WHAT IS PROTESTANT DISSENT?
"The term Protestant, in its widest signification, embraces all who protest against the errors of the Church of Rome. The term Protestant Dissenters, in its widest signification, embraces all who protest against the errors of the Church of Rome, and dissent from the Church of England in points of faith, or church government, or in both. It does not imply a profession of belief in any particular form or system of doctrines, but only that he stands on the right of private judgment in the interpretation of Scripture, and follows its dictates as his conscience directs, whether they lead to the extreme boundary of what is called Orthodoxy or Heterodoxy. The genuine Protestant Dissenter subscribes no creed or confession of faith, for should he do this he would desert the true principles, not only of Protestant Dissenters, but of Protestantism itself, as defined by our best writers.
"On passing the Act of Uniformity many members of the Episcopal Church refused to conform, and hence they were called Nonconformists. The name of Puritan, also, as we learn from Bishop Burnet, quoted by Neal, was, in 1662, changed into that of Protestant Nonconformist, with which that of Protestant Dissenter soon came to be confounded. Many of them settled in Ireland during the Commonwealth. They did not, however, constitute one body, but according to their various views of doctrine and discipline became Congregationalists or Independents, Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists, and Protestant Dissenters . . . What is Protestant Dissent? Neither Trinity nor Unity, but the expression of the great principles of opposition to the authoritative counsels of fallible men who would impose upon us a yoke which neither we, nor our fathers, could bear; an assertion of the sufficiency of Scripture, and of the right to interpret it as our own knowledge and understanding can best determine. It is not any of the multifarious sections into which Christians are divided. It is not Trinitarianism, Arianism, nor Unitarianism, Arminianism, nor Calvinism; but it connects itself more or less closely with them all, and is exclusive of none. This the bigot cannot be made to comprehend; he thinks none has a claim to divine favour but those of his own little conventicle, and rather than want the pleasure of damning his neighbour, he would be damned himself." -- An Explanation and Defence of the Principle of Protestant Dissent, in a Letter addressed to the Protestant Dissenters of the Presbyterian Denomination worshipping in Strand Street and Eustace Street Churches, Dublin, by William Hamilton Drummond, D.D. Dublin, 1842.