"It is a striking Representation of that Struggle which I believe always happens, between Virtue and Ambition, when a Man first commences a Courtier. By a Courtier I mean one who applies himself to the Passions and Prejudices, the Follies and Vices of great Men in order to obtain their Smiles, their Esteem and Patronage and consequently their favours and Preferments. Human Nature, depraved as it is, has interwoven in its very Frame, a Love of Truth, Sincerity, and Integrity, which must be overcome by Art, Education, and habit, before the Man can become entirely ductile to the Will of a dishonest Master. When such a Master requires of all who seek his favour, an implicit Resignation to his Will and Humour, and these require that he be soothed, flattered and assisted in his Vices, and Follies, perhaps the blackest Crimes, that Men can commit, the first Thought of this will produce in a Mind not yet entirely debauched, a Soliloqui, something like my Motto -- as if he should say -- The Minister of State or the Governor would promote my Interest, would advance me to Places of Honour and Profitt, would raise me and my family to Titles and Dignities that will be perpetuated in my family, in a Word would make the Fortune of me and my Posterity forever, if I would but comply with his Desires and become his Instrument to promote his Measures. -- But still I dread the Consequences. He requires of me, such Complyances, such horrid Crimes, such a Sacrifice of my Honour, my Conscience, my Friends, my Country, my God, as the Scriptures inform us must be punished with nothing less than Hell Fire, eternal Torment. And this is so unequal a Price to pay for the Honours and Emoluments in the Power of a Minister or Governor, that I cannot prevail upon myself to think of it. The Duration of future Punishment terrifies me. If I could but deceive myself so far as to think Eternity a Moment only, I could comply, and be promoted. Such as these are probably the Sentiments of a Mind as yet pure, and undifiled in its Morals, and undifiled in its Morals. And many and severe are the Pangs, and Agonies it must undergo, before it will be brought to yield entirely to Temptation. Notwithstanding this, We see every Day, that our Imaginations are so strong and our Reason so weak, the Charms of Wealth and Power are so en [enchanting]chanting, and the Belief of future Punishments so faint, that Men find Ways to persuade themselves, to believe any Absurdity, to submit to any Prostitution, than rather than forego their Wishes and Desires. Their Reason becomes at last an eloquent Advocate on the Side of their Passions, and [they] bring themselves to believe that black is white, that Vice is Virtue, that Folly is Wisdom and Eternity a Moment."
JOHN ADAMS Diary, FEB, 9TH, 1772. ADAMS PAPERS.
Adams again, affirming original sin:
"Thus we are equally obliged to the Supream Being for the Information he has given us of our Duty, whether by the Constitution of our Minds and Bodies or by a supernatural Revelation. For an instance of the latter let us take original sin. Some say that Adams sin was enough to damn the whole human Race, without any actual Crimes committed by any of them. Now this Guiltis brought upon them not by their own rashness and Indiscretion, not by their own Wickedness and Vice, but by the Supream Being. This Guilt brought upon us is a real Injury and Misfortune because it renders us worse than not to be, and therefore making us guilty upon account of Adams Delegation, or Representing all of us, is not in the least diminishing the Injury and Injustice but only changing the mode of conveyance."
John Adams diary August 15, 1756.
This affirmation on total depravity was not reversed until after he left office. Adams' belief in original sin is also consistent with his view on the inferiority of man's reason.
"The passions and appetites are parts of human nature as well as reason and the moral sense. In the institution of government it must be remembered that, although reason ought always to govern individuals, it certainly never did since the Fall, and never will till the Millennium; and human nature must be taken as it is, as it has been, and will be."
John Adams, 1787, Defence, 3:289, 479. Cf., Cited by Michael Novak, On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding (San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books, 2002).
Clearly in this quote, ADAMS believes man's reason is inferior to God's direct revelation, and always will be. He believes man is corrupted because of sin, not partially corrupted. A partial corruption of man is illogical; a little leaven leavens the whole lump. To rely on a flawed program for ultimate truth is a chimerical idea.
Here also, is a quote from James Madison supporting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of which includes: That God came to earth, in the form of human flesh, born of a virgin, died for the sins of the world, and rose from the dead for our justification. This Gospel, James Madison is defending; proof of his adherence to it, is found in his Memorial and Remonstrance.
"Does not the exclusion of Ministers of the Gospel, as such, violate a fundamental principle of liberty, by punishing a religious profession with the privation of a civil right? Does it not violate another article of the plan itself, which exempts religion from the cognizance of Civil power? Does it not violate justice, by at once taking away a right and prohibiting a compensation for it? Does it not, in fine, violate impartiality, by shutting the door against the Ministers of one religion and leaving it open for those of every other?" James Madison, August 23, 1785 to John Brown, (Kentucky) Papers of James Madison.
It would seem strange for Madison to affirm the truth of Christianity in his Memorial, and deny the Gospel, which he here, is supporting.
Man's reason is inefficient for absolute truth, because of its corruption by the sinful nature, this, Adams surely believed. Man's reason is flawed, and with no direct authority to adhere to, it is foolish to think the conscience can be the basis of ultimate truth. Of course, the framers, except Jefferson, Franklin, and maybe Washington, at the forming of our nation, believed the Bible is superior to man's conscience. Along with Madison, Adams' university training did not teach him man's conscience is superior to God's word, but the opposite; only later, their unfortunate relationship with Thomas Jefferson, however mislead, corrupted their beliefs.These quotes show without a doubt his meaning of the Law of Nature was The God of the Bible, what he believed after he left office need not be shown.