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Early Quakerism in the Netherlands: Its Wider Context
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The BULLETIN of Friends Historical Association Vol. 44Spring Number, 1955No. 1 EARLY QUAKERISM IN THE NETHERLANDS Its Wider Context By Geoffrey F. Nuttall* THE object of this article is to summarize the material collected in a little-known book about religion in Holland which appeared half a century ago. Ernst Troeltsch describes the book as "deeply interesting" and as "a perfect mine of the characteristic peculiarities of . . . 'spiritual religion'," exhibiting "in an amazing manner parallels with the English movement"1 towards a more "spiritual" religion in the seventeenth century. Yet to the best of my knowledge no considerable use has ever been made of it by writers on radical Puritanism and early Quakerism in England and America. The title of the book is RĂ©formateurs: Geschiedkundige Studien over de godsdienstige hewegingen uit de nadagen onzer gouden eeuw (Reformers: Historical Studies in the Religious Movements of the Period of Our Golden Age). Its author, C. B. Hylkema, is described on the title page as Doctor in Theology and Preacher in the Baptist congregation at Zaandam. The first volume, which contains 227 pages, was published in 1900; the *Geoffrey F. Nuttall, Lecturer in Church History, New College, University of London, was President of the Friends' Historical Society (England) in 1953. He is the author of The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience. 1 E. Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, trans. O. Wyon (London, 1931 ) , II, 975. 4 Bulletin of Friends Historical Association second, which appeared in 1902, runs to 5 16 pages, and on account of its great length the appendices of documents which had been promised were unfortunately not printed. The publisher of both volumes was H. D. Tjeenk Willem & Zoon of Haarlem. Hylkema's work was noticed in the British Friend, but briefly and inadequately. Rufus M. Jones evidently knew of its existence,3 and William I. Hull has an occasional quotation from its references to early Quakers in the Netherlands;4 but neither of these writers appears to have appreciated its value in providing material for comparative purposes. Other students of the subject with which it deals have neglected it, partly, no doubt, because it is written in Dutch and has not been translated. It must be seldom that a book is worthy of an extended summary fifty years after its appearance; but at a time when the origins of Quakerism and its relation to other seventeenth-century religious movements are receiving new attention on both sides of the Atlantic, it may be useful to acquaint students with Hylkema's work. He writes as a man of his time, and Troeltsch is probably right in observing that he interprets the theology of his reformers "too much in the sense of modern rationalistic and politico-social phenomena"; but when all is said his work deserves more attention than it has received. In his first chapter Hylkema introduces his main characters, grouped under three heads: the Collegiants; individual reformers; and Friends. The Collegiant movement had its origin in a Remonstrant secession5 during 1619, at a time when the Church in the Netherlands was divided over Arminianism. The seceders' lack of an ordained minister was at first only by force of circumstances and not on principle; but later, when a minister visited them, a minority of them, with their original leader Gijsbert van der Kodde, seceded again, taking up their dwelling at Rijnsburg, 2 See British Friend, N.S., XVII (1908), 244 f. (as Hylhema). 3 Cf. his Spiritual Reformers, (London, 1914), p. 104, n.l. 4 Cf. his Willem Sewel (Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, 1933) , pp. 179 f.; The Rise of Quakerism in Amsterdam (Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, 1938), p. 214, n. 444, and p. 260, n. 606 (as Hylkena). 5J. C van Slee, De Rijnsburger CollegMnten (Haarlem, 1895), pp. 177 f., 395 f., suggests influence from the English Separatist Church at Leiden which had John Robinson as pastor. Early Quakerism in the Netherlands5 where, repudiating the separated ministry, they observed "prophesying ," baptism by immersion, and admission to the Lord's Supper without condition or examination. In about 1645 a wider movement set in, in association with the Rijnsburgers but with a more conscious and definite intention of attempting to reform the...