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Agapemonites

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AGAPEMONITES Or COMMUNITY OF THE SON OF MAN. A sect founded in 1846 by the Rev. Henry James Prince, a clergyman of the Church of England (i811-1899). He studied medicine, ob tained his qualifications in 1832 and was appointed medical officer to the general hospital in Bath, his native city. Compelled by ill health to abandon his profession, he entered himself in 1837 as a student at St. David's theological college, Lampeter, where he gathered about him a band of earnest religious enthusiasts, known as the Lampeter Brethren, and was eventually ordained to the curacy of Charlinch in Somerset, where he had sole charge in the illness and absence of the rector, the Rev. Samuel Starkey. His work at this period reveals an almost hypnotic power over his con verts; but soon he was mastered by delusions. He persuaded him self that he had been absorbed into the personality of God and had become a visible embodiment of the Holy Spirit. During his illness Mr. Starkey read one of his curate's sermons, and was not only "cured" forthwith, but embraced his strange doctrines, and to gether they procured many conversions in the countryside and the neighbouring towns. Forbidden the right to officiate in the Church of England, Prince and Starkey established themselves at Wey mouth. Money flowed in ; and with these resources they obtained the house at Spaxton, which became the "Abode of Love." On the death of "Brother" Prince, the Rev. T. H. Smyth Pigott, pastor of the "Ark,"—a branch church established at Clapton, London—became the acknowledged head of the sect. He was born in 1852, of an old Somersetshire county family, and, after a varied career as university man, sailor before the mast, soldier, coffee-planter, curate in the Church of England and evangelist in the Salvation Army, was converted about 1897 to the views of Prince. For five years after this he was not heard of outside his own sect. In Sept. 1902, however, he began to make claims similar to those of his predecessor, and proclaimed himself to be Christ. By the outside world the affair was greeted with mingled ridicule and indignation, and the new Messiah had to be protected by the police from the violence of an angry mob. Scandal was soon renewed through Pigott's relations with his female followers; and in Aug. 1908, an attempt to "tar and feather" him resulted in two men being sent to prison. Later in the month proceedings were instituted against him by the bishop of Bath and Wells under the Clergy Discipline Act.

See

Law Reports, Court of Chancery, June 186o; art. "Agapemone" in Hastings' Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.

church, prince, rev and sect