Letter from Thomas Jefferson
Letter To Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse - Monticello, June 26, 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
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.
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.
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. 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 respect.