Monday, December 04, 2006

On Godliness and Polemics

Here are some wise words from Archibald Alexander:

"The truth has its best effect when it is proposed simply and unconnected with false opinions which may be entertained by some. It is but to hold forth the word of life as true and certain, as if it had never been controverted. Preachers who are forever brandishing the polemical sword may make their hearers skilful in controversy, and they will be sure to catch the spirit of polemics too. But what they gain in acuteness of intellect and keeness of temper, they will lose in improvement of heart.

Men may be forever considering the truth as it comes up in controversy, and never be affected with its beauty and force.

I do not mean to say that a minister of the gospel must never resort to controversy. I would say on this subject as on that of war; it is a necessary evil. We should never engage in it unless it is forced on us, and then kick it out of the pulpit if possible."

"When controversy is forced upon you by the perverseness, pride or obstinacy of others see that you contend only with gospel weapons...You are commanded to instruct those who oppose you with meekness. Severity may be used when the evil will not yield to mild admonition and gentle persuasion--but it should not be the severity of sinful resentment, but of holy zeal for the honour of God's truth."

Quoted in James M. Garretson,
Princeton and Preaching, p. 136-7

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