Letter to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse
To Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse
Monticello, June 26, 1822
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 precepts on the sensualities of the present day, as to convince an Athanasian 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.
- That there is one only God, and he all perfect.
- That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.
- 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.
- That there are three Gods.
- That good works, or the love of our neighbor, are nothing.
- That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith.
- That reason in religion is of unlawful use.
- 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. 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.
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; 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 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