of the Toleration Act. There were tensions between the three Nonconformist denominations (Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists), andbetween them and the Quakers, throughout the period. However, after 1689 it became appropriate to speak of a single Dissenting interest. The sacramental test for public office, the burdensome laws concerning marriage, and the onerous conventions regarding education put Dissenters of all varieties on an identical footing. Perhaps the most successful of all interdenominational associations was formed in London in 1732 for the common protection and defence of the civil rights of Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists. The Protestant Dissenting Deputies were intimately involved in the agitation for repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, raisingthe funds forthe legal defence ofDissenters, and providing legal counsel for a wide variety of subjects.

Toleration in the United Provinces, Britain, and Ireland, from the mid- to late eighteenth century

In the eighteenth-century Dutch Republic, most defenders of toleration continued to be drawn from religious bodies that dissented from the public church. For example, the Remonstrant Johannes Drieberge (1686-1746) advanced the views of his more famous Arminian predecessors, and the Mennonites were well represented by Herman Schijn (1662-1727), who not only argued for the legal recognition of Baptists, but also urged unity within their own ranks. In the Franeker school, however, the public church possessed a handful of advocates of a broad toleration who took issue with the privileges accorded the ecclesiastical authorities.17

A popular, rancorous, and public debate emerged in the United Provinces in the 1740s, and toleration remained a volatile political issue even after the formal separation of church and state in 1796. The spark for this long-standing debate was provided by the Mennonite minister Johannes Stinstra who pled for freedom of conscience in Friesland. Stinstra's association with Socinian-ism resulted in his suspension from the ministry, and in the aftermath of the Stinstra affair, the Frisian states, rather than growing more tolerant, actually became more repressive. After mid-century the debate engaged a wide public and began to address more controversial matters, such as natural law and virtue, with writers entertaining the possibility of salvation without the knowledge of Christian rudiments. The so-called Socratic War, a nationwide debate that lasted from 1769 to 1780, introduced the question of the superiority of non-Christian ethics and the desirability of a civic virtue divorced from revealed religion. The subsequent flowering of literature on toleration was

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment