To Jonathan Rawson

    Philadelphia        15 January 1792

    My dear Sir

    Your favor of the 29th Decemr. I recieved some days ago, & have made enquiry for the books you mention; but Lovelase or Jones are, at present not to be got in the City—One or both I believe are now reprinting & will soon be out of the press—These shall be forwarded by the first opportunity together with Jefferson’s Notes1—And if no oppertunity presents before my return I shall bring them with me

    Pray make my compliments to our friend Genl Peabody,2 & tell him the book he desires me to send him is not in this place; but I will get him one on my return through N. York; and if I fail there, I have one in my Library at Biddeford, which shall be at his service whenever he pleases to send for it.

    I can say but little about the particular merits of this book, having read only a few pages of it. From its general subject I have set it down among the ingenious fables; for the very system of Universalism, so far as I have been able to understand it, is founded on the hypothesis of original sin—the Trinity and Atonement of sins by the death and sufferings of Christ; neither of which can stand the test of Reason or Common sense—Therefore, it appears to me idle to expect to find the Doctrine of Universalism in the Bible—or that it can be the christianity Religion taught by Jesus.

    If the General wishes to know what Christianity is he must look for it in the Gospels. But as these have been made the fathers of all kinds of Absurdities; and since that which is generally taught for Christianity has little, if any more analogy to it than to the fooliries of paganism, it has become extreamly difficult, and next to impossible for persons accustomed to the common education, to read these books without carrying in the mind ideas and notions which the evangelical Historians never had, or ever intended should become associated with what they committed to writing. Hence if we wish to know what Christianity is, & to be benefited by it—these books must be read over & over again till clear distinct ideas of the facts, declarations and precepts there recorded become strongly impressed on the mind; endeavouring, at the same time, as much as possible, to distinguish what we find there from what we hear in the pulpit or read in the Assemblys catechism. For tho’ some of the principles of Christianity may be delivered from the pulpit they are so connected with fables & twisted up with ingenious errors & mistaken notions of human nature—that tis safer to lay the whole mass aside than recieve them thus compounded—In this there can be no danger because the uncorrupted fountain of Truth is before us—

    Having attended to these rules in reading the Gospels I believe he will rise up with this conviction—That Jesus was the son of Joseph & Mary, and a man, in all respects, like unto the rest of us—that God enabled him to work many miricles—that he taught a pure morality; and assured people that God is a mercifull, placable being, and their acceptance with him depended on a repentance for the sins they had committed with a constant observance & practice of the precepts he gave them—that he clearly taught a future existance, or a Resurrection of the human Race to a state of immortality—And that their situation in this future state will be happy or miserable according as their deeds have been good or evil while in this world—that this same Jesus was executed for the doctrines he taught & the works he did—and raised to life again by the power of God; and after conversing with his friends & acquaintance till they were perfectly satisfied of his resurrection he was taken to heaven—a place where he declared to his followers he would, at the Resurrection, carry all those who believed in him & practiced righteousness—I say—I am clearly of opinion he will find these things in the Gospels; and delivered with a simplicity that will not admit of doubt, or a possibility of a misconception unless he is ingenious to decieve himself—

    These I take to be the out lines of Christianity, & the nature of its evidence—I do not pretend to have enumerated every particular that may be called part of the christian system; but what I have omitted are rather parts of the evidence, collateral circumstances, or consequences that flow from the great principles themselves.

    A belief of these few propositions will produce every good effect that can be expected to flow from that wonderfull jumble of ideas contained in the Athenasian creed,3 or the assembly’s Catechism.4 What good can result to individuals by their faith in the various propositions, or rather words in the form of propositions, respecting God the father, God the son & God the Holy Ghost in some creeds; or original sin, and all mens falling in Adams Transgression & sining with him, in the Catechism?

    I honestly confess it passes my power of comprehension to understand how a mans being firmly persuaded that he is, by nature, a child of wrath, & that God has an infinite hatred to him, merely for his being made such a creature as he is, can have a tendency to produce in him a good action—And if it has not that tendency the faith is in vain—Neither do I discover any more utility in believing that God consists, or is composed of three persons co-equal, and co-eternal—that the first is the father and begat the second, that the third is not begotten but proceeds from the first and second, and yet the second is unbegotten, & there is neither first or second in the order of time or essentiality—I say, I can discover no more utility in believing this than in giving credit to the vagaries of the heathen mythology.

    The belief of Christianity is usefull—it must, from the nature of faith on the human mind, when connected with such objects as it christianity holds up to view, it must produce the best possible effects upon the Lives & conduct of men.

    That we are to Live beyond the Grave—and our Lives there to be happy or miserable in proportion as we behave virtuously or wickedly here—are objects that no man can look upon with indifference—much less believe!

    I will proceed in the liberty I have taken to recommend to the General Peabody Docr. Priesley’s History of the Corruptions of Christianity.5 I am confident he will read it with pleasure; and having seen the sources of the Corruptions, with the errors that are handed to the world for christianity itself, he will acknowledge that the religion of Jesus, as contained in the New-Testament, is, in all respects, rational & commands the profoundest attention of rational creatures.

    I will trouble you no longer, but subscribe myself your affectionate kinsman6 & very humble Servant

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    FC, TFP