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The Nonconformist . No . VI . On the Cause of Nonconformity as connected with the Interests of general
Literature . rXIHE spirit of resistance to eccle-JL siastical domination , which constituted the aera of the Reformation , was unquestionably coeval with such gigantic strides in the inarch of intellect , as to make compensation , in a
great degree , for the sloth and retrogression of preceding ages > nor will it be denied by any , except the disciples of that Chjurch , whose supremacy was invaded in the glorious contest , that Protestantism was , at
that period , identified in its interests and prospects , with all those literary pursuits which tend to expand and dignify the human understanding . If , then , that cause of Nonconformity of which we profess ourselves the advocates , is neither more nor less than
Protestantism carried on and pursued to its genuine consequences , we shall have little hesitation in concluding without having recourse to historical induction , that English Nonconformity has been , upon the whole , serviceable to the cause of English literature . To this conclusion , however
we must not expect a hasty assent from that large portion of our fellowchristiaus , who , with the celebrated Commentator upon the laws of England , ingeniously and candidly resolve the caus € * s of Nonconformity into
" weakness of intellect , " misdirected piety , " perverseness and acerbity of temper , " and " a proapeet of secular advantage in herding with a party " - — qualities , from which no flowers of genius , no fruits of learning , could
consistently be expected to spring . To this elegant but undiscriminating encomiast of English legislators , and to thousands who , like him , draw their information and their spirit from no purer sources than the acrid fount of test laws aud prose liptive statutes , the principles and conduct of
Nonconformists present nothing but an arrogatioji of superior ^ apctity , an abstinence from the most innocent and tasteful recreations , and fan ignorant contempt of those sublime products $ f the imagination , and those venerable works of art which tend to mould and
foster Jafty thoughts , and to embellish and refine the social state- The ub ^ prejudiced student of English history will pp t , however , be deceived by such partial and superficial estimates either of the mental or inoral qualities
of that illustrious band , who have extorted from an adversary the metaorable confession , that to their efforts England stood indebted for the preservation of the precious spark of civil liberty , as well as of religious iuder pendence , ' * which two things , " as
Milton observes , *« God hath inseparably knit together , aad hath disclosed to us , that they who seek to corrupt our religion , are the same that would enthral our civil liberty , "
From those who have successfully resisted the unhallowed usurpations of priests and statesmen , upon the highest and most important province of human inquiry , every philosophic and candid mind must concede that
the interests of science , and literature , in every department , have derived eminent and lasting advancement . But in what proportion the champions of Nonconformity have , to the different stages of their history , individually recruited the ranksof
learning , presents , it must foe admitted , an inquiry of a ' different complexion , the result of which might , from adventitious circumstance ^ , be unfavourable , without in the slightest degree impeaching the general conclusion . A marked deficiency in . literary acquirements has been ever and anon
insinuated against the body of Nonconformists , in modern as well as in 4 noi * c early times : and it is to an investigation of the truth of this charge , that the present writer wishes to invite some of the members of this society , whose
talents and information might do that justice to the subject , which he feels beyond the scope erf ? bis own leisure and course of study , and the Hunts of a single Eesay . Th ^ t Nonconformists , in later times , hwe 'been outrivalled
by their brethren within the pale , and under the opulent patronage of jthe Establishment , m some of the ornamental branches of literature-4-that they have beeii campavfctiviely unskilled in the art of cemeatiH&the di § jv ( Ui juembm < rf a Gneck tiu ^ ad y , or twiefci ating tbe my « t « ri ^ & t ) f . tti ^ cietit mytholQg \ m , > mneweq of wtcepiu ^ dhe
^ 4 Cause gf JSfoneonf& rm itj / f as connected with Zdteratiire .
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Jan. 2, 1819, page 24, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct1768/page/24/