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tially trained, who laid the bases of our national life and who are now our immortal contemporaries.
One rejoices in the revival in interest in Jefferson, at home and abroad, wondering the while whether it is due to the rediscovery of the charm of his personality, which fascinates friend and foe alike, or to a renewed interest in his ideals. At any rate, after a long period of neglect, due in part to an effort to obscure his fame and service, he emerges as one of the greatest figures, if not the most creative mind, of our early history, and by far the most variously gifted man who ever sat in the White House. Only Roosevelt approached but did not equal him in the range and variety of his interests and accomplishments.
The figure most often set alongside Jefferson is Lincoln, yet the two men were very unlike. So unlike, indeed, that it would serve no purpose to institute a comparison, except as to say that of the two Jefferson was more complex, more finely organized, more manysided, more richly cultivated, more original; if, in fact, we may not say that he was the most original mind in the history of American statesmanship. The mind of Lincoln was derivative; his greatness was moral-a spirit of justice, charity, fortitude, patience, pity. The mind of Jefferson devoted itself to creating, elaborating, and expounding an entire philosophy of democratic society, to which Lincoln appealed in an hour of crisis. One recalls the letter of Lincoln read at a Jefferson dinner in Boston, in 1860:
Soberly, it is no child's play to save the principles of Jefferson from total overthrow in this Nation. The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society. And yet they are denied and evaded, with no small show of success. One dashingly calls them “glittering generalities.” Another bluntly calls them “self-evident lies." And other's insidiously argue that they apply only to "superior races."
These expressions, differing in form, are identical in object and effect--the surplanting of the principles of free government and restoring those of classification, caste, and legitimacy. They would delight a convocation of crowned heads plotting against the people
Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.
Those words might have been written to-day, so apt are they to the present world situation when eight dictators are in the saddle; and it behooves us to heed them, because the highest principles of freedom are easily lost sight of in days of prosperity and power-doubly so in an hour of cynicism and reaction. Nor were the principles of Jefferson derived, as some would have us suppose, from the vagaries of Rousseau, but from the genius and history of his own race---from Milton, Locke, and Cromwell-as has been shown anew in a brilliant biography by F. W. Hirst, who interprets the Sage of Monticello to England as Lord Charnwood interpreted Lincoln.
Howbeit, my purpose is in no wise political, but rather to set forth, first, the relation of Jefferson to the democracy of religion in America; second, the prophetic basis in his ideals for a religion of democracy yet to be realized; and, finally, his faith in and enthusiasm for education as the means for the fulfillment of the highest political and spiritual ends of the Republic.
II. Remembering the things by which Jefferson wished to be remembered, in the order of his preference, first of all stands the Declaration of Independence, one of the greatest documents of all
time. To have written that august instrument, and to have had it adopted with very little change as he wrote it, was a distinction unique and unmatched in our annals. With the modesty which always marked his character, he explained it by the fact that it was a
genuine effusion of the soul of the country at that time," he acting as amanuensis, so to speak, writing at the dictates of the spirit of his people in an hour of passionate and prophetic destiny, demanding political freedom.
Hardly less important-in some ways more important—was the fact that he led and won the long fight for religious independence, first in the statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and, later, in the first amendment to the National Constitution. Jefferson saw that an autocratic church in a democratic society was an anachronism as well as an anomaly, since a people can not long remain half free and half slave. The two principles are antagonistic, and one must give away, else there will be perpetual irritation and schism. Some of us feel that the outstanding achievement of the life of Jefferson was that he strove for and secured a free church in a free country; the absolute separation of church and state, which was an emancipation for the church no less than for the state, and an unmixed blessing to both.
Led by Jefferson, our fathers set up a state upon a new basis, marking a new era in the history of the race, more far-reaching than the reformation, and second only to the advent of Christ and the redeeming influences which He liberated among men. They closed a long, dark, terrible chapter of history and began a new adventure, invoking the blessing of all benign religions, offering protection to each but special privileges to none. What this meant, and the obstacles that had to be overcome, we seem well nigh to have forgotten—so glibly do we take things for granted which our fathers fought to win.
Few now remember, if they ever knew, that up until the Revolution, church and state were united in America, or in most of it at least. The New England theory was that of a theocracy, a church which included the state. In Virginia, if the state included the church, they were none the less united. In the Middle States there was more freedom, due to the diversity of population and divergent development. The Dutch had established freedom and toleration, making New Amsterdam a haven of refuge for persecuted peoples. But, taken as a whole, the old ecclesiastical yoke rested upon the New World, and intolerance and bigotry were in vogue to a degree almost unbelievable.
When Jefferson began his fight for the separation of church and state it was a crime not to baptize a child in the established church. Everybody was required by law to pay tithes to maintain the state church, regardless of their religious affiliations. There was actually a law on the statute books-happily not enforced—which permitted the burning of heretics. Witches had been burned in New England; gentle-hearted Quakers had been hanged on Boston Common. Men of other religious communions were thrown into prison. Outraged by these infringements upon religious liberty, Jefferson led and Madison followed in a heroic fight for the disestablishment of the church, beginning with the Virginia statute. The heart of that
statute, couched in noble language, is as follows-it is a part of the sacred writings of the New World:
We, the General Assembly, of Virginia, do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place of ministry, whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or effect their civil capacities.
Read in the setting of that age, those were memorable words, and their author is entitled to the perpetual and reverent regard of his countrymen. Yet it is a curious fact that while he did not differ widely in his religious views from Franklin, Adams, and even Washington, it was Jefferson who was singled out for the most savage and unreasonable attacks. He was branded as a skeptic, an infidel, an atheist-words which had terrifying meanings in those days—all because he held that every man should have the right to hold and advocate such religious faith as seemed to him true and right and good. Even a casual reader of the newspapers and pamphlets of the period knows how viciously Jefferson was maligned and his own religious faith misrepresented. Of course, his political enemies made full use of these fulminations, which continued throughout his lifetime and echoed long after his death.
The fact is that Jefferson was brought up in the church, a vestryman in its service, and a fairly regular attendant upon its offices. He planned at least one church edifice, and gave liberally to the building of others, as well as to the support of public worship. He was especially liberal to Bible societies, being himself more familiar with the Bible than any other public man of his time, not even excepting Franklin, who was a close student of it. His life was singularly pure; he was as chaste as he was charming-no one ever heard him utter an oath--and so magnanimous was his spirit that he placed a marble bust of Hamilton, his political antagonist, in the hall of Monticello. Such was the man whom bigots denounced as an enemy of God and man, because, as he confessed: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
In his own religious faith Jefferson was a “liberal,” whose thinking was colored by the rationalistic philosophy of the eighteenth century; but he held his faith in a liberal spirit, with due regard for the faith of others. And it is the spirit that matters. A man may hold a conservative faith in a liberal spirit and a liberal faith in an illiberal spirit. Jefferson was a liberal in spirit and in faith. The New Testament was his favorite book. The teachings of Jesus fascinated him. During his first term in the White House he found time to make a syllabus of the doctrines of Jesus compared with the moral codes of other religions, in which he made out a strong case for the superiority of the ethics of Christ. In a letter to Thompson in 1816 he tells what he had been doing:
I have made a wee little book which I call “ The Philosophy of Jesus.” It is a paradigm of His doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book and arranging them on pages of a blank book in a certain order of time and subject. A more beautiful and precious morsel of ethics I have never seen. It is a document in proof that I am a real Christian; that is, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the platonists who call me an infidel and themselves Christians, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from wbat its author never said or saw,
Often in his letters he speaks of his religious attitude, and at times with pungent epigrams worthy of a long pondering, as when he said, “Had there never been a commentator there never would have been an infidel.” To Benjamin Rush he wrote: “I am a Christian in the only sense Jesus wished anyone to be, sincerely attached to his precepts"; and what he professed he practiced in his life-never more so than when he achieved for his country its precious heritage of freedom of faith. If character is Christianity, surely, if ever of any. one, we may say that Jefferson was a Christian. One hundred years ago he died, murmuring as he sank into the great sleep the old, beautiful Bible prayer: “Now, lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace. So passed a great patriot-caught up from the Little Mountain in a chariot of sunset fire.
To Jefferson more than to any other one individual we owe the religious democracy of America, and it behooves us to guard it as a thing sacred and not to be violated. To-day, as in all the past, eternal vigilance is needed to keep what has cost so much. Efforts are always afoot--sincere and high minded, but mistaken-seeking to use the state to enforce either the dogmas of the church or its moral precepts. Already we have gone further in that direction than it is wise or safe to go, putting in jeopardy the rights of the minority as well as the rightful influence and work of the church. Ardent minds, impatient of moral suasion, if they have not actually lost faith in it, cross a clear line never to be erased and invade our most sacred heritage-a thing to be watched and rebuked, no matter under what pious pretext it is done.
Also, there is need to remember that mere toleration is not enough; it may mean only that we agree to allow others to exist until they come to their senses—that is, until they come to our way of thinking. The rancorous and vindíctive intolerance of the last few years has been appalling, marring alike the comity of faith and the decorum of the religious life. Often of late one has recalled the saying of Penn that men who fight about religion have no religion to fight about, since they do in the name of religion what religion itself forbids. What we need is more insight, more understanding—a mirror in the mind to enable us to see other points of view. Toleration is not enough; we must cultivate appreciation, fellowship, cooperation, if freedom of faith is to bear its finest fruits.
III. From the democracy of religion, for which we are indebted to Jefferson, we must go forward and achieve the religion of democracy—that is, the religion which traces and trusts the will of God revealed in the growing, unfolding life of the people. The affirmations that “all men are created equal” and that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed ” have profound spiritual implications. Not yet have we fathomed the religious meaning of our fundamental American ideas and ideals. The theology of America has yet to be written, a hint and a prophecy of which Elisha Mulford gave us when he called his book of theology The Republic God, in which he sought to open the gates of heaven a little wider than they had ever been before.
What is democracy? More than a phrase, more than a philosophy, more than a political system; it is something pungent and poignant of the people; a faith which finds its fulfillment in inclusiveness; a vision of the worth of every human soul which makes the worth of life; a fellowship which, having its roots in the love of God, reveals itself in love of man. It may be summed up in two propositions; first, that the things common to all men are far more important than the things peculiar to any man or class; and, second, that the most vitally important things must be intrusted to the collective experience and sagacity of mankind. So defined, it is close akin to the religion whose gospel was the “good news of great joy" which the common people heard so gladly on the hillsides of Gallilee, when the Son of Man lodged with the fishermen by the sea.
Put otherwise, it is the faith that society can safely be founded on the self-directing power of personality, and that it is only on this foundation that a true community can be built. Fortunately our fathers kept their theology and their politics apart, seemingly unaware of the conflict between them. For, truly, if the dogma of total depravity is true, a government of the people, by the people, for the people, is the ultimate disaster. Whatever the fathers may have heard in their pulpits, they founded a Nation upon the essential nobility of human nature. That is, they reversed the theological teaching of ages and risked the fate of a republic upon the inherent divinity of man; and our history thus far down the ways of time has justified their faith. Such an idea, if thought through, means an appeal to experience to the living and continuing revelation of God—as the basis of religious faith no less than of political truth.
Always, by the creative logic of experience, a new faith in man implies and involves a new vision of God. It was natural for men who bowed when the chariot of Caesar swept by to think of God as an infinite emperor, ruling the world with an arbitrary and irresponsible almightiness. But for men who live in a republic such a conception is a caricature, if not a blasphemy. By the same token, we worship in the presence of an eternal father, who is always and everywhere accessible to the humblest man. The logic of the American idea leads to faith in a divine life universal, impartial, all encompassing, and everlasting. If the faith of the religion of democracy is the fatherhood of God, its service is the brotherhood of man. The two belong together, one and inseparable, one the basis the other the building—the realization of God by the practice of brotherhood.
Such is the spiritual meaning of the American ideal, however far we may fall below it, defaming it by exclusiveness or defiling it by our unworthiness. To that ideal we are pledged by the very genius of our history, by the revelation of God in our national experience, and we fulfill it in the measure that we weld this vast medley of peoples into a beloved community--many races without rancor, many faiths without feud. Hitherto, we must admit, the peoples that have been notably creative in religious thought have been infertile in democratic ideas, and democracies have been deficient in spiritual creativeness. What the future of America will reveal remains to be disclosed, and its history will be its judgment, as Schiller said all history is.