John Mason and the End of the World



The doctrine that the end of the world is approaching, that Christ is coming to rule with his saints in the millennium, is as old as Christianity. It can be a harmless hope for a kingdom that is not of this world. But in moments of acute social crisis some of the devoutest believers may see signs that the kingdom is at hand, and may decide that it is their duty to expedite its coming. At such moments millenarian doctrines become equivalent to social revolution.1 In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the prevalent form of this revolutionary doctrine was Fifth Monarchism. The four monarchies of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome had passed away: the monarchy of Christ was imminent. Earnest men studied Daniel and Revelation, and identified the Litde Horn of the Beast with whoever was their enemy of the moment. Since God’s kingdom was about to be established, all earthly power which might compete with it must be rejected, nay overthrown. So Fifth Monarchism had the effect of a theory of anarchism. The state was evil.


Seventeenth Century Lower Class Common People Bruise Bone Social Revolution 
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  1. 3.
    Hugonis Grotii, Epistolae (Amsterdam, 1687), p. 895, quoted in G. F. Nuttall, Visible Saints, p. 157; Francis Potter, An Interpretation of the Number 666 (1642); Baillie, Letters and Journals, II, p. 156. Cf. Hobbes, The Elements of Lam, p. 40.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Ed. Sir Gyles Isham, The Correspondence of Bishop Brian Duppa and Sir Justinian Isham, 1650–60 (Northants. Record Society, 1955), p. 37; C. Wilson, Profit and Power, p. 76; Glass, The Barbone Parliament, p. 52.Google Scholar


  1. 4.
    F. P. G. Guizot, History of Richard Cromwell and the Restoration of Charles II (1856), II, p. 474; C.S.P., Dom., 1659–60, p. 207.Google Scholar


  1. 2.
    For Mason’s career, in addition to D.N.B. and the sources cited below, I have used J. L. Myres, ‘John Mason: Poet and Enthusiast’, Records of Bucks., VII (1897), pp. 9–42.Google Scholar

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© Christopher Hill 1997

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