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The Dissenters of En gland constitute the most important body of Protestant dissidents from an Established Religion that is now to be found in the world . There is , probably , an equal number of persons holding the like , faith , observing similar rites and united in nearly the same discipline , in the United States of North America : these are , indeed , from the old English
Dissenting stock : they occupy the same position that is maintained by the Dissenters of England relatively to their fellow-christians ; but they staad in a very different relation to their country , which is to them " a nursing mother , " while England is to her Dissenting population a hard and jealous stepmother . This feature in the character of the mother-country , unpleasant as it is , makes the English Dissenters of mor 6 consequence in the State than the same number of Churchmen , or than a much greater number of persons living under an impartial government . They derive no importance , however , from their ancient families , or from the rank and titles of their
members . Nobility is extinct amongst the Protestant Dissenters . One of the sons of nearly the last Dissenting Peer , Lord Barrington r lately died in the princely see of Durham , which he had held for five and thirty years . The last nobleman , we believe , that made an avowal of Nonconformity , was the Lord Willoughby , of Parham . One or two may yet remain who are occasionally ^ seen , preserving their incognito , in the meeting-house . In the last generation it \ pas- by no means uncommon for both Scottish and Irish
peers to join the worship of Dissenters in England ; their children are politically wiser , and do not suffer religion to stand in the way of the objects in pursuit of which they visit the Metropolis . * Some few baronets are said to linger on the Dissenting threshold . Two of them in our own day have ascended Nonconformist pulpits * The families of these semi-noises soon find that they are not at home in the conventicle ; and the unsuitable
connexion is gradually loosened , and is dropped as soon as the dissolution of early friendships will allow it to expire with decency . f The same description applies to country gentlemen . With a few honourable exceptions , the owners of large estates and manors have sunk away from the Dissenters and settled down into quiet conformity . Nonconformity , then , is not to be estimated by acres . —On the other hand , commerce and manufactures have poured their full proportion of wealth into the Dissenting community , amongst which may be pointed out the merchants that are princes , and the
* This chauge , or at least dismission , of a religious profession , according to local convenience , is said not to be confined to this class of persons . Gentlemen from the United States of America , who boast of their descent from the Pilgrimsy and make a figure at home in churches framed upon the liberal Dissenting model , are seldom known on visiting England to shew any preference for Dissenting worship ,
or even Dissenting society . Some of them have , notwithstanding , thought themselves qualified on their return to describe , for the information , if not the gratification , of their countrymen and brethren , the character of our Dissenters . —Nay , we have heard Unitarian pastors complain that the more opulent members of their churches sometimes put in abeyance , for three months of the year , the religious principles which , at some cost and with no small opprobrium , they act upon during
the other nine . f Electioneering purposes have been heretofore answered by the declared abandonment of the Dissenters on the part of candidates : yet it used to be reported that a certain City Baronet , who was the head and chief of Toryism in the Corporation of London for a great number of years , sometimes caught a vote by avowing that he waa bred a Dissenter and still paid an annual subscription to a meeting-house .
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ON THE STATE OF RELIGIOUS PARTIES IN ENGLAND .
VOL . I . S
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), April 2, 1827, page 249, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct1795/page/17/