Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Johnson > The Literature of Dissent > The Free Thought effect of the Unitarian Movement; Conservative contributions by Dissenters to the Deistic Controversy
  The Salters’ Hall Synod and the question of Subscription: John Taylor and Samuel Bourn The Nonconformist Academy System  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

XVI. The Literature of Dissent.

§ 10. The Free Thought effect of the Unitarian Movement; Conservative contributions by Dissenters to the Deistic Controversy.


In emphasising, however, the free thought side, or effect of the unitarian movement within dissent, it is not to be understood that this was a free thought movement in the sense of twentieth century science or philosophy. The eighteenth century unitarian movement was, in the main, theological, not rationalistic. If any comparison were called for, it should rather be with the spread of Arminianism in the English church in the seventeenth century. Both movements had for their motive springs one impulse, that is to say, a protest against Calvinism, and, when dissent, by means of unitarian thought, had thrown off the fetters of that Calvinism, it remained, on the whole, during the period here surveyed, quiescent and content. And, as a result, when the deistic controversy, a purely rationalistic movement, engaged the English church and English thought in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, the leading exponents of dissent, whether orthodox or Arian, are to be found on the conservative side. James Foster, baptist minister of the Barbican chapel, and Nathaniel Lardner, then presbyterian minister in Poor Jewry lane, the accomplished presbyterians William Harris, Joseph Hallett, Isaac Watts and Philip Doddridge—all these dissenting writers 11  contributed not less powerfully, if less sensationally and attractively, to the rout of the deists than did Butler and Berkeley themselves.   20

Note 11. For a list of nonconformist contributions to the deistic controversy, and of works of other nonconformist writers, see bibliography. [ back ]

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  The Salters’ Hall Synod and the question of Subscription: John Taylor and Samuel Bourn The Nonconformist Academy System  
 
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