Southcottians, or Southcotters
Southcottians, Or Southcotters,
the followers of Joanna Southcott (q.v.), who in 1792 professed to be a prophetess. The book in which Joanna published her prophecies is dated London, April 25, 1804; and she begins by declaring that she herself did not understand the communications given her by the Spirit till they were afterwards explained to her. In November, 1803, she was told to mark the weather during the twenty-four first days of the succeeding year, and then the Spirit informed her that the weather each day was typical of the events of each succeeding month: New year's day to correspond with January, January 2 with February, etc. After this she relates a dream she had in 1792, and declares she foretold the death of bishop Buller, and appeals to a letter put into the hands of a clergyman whom she names. One night she heard a noise as if a ball of iron were rolling down the stairs three steps, and the Spirit afterwards, she says, told her this was a sign of three great evils which were to fall upon the land — the sword, the plague, and the famine. She affirms that the then late war and the extraordinary harvest of 1797 and 1800 happened agreeably to the predictions which she had previously made known; and particularly appeals to the people of Exeter, where it seems she was brought up from her infancy. In November, 1803, she says she was ordered to open her Bible, which she did at Ec 1:9; and then follows a long explanation of that chapter. In March, 1805, we find Joanna published a pamphlet in London, endeavoring to confute "Five Charges" against her which had appeared in the Leeds Mercury, and four of which, she says, were absolutely false. The first charge was respecting the sealing of her disciples; the second, on the invasion; the third, on the famine; the fourth, on her mission; the fifth, on her death. Sealing is the grand peculiarity and ordinance of these people. Joanna gave those who professed belief in her mission and who subscribed to the things revealed in her "Warning" a sealed written paper with her signature, for which they had to pay half a crown, and by which they were led to think that they were sealed against the day of redemption, and that all those who were possessed of these seals would be signally honored by the Messiah when he comes again. This seal was affixed to most of the voluminous writings which she printed, but the papers given to her disciples generally contained the words " The sealed of the Lord — The Elect Precious Man's Redemption — To inherit the Tree of Life — To be made heirs of God and joint heirs of Jesus Christ." It is said they looked upon Joanna as the bride, the Lamb's wife; and that as man fell by a woman, he will be restored by a woman. Some of her followers pretended also to have visions and revelations. Joanna went so far at last, when past sixty years of age, as to declare herself pregnant with another Messiah, who was to be called Shiloh. Her followers made costly preparations for the birth of their expected prince, and had a cradle constructed at an expense of two hundred pounds. The disease by which she was deceived terminated in her death; but her deluded disciples, after having been compelled to inter her, persisted in the belief that she was to bear the Shiloh, and gave out that she would rise again with the child in her arms. The members of her society have been gathered chiefly from among the more ignorant members of the seceding denominations, especially the Wesleyans, with whom she had once been associated, and of the Established Church. Mr. Foley, rector of Old Swinford, near Stourbridge, was said to be a firm believer in the resurrection of the prophetess; and another clergyman used to go regularly to expound her writings at Bristol. The Southcotters abound principally in the northern counties. At Ashton-
under-Lynle they have a splendid temple, which cost them nine thousand pounds. Their worship is described as awfully wild and tumultuous. The men are known by their wearing long beards and brown hats. At present, it seems, both warning and sealing have subsided; they are waiting in awful suspense for the commencement of the thousand years' reign on the earth. Yet it is said they do not mean that Christ will come in person, but in spirit, and that the sealed who are dead before that time will be raised from their graves to partake of this happy state.