Monday, July 22, 2013

Who Was John Calder?

I've often quoted Ben Franklin's letter to John Calder, dated Augt. 21. 1784 where he notes his opposition to PA's explicitly Christian state religious test for public office, one that Franklin, as acting governor of PA helped remove in part because he himself couldn't pass it!

There Franklin says:
I agreed with you in Sentiments concerning the Old Testament, and thought the Clause in our Constitution, which required the Members of Assembly to declare their belief that the whole of it was given by divine Inspiration, had better have been omitted. That I had opposed the Clause but being overpower'd by Numbers, and fearing might in future times be grafted on [it, I Pre]vailed to have the additional Clause that no [further or more ex]tended Profession of Faith should ever [be exacted. I ob]serv'd to you, too, that the Evil of it was [the less, as no In]habitant, nor any Officer of Government except the Members of Assembly, were oblig'd to make that Declaration. So much for that Letter. To which I may now add, that the[re are] several Things in the old Testament impossible to be given by divine Inspiration, such as the Approbation ascrib'd to the Angel of the Lord, of that abominably wicked and detestable Action of Jael the Wife of Heber the Kenite. If the rest of the Book were like that, I should rather suppose it given by Inspiration from another Quarter, and renounce the whole.
During the time in which they were establishing religious liberty, heterodox freethinkers like Franklin and the other key Founders felt comfortable sharing their religious secrets with certain trustworthy friends. As such, these "heretics" tended to converse amongst themselves. So it shouldn't surprise that John Calder turned out to share similar religious convictions as Franklin.

I want to again thank Bill Fortenberry for turning my attention to something important: this time it was John Calder's letter to which Franklin responded.

Here is a big taste:
I now enter unwillingly on a subject so insignificant, but I must necessarily say something of myself, as an apology for what it might else be impertinent in me to mention. On the dissolution of the Religious Society of which Mr. Radcliffe and I were the Ministers, which happened soon after you left England I declined the stated exercise of the profession to which I was educated, and have ever since been a private member of the Church of Unitarian Christians in Essex Street at the opening of which you was present. There only I sometimes officiate occasionally as Minister and never but when necessity requires it. In the mean while, in a comfortable retirement about a mile from town, my books have been my principal companions, and the culture of a garden my chief amusement. Here I have for some years inwardly cheriched the hopes of seeing you again and endeavoured to save all I can, to transport me and my companions to Pennsylvania, where whether I accompany them or not I mean they shall be ultimately deposited in the Library of which you was the founder. Turned as I am the     of life, being but a year younger than your very good friends and mine Dr. Priestley and Mr. Lee and urged by no grievous necessities nor unfavourable prospects here, perhaps even the Friends I mention will condemn my resolutions. But with such undisclosed views I have long secretly sighed for a sight of the American Constitutions and have been within these few days in possession of my wishes. I concern myself chiefly with the Constitution of the state in which my views terminate, and I rejoice that it hav in all respects the preheminence. In its Council of Censors there is a resource for the removal of the objection, for I have but one, and therefore after what I have said, I know you will forgive my taking the liberty of mentioning it on the way of query. 
Is the last clause of the Declaration in Sect. 10 of Chap. II reconcileable to the clause of the 2d Article of the Declaration of Rights which says, “Nor can any man who acknowledges the Being of a God be justly deprived of any civil right as a Citizen on account of his religious sentiments, or peculair mode of religious worship.” I cannot think that the State of Pennsylvania would have even endangered its welfare by admitting freely and universally to a denizonship in it, “all foreigners of good character” Christians or not Christians. 
But passing from this, there are Christians and sincere worthy Christians who after all their pains to make up their minds on the subject of the divine inspiration of the Old Testament especially, must express themselves as our friend Mr. Lee did on another subject, when he said I have been a great part of my life, endeavouring to understand it, but I cannot yet tell you what a Libel is. If the State of Pennsylvania wishes to grant citizenship to all foreigners of good character who are Christians, why establish a declaration which some Christian foreigners of good character must object to? Is it an incredible thing that a man be really a Christian, who is not yet a Jew? Or is it indispensibly requisite that a man must first be a jew before he can be qualified to be a good    of the State of Pensylvania? May not the Friends of Christianity have connected it injudiciously, and injured its cause by connecting it more closely with Judaism than its Author and first publishers did? Are not the Evidences of Christianity and the evidences of Judaism destinct? Why then complicate them with each other so odd as that they must necessarily stand or fall together?
 This is what the site says about Calder:
Clergyman, author. 
Member of the Club of Honest Whigs, of which Franklin was also a member. 
Employed by the Duke of Northumberland as his private secretary at Alnwick Castle and in London. In charge of the private library bequeathed by Dr. Williams to nonconforming clergy. 
Assistant to Ebenezer Radcliffe, pastor of the Presbyterian congregation in Aldgate.
After the congregation was dissolved in 1774, he declined to exercise his ministerial functions and devoted himself to writing. 
A private member of the Church of Unitarian Christians. 
Born in Aberdeen, Scotland.
The Club of Honest Whigs was disproportionately comprised of unitarians. That's why when Franklin told Ezra Stiles of his creed, he said, "I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to [Jesus'] Divinity..." [Bold Face Mine].  Franklin, no doubt, was referring to his unitarian cohorts in the Club of Honest Whigs.

In researching Calder, I also found this wiki on the Society for Promoting the Knowledge of the Scriptures. The site says this "was a group founded in 1783 in London, with a definite but rather constrained plan for Biblical interpretation.[1] While in practical terms it was mainly concerned with promoting Unitarian views, it was broadly based." Calder was affiliated with it along with many others, including Joseph Priestley and Richard Price. Their membership overlapped with that of the Club of Honest Whigs.

This political theological worldview, whatever we term it, captured the minds of many "key Founders" like Ben Franklin.

22 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

This political theological worldview, whatever we term it, captured the minds of many "key Founders" like Ben Franklin.

Not stipulating even Franklin, but what other "key" Founders?

[BTW--The rest of Franklin's reply to Stiles was that he hadn't studied or thought on the Trinity much, and at age 83 expect to find out the truth soon with little trouble. And he did--dying a few months later.

Franklin had "doubts"--he didn't overtly reject the Trinity as the unitarians did, so it's not proper to call him one.]

wsforten said...

Well, at least my presence here is benefiting your studies.

Let me briefly point out two things about this correspondence between Calder and Franklin. First, it should be obvious that Calder was correct in his conclusion that the oath was a violation of the Pennsylvania Bill of Rights. If no one who acknowledged the being of a God could be denied any of the rights of the citizens of that state, then to require the representatives to swear to a belief in the inspiration of the Old Testament was indeed a violation of the rights of those seeking that office.

In addition to this, however, the oath required of the representatives in Pennsylvania is a perfect illustration of the danger inherent in religious test oaths. If that oath had remained in place, then the Catholic Church would have had a strong incentive to obtain political dominance in this state and use this very oath to deny members of any other churches from obtaining a seat among the representatives. This would be possible because the Catholic Church claimed inspiration of several additional books in the Old Testament which the other churches rejected. Thus, if the Catholic Church were to have obtained political power in Pennsylvania, they could have interpreted this law in such a way as to deny representation to anyone who denied the inspiration of the apocryphal books. This is the exact type of scenario that was contemplated by those who defended the religious test clause of the national Constitution as I explained in my article.

By the way, since I'm apparently expected to say something about Gregg Frazer in every post that I make, let me point out that this difference between the Catholic Bible and the Bibles used by the other churches is one of the primary flaws in Frazer's consensus definition of a Christian.

wsforten said...

By the way, I just posted Jonathan Mayhew's response to the charge that he was a Unitarian:

Jonathan Mayhew Responds to Gregg Frazer

Jonathan Rowe said...

Bill,

Jonathan Mayhew was a unitarian of the ARIAN variety. He was not a Socinian or a Deist which some thought he might have been secretly. That's what he was replying to.

http://tinyurl.com/mxmpat4

Jonathan Rowe said...

I think I've helped your studies too as here is some of the "research" for your response.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2011/06/jonathan-mayhews-problem-with-orthodox.html

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

Franklin was at the OPENING of a Unitarian Church and spoke with Calder et al. as though he were one of them.

He gave himself away to Stiles when he said "I have with most of the present Dissenters in England...."

These were his friends in the Club For Honest Whigs who disbelieved in the Trinity.

Arians, btw, believed in Jesus' divinity; they just didn't think he was fully God, but rather a divine, created subordinate being.

Franklin could have been saying to Stiles he wasn't sure whether he was an Arian or a Socinian.

I don't think John Adams was sure was sure whether he was an Arian or a Socinian. He just knew he didn't believe the Trinity because 1 is not 3 and 3 is not 1.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Tom,

Franklin was at the OPENING of a Unitarian Church and spoke with Calder et al. as though he were one of them.


Franklin attended and contributed to any number of sects and churches. He was open to all, an adherent of none.

Franklin could have been saying to Stiles he wasn't sure whether he was an Arian or a Socinian.

Or he could have been expressing his doubts, without adhering to the unitarian rejection of Trinity.

" I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity: tho' it is a Question I do not dogmatise upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble."

He dies several months later and Finds Out.

And unlike the unitarians, who became increasingly vociferous in their anti-Trinitarianism, Franklin is typically mellow and uninterested in the doctrine wars:

"I see no harm however in its being believed, if that Belief has the good Consequence as probably it has, of making his Doctrines more respected and better observed, especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the Believers, in his Government of the World, with any particular Marks of his Displeasure."

wsforten said...

Actually, Jon. Mayhew's view would be more properly identified as Semi-Arianism rather than Arianism. Semi-Arianism is not a unitarian doctrine. It is trinitarian. You should compare Mayhew's statements regarding the divinity of Christ with the following statement of Semi-Arianism from the Second Sirmium Confession:

Whereas it seemed good that there should be some discussion concerning faith, all points were carefully investigated and discussed at Sirmium in the presence of Valens, and Ursacius, and Germinius, and the rest.

It is held for certain that there is one God, the Father Almighty, as also is preached in all the world.

And His One Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, generated from Him before the ages; and that we may not speak of two Gods, since the Lord Himself has said, 'I go to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God' (John xx. 17). On this account He is God of all, as also the Apostle taught: 'Is He God of the Jews only, is He not also of the Gentiles? yea of the Gentiles also: since there is one God who shall justify the circumcision from faith, and the uncircumcision through faith' (Rom. iii. 29, 30); and every thing else agrees, and has no ambiguity.

But since many persons are disturbed by questions concerning what is called in Latin 'Substantia,' but in Greek 'Usia,' that is, to make it understood more exactly, as to 'Coessential,' or what is called, 'Like- in-Essence,' there ought to be no mention of any of these at all, nor exposition of them in the Church, for this reason and for this consideration, that in divine Scripture nothing is written about them, and that they are above men's knowledge and above men's understanding; and because no one can declare the Son's generation, as it is written, 'Who shall declare His generation' (Is. liii. 8)? for it is plain that the Father only knows how He generated the Son, and again the Son how He has been generated by the Father. And to none can it be a question that the Father is greater for no one can doubt that the Father is greater in honour and dignity and Godhead, and in the very name of Father, the Son Himself testifying, The Father that sent Me is greater than I' (John x. 29, Ib. xiv. 28). And no one is ignorant, that it is Catholic doctrine, that there are two Persons of Father and Son, and that the Father is greater, and the Son subordinated to the Father together with all things which the Father has subordinated to Him, and that the Father has no beginning, and is invisible, and immortal, and impassible; but that the Son has been generated from the Father, God from God, Light from Light, and that His origin, as aforesaid, no one knows, but the Father only. And that the Son Himself and our Lord and God, took flesh, that is, a body, that is, man, from Mary the Virgin, as the Angel preached beforehand; and as all the Scriptures teach, and especially the Apostle himself, the doctor of the Gentiles, Christ took man of Mary the Virgin, through which He has suffered. And the whole faith is summed up, and secured in this, that a Trinity should ever be preserved, as we read in the Gospel, 'Go ye and baptize all the nations in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost' (Matt. xxviii. 19). And entire and perfect is the number of the Trinity; but the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, sent forth through the Son, came according to the promise, that He might teach and sanctify the Apostles and all believers.

wsforten said...

And, yes, I have benefited greatly from our interactions here but not in the way that you suggest. I had never read the page which you linked prior to following that link from this thread.

Jonathan Rowe said...

If Jonathan Mayhew were not a unitarian, you could have fooled John Adams.

"I thank you for your favour of the 10th and the pamphlet enclosed, 'American Unitarianism.' I have turned over its leaves and have found nothing that was not familiarly known to me.

"In the preface Unitarianism is represented as only thirty years old in New England. I can testify as a Witness to its old age. Sixty five years ago my own minister the Reverend Samuel Bryant, Dr. Johnathan Mayhew of the west Church in Boston, the Reverend Mr. Shute of Hingham, the Reverend John Brown of Cohasset & perhaps equal to all if not above all the Reverend Mr. Gay of Hingham were Unitarians. Among the Laity how many could I name, Lawyers, Physicians, Tradesman, farmers!"

-- John Adams to Jedidiah Morse, May 15, 1815. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 122, Library of Congress.

wsforten said...

Do you know if Adams verified that claim with Mathew personally, or was he merely repeating hearsay?

Tom Van Dyke said...

This article

http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/Heralds/Jonathan-Mayhew.php

seems to document most of the references to Mayhew's "unitarianism," all of which are second-hand allegations and suspicions. It appears there is no first-hand smoking gun in Mayhew's own words.

Once again we prove that unitarianism was a concern among the clergy, who make their living fighting about such things. For the great mass of men--uber-Calvinist Samuel Adams was a close friend of Mayhew's--it was a matter of complete indifference.

wsforten said...

The controversy over Mayhew's view of the Trinity stemmed from a single marginal note in one of his printed sermons. The publication of this sermon produced a flurry of accusations which Mayhew met with responses similar to the one that I quoted in my article.

Here is the marginal note that sparked so much trouble:

Who was manifested in the fulness of time to destroy the works of the Devil? to judge, and cast out, the prince of this world, who was a Liar and a Murderer from the beginning? Was it not the Logos? ... The Scripture informs us that the Logos had a body prepared for him, and that he partook of flesh and blood, that he might 'through death destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil.' But that he took into personal union with himself an human soul, my Bible saith not; nor that there is any other true God besides 'his Father and our Father, his God and our God.' Indeed, some who call themselves Christians, have exalted even the Virgin Mary above all that is called God in heaven, and that is worshiped there; saying that she is more kind and merciful than God himself; and praying to her to command her Son to befriend them; styling her the Mother of God, &c. It would be no great surprise to me to hear that the Pope and a general Council had declared the B. Virgin to be the fourth, or rather the first Person in the Godhead, under the title of God, or Goddess, The Mother; adding that neither the Persons are to be confounded, nor the substance divided; that the Mother is eternal, the Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal; but yet there are not four Eternals, but one Eternal; that this is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved. -- He that hath an ear to hear let him hear! And he that hath a mouth given him to blaspheme, [Rev. xiii. 5, 6,] and a tongue to babble without ideas, (understanding not what he says, nor whereof he affirms,) let him blaspheme and babble! But neither Papists nor Protestants should imagine that they will be understood by others, if they do not understand themselves: nor should they think that nonsense and contradictions can ever be too sacred to be ridiculous.

http://books.google.com/books?id=3IU4AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA532

Tom Van Dyke said...

Anti-Catholicism. Now that was the REAL American civil religion!

Jonathan Rowe said...

Mayhew's daughter asserted he was an unitarian of the Arian variety.

It's not accurate to term Mayhew a "trinitarian."

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Respecting my father, there is no doubt that the clearest evidence may be given of his having asserted the unity of God in the most unequivocal and plain manner, as early as the year 1753. I have many sermons, from which it appears to me no one could for a moment question his belief. I have a set from the text, 'Prince of. Peace.' In the first head he inquires, how Christ came by this title. He speaks of independent and derived authority, and says,'The former belongs to God alone, who exists necessarily and independently. The Son of God, and all beings, who derive their existence from another, can have only a derived authority.' After speaking of various sources and kinds of authority, he says, 'Lastly, another source of authority is the positive will and appointment of God Almighty, the supreme Lord and Governour of the world; and this is indisputably the source of all that authority our Saviour is clothed with: His designation to royal power and exaltation to the throne was from his God and Father.' I can quote many, very many, passages expressive of the same sentiment: so that I have not the shadow of a doubt that my father was full and explicit in his avowal of this opinion from 1753; and perhaps I may get positive proof from an earlier date. 1 will continue my search, and shall with pleasure supply you with any proof in my power of the faith he was happy enough to enjoy, and courageous enough to avow at the risk of his temporal comfort."

http://tinyurl.com/m8govpz

Tom Van Dyke said...

Still hearsay. Where are the sermons???

Not that I think Mayhew wasn't unitarian, but it seems enough of a well-kept secret as to be controversial, just as nobody really knew John Adams was unitarian either even though he later claimed he'd always been one.

A difference that made no difference outside the walls of the church, and perhaps not even there.

[And of course, later unitarians had a vested interest in claiming the historically significant Jonathan Mayhew as one of their own, no different than orthodox Christian claims to Washington and Lincoln. Qui bono.]

Jonathan Rowe said...

It wasn't safe for them to come out in 1750.

As I see it, that was one big reason for the push to establish the full rights of liberty of conscience.

By 1815, it was established enough for unitarians that Adams could rub J. Morse's nose in it in such a way that he wouldn't or couldn't do in 1750.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I don't know what you mean by "safe"--there were no prosecutions for heresy.

Are you saying that uber-Calvinist friend Sam Adams had no idea of Mayhew's leanings? Or did he know, but simply didn't care?

This unitarian business is fairly meaningless, a footnote, not the main story. EVERYBODY knew Ben Franklin subscribed to no creed, but they loved him anyway.

wsforten said...

Tom is correct to point out that the testimony of Elizabeth Mayhew Wainwright may be mere hearsay. Elizabeth was born in 1759, and her father died just seven years later in 1766. It is not likely that she would be able to recall any of his own statements regarding his beliefs on the trinity, and even if she could, it is doubtful that her young mind would have understood his comments with enough accuracy to convey them to us as first hand testimony.

I have not been able to locate the sermon which she referenced to determine whether it is consistent with semi-arianism, but I did find a statement in an 1835 edition of the National Review which hints at the possibility that semi-arianism may have been incorrectly classified as unitarian during Mayhew's time.

To prevent misconception, it may be proper, as Dr. Freeman, in the conclusion of his notices, candidly remarks, to state, that when we call Dr. Mayhew an Unitarian, it is in the sense in which the word is commonly understood in America, as denoting those Christians who deny the doctrine of the Trinity, whether they believe the pre-existence of Christ or not. That exclusive, and, as it has always appeared to us, equally unnecessary and unwarrantable limitation of the term to those who believe in the simple humanity of Christ ... has never been admitted in this country. Among us, whoever is not a Trinitarian, has a right, if he chooses it, to be called a Unitarian. The term, accordingly, embraces every variety of faith among Arians, as well as Humanitarians; and when applied, as here, to Dr. Mayhew, it must be understood as denoting one, who 'was a Unitarian of the school of Dr. Samuel Clarke, or of Thomas Emlyn, and who admitted, not only the pre-existence, but -- in a sense not Calvinistic -- the atonement of Christ.

http://books.google.com/books?id=-vcDAAAAQAAJ&lpg=PA455&ots=DbS8oCpM41&pg=PA455 (Emphasis mine)

Of course, this does not tell us anything about whether Mayhew was a unitarian or not, but the fact that the term was applied to "every variety of faith among Arians" shews that he may have been an unwilling recipient of this term for holding to the trinitarian view of semi-arianism.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Mayhew almost never got ordained.

saleem mohd. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.