G. H. (Griffith Henry) Humphrey.

Christianity and infidelity; or The Humphrey-Bennett discussion between Rev. G. H. Humphrey and D. M. Bennett, conducted in the columns of the Truth seeker, commencing April 7, 1877, closing Sept. 29, 1877 online

. (page 1 of 45)
Online LibraryG. H. (Griffith Henry) HumphreyChristianity and infidelity; or The Humphrey-Bennett discussion between Rev. G. H. Humphrey and D. M. Bennett, conducted in the columns of the Truth seeker, commencing April 7, 1877, closing Sept. 29, 1877 → online text (page 1 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


'^rvC(AA. Kk^t^^^yoToC


/r ///,■






Of a N, Y. Presbyterian Cliarcli,



Bditor of Tbe Tratb. Seeker.

MENCING APRIL 7, 1877, CLOSING SEPT. 29, 1877.

'Eear hotJi sides, and then decide** , , ,


141 Eighth Street, New York,








Part I.
The Relative Services of Infidelity and Christian-
ity TO American Liberty.

Humphrey's First Letter, 1

Bennett's First Reply 5

Humphrey's Second Letter, 13

Bennett's Second Reply, 17

Humphrey's Third. Letter, 28

Bennett's Third Reply, 37

Humphrey's Fourth Letter, 50

Bennett's Fourth Reply, 59

Humphrey's Fifth Letter, 74

Bennett's Fifth Reply, ...... 83

Part 11.

The Relative Services of Infidelity and Chkistian-

iTY to Learning and Science.

Humphrey's Sixth Letter, . . . .^ . 99

Bennett's Sixth Reply, 106

Humphrey's Seventh Letter 120

Bennett's Seventh Reply, 131

Humphrey's Eighth Letter, 155

Bennett's Eighth Reply, . . . , . 196

Part III.
Is THERE A Stronger Probability that the Bible is

Divine than that Infidelity is True.

Humphrey's Ninth Letter, . . • . . 194

Bennett's Ninth Reply, 209

Humphrey's Tenth Letter, 264

Bennett's Tenth Reply, 285

Humphrey's Eleventh Letter, .... 835

Bennett's Eleventh Reply, .... 354

Humphrey's Twelfth Letter, . . • . 391

Bennett's Twelfth Reply, ... . 417

Humphrey's Thirteenth Letter, . . . 467

Bennett's Thirtjjenth Reply, .... 487



About the first of March, 1877, the Rev. G. H. Humphrey-
visited the office of The Truth Seeker and requested that
a challenge to Ocl. E. G. IngersoU and B. F. Underwood
be inserted in its columns. The Editor cheerfully con-
sented to publish the same, at the same time remarking that,
as it was probable that both IngersoU and Underwood were
too much engaged to admit of their coming here to debate
with him, rather than have him disappointed, he himself
would hold a discuesion with the gentleman in the columns
of The Truth Seeker. Mr. Humphrey remarked if
neither of those gentlemen accepted his challenge he would
perhaps gladly entertain the proposition. In the issue of
The Truth Seeker for March 3d, 1877, the following chal-
lenge appeared :


1. Did Unbelievers in the Bible do as much for American
Independence as the believers in it ?

2. Has Infidelity done as much as Christianity to pro-
mote Learning and Science ?

3. Is there a stronger probability that Infidelity is- true
than that the Bible is divine ?

The undersigned has challenged Col. R G. IngersoU to
a public discussion of the foregoing propositions. It is to
be hoped he will accept, but should he decline, Mr. B. F.
Underwood or any other exponent of Paineology will be
taken as a substitute. Very respectfully,

G. H. Humphrey.

81 East Tenth street, New York.



In the same issue the Editor again offered his services to
the reverend gentleman in case the two persons named
did not respond to the challenge. After waiting two or
three weeks, and hearing nothing from either Ingersoll or
Underwood, Mr. Humphrey accepted the Editor's proposi-
tion, and arrangements were readily made for the discus-
sion to appear in The Tkuth Seekeu, Humphrey taking
the initiative, and an article from each to appear alternately
until the discussion should be completed. Accordingly
Humphrey's first letter appeared in the issue for April 7th.
On Sept. 29th appeared Bennett's reply to Humphrey's thir-
teenth letter, the discussion having continued just six

It is but fair to Mr. Humphrey to state that he has no
pecuniary interest in the publication of the Discussion,
though it is issued in this form with his entire consent.

Presuming that some who may read the following pages
may be interested in knowing something of the contestants,
brief sketches of each will be given.

Sketch of G. H. Humpheet.

My opponent, Mr. Bennett, has asked me to furnish a
sketch of my life to be inserted in the Introduction to our
Discussion. I dislike to do it. It exposes me to the sus-
picion of vanity and conceit. But I am desirous of pleas-
ing a friend in that which is indifferent, if not good ; so I
will reluctantly yield to his request. There is not a char-
acter in the alphabet that 1 hate so much as the letter I. In
order to avoid it, let me, like Csesar or Moses, speak of my-
self in the third person.

The su^^ject of this sketch was born in Carnarvon Shire,
North Wales, in the year 1844. When he was less than a
year old, his parents emigrated to Ixonia, Jefferson Co.,
Wisconsin, where he remained on a farm until his major-


ity. His situation there had no special advantages, except
the proximity of many Germans, which enabled him to learn
their language. When twenty-one he entered Washington
& Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., where he
graduated four years afterwards. From College he went
to the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Allegheny
City, Pa. He studied there for t'lree years. His first
charge was in Frostburg, Md., which he assumed, in part,
before leaving the Seminary. He was next called to the
Birmingham Presbyterian church, Pittsburgh, Pa., where
he remained about five years. In Dec. of 1876, he removed
to New York City, to take charge of the Welsh Presby-
terian church, Nos. 225, 227, 229, East 13th street. He is
now living at 343 East 15th s'reet, where he will be glad to
see not only his Christian but his Infidel friends.

His mental history is not very peculiar. When between
seventeen and twenty-three he read many skeptical works
of various kinds. His object in doing so was not of the
noblest kind. It was done more in the spirit of dare-devil-
ishness than anything else. A boy has a similar motive in
entering the mysteries of tobacco-chewing. Doubts were
engendered in his mind. But he kept them mostly to him-
self. He only whispered them occasionally, with awful
significance to his friends. He was rather glad to be
suspected of holding peculiar views. He considered
his skepticism a positive proof that he was a mighty smart
young man. As he had read German, and "critical"
English books, he thought surely he must have something
to show for it more than the ordinary belief. He fancied
that everybody who saw him said within* himself, "What
a great reader 1 There goes a thinker! "

But a change, like the rising of the sun, came gradually
over his mind. He saw that some of his companions in
skepticism were sinking into vice and immorality. The
more they sinned the more they doubted. The more un-
like true Christians they became, the more did they want


Christianity to be untrue. Although they got to reading
and thinking less and less, their Infidelity grew more and
more. He thought this very suspicious. In addition to
this, he discovered that he himself was becoming lop-sided.
He read little but anti-Christian works. He had a kind of
aversion to everything in favor of Religion. When he did
read something on that side, it was done with such preju-
dice and foregone conclusions that it was all in vain.
When he reflected, and caught himself in this condition, he
became uneasy. He knew that he had ntjt given the Bible
and the Christian religion a tharough and honest study.
There he was, priding himself in his "reading," "think-
ing," and "liberalism ;" and yet doubting a system whose
evidences he had never examined. He knew well that he
could never be admitted to the bar without giving the law
a far more extensive study than he had given to this most
momentous of questions. He resolved to reform. He pro-
ceeded to do so. He procured the standard works on Chris-
tian evidence. He found it extremely diflScult at first to
exercise sufficient patience to read them through and digest
them. He was possessed by a strong temptation to dismiss
the whole subject atter glancing superficially over a few vol-
umes. He thought he might then say he had read them*
But, thanks be to God I he was not permitted to stop there.
He read on. He began to feel that the Scriptures might
be true. What he deemed possible at first soon became a
prohabiliiy. After some years of toil and meditation, the
probability became a certainty, as to the cardinal, essential
teachings of Christianity. He had formerly thought of
practicing law. But the convicLion of the everlasting truth
of the Christian Religion impelled him to preach the Gos-
pel, and to use every lawful means to defend and dissemi-
nate it. * He is happy in the work. He can now say:

" hapDy day that fixed my choice
On thee, my Savior and my God,"


He has given this inner history of himself, not because it
is in itself important, but because he believes it is a fair
picture of eight-tenths of those who profess to be unbe-
lievers. Should these lines and this discussion furnish a
clue that will guide even one out of the zigzag labyrinth of
Infidelity, the writer will be more than rewarded.

G. H. H.

Sketch of D. M. Bennett.

He was born on the eastern shore of the beautiful sheet
of water known as Otsego Lake, in the township of Spring-
field, Otsego Co , N. Y., Dec. 23, 1818. His parents were
poor people — his father an uneducated farmer, his mother a
member of the Methodist Church. At an early age he moved
with his parents into the village of Coopersto^n, N. Y. Here
he had fair opportunities for attending district school, Sun-
day-school, etc. At the latter he was a constant attendant,
and frequently, by voluntary effort, learned twenty or
thirty verses in the New Testament during the week, and
recited them to his teacher on Sunday. He attended
church regularly, and very naturally grew up in the
belief taught by theologians.

When between fourteen and fifteen years of age, return-
ing from a visit to some relatives in Berkshire county,
Mass. , he stopped to visit the Shaker Society in "New Leb-
anon, N. Y. They lived peacefully and happily in their
beautiful home on the hill side, and he soon became so much
pleased with them that he decided to join them and become
one of their number. He thought they lived better and
happier lives than any people he had ever met. They
are a peculiar people and have a somewhat peculiar relig-
ious belief. In the first place, they are strict celibates, and
regard the sexual intercourse as the forbidden fruit which
caused the fall of Adam and Eve, and through them of the
entire human race. They regard Jesus as the pattern celibate


who practiced and taught the strictest self-denial. They
do not regard Jesus as God, or as having a miraculous be-
getting. They conceive that Divinity consists of two
divisions or elements, male and female, father and mother —
Power and Wisdom — and that Jesus Christ, nearly nineteen
hundred years ago, represented the Father element and Ann
Lee, an English woman, the wife of a dissipated black-
smith, over one hundred years ago, represented the Mother
clement of diviuity. She was called Mother Ann Lee, and
in Jesus and herself they held that Christ made his firtt and
second appearing. They dress in a plain garb, lead indus-
trious lives; they hold their property in common, on the
community plan, and dance and march for worship.

Thai society then consisted of seven hundred members,
and was divided into some eight families, or lesser com-
munities. There were sixteen societies in the entire
country, with a total membership of six thousand. In
later years, however, their numbers have greatly decreased,
and they now have less than half their former members.
They are a very religious people, and they carry I heir
religion into their daily duties and avocations, making it
an eminently practical system of faith. They hold to the
possibility of living lives without fault or sin, and they
make it their object to attain to this point of perfection.
They are Spiritualists, and had among them what are called
"spirit-manifestations "long before the "Rochester kuock-
ings " were heard of. They believe in spirit protection and
guidance, and to the higher spirits they direct their prayers
and supplications. They unite in silent prayer, including
those before and after each meal, at least eight limes a day.

Bennett's occupation among them was three years at
growing garden seeds and putting them up in packages to
send over the country, four years at shoemaking, three
years at growing and gathering medical herbs and roots,
preparing extracts, making syrups, ointments and other
preparations, powdering roots and herbs, etc., and three


years at practicing medicine. He did not attend any course
of medical lectures uor graduate at any college, but had the
benefit of a fair medical library and the advice of an old
physician who had retired from practice. The system of
treatment adopted by the society was the Eclectic, and it
proved very successful.

Bennett never attended college, or any institution of
learning above a common district school, which he left at
the age of fifteen. Since that time he has been constantly
engaged at some active business — generally hard work —
affording him little time for study or close reading.

In 1846, having arrived at the age of twenty-seven years,
after residing thirteen years in the Shaker society, and los-
ing faith somewhat in their peculiar creed, and tiring to
some extent of their rather arbitrary system of government,
he left the society, in company with his sister and Mary
Wicks, who afterwards became his wife — and who since
the age of four years had lived with the Shakers— together
with one or two other members. In the fall of 1846
he was induced to "go West" as far as Brandenburg,
Kentucky, on the Ohio river, forty miles below Louis-
ville ; but, being disappointed in the nature of the
business in which he had expected to engage at that place,
in the ensuing December he removed to Louisville, and
there served nearly a year as clerk in a drug-store. In Jan-
uary, 1848, he opened a drug-store of his own in Louis-
ville, and conducted it over eight years, engaging 'also in
other kinds of business with varying success. In the
spring of 1855 he sold out his business and removed to
Rochester, N. Y., where he resided four years, engaging
in the sale of fruit-trees, shrubbery, etc., and, afterwards,
garden seeds. In 1859 lie removed to Cincinnati and bought
a drug store, which he conducted till the autumn of 1865,
engaging also, somewhat extensively, in preparing proprie-
tary medicines. During these six years he was quite suc-
cessful, and upon selling out had made enough to answer


during life for himself and wife, had he not invested it in
a series of ventures that proved unsuccessful. As it was,
however, repeated bad investments and ventures used up
the earnings of six years, und in 1866-7 he had managed to
lose the snug sum of $30,000.

His religious views gradually became more and more
radical from the time he left the Shakers. While in Louis-
ville he borrowed an Infidel book which strongly shook his
faith in theology. A few years later, in visiting New York,
he called upon Gilbert Vale, who kept radical books for
sale, and bought Paiue's Age of Reason, Volney's Ruins
and a number of small books and pamphlets of a similar
character. The perusal of these aided materially in driv-
ing from his mind the relics of superstition and ecclesias-
ticism that still lingered there. He ventured to exercise
free thought, to take nothing upon the assertion of the
priesthood, to accept naught uusustained by proof, and,
in short, to do his own thinking and to arrive at his own

His belief gradually became very radical, and he divested
himself of nearly all the superstitions to which he had
once given his assent. He lost confidence in the Bible as
being a superhuman production, and while he saw in it
good morals and precepts, fine specimens of ancient poetry
and literature, he found in it also a great deal that is crude,
a great deal that is coarse and obscene, a great deal that is
untrue, and but little that is adapted to the present needs
and conditions of mankind. He regarded it wholly as a
human production.

He threw oflf all allegiance to fables, myths and supersti-
tions. He held himself free to embrace truth wherever he
found it, and to discard errors and fallacies from whatever
source. He gradually came to believe in the eternality and
the infinity of the Universe ; that it contains all substancea
and all forces ; that there is nothing above it, below it, or
outside of it ; that every result that has ever taken place


has been produced by natural and sufficient causes, and that
there can be nothing superna,tMia\. He regarded the multi-
tude of gods which men had imagined, devised and manu-
factured—or in a word, the god-idea— as the great central
superstition around which all other superstitions have clus-
tered for thousands of years. He accepted IngersoU's
axiom, that "there can be no liberty on earth while men
worship a tyrant in heaven." He saw that all that has been
effected on this planet to improve it and make it a happy
dwelling-place for man has been done by the hands of
man, and that the gods have done nothing for the race, and
that the belief in them has been one of the greatest evils
that has befallen mankind. He came to understand that
man's whole duty is towards his fellow-man, towards him-
self, and nothing for the gods ; that he can do as little for
the gods as they do for him, but that to promote the hap-
piness of himself and his fellow-beings and to aid in ren-
dering this earth a paradise he can do very much indeed.

In 1869 Bennett returned to Rochester, remained there
over a year, and then removed to Paris, 111., where he
resided three years. For a year or more he was in the
drug business, and after that he engaged in growing garden
seeds, papering them and sending them over the Western
country. In 1873 he cultivated fifty acres in seeds, and in
1873 seventy-five acres. His means being limited, he was
under the necessity of taking partners, but, like many others,
he found partnership a bad ship to sail in, and in the Fall,
of 1873 he was glad to retire from the business with a loss
of two years' hard work and $2,500 in money. His Chris-
tian partners were too much for him, and rendered his con-
tinuance in the firm no longer desirable.

In the Summer of 1873 he engaged in a newspaper dis-
cussion with two Paris clergymen on the subject of prayer.
One of the local papers published what the clergymen had
to say but refused to publish his articles because of
their radical character. This dissatisfied Bennett, and


made him resolve to start a paper of his own in which he

could say just what he believed to be true. It was this
that caused him to start The Truth Seeker, and probably
if that bit of Christian intolerance had not been shown
him, he would never have started a Radical -paper and
never become the publisher of Infidel works.

The Truth Seeker started as an eight-page monthly, in
September, 1873. Its early success was not remarkable,
but sufficient to induce him to continue it. Having
closed out his business in Paris, and perceiving it was not
just the place whence to issue a Liberal paper, he looked
around for a better locality. New York city, the commer-
cial centre of the country, presented advantages superior to
any other locality, and he resolved to move his little paper
there. It was, perhaps, a bold step. To start the paper
was bold. For a man without capital, without editorial ex-
perience, without acquaintance with the Liberal element
of the country, and, worse than all, without the necessary
ability, to conduct a Radical journal, to engage in
such an enterprise perhaps, evinced more boldness
than good judgment. In the face of the financial
panic which was well inaugurated in the closing months of
1873, and has continued nearly four years, it was, at best,
an unfavorable time to move a little unfledged monthly to
the metropolis of the country. No. 5 of Vol. I. was issued
here in January, 1874, with sixteen pages instead of the
previous eight. In 1875 it became a semi-monthly, and in
1876 it was changed to a weekly. It has had a struggle for
existence while papers with far more ability and more than
ten times the capital were failing all around it. It is to be
hoped, however, that it has now become so well established
that no serious fears are to be entertained for its continued
existence. In addition to The Truth Seeker, one hun-
dred and fifty books, pamphlets, and tracts have been
published in the same office. If it cannot be styled an
instance of ** divine aid," it is, perhaps, an instance where


divinity has preserved a neutral policy and kept "hands
off." It is hoped that a larger number of works will be
issued from the same establishment, and that the enquiring
and independent minds of the country will be patrons of the
same. The publisher knows not how he can better dig-
charge his duty towards his fellow-men than by placing
before them the sentiments of truth and appeals in behalf
of mental liberty. He has resolved to devote the remainder
of his life to the good work.

D. M. B.

Truth Sekeer Office, Oct. 1, 1877.




New York, March 29, 1877.
Mr. D. M. Bennett, Dear Sir: As we have agreed to
discuss some matters rekitive to Infidelity and Christianity,
and as we are both alike in being quite indifferent to cer-
emony and red tape, I will at once proceed to prove the af-
firmative of the following proposition :

That believers in the Bible have done more for
Civil Liberty in the United States than unbelievers.

By "believers in the Bible "is meant those who recog-
nized the infallibility and divine authority of that book ;
and by the " unbelievers" is meant those who denied that
infallibility and repudiated that authority. You will
scarcely object to this definition of the word " Infidel."
Webster deiines Infidelity as " disbelief of the inspiration
of the Scriptures, or the divine origin of Christianity." No
standard lexicographer differs from this definition.

Having thus explained terms, we will proceed at once to
show that the services of Infidels to American liberty have
been infinitesimally small compared with that of Christians.
I am well aware that this is exactly the reverse of the per-
sistent representations of Infidel speakers and writers; but
it can be demonstrated nevertheless,


1. This is shown by the fact that the struggle for iude-
pendence originated among the Puritans of New England-
yes, among the bated Puritans. It is true they did not start
out with the conscious and avowed iatentioa of securing
iheir independence. But it is noteworthy that they were
the first to resist British oppression. Samuel Adams, the
I leading spirit in this resistance, was amember of the Con-
j^gregational Church. His was a house of prayer. He was a
strict observer of the Sabbath (Bancroft's History of the
United States, vol. iii., pp. 418-420, Centenary Edition).
As far back as the year 1768 John Hancock had named one
of his sloops "Liberty," indicative of the spirit of the
man, and, perhaps, of the unexpressed wish of his soul.

The Boston Town Meeting, held in Faneuil Ilall, Sept.,
1768, was an assemblage of religious people. In that meet-
ing it was resolved that " the inhabitants of the town of
Boston will, at the utmost peril of their lives and fortunes,
maintain and defend their rights, privileges, and immuni-
ties;" and they rtcommended that a day he set apart for fasting
and prayer. This shows that the first citizen's meeting to
remonstrate against tyranny was a meeting, not of Infidels
but of Puritans.

We read often of the clergy of that period inspiring
their congregations with patriotism, courage, and hope.
Bancroft says " the Ciilvinist ministers nursed the flame of
piety and of civil freedom" (Bancroft, vol. iii., pp. 499,
587). "Where is the account of a '* Liberal Club " doing a
similar service ?

The Old Continental Congress, held in 1774, was com-
posed almost entirely of Christian men. Rev. Jacob Duche,

Online LibraryG. H. (Griffith Henry) HumphreyChristianity and infidelity; or The Humphrey-Bennett discussion between Rev. G. H. Humphrey and D. M. Bennett, conducted in the columns of the Truth seeker, commencing April 7, 1877, closing Sept. 29, 1877 → online text (page 1 of 45)