The Test of Experience, Or, the Voluntary Principle in the United States

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Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009 - Law - 84 pages
Purchase of this book includes free trial access to where you can read more than a million books for free. This is an OCR edition with typos. Excerpt from book: CHAPTER III. ITS ABOLITION. The compulsory principle in religion was first assailed and overthrown in the Virginian group of settlements, and indeed in Virginia itself. In this colony the friends of the established church kept for a long period a very close watch against the intrusion of dissent, which for more than a hundred years was scarcely suffered to exist within its bounds, even in the most secret manner. The element, however, which the legislature was so careful to exclude from without, was generated from within by the vices of the church itself. A church whose clergy spent most of their time in foxhunting and other sports, in company with the most dissolute of their parishioners, and who at the same time eagerly contended for the last pound of tobacco allowed them as their legal salary, could not permanently retain its hold on popular favour. Multitudes became alienated in heart, and practically abandoned it. The date of the first actual nonconformist congregation existing in the colony cannot be ascertained. It appears, however, that prior to 1740 there existed one presbyterian congregation in Eastern Virginia; and it is believed that Scotch and Irish emigrants from Pennsylvania had introduced the same ecclesiastical polity into what was called The Valley. A few quaker societies, some small Germancongregations, and a considerable number of baptist churches?containing, perhaps, on the whole, a greater number of persons than all the other dissenting bodies together?also existed at this period. After the year 1740, presbyterianism rapidly increased; partly under the warmhearted labours of a godly layman, and partly through visitations from the north by two clergymen of that body, ?one in 1743, and another in 1747. For some time before the revolution, the Virg...

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