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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

XVI. The Literature of Dissent


The general literature of the history of dissent is in an unsatisfactory condition. Since Daniel Neal’s History of the Puritans (extending only to 1688; best edition 5 vols. 1793–7) no great synoptic work has been attempted, for Bogue and Bennett’s History of Dissenters 1688–1804 (4 vols. 1808–12) and Joshua Toulmin’s Historical view of … Protestant Dissenters and of the progress of free inquiry and religious liberty, 1814, are not comparable to Neal’s work as to breadth of treatment and documentary thoroughness, and the same may be said of Stoughton’s Religion in England, 1702–1800, 2 vols. 1878. To these works succeeded a lesser series of merely denominational histories, and to these, again, the modern race of mere church monograph writers. (Burrage, C., The Early English Dissenters in the light of recent research, 2 vols. Cambridge, 1912, purports to reach only to 1641.) Apart from the literary activity of the Society of Friends [see Vol. VIII] the foundation of the Congregational Historical society and the Baptist Historical society promises some day to remove this reproach from dissent. The latter society in particular, under the guidance of Whitley, Dr. W. T., is supplying exactly what is required. But much of this preliminary work still remains to be done before a broad synopsis on the lines of Neal’s work can be attempted.

The biographical literature of dissent is, comparatively, abundant, especially in Calamy, Edmund, Abridgement of Baxter’s life, 1702: 2nd edn., 2 vols. 1713 and continuation 1727, 2 vols.; inefficiently re-edited as The Nonconformist’s Memorial, 3 vols. 1802–3; see, also, Wilson, Dissenting Churches in London, 4 vols. 1808–14. But the early portion of it (in Calamy especially) stands greatly in need of a general searching revision such as Nightingale, B., has furnished for Cumberland and Westmorland.

A. Congregational

Dale, Robert William. History of English Congregationalism. Completed and ed. by Dale, A. W. W. 1907.

Fletcher, Joseph. A History of the revival … of Independency in England. 4 vols. 1847.

Hanbury, Benjamin. Historical Memorials relating to the Independents from their rise to the Restoration. 1839–44.

Waddington, J. Congregational History. 5 vols. 1869–80.

B. Presbyterian

Drysdale, A. H. History of the Presbyterians in England. 1889.

History, opinions and legal position, The, of the English Presbyterians. 1834.

McCree, Thomas. Annals of English Presbyterianism. 1872.

Murch, J. History of the Presbyterian and General Baptist Churches in the West of England. 1835.

Wilson, J. Historical enquiry concerning the principles … of the English Presbyterians. 1835.

C. Baptist

Armitage, T. History of the Baptists. 1887.

Benedict, D. General History of the Baptist Denomination. 2 vols. 1813.

Crosby, T. History of the English Baptists. 4 vols. 1738–40.

Douglas, D. History of the Baptist Churches in the North of England. (1846.)

Fuller, J. G. Brief History of the Western Association. 1843.

Ivimey, J. History of the English Baptists. 4 vols. 1811–30.

Taylor, T. History of the English General Baptists. 2 vols. 1818.

Thomas, J. History of the Baptist Association in Wales. 1795.

Whitley, W. T. History of the Baptists in Cumberland, Lancashire and Cheshire. [In preparation.]

D. Unitarian

Brief History of the Unitarians called also Socinians. 1687.

Hebard, J. Historical sketch of Unitarianism. 1834.

Herford, B. Story of religion in England. 1883.

Lindsey, Theophilus. Historical view of the state of Unitarian doctrine and worship. 1783.

Lloyd, W. Story of Protestant Dissent and English Unitarians. 1899.

New, H. Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in England. 1883.

Woolman, John (1720–1772). Works. Philadelphia, 1774.

—— Journal. 1775. With an introduction by Smellie, A., and an appreciation by Whittier, J. G. 1898.


The general history of the legislation on the subject of dissenters’ disabilites is fairly well covered in Skeats, Herbert S., History of the Free Churches of England, 1868 (continued by Miall, E.); but the literary side of the subject has not received the special and complete treatment which it deserves. Schaff, P., The Progress of Religious Freedom, and Ruffini, F., Religious Liberty, English translation, 1912, are too broad in their sweep to be able to particularise the purely dissenting phase of the literary side of this controversy; while the ordinary dissenting authorities such as Bogue and Bennett, Waddington, Toulmin and Brook, B. (Sketch of the History and proceedings of the Deputies appointed to protect the civil rights of Protestant Dissenters, 1813) treat it too much as an isolated and sectarian phenomenon.

The following may be cited among earlier writers or writings, Dissenting or secular, on the subject of toleration:

An Humble Supplication to the King’s Majesty. 1620. (Anonymous.)

Busher, Leonard. Religion’s Peace. 1614. To which are appended Certain Reasons against Persecution. Reissued by the Hanserd Knollys Soc. 1846.

Goodwin, John.

Persecution for Religion judged and condemned. 1615. (Anonymous.)

Richardson, Samuel. The Necessity of Toleration in Matters of Religion. 1647.

Robinson, Henry.

Sturgion, John. A Plea for Toleration. 1661.

—— Sion’s Groans for her Distressed. 1661.

The Ancient Bounds: or Liberty of Conscience. 1645. (Anonymous.)

The Humble Petition of the Anabaptists. 1660.

See, also, bibliographies to Vol. VII, Chaps. V (Milton), and VII (Bunyan), ante; Vol. IX, Chap. I (Defoe), ante; Vol. VIII, Chap. XIV (Locke), ante.


The bibliography of the several successive phases of the anti-Trinitarian controversy are covered by several general authorities. Wallace, R., Anti-Trinitarian Biography, 3 vols. 1850 (vol. I, Introduction); Hunt, J., Religious Thought in England, 3 vols. 1870–3 (vol. II, pp. 273–8); Bogue, D. and Bennett, J., A History of Dissenters, 1688–1808, 4 vols. 1808–12 (vol. III); Curteis, G. H., Dissent in relation to the Church (Bampton Lecture), 1871. But none of these is complete. Several of the dissenting colleges possess large collections of the pamphlet literature of this subject; but, probably, the most comprehensive of these collections is in Dr. Williams’s Library, Gordon Square, where a special catalogue of this subject, containing several hundred items, has lately been compiled. The whole subject is at present being specially studied by Colligan, J. H., of Liverpool.

The literature of the deistic controversy is fully surveyed in Dr. John Leland’s View of the Principal Deistical Writers, 3 vols. 1755; Stephen, Sir Leslie, History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, vol. I, 1876; Lechler, G. V., Geschichte des englischen Deismus, 2 vols. 1841; Farrar, S., A Critical History of Free Thought (Bampton Lecture), 1862; and also in general authorities such as Abbey and Overton, The English Church in the Eighteenth Century, 2 vols. 1878. As the dissenting contribution to this controversy constitutes the chief claim of dissent to purely literary notice, a list is appended here of the chief works by nonconformist writers:

Bennet, Benjamin. On the truth, inspiration and usefulness of the sacred scriptures. 1730.

Benson, George. The Reasonableness of the Christian Religion. 1743.

Browne, Simon. A fit rebuke. 1732.

—— Defence of the religion of nature. 1732.

Calamy, Edmund. Sermons on the inspiration of the holy writings. 1710.

Chandler, Samuel. Reflections on the conduct of the modern Deists. 1727.

—— A Vindication of the Christian Religion. 1728.

—— A Vindication of … Daniel’s prophecies. 1728.

—— Plain reasons for being a Christian. 1730.

—— The witnesses of the Resurrection. 1744.

Doddridge, Philip. The Redeemer and the Sanctifier. 1736.

—— Of the Evidences of Christianity. In answer to [Dodwell’s] Christianity not founded in Argument. 1742–3.

Duchal, James. On the presumptive arguments for the truth of the Christian religion. 1753.

Fleming, Caleb. Various Answers etc. to Thomas Chubb. 1738, etc.

Foster, James. A Letter to a Deist. 1729.

—— The Usefulness, Truth and Excellence of the Christian Religion. 1731.

Hallett, Joseph. A Free and Impartial Study of the Holy Scriptures recommended. 3 vols. 1729–36.

—— The Immorality of the Moral Philosopher. 1737.

—— The Consistent Christian. 1738.

Harris, William. Two Sermons against Woolaston. 1738.

Jones, Jeremiah. A new and full method of settling the canonical authority of the New Testament. 1726.

Lardner, Nathaniel. The Credibility of Gospel History. 1727.

Leland, John. The advantage and necessity of the Christian Revelation. 1764.

—— The divine authority of the Old and New Testament. 1738.

—— Remarks on a pamphlet. 1744.

—— Reflections on the late Lord Bolingbroke’s letters. 1753.

—— An Answer to Tindal’s Christianity as old as the Creation. 1733.

—— A View of the principal Deistical writers. 1754–6.

Lowman, Moses. Dissertation on the civil government of the Hebrews. 1740.

—— The argument from prophecy. 1733.

Morgan, Thomas. The Moral Philosopher. 1737.

Watts, Isaac. Three Sermons on the Inward Witness of Christianity, or An Evidence of the Truth of the Gospel from its Divine Effects. 1730.

A. Congregationalists

Doddridge, Philip. Hymns. (Posthumous; ed. Orton, J.) Salop, 1755. Reissued, with additional hymns, as Scriptural Hymns, ed. Humphreys, J. D. 1839.

Newton, John. Olney Hymns. 1779. (With his friend Cowper.)

Watts, Isaac. (Of his six hundred hymns, many are still sung, and formed part of his Horae Lyricae (1706), Hymns (1707), Divine Songs (1715), and Psalms of David (1719).)

B. Presbyterians

Brown, Simon. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. 3 books. 1720.

Slater, Samuel (died 1704). Poems. 1679.

C. Baptists

Keach, Benjamin (1640–1704). Spiritual Melodies … Psalms and Hymns from the Old and New Testament. 1691.

—— A Feast of Fat Things … Spiritual Songs. 1692.

Robinson, Robert (1735–90). Hymns for the Fast-Day. (Issued by Whitefield, 1757. See, as to these and others of like merit, D. of N. B. vol. XLIX.)

Ryland, John Collett (1723–92). Life and Actions of Jesus Christ, by Way of Question and Answer, in Verse. 1767.

Steele, Anne (1717–78). Poems on Subjects chiefly Devotional (1760).

Stennett, Joseph (1663–1713). Hymns in vol. IV of his Works, 4 vols. 1732. (Originally publ. 1697–1712; version of Solomon’s Song, 1700.)