Thursday, February 17, 2011

Was Chief Justice John Marshall Orthodox?

From the below letter, we know John Marshall became an Orthodox Christian, believing in the Vicarious Blood Atonement for Sin by Jesus Christ upon the Cross. The Bible leaves  man no excuse as to what atones for sin. Romans 3: 23-25 literally says "faith in His blood":
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. [bold face mine]
On a side note, I know for a fact James Madison read this chapter because he quoted Romans 5 in his Memorial and Remonstrance, in which Paul says in v 8-9 the same thing about blood:
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
It is safe to say Marshall and the other Founding Fathers read the entire book of Romans at least once. It was probably mandatory reading in college, most likely they had to translate into Greek from the English.

Back to Marshall. There appears to be some confusion from the below statement from Rev. Norwood and an earlier testimony on Marshall, most likely in 1830. Here is the letter from Rev. Norwood:
As to the religious opinions of Judge Marshall the following extract from a letter of the Rev. Mr. Norwood may be entirely relied on:

I have read some remarks of yours in regard to C hief Justice Marshall, which have suggested to me to communicate to you the following facts, which may be useful should you again publish anything in relation to his religious opinions. I often visited Mrs. Gen'l Harvie during her last illness. From her I received this statement. She was much with her father during the last months of his life, and told me that the reason why he had never communed was that he was Unitarian in opinion, though he never joined their society. He told her, that he believed in the truth of the Christian revelation, but not in the divinity of Christ, therefore he could not commune in the Episcopal Church. But during the last months of his life, he read Keith on Prophecy, where our Saviour's divinity is incidentally treated, and was convinced by his work, and the fuller investigation to which it led, of the supreme divinity of the Saviour. He determined to apply for admission to the communion of our Church—objected to commune in private, because he thought it his duty to make a public confession of the Saviour—and while waiting for improved health to enable him to go to Church for that purpose, he grew worse and died without ever communing. Mrs. Harvie was a lady of the strictest probity, the most humble piety, and of a clear, discriminating mind, and her statement, the substance of which I give you accurately (having reduced it to writing), may be entirely relied upon. I remember to have heard Bishop Moore repeatedly express his surprise (when speaking of Judge Marshall), that, though he was so punctual in his attendance at church and reproved Mr. , and Mr. , and Mr. when they were absent, and knelt during the prayers and responded fervently, yet he never communed. The reason was that which he gave to his daughter, Mrs. Harvie. She said he died an humble, penitent believer in Christ, according to the orthodox creed of the Church. Very truly your friend and brother in Christ,
William Norwood

Chief Justice John Marshall
From the below anecdote, it would appear Rev. Norwood's account is a bit mis-leading. Marshall did not reject the Trinity and Atonement, rather, he didn't believe in it; similar to the faith of John Quincy Adams, maybe John Jay, and perhaps George Washington, et al. The preface in the below anecdote from the Winchester Republican is May 1831. This account is most likely from or before 1830. And you can be assured the first attack on Christianity these lawyers made was at the Trinity:
He was once travelling in the northern part of Virginia, and about night-fall arrived at the village of Winchester, in Frederick County. He drove to what was then known as M'Guire's hotel. What occurred there has been thus related : —
' It is not long since a gentleman was travelling in one of the counties of Virginia, and, about the close of the day, stopped at a public house to obtain refreshment, and spend the night. He had been there but a short time, before an old man alighted from his gig, with the apparent intention of becoming his fellowguest at the same house. As the old man drove up, he observed that both the shafts of his gig were broken, and that they were held together by withes formed from the bark of a hickory sapling. Our traveller observed further, that he was plainly clad, that his knee-buckles were loosened, and that something like negligence pervaded his dress. Conceiving him to be one of the honest yeomanry of our land, the courtesies of strangers passed between them, and they entered the tavern. It was about the same time that an addition of three or four young gentlemen was made to their number—most, if not all of them, of the legal profession. As soon as they became conveniently accommodated, the conversation was turned by the latter upon an eloquent harangue which had that day been displayed at the Bar. It was replied by the other, that he had witnessed, the same day, a degree of eloquence no doubt equal, but that it was from the pulpit. Something like a sarcastic rejoinder was made to the eloquence of the pulpit; and a warm and able altercation ensued, in which the merits of the Christian religion became the subject of discussion. From six o'clock until eleven, the young champions wielded the sword of argument, adducing, with ingenuity and ability, everything that could be said pro and con. During this protracted period, the old gentleman listened with all the meekness and modesty of a child; as if he was adding new information to the stores of his own mind ; or perhaps he was observing, with philosophic eye, the faculties of the youthful mind, and how new energies are evolved by repeated action; or, perhaps, with patriotic emotion, he was reflecting upon the future destinies of his country, and on the rising generation upon whom these future destinies must devolve; or, most probably, with a sentiment of moral and religious feeling, he was collecting an argument which — characteristic of himself—no art would be " able to elude, and no force resist." Our traveller remained a spectator, and took no part in what was said.

1 Howe's Virginia Historical Collections, page 266.
2 Richmond in By-gone Days, p. 64.

' At last one of the young men, remarking that it was impossible to combat with long established prejudices, wheeled around, and with some familiarity exclaimed, "Well, my old gentleman, what think you of these things ?" If, said the traveller, a streak of vivid lightning had at that moment crossed the room, their amazement could not have been greater than it was with what followed. The most eloquent and unanswerable appeal was made for nearly an hour, by the old gentleman, that he ever heard or read. So perfect was his recollection, that every argument urged against the Christian religion was met in the order in which it was advanced. Hume's sophistry on the subject of miracles was, if possible, more perfectly answered than it had already been done by Campbell. And in the whole lecture there was so much simplicity and energy, pathos and sublimity, that not another word was uttered. An attempt to describe it, said the traveller, would be an attempt to paint the sunbeams. It was now a matter of curiosity and inquiry who the old gentleman was. The traveller concluded it was the preacher from whom the pulpit eloquence was heard; but no, it was the Chief Justice of the United States.'l [bold face mine]

1 This anecdote was originally published in the Winchester Republican, but preserved in durable form by being printed in Howe's Virginia Historical Collections, p. 275.
There seem to be some confusion in both accounts. Are they contradictory accounts?

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