Thursday, December 31, 2009

Finally, To The Blogosphere; James Madison's Notes On The Bible Part II


It is an understatement that the general public has never seen many early writings of James Madison. Indeed, their importance is magnified, by the lack of visibility they are given. However, the underlying influence to JM happens to be the same influence of our founding. Many of his personal letters to and from his family, and most notably to his best friend William Bradford, after 1775, are lost. R. C. Weightman, who collaborated with William C. Rives; the first Madison biographer, explains "some of JM's letters to Bradford were probably dated at the time of the Constitutional Convention of 1787" but they haven't been found. In reality, James Madison destroyed most of his private correspondence he thought not important. The remainder of his private letters were scattered to his friends and family.

Whatever the reason he destroyed his private correspondence, this blog has sufficiently shown, prior to the 19th Century, James Madison was a Calvinist. Several of his letters from 1773 to 1775 appear similar in style to any Calvinist clergyman; sometimes with more zeal (emphasis mine).

For instance, this letter in 1773 could have been written by a Genevan legislator in the 16th Century:

"[B]ut I find them [book reviews] loose in their principles[,] encourage[r]s of free inquiry even such as destroys the most essential Truths, Enemies to serious religion..." [bold face mine]

-To William Bradford, Dec. 1, 1773. The Papers of James Madison, Vol. I. 16 Mar 1751 - 16 Dec. 1779. Edited by William T. Hutchinson and William M. E. Rachal. 1962, by the University of Chicago Press.

*[Editors Note] Students' notes taken between 1772 and 1775 on Witherspoon's "Moral Philosophy, Rhetoric and Eloquence" lectures, now preserved in the Princeton University Library, include warnings against reading ephemeral works dangerous to sound religion and morality.

Madison is refering to writers who promote Heterodox Christianity, of which he veheminately attacked. JM understood the difference between Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy:

"At the same time his ingenious and plausible defence of parliamentary authority carries in it such defects and misrepresentations, as confirm me in political orthodoxy—after the same manner as the specious arguments of Infidels have established the faith of inquiring Christians. [bold face mine]

-To William Bradford Jr., July 1, 1774.

Did JM mean some Christians were being influenced by infidels? What kind of heterodoxy was he refering to? Here, the Orthodox Bradford reassures his friend about the importance of Orthodoxy:

"I went yesterday to hear our classmate McCorkle predicate: & I assure you his sermon was very orthodox: The point he chiefly Laboured to prove was "that the Laws of God were superior in wisdom to the Laws of men"; & I think his arguments on this part were in a gr[e]at measure unanswerable; the rest had a great deal of chronology but very little instruction in it." [bold face mine]

-To James Madison, Oct 17, 1774.

It appears Bradford is assuring JM that their friend, McCorkle, remained orthodox, or else why write this if JM wasn't orthodox?

This next quote highlites the Calvinism he learned at Princeton:

"Little did I ever expect to hear that Jeremiah's Doctrine that "the heart of man is deceitful above all things & desperately wicked"[Jer 17:9] was exemplified in the celebrated Dr Franklin, & if the suspicions against him be well founded it certainly is remarkably exemplified. Indeed it appears to me that the bare suspicion of his guilt amounts very nearly to a proof of its reality."

-To William Bradford, June 19th, 1775.

The Total Depravity of man was adhered to by almost every Founding Father, excepting unitarian Clergyman, who had the audacity to claim their virtue could meet God's standards; at this very day, an unbelievable, and hopeless act of arrogance.

JM had a "Commonplace Book" many Founding Fathers kept, including Bradford. This quote in that book is interesting as JM condemns himself. His use of the word "Sinners" and "faults" appear to describe a personal rather than professional depravity:

"I know a Man, reputed moderate, just & devout, who is a Mortal Enemy to Auricular confession. And why? Is he conscious of some extraordinary & atrocious Qualities? or does he desire to appear much better than he really is? People who pretend to Religion cannot help confessing in general that they are Sinners; but they conceal or disown all Particulars. Why should I be so unwilling to confess even my Particular faults to men? Since they have the same faults or Equivalent. They may well admire my Sincerity or (if you will) my Impudence; but they cannot be surprized at my Wickedness. I am Humble before God, but confident before Men."

-Commonplace Book, 1759-1772.

After JM added his words to the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776, John Calvin's Pre-destination Theology was still evident in a letter to JM.

Madison's response to Smith is lost, but Smith tells us that Madison rejected moral liberty in favor of John Calvin's(Scripture's) pre-determined will, promoted by Jonathan Edwards and John Knox:

"I have read over your theoretical objections against the doctrine of moral liberty; for practically you seem to be one of its disciples.1 I remember the manner in which you have formerly expressed yourself upon that intricate subject..It was with a view to avoid the objections with which you press me, that I made a distinction betwixt desire, & volition; & supposed that the latter solely regards our actions, & not merely the objects themselves that excite desires the immediate motives of volition...But only that they have such an influence as to prevent any necessary & irresistible effect of their antagonists. The mechanism of the idea is the objection which I make to your illustration of a motive deficient by 1/3 of the force necessary to produce an action--which then would not be commensurate to the effect, & would require some supplement to make up the deficiency. Altho we are not able to explain the idea of moral liberty, & that innate of mind that is involved in it, so as to be exempt from all questioning & doubt, yet we have as clear a sentiment of nature to appeal to, as in the case of colour.4"

-Smith to Madison, September 15, 1778. The Papers of Madison, Vol. 1, William Hutchinson, 1970.

Footnotes:
1. JM's reply to Smith's letter of Nov. 1771-August 1778 (q.v.) is lost, but at least part of what he must have written is implicit, & occasionally explicit, in the present answer.
4. From Smith's rebuttal it would appear that JM had countered Smith's distinction between desire and volition by advancing a staple argument of the opponents of freedom of the will to the effect that desire and volition are both conditioned by a chain of antecedent forces necessarily determing any given choice [PRE-DETERMINED ACTIONS DETERMINE CHOICE]. Another important thread of JM's argument seems to have been an effort to confound Smith's derivation of moral liberty from the multitude of desires, passions, interests, etc., which press upon human beings. JM apparently tried to show by a specific percentage analysis of the contending motives that even the interplay of forces from which Smith derived moral liberty might well be a part of the great chain of events (predeterming) every course of action.

Madison quoted John Calvin as late Feb. 1788:

"It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."

As Author, David W. Hall explains, Madison sounds not unlike John Calvin:

"If we were all like angels, blameless and freely able to exercise perfect control, we would not need rules or regulations. Why, then, do we have so many laws and statutes? Because of man's wickedness, for he is constantly overflowing with evil; this is why a remedy is required."
-Sermons on Galatians (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1996), 313.
Emphasis Added.

How could JM move from a seemingly orthodox position until 1788, and call the "Great Spirit" of the Indians the "Father of us all?" From his years at Princeton, he knew without a shadow of a doubt, no other belief system could have any purity without Christ; refering to his "The best and purest religion" quote of 1833. Anyway you slice it, there was a change, which begs the question, why did he destroy his personal letters, at a time when he was less orthodox? Could it be he departed from his earlier faith, and didn't want posterity to see how he used to believe? With JM's knowledge of orthodoxy, and Seminary training, he knew precisely what infidelity was, as his early letters support.

No doubt we would all be very surprised to see those lost letters JM destroyed.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Finally, To The Blogosphere; James Madison's Notes On The Bible Part I


When I first saw these notes (and others James Madison wrote attending college), I felt like a kid in a candy store. I knew they were real, however, did his notes present Christian Orthodoxy, as the Bible explains? I have seen some of these quotes, one in particular, that is never sourced. They make their rounds, posted both by Christian Nation, and secularist hounds, who have no gumption to check its authenticity, thereby bringing attention to themselves, rather than to the substance of the quotes.

Before I present Founding Father James Madison's Notes on the Bible, the biggest question I had after reading them, was, did Madison write anything while forming the nation that blatantly contradicts these words from 1770 to 1775? That answer is a resounding no! But, let's face it, that some of the Founding Fathers changed their views is a fact of history. Along with Madison, Robert Treat Paine, John Marshall, James Kent, and John Adams come to mind. I mention John Adams because he also believed in inerrancy of Scripture until after he helped form the nation:

"The idea of infidelity [a disbelief in the inspiration of the Scriptures or the divine origin of Christianity, Websters 1828 Dict.] cannot be treated with too much resentment or too much horror. The man who can think of it with patience is a traitor in his heart and ought to be execrated [denounced] as one who adds the deepest hypocrisy to the blackest treason.

-John Adams to James Warren on August 4, 1778.

A thorough examination of each of their writings, show their fundamental views on religion changed over time. Calling the "Great Spirit" of the Indians the "Father of us all" and Christianity, "The best and purest religion" as Madison did, happened in the 19th century, beyond the time of our founding. Furthermore, Marshall and Kent never departed from inerrancy of the Bible, but Madison's quotes do.

Here are some of Madison's "Notes on Commentary on the Bible" found in The Papers of James Madison, p. 51-59. Vol. I. 16 Mar 1751 - 16 Dec. 1779. Edited by William T. Hutchinson and William M. E. Rachal. 1962, by the University of Chicago Press.

[Th]e Acts

Ch. 20. Grace, it is the free gift of God. Luke. 120 32-v. 32

Ch. 21. Sins, or Faults, committed before conversion should not be related to the prejudice of the late Sinner v. 8

Ch. 22. Carnal Reason, when against the command of God, should be laid by. v. 19

Ch. 23. Conscience[:] it should be inform'd as well as followed. v. 1.
Herod mentioned ib[id].
Sadducees, deny the Resurrection & the existence of Angel or Spirit v. 8

Ch. 26. Unconverted has little reason to expect to convert others by their ministry

Ch. 28. Charity[:] no duty more certainly rewarded in another World; so is it frequently rewarded in this, as was Publius, by the miraculous cure perform'd on his Father for his Charity to Paul. v. 8.

Gospels.

Mat. Ch 1st Pollution[:] Christ did by the power of his Godhead purify our nature from all the pollution of our Ancestors v. 5. &c

Virgin Mary had no other Child (probably) but our Saviour. v. 25

Some Proverbs of Solomon

XX 9 Who can say I have made my Heart clean; I am pure from my sin

In the book of Acts, where the Bereans are mentioned that they searched the scriptures, JM commends their conduct "as a noble example for all succeeding Christians to imitate and follow..."

"Omnisciency--God's foreknowledge doth not compel, but permits to be done." Acts, ch. II. v. 23.
"Christ's divinity appears by St. John, ch. XX. v. 28."
"Resurrection testified and witnessed by the Apostles. Acts, ch. IV. v. 33."

The editor believes these notes, with the exception of the extracts from Proverbs, were quoted from William Burkitt's, Expository Notes, with Practical Observations, on the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, printed in London in 1724. JM most likely wrote these notes while a student at the College of New Jersey.

Of course the above sentiments is what JM and his family believed for generations; foreknowledge, depravity, The Trinity, Grace, etc. encommpassed the Calvinist beliefs of James Madison.

JM's Calvinism is written in: The Federalist Papers of 1787-88, and his Memorial and Remonstrance of 1785, evidenced from "that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction.."..It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society."

The Worship of God, (in its Christian context), is not a choice, but a duty, brought on by the conscience.

In part II, I'll discuss JM's later Calvinist writings.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How John Dickinson Changed American History


19th century historians call Founding Father John Dickinson, the "Penman of the Revolution" for he publicly presented the people with the legal justification to separate from Great Britain. He produced our first paper on nationalism in the Stamp Act Congress called, "Declaration of Rights." His 19th century biographer, Paul Leicester Ford, explains, "Letters of a Farmer" ran through the colonies like wildfire, furnishing a common fighting ground to all and so leading the way to union." Dickinson's "Liberty Song" led to the first Congress, and they designated him only to draw up "Petition to the King" and "The Address to Inhabitants of Quebec."

Ford explains, "In the Continental Congress he drew the "Second Petition to the King," offering for the last time the olive branch; while at the same time writing the "Declaration upon taking up Arms." Yet, for all his great work, he paused to declare independence, most likely due to his Quaker beliefs of peaceful resistance, thereby, changing history by opening the door to national prominence for another man, who in turn, befriended another who rose to the same station.

The two men I speak of are: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the third and fourth President's of the United States. Jefferson gained National prominence from Dickinson's in-action to become the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. History supports if Dickinson had not wavered for independence, he, not Jefferson, would have been the principal author of the Declaration. Not only that, but Benjamin Franklin may not have been on the DOI drafting committee; Dickinson, with many other Framers, didn't like him much. Dickinson, publicly wrote against Franklin, and demanded his recall from service to the King giving seven reasons. Here is the fourth reason:

"Because the Proposal of the Person mentioned, is so extremely disagreeable to a very great Number of the most serious and reputable Inhabitants of this Province of all Denominations and Societies (one Proof of which is, his having been rejected, both by this City and County at the last Election, though he had represented the former in Assembly for 14 years) that we are convinced no Measure this House can adopt, will tend so much to inflame the Resentments and imbitter the Divisions of the good People of this province, as his Appointment to be our Agent--And we cannot but sincerely lament, that the Peace and Happiness of Pennsylvania should be sacrificed for the Promotion of a Man, who cannot be advanced but by the Convulsions of his country." [bold face mine]
-John Dickinson, A Protest Against The Appointment of Benjamin Franklin As Agent For The Colony of Pennsylvania. October 26, 1764.

Jefferson was an unknown compared to the most famous man in the colonies. After 1776, Dickinson was still the best writer in the land by preparing the original draft of The Articles of Confederation; our first Constitution. It is only speculation, however, had Dickinson come around sooner, after all, he was a Pennsylvania Brigadier General from 1775-1777, he could have been elected President, displacing either George Washington or John Adams; most likely Adams. To my somewhat surprise, Dickinson was a Republican, and Jefferson greatly admired him.

Adams did not lose his re-election bid because he wrote an Orthodox Christian Fast Proclamation. As Ross Perot did to Bob Dole, so Alexander Hamilton did to John Adams. Hamilton's followers, called "Hamiltonians" were largely affluent attorneys, who split the party, crushing Adams' re-election. At that time, Adams had many adversaries, including: Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, and Franklin. His "Presbyterian" fast of 1798 did not hurt him at all, rather, he gained more votes from the Orthodox.

Both Jefferson, and Madison, may have Dickinson to thank for his wavering in-action. Madison became President riding on the coat-tails of Jefferson, who may not have been President.

Ironically, Washington was only eight months older than Dickinson. Would Dickinson have been elected over Washington, or nominated his Vice President over Adams? An interesting what if.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How The Protestant Reformation Shaped The Modern World


As this blog as noted before, the Protestant Reformation, not the Enlightenment, is responsible for the world's political liberty and promoting human rights. Writer for the Acton Institute, David W. Hall, is Senior fellow at The Kuyper Institute in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He has written an article emphasizing the different Social Contracts; one arising from the Reformation, the other, from the Humanist Enlightenment.

Here is David W. Hall on the different Social Contracts:

"The one I refer to as the social covenant (to distinguish) has resisted tyranny, totalitarianism, and authoritarianism with consistent and irrepressible force; the other has led to oppression, large-scale loss of life, and the general diminution of liberty, both economic and personal."

The Social Contract of the Founding Fathers is found only in the Bible, with God the foundation of the covenant. Hall, whose research on John Calvin's influence on the United States is a must read, explains the five leading tracts promoting political liberty are: "The Right of Magistrates (1574) by Theodore Beza, The Rights of the Crown of Scotland (1579) by George Buchanan, Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos (1579) by Phillipe du Plessis Mornay, Politica (1603) by Johannes Althusius, and Lex Rex (1644) by Samuel Rutherford."

These reformers no doubt read passages such as Proverbs 14:28, et al. supporting their theories of Republicanism. Calvinism was the impetus for suppressing absolute monarchy, by elevating Constitutional Republicanism. Granted, political liberty was touched on in the middle ages, however, Geneva's Republicanism completely transformed the State, as Hall explains, "Planting the seeds that would eventually bear fruit in the American Revolution, Protestants generally laid the foundation for the motto on Thomas Jefferson’s seal: “Resistance to Tyrants Is Obedience unto God."

Republicanism; that the people are above the king, is theology derived from the above mentioned verse in Proverbs, "In the multitude of people is the king's honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince." The Reformation also brought the world, "consent of the governed" as the people, next to God, are supreme in the State. Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison understood limited government and consent of the governed directly from Reformation writers. These framers, including Thomas Jefferson, stole "resistance to tyrants" theology from John Calvin, otherwise known as interposition.

Here is Hall on the enlightenment:

"Since this New World led to such paramount developments of government, the locus of the underlying root is not unimportant. Systemic features such as limited terms, balance of powers, citizen nullification, and interpositional magistracies were at the heart of New World government, all concepts that were popularized by the Reformation. One hundred years prior to the American Revolution, most of the major ideas were set, and they did not originate properly from Enlightenment social contract thought so much as from Buchanan/Rutherford’s social covenant, ensconced in its distinctly Biblical moorings."

We must not forget the Federalist Papers; the correct exposition of the Constitution, is filled with John Calvin's ideas, not those of the enlightenment.