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Philadelphians [1]

or "the Philadelphian Society," is the name of a sect which was founded in 1695, and have for its object "the advancement of piety and divine philosophy." It originated with Jane Leade (q.v.) and John Pordage (q.v.). Another of the Philadelphians was the learned physician Francis Lee,who edited the "Theosophical Transactions" of the society. Another eminent member was Dr. Lot Fisher, who caused all the works of Jane Leade and her associates to be translated into Dutch. A fourth principal coadjutorwas Thomas Bromley, author of The Sabbath of Rest, and of some works on Biblical subjects. The Philadelphian Society contributed largely to the spread of that mystical piety which is so conspicuous in the works of the good and learned William Law, and which affected in no small degree the early stages of Methodism. Mrs. Leade herself, however, combined much fanaticism with her pietism, professing (like Swedenborg in a later generation) to hold intercourse with spirits. This fanaticism imparted itself to many members of the Philadelphian Society, and imaginary apparitions of good and evil angels became for a time a prominent feature of their religious life. In other respects their mysticism was that of the ordinary character, making the contemplative life the basis of religious knowledge and practice. A small work entitled The Principles of the Philadelphians, published in 1697, gives a curious exposition of their mysticism. See Ebrard, Kirchen- u. Dogmengesch. 4:163; Mosheim, Eccles. Hist. volume 3; Meth. Rev. April 1865, page 305; Illgen, Zeitsch. fur hist. Theol. 1865, 2:171; Amer. Presb. Rev. January 1866, page 191. (J.H.W.)