Both liturgically and architecturally, sermons were central to Dissenting life. Listening to the Word was at the heart of Dissenting worship and pulpits were frequently in prominent positions within the meeting house. While printed sermons have, understandably, been the focus of much work in this area, manuscript sermons also offer important insights into how sermons were used, the occasions on which they were delivered, and the reactions of their auditors. While many Dissenting sermons were devoted to themes in practical divinity—how to lead a good life (or die a good death)—they could also enable Dissenters to demonstrate their loyalty to the state or to engage in philanthropic activity. Unlike their Anglican counterparts, Dissenters were more inclined to give extemporary sermons but sermon notes allow historians to gain some insights into how the majority of sermons, which were not printed, might have been received.
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