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have at hand the book which might help me to surmount these difficulties. Conscience sometimes puts the question—Whether my not understanding many passages is not owing to my want of atten. tion in reading them. I must admit that it is; a full proof of which is, that every time I read the Book through I understand some passages which I never understood before, and which I should have done at a former reading, had it been effected with a sufficient degree of attention. Then, in answer to myself, I say—It is true; but I cannot always command my own attention, and never can to the degree that I wish. My mind is oft-times so full of other things, absorbed in bodily pain, or engrossed by passion, or distracted by pleasure, or exhausted by dissipation, that I cannot give to proper daily employment the attention which I gladly would, and which is absolutely necessary to make it "fruitful of good works.” This acknowledgment of my weakness is just; but for how much of it I am accountable to God, I hardly dare to acknowledge to myself. Is it bodily pain? How often was that brought upon me by my own imprudence or folly? Was it passion! Heaven has given to every human being the power of controlling his passions, and if he neglects or loses it, the fault is his own, and he must be answerable for it. Was it pleasure? Why did I indulge it? Was it dissipation? This is the most inexcusable of all; for it must have been occasioned by my own thoughtlessness or irresolution. It is of no use to discover our own faults and infirmities, unless the discovery prompts us to amendment. I have thought if in addition to the hour which I daily give to the reading of the Bible, I should also from time to time (and especially on the Sabbath) apply another hour occasionally to communicate to you the reflections that arise in my mind upon its perusal, it might not only tend to fix and promote my own attention to the excellent instructions of that sacred book, but perhaps also assist your advancement in its knowledge and wisdom. At your age, it is probable that you have still greater difficulties to understand all that you read in the Bible than I have at mine; and if you have so much self-observation as your letters indicate, you will be sensible of as much want of attention, both voluntary and involuntary, as I here acknowledge in myself. I intend, therefore, for the purpose of contributing to your improvement and my own, to write you several letters, in due time to follow this, in which I shall endeavor to show you how you may derive the most advantage to yourself, from the perusal of the scriptures. It is probable, when you receive these letters, you will not, at first understand them; if that should be the case, ask your grand-parents, or your uncle or aunt, to explain them; if you still find them too hard, put them on file, and lay them by for two or three years; after which read them again, and you will find them easy enough. It is essential, my son, in order that you may go through life with comfort to yourself and useful ness to your fellow-creatures, that you should form and adopt certain rules or principles for the government of your own conduct and temper. Unless you have such rules and principles. there will be numberless occasions on which you will have no guide for your government but your passions, In your infancy and youth, you have SERIES II.-Vol. V.
been, and will be for some years, under the authority and control of your friends and instructors; but you must soon come to the age when you must govern yourself. You have already come to that age in many respects; you know the difference between right and wrong, and you know some of your duties, and the obligations you are under to become acquainted with them all. It is in the Bible you must learn them, and from the Bible how to practise them. These duties are to God, to your fellow-creatures, and to yourself. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself.” On these two commandments Jesus Christ expressly says, "hang all the Law and the Prophets;" that is to say, the whole purpose of divine revelation is to inculcate them efficaciously upon the minds of men. You will perceive that I have spoken of duties to yourself, distinct from those to God and your fellow-creatures; while Jesus Christ speaks only of two commandments. The reason is, because Christ and the commendments repeated by him, consider self-love as so implanted in the heart of every man by the law of his nature, that it requires no commandment to establish its influence over the heart; and so great do they know its power to be, that they demand no other measure for the love of our neighbor, than that which they know we shall have for ourselves. But from the love of God and the love of our neighbor result duties to ourselves as well as them, and they are all to be learned in equal per. fection by our searching the scriptures. Let us, then, search the scriptures; and, in order to pursue our inquiries with methodical order, let us consider the various sources of information that we niay draw from in this study. The Bible contains the revelation of the will of God. It contains the history of the creation of the world and of mankind; and afterward the history of one peculiar nation, certainly the most extraordinary nation that has ever appeared upon the earth. It contains a system of religion, and of morality, which we may examine upon its own merits, independent of the sanction it receives from being the Word of God; and it contains a numerous collection of books, written at different ages of the world, by different authors, which we may survey as curious monuments of antiquity and as literary compositions. In what light soever we regard it, whether with reference to revelation, to literatvre, to history, or to morality-it is an invaluable and inexhaustible mine of knowledge and virtue.
I shall number separately those letters that I mean to write you upon the subject of the Bible; and as, after they are finished I shall perhaps ask you to read them all together, or to look over them again myself, you must keep them on separate file. I wish that hereafter they may be useful to your brothers and sisters as well as to you. As you will receive them as a token of affection for you during my absence, I pray that hey may be worthy to be read by them all with benefit to themselves, if it please God that they should live to be able to understand them. From your affectionate,
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
ANECDOTES, INCIDENTS AND FACTS, Connected with the origin and progress of the current reformation,
some of which have never been before published.-No. I. The greatest changes in nature and society are frequently not only the results of causes remote in themselves, but of instruments, agencies and events exceedingly feeble and small compared with the magnitude, importance and grandeur of the results. The dreams of Joseph, and the exposure of Moses in an ark of bulrushes, were, in themselves, matters of trivial importance. Yet, constituted as the world is, the destinies of all mankind are more or less directly or indirectly connected with these events. Time, in its mighty career, and eternity, in its grand and awful developments, may yet show that in the mysterious schemes of Divine Providence and moral government, the whole human race may, in the epocha of time, be much affected by these very trifling and apparently contingent events.
Had Joseph not been sold a slave into Egypt, the Israelites had never sojourned there; the arts and learning of the Egyptians, together with their idolatry, would not have given character and destiny to the Jewish people. The Exodus and all its miracles had never occurred, human history would never have been what it now is, or what it will hereafter be. If Carthage had conquered Rome, and not Rome Carthage, who could now declare what might have been, or what might yet be, the condition of the world? If the elector of Saxony had not patronized Luther, or if a sale of indulgencies had not roused into action the mighty energies of his soul, what of Protestantism would there have been in its present forms?
Newton's observation of a falling apple, Franklin's reflections upon a thunder cloud, the Marquis of Worcester's speculations on steam, the conjectures of Columbus on a new continent, &c. &c. have changed the condition of mankind, and given new sciences and new arts to the world.
The beginnings of all things are both small and weak. Yes, the oak is in the acorn, the giant in the embryo, and the destinies of the world in the fortunes of an individual. The character of a nation sometimes takes its color from that of an individual. Hence tlie ambition of a Cæser, or a Napoleon, gives laws to nations, dissolves and reorganizes the kingdoms of the world. And so in a single great truth, placed in a proper attitude before the mind, may sometimes be found the cause of momentous changes, not only in a single individual, but in great masses of mankind-indeed, in nations and generations of men.
The question has been often propounded to me-how came you by your present views of the Christian religion? Are they original or derived! If original, by what process of reason? If derived from what authority or source? These are questions of but little consequence to any individual. The capital question is, are they well founded.
There are no new discoveries in Christianity. It is as old as the sacred writings of the apostles, and evangelists of Jesus Christ. Our whole religion, objectively and do trinally considered, is found in a book. Nothing discovered by any man, that has lived since Juhn wrote the Apocalypse, is of any virtue in religion; nay, indeed, is no part or parcel of Christianity. All that can now be pretended or aimed at, by any sane mind, is the proper interpretation of what is written in Hebrew and Greek and translated into all the modern languages in the civilized world. Whatever in Christianity is new is not true. Whatever is true is contained in the commonly received and acknowledged books our Old and New Testaments, or covenants. Philology, and not philosophy; history, and not fable; reason, and not imagination; common sense, and not genius, are essential to the perception, and candor and honesty, to the reception of the gospel of Christ and its spiritual privileges and honors.
But how were you led to interpret the scriptures differently, and to teach and practise differently from what you once thought, believed and pratised? Well, as these may be useful to others, I will answer the question by the narration of a few incidents, anecdotes and facts, some of which, never before published, may be of use to others, and lead them to a new mode of thinking and acting, as well as of enjoying the Christian religion.
I will go no farther back than my arrival in the United States in 1809, and note a few matters very trivial in appearance, but important in their bearing and results.
The first proof sheet that I cver read was a form of MY FATHER'S DECLARATION AND ADDRESS, in press in Washington, Pennsylvania, on my arrival there in October, 1809. There were in it the following sentences: “Nothing ought to be received into the faith or worship of the Church, or be made a term of communion amongst Christians, that is not as old as the New Testament. Nor ought any thing to be admitted as of Divine obligation, in the church constitution and management, but what is expressly enjoined by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles upon the New Testament church; EITHER IN EXPRESS TERMS OR BY APPROVED PRECEDENT." These last words "express terms” and “approved precedent” made a deep impres
sion on my mind, then well furnished with the popular doctrines of the Presbyterian church in all its branches. While there was some ambiguity about this “approved precedent," there was none about
"express terms." Still a precedent, I alleged, might be in "express * terms,” and a good precedent might not be clearly approved or expressly stated by apostles or evangelists with approbation.
While reasoning with myself and others, on these matters, I ac. cidentally fell in with Doctor Riddle of the Presbyterian Union church, and introduced the matter to him. “Sir,” said he, “these words, however plausible in appearance, are not sound. For if you follow these out you must become a Baptist.” Why, sir," said I, “is there, in the scriptures, no express precept for, nor precedent of, infant baptism.” “Not one, sir,” responded the Doctor. I was startled, and mortified that I could not produce one. He withdrew. Turning round to Mr. Andrew Murroe, the principal bookseller of Jefferson College, Cannonsburgh, Pa., who heard the conversation;send me, sir, if you please, forth with, all the treatises you have in favor of infant baptism. He did so. Disclaiming the Baptists as “an ignorant and uneducated population,” as my notions were, I never inquired for any of their books or writings. I knew John Banyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and had often read it; but I knew not at that time that he was a Baptist.
All the members of the “Washington Christian Association," whose “Declaration and Address” my father had then written, were not only all Pedobaptists, but the most leading and influential persons in it were hostile to the Baptist views and practice. So to work I went to maintain my positions in favor of infant baptism. I read much during one year on the subject. I was better pleased with Presbyterianism than with any thing else, and desired, if possible, to maintain it. But despite of my prejudices, partialities and prospects, the conviction deepened and strengthened that it was all a grand Papal imposition. I threw away the Pedobaptist volumes with indignation at their assumptions and fallacious reasonings, and fled, with some faint hope of finding something more convincing, to my Greek New Testament. But still worse.
I found no resting place there; and entering into conversation with my father on the subject, he admitted there was neither express terms nor express precedent. But, strange to tell, he took the ground that once in the church, and a participant of the Lord's supper, we could not “unchurch or paganize ourselves;", put off Christ and then make a new profession, and commence again as would a heathen man and a publican. SERIES 111.-Vol. V.