Tillotson was 'an atheist, freethinkers were 'the first-born sons of Satan, the Established Church was 'fallen into mortal schism, Ken, for thinking of reunion, was 'a half-hearted wheedler, Roman Catholics were 'as gross idolaters as Egyptian worshippers of leeks, Nonconformists were 'fanatics, Quakers were 'blasphemers. From the peaceful researches, on which he built a lasting name, in Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian antiquities, he returned each time with renewed zest to polemical disputes, and found relaxation in the strife of words.
It is not fatal to the English nation to abolish the Irish Church by the power of the Nonconformists' antipathy to establishments; but it is fatal to it to be told by its flatterers, and to believe, that it is abolishing it through reason and justice, when it is really abolishing it through this power; or to expect the fruits of reason and justice from anything but the spirit of reason and justice themselves.
Then to the choice of their assistants and wardens, and so rose. I might have received 2s. 6d. as a younger Brother, but I directed one of the servants of the House to receive it and keep it. Thence to church, where Dr. Britton preached a sermon full of words against the Nonconformists, but no great matter in it, nor proper for the day at all.
To remain sceptical when the Church had defined was as the sin of witchcraft or idolatry. The existence of the rebel was an insult to the Most High, a menace to the salvation of the simple; he was a diseased limb of the body politic, calling for sharp surgery. And yet these nonconformists were anything but unbelievers.
He saw, with ill humour which he could not disguise, that Dykvelt was mustering and drilling all the various divisions of the opposition with a skill which would have been creditable to the ablest English statesman, and which was marvellous in a foreigner. The Nonconformists were encouraged to expect from him, not only toleration, but also comprehension.
The year 1689 is not less important in the ecclesiastical than in the civil history of England, for in that year was granted the first legal indulgence to Dissenters. And then also the two chief sections within the Anglican communion began to be called the High Church and Low Church parties. The Low Churchmen stood between the nonconformists and the rigid conformists.
'It may be affirmed, remarks one of the editors of Mosheim's History, 'that no prelate since the Reformation had so extensive a correspondence with the Protestants abroad, and none could have a more friendly one. His behaviour towards Nonconformists at home was in his later years less conciliatory, and the inconsistency is a blemish in his character.
The men among them, often Free Church ministers, seemed on the lookout for the sort of snubs which Nonconformists often receive from the Anglican clergy at home. The chaplains, especially the Church of England chaplains, appeared to think that they ought to conduct all religious services in the Y.M.C.A. huts. This was unreasonable.
The state, on the other hand, embraced an ever-widening circle of dissent; and by degrees Protestant Nonconformists, Roman Catholics, Quakers, Jews, Atheists, Mohammedans, believers, misbelievers, and unbelievers of all sorts, were admitted to the fullest rights of citizenship.
Between these two is the great body of the middle class, a considerable portion of the educated and university trained, the majorities of the manufacturing towns, and perhaps, we may say, generally the Nonconformists. There are some curious analogies in these two parties to our own parties before the war.