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John Saltmarsh (clergyman)

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John Saltmarsh (born Yorkshire, died 1647) was a radical English religious and controversial writer and preacher. He is considered one of the Seekers[1]. William Haller called him that strange genius, part poet and part whirling dervish[2]. In his time he was a renowned prophet[3].


He studied at Magdalene College, Cambridge. He became a parish priest at Heslerton in 1635, then Brasted in 1645[4].

He was a chaplain in the army of Thomas Fairfax. From his deathbed, he rode from Ilford to Windsor to admonish Fairfax on backsliding[5].


He argued strongly for religious toleration and liberty of conscience[6]. He considered that heaven on earth was possible. Samuel Rutherford accused Saltmarsh of antinomianism[7]. Peter Toon writes[8]

Four of the most popular teachers of doctrinal antinomianism were John Saltmarsh, John Eaton, Tobias Crisp and Robert Lancaster. They explained the free grace of God to the elect in such a way as to neglect the Biblical teaching that a Christian has certain responsibilities to God such as daily humbling for sin, daily prayer, continual trust in God and continual love to men. One of their favourite doctrines was eternal justification, by which they meant that God not only elected the Church to salvation but actually justified the elect before they were born.

He believed in universal salvation, and agreed with John Bunyan on the lack of necessity for baptism[9]. He also regarded observance of Sunday as the Sabbath as not required[10].

A controversy with Thomas Fuller brought forth his pamphlet Examinations. Fuller

publicly and, for him, pretty sharply rebuked Milton's anonymous tractate Of Reformation … in England; was in his turn sharply taken to task by a Yorkshire puritan divine, John Saltmarsh; and was actually stopped (i. e. arrested) for a time by the Commons' orders, when proceeding to Oxford with a safe conduct from the Lords.[11]


  • Poemata sacra (1636)
  • Holy Discoveries and Flames (1640)
  • Examinations, or, A discovery of some dangerous positions (1643)[12]
  • A Peace but No Pacification (1643)
  • Free Grace (1645)
  • Dawnings of Light (1645)
  • Groanes for Liberty (1646)[13]
  • Reasons for Unitie, Peace, and Love (1646)
  • An End of One Controversie (1646)
  • The Smoke in the Temple (1646)
  • Sparkles of Glory (1647)
  • A Letter from the Army (1647)[14]
  • Some Drops of the Viall (1648)


  1. English Dissenters: Seekers
  2. The Rise of Puritanism, p. 79.
  3. Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, note on p. 164, and p. 177/
  4. Concise Dictionary of National Biography
  5. Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, p. 70.
  6. Nigel Smith, Literature and Revolution in England, 1640-1660 (1994) p 123.
  7. Hill, Liberty Against the Law, p. 217, quoting Free Grace.
  8. HyperCal1
  9. Hill, A Turbulent, Seditious and Factious People: John Bunyan and his Church, p. 293.
  10. Hill, Society and Puritanism, p. 205.
  11. §10. Thomas Fuller. X. Antiquaries. Vol. 7. Cavalier and Puritan. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature: An Encyclopedia in Eighteen Volumes. 1907–21
  12. Examinations, or, A discovery of some dangerous positions delivered in A sermon of reformation preached in the church of the Savoy last fast day July 26 by Tho. Fuller, B.D. and since printed []
  13. [1] shows title page.
  14. [2] shows title page.

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