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Early seventeenth century English religious sect named not for a leader or beliefs, but for the village in which it originated (Grindleton, Yorkshire, seven miles from Giggleswick and ten miles from Kildwick).

In terms of leaders, "Robert Brearley, curate at Grindleton from 1615 to 1622, is very important in the history of the movement {but} it probably antedates him and certainly survived him"1. John Webster became curate of Kildwick in 1634, and ended up before the church courts as a Grindletonian within a year.

The area had a history of odd sects: Christopher Hill argues that Yorkshire was a refuge for religious radicalism in general, and that the Familists, or Family of Love, established themselves there during the reign of Elizabeth I, meaning that the people there were more subsceptible than most to joining new religious movements. Furthermore, there was no vicar resident, only a curate, probably hired by the parishoners (a radical arrangement in itself) and therefore more likely to a) represent the views of the congregation and b) adopt unorthodox ideas.

In terms of the actual beliefs of the Grindletonians, little is recorded. According to Hill, "Brearley himself speaks of mastering sin, which sets believers free from hell and death"2 (see also Ranter and antinomianism for similar ideas a few decades later). Further evidence comes from fifty charges levelled against Brearley and his congregation in 1617; Hill records eight of them2:

"(1) A motion rising from the spirit is more to be rested in than the Word3 itself; (2) it is a sin to believe the Word without a motion of the spirit; (3) the child of God in the power of grace doth perform every duty so well, that to ask pardon for failing in matter or manner is a sin; (7) the Christian assured can never commit a gross sin; (14) a soul sanctified must so aim at God's glory, as he must never think of salvation; (33) a man having the spirit may read, pray or preach without any other calling whatsoever; (38) neither the preacher nor they pray for the King... They know not whether he be elected4 or not; (46) they cannot have more joy in heaven than they have in this life by the spirit."

These beliefs can be linked to other elements of seventeenth-century radicalism; (1), (2) and (33) predate the Quaker idea of the 'inner light', while (3), (7) and (14) predate the antinomianism of the Ranters. (33) is a reflection of the widespread anticlericalism of the era, while (38) predates the egalitarianism and republicanism of the Leveller movement in 1646-1648.

The movement, while not surviving as a coherent sect, did spread and its ideas survived. As shown above, many of its teachings were later seen in groups such as the Levellers, Quakers, Ranters and Diggers, or'True Levellers'. Grindletonian opinions were found near York in 1627, an achievement for a heretical group in an age before mass communication.

1 Christopher Hill, 'The World Turned Upside Down', pg 81.
2 Christopher Hill, 'The World Turned Upside Down', pg 83.
3 'Word', in this context, presumably means biblical scriptures.
4 Not 'elected' in the modern, democratic sense, but in the sense of the Calvinist 'elect', i.e. those who have been saved by God and are therefore predestined for heaven.

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