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Sunday, February 16, 2014

New release from Dreisbach and Hall

Their new collaboration is due for release April 1, 2014. Faith and the Founders of the American Republic will hopefully provide more evidence of Calvinist faith from the Founding Fathers. The book has a section on Gouverneur Morris, written by Gregg Frazer. Here is one of Frazer's questionable comments:
Like the Deists, Morris and the other theistic rationalists used generic "God words" rather than specifically Christian terms for God (p. 214).  
Yet, Calvinists used this classical terminology, including Samuel Adams, William Livingston, John Witherspoon and many others. How can this understanding be used to claim someone wasn't orthodox when the orthodox used it? The fact is Morris called himself a Christian.

The problem with many historians like Frazer is the Natural Law tradition. Because many framers referred to Natural Law, scholars believe these men gave a higher respect for reason than they really did. Taken from the Scriptures, John Calvin himself promoted this tradition. Further, Montesquieu and Locke understood the Natural Law tradition from Calvin and the Reformers. Morris rejected the authority of human reason for the Kingship of Christ:
Those who slaughtered their prince and made havoc of each other; those who endeavored to dethrone the King of Heaven and establish the worship of human reason, who placed, as representative on the altar which piety had dedicated to the holy virgin, and fell down and paid to her their adoration, were, at length, compelled to see and to feel, and, in agony, to own that there is a God. I cannot proceed. My heart sickens at the recollection of those horrors which desolated France. [bold face mine] 
--An oration, delivered on Wednesday, June 29, 1814, at the request of a number of citizens of New-York : in celebration of the recent deliverance of Europe from the yoke of military despotism.
A man who believed in total depravity, as Morris did would not exalt man's reason as the rationalists did:
Your history of the two Barons is very amusing ; but when
you take occasion to pity the infirmity of human nature, be-
cause of their attachment to a trivial decoration, you assail
the wisdom of Providence in his moral government of the
. [bold face mine]

--TO JOHN PARISH. February 18th, 1806.
The above quote refers to God's moral authority of the world. This is precisely the statement of Grotius and the Christians who denied the correct biblical atonement for the moral atonement theory Grotius and the Arminians believed.

Another comment made in the book referring to Hamilton says:
Although a consistent spokesman for Enlightened principles in politics (p. 22).
However, Hamilton rejected Enlightenment principles. He believed in Calvin's Total Depravity and rejected any human exaltation by learning:

"Experience is a continual comment on the worthlessness of the human race; and the few exceptions we find have the greater right to be valued in proportion as they are rare."

-To Colonel Richard K. Meade, Albany, August 27, 1782.

Hamilton even mentions the enlightenment with disdain by clarifying man becomes more wicked the more he learns:

"As riches increase and accumulate in few hands; as luxury prevails in society; virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature: It is what, neither the honorable member nor myself can correct. It is a common misfortune, that awaits our state constitution, as well as all others..It is a harsh doctrine, that men grow wicked in proportion as they improve and enlighten their minds. Experience has by no means justified us in the supposition, that there is more virtue in one class of men than in another. Look through the rich and the poor of the community; the learned and the ignorant. Where does virtue predominate? The difference indeed consists, not in the quantity but kind of vices, which are incident to the various classes; and here the advantage of character belongs to the wealthy. Their vices are probably more favorable to the prosperity of the state, than those of the indigent; and partake less of moral depravity. "[bold face mine]

--Alexander Hamilton, New York Ratifying Convention 21 June 1788. Papers 5:36--37, 40--43.

The kicker for rejecting Frazer's opinion is eyewitness testimony from one of Morris's best friends, who was an evangelical and claimed Morris was saved, Oct 28, 1816.


wsforten said...

Frazer keeps digging himself deeper into a hole. I've already shown that, by his own standards, he is himself a theistic rationalist and therefore not a Christian.

You presented several excellent quotations from Morris, but let me add a few more that set him apart from Frazer's claims. In recounting a conversation about the science of life, Morris wrote:

“My solution of all such abstruse questions is that things are so and so because God pleases that it should be so. The ladder of Science is infinite, and the steps which man can mount are few and uncertain, but could he get even to the top it would only lead him more immediately into the presence of the Almighty. So that the most acute of all philosophers must end, with Newton, where I begin.”

[Morris, Anne Cary, The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, vol. 2, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1888, pg 341]

This is about as far from Frazer's idea of rationalism as Morris could possibly go. He essentially said that he would just trust God's Word and not worry about the progress of science. Then, after attending a service of the Shaking Quakers, Morris made this fascinating comment about the enlightenment:

"How true that saying of Solomon, that there is nothing new under the sun, and how ridiculous the notion, entertained by some, of the perfectibility of human nature. Now, in the nineteenth century, we see the same contrivances of superstition and enthusiasm succeed in this enlightened country which duped our ignorant forefathers seven centuries ago; and while these forlorn Shakers pursue that beaten track to perfecting which, if generally followed, must occasion the extinction of mankind, our self-sufficient philosophers expect, it would seem, to reach the same pinnacle by mathematical abstractions and chemical solutions, but, above all, by giving new names to old things and tricking themselves into a belief that science is extended in proportion as the size of the dictionary is swollen by terms borrowed from the Greek.”

[Morris, Anne Cary, The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, vol. 2, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1888, pg 521]

And in regards to human wisdom, Morris viewed it as extremely limited when he wrote:

“In the great course of events, which divine Providence may have marked out, human wisdom can do but little, and to effect that little, we must approach as nearly as possible to our comprehension the view of futurity, and bestow on the present that cool consideration, with which every one can examine the deeds that were done in the old time before us.”

[Sparks, Jared, The Life of Gouverneur Morris, vol. 2, Gray & Bowen, Boston 1832, pg 51]

And there's still more:

“God has formed man with a variety of passions, but man would be wiser than his Creator, and simplify the principles of human action. Alas! in proportion to his success, will be his misfortune.”

[Sparks, Jared, The Life of Gouverneur Morris, vol. 2, Gray & Bowen, Boston 1832, pg 469]

“No one of us is infallible; there is no one but God, who, having foreseen all, can have preordained all.”

[Sparks, Jared, The Life of Gouverneur Morris, vol. 2, Gray & Bowen, Boston 1832, pg 510]

“I do, not, my dear Sir, look westward for the sunrise of freedom. My eyes are turned to, and steadily fixed on the east. My trust is not in a President, Senate, and house of Representatives, but in Him who governs empires, the world, the universe.”

[Sparks, Jared, The Life of Gouverneur Morris, vol. 3, Gray & Bowen, Boston 1832, pg 302]

Jonathan Rowe said...

"I've already shown that, by his own standards, he is himself a theistic rationalist and therefore not a Christian."

I don't know why you keep saying this; just repeating something doesn't make it so.

Frazer defines late 18th Century Christianity according to a minimum of ten non-negotiable points, each of which HE believes, YOU believe, OFT believes and all of the official creeds of the churches on Frazer's list held to.

Therefore, all 3 of you are "Christians" according to this late 18th Cen. standard.

Frazer's "theistic rationalists" may have believed in *some* of those points, but thought they were quite negotiable and could pick and choose among them.

The quotation from Morris on Newton is telling as Newton was an Arian and therefore not a "Christian" according to this late 18th Cen. American standard.

Our Founding Truth said...

I'm not so sure Frazer is a theistic rationalist. He claims to be a Calvinist and teaches at a Calvinist college, under the Calvinist John MacArthur. My issue with Frazer is lumping Christians with unitarians or heterodox by the use of classical verbiage.

wsforten said...

Have you read Mitch Stokes' treatment of Newton's position on the Trinity? He claims:

We know, however, that Newton believed in the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit; he also believed that Jesus was the Messiah and atoned for our sins with his death on the cross. Newton even believed, contrary to Arianism (of which he is usually accused), in the eternality of the Son. He also embraced the straightforwardly biblical position that the Father and Son are one. What Newton did not believe, however, was that the Father and Son were one in the sense that they were consubstantial or of the same substance. According to Newton, the Father and Son were one, but this unity was not a metaphysical unity; rather, it was one of dominion and purpose.

You can read more at:

Jonathan Rowe said...

Jonathan Rowe said...
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Our Founding Truth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Our Founding Truth said...

I thought Newton's issue with the Trinity was with Erasmus because he thought 1 John 4 wasn't initially in the text. If that's the case, Newton was wrong about Erasmus and the text in general, given Erasmus found plenty of manuscripts that had the texts containing Christ's Divinty and same essence of the Father, as well as the rest of Scripture: Rom 9, Col 1,2, John 8:58, etc.

When Jesus remarks "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father." He's telling Phillip about His essence.

Newton could have found those texts himself. He probably had better access than Erasmus did.

Our Founding Truth said...

I read both those links you guys provided and the one by Mitch Stokes doesn't give any quotes from Newton. Jon's link does.
Here's the whole thing:

a system of the Christian religion, showing the relation of the ffather & Son, & how they are to be worshipped in a general Assembly of the Church & of the whole creation. The ffather the supreme King upon the Throne, the fountain of prescience & of all perfections. The Lamb the next in dignity, the only being worthy to receive full communications at the hand of the ffather. No Holy Ghost, no Angels, no Saints worshipped here: none worshipped but God & the Lamb, & these worshipped by all the rest. None but God upon the Throne worshipped with the supreme worship; none with any other degree of worship but th eLamb; & he worshipped not on the account of what he had by nature, but as he was slain, as he became thereby worthy to be exalted & indowed with perfections by the father. This was the religion to be corrupted by the Apostacy. This therefore was very pertinently shaddowed out in the exordium to the Prophesy of that Apostacy.

If you read Rev. 5, Newton is reading eisegetically. Nature is not the point of the text at all. John is reporting the scene and Newton is adding eisegesis.

"He worshipped not on the account of what he had by nature." This statement is an attack on the Son. He specifically uses the word nature in comparison with Christ.

Paul says the Lord is equal:

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God"
--Phil 2:5-6