Agents of the Millennium

Dr Philip Lockley

in Visionary Religion and Radicalism in Early Industrial England

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199663873
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191744792 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Theological Monographs

Agents of the Millennium

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The chapter recovers the theological basis for James Elishama Smith’s radical career in the early 1830s, explaining his rapid transition from Southcottian to Owenite socialist in 1832-33. The chapter retraces Smith’s process of entry into the London culture of freethought radicalism and Owenism using Smith’s own writings and other radical sources. These reveal that existing histories have inadequately understood the role of theology in Smith’s radicalism: Smith justified his choice to work with ‘infidel’ radicals at the time, not on the basis of pragmatism, but from an explicit view of how both divine and human agency would achieve the millennium. Smith articulated a distinctive theology of unconscious and conscious agency in realising the millennial state. The chapter argues that this persuasively links Smith’s Ashton and London careers and his millennial and socialist visions. Smith endeavoured to persuade other millenarian Christians likewise to embrace socialism as God’s agents of the millennium.

Keywords: agency; freethought; owenite; radicalism; James Elishama Smith; socialist

Chapter.  8965 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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