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Letter to the Reverend Mr. Cary Containing Remarks upon his Review of the Grounds of Christianity Examined by Comparing the New Testament to the Old   By: (1787-1828)

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A Letter To the Reverend Mr. Channing Relative to His Two Sermons On Infidelity

By George Bethune English, A.M. Boston Printed for the Author 1813


Rev. Sir,

Your eloquent and interesting Sermons on Infidelity, I have read with the interest arising from the nature of the subject you have discussed, and the impressive manner in which you have treated it.

As it is understood that the appearance of those Sermons was owing to a Book lately published by me, I request your pardon for a liberty I am about to take, which in any other circumstances I should blush to presume upon it is sir, with deference, and great respect, to express my sentiments with regard to some of the arguments contained in them, where the reasoning does not appear to me so unexceptionable as the language in which it is enveloped, is eloquent and affecting. There are also some opinions of yours relative to matters of fact, in those discourses, to which I would respectfully solicit your attention.

It afforded me much pleasure, though it caused me no surprise, to perceive you to say in your introductory remarks, that these Sermons were designed to procure for the arguments for Christianity "a serious, and respectful attention" and, that if you should "be so happy as to awaken candid and patient enquiry," your "principal object will be accomplished" you wish, "that Christianity should be thoroughly examined," you do "not wish to screen it from enquiry." It would cease, you observe to be your support were you not "persuaded that it is able to sustain the most deliberate investigation."

In considering Christianity as a fair subject for discussion, you do justice to the cause you so eloquently defend for Christianity itself honestly, and openly professes to offer itself, to the belief of all mankind solely on account of the reasons which support it; and since its learned, and liberal advocates always announce, and recommend it from the Pulpit as reasonable in itself and confirmed by unanswerable arguments; no one who believes them sincere can doubt, that they are perfectly willing to have its claims openly discussed and think themselves amply able to give valid reasons, "for the faith that is in them," and which they so earnestly invite all men to receive.

You observe, p. 13, that the writings of Infidels, "have been injurious not so much by the strength of their arguments, as by the positive, and contemptuous manner In which they speak of Revelation, they abound in sarcasm, abuse, and sneer, and supply the place of reasoning, by wit and satire." If so sir, it is all in favor of the cause you defend; for the tiny weapons of wit, and ridicule, will assuredly fly to shivers under a few blows from the solid, and massy club of sound logic. The man who attacks any system of Religion merely with wit, and ridicule, can never, I conceive, be a very formidable antagonist.

The mental imbecility of the man who could touch such a subject as religion in any shape with no other arms, would render him a harmless adversary, and the intrinsic weakness of such shining but slender weapons, when encountered with something more solid, would eventually render him a contemptible one, I therefore cannot help doubting, that wit and ridicule alone, and unsupported by reasoning, and good reasoning too, could ever have been very successfully wielded against such a thing as the Christian Religion, by its opposers.

No man it appears to me of common understanding will ever resign his religion on account of a few jokes, and bon mots. The adherence of such men as are weak enough to be subverted by such trifles can do as little honor to Christianity, as their abandoning it for such reasons, can affect it with disgrace. The belief of such men could never have been more than habit, and their Infidelity nothing else than a freak of folly, which is reproachful only to themselves. But after all, this vehement objection to wit and ridicule, appears to me a little imprudent; for a sarcastic opponent might reply, that sceptics, have been not unfrequently attacked with irony most severe, and sometimes sorely wounded by vollies of wit shot from the pulpit, a place too where it can be done without fear of reprisals... Continue reading book >>

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