'When people are wont to dispute and fight/ It is of the truth that they often lose sight.' 1 When the Dompelaar preacher Jacob Denner wrote this line in the 1730s, he was expressing a common eighteenth-century objection to polemical culture. Since the Middle Ages, polemics had been a frequently practised means of attacking and chastising the perceived enemies of truth. Although these aggressive habits never disappeared in the early modern period (and are still part of academic and political culture today), they were becoming, in the opinion of a growing number of the educated class, an increasingly dysfunctional means of defending 'the truth'. One major reason for this rethinking of the value of polemics was the sixteenth-century divisions in Christendom, which saw the emergence of several powerful and interregional church blocs, each claiming the exclusive right to represent the same truth. How could 'the truth' be so fractured? To cope with this kind of problem, early modern philosophers, theologians, preachers and reformers proposed a number of alternative means of truth-seeking. On the one hand, there was the irenic spiritualism preferred by groups like the late seventeenth-century Pietists, and, on the other hand, there was the eclecticism, rationalism and empiricism preferred by eighteenth-century Enlightenment philosophes. 2 Denner's attitudes were very much in tune with the Pietist culture of his day.