Nonconformity is a relative term, which supposes some previously existing system of observances, established either by political authority or general consent, and denotes a practical secession or non-communion, on grounds conceived by the parties to require and justify it. Like the term Protestantism, it is general and comprehensive. It applies to the various grounds of secession from a national establishment of religion, and includes different systems of ecclesiastical polity. SEE DISSENTER. No wise man would choose to differ from those around him in reference to matters either civil or religious, unless, in his own estimation, he had good reasons for that difference; and in such cases it is the obvious dictate of duty to investigate the questions at issue with calmness and deliberation; so that conviction and not caprice, principle and not passion, may regulate the inquiry and form the decision. Many regard the subject of nonconformity as very unattractive, a mere debate about words and names and questions; which gender strife rather than godly editfing. Assuming either that there is no authority or standard in such matters, or that the authority of certain ecclesiastical superiors ought to be submitted to without murmur or dispute, they pronounce their disapprobation on all discussions of such subjects, and on the parties who engage in them. High-Churchmen are offended that the doctrine of conformity should be called in question at all. Those who profess high spirituality look on the subject as unworthy of their regard, and as fit for those only who mind the carnal things of the kingdom of God. Dissenters, as well as others, frequently speak of it as being among non-essential matters, and scarcely deserving of profound consideration; and while they luxuriate in the privileges which their forefathers purchased for them at so dear a rate, almost pity and condemn the measures which procured them. Yet it is impossible for any one to form a correct view of English history for nearly three hundred years without an acquaintance with the controversy which the question of conformity has provoked, and with the characters and principles of the men who engaged in it. We therefore give space here to a historical treatment of English nonconformity.