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Lift your lamp beside the golden door, Break not the golden rule, avoid well the golden calf, know; not all that glitters is gold, and laissez faire et laissez passer [let do and let pass] but as a shining sentinel, hesitate not to ring the bell, defend the gates, and man the wall

Friday, October 15, 2010

Letter from Thomas Jefferson To Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse 1822

To Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse Monticello, June 26, 1822

   DEAR SIR, -- I have received and read with thankfulness and pleasure your denunciation of the abuses of tobacco and wine. Yet, however sound in its principles, I expect it will be but a sermon to the wind. You will find it as difficult to inculcate these sanative[1] precepts on the sensualities of the present day, as to convince an Athanasian[2] that there is but one God. I wish success to both attempts, and am happy to learn from you that the latter, at least, is making progress, and the more rapidly in proportion as our Platonizing Christians make more stir and noise about it. The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.
1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect. 
2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments. 
3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion.
These are the great points on which he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin[3].
1. That there are three Gods. 
2. That good works, or the love of our neighbor, are nothing. 
3. That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith. 
4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use. 
5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter save.
Now, which of these is the true and charitable Christian? He who believes and acts on the simple doctrines of Jesus? Or the impious dogmatists, as Athanasius and Calvin? Verily I say these are the false shepherds foretold as to enter not by the door into the sheepfold, but to climb up some other way. They are mere usurpers of the Christian name, teaching a counter-religion made up of the deliria of crazy imaginations, as foreign from Christianity as is that of Mahomet[4]. Their blasphemies have driven thinking men into infidelity, who have too hastily rejected the supposed author himself, with the horrors so falsely imputed to him. Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christian. I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests, the genuine doctrine of one only God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian[5].

But much I fear, that when this great truth shall be re-established, its votaries will fall into the fatal error of fabricating formulas of creed and confessions of faith, the engines which so soon destroyed the religion of Jesus, and made of Christendom a mere Aceldama[6]; that they will give up morals for mysteries, and Jesus for Plato. How much wiser are the Quakers, who, agreeing in the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, schismatize[7] about no mysteries, and, keeping within the pale of common sense, suffer no speculative differences of opinion, any more than of feature, to impair the love of their brethren. Be this the wisdom of Unitarians, this the holy mantle which shall cover within its charitable circumference all who believe in one God, and who love their neighbor! I conclude my sermon with sincere assurances of my friendly esteem and respect.

[1] Sanative: Sanitizing

[2] Athanasian:  a follower of Athanasius or a believer in the Athanasian Creed which is holding apart the distinct persons of the Trinity;
"Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. " [Wikipedia]

"The Father is God, The Son is God, The Holy Spirit is God; God is the Father, God is the Son, God is the Holy Spirit; The Father is not the Son, The Son is not the Father,The Father is not the Holy Spirit,
The Holy Spirit is not the Father, The Son is not the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit is not the Son."
[3] Calvinism: The belief that people are predetermined to go to Heaven or Hell by God before birth and the meaninglessness of good works and the supremacy of Faith alone.

[4] Mahomet: People spelled [the "Prophet"] Muhammad's name funny in the past. English Orthography did not start to become uniform until the latter part of the 1800s

[5] Unitarian: The belief in the unity of the trinity as one person [Juxtaposed to any modernly so-titled religion or extrapolative belief]

[6] Aceldama: (or Akeldama) :the Aramaic name for a place in Jerusalem which Judas Iscariot supposedly bought with the money he recieved for betraying Jesus. In this account (Acts of the Apostles 1:19) Judas fell over in this field in such a way that his intestines burst out and he died. This would imply that the name refers to the blood of Judas. In the other account unrelated to this letter (Gospel of Matthew 27:7) Judas hanged himself after returning the money to the Temple authorities, who then used the money to buy the field called the Potter's Field, which was then used as a burial place for foreigners. Here the implication is that the name refers either to the blood of the buried or the blood of Jesus.

[7] Schismitize: Divide; or apply the concept of division, refering to dividing the trinity.

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