“Peter Sterry, fast sermons and Quakerism” at Mercurius Politicus (Blog)



The five sermons by Sterry that the book includes are:

  • The Spirits Conviction of Sinne. Opened in a Sermon before the Honorable House of Commons [26 November 1645].
  • The Teachings of Christ In The Soule. Opened in a Sermon before the Right Honble House of Peers, in Covent-garden-Church [March 29, 1648].
  • The Clouds in which Christ Comes. Opened in a Sermon before the Honourable House of Commons [27 October 1647].
  • The Comings Forth of Christ In the Power of his Death. Opened in a Sermon Preached before the High Court of Parliament [1 November 1649]
  • England’s Deliverance From the Northern Presbytery, compared with its Deliverance from the Roman Papacy: or A Thanksgiving Sermon Preached [5 November 1651].

This is not every sermon Sterry published, but it is nearly all of them. And they are all significant sermons: placed together, they tell something of the story of the puritan victories of the 1640s and the growth in religious radicalism that the same decade saw.

The first three are fast sermons. These had become established as a Parliamentary tradition by the 1620s and were significant in the 1640s as a venue where preachers favoured by Presbyterian and Independent grandees could be used to fly religious and political kites to an audience of MPs or peers. They stopped in 1649, at least as regular sermons, but extraordinary fast sermons carried on after that date.

The 1645 sermon is the first one Sterry ever preached to Parliament. He was chaplain to Lord Brooke, who along with other disaffected peers like the Earl of Warwick and Lord Saye and Sele had played a significant role in leading Parliamentary opposition to Charles I during the early 1640s. Brooke was shot by a sniper while laying siege to Lichfield Castle in 1643. After that, Sterry became part of the Westminster Assembly of religious divines. The sermon is fairly conventionally puritan, in that it focuses on the role of the holy spirit in redeeming the chosen. But it’s sold by Henry Overton and Benjamin Allen, booksellers with more radical sympathies. Both were partners based in Cripplegate.

The Clouds in which Christ Comes is the first sign of Sterry moving in a more radical direction. It dabbles in the mysticism of Jakob Boehme, who was a German theologian who had various personal experiences of God. It was delivered at a critical time for the Parliamentary side: a coup by the Presbyterians had been seen off but the Independents were now having to deal with Leveller influences in the army. The Putney debates started the day after this sermon was delivered. As a result, the text is rather apocalyptic. The Teachings of Christ In The Soule was preached at a time when Parliament’s relationship with the Scots had broken down, and both were preparing for war. It also shows signs of being influenced by Boehme. Both texts were sold by Robert Dawlman, a specialist in theological literature with a shop in St Paul’s Yard.

The Comings Forth of Christ In the Power of his Death marked Cromwell’s victories at Drogheda and Wexford. By this stage Sterry was preacher to the Council of State, the executive body set up after the death of Charles I which included Cromwell and various of the Independent and New Model Army grandees as its members. It was much more overtly millenarian than Sterry’s previous sermons. England’s Deliverance From the Northern Presbytery marks the defeat of the Scots at Worcester, and argues that this is a greater deliverance for England than having rid itself of Catholics.

The fact that all of these texts were collected in one place indicates someone with a significant interest in Sterry and the radical, millenarian end of puritanism. . . .

For the full blog entry see here.

Lewis, “Thomas Wadsworth (1630-76): The Making of a Platonic Dissenter,” 2011

Marilyn A. Lewis, ‘Thomas Wadsworth (1630-76):  The Making of a Platonic Dissenter’ in The Congregational History Society Magazine, vol. 6, no. 4 (Autumn 2011), pp. 171-191.

Lewis, “The Educational Influence of Cambridge Platonism,” PhD 2011

Marilyn Ann Lewis, “The Educational Influence of Cambridge Platonism: Tutorial relationships and Student Networks at Christ’s College, Cambridge, 1641-1688,” PhD Thesis, Birkbeck, University of London, 2011.


Assessments of the influence of the Cambridge Platonists have tended to focus on later writers who explicitly adopted some of their ideas, or have suggested more vaguely that their ideas resulted in liberal theology sometimes verging towards heterodoxy.  This thesis attempts to explore the ‘educational influence’ of Henry More and Ralph Cudworth on a group of Cambridge students who have been selected on clear and consistent principles.  It presents a prosopographical study of undergraduates at Christ’s College, Cambridge, between 1641, when Henry More became a fellow, and 1688, when the Master Ralph Cudworth died.  Thirty-one students − whose tutors’ names are known, who were at Christ’s throughout their undergraduate careers, who graduated BA, who published works showing original thinking, and who could be identified with certainty – have been arranged into three tutorial ‘families’:  Cudworth and More’s circle, the intruded Puritan fellows’ group and Ralph Widdrington’s party.  Beyond the study of tutorial relationships, this thesis also explores the friendship and patronage networks of tutors and students in their careers.  The personalities, careers and writings of tutors and students have been studied with three objectives.  First, an attempt has been made to assess the influence of tutors on students, especially as evidenced in their writings, although a lack of published or manuscript writings by some tutors presents acknowledged difficulties.  Second, the possibility of discovering the corporate, if complex, intellectual ‘personality’ of each group has been explored.  Third, the specific influence of Cudworth and More on individual students has been assessed; while this was greatest in their own tutorial circle, there is also evidence of intellectual influence and practical assistance in the other tutorial ‘families’.  The thesis represents an unprecedented attempt to examine Oxbridge tutorial influence, using a new methodology which could potentially be applied to the students of other major thinkers.

Full text is available through the British Library via EThOS.