Ranters is (1) one of the many names by which the Presbyterians designated the most advanced of the mystical radicals of the Cromwellian period. They were Antinomian heretics, and were probably related to the Familists (q.v.), to whom Fuller (Ch. Hist. 3:211 sq.) traces them. In Ross's Παναεβεία, the Ranters are described as making an open profession of lewdness and irreligion; as holding that God, angels, devils, heaven, hell, etc., are fictions and fables; that Moses, John the Baptist, and our Lord were impostors; that praying and preaching are useless; that all ministry has come to an end; and that sin is a mere imagination. He says that in their letters the Ranters endeavored to be strangely profane and blasphemous, uttering atheistical imprecations; and he gives a specimen which quite bears out his words. He also alleges that they sanctioned and practiced community of women (ed. 1655, p. 287). Much the same account, also, is given a few years later by Pagitt (Heresiography [ed. 1662], p. 259, 294). Baxter also writes respecting them: "I have myself letters written from Abingdon, where, among both soldiers and people, this contagion did then prevail, full of horrid oaths and curses, and blasphemy not fit to be repeated by the tongue and pen of man; and this all uttered as the effect of knowledge and a part of their religion, in a fanatic strain, and fathered on the Spirit of God" (Own Life and Times, p. 77). The following passage is found in a Life of Bunyan, added to an imitation of his work which is called The Third Part of the Pilgrim's Progress: "About this time" (in Bunyan's early life), "a very large liberty being given as to conscience, there started up a sect of loose, profane wretches, afterwards called Ranters and Sweet Singers, pretending themselves safe from, or being incapable of, sinning; though, indeed, they were the debauchest and profligate wretches living in their baudy meetings and revels. For, fancying themselves in Adam's state, as he was in Paradise before the fall, they would strip themselves, both men and women, and so catch as catch could; and to it they went, to satiate their lust under pretence of increasing and multiplying" (An Account of the Life and Actions of Mr. John Bunyan, etc. [London, 1692], p. 22). (See Weingarten, Revolutions-Kirchen Englands [Leips. 1868], p. 107 sq.; Blunt, Dict. of Sects, s.v.). (2.) In recent times — since 1828 — the name of "Ranters" has been given to those Primitive Methodists who separated from the main body of Methodists, and were distinguished by their unusual physical demonstrations.

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