Sewel, William (1653-1720)

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William Sewel, (Dutch, Willem Sewel) (Amsterdam, 1653-1720) an outstanding Quaker historian and author of Historie van de Opkomste, aanwas en voortgang der Christenen, bekend by den naem van Quakers . . . (Amsterdam, 1717), of which book there is also an English translation, The History of the Rise, Increase and Progress of the Christian People Called Quakers (London, England, 1722), was of Mennonite descent. His grandfather William Sewel, a painter, belonged to the Brownists, who moved from England to the Netherlands in 1589. This William Sewel's son was Jacob Sewel (who often spelled his name "Zeenwel"), a surgeon at Amsterdam, who married Judith Zinspenning. Both Jacob and his wife were members of the Utrecht Mennonite Church and later of the Amsterdam Flemish congregation until about 1656, when Quakerism arose in the Netherlands; under the Quaker influence especially of William Ames both Jacob Zeenwell and his wife left the Mennonite Church. Especially Judith Zinspenning was an ardent Quaker, charging that the spirit of true conversion was lacking in Mennonite sermons and meetings, and that they held too much to the "outward, that is, (visible) church," considering baptism and communion as divine orders, while neglecting enlightenment by the Spirit of God. Thus she wrote in her book Eenige Schriften en Zendbrieven (Amsterdam, 1684). Her son William Sewel repeated these charges in his book.


Hull, W. I. William Penn and the Dutch Quaker Migration to Pennsylvania. Swarthmore, 1935.

Hull, W. I. Willem Sewel of Amsterdam 1653-1720. Swarthmore, 1933.

Hylkema, C. B. Reformateurs I and II. Haarlem, 1900-2.

Meihuizen, H. W. Galenus Abrahamsz. Haarlem, 1954: 58 f.; 112.

Molhuysen, P. C. and P. J. Blok. Nieuw Nederlandsch Biografisch Woordenboek. Leiden, 1911-1937: v. 9, 1017-21.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Sewel, William (1653-1720)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 20 Aug 2019.,_William_(1653-1720)&oldid=109409.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1959). Sewel, William (1653-1720). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 August 2019, from,_William_(1653-1720)&oldid=109409.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 508. All rights reserved.

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