Born in New York City and educated both at Columbia College (1789) and, theologically, at the University of Edinburgh (1792), Mason became the pastor of the Scotch Presbyterian Church on Cedar Street, New York City, after the death of his father (Reverend John Mason), who was a longtime pastor there. He later resigned this pulpit for a new congregation at Murray Street Church, his denomination being the Reformed Church of North America. He founded a theological seminary in 1804, which later became Union Theological Seminary, and subscribed support for it while gathering its library in Great Britain. He founded The Christian’s Magazine in 1806 and wrote much of its content. He served as trustee of Columbia College for two periods totaling twenty-six years, and he was elected first provost of the college in 1811. When his health failed, he decided that a new climate might help him, so he moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he was president of Dickinson College for three years. In 1822 he left the Associate Reformed Church and became a member of the Presbyterian Presbytery of New York. He returned to New York in 1824 and remained there until his death.
Mason was one of the greatest pulpit orators of his age and had no superior as a preacher during his best years (C. F. Himes, A Sketch of Dickinson College , p. 52; John DeWitt, “The Intellectual Life of Samuel Miller,” Princeton Theological Review, April 1906, p. 175). This sermon of 1800, published anonymously, reflects Mason’s view that Thomas Jefferson was a “confirmed infidel” whose “rejection of the Christian religion and open profession of atheism” had disqualified him from being chosen President of the United States.
Regarded as “one of the most noted clerical pamphlets against Jefferson” (Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time, III:522), the sermon continues the ruinous attack on Jefferson’s religion made in an anonymous tract by William Linn, with Mason’s assistance (and mentioned herein on the second page of Mason’s text, as well as later on), entitled Serious Considerations on the Election of a President: Addressed to the Citizens of the United States (Evans No. 37835), also published in 1800.
If a manly attempt to avert national ruin, by exposing a favorite error, should excite no resentment, nor draw any obloquy upon its author, there would certainly be a new thing under the sun. Men can seldom bear contradiction. They bear it least when they are most demonstrably wrong; because, having surrendered their judgment to prejudice, or their conscience to design, they must take refuge in obstinacy from the attacks of reason. The bad, dreading nothing so much as the prevalence of pure principle and virtuous habit, will ever be industrious in counteracting it; and the more candid, rational and convincing the means employed in its behalf, the louder will be their clamor, and the fiercer their opposition. On the other hand, good men are often led insensibly astray, and their very honesty becomes the guarantee of their delusion. Unaware, at first, of their inconsistency, they afterwards shrink from the test of their own profession. Startled by remonstrance, but unprepared to recede; checked by the misgivings of their own minds, yet urged on by their previous purpose and connection, the conflict renders them irritable, and they mark as their enemy whoever tells them the truth. From the coincidence of such a bias with the views of the profligate and daring, results incalculable mischief. The sympathy of a common cause unites the persons engaged in it; the shades of exterior character gradually disappear; virtue sinks from her glory; vice emerges from her infamy; the best and the basest appear nearly on a level; while the most atrocious principles either lose their horror, or have a veil thrown over them: and the man who endeavors to arrest their course, is singled out as a victim to revenge and madness. Such, from the beginning, has been the course of the world. None of its benefactors have escaped its calumnies and persecutions: not prophets, not apostles, not the Son of God himself. To this treatment, therefore, must every one be reconciled, who labors to promote the best interests of his country. He must stake his popularity against his integrity; he must encounter a policy which will be contented with nothing short of his ruin; and if it may not spill his blood, will strive to overwhelm him with public execration. That this is the spirit which has pursued a writer, the purity of whose views is equalled only by their importance—I mean the author of Serious Considerations on the Election of a President, I need not inform any who inspect the gazettes. To lay before the people of the United States, proofs that a candidate for the office of their first magistrate, is an unbeliever in the scriptures; and that to confer such a distinction upon an open enemy to their religion, their Redeemer, and their hope, would be mischief to themselves and sin against God, is a crime never to be forgiven by a class of men too numerous for our peace or prosperity. The infidels have risen en masse, and it is not through their moderation that he retains any portion of his respectability or his usefulness. But in their wrath there is nothing to deprecate; nor does he deserve the name of a Christian, who, in order to avoid it, would deviate an hair’s breadth from his duty. For them I write not. Impenetrable by serious principle, they are not objects of expostulation, but of compassion; nor shall I stoop to any solicitude about their censure or applause.
But do I represent as infidels all who befriend Mr. Jefferson’s election? God forbid that I should so “lie against the truth.” If I thought so, I should mourn in silence: my pen should slumber forever. That a majority of them profess, and that multitudes of them really love, the religion of Jesus, while it is my terror, is also my hope. Terror, because I believe them to be under a fatal mistake; hope, because they, if any, are within the reach of conviction. I address myself to them. The latter, especially, are my brothers, my dearer ties and higher interests than can be created or destroyed by any political connection. And if it be asked, Why mingle religion with questions of policy? Why irritate by opposition? Why risk the excitement of passions which may disserve, but cannot aid, the common Christianity? Why not maintain a prudent reserve, and permit matters of state to take their own course? I answer, Because Christians are deeply engaged already: Because the principles of the gospel are to regulate their political, as well as their other, conduct: Because their Christian character, profession and prosperity are involved in the issue. This is no hour to temporize. I abhor that coward spirit which vaunts when gliding down the tide of opinion, but shrinks from the returning current, and calls the treason prudence. It is the voice of God’s providence not less than of his word, “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” With Christians, therefore, I must expostulate; and may not refrain. However they may be displeased, or threaten, I will say, with the Athenian chief, “Strike, but hear me.”
A crisis of no common magnitude awaits our country. The approaching election of a president is to decide a question not merely of preference to an eminent individual, or particular views of policy, but, what is infinitely more, of national regard or disregard to the religion of Jesus Christ. Had the choice been between two infidels or two professed Christians, the point of politics would be untouched by me. Nor, though opposed to Mr. Jefferson, am I to be regarded as a partizan; since the principles which I am about to develope, will be equally unacceptable to many on both sides of the question. I dread the election of Mr. Jefferson, because I believe him to be a confirmed infidel: you desire it, because, while he is politically acceptable, you either doubt this fact, or do not consider it essential. Let us, like brethren, reason this matter.
The general opinion rarely, if ever, mistakes a character which private pursuits and public functions have placed in different attitudes; yet it is frequently formed upon circumstances which elude the grasp of argument even while they make a powerful and just impression. Notwithstanding, therefore, the belief of Mr. Jefferson’s infidelity, which has for years been uniform and strong, wherever his character has been a subject of speculation—although that infidelity has been boasted by some, lamented by many, and undisputed by all, yet as it is now denied by his friends, the charge, unsupported by other proof, could hardly be pursued to conviction. Happily for truth and for us, Mr. Jefferson has written; he has printed. While I shall not decline auxiliary testimony, I appeal to what he never retracted, and will not deny, his Notes on Virginia.*
In their war upon revelation, infidels have levelled their batteries against the miraculous facts of the scripture: well knowing that if its historical truth can be overturned, there is an end of its claim to inspiration. But God has protected his word. Particularly the universal deluge, the most stupendous miracle of the old testament, is fortified with impregnable evidence. The globe teems with demonstrations of it. Every mountain and hill and valley lifts up its voice to confirm the narrative of Moses. The very researches and discoveries of infidels themselves, contrary to their intentions, their wishes and their hopes, are here compelled to range behind the banner of the bible. To attack, therefore, the scriptural account of the deluge, belongs only to the most desperate infidelity. Now, what will you think of Mr. Jefferson’s Christianity, if he has advanced positions which strike directly at the truth of God’s word concerning that wonderful event? Let him speak for himself:
It is said that shells are found in the Andes, in South America, fifteen thousand feet above the level of the ocean. This is considered by many, both of the learned and unlearned, as a proof of an universal deluge. But to the many considerations opposing this opinion, the following may be added: The atmosphere and all its contents, whether of water, air, or other matters, gravitate to the earth; that is to say, they have weight. Experience tells us, that the weight of all these columns together, never exceeds that of a column of mercury of 31 inches high. If the whole contents of the atmosphere then were water, instead of what they are, it would cover the globe but 35 feet deep: but, as these waters as they fell, would run into the seas, the superficial measure of which is to that of the dry parts of the globe, as two to one, the seas would be raised only 52 1/2 feet above their present level, and of course would overflow the land to that height only. In Virginia this would be a very small proportion even of the champaign country, the banks of our tide-waters being frequently, if not generally, of a greater height. Deluges beyond this extent then, as for instance, to the North mountain or to Kentucky, seem out of the laws of nature. But within it they may have taken place to a greater or less degree, in proportion to the combination of natural causes which may be supposed to have produced them. But such deluges as these, will not account for the shells found in the higher lands. A second opinion has been entertained, which is, that in times anterior to the records either of history or tradition, the bed of the ocean, the principal residence of the shelled tribe, has, by some great convulsion of nature, been heaved to the heights at which we now find shells and other remains of marine animals. The favorers of this opinion do well to suppose the great events on which it rests to have taken place beyond all the æras of history; for within these certainly none such can be found; and we may venture to say further, that no fact has taken place either in our own days, or in the thousands of years recorded in history, which proves the existence of any natural agents within or without the bowels of the earth, of force sufficient to heave to the height of 15,000 feet, such masses as the Andes.*
After mentioning another opinion proposed by Voltaire, Mr. J. proceeds, “There is a wonder somewhere. Is it greatest on this branch of the dilemma; on that which supposes the existence of a power of which we have no evidence in any other case; or on the first which requires us to believe the creation of a body of water and ‘its subsequent annihilation?’ ” Rejecting the whim of Voltaire, he concludes, that “the three hypotheses are equally unsatisfactory, and we must be contented to acknowledge, that this great phenomenon is, as yet, unsolved.”†
On these extracts, I cannot suppress the following reflections.
1. Mr. Jefferson disbelieves the existence of an universal deluge. “There are many considerations,” says he, “opposing this opinion.” The bible says expressly, “The waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth, and all the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered.”‡ Mr. Jefferson enters into a philosophical argument to prove the fact impossible; that is, he argues in the very face of God’s word, and, as far as his reasoning goes, endeavors to convict it of falsehood.
2. Mr. Jefferson’s concession of the probability of deluges within certain limits, does not rank him with those great men who have supposed the deluge to be partial, because his argument concludes directly against the scriptural narrative, even upon that supposition. He will not admit his partial deluges to rise above 52 1/2 feet above the level of the ocean. Whereas the scripture, circumscribe its deluge as you will, asserts that the waters were fifteen cubits (27 1/2 feet nearly) above the mountains.§
3. Not satisfied with his argument, Mr. Jefferson sneers at the scripture itself, and at the credulity of those who, relying upon its testimony, believe “that the bed of the ocean has by some great convulsion of nature, been heaved to the heights at which we now find shells and other remains of marine animals.” “They do well,” says he, “to suppose the great events on which it rests to have taken place beyond all the æras of history; for within these none such are to be found.” Indeed! And so our faith in God’s word is to dwindle, at the touch of a profane philosopher, into an “opinion,” unsupported by either “history or tradition!” All the fountains of the great deep, saith the scripture, were broken up.* Was this no “great convulsion of nature?” Could not this “heave the bed of the ocean to the height at which we now find shells?” But the favorers of this opinion suppose the great events on which it rests to have taken place beyond all the æras of history. And they do well, says Mr. Jefferson: the plain meaning of which is, that their error would certainly be detected if they did not retreat into the darkness of fable. Malignant sarcasm! And who are “the favorers of this opinion?” At least all who embrace the holy scriptures. These do declare most unequivocally, that there was such a “great convulsion of nature” as produced a deluge infinitely more formidable than Mr. Jefferson’s philosophy can digest. But he will not so much as allow them to be history: he degrades them even below tradition. We talk of times for our flood, he tells us, “anterior to the records either of history or tradition.” Nor will it mend the matter, to urge that he alludes only to profane history. The fact could not be more dubious or less deserving a place in the systems of philosophy, from the attestation of infallible truth. And is this truth to be spurned as no history; as not even tradition? It is thus, Christians, that a man whom you are expected to elevate to the chief magistracy, insults yourselves and your bible.†
4. Mr. Jefferson’s argument against the flood is, in substance, the very argument by which infidels have attacked the credibility of the Mosaic history. They have always objected the insufficiency of water to effect such a deluge as that describes. Mr. J. knew this. Yet he adopts and repeats it. He does not deign so much as to mention Moses: while through the sides of one of his hypotheses, he strikes at the scriptural history, he winds up with pronouncing all the three to be “equally unsatisfactory.” Thus reducing the holy volume to a level with the dreams of Voltaire! Let me now ask any Christian, Would you dare to express yourself in a similar manner upon a subject which has received the decision of the living God? Would you patiently hear one of your neighbors speak so irreverently of his oracles? Could you venture to speculate on the deluge without resorting to them? Would you not shudder at the thought of using, in support of a philosophical opinion, the arguments which infidels bring against that Word which is the source of all your consolation; much more to use them without a lisp of respect for it, or of caution against mistake? Can he believe the bible who does all this? Can an infidel do more without directly assailing it? What then must you think of Mr. Jefferson?
But it was not enough for this gentleman to discredit the story of the deluge. He has advanced a step farther, and has indicated, too plainly, his disbelief in the common origin of mankind. The scriptures teach that all nations are the offspring of the first and single pair, Adam and Eve, whom God created and placed in paradise. This fact, interwoven with all the relations and all the doctrines of the bible, is alike essential to its historical and religious truth. Now what says the candidate for the chair of your president? After an ingenious, lengthy, and elaborate argument to prove that the blacks are naturally and morally inferior both to white and red men; and that “their inferiority is not the effect merely of their condition of life,”* he observes, “I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.”† He had before asserted, that “besides those of color, figure, and hair, there are other physical distinctions, proving a difference of race.”* He does, indeed, discover some compunction in reflecting on the consequences of his philosophy. For to several reasons why his opinion “must be hazarded with great diffidence,” he adds “as a circumstance of great tenderness,” that the “conclusion” to which his observations lead, “would degrade a whole race of men from the rank in the scale of beings which their Creator may perhaps have given them.”† Much pains have been taken to persuade the public that Mr. Jefferson by “distinct race” and “difference of race,” means nothing more than that the negroes are only a branch of the great family of man, without impeaching the identity of their origin. This construction, though it may satisfy many, is unfounded, absurd, and contradicted by Mr. Jefferson himself. Unfounded: For when philosophers treat of man as a “subject of natural history,” they use the term “race,” to express the stock from which the particular families spring, and not, as in the popular sense, the families themselves, without regard to their original. A single example, embracing the opinions of two philosophers, of whom the one, M. de Buffon, maintained, and the other, Lord Kames, denied the common origin of mankind, will prove my assertion.
“M. Buffon, from the rule, that animals which can procreate together, and whose progeny can also procreate, are of one species, concludes, that all men are of one race or species.”‡ Mr. Jefferson, writing on the same subject with these authors, and arguing on the same side with one of them, undoubtedly uses the term “race” in the same sense. And as the other construction is unfounded, it is also absurd. For it represents him as laboring through nearly a dozen pages to prove what no man ever thought of doubting, and what a glance of the eye sufficiently ascertains, viz. that the blacks and whites are different branches of a common family. Mr. Jefferson is not such a trifler; he fills his pages with more important matter, and with deeper sense. And by expressions which cut off evasion, contradicts the meaning which his friends have invented for him. He enumerates a variety of “distinctions which prove a difference of race.” These distinctions he alledges are not accidental, but “physical,” i.e. founded in nature. True, alarmed at the boldness of his own doctrine, he retreats a little. His proofs evaporate into a suspicion; but that suspicion is at a loss to suspect, whether the inferiority of the blacks (Mark it well, reader!) is owing to their being “originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances.” Branches of the same stock originally distinct, is a contradiction. Mr. Jefferson therefore means, by different races, men descended from different stocks. His very “tenderness” is tinctured with an infidel hue. A conclusion corresponding with his speculations, affects him, because it “would degrade a whole race of men from the rank in the scale of beings which their Creator may perhaps have given them.” So then; the secret is out! What rank in the scale of beings have we, obeying the scripture, been accustomed to assign to the injured blacks? The very same with ourselves, viz. that of children of one common father. But if Mr. Jefferson’s notions be just, he says they will be degraded from that rank; i.e. will appear not to be children of the same father with us, but of another and inferior stock. But though he will not speak peremptorily, he strongly insinuates that he does not adopt, as an article of his philosophy, the descent of the blacks as well as the whites from that pair which came immediately from the hands of God. He is not sure. At best it is a doubt with him—“the rank which their Creator may perhaps have given them!” Now how will all this accord with revealed truth? God, says the Apostle Paul, “Hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth.”* Perhaps it may be so, replies Mr. Jefferson; but there are, notwithstanding, physical distinctions proving a difference of race. I cannot repress my indignation! That a miserable, sinful worm, like myself, should proudly set up his “proofs” against the truth of my God and your God, and scout his veracity with a sceptical perhaps! I intreat Christians to consider the sweeping extent of this infidel doctrine of “different races.” If it be true, the history of the bible, which knows of but one, is a string of falsehoods from the book of Genesis to that of the Revelation; and the whole system of redemption, predicated on the unity of the human race, is a cruel fiction. I ask Christians again, whether they would dare to speak and write on this subject in the stile of Mr. Jefferson? Whether any believer in the word of the Lord Jesus, who is their hope, could entertain such doubts? Whether a writer, acute, cautious, and profound, like Mr. Jefferson, could, as he had before done in the case of the deluge, pursue a train of argument, which he knew infidels before him had used to discredit revelation, and on which they still have great reliance—Whether, instead of vindicating the honor of the scripture, he could, in such circumstances, be as mute as death on this point; countenancing infidels by inforcing their sentiments; and yet be a Christian? The thing is impossible! And were any other than Mr. Jefferson to be guilty of the same disrespect to God’s word, you would not hesitate one moment in pronouncing him an infidel.
It is not only with his philosophical disquisitions that Mr. Jefferson mingles opinions irreconcileable with the scriptures. He even goes out of his way for the sake of a fling at them. “Those,” says he, “who labor in the earth, are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.”*
How does a Christian ear relish this “profane babbling?” In the first place, Mr. Jefferson doubts if ever God had a chosen people. In the second place, if he had, he insists they are no other than those who labor in the earth. At any rate, he denies this privilege to the seed of Abraham; and equally denies your being his people, unless you follow the scythe and the plow. Now, whether this be not the lie direct to the whole testimony of the bible from the beginning to the end, judge ye.†
After these affronts to the oracles of God, you have no right to be surprized if Mr. Jefferson should preach the innocence of error, or even of atheism. What do I say! He does preach it. “The legitimate powers of government,” they are his own words, “extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbors to say there are twenty Gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”*
Ponder well this paragraph. Ten thousand impieties and mischiefs lurk in its womb. Mr. Jefferson maintains not only the inviolability of opinion, but of opinion propagated. And that no class or character of abomination might be excluded from the sanctuary of such laws as he wishes to see established, he pleads for the impunity of published error in its most dangerous and execrable form. Polytheism or atheism, “twenty gods or no god,” is perfectly indifferent in Mr. Jefferson’s good citizen. A wretch may trumpet atheism from New Hampshire to Georgia; may laugh at all the realities of futurity; may scoff and teach others to scoff at their accountability; it is no matter, says Mr. Jefferson, “it neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg.” This is nothing less than representing civil society as founded in atheism. For there can be no religion without God. And if it does me or my neighbor no injury, to subvert the very foundation of religion by denying the being of God, then religion is not one of the constituent principles of society, and consequently society is perfect without it; that is, is perfect in atheism. Christians! what think you of this doctrine? Have you so learned Christ or truth? Is atheism indeed no injury to society? Is it no injury to untie all the cords which bind you to the God of heaven, and your deeds to his throne of judgment; which form the strength of personal virtue, give energy to the duties, and infuse sweetness into the charities, of human life? Is it indeed no injury to you, or to those around you, that your neighbor buries his conscience and all his sense of moral obligation in the gulph of atheism? Is it no injury to you, that the oath ceases to be sacred? That the eye of the Omniscient no more pervades the abode of crime? That you have no hold on your dearest friend, farther than the law is able to reach his person? Have you yet to learn that the peace and happiness of society depend upon things which the laws of men can never embrace? And whence, I pray you, are righteous laws to emanate, if rulers, by adopting atheism, be freed from the coercion of future retribution? Would you not rather be scourged with sword and famine and pestilence, than see your country converted into a den of atheism? Yet, says Mr. Jefferson, it is a harmless thing. “It does me no injury; it neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg.” This is perfectly of a piece with his favorite wish to see a government administered without any religious principle among either rulers or ruled. Pardon me, Christian: this is the morality of devils, which would break in an instant every link in the chain of human friendship, and transform the globe into one equal scene of desolation and horror, where fiend would prowl with fiend for plunder and blood—yet atheism “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” I will not abuse you by asking, whether the author of such an opinion can be a Christian? or whether he has any regard for the scriptures which confines all wisdom and blessedness and glory, both personal and social, to the fear and the favor of God?
The reader will observe, that in his sentiments on these four points, the deluge; the origin of nations; the chosen people of God; and atheism, Mr. Jefferson has comprized the radical principles of infidelity in its utmost latitude. Accede to his positions on these, and he will compel you to grant the rest. There is hardly a single truth of revelation which would not fall before one or other of them. If the deluge be abandoned, you can defend neither the miracles, nor inspiration of the scripture. If men are not descendants of one common stock, the doctrine of salvation is convicted of essential error. If God never had any chosen people but the cultivators of the soil, the fabric of the New Testament falls to the ground; for its foundation in the choice of Israel to be his peculiar people, is swept away. And if the atheism of one man be not injurious to another, society could easily dispense not only with his word but with his worship.
Conformable with the infidelity of his book, is an expression of Mr. Jefferson contained in a paragraph which I transcribe from the pamphlet entitled Serious Considerations, &c.
When the late Rev. Dr. John B. Smith resided in Virginia, the famous Mazzei happened one night to be his guest. Dr. Smith having, as usual, assembled his family for their evening devotions, the circumstance occasioned some discourse on religion, in which the Italian made no secret of his infidel principles. In the course of conversation, he remarked to Dr. Smith, “Why your great philosopher and statesman, Mr. Jefferson, is rather farther gone in infidelity than I am”; and related, in confirmation, the following anecdote: That as he was once riding with Mr. Jefferson, he expressed his “surprise that the people of this country take no better care of their public buildings.” “What buildings?” exclaimed Mr. Jefferson. “Is not that a church?” replied he, pointing to a decayed edifice. “Yes,” answered Mr. Jefferson. “I am astonished,” said the other, “that they permit it to be in so ruinous a condition.” “It is good enough,” rejoined Mr. Jefferson, [“]for him that was born in a manger!!” Such a contemptuous fling at the blessed Jesus, could issue from the lips of no other than a deadly foe to his name and his cause.*
Some of Mr. Jefferson’s friends have been desperate enough to challenge this anecdote as a calumny fabricated for electioneering purposes. But whatever they pretend, it is incontestibly true, that the story was told, as here repeated, by Dr. Smith. I, as well as the author of “Serious Considerations,” and several others, heard it from the lips of Dr. Smith years ago, and more than once. The calumny, if any, lies either with those who impeach the veracity of a number of respectable witnesses, or with Mazzei himself. And there are not wanting, among the followers of Mr. Jefferson, advocates for this latter opinion. He must have been a wretch indeed, to blacken his brother-philosopher, by trumping up a deliberate lie in order to excuse his own impiety in the presence of a minister of Christ! If such was Mazzei, the philosopher, it is our wisdom to think, and think again, before we heap our largest honors upon the head of his bosom-friend.
Christian reader, the facts and reasonings which I have laid before you, produce in my mind an irresistible conviction, that Mr. Jefferson is a confirmed infidel; and I cannot see how they should have a less effect on your’s. But when to these you add his solicitude for wresting the bible from the hands of your children—his notoriously unchristian character—his disregard to all the ordinances of divine worship—his utter and open contempt of the Lord’s day, insomuch as to receive on it a public entertainment;† every trace of doubt must vanish. What is a man who writes against the truths of God’s word? who makes not even a profession of Christianity? who is without Sabbaths; without the sanctuary; without so much as a decent external respect for the faith and the worship of Christians? What is he, what can he be, but a decided, a hardened infidel?
Several feeble and fruitless attempts have been made to fritter down and dissipate this mass of evidence. In vain are we told that Mr. Jefferson’s conduct is modest, moral, exemplary. I ask no odious questions. A man must be an adept in the higher orders of profligacy, if neither literary occupation, nor the influence of the surrounding gospel, can form or controul his habits. Though infidelity and licentiousness are twin sisters, they are not compelled to be always in company; that I am not a debauchee, will therefore be hardly admitted as proof that I am not an infidel. In vain are we reminded, that the “Notes on Virginia” contain familiar mention, and respectful acknowledgment, of the being and attributes of God. Though infidelity leads to atheism, a man may be an infidel without being an atheist. Some have even pretended, that anxiety for the honor of God, prompted them to fix the brand of imposture upon the scripture! But where has Mr. Jefferson, when stating his private opinions, betrayed the least regard for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? In vain is it proclaimed, that he maintains a Christian minister at his own expence. I shall not enquire whether that maintenance does or does not arise from the product of glebe lands attached to many southern estates. Taking the fact to be simply as related, I will enquire whether prudent and political men never contribute to the support of Christianity from other motives than a belief of its truth? Mr. Jefferson may do all this and yet be an infidel. Voltaire, the vile, the blasphemous Voltaire, was building churches, and assisting at the mass, while he was writing to his philosophical confidants, concerning your divine Saviour, Crush the wretch! In vain is the “Act for establishing religious freedom,” which flowed from the pen of Mr. Jefferson, and passed in the Assembly of Virginia, in 1786, paraded as the triumph of his Christian creed. I protest against the credibility of the witness! That act, I know, recognizes “the Holy Author of our religion,” as “Lord both of body and mind,” and possessing “almighty power”; and by censuring “fallible and uninspired men,” tacitly acknowledges both the inspiration and infallibility of the sacred writers. But Mr. Jefferson is not here declaring his private opinions: for these we must look to his Notes, which were published a year after, and abound with ideas which contradict the authority of the scriptures. He speaks, in that act, as the organ of an assembly professing Christianity; and it would not only have been a monstrous absurdity, but more than his credit and the Assembly’s too, was worth, to have been disrespectful, in an official deed, to that Redeemer whose name they owned, and who was precious to many of their constituents. Such Christianity is common with the bitterest enemies of Christ. Herbert, Hobbes, Blount, Toland, Tindal, Bolingbroke, Hume, Voltaire, Gibbon, at the very moment when they were laboring to argue or to laugh the gospel out of the world, affected great regard for our “holy religion” and its divine author. There is an edict of Frederic the II. of Prussia, on the subject of religious toleration, couched in terms of the utmost reverence for the Christian religion, and yet this same Frederic was one of the knot of conspirators, who, with Voltaire at their head, plotted the extermination of Christianity: and whenever they spoke of its “Holy Author,” echoed to each other, Crush the wretch! This act, therefore, proves nothing but that, at the time of its passing (and we hope it is so still) there was religion enough in Virginia, to curb the proud spirit of infidelity.
Christians! Lay these things together: compare them; examine them separately, and collectively: ponder; pause; lay your hands upon your hearts; lift up your hearts to heaven, and pronounce on Mr. Jefferson’s Christianity. You cannot stifle your emotions; nor forbear uttering your indignant sentence—infidel!!
This point being settled, one would think that you could have no difficulty about the rest, and would instantly and firmly conclude, “Such a man ought not, and as far as depends on me, shall not, be President of the United States!” But I calculate too confidently. I have the humiliation to hear this inference controverted even by those whose “good confession” was a pledge that they are feelingly alive to the honor of their Redeemer. No, I am not deceived: they are Christian lips which plead that “Religion has nothing to do with politics”—that to refuse our suffrages on account of religious principles, would be an interference with the rights of conscience—that there is little hope of procuring a real believer, and we had better choose an infidel than a hypocrite.
That religion has, in fact, nothing to do with the politics of many who profess it, is a melancholy truth. But that it has, of right, no concern with political transactions, is quite a new discovery. If such opinions, however, prevail, there is no longer any mystery in the character of those whose conduct, in political matters, violates every precept, and slanders every principle, of the religion of Christ. But what is politics? Is it not the science and the exercise of civil rights and civil duties? And what is religion? Is it not an obligation to the service of God, founded on his authority, and extending to all our relations personal and social? Yet religion has nothing to do with politics! Where did you learn this maxim? The bible is full of directions for your behaviour as citizens. It is plain, pointed, awful in its injunctions on rulers and ruled as such: yet religion has nothing to do with politics. You are commanded “in all your ways to acknowledge him.”* In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, to let your requests be made known unto God,”†“And whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”‡ Yet religion has nothing to do with politics! Most astonishing! And is there any part of your conduct in which you are, or wish to be, without law to God, and not under the law of Christ? Can you persuade yourselves that political men and measures are to undergo no review in the judgment to come? That all the passion and violence, the fraud and falsehood, and corruption which pervade the systems of party, and burst out like a flood at the public elections, are to be blotted from the catalogue of unchristian deeds, because they are politics? Or that a minister of the gospel may see his people, in their political career, bid defiance to their God in breaking through every moral restraint, and keep a guiltless silence because religion has nothing to do with politics? I forbear to press the argument farther; observing only, that many of our difficulties and sins may be traced to this pernicious notion. Yes, if our religion had had more to do with our politics; if, in the pride of our citizenship, we had not forgotten our Christianity: if we had prayed more and wrangled less about the affairs of our country, it would have been infinitely better for us at this day.
But you are afraid that to refuse a man your suffrages because he is an infidel, would interfere with the rights of conscience. This is a most singular scruple, and proves how wild are the opinions of men on the subject of liberty. Conscience is God’s officer in the human breast, and its rights are defined by his law. The right of conscience to trample on his authority is the right of a rebel, which entitles him to nothing but condign punishment. You are afraid of being unkind to the conscience of an infidel. Dismiss your fears. It is the last grievance of which he will complain. How far do you suppose Mr. Jefferson consulted his conscience when he was vilifying the divine word, and preaching insurrection against God, by preaching the harmlessness of atheism? But supposing Mr. Jefferson to be conscientiously impious, this would only be a stronger reason for our opposition. For the more conscientious a man is, the more persevering will he be in his views, and the more anxious for their propagation. If he be fixed, then, in dangerous error, faithfulness to God and truth requires us to resist him and his conscience too; and to keep from him the means of doing mischief. If a man thought himself bound in conscience, whenever he should be able, to banish God’s sabbath, burn his churches, and hang his worshippers, would you entrust him with power out of respect to conscience? I trow not. And why you should judge differently in the case of an infidel who spurns at what is dearer to you than life, I cannot conceive. But in your solicitude for the conscience of Mr. Jefferson, have you considered, in the mean time, what becomes of your own conscience? Has it no rights? no voice? no influence? Are you not to keep it void of offence towards God? Can you do this in elevating his open enemies to the highest dignity of your country? Beware, therefore, lest an ill-directed care for the conscience of another, bring your own under the lashes of remorse. Keep this clear, by the word of God, and there is little hazard of injuring your neighbor’s. But how can you interfere with any man’s conscience by refusing him a political office? You do not invade the sanctuary of his bosom: you impose on him no creed: you simply tell him you do not like him, or that you prefer another to him. Do you injure him by this? Do you not merely exercise the right of a citizen and a Christian? It belongs essentially to the freedom of election, to refuse my vote to any candidate for reasons of conscience, of state, of predilection, or for no reason at all but my own choice. The rights of conscience, on his part, are out of the question. He proposes himself for my approbation. If I approve, I give him my support. If not, I withhold it. His conscience has nothing to do with my motives; but to my own conscience they are serious things. If he be an infidel, I will not compel him to profess Christianity. Let him retain his infidelity, enjoy all its comforts, and meet all its consequences. But I have an unquestionable right to say, “I cannot trust a man of such principles: on what grounds he has adopted them is not my concern; nor will his personal sincerity alter their tendency. While he is an infidel, he shall never have my countenance. Let him stay where he is: and let his conscience be its own reward.” I could not blame another for such conduct to me; for he only makes an independent use of his privilege, which does me no injury: nor am I to be blamed for such conduct to another, for I only make the same use of my privilege, which is no injury to him. Mr. Jefferson’s conscience cannot, therefore, be wronged if you exclude him from the presidency because he is an infidel; and your own, by an act of such Christian magnanimity, may escape hereafter many a bitter pang. For if you elect Mr. Jefferson, though an infidel, from a regard to what you consider the rights of conscience, you must, in order to be consistent, carry your principle through. If infidelity is not a valid objection to a candidate for the presidency, it cannot be so to a candidate for any other office. You must never again say, “We will not vote for such a man because he is an infidel.” The evil brotherhood will turn upon you with your own doctrine of the “rights of conscience.” You must then either retract, or be content to see every office filled with infidels. How horrible, in such an event, would be the situation of your country! How deep your agony under the torments of self-reproach!
But there is no prospect, you say, of obtaining a real Christian, and we had better choose an infidel than a hypocrite. By no means. Supposing that a man professes Christianity, and evinces in his general deportment a regard for its doctrines, its worship, and its laws; though he be rotten at heart, he is infinitely preferable to a known infidel. His hypocrisy is before God. It may ruin his own soul; but, while it is without detection, can do no hurt to men. We have a hold of him which it is impossible to get of an infidel. His reputation, his habits, his interests, depending upon the belief of his Christianity, are sureties for his behaviour to which we vainly look for a counterbalance in an infidel; and they are, next to religion itself, the strongest sureties of man to man. His very hypocrisy is an homage to the gospel. The whole weight of his example is on the side of Christianity, while that of an open infidel lies wholly against it. It is well known that the attendance of your Washington, and of President Adams upon public worship, gave the ordinances of the gospel a respectability in the eyes of many which otherwise they would not have had: brought a train of thoughtless people within the reach of the means of salvation: and thus strengthened the opposition of Christians to the progress of infidelity. You can never forget the honorable testimony which Mr. Adams bore, in one of his proclamations, to a number of the most precious truths of Revelation; nor how he was abused and ridiculed for it, by not a few of those very persons who now strive to persuade you that Mr. Jefferson is a Christian. In short, your president, if an open infidel, will be a centre of contagion to the whole continent: If a professed Christian, he will honor the institutions of God; and though his hypocrisy, should he prove a hyprocrite, may be a fire to consume his own vitals, it cannot become a wide-spreading conflagration.
Can you still hesitate? Perhaps you may. I therefore bespeak your attention to a few plain and cogent reasons, why you cannot, without violating your plighted faith, and trampling on your most sacred duties, place an infidel at the head of your government.
1. The civil magistrate is God’s officer. He is the minister of God, saith Paul, to thee for good.* Consequently his first and highest obligation, is to cherish in his mind, and express in his conduct, his sense of obedience to the Governor of the Universe. He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.† The scriptures have left you this and similar declarations, to direct you in the choice of your magistrates. And you are bound, upon your allegiance to the God of the scriptures, to look out for such men as answer the description; and if, unhappily, they are not to be had, for such as come nearest to it. The good man, he who shall “dwell in God’s holy hill,” is one “in whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoreth them that fear the Lord.”‡ But can you pretend to regard this principle, when you desire to raise an infidel to the most important post in your country? Do you call this honoring them that fear God? Nay, it is honoring them who do not fear God: that is, according to the scriptural contrast, honoring a vile person, whom, as Christians, you ought to contemn. And have you the smallest expectation that one who despises the word and worship of God; who has openly taught the harmlessness of rebellion against his government and being, by teaching that atheism is no injury to society, will, nevertheless, rule in his fear? Will it shew any reverence or love to your Father in heaven, to put a distinguishing mark of your confidence upon his sworn foe? Or will it be an affront to his majesty?
2. The civil magistrate is, by divine appointment, the guardian of the sabbath. In it thou shalt not do any work; thou, nor thy son, &c. nor the stranger that is within thy gates.* “Gates,” is a scriptural term for public authority; and that it is so to be understood in this commandment, is evident from its connection with “stranger.” God says that even the stranger shall not be allowed to profane his sabbath. But the stranger can be controlled only by the civil magistrate who “sitteth in the gate.”† It therefore belongs to his office, to enforce, by lawful means, the sanctification of the sabbath, as the fundamental institute of religion and morals, and the social expression of homage to that God under whom he acts. The least which can be accepted from him, is to recommend it by personal observance. How do you suppose Mr. Jefferson will perform this part of his duty? or how can you deposit in his hands a trust, which you cannot but think he will betray; and in betraying which, he will not only sacrifice some of your most invaluable interests, but as your organ and in your name, lift up his heel against the God of heaven? In different states, you have made, not long since, spirited exertions to hinder the profanation of your Lord’s day. For this purpose many of you endeavored to procure religious magistrates for this city, and religious representatives in the councils of the state. You well remember how you were mocked, traduced, execrated, especially by the infidel tribe. But what is now become of your zeal and your consistency? I can read in the list of delegates to the legislature, the names of men who have been an ornament to the gospel, and acquitted themselves like Christians in that noble struggle, and yet are expected to ballot for electors, whose votes shall be given to an infidel president. Who hath bewitched you, Christians? or, what do you mean by siding with the infidels to lift into the chair of state, a man more eminent for nothing than for his scorn of the day, the ordinances, and the worship of your Redeemer; and who did not blush to make it, in the face of the sun, a season of frolic and revel?* Is this your kindness to your friend?
3. The church of God has ever accounted it a great mercy to have civil rulers professing his name. Rather than yield it, thousands of your fathers have poured out their blood. This privilege is now in your hands: and it is the chief circumstance which makes the freedom of election worth a Christian’s care. Will you, dare you, abuse it by prostituting it to the aggrandizement of an enemy to your Lord and to his Christ? If you do, will it not be a righteous thing with God to take the privilege from you altogether; and, in his wrath, to subject you, and your children, and your children’s children, to such rulers as you have, by your own deed, preferred?
4. You are commanded to pray for your rulers: it is your custom to pray, that they may be men fearing God and hating covetousness. You intreat him to fulfil his promise, that kings shall be to his church nursing-fathers, and queens her nursing-mothers.† With what conscience can you lift up your hands in such a supplication, when you are exerting yourselves to procure a president, who you know does not fear God; i.e. one exactly the reverse of the man whom you ask him to bestow? And when, by this act, you do all in your power to defeat the promise of which you affect to wish the fulfilment? Do you think that the church of Christ is to be nurtured by the dragon’s milk of infidelity? Or that the contradiction between your prayers and your practice does not mock the holy God?
5. There are circumstances in the state of your country which impart to these reflections, applicable in their spirit to all Christians, a double emphasis in their application to you.
The federal Constitution makes no acknowledgement of that God who gave us our national existence, and saved us from anarchy and internal war. This neglect has excited in many of its best friends, more alarm than all other difficulties. The only way to wipe off the reproach of irreligion, and to avert the descending vengeance, is to prove, by our national acts, that the Constitution has not, in this instance, done justice to the public sentiment. But if you appoint an infidel for your president, and such an infidel as Mr. Jefferson, you will sanction that neglect, you will declare, by a solemn national act, that there is no more religion in your collective character, than in your written constitution: you will put a national indignity upon the God of your mercies; and provoke him, it may be, to send over your land that deluge of judgments which his forbearance has hitherto suspended.
Add to this the consideration, that infidelity has awfully increased. The time was, and that within your own recollection, when the term infidelity was almost a stranger to our ears, and an open infidel an object of abhorrence. But now the term has become familiar, and infidels hardly disgust. Our youth, our hope and our pride, are poisoned with the accursed leaven. The vain title of “philosopher,” has turned their giddy heads, and, what is worse, corrupted their untutored hearts. It is now a mark of sense, the proof of an enlarged and liberal mind, to scoff at all the truths of inspiration, and to cover with ridicule the hope of a Christian; those truths and that hope which are the richest boon of divine benignity; which calm the perturbed conscience, and heal the wounded spirit; which sweeten every comfort, and soothe every sorrow; which give strong consolation in the arrest of death, and shed the light of immortality on the gloom of the grave. All, all are become the sneer of the buffoon, and the song of the drunkard. These things, Christians, you deplore. You feel indignant, as well as discouraged, at the inroads of infidel principle and profligate manners. You declaim against them. You caution your children against their infection. And yet, with such facts before your eyes, and such lessons in your mouths, you are on the point of undoing whatever you have done; and annihilating, at one blow, the effect of all your profession, instruction, and example. By giving your support to Mr. Jefferson, you are about to strip infidelity of its ignominy; array it in honors; and hold it up with eclat to the view of the rising generation. By this act, you will proclaim to the whole world that it is not so detestable a thing as you pretended; that you do not believe it subversive of moral obligation and social purity: that a man may revile your religion and blaspheme your Saviour; and yet command your highest confidence. This amounts to nothing less than a deliberate surrender of the cause of Jesus Christ into the hands of his enemies. By this single act—my flesh trembles, my blood chills at the thought! by this single act you will do more to destroy a regard for the gospel of Jesus, than the whole fraternity of infidels with all their arts, their industry and their intrigues. You will stamp credit upon principles, the native tendency of which is to ruin your children in this world, and damn them in the world to come. O God! “the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but thy people doth not know, and Israel doth not consider.”*
With these serious reflections, let me connect a fact equally serious: The whole strength of open and active infidelity is on the side of Mr. Jefferson. You may well start! But the observation and experience of the continent is one long and loud attestation to the truth of my assertion. I say open and active infidelity. You can scarcely find one exception among all who preach infidel tenets among the people. Did it never occur to you, that such men would not be so zealous for Mr. Jefferson if they were not well assured of his being one of themselves—that they would cordially hate him if they supposed him to be a Christian—or that they have the most sanguine hope that his election to the presidency will promote their cause? I know, that to serve the purpose of the moment, those very presses which teemed with abuse of your Redeemer, are now affecting to offer incense to his religion; and that deists themselves are laboring to convince you that Mr. Jefferson is a Christian; and yet have the effrontery to talk of other men’s hypocrisy! Can you be the dupes of such an artifice? Do you not see in it a proof that there is no reliance to be placed on an infidel conscience? Do you need to be reminded that these infidels who now court you, are the very men who, four years ago, insulted your faith and your Lord with every expression of ridicule and contempt? That these very men circulated, with unremitting assiduity, that execrable book of Boulanger, entitled Christianity Unveiled; and that equally execrable abortion of Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason? That, in order to get them (especially the latter) into the hands of the common people, they sold them at a very low rate; gave them away where they could not sell them; and slipped them into the pockets of numbers who refused to accept them? Do you know that some of these infidels were at the trouble of translating from the French, and printing, for the benefit of Americans, a work of downright, undisguised atheism, with the imposing title of Common Sense? That it was openly advertised, and extracts, or an extract, published to help the sale?* Do you know that some of the same brotherhood are secretly handing about, I need not say where, a book, written by Charles Pigott, an Englishman, entitled A Political Dictionary? Take the following sample of its impiety (my hair stiffens while I transcribe it): “Religion—a superstition invented by the arch-bishop of hell, and propagated by his faithful diocesans the clergy, to keep the people in ignorance and darkness, that they may not see the work of iniquity that is going on,” &c.†
Such are the men with whom professors of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ are concerting the election of an infidel to the presidency of the United States of America. Hear the word of the Lord. “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? And what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”‡ Yet Christians are uniting with infidels in exalting an infidel to the chief magistracy! If he succeed, Christians must bear the blame. Numerous as the infidels are, they are not yet able, adored be God, to seize upon our “high places.” Christians must help them, or they set not their feet on the threshold of power. If, therefore, an infidel preside over our country, it will be your fault, Christians; and your act; and you shall answer it? And for aiding and abetting such a design, I charge upon your consciences the sin of striking hands in a covenant of friendship with the enemies of your master’s glory. Ah, what will be your compunction, when these same infidels, victorious, through your assistance, will “tread you down as the mire in the streets,” and exult in their triumph over bigots and bigotry.
Sit down, now, and interrogate your own hearts, whether you can, with a “pure-conscience,” befriend Mr. Jefferson’s election? Whether you can do it in the name of the Lord Jesus? Whether you can lift up your heads and tell him that the choice of this infidel is for his honor, and that you promote it in the faith of his approbation? Whether, in the event of success, you have a right to look for his blessing in the enjoyment of your president? Whether, having preferred the talents of a man before the religion of Jesus, you ought not to fear that God will blast these talents; abandon your president to infatuated counsels; and yourselves to the plague of your own folly? Whether it would not be just to remove the restraints of his good providence, and scourge you with that very infidelity which you did not scruple to countenance? Whether you can, without some guilty misgivings, pray for the spirit of Christ upon a president whom you choose in spite of every demonstration of his hatred to Christ? Those who, to keep their consciences clean, oppose Mr. Jefferson, may pray for him, in this manner, with a full and fervent heart. But to you, God may administer this dread rebuke: “You chose an infidel: keep him as ye chose him: walk in the sparks that ye have kindled.” Whether the threatnings of God are not pointed against such a magistrate and such a people? “Be wise, O ye kings,” is his commandment; “be instructed ye judges of the earth: serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling: Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way when his anger is kindled but a little.”* What then is in store for a magistrate who is so far from “kissing the son,” that he hates and opposes him? “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”† And who forget him, if not a nation which, tho’ called by his name, nevertheless caresses, honors, rewards his enemies? The Lord hath sworn to strike through Kings in the day of his wrath.‡ Woe, then, to those governments which are wielded by infidels, when he arises to judgment; and woe to those who have contributed to establish them! To whatever influence they owe their determinations and their measures, it is not to the “spirit of understanding and of the fear of the Lord.” Do I speak these things as a man; or saith not the scripture the same also?
Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me, and that cover with a covering, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin. That walk to go down into Egypt (and have not asked at my mouth) to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt. Therefore the strength of Egypt shall be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.*
This is the light in which God considers your confidence in his enemies. And the issue for which you ought to be prepared.
I have done; and do not flatter myself that I shall escape the censure of many professed, and of some real, Christians. The stile of this pamphlet is calculated to conciliate nothing but conscience. I desire to conciliate nothing else. “If I pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” I do not expect, nor wish, to fare better than the apostle of the gentiles, who became the enemy of not a few professors, because he told them the truth.† But the bible speaks of “children that will not hear the law of the Lord—which say to the seers, See not: and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things: speak unto us smooth things: prophesy deceits.”‡ Here is the truth, “Whether you will hear, or whether you will forbear.” If you are resolved to persevere in elevating an infidel to the chair of your president, I pray God not to “choose your delusions”—but cannot dissemble that “my flesh trembleth for fear of his judgments.” It is my consolation that my feeble voice has been lifted up for his name. I have addressed you as one who believes, and I beseech you to act as those who believe, “That we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” Whatever be the result, you shall not plead that you were not warned. If, notwithstanding, you call to govern you an enemy to my Lord and your Lord; in the face of earth and heaven, and in the audience of your own consciences, I record my protest, and wash my hands of your guilt.
Arise, O Lord, and let not man prevail!
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