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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Religion of James Madison While He Helped Form the Nation

If, it is agreed that the beliefs of our Founding Fathers is only relevant during the time they helped establish the nation, the fact is, James Madison held to orthodox Christian views, until his unfortunate relationship with the infidel Thomas Jefferson led him away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By a close examination of Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance, one perceives he was still an orthodox Christian, not departing from the faith until years later.

The Memorial is filled with declarations for the truth of Christianity, that is, the orthodox beliefs held by the majority of Christians for hundreds of years.

"Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us." James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance, [ca. 20 June 1785]

Madison is here, including himself with orthodox Christians, not infidel whigs, or anyone else. He is saying I am one of you. A key point to understand is the audience the seminary student is addressing; most, if not all those Virginians were orthodox Christians, as historian James Hutson notes, this document was “written to appeal to evangelical forces during a petition campaign in 1785.″ These evangelical forces were orthodox, the secret "infidel" whigs were not a threat.

Another point to reflect on is Bishop Meade's comments on Madison's words for Christianity. When Meade writes,

"It is drawn up on the supposition of the truth of Christianity. It must indeed have done this in order to be acceptable to those by whom it was solicited.",+old+churches+volume+II+papers#PPA1,M1

Does Meade understand this comment as an attack against Madison not being truthful, or an obvious statement? I believe it's the latter; accusing Madison of being disengenious, lying to his family, and the people of Virginia just to defeat an assessment bill doesn't seem right to me. Even if Bishop Meade does believe Madison is lying to garner votes, does that seem to be Madison's character? The words Madison uses in the Memorial seem to be authentic, with a great deal of time and thought put into it:

"Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy... The second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation."

Madison is saying Christianity is the only truth, and Jesus is the only means of salvation. Earlier, he explained Christianity is true, and everything else false; again, do not be deceived about the Christianity Madison is talking about. He is referring to orthodoxy, not heterodoxy. Madison was no universalist at this time, and from the orthodox audience he's addressing, labeling him anything else is unreasonable as well. Here Madison wishes everyone would be a Christian:

"Because the policy of the Bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be that it(Christianity) may be imparted to the whole race of mankind."

If another religion was adequate for salvation, Madison would never have said this. Again, Madison exalts Christianity over the other false religions; quite different from his "best and purest religion" comment in 1833. Madison again:

"Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of revelation from coming into the Region of it; and countenances by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of Levelling as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of Truth"

As to the faith of James Madison after forming the nation, I see it as irrelevant; although, I firmly believe he abandoned Jesus Christ, and became a polytheist, as is current President, George Bush.


Hercules Mulligan said...

Wow, OFT! You sure pumping out these posts quickly! I congratulate you!

I will read them all the moment I have some time to spare.

Hercules Mulligan said...

Thanks so much for this post, OFT. I am no scholar in all areas of this field of Christianity and the Founders (not too far away from that, though!), so I confess I am not nearly as familiar with Madison's religion as with that of Hamilton or Washington or Jay.

This post unequivocally proves that Madison (unless he was an outrageous liar, but that isn't very arguable) was indeed a Christian, and that a separation of Christian principles was never intended by his famous "Memorials and Remonstrance." It is famous for the wrong reasons. It should be famous for the right ones (and I think that the pseudo-Christian/conservative right ought to give this writing a serious and reflective read!).

Jonathan said...

Do keep in mind the remonstrance argues for separation of Church and State or government taking no cognizance of religion. Ultimately, even if Madison were an orthodox Christian when he wrote it, the document argues Christians ought to support secular government.

His words are also not inconsistent with unitarianism (Socianism or Arianism) which viewed the Bible as partially inspired. That system also presented itself under the auspices of "Christianity." And Madison's notes preparing for the Remonstrance seem to evince concern for that kind of Christiany. Back in the 1780s every single recognized Church viewed Arianism and Socinianism as heresies. Yet Madison didn't want courts to have to decide what was "true Christianity." If he were orthodox, it seems to me, he would just assume orthodox Christianity was true Christianity and courts could rightly decide unitarianism "heresy."

But he doesn't.

Our Founding Truth said...

Ultimately, even if Madison were an orthodox Christian when he wrote it, the document argues Christians ought to support secular government.>

Applying to the Federal Government, I agree; to any other government is more or less chimerical.

Yet Madison didn't want courts to have to decide what was "true Christianity." If he were orthodox, it seems to me, he would just assume orthodox Christianity was true Christianity and courts could rightly decide unitarianism "heresy.">

I agree with Madison, and I assume, most evangelicals agree with him. We do not want a judge, or judges to determine what is orthodox, and what is not. We let God, in His word to determine the correct way He demands worship.

Our Founding Truth said...

Maybe the Memorial does promote separation of church and state, but I think only an establishment of a particular sect is respecting establishment.

As to Madison's Christianity, I am having some reservations in my opinion, for the fact if he was orthodox, why would he include unitarianism with his question, what is Christianity?

Hercules Mulligan said...

Hello OFT. I am finally able to get back to you after you left a comment on my Hamilton Patriot blog. I left my response there. I hope it is a sufficient answer to your questions.

BTW, did you notice the letter by Hamilton's wife which I put up on my blog? It does not give direct evidence to Hamilton's faith, but it is interesting that he married a devout Christian and called her "best of wives, best of mothers, best of women." It is also fascinating just to get a peek into the faith that made this women the incredible individual that she was.

Modern historians acknowledge her "religiosity," but they don't like to talk about letters like THIS. She was not the religious wimp portrayed by the stereotype of modern professors; she was committed to Christ. This letter, other surviving letters, and her actions, show it. If you are interested in this letter, just know that it is up.

God bless you (and I hope your up-coming blog is going well!).

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