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needs to be no encouragement held out for Christians to engage in it. Their imperfect sanctification is itself a sufficient stimulus. The efforts of the church are rather required to discourage it. Much both of the subject matter, and of the spirit of controversy in religion at the present day, deserves to be frowned upon. As a general thing it is inexpedient, and certainly ought never to be promoted by purposely furnishing, or eagerly embracing occasions for it. We will now give some reasons in detail in support of the opinion here advanced.

1. From the natural disposition of mankind, as well as from fact, we find that controversy. most abounds, and with most of its bitterness, just where there should be the least of both. On points where the difference of opinion is the smallest, the fiercest debate usually ensues. Where Christian brethren ought to coalesce and become one, because so little divides them, they are apt to become the most alienated in feeling. The cause of this result lies in the principles of our nature—in the structure of our minds. It offends our reason, or opposes our sense of consistency, that others can come very near the truth as we view it, and yet reject it—that from obstinacy or other bad motive, they will not assume the slight humiliation of agreeing with us, when, perhaps, they can differ only the merest trifle. We are provoked at their unreasonableness, and our opponents are impatient with us in return, and long and angry argumentation or denunciation is entered upon on both sides. It happens that many of the points of difference among the several evangelical denominations of Christians, those we mean which divide them, are of small importance in themselves; and of still less moment are the shades of variance among the members of the same denomination, or people who hold the same great distinctive principles. They neither aug. ment nor diminish the evidence of Christian character. And

yet the speculatists of these different schools will maintain their different opinions as strenuously, as if the salvation of souls was confessedly depending. Concede, therefore, that religious controversy is to be upheld, and you encourage such an effect; you create the most numerous disputes, where there are the fewest reasons for them. You add fuel to a flame which might go out were it let alone. A person who meddles with strife of this sort ought to see what is to be the end of it, should there ever be an end. He ought to calculate whither the flame may run, and what of piety and happiness and order it may consume in the land.

2. Contention, on religious subjects, fails, in most cases, to answer the purpose of convincing opponents, and in gen. eral the parties interested in the dispute. Of all others, it is, perhaps, the most unlikely method to produce this conviction. It is proverbially impotent as to this effect, on those who are personally committed to the debate. They are usual. ly more strengthened in their own opinions by this means. You cannot commonly adopt a surer plan to establish a man in a cherished sentiment, than to call it in question. Engage him in defence of it, and you make him twice a convert to his own opinion. The more he is employed in examining it and fortifying it against attacks, the more he thinks it impregnable. Even where a person has been doubtful at first in regard to any point, attempt to prove it fallacious by disputing him directly, and his faith in it will grow exceedingly fast. Leave it unnoticed except in friendly conversation, or establish the opposite truth in some anti-belligerent way, and he will be much more likely to care but little for it himself. If after a long and anxious debate, a person, from the force of truth, owns that he is in the wrong, renounces his sentiment, and embraces that of his opponent, he must be much more favorable specimen of human nature, than is usually found. The whole course of human experience is against the probability of success in convincing strongly committed opponents in debate, as also their respective parties.

İn fortifying the mind in its own advocated opinions, every one is aware that regard of character, pride of knowledge, love of victory, the wishes of friends, the consideration of the world, are all concerned. We are mortified by defeat, and are not often disposed to acknowledge it, in the plainest case. And in fact, a man's own mind is generally blinded and steeled against conviction by the efforts which it puts forth, under these circumstances, to produce conviction in other minds. The object in this case is commonly not to learn the truth ourselves, but to impress it on others, and thus to show our superiority. And hence how little can success in controversy be calculated upon, in any common condition of things ! Knowing what human nature is, who can be eager to enlist in so fruitless an attempt, as to produce conviction of truth in the minds of men, by entering the arena of strife and debate? It is true, the warfare may


cease after a time-a person may be silenced, (especially when he has nothing to say), but is he convinced-is he converted from the error of his way? He may be unable to produce a satisfactory reply, but does he feel the less against the truth, when he yields to it only at the end of a disputation ? Few persons would dissent from the remark of Mr. Jefferson, who would of course be indifferent authority in matters purely religious, but of some weight where general principles in morals are concerned, that a man is never, or very rarely convinced by disputation that he is in an error, but that conviction to this effect, is, in almost every case, the result of calm and solitary reflection. As a means of aiding reflection or as independent and separate sources of conviction, he might have added, some practical exhibition of the futility of one's sentiments, some dispassionate conversation of a friend-or had his views happily extended thus far, some stirring divine providence, some motion of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, or some general revival of religion. In a single season, for instance, of revivals in a land, more disputants are set right-more errorists are induced to renounce their dogmas—more truths are embraced, than would seem to be the case, in any of the most laborious and prolonged disputations, that have ever been undertaken among evangelical churches. It is hopeless to suppress, by controversy, those errors that do not shut out genuine revivals of religion, and errors that genuine revivals of relig. ion do not suppress. They are harmless errors in that case. We should, then, avoid as far as may be, a mode of expelling error and establishing the truth, which is so likely to miss of its end.

3. Controversy on religious subjects is more or less adverse to piety. Some who have been inuch engaged in it, and have felt that in some sense they were called to it as a matter of duty, have not been the last to acknowledge its unpropitious effect on the feelings and temper, as was true in regard to Melancthon, Baxter, and others. They were free to confess of how small service their controversial writings had been, as means of doing good to themselves or others. And as a matter of fact, do we not find that such is the character of these efforts? How little are Baxter's numerous or rather innumerable controversial writings remembered, and how little good have they done comparatively; while his practical works, as his “ Saint's Rest," and

“ Call to the Unconverted,” will doubtless be co-extensive with the duration of the church on earth ; as they have already been the means of the conversion of myriads of souls! Had less contention been carried on and more of a practical ex. hibition been made of the truth, how much had it subserved the interests of piety, both in those who wrote, and in the community of christians at large !

To the disputants themselves what, commonly, can be conceived more clogging to devotion, more uncongenial to kind and charitable feelings towards others, or more embarrassing to the mind's humility and self-distrust, than the habit of watching for a slip in an opponent's argument, and of turning into ridicule or an absurdity whatever is capable of being represented in such a light. It sours the temper, induces suspicious feelings, and plants the seeds of ill-will towards many a brother. This has actually been the effect in innumerable cases, however different the intentions of the combatants had originally been, or whatever pains may have been taken to avoid such a result. The fact is, that other objects are almost always at heart in undertaking controversy of this description, than the promotion of personal holiness, All this is aside from the great sacrifice of time and health and spirits, which is submitted to in these gratuitous crusades against brethren -a sacrifice which may well be avoided, in view of all the contributions which might have been brought to the cause of personal holiness, in other forms of intellectual and spiritual effort.

Nor are the consequences less unpropitious to the community of christians around. They are taught so to magnify the points in debate, as if there was little besides important; to think more of the topics on which they differ from their fellow christians, than of those on which they are agreed, and to distrust and perhaps calumniate brethren whom they are bound tenderly to love. Angry and jealous feelings are harbored against one another-an effect which the interested leaders cannot always prevent, should they be disposed to do it. A partisan spirit characterizes the christian community, and lasting divisions are sometimes introduced, into what should be the one unseparated body of Christ. This is not holiness, nor the way to cultivate it in the Christian church.

We may see somewhat of the effects of controversy when it happens, for instance, in a commenced revival of religion. All shall go on prosperously while the plain simple truths of

the Bible are preached, and while the attention of the people is called to God and his requirements to themselves and their demerits. But let some subject of debate be introduced, even if it have a tolerably evangelical characterlet it be pursued as a matter of strife and contention, and thus the public notice be gained, and the revival commonly is no more. Some unessential controverted doctrine, some unimportant ceremony, or immaterial point of church order, so unseasonably introduced, shall be the means of paralyzing, through human weakness or depravity, God's own blessed work, and of proving eminently detrimental to the interests of holiness in a whole community. Some one says, “Generally men who are destitute of pious feelings are more fond of controversy, than of a simple ex position of Scriptural truth, for in controversy they find an attractive excitement for their minds, and food for their passions, and they readily believe that they are living a kind of religious life, just be. cause they despise or hate the members of other communions.” On the whole, then, may it not be inferred, with strong probability, that on this account also, contention on the subject of religion, should receive no decided countenance from the christian community, should it be granted that truth has occasionally been elicited by its instrumentality, or other good been incidentally done.

4. Religious controversy is too apt to be used, as a vehicle of slander and personal ill will towards an opposing individual or party. This has been already binted, as it is one form in which contention of this kind is detrimental to piety. But such a particular effect may with propriety, be still further developed. Religious controversy follows too generally the law of other species of contention, in respect to the indulgence of the evils above named. There is nothing in the sacredness of the subject matter of dispute, or of the object professedly in view, which often can or does in fact relieve it of this odious peculiarity. It is the thing itselfthe collision of feeling and opposition of will which give it its character, and not the scenes in which it is conversant, nor the materials which it employs. These do not sanctity, as they ought, the machinery which is set at work. That operates after its own unhallowed character. At least this is commonly the case. Nothing is more usual than for the disputants themselves, to complain of being misrepresented, erroneously quoted, unfairly treated, and cruelly slandered.

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