Ames, William (d. 1662)

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William Ames was one of the first Quakers who went from England to Holland in 1655 with John Stubbs and William Caton. He made a deep impression and had great influence especially among the Mennonites. From there Ames went to the Palatinate, but remained only a short time. Upon his return to Amsterdam he was notified to leave the city within 24 hours. He did not comply and with another Quaker was imprisoned for six days and then led outside the gate. On the following day they were again inside the city, and were tolerated until Ames left voluntarily. Among the Mennonites he won for his church were Cornelis Roelofs and Jacob van Buylaert, who appeared at the meeting of the Mennonites at Harlingen in 1670 (3 August) and tried to win them to the Quakers, though without success. In Gouda and Rotterdam he also succeeded in persuading Mennonites to join the Quakers. At a conference held in Rotterdam in 1657 by delegates of the Flemish congregations, and at Gouda in 1659, the Quaker question was discussed. Here an earnest admonition was issued to all preachers, "as much as possible to resist the Quakers and faithfully to protect their flocks."

In the same year, 1659, Ames went to Germany again. He received a friendly reception from the elector Palatine and his pious sister Elizabeth. With Caton and Higgins he founded the Quaker church at Kriegsheim, whose members had been Mennonites. In 1659 Ames also went to Hamburg and successfully established contacts with the Mennonites; a considerable number of their members, including some of the most prominent such as Berend Roelofs, joined them. His presence created great unrest in the strictly Lutheran city. On 24 June 1660 the council issued a mandate that all Quakers were to leave the city and vicinity within four days. Ames apparently turned to Friedrichstadt, where a Quaker congregation composed chiefly of former Mennonites was soon established. From Holstein Arnes went to Bohemia and then turned north to Prussia, where some Mennonites followed his teaching. At the end of June 1661 Ames entered Danzig. In July he was brought before the court. Here he stated that he had met none of his faith there, but had once been in a Mennonite church; he had wanted to ask them a question, but they had refused to allow it. He was not the same as they, but wished that they would live better, and more honestly. Ames had to leave the city, but his doctrine spread nevertheless. In 1663 several Quakers were brought to court and imprisoned.

Ames had returned to Holland and traveled through the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel, where he visited most of the Mennonite churches, but without success. With Caton he seems to have been more successful in Friesland. Mennonites, Socinians, and others arranged Quaker-like meetings, causing much dissension. In 1662 the government of Friesland passed a law forbidding Quakers and Socinians to enter the province. Any who were found were to be imprisoned in the workhouse and held to steady work. Anyone giving information about one of them would receive a reward of twenty-five Frisian guilders. From this time on nothing further is heard about Quakers in the Dutch provinces. Nor is there any further trace of Ames.

The library of the Amsterdam Mennonite Church contains two works by Ames; Het Ligt dat in de duisternisse schijnt, beweesen den Weg tot God te sijn (Amsterdam, 1660), and De Verborgentheden van het Rijke Godts ende de werckinge, leydinge en bestieringe van Gods Geest verklaart, in tegenstellinge van de letterlijcke oeffeningen voorgestelt als de ware Godtsdienst door Galenus Abrahamsz. . . .(Amsterdam, 1661). Pieter Balling wrote against Ames (Catalogus der werken over de Doopsgezinden en hunne geschiedenis aanwezig in de bibliotheek der Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam. Amsterdam: J.H. de Bussy, 1919: 118).


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 55.

Hubben, Wilhelm. Die Quäker in der deutschen Vergangenheit. Leipzig: Quaker Verlag, 1929.

Hull, William Isaac. The Rise of Quakerism in Amsterdam: 1658-1668. Swarthmore College Monographs on Quaker History, no. 4. Swarthmore: Swarthmore College, 1938.

Hylkema, C. B. Reformateurs. 2 vols. Haarlem, 1900-1902.

Mennonitische Blätter (1854): 42 ff.; (1912): 11.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Date Published 1955

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Neff, Christian. "Ames, William (d. 1662)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 2 Jul 2022.,_William_(d._1662)&oldid=144706.

APA style

Neff, Christian. (1955). Ames, William (d. 1662). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2 July 2022, from,_William_(d._1662)&oldid=144706.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 88-89. All rights reserved.

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