To Jeremiah Hill

    Philadelphia        6 January 1791

    My friend,

    I have just been amusing myself in reading a piece in the Cumberland Gazette, wrote by the author of a certain thanksgiving sermon;1 and I must confess, I see no reason to censure the preacher.

    He appears to me to reason well on his data—He had undoubtedly been told, by some of his religious parishioners, there were among the candidates for federal Representative, some deists, or irreligious persons—And tis not improbable his own faith was so great as to lead him to think there were Atheistical people in some part of the world—no matter where; nor who—An opportunity presented to serve a party; and he imagined the word of the Lord came unto him saying—cry aloud thou defender of the faith! this was sufficient to set the honest little man to work—He never once thought it was necessary to ascertain the fact, whether there were Atheists, deists or irreligious characters among the supposed Candidates. This might spoil his intended harrangue, & disoblige many of his flock, whose religion consisted in paying Tithes of mint, annis & cummen!2

    It is laughable to hear him boast of his opposition to atheists, & the mockers of Religion; as tho he were singular in this. I really have too good an opinion of his parish to suppose any of them are Atheists—whether there are mockers of religion among them or not he is the best Judge. If hypocrites come under this description, perhaps he has good reason to sound the alarm, as he expresses it, on this head.

    There is a disposition prevelent in most men to engage in bold & hazardous undertakings[.] I had a very religious Grandfather who often lamented that the times did not admit of his doing something extraordinary in the cause of Religion—He wanted to suffer martrydom in the cause of Christ that he might be entitled to a high set in Heaven—Our young preacher feels himself animated with a similar glow of holy zeal; and thinking it too small game to guard the souls committed to his charge against the common vices that take place in their shops, their houses, and secret plans to supplant one another; he wishes to shew his prowess in defending them against the more dangerous attacks of Atheists and mockers of Religion—

    His talking about the means of supporting a wicked and unrighteous Government only shews that Government & its administration is a science he is altogether ignorant of; while his scanty quotation from the great Harrington demonstrates he never read more of that Author than some News-paper extract;3 and which appears as inadequate to the illumination of his understanding as a single ray of Light to expell the darkness of original Chaos—

    The following sentence markes both the disposition and knowledge of our preacher—“As the christian religion is the prevailing one in this Country, the man, who reviles it I view as a reprobate, not only in a religious, but in a political sense”—If he knows what the Christian religion is he must see, tis only nominally the religion in much the greatest part of the United States—and that the knowledge of History & of human nature will evince that the disposition which dictated the foregoing sentence would have consented to the judgment against Socrites4—hanged Jesus upon the Cross, & kindled the fires of martrydom wherever good sense & integrity have or hereafter shall oppose the superstition & ignorance of the priesthood—

    But as I said before the little preacher is not to blame—He preached according to his knowledge of facts and principles—“And so acted the vapourish Indian, who imagined that if he discharged his urine he should overflow all Bisnagar. In consequence of this opinion, the honest indian continued to refrain from this necessary discharge, till his physician, a man of wit, entered his hut in a great fright—Narsinga, said he, is in flames—it will soon be reduced to ashes—make haste & let the stream flow—at these words the good indian reasoned justly, pissed; and passed for a fool”5

    The House are on the Militia & Excise [Duties on Distilled Spirits] Bills. The Senate are engaged in a Bill for a national Bank—

    A Letter from the Secretary [of State, John Avery, Jr.] dated the 26th. December informs me, that on the day of declaring the votes for federal Representative, there was no choice; and but two votes were wanting to make my election; And the next day or two returns came in from the County of Hancock, which gave me a large Majority; but all too late. Thus another throw must take place. What passions, & combinations of parties, are like to be formed I cannot conjecture with any probability—

    I am, dear Sir, yours. &c

    * * *

    FC, TFP