Religious Societies

Religious Societies, associations for the promotion of personal piety established among members of the Church of England about 1678, and which existed until the rise of the Methodist. They began with a few young men who had been impressed by the preaching of Dr. Horneck, preacher at the Savoy, and of Mr. Smithies, lecturer at St. Michael's, Cornhill. The organization was somewhat similar to the societies of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris, or like those of the Collegiants and other pietistic communities in Holland and Germany. The members met once a week for religious conference and devotion, the meetings being conducted with singing, Scripture reading and exposition, and with special preparation for the holy communion. They added also practical works of charity, the establishment and maintenance of schools, the visitation of the poor, and support of missions in America. They were closely connected with the Society for the Reformation of Manners, established in 1691, and efficient allies to the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. That at Oxford was joined by John and Charles Wesley, and by George Whitefield. — One of the last of the annual meetings of the London religious societies was held at Bow Church in 1738. See Woodward, Rise and Progress of Religious Societies; Nelson, Address to Persons of Quality; id. Festivals and Fasts (Preface); Blunt, Hist. of Sects, etc., s.v.

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