INDEPENDENTS. The first body of Dissenters which actually broke away from the Church of England was that of the Independents, or—as they are nowadays perhaps more intelligibly called—the Congregationalists. An Independent sect seems to have existed about the year 1568, the whole question in dispute between them and the Church being then, as it is still, essentially one of "discipline," or Church Polity. They made each congregation a body corporate, governed exclusively by itself, and disclaim, more or less, every form of union between churches. In doctrine they are strictly Calvinistic, and, reviving the ancient heresy of Donatus, they profess to receive only accredited or really serious Christians into their fellowship, and to exclude any who may prove themselves unworthy members.

The Independents are sometimes called Brownists, from Robert Brown, a clergyman of the Church of England, who was the first to secede from her ranks, and who, retreating to Holland, set up a separatist communion.

There are 76 County and other Associations at home and in the Colonies, with 3,895 meetinghouses, and 1,039 preaching stations, 300 being foreign mission stations; of ministers and missionaries they have about 3,500. They reckon to have about 360,000 members in the British dominions.