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wish well to the cause of rational Christianity . •• 'I am the more disposed to make this observation , on account of having often been pained to see the free pews in our chapels filled with strangers whose attendance was doubtless with an intention to
hear what might be said in behalf of the doctrines held by Unitarians , but who must inerirably have g one away with disappointment , perhaps with a determination to come ~ there no more , bavin ** been disgusted rather than informed by hearing ( what is called ) a ^ rv moral discourse . I c \ o most
sincerely hope that this subject will be taken into serious consideration by Unitarian ministers , particularly those of our more opulent congregations . If * a doctrinal or controversial sermon were to be preached regularly , once a fortnight , I think it would be calculated to do much good ; -for those who felt an interest in the cause would
then know when to invite their friends who are of a different opinion , but not indisposed to inquiry . A \ ec ~ . ture on theological subjects given on a week day evening , is I think another thing very much to be desired ; for ,
no doubt , there are many people who would attend our meetings * at convenient opportunities , but cannot conscientiously absent themselves from the service of their own respective places of worship . J . B .
On Controversial Divinity \ Sept . 7 fh , 1816 . " I THE dispute about religion , " says A Dr . Young , * ' and the practice of it , seldom go together / ' This assertion must be taken" with some grains of allowance . It could be designed only to guard us against the influence of a contentious and oontroA'ersial spirit , to the neglect of real religion ; and not to discourage the sober investigation of truth ; for this eminent writer was himself , saving ; perhaps in some articles
° » his creed , one of the profoundest reasoners . The disputatious professor enters into the church or into company to criticize , to jud ge ami to condemn . Hecan discern a minister ' s creed by the | wn of his prayers , by the naming of n » text , * or even by the lines of his
di ' I * dmiiniante&ty" said a sage jci |) le once to his pew-mate a ** oonas the lister had spoken it .
countenance ; and in company- he often drags his associates into a contention about some favourite and perhaps frivolous topic , or at best not fit to be debated in a mixed assembly , where , if the subject of religion be introduced , it should be discussed only upon acknowledged principles . An old Puritan thus describes such professors :
" They crowd about a little spark , Contend and wrangle in th <* dark 5 Never more bold than when niost blind , And they run fastest when the truth ' s behind . ' * Such a spirit is of hurtful tendency ; it is the bane of that common ' love we
owe to ail man kind , of peace and friendly intercourse ; it will wither our virtues and reflect disgraceitjrbn our profession : nevertheless , as just hinted , we must sometimes dispute ; for what topic of religion or-of morals hath not been made a subject oT contr 6 versy * Only let us be careful to observe the essential circumstances of time , place and manner .
As in a mixed coniparry , so in a sermon delivered to a mixed congregation , we should not enter much into disputed points , meaning here , not ' the great outlines of natural and revealed
religion , which , though they have been controverted , are supposed to be acknowledged and partly understood by the majority of Christian hearers , ^ ut those points abo ut which the sincere p rofessors of the' gospel differ . The former will ever constitute an
essential part of all sound legitimate scriptural preaching ; the latter it is plain should be treated of only in a general way . It is impossible in a single discourse to state all questions relative to a disputed article or to answer all objections : there is a decorum , a manner to ' be observed in a sermon
never to be departed from . At the same time that the faithful minister should guard against every thing that would nourish foolish and hurtful prejudices , every thing that has the appearance of trimming , compounding or reconciling things in themselves irreconcileable , he should avoid ih
matters of speculation ; for in morals there must be no ceremony though there should be method : in treating of matters of speculation he should avoid every thing irritating or calculated to hurt the feelings of the weak , bu ^ t humble believer , who certainly bad
Oh Controversial Divinity , & 85
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Oct. 2, 1816, page 585, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2457/page/21/