Lacy, John – Dictionary of National Biography – James McMullen Rigg ‎

LACY, JOHN (fl. 1737), pseudo-prophet, was born at Saffron Walden, Essex, in 1664. He received some classical education, and as a younger son was sent to London to earn his own living in 1680. In 1706 he was a married man with a family, in good repute for his parts and piety, and one of the wealthiest members of Dr. Calamy’s congregation at Westminster. The loss of a lawsuit in that year preyed upon his mind, and at the same time he fell under the influence of the so-called ‘French prophets,’ then lately arrived in England. In 1707 he published a translation of the Théâtre Sacré des Cévennes, by Francis Maximilian Misson [q. v.], as A Cry from the Desert, or Testimonials of the Miraculous Things lately come to pass in the Cevennes verified upon Oath and by other proofs, London, 8vo. A second edition, with an able preface in favour of the miraculous character of the phenomena, appeared the same year. This he followed up with Prophetical Warnings of Elias Marion, ​heretofore one of the Commanders of the Protestants that had taken Arms in the Cevennes: a Discourse uttered by him in London under the Operation of the Spirit, and faithfully taken in Writing whilst they were spoken, London, 1707, 8vo, and a collection of his own prophetical utterances, in three parts, entitled The Prophetical Warnings of John Lacy, Esq., pronounced under the Operation of the Spirit and faithfully taken in writing whilst they were spoken, London, 1707, 8vo. These curious outpourings are all in the first person, as if spoken by the Spirit, and consist mainly of vague vaticinations of coming woes. Some of them are in bad French, others in worse Latin. In the preface Lacy states that while in his ecstasies his mind, tongue, and fingers were directed by an invisible ‘foreign agent,’ by whom also his body was agitated and contorted, and sometimes carried round or across the room, and that the seizures began suddenly on 12 June 1707. Calamy and others who witnessed the ecstasies testify to his physical agitation, or ‘quaking,’ and describe his utterance as preceded by much hiccuping, gasping, sighing, and groaning, and, though perfectly articulate, broken and unnatural. Lacy also claimed the power of working miracles, and in particular to have restored her sight to a prophetess called Betty Gray, cured her of paralysis, and removed a tumour in her throat by the ‘operation of the Spirit.’ Blindness, paralysis, and tumour were alike imaginary. He also predicted the resurrection from the dead upon 25 May 1708 of Thomas Emes [q. v.], buried in Bunhill Fields on Christmas day 1707 (see Harl. Misc. vii. 194–6). Such crowds collected to witness the fulfilment of the prophecy that the trainbands were called out. The ministers and elders of the French church in the Savoy had early tried in vain to check the excitement by censuring the prophets as impostors. The latter were then indicted (4 July 1707) before Lord-chief-justice Holt for publishing false and scandalous pamphlets and holding tumultuous assemblies, were convicted, fined, and put in the pillory. A prosecution was also instituted by the attorney-general against Lacy and his chief coadjutor, Sir Richard Bulkeley (1644–1710) [q. v.], but was eventually abandoned. There were soon more than four hundred persons prophesying in different parts of the country. The clergy denounced them, and Calamy censured Lacy at Westminster in some sermons published as A Caveat against New Prophets, London, 1708, 8vo. Lacy replied by going into one of his ecstasies in his own house in Calamy’s presence, and rebuking him in the name of the Spirit. His formal answer appeared as A Relation of the Dealings of God to his unworthy servant, John Lacy, since the time of his believing and professing himself Inspired, London, 1708, 8vo. Lacy was also attacked by Dr. Josiah Woodward [q. v.] in Remarks on the Modern Prophets, London, 1708, 8vo, and replied in a “Letter to the Rev. Dr. Josiah Woodward concerning his Remarks on the Modern Prophets,” London, 1708, 8vo, to which Woodward published an ‘Answer.’ Failing to convert his wife, Lacy deserted her in 1711, and went to live in Lancashire with Betty Gray. This he called leaving Hagar for Sara. About 1713 Whiston had been to his house and tried vainly to reason him out of his delusion. The Jacobite rising in 1715 elicited from him an appropriate Vision of J. L., Esq., a Prophet, London, 1715, 8vo. His last publication was The Scene of Delusions, by the Rev. Mr. Owen of Warrington, at his own earnest request considered and confuted by one of the Modern Prophets; and as it proves partly by himself, London, 1723, 8vo. He was committed to Bridewell in 1737 for opening an ‘oratory’ at Villiers Street, York Buildings, London. The date of his death is uncertain.

[Besides the writings mentioned in the text the principal authorities are Calamy’s Historical Account of my own Life, ed. Rutt, ii. 72 et seq.; Whiston’s Memoirs, 1749, p. 138; Luttrell’s Relation of State Affairs, vi. 244, 307; Kingston’s Enthusiastick Impostors no Divinely inspired Prophets; An Account of the Tryal, &c., of Elias Marion, London, 1707, 1st pt.; Predictions concerning the Raising the Dead Body of Mr. Thomas Emes, &c., London, 1708(?), 4to; The Honest Quaker, or the Forgeries … of the pretended French Prophets … expos’d in a letter … giving an Account of a Sham Miracle performed by John L—y, Esq., on the body of Elizabeth Gray on the 17th of August last, London, 1707, 8vo; Humphrey’s Account of the French Prophets, &c., and Farther Account in two letters to Sir Richard Bulkeley, London, 1708, 8vo; A Letter from John Lacy to Thomas Duton, being Reasons why the former left his wife, and took E. Gray, a Prophetess, to his bed (dated 6 March 1711); A Brand plucked from the Burning, exemplified in the Unparallel’d Case of Samuel Keimer, &c., London, 1718, 8vo; Lettres d’un Particulier à Monsieur Misson L’honnête Homme, London, 1707–8, 8vo; Boyer’s Polit. State, lv. 37, 210, cf. art. See, Anne.]

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