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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Independents

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a denomination of Protestants in England and Holland, originally called Brownists. They derive their name from their maintaining that every particular congregation of Christians has, according to the New Testament, a full power of ecclesiastical jurisdiction over its members, independent of the authority of bishops, synods, presbyteries, or any other ecclesiastical assemblies. This denomination appeared in England in the year 1616. John Robinson, a Norfolk divine, who, being banished from his native country for nonconformity, afterward settled at Leyden, was considered as their founder and father. He possessed sincere piety, and no inconsiderable share of learning. Perceiving defects in the denomination of the Brownists, to which he belonged, he employed his zeal and diligence in correcting them and in new modelling the society. Though the Independents considered their own form of ecclesiastical government as of divine institution, and as originally introduced by the authority of the Apostles, nay, by the Apostles themselves; yet they did not always think it necessary to condemn other denominations, but often acknowledged that true religion might flourish in those communities which were under the jurisdiction of bishops, or the government of presbyteries. They approved, also, of a regular and educated ministry; nor is any person among them now permitted to speak in public before he has submitted to a proper examination of his capacity and talents, and has been approved of by the church to which he belonged. Their grounds of separation from the established church are different from those of other puritans. Many of the latter objected chiefly to certain rites, ceremonies, vestments, or forms, or to the government of the church; while yet they were disposed to arm the magistrate in support of the truth, and regretted and complained that they could not on these accounts conform to it. But Robinson and his companions not only rejected the appointments of the church on these heads, but denied its authority to enact them; contending, that every single congregation of Christians was a church, and independent of all legislation, save that of Christ; standing in need of no such provision or establishment as the state can bestow, and incapable of soliciting or receiving it. Hence they sought not to reform the church, but chose to dissent from it. They admitted there were many godly men in its communion, and that it was reformed from the grossest errors of the man of sin; but thought it still wanted some things essential to a true church of Christ; in particular, a power of choosing its own ministers, and a stricter discipline among its members. The creed of the Independents is uniformly Calvinistic, though with considerable shades of difference; and many in Scotland and Ireland have symbolized with the Sandemanians, or the Scottish Baptist denominations. The Congregationalist and Independent have been generally considered as convertible and synonymous: many, however, in the present day, prefer the former appellation, considering it desirable, in many cases, to unite, for mutual advice and support, more closely than the term independent seems to warrant.


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Independents'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/i/independents.html. 1831-2.

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