate man, claimed that there was an Antinomian network bubbling beneath the surface of London society.

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Creech claimed that there were four main groups in London which threatened the establishment. They were composed of two factions of Familists – one ‘of the Mount’; the other ‘of the Valley’ – the Essentualists and the Antinomians – an eponymous antinomian group. It is not clear how closely linked the last of these was linked to incoming Antinomian ministers. All these groups held similar but slightly variant views – at least from an external perspective. For the establishment, these Familists (in the broadest sense) must have been fascinating as they had some very obvious differences with the received wisdom on Familists with which they must have been familiar elsewhere in the country. As well as the teachings of Niclaes, (according to Creech) they put great store in a work by the Capuchin friar, Benet of Canfield (a.k.a. William Fitch) entitled, ‘The Rule of Perfection’. Creech’s allegations continued. He did not include Edward Fisher amongst his antinomian sympathisers. However, he claimed that Fisher “selles old bookes and got Theologica (sic) Germanica translated into English by a minister at Grendleton (sic) called Brierly or Tenant.” He went on to say that the book then went via a scrivener, Woolstone, to John Everard, who had been undertaking translations of the dreaded Teutonic Theology into English for both the Earl of Holland and the Earl Mulgrave. For all we know Creech could have made most of this up or been genuine and simply got some of his details incorrect. He could easily have been playing along to Lamb’s prejudices. However, if Creech was either confused or a liar respectively, he either knew something or did his research thoroughly – more thoroughly than any cutler’s apprentice might have been able to manage on his own…

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