Lead’s Life and Times (Part Three): The Philadelphian Society
This chapter covers the period from 1696 to 1704, that is from Lead’s first published message to the Philadelphian Society until her death and burial. It outlines how Lead’s little band of supporters intended to warn and prepare prospective believers of the coming Philadelphian age through a flurry of publications. Yet this coordinated publicity campaign abruptly fractured the Philadelphians’ precursor society, which hitherto had negotiated a path between secrecy and openness. Consequently, only the minority who favoured a public testimony owned the Philadelphian name. Wanting to expose her visions and teachings to public view Lead was given the opportunity to do so through a succession of mainly male patrons and amanuenses. Accordingly, she became synonymous with the Philadelphian Society. At the same time Lead’s principle supporters set about fashioning an image of irenic conformity and social standing for the Philadelphians at large. Hostile observers, however, readily compared Philadelphians with Quakers. Some even incorporated them within a catalogue of innumerable sects or else grouped them with foreign Quietists and Pietists. More damaging still was the allegation that Lead envisaged herself as the woman clothed with the sun (Revelation 12:1), indeed as the grandmother of a new Christ.