JOHN ADAMS TO BENJAMIN RUSH
JANUARY 21, 1810
[Thomas Paineís] political writings, I am singular enough to believe,
have done more harm than his irreligious ones. He understood neither government
nor religion. From a malignant heart he wrote virulent declamations, which
the enthusiastic fury of the times intimidated all men, even Mr. Burke,
from answering as he ought. His deism, as it appears to me, has promoted
rather than retarded the cause of revolution in America, and indeed in
Europe. His billingsgate, stolen from Blount's Oracles of Reason, from
Bolingbroke., Voltaire, Berenger, &c., will never discredit Christianity,
which will hold its ground in some degree as long as human nature shall
have any thing moral or intellectual left in it. The Christian religion,
as I understand it, is the brightness of the glory and the express portrait
of the character of the eternal, self-existent, independent, benevolent,
all powerful and all merciful creator, preserver, and father of the universe,
the first good, first perfect, and first fair. It will last as long as
the world. Neither savage nor civilized man, without a revelation, could
ever have discovered or invented it. Ask me not, then, whether I am a Catholic
or Protestant, Calvinist or Arminian. As far as they are Christians, I
wish to be a fellow-disciple with them all.
JOHN ADAMS TO SAMUEL MILLER, July 8, 1820
You know not the gratification you have given me by your kind, frank,
and candid letter. I must be a very unnatural son to entertain any prejudices
against the Calvinists, or Calvinism, according to your confession of faith;
for my father and mother, my uncles and aunts, and all my predecessors,
from our common ancestor, who landed in this country two hundred years
ago, wanting five months, were of that persuasion. Indeed, I have never
known any better people than the Calvinists. Nevertheless, I must acknowledge
that I cannot class myself under that denomination. My opinions, indeed,
on religious subjects ought not to be of any consequence to any but myself.
To develop them, and the reasons for them, would require a folio larger
than Willard's Body of Divinity, and, after all, I might scatter darkness
rather than light.
Before I was twelve years of age, I necessarily became a reader of polemical
writings of religion, as well as politics, and for more than seventy years
I have indulged myself in that kind of reading, as far as the wandering,
anxious, and perplexed kind of life, which Providence has compelled me
to pursue, would admit. I have endeavored to obtain as much information
as I could of all the religions which have ever existed in the world. Mankind
are by nature religious creatures. I have found no nation without a religion,
nor any people without the belief of a supreme Being. I have been overwhelmed
with sorrow to see the natural love and fear of that Being wrought upon
by politicians to produce the most horrid cruelties, superstitions, and
hypocrisy, from the sacrifices to Moloch down to those of juggernaut, and
the sacrifices of the kings of Whidah and Ashantee. The great result of
all my researches has been a most diffusive and comprehensive charity.
I believe with Justin Martyr, that all good men are Christians, and I believe
there have been, and are, good men in all nations, sincere and conscientious.
That you and I shall meet in a better world, I have no more doubt than
I have that we now exist on the same globe. If my natural reason did not
convince me of this, Cicero's dream of Scipio, and his essays on friendship
and old age, would have been sufficient for the purpose. But Jesus has
taught us, that a future state is a social state, when he promised to prepare
places in his Father's house of many mansions for his disciples.
By the way, I wonder not at the petition of the pagans to the emperor,
that he would call in and destroy all the writings of Cicero, because they
tended to prepare the mind of the people, as well as of the philosophers,
to receive the Christian religion.
My kind compliments to Mrs. Miller, and thanks for the obliging visit
she made me. I interest myself much in her family. Her father was one of
my most intimate friends in an earlier part of his life, though we differed
in opinion on the French Revolution, in the latter part of his days. I
find that differences of opinion in politics, and even in religion, make
but little alteration in my feelings and friendships when once contracted.